We’re almost there folks. With two weeks of the preseason in the books, the regular season is rapidly approaching. This means fantasy football drafts are in full swing. Here at Breaking Football we’ve done our best to provide you with the intel necessary to make sound draft decisions, and ultimately build a championship team.
I decided to stray away from the normal sleepers/busts pieces that you’ve been swarmed by throughout the Summer, and instead wanted to do a bold predictions piece. Bold: showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous.
You may come away thinking some of these predictions aren’t so bold, or perhaps some may be too bold. Regardless of the matter, I tried my best to provide deep insight on why I believe in each bold prediction.
You will find some to be sizzling hot takes, while other may be ice cold. Most appeal to redraft leagues, while some may pop out to my guys who play in deeper dynasty leagues. Whatever the case may be, football is back and we couldn’t be more excited. I hope you enjoy this piece as much as you enjoy the next couple weeks leading up to the start of the 2017 season. Hopefully we can come back to this article following the season and find that some of these predictions actually held out to be true.
Have some bold predictions of your own? Post them in the comments below!
Arizona Cardinals: J.J. Nelson finishes as a top 30 WR
The Arizona Cardinals did very little to upgrade their WR corps over the offseason with their only acquisition being 3rd round selection Chad Williams. Does this display confidence in what they already have? Perhaps. If so, the Cards are instilling an extreme amount of confidence in the younger guys, particularly John Brown and more importantly J.J. Nelson.
We all know that Larry Fitzgerald isn’t getting any younger, and while he is still producing at a high rate, he’s bound to regress at some point, right? That leads me to John Brown, can he actually be trusted? We all remember Brown’s dazzling 2015 campaign where he eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards and caught 7 TDs. That wasn’t the case this past season. Despite playing in the same amount of games as Nelson, he recorded lower totals in the major statistical categories, including targets. It’s worth noting that Brown was not at 100% last year. To add, he tweaked his hamstring during practice in early June, which makes you question his durability on a week-to-week basis.
Nelson is an explosive athlete. Going back to his Combine, Nelson ran a 4.28 and is undoubtedly the fastest player in the Cardinals’ WR corps, and perhaps their best deep threat. We all know how Bruce Arians loves to sling the ball around, and even with David Johnson’s emergence as the centerpiece of the offense, the Cards still attempted nearly 400 passes on the season.
It’s quite remarkable how J.J. Nelson has warranted absolutely zero hype up to this point. Last season Nelson was 2nd among receivers on the team in targets, receiving yards and tied for the team lead in TDs, while also adding one on the ground.
While predicting Nelson to finish as a top 30 WR seems farfetched, it may not be as farfetched as you think. Let’s remember, a guy like Adam Thielen finished as WR30 this past year. If Fitzgerald takes that step back like many expect, and Brown doesn’t return to previous form, Nelson could emerge as the big play guy in Arizona and find a lot of his production on splash plays as his career 19.3 yards per catch validates.
Atlanta Falcons: Tevin Coleman outscores Devonta Freeman
As obsessors of fantasy football, we all have “our guy”. It just so happens to be that Tevin Coleman is one of “my guys”. While I may not have the stats to backup this claim as Devonta Freeman has been a fantasy juggernaut for the past two seasons, part of fantasy football is going with your gut, right? And besides, this is a bold predictions piece.
With new offensive coordinator and former USC head coach Steve Sarkisian taking over for the departed Kyle Shanahan, it’s still a bit unclear how he plans to shakeup an Atlanta offense that was one of the most storied in NFL history. One thing that is for certain, the Falcons are going to get the ball to their running backs, whether it’s off a handoff or in the passing game.
While Freeman had more receptions last season, Coleman was much more effective as a receiver. On 23 less receptions, Coleman still managed to find the endzone more than Freeman, and his 13.6 yards per catch was 5 more yards than Freeman’s 8.6 average. Plus, Coleman scored 11 TDs – just two less than Freeman on 132 less touches.
It’s quite possible that Sarkisian will take note of Coleman’s effectiveness as a receiver, and look to get him more involved in not only the passing game, but as a runner as well. Also when you factor in his TD volume compared to Freeman’s, it’s possible he sees more production from a fantasy standpoint than Freeman. Unlikely, but possible.
Baltimore Ravens: Maxx Williams leads all Ravens TEs in receiving
With the sudden retirement of Dennis Pitta, the Ravens were already looking for a new answer at TE. Then Crockett Gillmore tore his meniscus which may force him out the entire year. When you look at their depth chart, you’ll be vying for a guy like Nick Boyle and maybe even Ben Watson. But the guy you may want to target is third-year Maxx Williams who is among the quietest breakout candidates in 2017.
After a sophomore campaign in which ultimately went as a “wasted” year as Williams was placed on IR after just four games due to an unusual knee injury, he comes back this year poised to be at full health as he looks to finally make an impact in his NFL career.
Williams was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Minnesota and was even the first TE off the board. Coming out of college, Williams was known for his athleticism, big hands and wide catch radius as a move tight end, even drawing comparisons to Minnesota’s Kyle Rudolph.
This proves to be a make or break year for the 2nd round pick, but the upside is surely there. For a team that throws the ball as much as the Ravens (678 attempts last year), the opportunities will be there for Williams to produce, especially in the redzone.
Let’s be honest, Boyle and Watson aren’t the most talented, although they are decent players. Williams has them beat from a pure talent perspective, and I think he’ll emerge as the guy at TE for the Ravens. It might be a slow start for the former Golden Gopher, but I do expect him to pick it up as the season goes on and prove to be a focal point in Baltimore’s offense.
Buffalo Bills: Zay Jones finishes as a top 30 WR
Even before the Sammy Watkins trade, Zay Jones was a guy I really liked in fantasy this season. In fact, my original bold prediction here was that Jones would lead the team in receiving. Since, Watkins has been moved and Anquan Bolding abruptly retired. This called for something a bit more bold, but I wanted to keep it revolved around the rookie out of East Carolina.
Jones was drafted in the 2nd round and graduated as the NCAA’s all-time FBS leader in catches with 399. If you’ve ever heard me talk about him, I always rave about his performance in the Senior Bowl. Jones stood out in the game down in Mobile. His sticky hands and precise route running were on full display throughout. He made some big catches, even a couple TDs, although one was called back due to penalty.
Now entering his rookie year as Buffalo’s #1 WR, I was surprised to see his current ADP at WR54; I would’ve expected an enormous skyrocket based on the departures out of Buffalo’s WR corps. Is claiming Jones to finish as a top 30 WR actually bold? Based on his ADP, yes.
