Below are five burning questions answered by the TFA squad. We covered Sleepers, Breakouts, & Busts in this massive write up. This piece should help you draft prep this weekend.
With Week 1 starting next week, TFA will begin rolling out our weekly content starting on Monday. It’s finally here.
Who is a sleeper you are really high on?
Marlon Mack: Of all the rookies who were drafted back in April, the one guy I really wanted to keep an eye on was Marlon Mack. The fourth round pick for the Colts I felt landed an ideal role with an aging RB in Frank Gore and a solid, but not exciting passing down RB in Robert Turbin as his competition. Mack was explosive at South Florida having a run of 55 yards or more in each collegiate year. The Colts haven’t had that type of explosiveness in years. Gore is a Hall-of-Famer. He’s been an RB16 or higher every year since 2011. He is, however, 34 and the eighth round I feel I could get more from another position i.e. QB or WR. I’d much rather wait four rounds and grab Mack in the 12th round with a banged-up Andrew Luck and an injury-riddled offensive line. – Ryan Williams (@RyanAlexander_W)
Kevin White: I was hyping Kevin White before the Cameron Meredith injury, but now he’s making a push out of the sleeper class as the likely WR1 in Chicago. White was the seventh overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and profiled as a DeAndre Hopkins-esque, dominant perimeter receiver. He has been unable to stay healthy through two pro seasons, but put extra effort into doing so this offseason and has looked 100 percent in preseason play. With a hodge-podge of less-than-elite veterans filling out the Bears’ depth chart, it would not be a surprise to see the team pepper their former first-rounder with well over 100 targets. White’s role in this offense may be the strongest of any fantasy sleeper, which means more a lot more upside. Had the Meredith injury happened earlier, it’s possible White would have climbed out of the sleeper rounds entirely, but as it is you can likely still find him well into the double-digit rounds or on your waiver wire. – Matt Okada (@FantasySensei)
DeAndre Washington: I have touched on Washington already this offseason as a sleeper and now I’m doubling down on my love for DeAndre Washington. Last season, Washington split time behind Latavius Murray and Jalen Richard. He posted admirable numbers with 467 yards on 87 carries which were good for a stellar 5.37 YPC. The Raiders also possess the 6th best run blocking units which should also be baked into his ceiling.
The real question for Washington is how much work will he receive behind Marshawn Lynch? With Lynch turning 31 years old and missing a full season due to retirement, it’s obvious to wonder how much does he have left in the tank and can he hold up through the rigors of an NFL season. Not to mention the last full season beast mode played in he posted a below average 3.8 YPC. There are already reports out of Oakland that points to Marshawn Lynch not receiving the lion share of the touches and could even see below 200 touches this season, which would hurt his chances to fulfilling his lofty ADP expectations.
Currently, Lynch is being drafted as the 17th running back off the board in PPR formats, which a bit easier to stomach compared to when he was going as the 12th running back just a few weeks ago. Despite the change in ADP, I still want all of the DeAndre Washington I can get my hands on, due in large part because of the massive market share he would inherit if anything happened to Beast mode. – Kevin Steele (@FantasyWrath13)
Eric Ebron: Alright yes I’m biting on Ebron again. The thing is, he is a post-hype sleeper that is somehow going completely ignored in drafts despite coming off the best season of his career. Ebron was 7th in the NFL in yards/game for tight ends last year. Sure, his 1 touchdown doesn’t inspire many, but he had five the year before, and touchdowns are extremely variant and hard to predict year-to-year. In the 11th round as the 12th tight end off the board, I’ve been nabbing him on both teams I punt TE on as a potential starter, as well as a high-end TE2 on teams where I take one earlier just because he’s so cheap. – Zack Marmer (@leagueedge)
