Way too early fantasy football top 10
With the NFL regular season over and the playoffs in full force why not think about who the top players will be pre-draft in fantasy football next season. This past year was full of surprises, disappointments and validation as some players “were who we thought they were” and other players not so much. In many instances the disappointment was a microcosm of the players surrounding them and not entirely on the actual player, see DeAndre Hopkins and Todd Gurley. However, as we all know as fantasy owners it’s either championship or bust. Obviously a lot is going to change from now until next season with the offseason, the NFL draft and potential injuries but let’s have a little fun and take a look at the top 10 players to covet heading into your 2017 drafts.
10. Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
Yes, I’m familiar with the strategy of not drafting a quarterback early because you can get guys later in the draft that can produce huge passing numbers like Matt Ryan, Derek Carr and Matthew Stafford did in 2016 but Rodgers is a sure thing in fantasy and can carry your team to a championship. Why pass on the guy that threw for 4428 yards and 40 touchdowns in a “down” season as he played “below” his standards for the first half of the season. Rodgers has no problems carving up opposing defenses even with a receiver group many thought couldn’t separate from coverages. It really doesn’t matter the obstacles facing Rodgers as he can pick apart any NFL defense on any given week. Give me the guy who is playing the best at the position, led all quarterbacks in fantasy points and throws the football at the opponents’ 1-yard line.
9. Mike Evans – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After catching 12 touchdowns in his rookie season, Evans suffered a sophomore slump with only 3 touchdowns before bouncing back for another 12 TD season in 2016. If you look at the trend you might believe he might have another down season in 2017 but I’m here to tell you it won’t happen as his quarterback Jameis Winston targets the big bodied receiver no matter the coverage. The big play TD monster should safely see targets again next season with the Buccaneers offense lacking complimentary weapons on the outside. I expect the Bucs to add some pieces on the offensive side of the ball this offseason but it isn’t going to make a big difference because Evans is too good of a playmaker to ignore, especially in the red zone. He has been coming up big since his days at Texas A&M and I don’t see a regression in his future.
8. A.J. Green – Cincinnati Bengals
Another go up and get the ball at the highest point guy makes the list at number 8. Green came up just 36 yards short of 1000 yards for the first time in his NFL career due to an injury shortened season and will look to bounce back in 2017. Count me in as a believer that Green will be a Top 10 fantasy football player next season as he should push double digit TDs and 1300 yards in a Bengals offense that sputtered in 2016. Injuries ruined the Bengals season as they dealt with injuries to Tyler Eifert, Giovanni Bernard and the aforementioned Green. With an off-season to get healthy I fully expect the Bengals to get back to their old ways putting up points by targeting Green early and often for huge chunks of yards.
7. Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots
After giving his fantasy owners a disappointing campaign this season, Gronk will look to avenge his injury plagued year next season. If you are an experienced fantasy owner you know that the tight end position is a crap shoot with no guarantees. If you are not worried about the star tight end’s back issues then you should grab him early in next year’s draft as you will be getting the best tight end in the game that can produce top notch receiver like numbers with double digit touchdowns. Tom Brady doesn’t look to be falling off anytime soon so hopefully we can get a 16 game Brady to Gronk connection in 2017.
6. Odell Beckham – New York Giants
OBJ’s potential gives him the ceiling of being number 1 on this list however his temperament coupled with his quarterback play lands him at 6. Beckham at 24 years of age is a dynamic playmaker who is the closest thing to Antonio Brown in this league. He started 2016 slow as he and Eli Manning couldn’t quite get on the same page but a 222 yard 2 touchdown performance in Week 6 against the Baltimore Ravens cured any issues the duo were having. Even with a few clunkers mixed in, Beckham still finished the season with 101 receptions 1367 yards and 10 touchdowns, I expect all those numbers to go up in 2017. At the end of the day Beckham is one of the best receivers in the league and one of the most targeted, therefore he will get more than enough opportunities for his fantasy owners.
5. Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons
Julio took a step back from his 2015 campaign, missed 2 games, played through injury, had 4 games with 35 yards or less and still finished second in the league in receiving with 1409 yards. He is a beast on the outside that consistently gets his yards in huge chunks and is the premier big play guy in the league. So how does a player that has so much talent and production fall to number 5? Well it’s all about the touchdowns! In Julio’s first 6 seasons in the league he has only caught double digit touchdowns once. The Falcons haven’t done him justice in the red zone and often times go away from Jones when they get close to the end zone. This was a poor plan for the Falcons in the past but this season it has worked as the rest of the weapons around Jones have gotten better. The Falcons dual-threat at running back Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman along with the emergence of Taylor Gabriel and quarterback Matt Ryan’s record breaking year in which he threw touchdown passes to 13 different receivers depresses Julio’s fantasy production just a tad. With all that said Julio is still a Top 5 player to grab in next year’s draft.
4. Ezekiel Elliot – Dallas Cowboys
Zeke came, he saw, and he conquered in his first NFL season rushing for a league high 1631 yards on 322 carries. Add 16 total touchdowns to his resume and you have yourself a fantasy monster. Zeke averaged 24 touches per games as the Dallas Cowboys played ball control offense all season long headlined by the best position group in football, their offensive line. No disrespect to Zeke’s abilities but running behind that offensive line has done wonders for DeMarco Murray and Darren McFadden in the past and Zeke will enjoy a tremendous career if he stays healthy. The only reason Zeke is not higher on this list is due to his lack of production in the receiving game. He is a willing receiver out of the backfield but he hasn’t consistently showed that aspect of his game yet. He will be only 22-years-old at the start of next season so the sky is the limit and I do expect him to improve his pass catching abilities which will make him even more dynamic.
3. Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh Steelers
Did you know that Antonio Brown had his worst statistical season in the last 4 years in 2016? He “ONLY” caught 106 passes for 1284 yards and 12 touchdowns. Consistency, work ethic and preciseness are the keys to the 5’10 181 pound receivers’ game. Brown is not the biggest but he is the best at the position. His ability to beat his man at the line of scrimmage is uncanny and when he gets the ball in his hands he dominates in the open field. Brown took a backseat to Le’Veon Bell in the second half of the season and didn’t cross the 100-yard threshold from Week 10 – 17 of the regular season. Next year I don’t see that happening too often due in large part to the hopeful return of big play receiver Martavis Bryant. Bryant was suspended the entire 2016 season and teams doubled and in some cases tripled AB as there wasn’t a viable receiver on the other side of the field. I expect Brown to get back to his 1500+ receiving yard campaign and should come off the board early once again in 2017.
2. David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals
What an incredible season for the second year pro as he set an NFL record by amassing 100 yards from scrimmage in his first 15 games of the season. Not only did he rack up yards rushing and receiving, but Johnson also scored 20 total touchdowns and could have easily been the MVP of the league if the Cardinals were any good this year. He was a one man wrecking crew in Arizona and his speed/power/vision/patience combination rivals the best backs we have seen in the history of this league. Johnson will be a fantasy stud for years to come and should be in serious contention for the number 1 overall pick. A pause for concern was Johnson’s gruesome-looking injury in Week 17 of the season but that was later revealed as a mere MCL sprain. Translation – Fire up Johnson next season as his health is not in question.
1. Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers
The only thing that can hold Le’Veon back from the Hall of Fame is that Fire. Translation – Le’Veon Bell needs to stop smoking weed and he can be one of the best players that we have witnessed. His excellence was on full display this season after he returned from his 3 game suspension averaging 105.7 rushing yards per game, 51.3 receiving yards per game and catching 75 passes in 12 games. It doesn’t take a mathematics wizard to know that in a full 16 game season that will be the number 1 fantasy player in the world. Just for fun the math equals approximately 2500 total yards and 100 receptions. The Pittsburgh Steelers in all likelihood will franchise tag the dynamic running back, who in my estimation could be a Pro Bowl receiver if he played the position full-time. This means we might get to see history next season as Bell will be hungry for a big pay day after battling injuries and suspensions thus far in his young career. I know David Johnson is dominant force and Ezekiel Elliot plays behind the Cowboys offensive line, but Le’Veon is a special player that comes around once every 15 years. His skill set as a runner and receiver is comparable to Marshall Faulk and LaDainian Tomlinson. If I had the number 1 pick I wouldn’t think twice about who to select.