The Bills are going to lean heavily on the legs of LeSean McCoy. As you would expect from a team that passed the ball the fewest in the NFL last season – expect them to be towards the bottom again in 2017. Still, I’m fairly confident that Jones can post a productive rookie campaign.
While I don’t attempt to project stats very often, I did so with Zay Jones. I may be a little too generous here, but I can see his stat-line in the neighborhood of 72/860/6. This production would hover right around a top 30 WR from last season at 194 PPR fantasy points. Even though the Bills will be among the lowest in pass attempts, I still like Zay to be the main manufacturer in the passing game as he completes a stellar rookie season.
Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton finishes as QB1
Let’s pretend it’s 2015. Cam Newton has just wrapped up a season in which he was named the league’s MVP and led his team to a Super Bowl appearance. To put the icing on the cake of what was a historic year, Newton also finished as a top 5 fantasy scorer and led all QBs.
Naturally, most fantasy owners went into last season and made Newton the first QB off the board, which he ultimately didn’t play up to as he finished as QB17 – not even a viable starting QB for your fantasy team. Last season Newton’s TD total was cut nearly in half – after throwing a career-high 35 in 2015, he passed for only 18 last season. His completion percentage (52.9%) was the lowest of his career, while his 14 INTs were the most since his rookie season. His 359 rushing yards and 5 TDs were also both career-lows.
Over the offseason the Panthers drafted both Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. With two electric playmakers now added to the offense, Carolina plans to spread things out more with both McCaffrey and Samuel taking snaps out of the slot as they take a quick pass approach. While Newton’s carries may again hoover under the century mark, throwing to guys like McCaffrey and Samuel who can create after the catch will prove to be beneficial. Then you add in a presence like Greg Olsen along with the deep threat Kelvin Benjamin, this is a much improved Carolina offense with more variety.
We all know what Cam Newton is capable of. He’s the most polarizing QB in the NFL and can make you pay with both his arm and his feet. With the added weapons, we should see more of a 2015 version of Newton rather than what we experienced this past season. With more quick passes, we won’t see him holding the ball nearly as long which will result in him staying upright – something we’re not accustomed to seeing as of late. If McCaffrey and Samuel find their roles and Newton can remain a presence on the ground, he has QB1 upside.
Chicago Bears: Jeremy Langford finishes as a top 30 RB in PPR leagues
One of my biggest flops from my 2016 fantasy football predictions was claiming Jeremy Langford would finish as a top 10 running back. A Chicago running back actually did finish as a top 10 RB, but as you remember, it wasn’t Langford but instead rookie sensation Jordan Howard.
Heading into the season, Chicago’s backfield remains quite the anomaly behind Howard, as it was last season before his emergence. If you plan on drafting Howard, Langford is the guy I would lean towards as a handcuff in the later rounds.
Following his rookie season in 2015 where he finished with a bang, there was a lot to be excited about regarding Jeremy Langford this past season, especially from a fantasy perspective. With Matt Forte no longer in Chi Town, he was expected to succeed Forte as the new starting running back for the Bears and enjoy a breakout season. That wasn’t the case. After missing some time early in the season, that paved the way for Jordan Howard to shine and ultimately steal the starting gig.
Still, I remain optimistic regarding Langford’s future in Chicago for two reasons. 1. Jordan Howard won’t be relied on as a 3rd down back as he doesn’t present the receiving prowess as other feature backs in today’s game. 2. Jeremy Langford has flashed as a receiving back in limited action. As much as I loved Tarik Cohen coming out, and as much as he’s flashed during the preseason, his workload is still in question.
With an unfamiliar QB under center whether it’s Mike Glennon or Mitch Trubisky, plus the loss of Alshon Jeffery, you won’t see the Bears pushing the ball downfield too much. Instead, they’ll stick with the short passes and beneficially for Langford, a lot of check downs. If a guy like Chris Thompson can finish as a top 30 PPR RB, Langford is surely capable as he’s set to claim a more extensive reserve role this season.
Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Mixon finishes as a top 10 RB
It’s no secret that the Cincinnati Bengals are prepared to slide Joe Mixon into their feature back role after drafting him in the 2nd round. While guys like Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard have been productive during their respective stints in Cincinnati, they’ve left Bengals brass wanting more out of their backfield. Enter Joe Mixon.
Leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft, Mixon was one of the most polarizing prospects, but slipped due to off-field issues. Regardless, some even had Mixon as their top RB in a talented class as he drew comparisons to Le’Veon Bell. With patience, vision, elite running instincts and receiving ability, Mixon is the total package and has the potential to be one of the league’s best.
This past season we saw rookie running backs such as Ezekiel Elliott and Jordan Howard explode onto the fantasy scene, and Mixon is capable of doing the same. Assuming the Bengals give Mixon 15+ carries per game and allow him to overtake the lead role out of Cincinnati’s crowded backfield, which is expected, he will be a breakout star for fantasy owners and could even end up as the Rookie of the Year.
While Jeremy Hill may steal goal-line carries, Mixon should receive the bulk of the carries and be a major component in the passing game. The talent is all there, it all depends whether or not the Bengals decide to use it.
Cleveland Browns: David Njoku finishes as a top 10 TE
The Cleveland Browns completed a trifecta of 1st round selections after trading up into the tail-end of day 1 to snag David Njoku. While the Miami product could be considered raw, there’s no denying his physical abilities which shouldn’t take long to translate into the NFL.
Had it not been for a breakout year from Terrelle Pryor, who is now in Washington, Cleveland’s passing game would have been close to non-existent. Pryor leaves behind over 1,000 receiving yards. Not only that, but Gary Barnidge, their 2nd leading receiver also leaves behind over 600 yards. That’s a lot of production to match.
While the Browns signed Kenny Britt to soften the blow left behind by Pryor, he hasn’t been a consistent producer throughout his career. Corey Coleman is expected to step up during his sophomore campaign, but he’s not exactly an overpowering threat, or proven.
With young QBs such as Cody Kessler or DeShone Kizer, or maybe even Brock Osweiler playing under center, you know they’re going to heavily target their TE as a security blanket. With limited depth behind Njoku at that slot, you know he’s going to see a heavy load of snaps. Njoku is their best redzone threat and could lead the team in receiving TDs by season’s end.
The combination of young QBs, lack of reliable pass catchers and Njoku’s individual talent, he could end the year as a top 10 TE in a league where polarizing TE play is diminishing, aside from the top guys such as Gronkowski, Kelce and Reed.
