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2016 Fantasy Football Preview

Now I know that 99.9% of your drafts are done, but here is a little guideline for you to see how well you actually drafted…or how poorly you drafted, depending on if you’re a “glass half-full” or “half-empty” type of person.  If you didn’t draft any of the players I discuss below, then maybe you should look at targeting them in the next few weeks for a trade (assuming the league you play in is moderately intelligent and none of these guys are available). This isn’t going to cover every player in the league but one or two of the top at the positions plus a few value guys that will outperform their ADP.


Wide Receivers:

The “duh” picks

Antonio Brown, WR – Steelers:  2015 stats – 136 rec, 1,834 yds & 10 TD

This is no shock.  He should have been the #1 overall in anyone’s draft (laughing as I type because I had the #2 pick in our league and he fell to me as Adrian Peterson went #1). In PPR leagues, Brown is as good as it gets being in his prime at only 28 years old and has just gotten better each year over the past 4 years. Last year’s monster campaign was done with Ben missing 4 complete games plus partial games.  Imagine what could have happened with Ben in a full 16. Could have been 2,000 yds maybe?  Will we see that this year if Ben stays healthy (more on Ben later)? Regardless, Brown is as valuable as a player can be, even without the league being PPR. As a colleague of mine recently said of Brown, “he’s football porn.”


Julio Jones, WR – Falcons: 2015 stats – 136 rec, 1,871 yds & 8 TD

Julio was the only other WR to have stats even remotely close to AB.  He matched AB in receptions, beat him in yards but had two less touchdowns.  Why wouldn’t these two monsters go 1-2 in drafts that favor the WR position?  Perception that the Steelers offense is rising and the Falcons offense is falling.  During the first 5 games last season, the Falcons were a statistical giant across the board.  Then came the change in their offense which sent them crashing back to earth.  Julio still fared well ending the season with three straight +100 yd games (118, 178 & 149).  Even in games that the offense struggled (weeks 8-10), Julio topped 100 yds.


DeAndre Hopkins, WR – Texans: 2015 stats – 111 rec, 1,521 yds & 11 TD

If you are new to Fantasy Football, let me explain Mr. Hopkins to you. Freaking talented! You can’t say it any better without using expletives. What Hopkins did in 2015 with the pile of rather bad quarterbacks throwing him the ball was just sheer impressive.  Get a load of this list: Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates & Brandon Weeden.  SERIOUSLY!?  Now I refuse to tell people that Brock is the next big thing seeing as how he doesn’t even have a full season of field time under his belt, but come on! He has to be better than that humdrum list from last year. Now add in the talent at WR that the Texans have pulled in from the past two drafts (Jaelen Strong, Will Fuller & Braxton Miller) and you have a pretty deep WR cast to eliminate double teams on Hopkins.  I think he is headed for a 1,700 yard season.


Value after 2nd round

Jarvis Landry, WR – Dolphins: 2015 stats – 110 rec, 1,157 yds & 4 TD

Landry is definitely a value based on his ADP.  Most leagues he survived until 3rd round or later.  He had 110 receptions last season (ranked 4th in NFL) but his TD number is what kept his fantasy points soft. Tannehill only threw for 24 TDs in a season that saw two head coaches (Philbin was fired after week 4) for the team.  Now under Adam Gase, expect some balance and stability and a lot of push to get Landry, who is a tremendous talent and a playmaker, the ball.


Alshon Jeffery, WR – Bears: 2015 stats – 54 rec, 807 yds & 4 TD

Those numbers for 2015 look horrible for a guy who topped 1,000 the two previous years.  What if I told you that those numbers were accomplished in 9 games played (8 of which he started)? The Bears were riddled with injuries last season (Cutler, Jeffery, White, Forte, etc…) with key skill position players missing a combined +20 games. I’m sure Alshon was scooped up in the 3rd/4th round in your league which is a massive bargain.  Listen to this, Cutler, Jeffery & White are all healthy with their combo of Langford and Carey ready to rumble. Jeffery could be a sneaky Comeback Player of the Year candidate if he does per game what he has done in his last 16 games played.