Kenny Britt: Yes, we have similar names but that’s not why I love Kenny Britt this year. Last season on one of the worst offenses in the current era NFL, Britt posted 1,000 yards and 5 TDs, good enough to be the WR26 in PPR. He’s still being drafted in the 11th round or later, according to Fantasy Football Calculator. Kenny Britt averaged 10.25 air yards on his targets, while still having a comparable YAC to Tavon Austin (Britt 4.49 vs Austin 4.71). Among top WRs, Kenny Britt had the 4th highest usage of the slant route and had 79.7% success rate against man coverage. Additionally, Britt was rated as the best crossing route receiver in 2016. He’s a good player who’s never gotten the volume until last year. Grab him! – Kent Weyrauch (@CCNP_Kent)
Ted Ginn: I was extremely high on Willie Snead all offseason. But sadly, with additional information, I have to bump him down my board a bit. In the Saints’ regular season dress rehearsal (preseason Week 3), Snead only played exclusively in three-WR sets and only 13 of Drew Brees’ 26 snaps. It looks like his role won’t be changing much at all in 2017. The beneficiary? Ted Ginn. Ginn is playing more in two-WR sets in the preseason and has the closest skill set to departed Brandin Cooks on the depth chart. Consistently getting open matters a hell of a lot more than dropping a few passes here and there. Ginn is a screaming value playing with Drew Brees in a Sean Payton led offense that has finished in the top five in pass attempts 10 times in 13 years. Plus, the Saints have finished in the top four in overall play volume three years in a row. – Ben Cummins (@BenCumminsFF)
Kevin White: Maybe it is the West Virginia gal in me (yes, I’m from WV), but I agree with Matt about Kevin White’s sleeper potential this season. With Cameron Meredith’s injury, the door is wide open for White and his 11th round ADP means he won’t cost you much. White managed to play in just 4 NFL games since being drafted in the first round in 2015, but he’s looked solid in the preseason. His health is everyone’s concern, but this guy has resiliency and a path to over 100 targets. This isn’t the first time White’s been doubted. He bounced back after an underwhelming junior season in college but rallied in time to impress with a 1447 yard, 10 TD season his senior year. He’s speedy (ran a 4.35-second 40-yard dash) and possesses athleticism and good hands. The Bears desperately need someone to step up, and why shouldn’t it be their 2015 first round pick? – Jen Smith (@FF_Female920)
Who is one breakout player you think can outperform their ADP?
Ted Ginn Jr. — I’ve mentioned numerous times on our TFA Podcast that Ted Ginn’s current ADP at WR56 is absolutely egregious. No one wants to give Ted Ginn, Jr. love and that’s ok because I’m ready to reap all of the benefits. He’s with arguably the best fantasy QB and with New Orleans losing 143 targets TGJ will garner a good portion of that. Brees is one of the best deep-ball passers the NFL has seen – ranking top-5 in seven of the past nine seasons (PFF). Ted Ginn has 14 touchdowns in the past two years, nine going for 20 yards or more. Cooks was Brees’ deep-ball speedster on the outside – it only makes sense to have Ginn Jr. fill in that role. – Ryan Williams (@RyanAlexander_W)
Stefon Diggs: Stefon Diggs has been held back from fully breaking out by nagging injury issues. Last year, it was a groin injury in Week 4, after which Diggs missed three total games and admitted he wasn’t 100 percent in the others. Still, his 16-game pace in 2016 would have been 103 receptions and 1,111 yards. Now, reports out of Minnesota suggest Diggs will be featured more heavily on the perimeter, rather than primarily out of the slot. This likely indicates a desire from the Vikings to feature their best receiver as the WR1-type threat they know he can be. If that’s the case, Diggs could continue to say a heavy target share, increase his 11.9 career yards per reception, and finally find the end zone in a meaningful way. His chemistry with Sam Bradford should also improve following Bradford’s first full offseason with the team. Diggs offers an incredibly high floor (barring injury) but it’s his high-end WR2 breakout potential that has me drafting him wherever I can. – Matt Okada (@FantasySensei)
Javorius Allen: While my counterparts went with more obvious names, I decided to go with Javorius Allen. Why? Because I believe he will be the lead back sooner rather than later. In case you have forgotten, Allen is a terrific pass-catching back with the size to be a workhorse in the Ravens offense. You have to go back to 2015 to get a glimpse of what Allen can do when given meaningful reps. Over his final eight games, he finished as RB9 with 35 receptions (3rd-most), 600 total yards, and three touchdowns.
