Fantasy Drafts, Fantasy Football

Drafting for 2017 Fantasy Football

Are you as ready for 2016 to be over as I am? I mentioned in my last post that this has been by far my worst season so far. And while some leagues are going strong into Week 17, both of my leagues have declared winners. In my 10-team NFL league, I placed 7th while my good friend and first time player based on my recommendation won the championship by less than 2 points. In my 12-team PPR Yahoo league, I finished 9th while it looked as though our eventual winner might not make the playoffs after the first several weeks, let alone draft day.

Speaking of draft day, there were so many players that I treated like safe bets and certainties moving into the year that turned out to be wrong that it seems pointless to say before the 2016 season is even over how next year is going to shake out.

I do know some things definitively, and I’ll share them with you now:

My 2017 Do Not Draft List

gronk

Rob Gronkowski – Let me say firstly that I loved owning Gronk this year. He is one of few players that is unequivocally “fun” to own. He’s a difference maker in any given week, he makes watching your team perform exciting, and as a player he’s just a lovable doof. However, his injury risks returned this year, both at the start of the season and at the end. It remains to be seen if he’ll be fully healthy moving into next year. And based on where he was drafted this year, in my case at the tail end of the first round, he simply isn’t worth the risk. There are so few good or even reliable tight ends in Fantasy this year. And if you draft Gronk, or frankly any of the other five or six in that conversation, you convince yourself that you don’t need a backup…until of course Gronk gets injured and you’re stuck streaming the rest of the season. That’s a risk you arguably take if you do reach for Jordan Reed or Greg Olsen, but I didn’t plan on building my team around either of those guys or sacrifice a shot at an elite running back or wide receiver to own him. I hope Gronkowski is healthy next year, but he’d have to fall to at least the third round for me to consider owning him.

Jamaal Charles – I’m done. I don’t care that he put up video game numbers three years ago, this guy’s even more injury prone than Gronk. What made it so frustrating this year is that, even though he didn’t go terribly early, he sat on everyone’s bench for eight weeks before anyone knew to drop him. And as of this week, he’s officially on the wrong side of 30. Running back proved to be much deeper than expected this year moving into next, so I want no part of taking a gamble on Charles in hope that he recaptures #1 running back potential.

Jeremy Hill – Jeremy Hill finished as a Top 20 running back in standard scoring this season. He finished in the Top 20 in rushing yards and got more rushing touchdowns this season than Le’Veon Bell. And as a 6th round pick, he was valued about right. But how many times did you feel comfortable starting him? Owning him was a roller coaster ride of production. Some weeks he’d rush for 100 yards, and some weeks he would fall into the endzone and save your day. In fact, he turned out to be a more consistent option as an RB2 than any of the guys I desperately added in order to replace him week to week, but I never trusted them when they came. Not when Giovani Bernard was out, not when they were playing Cleveland. Give me Frank Gore next year and let me stop the guesswork.

Anyone who plays for Houston – The Houston Texans are the best worst team in the NFL. They’re playoff bound, but they look terrible, from a reality or fantasy standpoint. Brock Osweiler effectively broke DeAndre Hopkins, and Lamar Miller was almost never let loose. Players who showed flash in the pan promise like Will Fuller were quickly forgotten. Even their defense, admittedly without J.J. Watt, stopped being good. Thanks, but no thanks.

Defenses early – I’ve been warned before, but now it may finally sink in. The top performing defenses were Kansas City and Denver, two defenses admittedly drafted fairly early. The next few however were Minnesota and Philadelphia, the former of which was often benched late in the season and the latter of which was fully dropped. Seattle, by the way, finished outside the Top 10. I fully understand the value of setting your defense and forgetting it, especially when there are often not as many exciting streaming options on the waivers week to week as may seem. But starting a defense is still a streaming game, and the value simply isn’t there to reach.

Brandin Cooks – Similar to Jeremy Hill, but amplified. Cooks is a Top 10 wide receiver! He finished above Julio Jones! That would make him elite, but is there any team with a screwier offense than New Orleans? He delivered the worst performance of the year by putting up a zero in a critical, make or break playoff week. He didn’t even get targeted in the game. A few weeks later, he exploded. And yet discussions were had about whether you’d rather own Cooks or Michael Thomas. The Cooks logic could also be applied to his teammate Mark Ingram. Yes, they’re very good, but they can be someone else’s headache next year.

Now let’s talk about some guys I DO want to draft.

