The 2017 NFL season will be an interesting one for fantasy football players and owners alike due to the draft, free agency, and depth chart promotions and demotions. With guys like Alshon Jeffery, Brandin Cooks, Adrian Peterson, and Marshawn Lynch on new teams, fantasy owners will need to adjust how they value the RB and WR positions this year.
Veteran players can be somewhat easier to predict because their roles are largely locked in, and their body of work thus far gives us a good indicator of what to expect in the coming seasons. However, rookies are often over-drafted due to big name analysts trying to project their careers before they have played a single down in the NFL.
Rookies like RBs
Leonard Fournette, Joe Mixon, Dalvin Cook, and Christian McCaffrey will have major roles with their teams right out of the gate this season, and are well worth owning with early-mid round selections. However, Chargers rookie WR Mike Williams looks like a problem waiting to happen for fantasy owners due to lingering back problems. O.J. Howard may end up being a great fantasy TE, but I wouldn't draft him as anything more than a TE2 flyer pick in the later rounds.
Last, but not least, we have the ever-important question of when do you take a quarterback, and whom do you take first? I stand by the tried and true method of taking a QB near the middle of round 3, after I have a RB and WR secured to anchor my team. The QBs in the NFL now days are more pocket passers, with running QBs like Russell Wilson and Cam Newton not running as much to prevent injuries. With that being the case, I wouldn't take a QB early with the hopes of him being a dual-threat with numbers of an old-school Michael Vick.
Aaron Rodgers – Packers: Picking the top quarterback from year to year has become about as hard to predict as what number will hit on a roulette wheel. There are, however, 2-3 QBs you can count on year-to-year, with Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees topping the list.
This year I am going with Rodgers as my #1 QB after he posted an average of 23.6 points per game in 2016. Rodgers attempted a career-high 610 passes, and rushed 67 times for 369 yards in 2016, numbers which are sure to dip with everyone healthy. With that said, Rodgers has finished either 1st or 2nd for QBs seven of the past nine seasons.
The Packers are going to feature a slightly more balanced offense this season, but Rodgers has the weapons and the talent to finish atop the QB board once again.
Tom Brady – Patriots: Tom Brady is ageless, admired like he is the Hope Diamond of the NFL. Despite being suspended for the first 4 games of the 2016 season, Brady managed to finish with 21.4 fantasy points per game, the 2nd-highest for QBs. What makes it even more impressive is the amount of injuries the Patriots dealt with not only at the WR position, but at RB as well.
With a healthy (ish) Rob Gronkowski, and newly-acquired WR Brandin Cooks, Brady has the best supporting cast he's had since the Randy Moss days. If everyone stays healthy, Brady could realistically pace Rodgers point-for-point all season, making him my #2 QB off the board this season.
Drew Brees – Saints: Drew Brees and Andrew Luck are virtually interchangeable for me at this spot, but I like Brees slightly more because of how obsessed the Saints are with the offense. When they traded Brandin Cooks to the Patriots for a 1st rounder, it was said to be for a defensive player. Despite that, they took OT Ryan Ramczyk. Best defensive player available < obsessed with offense.
The Saints have a new toy in RB Adrian Peterson, but there has been no clear indication he will unseat Mark Ingram from the starting role. I am not too worried about Peterson stealing passing attempts from Brees, and you shouldn't either. My guess is Luck will go before Brees in most drafts, but Brees will end up being the better value pick when it comes to the fantasy playoffs.
Andrew Luck – Colts: I'm not as big of a Luck fan as other fantasy guys out there, largely due to his WRs and RBs. T.Y. Hilton is a legit #1 WR, but Donte Moncrief is always injured, and Phillip Dorsett is little more than a bye-week filler in even the deeper fantasy formats. If TE Jack Doyle can be as good as former punter Pat McAfee thinks he can be, then Luck will have a redzone weapon with touchdown upside.
Then there is the shoulder surgery issue. Luck is going to miss the entire preseason, but should be ready for Week 1. However, one hit and his entire season could be down the drain. While that is true for all NFL players, Luck sticks out as a QB.
Luck has proven he can be counted on, finishing in the top 4 for fantasy QBs each of the past three seasons. If you see Rodgers, Brady, and even Brees go, it's time to grab Luck before the QB run leaves you with streaming guys all season long.
Kirk Cousins – Redskins: I like Kirk Cousins here not only because of his WR and TE weapons (Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Brian Quick, and Jordan Reed), but also because of the tension with Cousins and the front office over his contract situation.