With Terrance West struggling during training camp and the preseason, the Ravens gave Allen first team reps. He looked like the more explosive back and should receive the bulk of the pass-catching duties Week 1 if Danny Woodhead misses time with an injury. If I was going to plant my flag for any Ravens running back it would be the one that’s free right now. His upside is massive and wouldn’t be surprised to see him finish the season as a low-end RB2. – Kevin Steele (@FantasyWrath13)
Keenan Allen: I have taken Allen in every single draft I’ve done thus far. You are getting a player with an extremely safe floor given he will be a target hog tied to a great QB. The upside for Allen I think easily puts him in the WR1 conversation, and you can get him heavily discounted often in the back end of the 3rd round. Guys like Terrelle Pryor and DeAndre Hopkins are consistently being drafted ahead of him despite having way more questions about their situations. The only concern for Allen is healthy, and despite missing about 75% of the last 2 years, a lacerated kidney and an ACL tear aren’t the type of nagging injuries Alshon Jeffery is prone to that make you worry about his week-to-week availability. Barring another unforeseen injury, Keenan should easily be the steal of 2017. – Zack Marmer (@leagueedge)
Zach Ertz: Carson Wentz did fairly well in his rookie season in his own right. One of his favorite targets down the stretch was Zach Ertz. In the final seven games of the season, Ertz had four games with double digit targets and only one game below six targets. Also, during that stretch, he had 14 red zone targets. Ertz may have only had three TDs during that timeframe, but the common fantasy advice is to follow the targets. The rapport between Wentz has been built and Ertz will be the main red zone option for the Eagles this year. He easily has top five TE ability and workload and is currently being draft behind guys like Delanie Walker and Tyler Eifert. If he drops below the 7th round you should snatch him immediately. – Kent Weyrauch (@CCNP_Kent)
Randall Cobb: Randall Cobb’s ADP was WR19 and 3.08 overall just one year ago according to Fantasy Football Calculator. Now? It’s WR39 and 8.06 overall. Take advantage of the recency bias and embrace this discount all day.Cobb’s down years can be explained by injury and Aaron Rodgers’ surprisingly disappointing 2015 fantasy season. His ceiling when healthy? That would be the 91 catches, 1,287 yards, and 12 TDs he posted on his way to the PPR WR8 overall finish back in 2014. The injury risk is already baked into his ADP. You can buy him at his absolute floor right now and there’s literally zero reasons not to take a chance on him. If Cobb stays healthy, he’ll easily blow his ADP out of the water. Cobb possesses double digit TD upside playing in an offense with the greatest QB I’ve ever laid eyes on. – Ben Cummins (@BenCumminsFF)
Pierre Garcon: San Francisco won’t be pretty to watch this season, but that doesn’t mean they can’t produce solid fantasy value. Pierre Garcon’s current ADP in the late 6th round (PPR) and early 8th round (standard) gives owners plenty of incentive to take a chance on this 31-year-old wide out. Reunited with Kyle Shanahan, Garcon looks to repeat the success the two accomplished in 2013. Garcon led the league that year with 113 catches and finished as the #11 fantasy wide receiver. Though many may want to doubt Garcon, he possesses a clear path to targets as the WR1 on a team that will most likely be playing from behind often. He finished last season as the #21 fantasy wide receiver with 1041 yards and 3 TDs on 79 catches. Garcon maintains playmaker ability and was in the top 20 in yards after the catch amongst wide receivers in 2016. With little competition for targets, Garcon should have no problem besting his current ADP. – Jen Smith (@FF_Female920)
Who is a bounceback candidate that can redeem themselves after a down year?
