Top 24 Fantasy Players for 2016
Unless you hit multiple home runs on the waiver wires, it’s next to impossible to win your league without nailing the first two picks of your draft. Here is how we would draft the first two rounds of a 12 team league.
1. Antonio Brown – You can not put anyone over AB at one. He led the league in fantasy scoring last season, catching 136 of 195 targets, for 1,800+ yards and 10 touchdowns despite missing Big Ben for 4 games.
2. Odell Beckham, Jr – The Giants have a favorable schedule and will run the league’s most uptempo offense. We think that translates into even more targets and more red zone targets for OBJ.
3. Julio Jones- Julio led the league in targets, receptions, and yards last season. The reason he didn’t lead the league in scoring is that he, Matt Ryan, and Kyle Shanahan couldn’t get on the same page in the red zone. We think Julio finds the end zone more this season, and given he can avoid injury, is a lock to finish this season as a top 5 fantasy player.
4. David Johnson- If you are still questioning what Arians plan is at RB, start paying attention. David Johnson is going to be a workhorse this season. Likely playing 70% of the offensive snaps for one of the leagues 3 or 4 best offenses. He will get early down work, passing down work, and handle the goal line carries.
5. Todd Gurley – Speaking of work horses… Gurley is now nearly two years removed from his ACL injury and is poised to blow to roof off the NFL. Given how fast he came back from ACL surgery, the fact he had over 600 yards in his first four starts is insane. He definitely hit a wall last season, but we think that was related to missing a year of action then adjusting immediately to the NFL game. Goff is going to help, big time. Fisher went from ‘Keenum is the starter’ to ‘not sure’ after about 1.5 days of watching Goff run the offense.
6. DeAndre Hopkins – I get the trepidation fantasy owners have regarding Osweiler, but I have faith in O’Brien’s ability to not only assess Osweiler before giving him that deal, but to develop him as a QB. It’s hard to imagine Brock being any worse than the combo of QB’s that threw the ball to Hopkins last season. The question is are the 192 targets a sustainable number. Based on early reports out of camp, the Texans are just as committed to getting 10 the ball this season.
7. A.J. Green – I think his numbers jump up with Hue Jackson gone. For whatever reason Hue was never interested in getting Green consistent targets. Had he received the targets AB and Julio got last season, Green would have projected to have 133 receptions for 2,010 yards and 16 touchdowns. Even if he halves the gap between himself and the guys at the top of this list, Green has the upside to be the best fantasy player in the 2016 season.
8. Dez Bryant – It’s hard to argue against a healthy Romo/Dez combo. Dez averaged 1300 yards and 14 touchdowns in the 3 years before last season’s debacle. We think Dez plays a full season and has Romo for the majority of it. If that’s the case 8 is about the lowest he will finish.
9. Adrian Peterson – It feels silly to have AD this low… I would bet he leads the league in rushing yards and touchdowns. He just provides so little in terms of catching the ball. That being said, his rushing production is so consistent it adds value over chasing receptions and receiving yards out of your RB’s.
10. Lamar Miller – Miller’s running style is a perfect fit for Houston’s zone blocking scheme, and having Hopkins, Fuller, and Strong on the outside will help create opportunities for him to break big plays. Still though, has to prove himself on a new team and capable of carrying the ball more than his current career high of 216.
11. Allen Robinson – Similar to Marshall last season, and Megatron for the past decade, Robinson benefits from having a QB that is willing to throw it and trust him make a play. Having Allen Hurns on the other side of the field and Julius Thomas working the middle doesn’t hurt either. Robinson is as safe a pick as you can make in the 8-14 range, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have upside, we have seen him projected in the top 10 overall in several standard and PPR models.
12. Ezekiel Elliott – Given the role he’s likely to fill in Dallas, the schedule they play, and the line he will have in front of him, I get the argument to draft Elliott earlier. I just prefer to minimize risk as much as possible in early rounds. Until we get a clear picture of how the Cowboys are going to split up playing time, I don’t think you can draft Elliott higher than 12. If they come out and say Zeke is our 3 down back, and he will be spelled by either McFadden or Morris, we would move him up to the number 3 RB and number 8 overall player.
13. Rob Gronkowski – Gronk has looked dominate at the start of camp, and he’s the one player’s productivity we aren’t concerned about with Brady out. The Patriots will find a way to get him the ball early and often, especially in the red zone.
14. Jamaal Charles – So, the consensus I get from fantasy owners is they are scared more by West and Ware than Charles getting hurt again. Seriously? Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware? We are talking about the NFL’s all time YPC leader, who is still only 29, and is only two seasons removed from a year that he scored 19 touchdowns and caught 70 passes in addition to running for 1,300 yards. If he stays healthy he’s a top 5 player, and you are getting him at 14, healthy and hungry to prove doubters wrong.
15. Jordy Nelson – Given how well players have come back from knee injuries in recent years, how hard Nelson works, and how good his QB is, we have zero concerns about drafting Jordy this high. Let’s not forget how dominate he was in 2014-2015 when he scored in 10/16 games including 3 multi-touchdown performances.
16. Alshon Jeffery – Has consistently flashed highest of upsides, Bears play a pass-friendly schedule, and he’s in a contract year, but can he stay healthy? Averaged 20 fantasy PPG when healthy last season, and played 33 straight games before his injury issues last season. 20 PPG in a contract year is worth a shot at 16.
17. Keenan Allen – Allen is another player that would have finished top 10 if it hadn’t been for injury in 2016. The Chargers offense is going to have to throw it a ton, because they can’t defend and they can’t run block. If Allen remains Rivers favorite target this season, he could be in line for a monster season.
18. Brandon Marshall – With Fitzy back, it’s tough to drop Marshall much lower than 18. Unlike Nelson, Jeffery, and Allen, Marshall comes with little injury risk, he has missed only 8/160 career games. He led the NFL in TD receptions last season, and will be in the discussion again this season because he has such a great rapport with Fitzpatrick.
19. Mike Evans – I’m still not sold on Jameis Winston, but Dirk Koetter as the HC now is undeniably going to help both Evans and Winston’s stock this season. Getting more consistency from bother players should turn Evans’ 147 targets into more than the 74 receptions, 3 touchdowns we saw last year.
20. Le’Veon Bell – Is anyone else sick of these players that can’t get out of their own way? A year after missing 2 games from suspension, and another 8 with injury, Bell spent the offseason making rap songs about how he deserves to get paid, then picked up a 4 game suspension for missing a drug test. If the suspension gets reversed, I would draft him #2 overall, but we are reading that winning his appeal seems highly unlikely.
21. Demaryius Thomas – We are higher on Thomas than most other experts. Last season was widely regarded as a down year for him, yet he had 100+ receptions and 1,300+ yards despite inconsistent play from Manning and Osweiler. He came into camp 10 pounds lighter, and despite the QB change, we expect the Kubiak system to improve in year 2.
22. Amari Cooper – Cooper’s rookie numbers would have been even more impressive if he didn’t have a bum wheel in the second half. He has the potential to lead the league in receptions, but has to get more consistent play out of Carr.
23. Brandin Cooks – As safe as it gets in the back-half of round 2, Cooks is a lock to see a sizeable jump in just about every statistical category this season. He put up a 84/1100/9 season on just 127 targets. Look for a 15-20% jump in targets, receptions, and yards and a slight regression in touchdowns this year.
24. Devonta Freeman – We’re still convinced Tevin Coleman is the best back on the roster, and aren’t convinced Freeman isn’t the change-of-pace back by mid-season. That being said, he was the number 1 RB in fantasy football last season, avoided major injury, and plays in a Shanahan system that we expect to improve dramatically in year 2.