Dallas Cowboys: Despite suspension, Ezekiel Elliott finishes as a top 10 RB
It wouldn’t be methodical to talk about the Dallas Cowboys and not bring up Ezekiel Elliott. Zeke’s recent suspension has fantasy owner’s heads in a swirl. Where do I draft him? Where does he finish in scoring? How early should I draft Darren McFadden? That’s not what I’m here to talk about, although my man Mike Fanelli has the answers
While I’m not here to talk about Elliott’s draft slot, I am here to tell you that despite the hefty six game suspension handed down by the NFL, Ezekiel Elliott will still finish the 2017 season as a top 10 RB. Don’t get it twisted, a six game suspension is a significant blow to fantasy juggernaut that is Elliott; this prediction speaks more to his capabilities.
Appropriately, I compared Zeke’s situation to Le’Veon Bell last year. As you recall, Bell was also suspended to start last season, but for just three games as opposed to Elliott’s six. Despite missing three games last season, Bell still managed to end the season as RB3 – finishing just eight points behind Zeke.
Bell came out and lit it up last year right out of the gate. He was mad at the NFL and he used that as motivation on the field – Zeke will do the same thing. Not to say that their suspensions will be the main reason they succeed, but that extra motivation is always an appealing factor that can often go unrecognized.
In an attempt to project Elliott’s production once he gets back on the field, I think it’s fairly safe to say that he still eclipses 1,000 yards on the ground with double-digit TDs, plus his contributions as a receiver. That should sneak him in as a top 10 RB.
Denver Broncos: Jake Butt outscores Virgil Green
This one probably appeals more to my dynasty guys as Jake Butt isn’t being drafted in most, if any redraft leagues. Butt would’ve been a top 5 TE selected in this past NFL Draft had it not been for a torn ACL in Michigan’s bowl game.
With that being said, Butt isn’t the polarizing TE we see in today’s game with towering size and freakish athleticism. Instead, Butt is more of your old school TE. He’s going to win those physical battles for contested catches and keep the chains moving. He also offers upside in the redzone. Think Heath Miller-esque production over the years assuming they have steady QB play.
Current starting TE Virgil Green now enters his 7th season in the NFL but has never molded into the player the Broncos have hoped. He’s never scored more than 1 TD in a season and has never eclipsed 250 receiving yards. As I expect Green will continue to underperform, opening the spot for an enthusiastic rookie.
Butt has NFL player written all over him. He’ll stick in the league for about a decade and produce along the way – making him a solid pick late in rookie drafts. If he catches on by midseason, he should have no issues outscoring Green.
Detroit Lions: Ameer Abdullah finishes as a top 10 RB
The former 2nd round pick out of Nebraska, Ameer Abdullah was expected to solidify himself as the premier back of the Detroit Lions as he entered his 2nd season in 2016. Things didn’t go as planned. Just two games into the season, Abdullah suffered a Lisfranc injury which required surgery on his foot. Early offseason reports indicated Abdullah was ahead of recovery schedule.
To put into perspective how talented Abdullah is: the Arizona Cardinals were targeting Abdullah in the 2015 NFL Draft, but were forced to “settle” for David Johnson. Granted, most of us couldn’t have predicted Johnson to blow up like he has. Still, that puts Abdullah’s talent somewhat into perspective.
Coming out of college, Abdullah’s receiving ability was raved about after not dropping a pass in his final two seasons. Theo Riddick will be the primary pass catcher out of that backfield, but Abdullah still offers receiving upside. Along with that, Abdullah runs with tremendous burst and possesses breakaway speed.
Prior to his injury last season, Abdullah was averaging 5.6 yards per carry and caught all five of his targets. As a rookie he rushed for nearly 600 yards and caught 25 passes in nine games started while splitting time with Riddick.
Splitting time with Riddick isn’t a cause for concern. Abdullah will be the primary back taking a good chunk of the carries with some receptions sprinkled in, while Riddick will be primarily used as a pass catcher. Let’s remember, even with Abdullah out, Riddick only carried the ball 92 times last season and has never averaged over four yards per carry in a single season.
Assuming he can stay healthy throughout the year, Abdullah should live up to be the running back the Lions anticipated after drafting him early in the 2015 draft. If he can withstand the “wear and tear” over the course of a season, there’s no doubt Abdullah can be a productive fantasy piece and flirt inside the top 10.
Green Bay Packers: Jamaal Williams leads team in rushing
I’ll start by saying that Jamaal Williams was one of my guys this past draft season. The way Williams barrels over defenders is admirable. Williams offers something no other Packer running back has, physicality, speed and most importantly, strength and power.
When you look at the Packers’ depth chart, the guy who you notice first is Ty Montgomery. And while the whole RB gimmick last year was impressive, the chances he remains that impressive are slim. While Montgomery will own the snap share, he’ll be utilized more-so as a gadget player rather than consistent runner.
After drafting Williams in the 4th round of the 2017 NFL Draft, they proceeded to draft two more running backs: Aaron Jones (Round 5) and Devante Mays (Round 7). While that may be a cause for concern as the Packers’ backfield has the potential to run as a committee, I expect Williams to standout in the bunch.
As I touched on earlier, Williams offers a different flavor than the other backs on the roster. Not only is he the most complete back, but the Packers will look to him at the goal-line and give him carries late in games to drain the clock, giving him the opportunity to rack up extra fantasy points along with his normal workload.
Houston Texans: Jaelen Strong finishes 2nd on team in receiving
Before we get all caught up with the QB situation down in Houston, let’s first talk about the players vacating their wide receiver room. To start, there’s DeAndre Hopkins who is an absolute stud and should enjoy a nice bounce back season. Then there’s a trio behind him in Will Fuller, Braxton Miller and Jaelen Strong.
Although he is set to miss 2-3 months, former 1st round pick Will Fuller looks the most tempting, but he’s not a consistent producer. Fuller held the lowest drop rate of all Texans’ WRs last season (although not too worse than Hopkins). Fuller peaked early to open the season after compiling 211 receiving yards with a score in the first two weeks of the season (nearly 1/3 of his production), Fuller totaled just 424 yards while missing some time in his final 12 games. Struggling down the stretch, Fuller averaged a miniscule 3.1 catches per game for 37.6 yards with no scores in the final 7 weeks.
While Fuller ended the season with a slump, out sat Jaelen Strong who was placed on IR earlier in the year with an ankle injury. While I’ll admit Strong’s stat-line from last season was quite the opposite, he flashed as a rookie while missing six games and playing in a reserve role. As a rookie in 2015, Strong’s REC:TD ratio was 8:1 – pretty impressive from a first year player. Since Fuller’s injury, I’m sure many were quick to swarm towards Braxton Miller or even C.J. Fiedorowicz shares, but Strong possesses the most upside between the trio.
If Strong can finally play a full season he should establish himself as the reliable guy on the outside opposite Hopkins with Fuller attaining a situational role and some slot work when he returns. Assuming Deshaun Watson starts from week one, Strong should be involved in the production cycle as Watson tends to get all his playmakers involved, as he proved at Clemson.