Duke Johnson: Duke Johnson might seem like a bizarre here, but when you consider the hype that he was getting in the 2016 offseason. Isaiah Crowell was battling off-the-field issues and trying to garner faith from Head Coach Hue Jackson that he could be relied on as the lead back. Johnson was going as the RB24 on average in drafts for 2016 and finished as the RB39 with only one touchdown on 74 carries. What is something to bank on, however, is how much work Johnson saw in the passing game. Two years in a row we’ve seen Duke Johnson get 74 targets in the backfield and 114 total receptions. There are rumblings in Cleveland that Duke Johnson could potentially play more as a slot WR, giving newly-named Deshone Kizer the possibility to having Johnson and Crowell on the field at the same time. The Browns have a bunch of no-names at WR after Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman so it makes all the sense in the world. The Browns offense I think is going to surprise people this year and Johnson definitely has a great role to see increased success. People were a year early on the Duke Johnson break out – it’s coming in 2017. – Ryan Williams (@RyanAlexander_W)
Doug Martin: Doug Martin is the epitome of a fantasy football roller coaster. He has produced three atrocious partial seasons alongside a pair of monster 16-game years. Last year was one of the “down” years, and by down I mean eight games, 421 rushing yards, and three touchdowns. Way down. But also, not hard to bounce back from that. Moreover, we already know what Martin is capable of when healthy — in his two full seasons, he averaged 1,800 all-purpose yards and 9.5 touchdowns. He has looked great in the preseason, passing the eye-test with flying colors, and the improved Tampa Bay offense should be an excellent system to showcase his return to glory. Martin will miss the first three games of the season to suspension, but this makes his draft price all the more valuable. And if he comes back healthy, he could legitimately be a high-end RB1 for the rest of the season. – Matt Okada (@FantasySensei)
John Brown: Because Todd Gurley and Doug Martin were already taken, I’ll go with my dude Smokey Brown. John Brown (when healthy) is one of the most dynamic wide receivers in the league. He struggled last due in large part to his sickle cell trait and a cyst on his spine. Over the offseason, Brown had the cyst drained which was one of the contributing factors of his decline last season. I mean, that can only help him, right? With a clean bill of health and a rejuvenated Carson Palmer, the sky’s the limit for John Brown. He’s only a year removed from posting 1,003 receiving yards and seven touchdowns which was good for WR25 in PPR formats. As things stand currently John Brown is one of the bigger steals in the later rounds with an ADP of WR45. The biggest concern for Brown is his health. He’s struggled with soft tissue injuries over his career and has already battled a hamstring injury during training camp. However, with such little draft capital invested, I have zero qualms with taking Brown as my 4th or 5th WR off the board because of his immense upside. – Kevin Steele (@FantasyWrath13)
Jamaal Charles: I wanted to go with Doug Martin here, but I’ll settle for Charles who I am also high on. Charles has been the most efficient running back in NFL history when healthy, so the upside is absolutely there for him if he can stay healthy. C.J. Anderson is always injured, and behind him, there is A. Devontae Booker who looked atrocious last year B. De’Angelo Henderson who has looked good this preseason but has a similar skillset to Charles and then basically nobody else. Charles should start the season on passing downs, but as he becomes more confident in his surgically repaired knee, he will assuredly earn more work on a team that loves to run the football. In PPR, he is a great stash that could pay dividends if you are willing to be patient a few weeks. By week 6 when Anderson is injured and Charles is confident in his knees, he could easily be the every down monster like we know he can be. – Zack Marmer (@leagueedge)