Running Back

I estimate there are about 10 running backs in 2017’s top tier. If I don’t own at least one of them next year, I’m nervous already. The first three are all candidates for #1 spot overall, and there’s an interesting debate to be had all year as to who it should be. The next five would likely be very reliable as RB1s, with maybe only a little risk, and the last two have been extremely exciting but are perhaps the best candidates at a 2017 bust.

  1. David Johnson
  2. Ezekiel Elliott
  3. Le’Veon Bell
  4. LeSean McCoy
  5. Melvin Gordon
  6. LeGarrette Blount
  7. DeMarco Murray
  8. Devonta Freeman
  9. Jay Ajayi
  10. Jordan Howard

After that, I like the return of C.J. Anderson, not to mention rookie C.J. Prosise to see if he can really get going. Lamar Miller could still be a reliable player, just not as a fringe first rounder. Frank Gore and Latavius Murray seem like consistent options. Eddie Lacy has some promise upon his return, and there will be a ton of discussions surrounding Adrian Peterson. Derrick Henry seems very exciting should either he or Murray find themselves on a new team. Ameer Abdullah could finally breakout if he stays healthy. And those who kicked themselves for overlooking Melvin Gordon this year may be in the same camp as those who will overlook a potential Todd Gurley bounce back next year.

Wide Receiver

I count only five wide receivers I’d call “elite” and worth taking in the first two rounds. Maybe six. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if next year #4 and #5 easily overtake #1 and #2. As for the next tier, all of them seem like plausible WR1s with a few question marks or asterisks.

  1. Antonio Brown
  2. Jordy Nelson
  3. Mike Evans
  4. Odell Beckham Jr.
  5. Julio Jones
  6. A.J. Green
  7. T.Y. Hilton
  8. Davante Adams
  9. Doug Baldwin
  10. Brandin Cooks
  11. Michael Crabtree
  12. Larry Fitzgerald
  13. Michael Thomas
  14. Demariyus Thomas
  15. Amari Cooper

After those 15, how much faith do you have in the recovery of guys like Keenan Allen, Sammy Watkins and Eric Decker? Just how far do you wait to draft DeAndre Hopkins, Allen Robinson, Dez Bryant or Alshon Jeffery? Would I be willing to reach in hopes of a breakout for guys like Tyreek Hill, Sterling Shepard, Jamison Crowder or Terrelle Pryor Sr.? Those are all very good questions.

Tight End

I already said my piece on Gronk, but that doesn’t change his position as number one. The next five are the only tight ends I’d be comfortable starting each week no questions asked, and they’re the guys I’m likely going to aim for next year. The five after that might be the next most reliable TE1s, but don’t overpay.

  1. Rob Gronkowski
  2. Travis Kelce
  3. Jordan Reed
  4. Greg Olsen
  5. Delanie Walker
  6. Jimmy Graham
  7. Cameron Brate
  8. Kyle Rudolph
  9. Tyler Eifert
  10. Coby Fleener
  11. Zach Miller

Quarterback

Ah, now here’s where things get interesting. I don’t think there’s any QB I would want within the first round year, and perhaps not in round two either. I have a feeling very few fantasy teams won their season because of their quarterback this year. Those who drafted Cam Newton are certainly regretting it, and I’m sure others were doubting how early they took Russell Wilson. Someone like Andrew Luck was drafted right about at his appropriate value, but how many people dominated their leagues as a result? Kirk Cousins and Derek Carr turned out to have the best value, but even they perhaps didn’t carry you all season long. Turns out the best QB to own this year played for a team with a bananas offense, namely Aaron Rodgers (still likely in a tier of his own), Drew Brees or Matt Ryan, but not necessarily the best teams overall. The best bang for your buck was Dak Prescott, but how many people are likely to overpay to own him next year? And the biggest question mark of all is Tom Brady. He didn’t have a full year and didn’t even have Gronk for all of it, but you wouldn’t have been crazy to want to bench him for one of those other guys late in the season when the season was on the line. I don’t like the idea of waiting for a QB next year and ending up with Philip Rivers or Blake Bortles (i.e., I want one of these top 12-13 for sure), but I’ll pay careful close attention to what other value skill players are available and when before I take one.

  1. Aaron Rodgers
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Matt Ryan
  4. Kirk Cousins
  5. Derek Carr (if he’s healthy)
  6. Andrew Luck
  7. Dak Prescott
  8. Tom Brady
  9. Ben Roethlisberger
  10. Marcus Mariota
  11. Matthew Stafford
  12. Russell Wilson
  13. Cam Newton
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