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Scouting Notebook: Final preseason takeaways

Michael Salfino
Yahoo Sports

Here are last minute fantasy tips, Scouting Notebook-style, for those drafting just prior to NFL Kickoff 2013 on Thursday.

I don’t get the enthusiasm for Trent Richardson as a top five pick. He was out-rushed by teammates last year (yards per carry). Saying, “He was injured all year,” doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

After Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin are off the board, I can see grabbing the two monster receivers this year, Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant -- and not necessarily in that order. I’ve done a 180 on Bryant, who really showed me his will to be great by playing through injury last season. Everyone knew the talent has always been there.

Last year, I took a lot of grief for saying Arian Foster was overrated in reality, an okay runner but nothing great. That was because backup Ben Tate out-gained him by a full yard per carry. But last year, that fell all the way to 0.2. So even though Foster’s yards per rush was worse, he was arguably better, relatively speaking. His playoff games were also top quality. There’s no way he gets benched. And he’s not hurt to start the season. He’s the third running back on my board and the last one I’m drafting without too much concern.

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Injury risk looms large with Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy. (Getty)

LeSean McCoy’s concussion history scares me to the point where I’m thinking Dez or Megatron instead. It’s a new paradigm now in the NFL with concussions.

I can’t see Reggie Bush at age 28 holding up again for even 250 touches, never mind the 300-plus his owners seem to be banking on. Make sure you roster Joique Bell late instead of just handing him to the Bush owner. Handcuffs are for babies anyway. You want the best backups so that you can gain an extra back.

Demaryius Thomas absolutely can be the best fantasy wide receiver this year. Why can’t he be a bigger, faster version of peak Marvin Harrison with Peyton Manning?

As I say often on Twitter (@MichaelSalfino), put players in tiers and forget about numbered rankings. Drafts are dynamic environments and you need to give yourself flexibility. So if the third-tier RBs are drying up and there are still at least a handful of second-tier WRs there, the RB3 is your pick because you can probably get the last of the WR2s with your next pick. But if you draft based on overall ranks, you’ll flub this and pick the WR2.

The most important thing you can do in getting ready for your 12-team, one-QB draft is look at last year’s results and see where the 10th QB went and when the first backup QB went. Then, plan your QB selections accordingly.

If things get really screwy at QB and you get in the back of an unexpected run and have to go 15 or 16 QBs into the draft before landing any, Carson Palmer will prove more than adequate. In fact, he’ll get more points this year than Andrew Luck. Ideally, you want the 10th QB though, from Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Russell Wilson (one will definitely be there at 10). All are rock solid, though Wilson has the most upside, as he showed in the second half of 2012 and throughout the postseason. In many leagues, casual owners just keep drafting QBs because they perceive value over a bunch of players that are relatively unknown. So I get that it’s harder to wait as long on QB as we can in expert leagues where there is anti-QB group think.

I don’t know what to make of Rob Gronkowski now so I think I have to let him go. He’s costing a third- or fourth-round pick. I see the profit potential, sure. But there is too much mystery surrounding his health after yet another back surgery. I do worry if a good owner lands him. So I’m not saying drafting Gronk that highly is crazy.

Drafting Le’Veon Bell right now is crazy though. And Isaac Redman will be in the top 12 among fantasy running backs in Week 1 given the matchup (Titans) and the lack of any real competition for carries. Even if Bell returns by October, then what? He’s going to be handed 25 touches a week? I can’t bet on a back going from injured to totally healthy while playing football. Next year at this time, touts will be making excuses for Bell’s poor yards per rush by saying he really was hurt all year.

We’ve been here before with Michael Vick. He doesn’t slide. He is reckless. He isn’t big by NFL standards. He will break. Every week, his owners run the risk of an early exit and thus crippling non-production from their fantasy QB. Just take Wilson if you want some excitement and running upside without the headaches.

I feel the same way about DeMarco Murray and Darren McFadden. These men, as fine as they are, were not built to be NFL running backs.

All the guys who haven’t returned to practice with ailments that have indefinite timetables and that could be lingering get downgraded by me. Not just Jamaal Charles, but also Marques Colston, Brandon Marshall, etc.

David Wilson was a legit second-round pick before Andre Brown broke his leg. Now, he’s a first-round pick. Still, there is resistance. I don’t get it. Why can’t he be Spiller this year or at least Charles? (Yes, Spiller over Charles on my board.) There is no more explosive runner in football than Wilson.

I’ve been touting Montee Ball as the starting Broncos running back. I’m tired of reading the tea leaves there. We’ll know soon enough. I’d draft Ball well before any Broncos back as soon as the cost is merely a wide receiver that I can more or less approximate with my next pick. That happens generally in rounds four or five. But this is a very fluid situation. While my desire to own Ball is steady, the expected price seems to change every five minutes. Stay on top of the market so you don’t wildly overpay. The reports of Ronnie Hillman being No. 1 on the depth chart are good cover for betting Ball now in rounds six or seven even. Make sure you apprise all of your leaguemates on this news. I would not draft Hillman on a bet. I can see a late lottery ticket on Knowshon Moreno though. Very late.

Remember to reach a little for players you like. You’ll like your team more and that’s important. Losing with players you really don’t like but who were “values” is the pits, trust me. As I often say, an expert is merely someone who has made every mistake in a narrow field so that you don’t have to. With that in mind, please don’t bother drafting rookie receivers, who really are lottery tickets in the sense that the odds of a payoff are too slim.

My touts here always are based on just two things: what I think is likely or unlikely. Anyone who says there is certainty is a fool or takes you for one. But I am obligated to provide you with actionable advice. So I’m not going to say “maybe this happens or maybe that happens” incessantly. When something is probable in my studied view, my advice is to act on it. When it’s merely possible, I see no point in betting. That will be the framework for all of our future conversations as I take you through the 2013 NFL season here every Sunday night.
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