Todd Gurley: Todd Gurley didn’t exactly have a terrible season last year. He put together over 1,200 scrimmage yards and 6 TDs. The problem was that he was drafted in the first five picks of 2016 fantasy drafts. He was a letdown of a first round pick. Last season the Rams were dead last in offensive yards and scoring. It was an abysmal season for the Rams all around, with Goff being thrown into the fire. Goff couldn’t adapt to the NFL level fast enough, and that led to stacked boxes against Gurley. The Rams added pro-bowler LT Andrew Whitworth and longtime Viking C John Sullivan to their line, who was ranked 29th in run blocking AND pass protection by Football Outsiders. Goff has a full offseason as the starter under his belt and some new receivers to add some passing forgiveness. I see this offense expanding greatly from last season and Todd Gurley stands to gain a lot as their 3-down back. He could easily return to the top 5 RB echelon very quickly. – Kent Weyrauch (CCNP_Kent)
Marvin Jones: I never got too much into the Marvin Jones hype last year, firmly believing in Golden Tate and expecting it to take some time for Jones and Matthew Stafford to get acclimated in year one. Boy did I feel dumb early on in the season. Yet, by season’s end, everything balanced itself out with Golden Tate taking his rightful place as the Lions’ WR1. Nothing has changed on my belief that Tate is the main man in Detroit. So what has changed? Well, that would be the ADP of Jones. Instead of being drafted ahead of Tate or right after him like he was a year ago at this time, fantasy owners have seemingly thrown in the towel on Jones heading into 2017. Jones can now routinely be had in the 9th round or even later in drafts. Healthy again after battling injuries last season, Jones remains Detroit’s best outside option at WR and he will continue to benefit from playing in an offense with Stafford that has finished inside of the top 11 in pass attempts three years in a row. – Ben Cummins (@BenCumminsFF)
Jeremy Maclin: After finishing the 2014 and 2015 seasons as the ninth and fifteenth overall fantasy wide receiver in PPR scoring, Maclin fell off the map in 2016. Maclin revealed post-season that a nagging groin injury contributed to his struggle after he injured it in week 9. We weren’t able to see Maclin do much this preseason, due to Flacco’s back injury keeping him sidelined. He should be under center week 1, however, and looking to distribute 228 targets that previously went to Steve Smith and Dennis Pitta. His #1 target? Jeremy Maclin. If Maclin can score in the top 15 fantasy wide receivers with Alex Smith as his QB (21st in pass attempts in 2016), he definitely will outperform his 7th round ADP no problem with Flacco at the helm. Flacco tied Drew Brees for most pass attempts in 2016 and ranked #2 in completed passes season-long as well as per game. Maclin finished outside the top 70 fantasy WRs last season, so to say he is primed for a bounce back in 2017 is an understatement. A now 100% healthy Maclin is ready to roll. – Jen Smith (@FF_Female920)
Name one highly touted fantasy player that you think is primed to bust?
Melvin Gordon: There always seem to be RBs who go in the first round of fantasy drafts that disappoint. Last year, it was Todd Gurley and Adrian Peterson. The year before that it was Eddie Lacy and CJ Anderson. 2014 was the outlier year where the top backs taken finished as RB1s. This year, however, I think we get back to trends and there are five choices. I clearly wouldn’t bet money on Bell or DJ busting unless they suffer injury. Freeman and LeSean McCoy I love this year. That leaves Gordon. This year’s Lamar Miller in my opinion. We have to remember: volume is nice but it’s what you do with that volume that really makes/breaks the fantasy season. Gordon has averaged less than four yards per carry in both NFL seasons. He only has 10 total touchdowns in two years — all 10 coming in his sophomore year. That’s right – he had zero as a rookie. That’s pretty alarming. He was the only RB in the Top-12 to finish with under 1,000 rushing yards. Mark Ingram had 1,000 yards rushing on 49 fewer carries and he’s going four rounds later. I will say it can’t be ignored that he saw 50 red zone carries last year and the Chargers have the 14th-easiest schedule according to Rotoworld’s Warren Sharp. For me, guys that need touchdowns to be successful worry me from the RB position for a first round pick, especially in PPR leagues. – Ryan Williams (@RyanAlexander_W)
