Jameis Winston’s fantasy stock will continue its upward
trend heading into 2017. He’s gotten off to one of the best
starts in the history of the league, becoming the first quarterback
to ever start a career with back-to-back 4,000-yard seasons. As
he matures and learns the league and all the nuances the position
requires, Winston will become a perennial top-5 fantasy QB.
Tampa Bay, of course, bolstered the team’s offensive weapons
this off-season. Adding WR DeSean Jackson should improve Winston’s
decision-making, as the bulk of his 18 INTs last season came as
a result of force-feeding Mike Evans the football. That won’t
be the case in 2017. Rookie TE O.J. Howard also gives Winston
an additional weapon in two tight end alignments with Cameron Brate. When it’s all said and done, Winston should once
again surpass 4,000 passing yards while also increasing his TD
totals into the mid-30s.
The first quarter of 2016 was magical for Carson Wentz. He tossed
7 TDs through the first four games with only one interception.
The rookie then proceeded to throw 9 TDs and 13 INTs in the season’s
final 12 games. Reasons vary as to why Wentz’s production
took a nosedive—bad mechanics, poor offensive line play,
any number of things.
We can also point to the lack of offensive weapons in 2016. De
facto No.1 WR from last season, Jordan Matthews, has moved on
to Buffalo. Matthews is a solid player, but he’s more of
a No.2 receiver on an NFL roster. The Eagles front office did
a great job trying to ensure that Wentz has the proper tools around
him on offense. In comes Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith—both
upgrades over Matthews. TE Zach Ertz rounds out what could very
well be considered the best receiving trio in the NFC East. Wentz
is almost an afterthought in drafts this season. Don’t sleep
on him. Grab him as a QB2 and watch as he flirts with QB1 status
throughout the season.
Matthew Stafford’s 2011 season of 5,000 passing yards and
41 TDs seems like a lifetime ago. While he’s fallen short
of matching those numbers across the board since then, Stafford
has quietly become one of the top late-round QBs over the past
several years. No, his numbers aren’t eye-popping. But in
favorable matchups throughout the season, he’s a viable
starter capable of delivering QB1 production.
One caveat on Stafford, however, is his inconsistency. Last season,
he had seven games of multiple TDs, but he also had four games
with zero TDs. Detroit’s dedication to the passing game
and its inability to consistently run the ball places a huge responsibility
on Stafford. But with that responsibility comes volume, and volume
can translate into stellar production. Expect the Lions to once
again be one of the teams most reliant on passing the football,
which, in turn, will increase Stafford’s value.
One of the constants in fantasy football over the past decade
has been Philip Rivers—not only for his production, but
his availability. He hasn’t missed a game since 2005 and
has averaged 31 TD passes over the past four seasons. The Chargers
will continue to lean on the veteran signal caller to lead an
offense that puts up numbers despite having minimal household
TE Antonio Gates remains an option, and RB Melvin Gordon’s
rebound from a forgettable rookie season in 2015 brings optimism,
but make no mistake: the success of the Chargers offense rests
on Rivers’ shoulders. He ended the season with nine straight
multiple-touchdown games, making him a sneaky and predictable
option at QB. His 9th round ADP makes him a low-end QB1 for those
owners who wait until later to select a quarterback.
It amazes me that Dak Prescott doesn’t get the kind of
love I think his credentials deserve. He finished 2016 with 29
total TDs and only four interceptions—and two of those came
in one game. The chances of Prescott repeating the four-INT performance
in 2017 are slim, but it speaks to his decision-making and his
accuracy—two traits that, if done on a consistent basis,
can catapult quarterbacks to untold heights.
Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension—for however long it
will end up being—will make Prescott more of the focus.
It may even provide him with more opportunities to run the football,
further increasing his value. As a late 10th round selection,
I think he’s a steal in 12-team leagues.