Late round value:

DeSean Jackson, WR – Redskins: 2015 stats – 30 rec, 528 yds & 4 TD

D-Jax is still a talent but he can be a head-case.  Last year he didn’t do much to wow anybody but he also missed 7 games due to injury.  He has never had 100 receptions in a season, nor do I think he ever will.  He’s not that type of player.  What he does offer you is “blow the top of the defense” type of speed and he loves seeking out a Kirk Cousins deep ball.  If your league is set up for long TD bonuses, he is a good value to grab as he was probably drafted somewhere in the 8-11 rounds.


Allen Hurns, WR – Jaguars: 2015 stats – 64 rec, 1,031 yds & 10 TD

The fact that Hurns has fallen in a lot of drafts amazes me.  He plays 2nd fiddle to a talented Allen Robinson, to which Hurns took the utmost advantage of last year amassing 1,031 yds with 10 TDs!!! Yes a WR2 scored TEN TIMES! Even in his rookie campaign (2014), Hurns hauled in 6 TD in just 8 starts.  If you drafted the likes of Randall Cobb earlier in the draft, make a trade offer straight up for Hurns (who was probably drafted several rounds later).  Another 1,000 season is doable but temper expectations on the double digit TD number.


Running Backs:

The “duh” pick

Todd Gurley, RB – Rams: 2015 stats – 1,106 yds & 10 TD

I really have 2 or 3 picks for this spot so bear with me.  Gurley was an absolute stat monster in his 12 starts as a rookie.  That alone warrants his high value this season especially given that teams stacked the box against him due to a lack-luster QB/WR supporting cast and he STILL averaged 4.8 ypc.  Nothing has really changed with the offense even after trading for the #1 overall pick and selecting Jared Goff (who won’t be starting anytime soon after all). The only question for him will be, can he handle +300 carries as a 3-down back?


Adrian Peterson, RB – Vikings: 2015 stats – 1,485 yds & 11 TD

Call it a down year last year for AP compared to his 2,097 yd 2012 season (which 2015 was his first full 16 game season since 2012).  Still, for a 31 year old RB coming off a season of 327 carries for almost 1,500 yds, do you worry?  Will age factor in?  We all can admit that “All-Day” Adrian Peterson is a genetic freak.  Is this the season that age catches up?  I don’t think so. I still think he will be worth the top 5 pick that he got.  If he starts slow, take advantage of a panicking owner and make a move for him.


Le’Veon Bell, RB – Steelers: 2015 stats – 556 yds & 3 TD

Sure Bell missed 75% of 2015.  Yup, he is suspended for the first 3 games of the 2016 season.  Do you play to win just those three games?  Bell is, hands down, the most complete RB in the NFL today. In a full 16 game schedule he will put up unreal fantasy numbers (see 2014).  With moves like Jagger on the ground and hands like Jerry Rice through the air, it’s no wonder why this dual threat back can tally well over 2,000 total yards in 16 games. Injuries can be a concern for him but let’s look at his past two injuries.  Both were freak injuries (one being a questionable knee target by the defender).  On the positive, Bell will only see Cincy once this season coming in week 15.


Value after 2nd round

Latavius Murray, RB – Raiders: 2015 stats – 1,066 yds & 6 TD

I’m really high on this kid this year.  I thought he ran well last season and he looks even better with the ball in his hands now.  Add in that the Raiders improved their offensive line and that makes Murray look like potential top-10 for fantasy points.  His only knock is receiving.  His YAC was pretty scary, especially when you consider he caught 41 passes last year but only averaged 5.7 YPR.  The Raiders did draft a good receiving RB (DeAndre Washington) which he could spell Murray on some 3rd down passing situations.  Regardless, Murray is the main man in the backfield and expect a run-heavy offense with Murray getting 275 or more carries.