Matt Ryan: Read just about anything I’ve written this offseason and you’ll know how I feel about Ryan — including an insanely bold prediction that he would not be a QB1. The 2016 regular season MVP rode a Kyle Shanahan offensive scheme and unrepeatable outlier statistics to the No. 2 QB finish in fantasy, but he is the most obvious choice in the entire league to suffer from regression to the mean this season. Ryan’s gaudy yards per attempt and touchdown rate are guaranteed to drop, and his interception total is bound to increase after he threw close to half of his career average last year. The Atlanta offense as a whole will take a step back after losing one of the NFL’s brightest offensive minds in Shanahan, and Ryan’s fantasy value will take the brunt of that regression. While he may not fall quite as far as the QB13 or worse, he is more than primed to bust at his current ADP of QB4. – Matt Okada (@FantasySensei)
Ty Montgomery: If you would have asked me a month ago about Ty Montgomery, I would have told you that he’s a player to target in PPR formats. He was looking like the featured running back and is tethered to Aaron Rodgers. What’s not to love here? Over the course of training camp and preseason, we have seen rookie Jamaal Williams receive first team reps. Montgomery hasn’t done himself any favors by fumbling in the first preseason game, then missed time with a leg injury. As much as I love TyMo and what could be, I’m not willing to invest a 3rd round pick to find out. It’s beginning to feel like the deck is stacked against him. I don’t think you can discount Jamaal Williams and his likely involvement in the offense. He could easily overtake Montgomery as the early downs back which would relegate TyMo to pass-catching duties. If he was going in the 5th or 6th rounds, I would feel great about selecting him as my RB2 or 3, but as things stand he’s just too risky to trust, especially with the draft capital you need to invest. – Kevin Steele (@FantasyWrath13)
Tevin Coleman: What made Coleman so fantasy relevant last year? Touchdowns. Coleman scored 12 total times on just 149 touches (an absurd 8% TD/touch rate). His efficiency in the passing game was also other-worldly averaging 13.6 yards per reception. Plenty of starting receivers wish they could put up averages like that. The entire Falcons team was unsustainably efficient last season. That will go regress to the mean, as will Coleman’s scores and receiving prowess. If Coleman repeated his yardage numbers, but his YPR was cut down to even 10.0 and you cut his TDs in half, (to a very respectable and reasonable 6 mind you) he is suddenly the RB40 instead of RB19. I think that is a very realistic regression pattern, and that should illustrate the risk of taking him in the 7th round ahead of other potential starters at RB.
Let’s not forget that Devonta Freeman is the lead dog in this backfield either. In addition, Coleman has had trouble with injuries in his short career thus far. He’s missed 7 games over the 2 years, including missing time for a nagging hamstring that can hold back even the best of career trajectories. All those risks make Coleman an easy bust candidate. I’m staying away from what was likely an outlier season. – Zack Marmer (@leagueedge)
Jay Ajayi: Let me start you off with a stat. Jay Ajayi averaged 130 yards per game when C Mike Pouncey plays and 62.2 yards when he doesn’t play. Pouncey has not played a complete season since 2012 and has already had a hip injury during the offseason. Ajayi did have 3 200 yard games last year, sure, but two of those were against the bottom 5 run defense that is the Buffalo Bills. Sure, they play the Bills twice every year but in 2017 those two games come during weeks 15 and 17. If you manage to make it to the playoffs with Ajayi as your first/second pick of the draft, you might get another great game out of him. Personally, I see him having a 2016 Gurley-esque season where he rarely gets above 70 yards and sparse TDs. He is a guy I have avoided all offseason. – Kent Weyrauch (@CCNP_Kent)