The Redskins and Cousins again failed to reach a long-term contract this offseason, with the Redskins then releasing an odd public statement placing the blame squarely on Cousins. Going public and placing blame is a risky move, one that I am positive will fire Cousins up for a possible career year as he looks towards free agency next offseason.
The Redskins are deep at WR, healthy at TE, and solid at RB. Cousins has all the weapons needed to succeed, as well as a chip on his shoulder thanks to the front office. He's currently going around pick 102, which is great value in 12-team formats.
Andy Dalton – Bengals: Let's get the obvious out of the way right off the bat: the offensive line. Yes, the Bengals lost LT Andrew Whitworth and RG Kevin Zeitler, and that hurts. There's no easy way to just brush it off, and it is a concern. But with A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert healthy, the Bengals have the most explosive RB/WR/TE depth chart Dalton has ever had.
The Bengals drafted 40-yard dash (combine) record holder WR John Ross and all-purpose RB Joe Mixon in rounds 1 and 2, and the early expectation is for Ross to be the obvious lid-lifting deep threat, while Mixon takes over the starting RB role.
With Green, Eifert, Ross, Mixon, Brandon LaFell, and Tyler Boyd all healthy, the only question for Dalton is how well the offensive line will protect him. If the O-Line gels early, Dalton will end up being a great value deeper in fantasy drafts.
Russell Wilson – Seahawks: Russell Wilson isn't a guy I like having on my fantasy team, largely due to his injury history and terrible 2016 performance. Some will say 2017 will be a bounce-back year for him, but his ADP (Average Draft Position) is currently hovering around pick 84, which makes him the 6th QB off the boards. I personally don't see top-6 fantasy QB weapons surrounding Wilson outside of Doug Baldwin.
Wilson's value really comes when he is not just throwing the ball, but running it effectively as well. Throwing for 27 TDs is possible for Wilson, but he'll have to cut down on the double-digit INTs to make his fantasy owners happy. And if he doesn't add 500-plus rushing yards to his totals, he will again be one of the fantasy busts given his ADP.
Cam Newton – Panthers: Like Russell Wilson, Newton was a bust for fantasy owners last season after he played the final half with a partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing arm. He did have surgery to fix it, but not until late March. OC Mike Shula's goal will be to get the ball out of Cam's hands more quickly, which should help keep down Newton's hits taken this season.
The Panthers drafted RB Christian McCaffrey and WR Curtis Samuel to help with the quicker offense, but will Newton be a quality fantasy QB in year one of the new offensive experiment? Kelvin Benjamin (when healthy) and Devin Funchess are big targets, but not exactly guys you think of when looking for quick passing game plans.
Newton is a guy that could be a top-5 fantasy QB, but comes with PLENTY of risk. He is the epitome of risk/reward.
Marcus Mariota – Titans: The Titans are a running team, but Mariota did finish last season with 3,426 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. And the Titans added WR Eric Decker via free agency while drafting WR Corey Davis with the No. 5 overall pick.
Some are projecting a 3rd year breakout from Mariota this season, but I am still skeptical. He ranks in the top 10 for QBs because of the talent around him. There are plenty of mouths to feed in Tennessee, so there will be no lack of opportunity for Mariota to succeed. My question is does he have the talent to make a 3rd year leap, or is he another QB that the analysts got wrong? I've seen flashes, but not enough to prove one way or the other.
Ben Roethlisberger – Steelers: A lot of fantasy players will ask how Big Ben can be ranked at the bottom of the top 10 QBs, despite having the #1 WR in Antonio Brown, and #1 PPR RB in Le'Veon Bell. The answer is simple: his home and away splits.
In the past three years, Roethlisberger has a combined 59:16 TD-to-INT ratio and 339.1 passing yards-per-game average at home. Meanwhile, on the road, he has a 23:22 TD-to-INT ratio, and 269.5 passing yard-per-game average. He's a Pro Bowl QB at home, and Jared Goff on the road.
Roethlisberger will have his games in which he finishes as a top tier fantasy QB, but I'd avoid playing him on the road in most contests. He will finish as a QB1 by season's end, making him well worth drafting.
* Blake Bortles: Bortles had a monster fantasy season in 2015, finishing in the top 10 in most fantasy categories for the QB position. Then, 2016 hit and he regressed beyond what any of us expected. However, the Jaguars have changed Offensive Coordinators and have a new offensive mindset in place with the running game taking center stage.
