So the draft is over, pre-season rosters are nearly complete and that means we are a step closer to the season getting under way. But more importantly, fantasy season is nearly upon us! This means we need to get down to business and explore the potential superstars that could have a big impact on your fantasy team. In the next few articles I will my give my outlook on a player in each position that you should target in the early rounds of your draft, a sleeper target who you can probably pick up in the mid-rounds who has the potential to really take off this season and finally a player that in my opinion is one to avoid this year.
There are quite a few superstar QB’s in the NFL who perform at the highest level year in, year out. In terms of fantasy scoring though, only a couple of these stars produce top tier numbers on a regular basis. Take Matt Ryan as a prime example. The Falcons signal caller scored 348 fantasy points last season and ended up in 2nd place, having somewhat of a career year. However, the seasons prior to this in 2013, ‘14 and ‘15 he finished 10th, 8th and 19th respectively in fantasy scoring. Clearly in Ryan’s case over the last couple of years the team has strengthened the offence dramatically and introduced high impact players such as Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman who add a new dimension to the passing game, alongside Taylor Gabriel and Mohammad Sanu to compliment the superstar talent of Julio Jones out wide. While “Matty Ice” should be in for another solid season in 2017, he is not the guy at the top of my board.
Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers has ranked 2nd, 8th, and 1st over the past 3 seasons. Rodgers has a vast array of high quality talent within his offence, which year after year keeps producing with great success and have become very dependable pieces to add to your fantasy line-ups. Under centre, Rodgers led the league with 40 touchdowns; add that to 4,428 yards (4th best) and only 7 interceptions (7th best among starters) and you get the number 1 overall QB within fantasy. Providing he plays 16 games this season, I can’t see any regression from these numbers.
With players such as seasoned veteran Jordy Nelson, up and coming star Davante Adams and 2014’s 5th ranked WR Randall Cobb, Rodgers has an opportunity to sustain these numbers and quite possibly improve on them. Tie this in to the fact Green Bay doesn’t look like it’s going to have a highly productive running game this season with it looking likely that former WR Ty Montgomery will be centre piece of the running attack. Montgomery is another wrinkle for this Packers offense out of the backfield and the addition of TE Martellus Bennett is a new weapon for Rodgers to work with in 2017. However, if you want him as your QB1 you will likely have to pay a heft price. He currently has an ADP (average draft position) of #33, however, I believe he will likely go in the Top-8 of any fantasy draft.
In this section I will select a player who I believe will be available in the mid/late rounds of your fantasy draft and could be a game-changer from week to week. I considered some young and talented QB’s like Derek Carr, Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz as well as veterans Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Stafford. But my choice is a young quarterback who has got better and better during his first 2 seasons in the NFL. Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took a big leap in year 2 as he was more commanding in the huddle and added 6 more TD’s (28) than his maiden year. Although his yardage was similar to his rookie year, 4,042 in 2015 and 4,090 in 2016, this season the Bucs have reinvigorated their offense by adding a talented down field receiver in DeSean Jackson and highly rated first round draft pick, tight end O.J. Howard. Add these two to an already well stocked offence with the likes of top 5 ranked Mike Evans and last year’s breakthrough tight end, Cameron Brate and you can see the opportunity that presents itself for young Winston.
As well as strengthening the offence, the back room staff has worked hard in the off season to add pivotal pieces within the defence. Safety JJ Wilcox and DT Chris Baker were added in free agency and highly touted DB Justin Evans was drafted in the second round, whilst DT Sealver Siliga and Saftey Chris Conte were re-signed. Improving their defence will hopefully mean they can get the offence on the field quicker, therefore giving more opportunity for Jameis to have a very productive season. The other thing I like about Winston’s opportunities is that the Bucs find themselves in a fairly open division with shaky defences and favourable matchups in New Orleans and Carolina. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jameis break into the top 5 ranked fantasy quarterbacks come the end of the season and could be an absolute steal if you can pick him up in rounds 8 or 9 which is right around his current ADP (#103). Playing in the NFC South means the Bucs are bound to find themselves in at least 4 shoot-outs throughout the season. This means BIG fantasy numbers for Winston!
The No Likey
There are plenty of red flags for the quarterback position in fantasy football. You can gamble on a rookie if you really want to, those who picked up Dak Prescott last year off the waivers were rewarded, but those who thought Jared Goff was going to have an impact with the Los Angeles Rams were left disappointed. I can’t see any of this year’s rookie QB’s making any major noise. Mitch Trubisky will have to try and beat out Mike Glennon, while DeShone Kizer will also likely sit out year 1 in Cleveland. Having said that, you don’t necessarily expect rookie quarterbacks to come in and move mountains straight away anyway, unless they have a skill set like Andrew Luck coming out of college. That being said, this could be a controversial selection but my avoid for 2017 is Colts signal caller Andrew Luck (our editor, Tom, does not agree!).
Despite the majority of fantasy analysts backing the Colts main man to have a dynamic season, I don’t believe enough has changed in Indianapolis. Luck was sacked a miserable 41 times – joint 2nd most behind only Tyrod Taylor. Not enough has happened in the way of acquisitions to sure up and help fill the big gaps in the Colts O-Line. Yes, Kamar Aiken was added to the roster to provide more depth within the receiving corps, however, the O-line problems that gave up all those sacks an offered very little protection in the back field have not been addressed other than signing 1 below par tackle in the draft. Add this to the revelation of Andrew Luck’s injury problems over the last couple of seasons and off season shoulder surgery, I firmly believe this is a year to avoid him on fantasy
As well as the in-house issues, there is also the matter of the divisional rivals in the AFC South for the Colts. The Texans, Titans and Jaguars all have stellar defences on paper, especially in their secondary. Playing these teams a total of 6 times over the season is surely going to cap Luck’s productivity. If he can manage to keep above 4,300 yards and 29 TD’s (his average over 4 seasons) then he certainly warrants being a top-5 QB selection. However, I believe a combination of injury history, a poor offensive line and difficult divisional match ups makes Andrew Luck a big No No this season.
Be sure to check back next week for RBS.
By Rob Grimwood – AcrossTheFantasyPond – @fantasypond