Jeremy Langford, RB – Bears: 2015 stats – 537 yds & 6 TD

Langford takes over as the lead back after the Bears parted ways with Forte.  His 2015 stats came mostly during a short stint that Forte was injured. Langford also looked very good in the passing game as well as he racked up 22 receptions for 279 yds & 1 TD. Yes I know that 83 of those yards came on one play for a TD.  Still, he is a dual threat back that will amass points in PPR leagues.  If he was drafted in round 5 or later, consider that a MASSIVE steal.  In fact, if you drafted Carlos Hyde, you might be able to sneak a trade in straight up and you’d look like a rock-star at the end of the season.


Matt Jones, RB – Redskins: 2015 stats – 490 yds & 3 TD

Jones gets his first start of his career on Monday night against the Steelers very tough run defense (which as of today, his shoulder injury could limit him).  Jones ran behind the now Dallas Cowboy Alfred Morris last season. Morris was hot for 3 years but declining numbers since a stellar rookie season forced the teams hand to turn the reigns over to 2nd year back Jones who ran hard last year in limited action. I’m not 100% sure he will turn into a top-10 RB in fantasy, but he is a serviceable RB3/Flex that you could get for very cheap. The great thing about it, Jones has an incredibly high ceiling and since he was typically drafted in rounds 6-8, having a 900 yd/5 TD season isn’t considered a bust.


Very late round value

Arian Foster, RB – Dolphins: 2015 stats – 163 yds & 1 TD

Health is the main concern here.  He dropped significantly in drafts.  Foster has only played a full 16 game schedule twice in his 7 year career.  When he is healthy, he is an elite runner with speed and moves.  Durability is how you can get him for cheap.  You can get very high rewards for playing him but then also get burned in the game he gets hurt.  If he is on the field from beginning to end of the game, expect 15-20 points as he is also a very solid option to catch the ball out of the backfield (227 rc-yds & 2 TD last year in 4 games).  One of the highest ceilings of all running backs in the league with a rock bottom floor tied to injuries.


Christine Michael, RB – Seahawks: 2015 stats – 243 yds & 0 TD

This could be the biggest shock of the 2016 season.  After being shuffled around in 2015 (traded to Dallas in Sept, released in Nov, signed by Washington practice squad within 2 days & released 26 days after that to which was signed back by Seattle the next day), Michael looks to be the Seattle Seahawks leading RB. He ran strong in preseason and led the NFL in rushing yards in the first 3 preseason games. Thomas Rawls is still recovering from his ankle surgery, so expect Michaels to take full advantage of his second, third, er…fourth(?) chance. If he can prove his worth against a strong Miami front, then expect no change in the depth chart when Rawls is fully healthy.  It’s a gamble, but make a move for him now and it could pay off big-time.  Most leagues he was drafted between rounds 9 & 11.



The “duh” pick

Aaron Rodgers, QB – Packers: 2015 stats – 3,821 yds, 31 TD & 8 INT

Rodgers had a “down year” by his standards.  When a down here is almost 4,000 yds with +30 TDs, you know the guy is elite in the fantasy football world.  The Packers WR lot was destroyed by injury in 2015 which really affected Rodgers’ numbers.  So much that they had to bring back James Jones just to have someone Rodgers was familiar with (now a free agent) to throw to.  Now Jordy is healthy as is Cobb so expect the typical 4,500ish yds and 35 TD season.


Value after top 2-3

Blake Bortles, QB – Jaguars: 2015 stats – 4,428 yds, 35 TD & 18 INT

Bortles really came out of nowhere to put up huge fantasy numbers in 2015. If he cleaned up the INT number (18…ouch) he would be knocking on the elite scoring door.  Yes several of those interceptions were batted at the line and some were receivers not hauling in the pass, but him being 6’5” gives him no excuse for tipped passes/batted passes.  Bortles has a very good cast of young receivers that all came from the same draft class as him.  Robinson, Hurns & Lee all were drafted in 2014 along with Bortles. This could make for a dangerous cast for defenses. Add to the fact that Julius Thomas now has a full year working with Blake to make their chemistry stronger.  Bortles should be able to continue his success from last year so don’t be afraid to target him in a trade to solidify your roster.  Without a big name, most won’t ask for a king’s ransom.