What that means for Bortles is fewer, but smarter, passes. He isn't likely to hit the fantasy radar until the bye weeks start creating tough decisions for owners. Fantasy owners will want to pay close attention to him in Weeks 6, 7, and 11 when picking a bye-week filler at QB.
Honorable Mentions: Matt Ryan, Derek Carr, Tyrod Taylor, Philip Rivers, Dak Prescott
David Johnson – Cardinals: The decision of the best fantasy RB is split between two players—David Johnson and Le'Veon Bell. Johnson has my pick by a slim margin given his 33 total touchdowns through two seasons (4th all-time).
Head Coach Bruce Arians says he would like to get Johnson back to 30 touches per game, which locks him into my #1 overall pick in all fantasy formats. If Johnson can stay healthy, he should have no problems posting another 13-15 total TDs this season, to go along with around 2,000 combined yards.
Le'Veon Bell – Steelers: Le'Veon Bell is coming off another strong season, despite missing the first 3 games of the season due to a suspension. Bell racked up 1,884 yards from scrimmage, and scored 9 total touchdowns in the process. He gets the #2 spot for fantasy RBs due to the TDs in the sub-double-digit range.
Bell underwent surgery in March to repair a "core muscle" issue, but enters camp healthy and ready to go. Bell has also stated he wants to play a full 16-game season, and wants to help reestablish the running back market with a strong 2017 campaign.
With a big contract on his mind, look for Bell to run like a man on a mission. He is a fine prize to take if you have the #2 overall pick, but not the guy I would take at #1.
DeMarco Murray – Titans: DeMarco Murray has all the talent to finish as a top 3-5 fantasy RB, if he can keep Derrick Henry from stealing too many of his touches. Murray is 29 years old, and has an injury history to consider. But the Titans are a run-first team and Murray posted 1,664 yards from scrimmage with 12 TDs last season.
Henry is a concern, but Murray is "the guy" according to the Titans coaching staff. If that remains true, Murray is a top-end RB1.
LeSean McCoy – Bills: There could be concern about Shady when the Bills fired Rex Ryan, but those fears should have been put to rest when they hired Sean McDermott as his replacement. On top of that, new OC Rick Dennison is known for targeting his RBs in the passing game.
Usually RBs start breaking down around age 29 to 30 years old, which is squarely where McCoy is right now. However, McCoy has shown no indication of slowing down. I'd say his ceiling is within the top 3 fantasy RBs, with a floor in the top 5 if he stays healthy.
Ezekiel Elliot – Cowboys: Zeke is one of the most talented RBs in the NFL, and he runs behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. That combination makes him hard to pass up at the #3 overall spot, until you read the news that is.
Zeke's off-field decision making is becoming a concern, with the NFL looking into domestic violence accusations, as well as an incident in which he pulled down a woman's bikini top on Saint Patrick's Day, and a recent bar fight that he may or may not have been involved in. It almost doesn't matter if it was Zeke or one of his crew that hit the man in the bar, the fact that he was right there and currently under investigation by the NFL, says he isn't likely to be allowed to play a full 16-game schedule this season.
I am expecting Zeke to miss 3 games until I hear otherwise. Because of that, he gets knocked down a spot or two on my draft board.
Melvin Gordon – Chargers: Gordon is the unquestioned RB to own with the Chargers this season, with passing-down back Danny Woodhead no longer on the team, and no meaningful competition on the roster. Gordon has yet to reach 1,000 rushing yards in a season, but he was able to post 1,416 yards from scrimmage along with 12 touchdowns last season.
The issue I see with Gordon is his 3.73 YPC career average. Any RB with a sub-4.0 YPC average is at risk of being a bust, but the Chargers need Gordon to succeed in their new city, for their new fans. New Head Coach Anthony Lynn is a talented young coach, with an eye for rushing. If Gordon can stay healthy, he has all the makings of a top-5-7 fantasy RB.
Jay Ajayi – Dolphins: Ajayi had a breakout season in 2016, rushing for 1,272 yards and 8 TDs in 15 games, while compiling three 200-yard games in the process. There is real concern here given the fact that he managed just 187 yards in 9 games in 2015. One-year wonder, or the start of something amazing?