Indianapolis Colts: Donte Moncrief finishes as a top 15 WR
After finishing as WR75 last season, although he did miss half the season last year due to injury, Donte Moncrief is currently being drafted as WR29 in standard 12 team leagues. Hopes in Indy remain high for Moncrief to develop into a productive receiver opposite of T.Y. Hilton – which would give the Colts one of the best WR tandems in the league. Over the past two seasons, Moncrief has corralled 13 total TDs – more than T.Y. Hilton over that span and that’s despite missing half of 2016.
With his injury this past season and Luck’s injury battered 2015, we haven’t yet seen what the two could achieve in sync. We all know Andrew Luck and the Colts are going to sling it around. Assuming both Luck and Moncrief can stay healthy, Moncrief has double-digit TD potential.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette finishes outside top 15 RBs
The Jacksonville Jaguars selected LSU’s polarizing RB prospect Leonard Fournette with the 4th overall pick in this year’s draft – the same slot we saw Ezekiel Elliott go in 2016. As you know, Elliott went on to win the rushing title and finish as RB2 while cementing himself as one of fantasy football’s elite producers. While the expectations are high for Fournette, I wouldn’t expect similar production to that of Elliott.
When comparing the two, it’s quite easy to notice that Elliott was drafted into a much better situation in Dallas. With arguably the best offensive line in football and no one providing competition out of that backfield, Elliott was bound to strive from the start. Things are quite different for Fournette. While Jacksonville fields one of the league’s most underrated offensive lines, they are not even close to Dallas’ caliber in 2016.
Aside from just a decent offensive line, Fournette joins a backfield with the likes of T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory. Leading the team in rushing last season, Yeldon can still post spotty production. He will vie for carries behind Fournette, but is also the team’s best receiving threat out of that backfield which is where he’ll be primarily utilized – last season he was 3rd on the team with 50 catches. Then there’s Chris Ivory. After signing a decent sized contract during 2016 free agency, Ivory underperformed in his debut season with the Jags. Still, even with the imposing presence of Fournette, the Jaguars will continue to get Ivory involved as they have too much money tied in for him not to play.
The Jaguars will be forced to include all three of their backs into the gameplan which cuts down any hope of Fournette being used in a feature back role. Currently being drafted at 2.06, I wouldn’t touch Fournette before the 3rd round in redraft leagues based on upside.
Kansas City Chiefs: Chris Conley finishes as a top 30 WR
Since the Kansas City Chiefs shockingly released veteran Jeremy Maclin, everyone has been looking at Tyreek Hill as the guy to claim the WR1 spot on the team after an electrifying rookie campaign. While Hill will continue to produce into his sophomore season, Chris Conley is a guy who is poised to step up.
Hill offers a dazzling style of play and is a threat to go off any given week, but he won’t be the consistent receiver some fantasy owners are hoping for, although his return ability makes him more valuable. Maclin’s departure leaves the Chiefs’ WR corps even thinner, which will result in opportunities for Conley.
Despite no TDs this past season, Conley took a huge step forward in his development as he more than doubled both his catches (44) and receiving yards (530), all while improving his catch rate by nearly 10%. Clearly the lying issue is his TD production – with only one through his first two seasons.
With the departure of franchise all-time leading rusher Jamaal Charles, and the emergence of Patrick Mahomes, we could see the Chiefs transition into a more pass happy team. The lying issue there being whether or not Mahomes will start from week one, or start at all this season. After trading up inside the top 10, you would think the Chiefs will look to get their first round draft choice onto the field.
If Mahomes plays, that substantially increases Conley’s value. You know he’s going to sling the ball around and get everyone involved. He’ll need a reliable boundary presence, and Conley will be that guy. Look for a noticeable breakout from the third-year WR.
Los Angeles Chargers: Philip Rivers finishes as a top 5 QB
Last season Philip Rivers finished the season with well over 4,000 passing yards for the 4th consecutive year and 8th time in his career while tossing 33 TDs – eclipsing 30 TDs for the 5th time in his career. After such a productive year, how did Rivers finish as QB14?
For starters, Rivers threw for a career-high 21 interceptions. The Chargers and Rivers suffered through abysmal offensive line play last season – arguably the worst Rivers has seen over his career. The Chargers made huge strides in the 2017 NFL Draft by drafting both Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney. However, Lamp has since torn his ACL.
While the Chargers spent two early draft picks addressing their offensive line, they also draft Mike Williams with the 7th overall pick. However, it has since been reported that he won’t suit up until October at the earliest. Still, weapons isn’t an area the Chargers lack.
If Keenan Allen can return to 100% in 2017, that immediately cements Rivers as a top 10 fantasy QB, but the upside is higher. The formerly undrafted Tyrell Williams showed tremendous promise last season as he led the team with 69 catches and 1,000+ receiving yards. Even if Williams is unable to go at all this season, the Chargers have a great insurance policy there. Travis Benjamin is a speedy deep threat and a great 3rd option for Rivers at receiver. Then you factor in the tandem of blossoming star Hunter Henry and ageless wonder Antonio Gates at TE, plus the receiving capability of Melvin Gordon, and you have yourself one impressive offense. Lack of playmakers wasn’t the issue for Rivers last season, it was the offensive line.
With an improved offensive line and a full stable of weapons, Rivers enters the season as one of the biggest QB sleepers. He’s the model of consistency fantasy owners like, and you’ll never have to worry about him missing a game. He will likely cut down the interceptions this season and again eclipse 4,000 passing yards and 30 TDs as he vies for the top 5.
RELATED: Keenan Allen is Worth the Risk
Los Angeles Rams: Tavon Austin finishes as a top 20 WR in PPR leagues
It’s no secret that Tavon Austin has majorly underperformed for the Rams since being drafted 8th overall back in the 2013 NFL Draft. Since then, the speedy Austin hasn’t created the dynamic in their offense the Rams had hoped for. On the bright side, Austin is coming off career-highs in targets (106), catches (58) and receiving yards (509).
Now with Sean McVay taking over the reigns, the Rams are expected to have a much more enthusiastic offense. We saw what Jamison Crowder was able to accomplish out of the slot last season when McVay engineered Washington’s offense – Austin now consumes that role.
Say what you want about Austin, but there’s no denying his natural ability. Forced to marinate in Jeff Fisher’s bland offense to start his career, perhaps we haven’t even gotten a full taste of what Austin is capable of. Between inconsistencies and poor utilization, the jury is still out on Austin – he now has one more shot to redeem himself with the new coaching staff.
The struggles of #1 overall pick Jared Goff were well documented throughout his rookie season. However, with an established presence such as Andrew Whitworth holding down the blindside and a bounce back year from Todd Gurley on the horizon, that should open things up for Goff and the passing game.