Ben Roethlisberger, QB – Steelers: 2015 stats – 3,938 yds, 21 TD & 16 INT

Ben had yet another solid season in 2015 even though he missed 4 games and only played partially in 3 others.  His 16 interceptions were a little gruesome as it was his highest in a season since 2006. The down side to Ben this season is no Martavis Bryant. The up side is that Markus Wheaton has finally looked like the WR the Steelers drafted him to be.  The Steelers might have the deepest roster at skill position players. Williams & Bell can both catch well out of the backfield (and both are excellent blockers).  The concern, as always for Ben, is health.  He has only played in all 16 games in a season 3 times in 12 seasons. On a positive note, his sack total has dropped dramatically which is the result of a much improved offensive line and growth/maturity on his part.  You can bank on Ben throwing for 300 yards in every game that he starts & finishes as he did so 8 times in the 9 games that he started and finished in 2015.


Carson Palmer, QB – Cardinals: 2015 stats – 4,671 yds, 35 TD & 11 INT

Palmer has enjoyed resurgence in his career under Bruce Arians.  It’s not shocking that he had elite fantasy numbers despite not having one of his best weapons available for half of 2015.  As long as the Cardinals offensive line can keep Palmer upright, he should easily see those numbers again. Remember the days of bouncing between Skelton, Kolb, Lindley and even Hoyer? Nope, its Carson’s show now and he is taking full advantage of playing on the best team of his career.  I’m guessing Palmer went in rounds 6-8 in your league?  If you need a better QB, make a move to pick him up now.  You can probably get him for a solid WR2.  Don’t wait though because once his numbers take off like they did last year, you will have to pay a premium to get him.


Late value:

Kirk Cousins, QB – Redskins: 2015 stats – 4,166 yds, 29 TD & 11 INT

YOU LIKE THAT?  YOU LIKE THAT! Seriously people, if you don’t know him by now for screaming that last season after a big come-back win over Tampa Bay, then you need football help that I can’t offer you. “Captain” Kirk had his breakout campaign last season getting his first full season as a starter.  Well, he took the ball and ran with it getting Washington into the NFL Playoffs and winning the NFC East for the first time since RGIII’s rookie season (2012). Cousins has a solid O-line to stand behind with plenty of talent running routes for him.  Most likely Cousins was drafted late in your drafts, if at all.  If he wasn’t drafted, get him ASAP.  If you can get him for roughly the price of his draft position, do it now before the season.  He should sniff 4,000 yards again as well as hit high 20’s possibly 30 touchdowns.  He is definitely worth the roster spot.


Andy Dalton, QB – Bengals: 2015 stats – 3,250 yds, 25 TD & 7 INT

How does a QB that was in the top 3 in fantasy scoring through half of the previous season before getting injured drop to almost not being drafted? It’s simple lack of faith in the Bengals.  The “Red Rifle” was on a tear to put up top 5 fantasy points in 2015 before he was injured and missed the final 3 games of the regular season. Well take advantage of haters and foolish drafting to snag someone who can help you win each week.  Sure Dalton lost Sanu & Jones but he still has A.J. Green who is a playmaker and they acquired Brandon LaFell to be across the field from him.  Eifert is still injured but looks to return around week 4ish.  Let us not forget about the dangerous duo out of the backfield (Hill & Bernard) who are both capable of catching passes. Sure the Bengals will probably implode in the first round of the playoffs as they have the past 5 straight years.  But why should you care?  Your season is over the week before.



So I hope that helped you a little bit.  I know this came after drafts were completed, which was kind of the point here.  This is post-draft guys to try to make trades for because you can get guys easier that were drafted in later rounds before their games start.


Next week I plan on doing a version of this that is “over-hyped” drafted players.  Some of the players that people reached for WAY too early.  Should be fun!



Ryan Samuelson