The thing that keeps Ajayi so high in my rankings is Head Coach Adam Gase saying he could see as many as 350 carries this season. I would say 275-300 is more realistic, but the thought of 350 carries means Gase will lean on Ajayi enough for him to have a shot at the rushing title. If Ajayi scored more touchdowns, he would be a legit threat to be taken as a top-5 RB. But given the Dolphins' offensive problems, he remains in the 6-7 range.
Jordan Howard – Bears: The hope for the Bears 2017 fantasy season will ride on the shoulders of Jordan Howard. Last year Howard was ranked as Pro Football Focus' No. 5 elusive runner behind Ajayi, Rob Kelley, Jonathan Stewart and Mark Ingram.
The Bears will feature Mike Glennon under center this season, after drafting Mitch Trubisky No. 2 overall. Add to that Alshon Jeffery being gone, and you can see the Bears leaning heavily on Howard all season. If he can stay healthy, he should see an increase on his 29 receptions from last season. If that happens, and the Bears offensive line opens some holes between the tackles, Howard should remain an RB1 with top-5 upside some weeks.
Devonte Freeman – Falcons: Last year the Falcons found the perfect mix of Devonte Freeman and Tevin Coleman, with Freeman totaling 1,541 yards from scrimmage and 13 TDs, and Coleman totaling 941 yards from scrimmage and 11 TDs.
Freeman is the clear starter in Atlanta, but Coleman's presence keeps him from being ranked higher. However, Freeman is the only RB to rush for 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons, making his floor relatively high for a RB drafted this low. Don't wait much longer to draft a RB, or you will be stuck with a RBBC all season.
Marshawn Lynch – Raiders: Marshawn Lynch is going to be possibly the most over-drafted RB this season. It is true that Lynch enters the 2017 season fresh after taking a year off, but at 31 years old, there is also concern that he retired at the perfect time in his career.
The Raiders have an explosive offense, and Lynch could be just the guy they needed to get over the hump. But as I said, 31 years old is a big red flag for RBs. Lynch is a risk/reward pick, and it is only because of the Raiders' offense that has him ranked in my top 10. If his battery is charged, 1,000 rushing yards and 8-10 TDs isn't out of the question.
* Leonard Fournette: Fournette is the favorite to lead all rookies in touchdowns, making him an instant fantasy impact player at the RB position. Add to that his immense talent and the Jaguars' desire to run the offense through the running game this year, and you can see why he is being drafted at the end of round 2 on average right now.
Anytime a running back is mentioned in the same breath as a guy like Bo Jackson, you know you have a special talent on your hands. If you want Fournette on your fantasy team, don't expect him to be there in round 3.
Honorable Mentions: Isaiah Crowell, Lamar Miller
Antonio Brown – Steelers: The WR position starts with Brown, as it does every year. Brown is a PPR monster, and still ranks #1 when you move to standard, which is uncommon for a player to retain #1 overall value at his position in a change of format. He's as consistent and durable as any WR in the league. Brown is a sure-fire top of the 1st pick in all formats.
Odell Beckham Jr. – Giants: Last season ODB saw 28 percent of the Giants passes, which was 2nd in the NFL behind Mike Evans. The addition of Brandon Marshall to the Giants offense should help Beckham see fewer double-teams this year, which in turn should let him to again finish near the top of the WR rankings.
Julio Jones – Falcons: The only thing that will keep Jones from going higher in drafts is his injury history. He has as much talent as anyone in the NFL, is in the right offense, and has a proven track record of performance. But a WR lives and dies by his feet, and Jones' foot was a problem last year.
Lest we forget, Steve Sarkisian is replacing Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator in Atlanta. So a new offense could affect his fantasy numbers.
A.J. Green – Bengals: Before Green's season ended in Week 11 due to a hamstring injury, he was on pace to have the best season of his career with 66 receptions, 964 receiving yards, and 4 touchdowns. This year he hits training camp healthy and ready to pick up where he left off.
The Bengals drafted WR John Ross in round 1, and RB Joe Mixon in round 2, solidifying an already potent offense. Green has guys around him now to take pressure off him from defenses, which should allow him to be an elite WR all year long. I like him as a top-5 WR in all formats.
Mike Evans – Buccaneers: Evans led the league in thrown-to percentage (30), but posted the 2nd-lowest catch percentage (56) in the top 10 ranked players in thrown-to percentage. What that means is he was targeted the most, but caught the 2nd-fewest of the top 10 guys thrown to. That is a bit of a concern for me even though he finished 4th in receiving yards (1,321) and 2nd in receiving TDs (12).
