Every year, I enter one of CDM’s Fantasy Football contests. The concept is simple–assemble a team under the $60 million salary cap, score a lot of points and win money. The league scoring is standard, but passing touchdowns are only worth three points. Each team must start 3 QBs, 6 RBs, 6 WRs, 2 TEs, 3 Kickers, and 2 Team Defenses per week. In addition, teams are allowed to carry a bench of 12 players and can make 16 new player purchases during the season. Leagues typically consist of 25 owners.

One of our long-time readers was nice enough to sponsor my entry into the contest. Without further delay, here is this year’s entry…

Quarterbacks: Cam Newton (5210), Matthew Stafford (4640), Robert Griffin (2000)
Bench: Tom Brady (5650), Andrew Luck (2000)

 Benching Tom Brady may appear silly, but given the structure of the rest my team, you’ll understand why. Cam Newton faces the Tampa Bay Bucs in Week 1, a team that he scored four rushing touchdowns on last year. Tampa Bay has the league’s worst rush defense and Newton should be able to take advantage with his arms and legs. Steve Smith is probable, so expect big plays. Speaking of bad defenses, Matthew Stafford will take on the lowly St. Louis Rams in Week 1. Coming off an impressive 5,000 yard season and shredding defenses during the pre-season, Stafford should get off to a fast start. Expect him and Calvin Johnson to hook up a few times for big plays. His 300-yard, 3 TD upside and price is too good to pass up. Finally, RG3 rounds out my starting lineup. On paper, I don’t love the match-up for the Baylor product. Coming off Bounty Gate, Griffin faces a Saint team (in New Orleans) that is out for blood. While I expect the Saints to win the game, Griffin will have time to pick up ‘garbage time’ passing and rushing statistics. Given his cheap price, I couldn’t pass him up.

For my bench, I like the pairing of Tom Brady and Andrew Luck. Brady, Stafford, and Newton make an impressive ‘Quarterback-by-comittee’ in this format and I have the option of playing any two players on any given week.  In addition, Luck is a nice caddy for RG3. I expect both rookies to have nice seasons.

Running Backs: Ray Rice (5510), LeSean McCoy (4310), Darren McFadden (3280), DeMarco Murray (3030), Doug Martin (2000), Stevan Ridley (1420)
Bench: Steven Jackson (4080), Ahmad Bradshaw (3520), Darren Sproles (3190), Donald Brown (2020)

With more NFL teams adopting running back by-committee approaches, I wanted to make sure I nabbed some of the rare ‘bell-cow’, three-down running backs. Leading the group is Ray Rice. Given the injury uncertainty surrounding Arian Foster (4720), Rice was a slam-dunk choice for me. In Week 1, Rice will face the Bengals, a team he carved up for 350 total yards and four TDs last year, on Monday Night Football. LeSean McCoy had a career year last year. His pricetag and Week 1 match-up, the Browns, was all I needed to see. Darren McFadden was the MVP of the first half before suffering a foot injury. His price tag and point-per-game average is well worth the risk. DeMarco Murray already played in Week 1, but CDM allows owners to utilize the ‘Cheat Game’ and gain their Week 1 stats. Murray compiled 140 total yards, so he’s on my team. Finally, Doug Martin and Stevan Ridley give me two low-price, high upside option. Both players should be featured from the start.

Before assembling my running back bench, I realized that Murray, Martin, and McFadden all have the same bye week. I wanted to capitalize on Week 5 match-ups, so I added Steven Jackson (vs. ARI), Ahmad Bradshaw (vs. CLE), and Darren Sproles (vs. SD). All three back-ups are talented and will likely play big roles on my team. Donald Brown is a lower-priced, high upside play. Adam and I are banking on DB in FFPC, so my fingers are crossed that he’ll help me here.

I didn’t go with rookie Trent Richardson (2000) due to a pre-season knee injury. I can add Richardson later on, but he must prove that he’s healthy. Foster’s mysterious injury also made me a little uneasy, so I passed him over. Matt Forte (3620) and Fred Jackson (3530) were my last two cuts, but I could add them later on. Running back injuries happen, so it’s nice to have the 16 player purchases.

Wide Receivers: Calvin Johnson (4000), Julio Jones (2930), Brandon Lloyd (2630), Torrey Smith (2350), Eric Decker (1940), Kevin Ogletree (1000)
Bench: Victor Cruz (3090), Jordy Nelson (3020), Demaryius Thomas (2060)

 My nine wide receivers share one common characteristic–the ability to create big plays. The NFL’s biggest and most physical playmaker, Calvin Johnson, leads my wide receiver lineup. Johnson will have the chance to feast on the lowly Rams in Week 1. Julio Jones is this year’s popular choice to become Calvin Johnson 2.0. Jones is big, physical and tough to defend in the redzone. At his price, I couldn’t say no. Brandon Lloyd goes from catching passes from Kyle Orton and Sam Bradford to Tom Brady. Some forget that Lloyd was fantasy’s top receiver two years ago. While I don’t expect a Randy Moss type of season from Lloyd, he’ll see one-on-one coverage and give Brady a deep threat. Double digit touchdowns are expected. The Ravens want to become more of a passing team, so expect wide receiver Torrey Smith to reap the benefits. Smith is a big-play threat that should break out this season. Broncos’ receiver Eric Decker may have been the happiest player this off-season. Peyton Manning and Decker have a special level of trust already–hooking up six times for 101 yards and two touchdowns during the pre-season. Finally, Kevin Ogletree is a ‘cheat game special’, hauling in two TDs and 121 yards at a bargin base salary.

On the bench, I have three receivers that broke out last season. Nelson and Cruz have become household names while Thomas could join them this season.

Tight End: Rob Gronkowski (2700), Jimmy Graham (2630)
Bench: Antonio Gates (2510)

No explanation needed. I considered adding Aaron Hernandez (1930), but Graham/Gronk are so good.

Kickers: Alex Henery (2110), Shayne Graham (2080), Garrett Hartley (2070)
Bench: Justin Tucker (1500)

There isn’t much deviation in kicker scoring. If anything, owners want kickers in good offenses. By taking Henery (Eagles), Graham (Texans), and Hartley (Saints), I have that. Tucker (Ravens) is a cheap option that can be used in Week 2.

Defense: Panthers (1090), Vikings (1050)
Bench: Rams (1000)

These defenses aren’t great, but there’s a lot of turnover each year. I really like the Panthers this year, so perhaps their defense can breakout for me.

Overall, I really, really like the team I put together. I like my Week 1 match-ups and the depth that I have at each position.