Coming over from Washington, McVay and the Rams are poised to adopt a similar scheme. This means a more spread, quickstrike based attack, which fits both Goff and Austin perfectly. Austin has tons of potential in PPR leagues working out of the slot as Goff’s safe option on the inside. Plus, you could even see him emerge into a more reliable option out of the backfield – much like we saw with Ty Montgomery this past season. Over 125 career carries, Austin has averaged an eye-popping 7.7 yards per rush with 8 TDs.
Even with the acquisition of Sammy Watkins, I still like Austin to breakout this year. Watkins’ durability concerns are well-documented and he offers more of a deep threat presence whereas Austin will make his money in the short game. Plus, giving Watkins and Goff only a few weeks to work together prior to the season doesn’t exactly give you that fuzzy feeling you need.
Most are quick to write-off Austin based on where his career path has led him to this point. However, he is an explosive pass catcher and they’re going to be forced to get him more involved. The departures of Kenny Britt and Brian Quick leave Austin as the team’s returning leader in targets, catches and receiving yards. With an extra year to gain cohesion with Goff, and an improved offensive line, Austin could be a focal point of LA’s passing game and brings tremendous PPR upside into the season.
Miami Dolphins: DeVante Parker outscores Jarvis Landry in standard leagues
Upon starting this segment for the Dolphins, I knew I wanted to revolve it around Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker in any way, shape or form. When digging into the numbers, I realized I wouldn’t get much backup from the stats on this claim. Thus, I’m chalking this one up to the film study, and gut feeling, something all of us fantasy owners need to do from time to time.
Coming out of Louisville in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Dolphins selected Parker with the 13th overall pick. As you’ll remember, this is the same draft class which also saw Amari Cooper and Kevin White go inside the top 10. While Cooper is currently considered to be leaps and bounds ahead of Parker in terms of development and talent, Parker isn’t as far off as most may think.
Parker couples his 6’3”/209 lb frame with a 4.45 speed and a skillset smoother than peanut butter on bread. Parker possesses tranquil body control and explosiveness when launching for the ball. He high points the ball almost effortlessly and can adjust in the air making him a weapon on those contested catch opportunities. While Landry causes havoc from the slot, Parker is that imposing presence on the outside. But, he still has some work to do.
Like you expect from 2nd year WRs, Parker took that next step forward like we all expected in 2016. All major receiving stats increased, along with catch rate. Looking back on last season, there were a lot of flashes from Parker, but where he lacked was consistency. After starting the season with 100+ receiving yards then a score in consecutive weeks, he only surpassed 100 yards once the rest of the year with only 3 more TDs which were scattered throughout the weeks.
If Parker comes into his own in his 3rd season and takes that next step forward like we expect, he could own the TD share out of that WR corps and easily eclipse 1,000 receiving yards. He’s not going to outscore PPR machine Jarvis Landry in that format, but with more consistency and an increase in TDs, Parker could have him beat in standard scoring.
UPDATE: With the recent signing of Jay Cutler, DeVante Parker is expected to be the primary beneficiary in Miami.
Minnesota Vikings: Dalvin Cook finishes as a top 10 RB
My top RB in the 2017 NFL Draft class, I was clamoring at the TV when my Eagles went on the clock with the 14th pick. While I knew it was unlikely, I was still holding out hope that Philly would select Florida State’s all-time leading rusher. When Dalvin Cook slipped out of the 1st round into Day 2 of the draft, my dreams became near reality. Right on cue, that’s when the Minnesota Vikings leapfrogged the Eagles as they traded up for the 41st pick, then proceeded to select Cook.
Cook was one of the biggest early draft steals. The Vikings move on from the best RB in franchise history as they cut ties with Adrian Peterson, and promptly replace him with a player who could also go down as one of the franchise’s all-time greats. Minnesota signed Latavius Murray as an insurance policy with unclear plans on how things would unravel on draft day. Murray had productive stretches last year in Oakland, but even a team within reach of a Super Bowl didn’t want to re-sign their leading rusher.
The new-look backfield in Minnesota has that feature back/goal-line vulture vibe. Cook is just far too dynamic not to give most of the carries to, and offers a complete skillset. Aside from his top-notch vision, breakaway speed, cutting ability and running instincts, he’s an explosive receiving threat.
I gave some love to Joe Mixon earlier in this piece, so now I have to give a fair share to Cook. Sam Bradford was efficient during his first year in Minnesota, and should continue to tighten the screws with emergences from Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and even Laquon Treadwell. The Vikings will have a more effective, balanced attack this season, and Cook will be the centerpiece. Last season we saw two rookie ball carriers finish inside the top 10 RBs among fantasy points and that very well could happen again this season, with McCaffrey and Fournette being the odd men out.
New England Patriots: Brandin Cooks finishes as a top 5 WR in PPR leagues
Is there really any plausible prediction I can make here? Or perhaps they’re all implausible. What I’m getting at is the New England Patriots are routinely one of the hardest teams to predict in the fantasy realm year after year. As James Todd (@spidr2ybanana) put it on Twitter, “[The] Patriots offense [is] like that hot, crazy person. Lots of nice parts, but good luck figuring them out.”
Todd’s statement was from around this time last year, but still holds true as the Pats’ offense remains a quandary year after year for fantasy owners. Whether or not you’re looking at the running backs, wide receivers or tight ends, there’s no predicting how the players on their roster will stack up by season’s end.
Over this past offseason the Patriots went out and made a blockbuster trade for Brandin Cooks. Entering his 4th year in the league, Cooks has established himself as one of the most electric receivers in the league, whether he’s working out of the slot or burning corners outside, he produces. While it has helped Cooks’ case that he was playing with one of the all-time greats in Drew Brees, he now gets an upgrade under center in Tom Brady.
Looking at the Patriots’ WR corps, they’re stacked, as you were probably aware of. Julian Edelman is the ever-so reliable weapon out of the slot, and the cohesion with Brady goes a long way. Then you mix in other depth guys who will produce in Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola, plus the emerging Malcolm Mitchell. Plus, Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen at tight end, and the plethora of pass catchers out of the backfield. All of these guys will be vying for touches, so where does Cooks fit in?
To start, Cooks is the most polarizing receiver the Patriots have had since Randy Moss. Between his natural ability and dynamic athleticism, he brings a new element to New England’s offense. Unlike the rest of the receivers on the squad, Cooks is a dual-threat, meaning you can line him up all over the field and he’s going to make plays; whether it’s racking up YAC out of the slot, or beating defenders for deep TDs.
