Howard RB, CHI – It is sheer madness when I see Jordan
Howard as a consensus top-7 fantasy running back heading into
this season. His 2016 season was solid indeed; he did finish second
behind Ezekiel Elliot for the rushing title after all. But for
most to believe he’s poised to duplicate last year’s performance
befuddles me. In spite of the Bears, by all accounts, having a
top-10 offensive line, Howard will disappoint this season. Here’s
Say what you want about Jay Cutler. Mike Glennon, Cutler’s
replacement at quarterback, has yet to show at any point in his
career that he can be demonstrably better than the former Chicago
signal-caller. Put succinctly, Glennon represents a downgrade
at QB. Couple the struggles at QB with the prospect of a guy named
Cameron Meredith as the team’s No.1 receiver and you have
the makings of an unremarkable offense that will most assuredly
pull Howard’s production down. My prediction is Howard will
struggle to rush for half the number of yards he produced last
year (1,313) and will finish with 4 - 6 scores. Not the kind of
numbers we expect from a late first/early second round pick. Buyer
Lacy RB, SEA – We hear quite often how professional
athletes in all sports sometime need a change of scenery to reclaim
lost productivity. That assertion has been bantered about in some
circles this off-season about Eddie Lacy. Lacy ate his way out
of Green Bay, in addition to scoring only three rushing TDs in
the last two seasons.
Lacy now takes his talent to the Great Northwest, where Seattle
has one of the worst offensive lines in the league. His running
style requires room to run, and he won’t find much of it
with the Seahawks. He’s being drafted in the late 5th round
in standard 12-team leagues, making him a low-end RB2/high-end
RB3. Lacy’s an afterthought to me in PPR leagues. Those
who take the risk of drafting Lacy may end up seeing a re-do of
his 2015 season when he rushed for 758 yards and three TDs. Good
luck winning with that.
Can the freakish Tyreek Hill become a fantasy
stud without being a prototypical No.1 wide receiver?
Hill WR, KC – I’ll admit. I’m a bit skeptical including
Tyreek Hill on this list. Owners that picked up Hill last year
were rewarded with one explosive touchdown after another—12 in
total. Hill was especially coveted in leagues that give bonuses
for long touchdown scores. When we delve deeper into Hill’s production,
however, we find that only six of his scores came as a receiver;
three came as a runner and three as a returner. Touchdowns, especially
those that come from long distance, are unpredictable. Hill was
so touchdown-dependent last season that his production elsewhere—receptions,
receiving yards, etc.—would have made him a fantasy postscript.
Hill does find himself atop Kansas City’s receiving depth
chart with Jeremy Maclin’s departure. That alone slightly
nudges his stock upwards. I just don’t think he’s
a bona fide number one receiver on an NFL team, and he will fall
short of expectations this year—although he gets an uptick
in potential in PPR leagues. It’s easy to look at the gaudy
12-TD figure from 2016 and develop an optimistic view of Hill’s
potential in 2017. I don’t see it happening for him. If
anything, I’m giving TE Travis Kelce (4.01) and rookie running
back Kareem Hunt (8.05) more value at their respective ADPs with
Maclin’s departure. All that being said, I will hedge my
prediction by reiterating that I’m not totally convinced
that Hill will wet the bed in 2017. We shall see.
Ryan QB, ATL – Matt Ryan undoubtedly had a career year
in 2016, with career highs in completion percentage (69.9 percent),
passing yards (4,944) and touchdown passes (38)—all while tossing
a career low seven interceptions. Solid, right? Well, fantasy
owners’ belief that Ryan will follow up that production with a
similar season in 2017 is based squarely on how much his owners
trust him. And since you see him on this list…well, that’s right.
I don’t trust him.
I owned Ryan in 2014 and 2015 when he threw 30 total interceptions.
He was a turnover machine, especially in the red zone. He shelved
most of the bad habits last year that caused those mistakes and
won himself a league MVP in the process. He won’t reach
those heights again. No, I don’t have hard data or sophisticated
metrics to back up my opinion. My view is based solely on watching
Ryan play extensively over the past three years. Those that adhere
to his current fifth round ADP in 12-team leagues may be in for
a rude awakening.
Thomas WR, DEN – In 2016, Demaryius Thomas saw his
lowest reception total since 2011, his fewest receiving yards
since 2011, the fewest TD catches since 2011 and his lowest receiving-yards-per-game
average since 2011. And he finished with the third-most drops
in the league (7). The Denver Bronco offense, as a whole, is trending
in the wrong direction. Quarterback issues remain, the offensive
line is a question mark and the productivity of the running game
is up in the air. All of those components, of course, play into
how well Thomas performs.