Jarvis Landry: The glory days of Jarvis Landry seeing 166 targets back in 2015 (When he helped me win a fantasy football championship) are long gone. The old regime used to use Landry as an extension of the running game because they had no running game. They were a terrible team. Adam Gase’s arrival has signaled improvement for the Dolphins as a real life NFL franchise and simultaneously killed Landry’s fantasy upside. With Jay Ajayi busting out last season, the Dolphins attempted the second fewest pass attempts in the entire league. This led to Landry seeing 35 fewer targets than he had the season prior. Playing in a low volume passing offense and possessing little TD upside, Landry was already being drafted too high for my liking before his buddy Ryan Tannehill was lost for the season. Tannehill proved over a large sample size he and Landry had a mind meld as he routinely looked for him all over the field. Enter Jay Cutler, who will do the exact same thing, just with his new favorite weapon, Devante Parker. I’m completely out on Landry at his ADP. – Ben Cummins (@BenCumminsFF)
Devante Adams: He blew up in 2016 with 12 TDs and 997 yards on 75 catches, finishing as the #10 fantasy wide receiver in PPR scoring. That just isn’t sustainable this season. Adams’ 2016 performance stands out for fantasy owners because he surged out of fantasy obscurity into a high powered offense. He outshined Randall Cobb and gobbled up 20% of the target share. I get it. However, Green Bay added Martellus Bennett at tight end in the offseason and I expect a bounce back from Cobb, so Adams matching his 128 targets in 2017 seems unlikely. I’m not placing too much stock in coach’s speak, but head coach Mike McCarthy spoke about wanting to get Cobb more targets this season. In 2016, Cobb tallied his fewest receptions since 2013 when he played only six games. Right now, Adams’ ADP is in the 4th round. He’s going higher than these WR1s: Larry Fitzgerald, Golden Tate, Stefon Diggs, and Tyreek Hill, which is just too rich for my blood. I’m not saying he disappears back into fantasy obscurity, but he’s going to crash back to earth and disappoint fantasy owners with lofty expectations. – Jen Smith (@FF_Female920)
What’s your bold fantasy prediction for the 2017 season?
Tavon Austin is the highest scoring WR on the Rams this year
What if I told you Tavon is one of my favorite late-round picks of 2017? Go ahead, laugh it up. We’ll see who’s laughing toward the end of the season. Have people forgotten how talented Austin is when out in space in the appropriate offensive scheme? Why are we blaming him for a down 2016 when he had to deal with Jeff Fisher purgatory? Austin actually had career highs in targets, receptions and receiving yards in 2016. His production saw a decline due to the lack of running volume he was able to see with the Rams playing behind in nearly every game. No one wants to talk about the fact that the Rams come into 2017 with 297 (!) unaccounted for targets with Kenny Britt, Brian Quick, and Lance Kendricks all gone. Austin is the only starting WR on the roster that Jared Goff is used to in real game action. No, his career numbers as a WR aren’t brag-worthy, but if they move him to more of Ty Montgomery role I believe we could see Austin really blossom. When coach McVay was in Washington, he used multiple backs out of the backfield with success. I’m loving that Austin hasn’t played a snap in preseason because it’s letting people sleep on him and I’m perfectly fine rounding out my roster with a guy who can easily lead his team in targets – Ryan Williams (@RyanAlexander_W)
Andy Dalton finishes as a top five QB
I’ve written an insanely bold prediction to this end for TFA and touted Dalton everywhere I can for the past couple months. We’re talking about a guy who’s done it before (2013), who has suddenly amassed one of the most talented offenses in the league. A.J. Green is hands-down an elite NFL receiver, while Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, and even rookie speedster John Ross make for respectable depth at the position. Tyler Eifert, if he can stay healthy, is as close to Gronk as you can get from a touchdown perspective — he has 18 TDs in his last 21 games — and will skyrocket Dalton’s touchdown rate if he remains on the field. Giovani Bernard and now Joe Mixon may both rank among the best pass-catching backs in the league by year’s end. This team has a chance at a playoff run and will need Dalton to step up to get them there. I think he does, pushes 4,500 yards and 30 TDs, and maintains his heavily improved interception rate (less than 10 for two straight years). After Rodgers, Brady, and Brees, the competition is wide open and I predict Dalton will beat every other fantasy QB except for Russell Wilson in 2017. – Matt Okada (@FantasySensei)
Four rookies will finish inside the top 15 running backs in PPR scoring.