Even with all the mouths to feed, I’m still going to claim Cooks finishes as a top 5 PPR WR. Players with his dynamic don’t make stops in Foxborough very often, and I think Bill Belichick will want to get his money’s worth. Expect most production to dwindle in New England, whereas Cooks should put up another 80 catch, 1,100+ yard season with 7-8 TDs.
New Orleans Saints: Willie Snead finishes as a top 15 WR in PPR leagues
How fitting that we would segue from talking about Brandin Cooks and move onto his former teammate, Willie Snead. Well, that’s exactly what the Saints are going to do. Snead was an undrafted free agent out of Ball State, and a virtual unknown before catching onto the scene during the 2015 season with New Orleans.
The departure of Cooks leaves behind massive production to be had in New Orleans’ passing game. Michael Thomas allowed Cooks to become expendable after he blew up as a rookie, but he needs a sidekick in order to keep his development on the ascend. With Cooks removed from the offense, Snead will now play second fiddle.
The Saints made major strides over the offseason in improving their backfield as they signed all-time great Adrian Peterson, and also drafted Alvin Kamara in the 2nd round. While they have some shiny new toys to use, still expect the Saints to be among the league leaders in pass attempts as Snead secures more of the target share. Snead has compiled over 100 targets in each of the past two seasons, expect that number to go up in 2017 as he secures an expanded role in the offense.
Snead gained fantasy relevance back in 2015 due to his splash plays, consistency and reliability. He will only continue to get better and post more production en route to a career year in 2017, along with a high finish in the WR scoring come season’s end.
New York Giants: Sterling Shepard outscores Brandon Marshall in PPR leagues
After signing Brandon Marshall and drafting Evan Engram in the 1st round of the NFL Draft, Sterling Shepard has quickly become the forgotten man on New York’s offense. It won’t stay that way for long.
The 2016 2nd round pick is coming off a productive rookie season where he played the understudy to Odell Beckham. Shepard finished the year 2nd on the team in targets (105), receptions (65), receiving yards (683) and TDs (8). While the additions of Marshall and Engram are deservingly a cause for concern regarding Shepard’s fantasy value, he offers something the others don’t.
It’s no secret that the Giants have one of the worst offensive lines in all of football. While a downfield passing attack looks good on paper, the fact of the matter is that Eli Manning won’t have all day to throw. Thus, the Giants will have to rely more-so on quick passes than they’d want, considering the weapons they’ve flooded onto that offense.
Shepard will be the main guy lining up in the slot, although OBJ and Engram will get some looks there as well. Still, Shepard will be forced targets throughout games with spotty offensive line play as he builds on a productive rookie year. Don’t be surprised if he sees more targets than both Marshall and Engram.
New York Jets: Bilal Powell finishes as a top 10 RB in PPR leagues
This may not seem like a bold prediction based on the fact that last season Bilal Powell finished as RB16 in PPR leagues. However, when you’re barely being drafted as a top 30 RB, it gains credibility in this particular claim. Let’s be honest, drafting a New York Jet isn’t particularly exciting this year, but Powell is the exception you need to make.
Entering the 2017 season, the Jets possess arguably the league’s most underwhelming roster as they’re the early favorite to land the #1 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Most won’t be tuning into any Jets games this season, from either a fantasy standpoint or for entertainment purposes. But Powell could make it worthwhile.
Despite their attempts to add playmakers in the draft as they selected ArDarius Stewart, Chad Hansen and Jordan Leggett in consecutive rounds, don’t expect the Jets to soar through the air. Instead, they’ll be forced into check down after check down with inadequate QB play.
Last season Powell tied for 2nd on the team with 58 catches and posted the team’s highest catch rate. Matt Forte’s presence isn’t a reason to fret. While he led the Jets in rushing last season, Powell was far more impressive as he averaged 5.5 yards per carry – nearly 2 full yards more than Forte.
Forte is clearly on his last legs. He’s been consistent and reliable over the course of his career, but has missed a few games over the past two seasons. At this stage in his career, he isn’t a premier back anymore as his legs start to wear down. The Jets will lean on Powell to provide a spark for an offense which will struggle to move the ball.
With Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty engineering the offense combined with an extremely young crop of receivers, the Jets will experience growing pains throughout the year. This will result in Powell getting force fed touches. Expect a breakout year from the former Louisville Cardinal.
RELATED: The State of the Jets QB Battle
Oakland Raiders: Marshawn Lynch finishes outside top 30 RBs
We’re all excited about Marshawn Lynch’s return to the NFL. “Skittles” has done a tremendous job of providing us with comedic relief during his year away from football, but he’s all business on the gridiron. Following a year off after retiring, the Seahawks agreed to trade Lynch’s rights to the Oakland Raiders. Lynch was still under contract in Seattle and would only return to the NFL if he got to suit up for his hometown Raiders.
Lynch joins the Raiders in the midst of a Super Bowl run. The Raiders have all the pieces in play to be a serious threat in the AFC. Between Derek Carr who is on the brink of stardom, one of the best WR tandems in the league, a top 5 offensive line and a ferocious defense headlined by arguably the league’s top pass rusher in Khalil Mack, a brand name out of that backfield was the only missing piece to the puzzle.
The awaited return of Lynch has fans ecstatic, and for good reason. It’s not everyday a player decides to comeback out of retirement, and a player of Lynch’s pedigree at that. However, I think fantasy owners are a bit too ecstatic.
While writing this article, Lynch is currently going off the board as RB12 (what?!) – which is far too rich for my taste. Who knows how Lynch will bounce back after an entire year off. Plus, let’s remember he missed half of the 2015 season with an injury. Even in 2015, Lynch didn’t look like himself. His 3.8 yards per carry was his lowest mark since 2010. If you watched him at all during that season, he looked noticeably less explosive on the field than what we grew accustomed to seeing.
Expecting Lynch to return to a fantasy stud is a lofty expectation. While I love the fit in Oakland, Lynch is an extreme risk based on the circumstances. Lynch will be an upgrade over Latavius Murray, but he won’t be consistent enough to warrant a high draft pick. With energetic backs Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington handling all passing down work with some other snaps sprinkled in, Lynch will not finish nearly as high as most are hoping.
Philadelphia Eagles: LeGarrette Blount finishes as a top 10 RB
As a whole, the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense was subpar in 2016, although there are a lot of things to look forward to heading into this season. For starters, Carson Wentz enters a pivotal year. After being drafted 2nd overall, Wentz was solid as a rookie, although he endured his fair share of growing pains. After adding weapons such as Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency, plus a few in the draft, the pressure is all on Wentz to take that next step forward as the team’s franchise QB.
