With the preseason beginning and many fantasy drafts planned for the next few weekends, it’s time to prep for your 2017 Fantasy Football team. Here is my advice/predictions as it relates to running backs and wide receivers:
- David the Goliath – David Johnson is by far the most solid running back pick this season. He might be the most solid pick period, of any position, as the top QBs are aging, the top WRs depend on them, and the top TE is injury-prone. Apart from something completely unexpected, David Johnson will set records this year and will launch many fantasy teams into Championships. He’s a gifted runner, a good receiver, he wants the ball, and his coach is willing to give it to him. With Palmer not getting any younger, Johnson will see the ball constantly, and his stats will reflect this attention. Get this guy with the first pick, you don’t even have to worry about anyone else.
- Bell Cow – Le’Veon Bell might be the only other running back worth such high consideration. Freeman & Ajayi are not far behind, but Johnson and Bell are the top guys without question, so consider yourself lucky if you can get one of them. Bell is holding out so he doesn’t have to play this preseason or even train much, but that shouldn’t affect his ability when the games that count actually start. You may worry about him getting hurt, that’s definitely possible, but that’s also a risk most fantasy owners will be willing to take. I’d pick Johnson over Bell, but you really can’t go wrong with either.
- Zeke – The biggest RB question mark this year is Ezekiel Elliott. Last year Zeke has the same issue, but for a different reason; we just didn’t know if he was going to be as perfect a fit in Dallas as he appeared to be before the season started. He was, he was a huge boon for fantasy teams, and he’d be a Top 3 back this season, if not for his latest issues. Right now, he’s suspended for 6 games. That might be reduced, it might be pushed back, we just have no idea right now, and so Zeke’s draft value is up in the air. If he plays right away, draft him right away. If the suspension holds, he’s still worth stashing, and should probably rank in the Top 15 RBs still.
- Middlemen – If you miss out on the top guys and the best at the position, there are many running backs in the middle of the pack who can still carry the load for you. Paul Perkins, Carlos Hyde, Spencer Ware, Mark Ingram, C.J. Anderson; these guys aren’t the most exciting prospects in 2017, but they will still score and could be sleeper candidates. Just don’t overpay if these are the backs who you’ll be starting every week; they aren’t worth an extremely high selection. Let them come to you and you’ll see their value.
- Brownies – It’s a gamble, but Isaiah Crowell might be the only Cleveland player who scores on a consistent basis, and so he might be the only Cleveland player who’s worth drafting. And I’ll go one step further; you might even consider him one of the Top 10 RBs this year. He might just reach double digit TDs or top 1000 yds, and who knows, maybe he’ll do both. I wouldn’t nab him early, but the team who gets Crowell might just be flaunting the fact at the end of the season.
- Off the Top – There isn’t a very large drop off between the best WR and the 8th best WR, so don’t worry about picking these guys in the first round. I know what you’re thinking, Antonio Brown is amazing, you can build a fantasy team around him, but I don’t see it that way. While his numbers should be very good (9 TDs, 1400 yds), there are too many other wideouts right behind him statistically; he’s just not on a level all his own. I wouldn’t draft him in the first round based solely on the fact that his numbers won’t set him aside by much at all by the end of the season.
- Contemporaries – So who do I think is right up there with him? The list in long. Jordy, Julio, Odell, Mike Thomas, Mike Evans; these guys will score relatively the same points and so you don’t need to reach for any of them. Do you want one on your team, of course. If you could get two, that’d be great. Just don’t expect them to finish on a fantasy island, and don’t over pay for someone who is part of a large group, wait for other owners to overreact.
- Speed Demon – Tyreek Hill is a player to watch this season, based mostly on the absurd things we saw him do on football fields last season. I don’t love Andy Reid, but the guy is smart enough to watch film, to see that Hill is the ultimate mismatch, and to figure out some ways to utilize him even more this year. If he had seen more action in the playoffs, I think the Chiefs could have easily handled the Steelers in what was a FG game that didn’t have to be that way. I just think Hill emerged this season, scores points in weird ways, and can be a plus to the lucky team that lands him.
- AFC West – Other than Hill though, I wouldn’t target other AFC West WRs very early. They come in pairs, is the first problem. Denver: Thomas & Sanders. Oakland: Cooper & Crabtree. Los Angeles: Williams & Allen. The Raiders have the best QB which means that their WRs have the best chance, but still, who gets the TD on any given day? Who emerges as the biggest threat? I just think there’s a lot of risk involved here, either because of unanswered questions or too much competition for catches.
- Decker – I’ve had Eric Decker on my team multiple years, and all the guy does is catch redzone TDs. But this year he’s got a new team, the Titans, so who knows how things will shake up. Tennessee likes to run with Murray and throw to Walker, that’s their gameplan. How Decker will ultimately fit into that scheme we have no idea, but Mariota is improving and balls thrown Eric’s way are a possibility. I see him as the first player on my Watchlist, as a FA who could make a big impact on my team if he shows up in the way we know he can.
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RBs – Keep an eye out for the guys who don’t just run, but catch as well. This dual threat gives you double the chance of getting points from your starting lineup, so make sure to draft fast, young backs who can handle the ball on multiple downs. Also, get guys on high scoring teams. That seems like a no brainer, but is it? Gillislee for the Pats, Ingram for the Saints, Coleman for the Falcons; even if these guys have competition for the ball, their teams score enough that they’ll also see their fair share.
WRs – Try to make tiers when ranking your players, but especially WRs. There might be a group of ten guys who are all relatively the same, who will probably get you the same amount of points total on the season. That group exists at the top, but it also exists in the middle as well, so understand when you need to grab a guy and when you can wait, grab a guy ten spots down the list, but basically get the exact same value. The WR group this year is especially comparable, with large blocks of similarly-ranked players, so use that to your advantage.