After doing my PPR stat projections, I found that I had Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, Kareem Hunt, and Leonard Fournette all within my top-15 at the position. This is fairly unprecedented, but with the incoming talent at the position combined with the way so many have usurped prominent roles so quickly, I don’t think it’s even that hot of a take. This does include the possibility of Joe Mixon (who is actually my favorite from a talent perspective) taking over in Cincinnati and landing in that group as well. With the learning curve from college to the pros easiest at the RB position, and most of my other top options in their first few years in the league as well, this could very well become the norm year to year while the NFL is in-fluxed with talent at the position it hasn’t had since LT and Shaun Alexander were gunning for the single-season TD record every year. Next year should be no different with Derrius Guice and Saquon Barkley (among plenty others) already being hyped as first round picks. The RB revitalization is here to stay ladies and gents. – Zack Marmer (@leagueedge)
Russell Wilson finishes the season as the top scoring QB.
For the first time in his career, Russell Wilson failed to reach QB1 status in 2016. Most of that was in large part because he was battling injuries that he suffered early in the season. Once healthy, he was QB3 over the final nine weeks of the season. Over his career, Wilson has been one of the more reliable fantasy options at QB. We have seen the offense steadily shift to more of a pass first offense. With offensive pieces such as Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham, Paul Richardson, Tyler Lockett, and CJ Prosise, the sky is the limit for Russell Wilson and company. This is why I believe that he ready to take over the throne as the QB1 in 2017. – Kevin Steele (@FantasyWrath13)
Marcus Mariota will be a top 5 QB this year.
This kid is just too good to ignore anymore. His poise and control of the game remind me of Tom Brady and his efficiency numbers show this off. Last season Mariota had a 5.8% TD throw rate and a 2.0% interception rate, Tom Brady didn’t have that combination of efficiency until his 8th NFL season! He came close in his 5th season with a 5.9% TD rate and a 3.0% Int rate. Mariota also has an arsenal of weapons around him, adding Eric Decker, Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor to his receiving corps while still having the very strong run game built around Murray and Henry. There is no reason that this offense can’t ascend to top 10 or even 5 this season and Mariota is the main cog that runs the machine. Projected stat-line for him this season is 330+ completions, 4200+ yards, 30 TDs and 8 ints. – Kent Weyrauch (@CCNP_Kent)
Chris Carson finishes as a top 15 fantasy RB at season’s end.
Let’s get BOLD baby! Just like Pete Carroll and the Seahawks did with Russell Wilson in his rookie year, they will give the starting job to Carson due to his performance on the field. Carson won’t win the job outright early on, but similar to Jay Ajayi’s 2016 season, he’ll be the locked in starter come Week 5. Carson has looked fantastic in preseason action while Lacy has looked just okay and Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise have been nonexistent due to injuries. Calm down Prosise truthers (I’m one of you too. I’ll bring the donuts to our next truther meeting). Prosise’s pass catching role will be unaffected. Still, Carson will be the early down thumper and TD scorer for this Wilson-led offense. That’s an extremely valuable role to have in Seattle, where from 2012-2015 the Seahawks finished in the top three in rush attempts all four years. – Ben Cummins (@BenCumminsFF)
John Brown stays healthy and racks up 1000+ receiving yards, landing him in the top 30 fantasy wide receivers of 2017.
I know, his health is an issue as he battles sickle cell as well as soft tissue injuries. These are BOLD predictions though, right? We know he has the speed and big play ability. He certainly should be motivated with Bruce Arians calling him out recently and threatening to “replace” Brown if he can’t stay healthy. In his preseason debut, Brown answered with a two catch, two touchdown performance, reminding all of us of his capabilities and upside. He’s going at the end of the 9th round right now and is worth a bench spot for those willing to take the risk. – Jen Smith (@FF_Female920)