With a revamped passing attack, the Eagles’ backfield is an area which is being overlooked by most, fantasy owners included. It took until after the draft for LeGarrette Blount to find a new home and sign with Philadelphia. This despite leading the league with 18 TDs and posting a career-high 1,161 rushing yards, and most notably finishing the season as a top 10 fantasy RB.
While playing in New England tends to inflate stats a bit, Blount could enjoy similar production with the Eagles. The Eagles have suffered from poor redzone play for quite a while now. Blount will instantly be the go-to guy inside the 5 which gives him a chance to again eclipse double-digit TDs.
With lack of competition out of that backfield, Blount could inherit a bellcow role. Darren Sproles was the most consistent producer on this offense last year, but he’s never going to get more than 10 carries a game. Then there’s Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey who will see spotty snaps.
Not only is the role in place for Blount to flourish, but the supporting cast is there as well. Aside from all the weapons the Eagles added in the passing game, they enter the season with one of the league’s best offensive lines; the #1 offensive line according to PFF. Blount will have the pleasure of running through hole after hole.
All the pieces are in place for Blount to have another productive year in 2017. They didn’t have the capability last year, but the Eagles can now look towards the running game more in order to keep Wentz comfortable under center and open things up through the air. Blount is going to rack up the yardage and lead the team in TDs.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Martavis Bryant finishes outside top 30 WRs
Headlined by Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been fantasy football’s juggernaut for the past few years. The juggernaut will receive a boost this season. After sitting out all of 2016 due to suspension, Martavis Bryant returns in 2017 with high expectations league-wide, and from fantasy owners.
Similar to the case of Marshawn Lynch, we’re all drooling from the mouth in anticipation of Martavis Bryant’s return to the NFL as he has recently been fully reinstated. The fact of the matter however, is that Bryant sat out the entire 2016 season due to suspension. I’m not here to say because of his “year off” that Bryant won’t be a productive WR this season. However, that variable is 100% unknown, and you can’t assume that he will return to top form.
Looking at Pittsburgh’s WR room, they are stacked. Between the stud Antonio Brown, 2nd round pick JuJu Smith-Schuster along with guys like Eli Rodgers, Sammie Coates, among others fighting for a roster spot, Bryant’s sample size shouldn’t be as large as it was back in 2015; now with plenty more mouths to feed, not to mention Le’Veon Bell’s presence.
Speaking of 2015, Bryant continued to build off his rookie year and flashed a ton during his 2nd year as he finished with 765 receiving yards and 6 TDs. In his two best games (vs Cardinals/vs Browns) that season, he accounted for 41% of his total yardage, along with half of his TDs for the entire year. What does this indicate? Inconsistency. Looking at his stat-line from the final 4 games of the year, Bryant didn’t catch a single TD pass and averaged only 35.5 yards per catch. Bryant is the epitome of a “boom or bust” player, from a fantasy standpoint, which makes you think of guys like Donte Moncrief and DeSean Jackson, among others, who are both being drafted after him.
After flirting with retirement, Ben Roethlisberger decided to come back for at least one more season. While he definitely gives the Steelers the best chance to win of almost any QB in the league, his production has been on the decline in the past couple of years. While Big Ben is still putting up big numbers, he has missed six games over the past two years and it’s clear that his best years are behind him as the Steelers have shifted towards a more run-oriented offense, and for good reason. Between regression at his age and durability concerns, Roethlisberger just isn’t that gunslinger that he used to be.
Between the off time, all the mouths to feed and Big Ben’s regression, I think we’re placing our expectations for Martavis Bryant a little high right now. Not to say that I don’t like him, because he’s a remarkable talent. But from a fantasy standpoint, there are just too many guys to spread the ball to, and you know Bell and Brown are going to hog the touches on that offense. Bryant will have his fair share of big weeks, but he just won’t have the consistency to finish as a top 30 WR.
San Francisco 49ers: Carlos Hyde runs for 1,000 yards and double-digit TDs
Is this really a bold prediction though? It seems that way after talk surfaced of Carlos Hyde potentially being a surprise cut back in late June. Since that time, fantasy owners have had their head on a swivel when it comes to drafting Carlos Hyde, and instead have looked at other guys in the stable such as 4th round pick Joe Williams and journeyman Tim Hightower.
Through his first three seasons, Carlos Hyde has proven to be an effective running back. With his combination of size, physicality, power and a blend of speed, Hyde is an imposing force out of the backfield, when healthy. Hyde missed three games last season, and missed more than half the year back in 2015. Despite the missed time, Hyde fell just short of 1,000 yards and also posted career-highs with 9 total TDs, 4.6 yards per rush, 27 catches and an 81.8% catch rate.
Since all the ‘cut talk’, Hyde has received rave reviews out of camp. He’s healthy, he’s trimmed fat, and he’s ready to go. With a mediocre QB situation, Hyde will be the focal point of Kyle Shanahan’s offense, especially if he continues to make strides as a receiver.
With Shanahan becoming the headman in San Fran, most are anticipating a high octane passing attack, as we saw in his stint with Atlanta this past season. However, Shanahan offenses aren’t always prone to the pass. Since 2012, Shanahan-led offenses average out a rank of 20 in terms of pass attempts per year; even this past season the Falcons surprisingly ranked 26th in pass attempts.
If Shanahan has the talent in the backfield, or a non-ideal passing attack, or both, which happens to be the case with the 49ers, he has no problem running a run-oriented offense to maximize the talent utilization, as well as open things up through the air. While Brian Hoyer has produced at times in his career, he’s still a subpar starting QB with an underwhelming WR corps.
It’s going to be a tough transition for Shanahan as a rookie head coach as he leaves behind one of the league’s most potent offenses which featured an MVP caliber season from Matt Ryan, arguably the game’s top backfield and arguably the game’s top WR in Julio Jones. Shanahan will be forced to rely on the legs of Hyde to keep the chains moving and create big plays.
I wouldn’t worry about guys like Williams or Hightower to cut into Hyde’s workload. Hyde is far and away the best back on the roster. Williams is a one-trick pony, although his speed is lethal. Hightower has seen spurts of production throughout his career, but what does he actually bring to the table?
Health is the only concern I have regarding Hyde in 2017. He’s set to be given a major workload this year, and he should take advantage. Assuming he doesn’t miss significant time, Hyde could easily eclipse 1,000 rushing yards and reach 10 TDs, leaving all that talk about being cut in the dust.
Seattle Seahawks: Paul Richardson finishes 3rd on team in receiving
When I approached the Seahawks in this piece, I originally wanted to place my focus into that backfield in some way, shape or form. However, it is way too unpredictable to even try to be bold. Instead, I’m going to talk about Paul Richardson.
