Posted: Tuesday August 28, 2012 9:13AM ; Updated: Wednesday August 29, 2012 1:11PM
David Sabino

Time to make the donuts as fantasy football season approaches

Story Highlights

In order to win regularly in fantasy, you have to do more than check your lineup

Being proactive, taking chances and reading the latest news are keys to success

Just doing the status quo means you'll miss the Cam Newton's and Victor Cruz's

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Back in the 1980s there was a television campaign in which "Fred the Baker," a Dunkin' Donuts franchise owner, dutifully (and groggily) pulled himself out of bed at 3:30 AM in order to get to his shop to make fresh donuts for the day. The line, delivered by actor Michael Vale (who also starred in other famous ads of the period as the Breakstone dairy man and elegant wine-swilling gadabout Aldo Cella), has become part of the football vernacular as a way to express that it's time to go to work, to give the extra effort, the willingness to go above and beyond what the next guy is doing. That's where we are in the fantasy football season.

Most fantasy owners consider the draft the hard part, get through that and the season is a breeze. Check in on your team once or twice a week for injuries and check the box score on Mondays to see how many points you or your opponent can get in that night's contest. Check your email on Tuesday and maybe you won. If nobody gets hurt or is on a bye, you move forward and as long as your squad is in contention, you repeat the process. That's what the supermarket donut guy does. But to win regularly, you have to take extra steps instead of leaving things to chance. Here are a few tips on how to successfully manage your team throughout the season.

1) Be Proactive: Many people are averse to moves, only willing to alter their roster when forced to by injuries or bye weeks. They're banking on the fact that the team they drafted will be good enough to go all the way. But it's been my experience that except for extreme cases of good fortune, for an owner to be successful he or she must constantly manipulate the team, whether by trade, waivers or free agency. By simply sitting back and waiting for the action to come to you, you're not only letting the Cam Newton's and Victor Cruz's of the world pass you by, but you're allowing your opponents the opportunity to pick them up, weakening your chances for success.

One such player who could come from nowhere this year is rookie Russell Wilson, the Seahawks new starting quarterback who won the job as a rookie despite the presence of high-priced, and highly sought after free agent Matt Flynn, late of the Packers. Wilson, a third-round pick from Wisconsin, will quickly become the face of the Seattle franchise and Pete Carroll has a long history of mentoring very successful quarterbacks. That means, like Newton, it may not be too long before Wilson will be seen thriving in fantasy lineups.

2) Take Chances: When picking up free agents, don't always go for the top-rated player available, the one with the best stats to date or the biggest name. Do your homework to find out who has the best chance to be great from that point on. You don't get credit for someone's past, only present and future. And there is no league in any sport in which a "name brand" falls off the table quicker than in the NFL.

One player to watch in this category is U.S. Olympic silver medalist Jeff Demps of the Patriots. Undrafted due to his commitment to the London Games, the former Florida Gator is not likely to have much of an impact early in the season as a third-down, change-of-pace running back, but with the ability to use his world-class speed to fly through holes, he'll be someone to have front-and-center on your free agency watch list.

3) Stay on top of the news. Ratings and values are constantly changing in the NFL and the fortunes of players can turn on a dime. Take preseason for example. When camp began, Cedric Benson was unemployed and searching for someone, anyone, to give him a chance. James Starks looked entrenched as the Packers starting running back all offseason and there was little reason to think otherwise.

Now, not only has Benson overtaken Starks for the lead back job, but also he's most likely going to be the workhorse for a team that sorely needed some stability at the running back position. At this point and going forward, Benson, whose 3,429 rushing yards over the past three seasons ranks seventh in the NFL, is a clear RB2 and could find himself among the league's touchdown leaders. Those relying on publications and lists made weeks or months ago will completely whiff on him.

And to that point, here are my updated Top 25s for the skill positions.


1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
2. Tom Brady, Patriots
3. Drew Brees, Saints
4. Matthew Stafford, Lions
5. Cam Newton, Panthers
6. Eli Manning, Giants
7. Peyton Manning, Broncos
8. Tony Romo, Cowboys
9. Matt Ryan, Falcons
10. Philip Rivers, Chargers
11. Jay Cutler, Bears
12. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
13. Michael Vick, Eagles
14. Robert Griffin III, Redskins
15. Andrew Luck, Colts
16. Matt Schaub, Texans
17. Joe Flacco, Ravens
18. Andy Dalton, Bengals
19. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills
20. Sam Bradford, Rams
21. Jake Locker, Titans
22. Carson Palmer, Raiders
23. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
24. Alex Smith, 49ers
25. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins

Running Backs

1. Ray Rice, Ravens
2. LeSean McCoy, Eagles
3. Arian Foster, Texans
4. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
5. Darren McFadden, Raiders
6. Chris Johnson, Titans
7. Fred Jackson, Bills
8. Trent Richardson, Browns
9. DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
10. Ryan Mathews, Chargers
11. Matt Forte, Bears
12. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
13. Reggie Bush, Dolphins
14. Darren Sproles, Saints
15. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
16. Cedric Benson, Packers
17. Doug Martin, Buccaneers
18. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
19. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
20. Steven Jackson, Rams
21. Peyton Hillis, Chiefs
22. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals
23. Stevan Ridley, Patriots
24. Willis McGahee, Broncos
25. Jacquizz Rodgers, Falcons

Wide Receivers

1. Calvin Johnson, Lions
2. Victor Cruz, Giants
3. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
4. Jordy Nelson, Packers
5. Hakeem Nicks, Giants
6. Steve Smith, Panthers
7. Andre Johnson, Texans
8. Julio Jones, Falcons
9. Brandon Marshall, Bears
10. Greg Jennings, Packers
11. Mike Wallace, Steelers
12. A.J. Green, Bengals
13. Marques Colston, Saints
14. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
15. DeSean Jackson, Eagles
16. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
17. Brandon Lloyd, Patriots
18. Roddy White, Falcons
19. Antonio Brown, Steelers
20. Wes Welker, Patriots
21. Eric Decker, Broncos
22. Torrey Smith, Ravens
23. Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers
24. Pierre Garçon, Redskins
25. Steve Johnson, Bills

Tight Ends

1. Jimmy Graham, Saints
2. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
3. Vernon Davis, 49ers
4. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
5. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions
6. Antonio Gates, Chargers
7. Jermichael Finley, Packers
8. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings
9. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
10. Joel Dreessen, Broncos
11. Jason Witten, Cowboys
12. Jermaine Gresham, Bengals
13. Owen Daniels, Texans
14. Dustin Keller, Jets
15. Jared Cook, Titans
16. Greg Olsen, Panthers
17. Fred Davis, Redskins
18. Heath Miller, Steelers
19. Anthony Fasano, Dolphins
20. Dwyane Allen, Colts
21. Ed Dickson, Ravens
22. Brent Celek, Eagles
23. Jacob Tamme, Broncos
24. Coby Fleener, Colts
25. Martellus Bennett, Giants
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