Then we have the additions of WR DeSean Jackson and TE O.J. Howard to the offense. Evans' targets are surely going to dip this season, making him someone I think will be over-drafted by guys picking on names alone. Be aware, and beware.
Jordy Nelson – Packers: Nelson won the Comeback Player of the Year award last season, reeling in 97 catches for 1,257 yards, and leading the league with 14 touchdowns. He isn't likely to duplicate those numbers in 2017, but you can't pass him up once the true top-tier WRs are gone.
Nelson and Aaron Rodgers make a dangerous duo, and hopefully Ty Montgomery can take some pressure off the passing attack with his ground game. If the running game is better than last year, Nelson will again flirt with 90-plus receptions, 1,000-plus yards, and 10-ish TDs.
T.Y. Hilton – Colts: Hilton and Nelson can almost be interchangeable in their spots. Nelson scores more, but Hilton gets more yards. Hilton has never scored more than 7 touchdowns in a season, which would have put him just inside the top 15 WRs touchdowns scored last season.
The lack of scoring knocks Hilton down a notch or two in standard formats, but he regains those spots in PPR formats.
Michael Thomas – Saints: With Brandin Cooks now in New England, Thomas' fantasy value spikes. The Saints did add Ted Ginn Jr. as a deep threat, and Adrian Peterson to pretty much kill any fantasy value Mark Ingram might have had. Ginn is no threat to Thomas, but Ingram and Peterson means the Saints might want to lean more on the run than in years past.
Thomas should see 90-plus catches, 1,150-plus yards, and about 10 TDs when all is said and done. If he does that, he will be well worth drafting as the 8th WR off the board.
Dez Bryant – Cowboys: When it comes to fantasy football, I am not a Dez Bryant fan at all. He was targeted just 20 percent of the time in the Cowboys offense, which tied him with Cole Beasley and Jason Witten. The only redeeming factor I see in owning him is his TDs. Bryant scored 8 times last season, and 16 times in 2014, which cannot be ignored.
Bryant is not the elite WR that analysts want to make him out to be, but he is a TD magnet at WR. With Elliot possibly facing some kind of suspension, Dak Prescott may look to him early in the season, and then you can flip him when Zeke gets back.
Doug Baldwin – Seahawks: Doug Baldwin is one of the more undervalued WRs in fantasy football because Russell Wilson had such a terrible year in 2016. Even with Wilson's struggles, Baldwin managed to finish with a respectable 94 catches, 1,128 yards, and 7 touchdowns.
Baldwin isn't going to hit double digits in touchdowns, but the catches and yards make up for it in most formats. He's a solid bottom-end WR1 at the end of round 2, or top of round 3.
* Allen Robinson: Robinson will be the WR to own in Jacksonville, but he will fall more into the high-end WR2 ranks. When passing, Bortles will look to Robinson, then Marqise Lee who moves outside, and then Allen Hurns in the slot. Fournette will catch some stuff here and there, as will the TE position, but not enough to discount Robinson below WR2 on draft day.
Honorable Mentions: Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks, Amari Cooper, Tyreke Hill
Rob Gronkowski – Patriots: Gronk is still the #1 TE in the NFL, as well as fantasy football, but the margin between #1 and #2 is thinner than some would like to think. Gronkowski's back is a problem, limiting him to just 8 games last season. He did have surgery in December, and enters 2017 fully healthy.
Gronkowski is just 28 years old, but has the body of a guy in his early-to-mid 30s. He's clearly still the #1 TE off the board given the Patriots offense, but injuries are a concern for him. Make sure you have a contingency plan for a possible Gronk injury, possibly Dwayne Allen.
Travis Kelce – Chiefs: Kelce is closing the gap on the top TE position in fantasy football, although he may not take over the #1 spot until Brady retires and the Patriots offense changes. Last season Kelce put up 85 receptions, 1,125 yards, and 4 touchdowns. While those numbers are OK for a WR, they are top notch for a TE.
Kelce is being drafted at the top of round 4, or the bottom end of round 3 at the earliest, so make sure you are paying attention if you want him. If he could score more TDs, there would be real discussion about him or Gronkowski being the top TE on the board. But for now, Kelce is #2.
Jordan Reed – Redskins: Like Gronkowski, health has been a real problem for Reed. Through his first four seasons Reed has yet to play more than 14 games, and he's averaging just 11.5 games per season. Reed is a massive redzone target at 6'2" and 246 pounds, which has translated into 17 touchdowns over the past two seasons.