Now entering his 4th year in the league, the former 2nd round pick out of Colorado is entering a make or break year in Seattle. With Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham the unquestioned leaders in the passing game the Seahawks need someone to emerge as that #3 option. Paul Richardson very well could be that guy.
While the masses would be quick to point to a guy like Jermaine Kearse or Tyler Lockett as the 3rd option on this team, Richardson carries tons of intrigue. Known as a deep threat with his 4.4 speed, Richardson entered the league with the “boom or bust” label, along with the injury prone tag which proved true when he played in only one game during the 2015 season. Now with another year to hone in on the rest of his skills and get healthy, Richardson will get one final chance to live up to his 2nd round status.
Despite seeing a career-high 90 targets last season, Jermaine Kearse barely managed 500 receiving yards and saw a big drop to 12.5 in yards per catch, with just one TD. At this point he’s looking more like a depth receiver. Tyler Lockett is an electric returner who has made a splash in the passing game as well, but is just recently back from a serious leg injury which occurred late last season.
Richardson has some hype brewing into the 2017 season after flashing in the 2016 playoffs as he replaced Lockett. Richardson made some spectacular catches and showed great ability to win those contested passes. In two playoff games he caught 7 of 9 targets for 131 yards and a TD and showcased his big play ability.
If Richardson continues to round out his skillset and can build off his late surge in 2016, he will emerge as a key piece in Seattle’s offense. Kearse is nothing more than a solid possession receiver and who knows how Lockett can bounce back off the injury. Richardson is a big sleeper this year and if last year’s playoffs are any indication of what he’s capable of, he will slide up the depth chart and is in store for a career year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard combine to outscore Rob Gronkowski
As players of fantasy football, I don’t think we realize how insane Rob Gronkowski’s 2015 season was. Aside from his 255 fantasy points, which crushed any TE this past season, he proved that a TE could in fact carry your fantasy team. After missing most of 2016 due to injury, Gronkowski is expected to return fully healthy and continue his fantasy dominance.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did a fantastic job this past offseason of surrounding Jameis Winston with weapons and building around Mike Evans. After signing DeSean Jackson to give them a threat over the top, the team had O.J. Howard fall into their laps in the 1st round and were quick to turn-in the name card.
While Howard was a steal in the NFL Draft and should be an immediate factor in Tampa Bay’s offense, I think people are forgetting about Cameron Brate. Last season Brate burst onto the scene to finish 2nd on the team in catches (57), receiving yards (660) and TDs (8) while also finishing as TE7.
O.J. Howard may be the more polarizing presence at TE, but the Bucs plan on splitting targets between one of the top TE duos in the league. This will give both players similar, if not equal opportunities to produce. I have Howard as the higher ranked TE this season, but Brate is no slouch as he proved last year.
I know what you may be thinking, “How is it bold to say two players will outscore one?” Well, as I touched on earlier, Gronk is arguably the most overpowering player in the league. Even Hunter Henry and Zach Miller didn’t combine to outscore Gronk’s historic 2015 season. Even with Evans, Jackson and Chris Godwin, Winston loves to target his TEs and will continue to do so. Both Brate and Howard have top 10 potential this season.
Tennessee Titans: Corey Davis finishes 4th on team in receiving
The Tennessee Titans drafted Corey Davis with the 5th overall pick which immediately provided a spark to what was one of the more mediocre WR corps in the league last season. Soon after, the team also signed veteran Eric Decker. Now entering the 2017 season, the Titans boast one of the more intimidating WR groups.
The Titans and fans alike are excited for Davis’ rookie season, but I think the majority are overrating him from a fantasy standpoint. To start, Davis has already been dealing with a nagging hamstring injury which has kept him out of all preseason actions thus far. This injury dates back to the draft process where Davis didn’t even perform in the NFL Combine.
Looking back at last year’s numbers, the Titans return their top four leading receivers from the 2016 season, plus they now add Eric Decker. Let’s not forget that Decker was a 1,000+ yard/12 TD receiver back in 2015, prior to missing most of last year. Mariota already has an established rapport with both Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker, now you add a seasoned vet like Decker into the mix, that doesn’t bode well for Davis’ fantasy value.
Marcus Mariota is a QB on the brink of elite status, but he plays within the offense and isn’t asked to do much on his own as the Titans rely more-so on the running game. Last season they ranked in the bottom five in pass attempts. What does this mean? There are too many weapons within Tennessee’s passing game for the wealth to be evenly spread. While I expect Mike Mularkey to increase the amount of passes this season, guys like Matthews, Walker and Decker should see a higher volume than the rookie.
In a run-oriented offense with three guys ahead of him who should see more targets, not to mention a nagging hamstring injury, this doesn’t sound like the recipe for fantasy stardom. Mix in some rookie growing pains and I’m sold. While I loved Corey Davis as a prospect, I don’t expect a huge fantasy splash in his debut NFL season.
Washington Redskins: Jamison Crowder finishes as a top 15 WR in PPR leagues
Someone I’ve been targeting in nearly every fantasy draft I’ve done so far this Summer has been Jamison Crowder. Last season I was lucky enough to swoop-in and claim him off the waiver wire. Looking at his current ADP, I was shocked to see him going off the board in the late 6th round as WR31, considering he finished as WR26 last season.
It’s been well-documented since free agency that Washington lost its top two receivers from 2016. With Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson jumping ship within the NFC, the Redskins now have to account for 214 targets, 135 receptions, 2,046 receiving yards and 7 TD catches. While the Redskins made a splash to counter those losses by bringing in Terrelle Pryor, the guy I’m mostly sold on in this WR corps is Jamison Crowder.
Crowder enjoyed a breakout sophomore campaign where he led the team with 7 TDs and came up just one target shy of DeSean Jackson’s 100. Crowder’s 2016 season included a TD grab in three consecutive weeks and three contests with 100+ receiving yards. He was as consistent as they come as he emerged as one of the NFL’s best slot receivers.
In a revamped Washington WR corps which now features Pryor along with breakout candidate and former 1st round pick Josh Doctson, what makes Crowder stand out more than the aforementioned? Comfortability and reliability. Aside from maybe Jordan Reed, whos injury woes are more than known at this point, Kirk Cousins will be most comfortable throwing to Crowder out of the slot; especially in the early phase of the season as he will need some time to establish chemistry with both Pryor and Doctson – that already exists with Crowder.
As guys like Julian Edelman and Wes Welker have proven, slot receivers can be more than relevant for your fantasy team – Crowder is next in line when it comes to the game’s top slot guys. With his lightning quick routes, comfortability in the offense and reliability from week-to-week, I think it’s safe to say Crowder finishes as a top 15 WR in PPR leagues as he’ll be tasked to cover the production left behind by Garcon and Jackson.
RELATED: Jamison Crowder is a High-End WR2