The Denver passing game is predicated more on throwing to receivers
and less to tight ends and running backs—in some sense brightening
the prospects of a Demaryius Thomas resurgence, circa 2013 and
2014. But Peyton Manning, of course, led those teams. With Trevor
Siemian or Paxton
Lynch under center, there isn’t much chance of reliving those
days. I think Denver will become more of a conservative offense
that focuses more on the running game. As such, the days of Demaryius
Thomas being an unquestioned WR1 are in the rearview mirror.
Winston QB, TB – I recall the days just a few short
years ago when talking heads on television touted the seemingly
preordained notion that Andrew
Luck was on his way to becoming one of the annual top three
fantasy quarterbacks in the league. Thanks to a growing injury
history, Luck’s place on that short list becomes tenuous by the
year. Jameis Winston, after 2017, should supplant Luck as the
up-and-coming signal-caller to have.
Last year he saw both his TDs and interceptions increase from
his rookie year of 2015. But I saw a young QB that has command
of an offense and a complete set of intangibles that should help
propel him to the next level—and he did so with essentially
only one reliable receiver option: Mike Evans. Tampa Bay bolstered
the offense with complementary pieces such as DeSean Jackson and
rookie TE O.J. Howard. I envision Winston surpassing the 30-touchdown
mark while cutting in half his 18 interceptions from last season.
Big things are on the horizon for this young QB.
Perkins RB, NYG – The Giants passing game has been
fortified so well this off-season that even Eli
Manning can’t mess it up. Odell Beckham’s presence, Brandon
Marshall’s arrival, along with Sterling
Shepard’s development and rookie TE Evan
Engram’s expected emergence, all give the Giants an embarrassment
of riches unlike anything the team has seen in decades. The threat
of the passing game should soften the opposing defense enough
to give Paul Perkins the chance to excel.
Perkins enters this season after having not scored in 2016 during
his rookie campaign. Consequently, he can be had for dirt-cheap.
Should Perkins crack the starting line-up, which many experts
expect him to, the offense he’d be playing in would give
him untold opportunity to post solid RB2-quality numbers. While
not a duplicate of Melvin Gordon’s 2016 resurgence, I wouldn’t
be surprised at a season that includes 1,200 total yards with
seven to nine TDs.
Powell RB, NYJ – There isn’t much to crow about from
a fantasy perspective when it comes to the New York Jets offense.
Brandon Marshall, gone. Eric
Decker, gone. Matt
Forte, old. Josh
McCown, old…and below average. Bilal Powell can turn out to
be the shiniest rock on a pile of rubble with his dual-threat
skill set and the dearth of talent around him. If nothing else,
his volume of playing time should be enough to warrant attention
from shrewd fantasy owners.
The Jets will be playing from behind a lot this year, and they
will have to throw just to make the game respectable. Powell’s
stock is especially valuable in PPR leagues, as his 105 receptions
over the past two years are a stark indicator of what we should
expect heading into 2017. I’m not expecting Powell to set
the fantasy world on fire, but I do envision him exceeding his
early sixth round ADP.
Hunt RB, KC – The Kansas City running back situation
is perhaps the one that warrants the most monitoring from fantasy
owners heading into draft season. Incumbent Spencer
Ware had an unspectacular 2016, prompting the team to select
Kareem Hunt in the 2017 draft. Head coach Andy Reid is usually
not what we would consider a RBBC proponent, so if Hunt can secure
the starting gig, watch out.
Over the past 13 seasons, Andy Reid’s RB1 has averaged
19.5 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues. Ware had his shot
in 2016 and was underwhelming. Charcandrick West is simply a depth
guy. The job is Hunt’s to lose. If he wins it and earns
Reid’s trust, Hunt could be a big-time steal.
Thomas WR, NO – Michael Thomas’ debut season in the
NFL was so promising that New Orleans felt it necessary to deal
Cooks away to New England. The rookie Thomas surprisingly
led the team in targets (121), receptions (92) and receiving TDs
(9). The Saints had the second-most pass attempts for the third
straight year last year, meaning the offense will continue to
provide ample opportunities for its top receiving threat.
The Saints defense continues to be a work in progress, so the
offense will maintain the burden of keeping this team competitive.
Thomas finished with only three games with more than 100 yards
receiving. I expect that number to double, while his TD totals
once again flirt with double digits. He’s the top receiving
option in a pass-first, pass-often offense. You can’t ask
for much more than that.