The Redskins let DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon leave via free agency, but replaced them with Terrelle Pryor and Brian Quick. Pryor and Josh Doctson will likely steal some of those redzone targets from Reed, but with Kirk Cousins likely wanting to have a career year given his contract situation, Reed is my #3 TE in a super-thin TE market.
Greg Olsen – Panthers: Did you know that Olsen is the only TE in NFL history to have three consecutive seasons with 1,000 receiving yards? From 2014-16 Olsen has posted yardage totals of 1,008, 1,104, and 1,073, and has 16 touchdowns over that span. With that resume, why is he 4th on the list, you ask?
Well, Olsen is 32 years old, which is not a positive in the NFL. On top of that, the Panthers offense is going to change as OC Mike Shula wants to get the ball out of Cam Newton's hands quickly this season. Olsen is a top-5 fantasy TE, but like Newton, he comes with risk.
Tyler Eifert – Bengals: The biggest knock you will hear about when it comes to Eifert is his injury history. Out of the possible 64 games he could have played in during his career, he's played in just 37 of them. Playing in just 57.8 percent of your games is a big concern when talking about your starting TE.
With that said, Eifert is a touchdown beast when in the game. Through those 37 games played, Eifert has scored 20 touchdowns. That means he will score about every other game on average, which is as good as it gets from a TE in the NFL. If he can stay healthy, he has a real shot to leapfrog Olsen in the rankings.
Jimmy Graham – Seahawks: This is where the "upside" ends from the TE position. Graham's 2016 season saw 65 catches, 923 yards, and 6 TDs, which is pretty much his ceiling for this season. Injuries limited his 2015 season to 11 games, but he played 16 games in 2016, and enters 2017 healthy and ready to play another full slate of games.
The Seahawks have already said they want to run the ball more this year, which limits the upside of the passing game. Graham isn't the focal point of the passing game, and will have to battle Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett for targets again this season. In the end, you can expect numbers similar to what we saw last season (65/875/7). You get what you get with TEs you take at this point.
Delanie Walker – Titans: The Titans are a running team, and there are questions as to exactly who and what Marcus Mariota is as a QB. In Mariota's first two seasons, he's averaged 236.5 fantasy points, which is pretty average really. The reason that is important is because the QB is obviously the most important factor in TE and WR production. Walker is talented, but the Titans are a running team.
Looking at the Titans in 2017, Decker and Davis at WR can hopefully balance out the offense a bit more from the run-heavy scheme we all know. Will that translate into more redzone looks for Walker? Will it take away from the 102 targets he saw last season? My guess is he will see similar numbers to last season, but isn't likely to best them.
Martellus Bennett – Packers: Bennett left the Patriots to join the Packers, which is actually a positive thing for his fantasy owners. The Patriots spread the ball around, and a guy like Bennett is next to impossible to predict there. But in Green Bay he is the clear TE1 and a massive redzone upgrade over TE Jared Cook.
Rodgers is an elite QB, and that should translate into a small upgrade in numbers across the board for Bennett.
Eric Ebron – Lions: By this point of the TE draft, you are getting guys with real questions. Ebron doesn't score enough touchdowns to make him a reliable fantasy TE, but he at least has a chance for success with Matthew Stafford as his QB.
Ebron has just 8 touchdowns through his first three seasons in the NFL, which is a concern since touchdowns are king in fantasy football. On top of that, Ebron has played in 13 games twice, and 14 games once. Injuries are a concern. ESPN Lions reporter Michael Rothstein considers Ebron a "prime candidate for a breakout year," which won't be easy with Marvin Jones having a full year of the offense under his belt.
Jack Doyle – Colts: The Colts signed Doyle to a three-year, $18.9 million contract this off-season after trading Dwayne Allen to the Patriots. The trade locks Doyle into the #1 TE role, which means he is in the top 10 of fantasy TEs under Luck. However, he isn't without risk with Moncrief fully healthy.
Moncrief is a big redzone target, which limits the overall upside of Doyle. However, Doyle managed to finish last season with 59 catches, 584 yards, and 5 touchdowns while splitting time with Allen. Now that he is the man, I am looking for numbers closer to the 75/750/7 range. If he can do that, he will be worth starting in most formats.
Honorable Mentions: Hunter Henry, Kyle Rudolph, Zach Ertz
I want to be clear here and say that I am all about streaming defense in fantasy football, and almost never spend anything more than a late round pick on a defense. Once you get past the Texans, or Seahawks perhaps, the rest of the defenses are true streaming options, in my opinion.
Denver Broncos: The Broncos are again the top-rated fantasy defense, with Von Miller, Chris Harris, Aqib Talib, and T.J. Ward anchoring the unit. The offense is a concern since they may not be able to keep the defense off the field for long stretches, but the talent is there to warrant the Broncos being the first defense off the board.
New England Patriots: Trey Flowers should push for double-digit sacks, while guys like Dont'a Hightower, Malcom Butler, and Pat Chung will be in the IDP (Individual Defensive Player) mix. The Patriots are more of a team effort on defense, but should be one of the few teams worth owning as your set it and forget it defense.
Houston Texans: J.J. Watt is obviously the player to own on the Texans for those in IDP leagues, but injuries are always a concern for Watt. Benardrick McKinney is an interesting linebacker to own, with a projected tackle total of around 85 for this season. Jadeveon Clowney looks like he will never reach the hype he entered the league with, but the Texans overall defense is a solid one to own for non-streamers.
Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks defense is anchored by LB Bobby Wagner, who is a legitimate threat to push for 80-plus tackles and 5-ish sacks. K.J Wright will add another 65-70 tackles, while Kam Chancellor (60 tackles and a couple of INTs and fumbles) and Earl Thomas (45 tackles and a few INTs and fumbles) anchor the secondary. They have a nice strength of schedule (.450), leaving them as a steady fantasy defense.
Minnesota Vikings: Danielle Hunter was a beast last season, finishing with 12.5 sacks without starting a single game. This year he is expected to start opposite Everson Griffen, making him well worth owning as a DL sleeper in IDP formats. Griffen is no slouch himself, finishing with 8.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 3 fumbles recovered. He'll be another option at DL in IDP formats. Last, but not least, Harrison Smith is a solid starter at DB for those in IDP formats.
In the big scheme of things, the Vikings are worth owning. But you'll want to sit them in Weeks 2, 6, 10, 13, and 16 at least, with possible others being 4, 12, and 15. An 8-8 season for the Vikings is extremely likely.
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals staples on defense are Antoine Bethea and Tyrann Mathieu. Both should push for 70-ish tackles with a few INTs mixed in. The defensive line is not that great, but Deone Bucannon is at least worth mentioning at LB.
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs have the worst SOS out there at .575, and the 10th-toughest fantasy playoff SOS at .563. It's a good thing they have Eric Berry and Marcus Peters in the secondary, along with LBs Derrick Johnson and Justin Houston. The defensive line is pretty lackluster from a fantasy IDP standpoint, leaving the Chiefs as a streaming option for me.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars are far and away the best value pick for fantasy defenses this season. With Calais Campbell up front to push for 10 sacks, Telvin Smith (90-plus tackles) and Myles Jack (80-ish tackles) at LB, and Barry Church (80 tackles), Jalen Ramsey (4-ish INTs), and A.J. Bouye (3-4 INTs) in the secondary, the Jaguars fantasy defense isn't to be taken lightly.
New York Giants: Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul will be a tough duo to contain on the Giants D-Line, and each should rack up 10 sacks and 45 tackles for IDP owners. Landon Collins is the DB you probably want to take 1st in IDP leagues, with 90 tackles and 3 INTs realistic for him.
What keeps the Giants so low is that outside of those 4 defensive players, there isn't much there to scare offenses.
Carolina Panthers: Luke Kuechly is the guy you want off the Panthers defense, with 80-90 tackles, a few sacks, INTs, and fumbles possible. Kawann Short should be able to net the Panthers 5-7 sacks, while Kurt Coleman and Mike Adams will be solid in the secondary. But like the Giants, that is about all you will find on the defense worth mentioning in fantasy circles.
The Panthers' .504 SOS is slightly above average, but their fantasy playoff SOS is tied for the 5th-worst (Cardinals) at .594. If you roll the dice with the Panthers or Cardinals, dump them before the playoffs come around!
There you have it, the 2017 draft rankings! The RB and WR rankings go much deeper, obviously, so if you need help at those positions don't be afraid to email me or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter to help you sort them out. Hopefully you knock it out in your drafts, and we can hit Week 1 of the season with a stacked roster to pick from!