2017 NFL Fantasy: Top 15 Defense/Special Team Rankings

The D/ST position is often overlooked in fantasy football, and I think it’s because most of us just wish we didn’t have to deal with it. It can be so difficult to pick the right D/ST on any given week, let alone the entire season. The best advice I can give everyone is to just take it week by week. Unless you pull the trigger early and draft the Seahawks or Broncos, you’re most likely going to be playing the streaming game at some point during the season. I’ve been lucky enough to win 2 fantasy championships, and on both occasions, I streamed defenses throughout the season. At some points, I even committed a fantasy football sin and rostered multiple defenses at once. I was looking ahead to future match up and wanted to be ahead of the curve. Sometimes that’s the kind of crazy moves you have to make to get a small advantage. No matter what you do though, there’s going to be a point during the season where your defense will let you down. It’s part of the game. Don’t ever get too discouraged, or too over confident with your D/ST. Unpredictability is something you need to expect. With all that in mind, here are my top 15 defenses for the 2017 season.

15. Jacksonville Jaguars

This one is going to seem a bit out of place. At one point, one of the best defensive strategies was to stream whoever was facing the Jaguars that week. Their offense was garbage, and their defense wasn’t much better. The offense has improved significantly over the last couple of years, and this is the may be the year the defense finally puts it all together too. Last season, the Jaguars scored 75 fantasy points, forced only 13 turnovers, and allowed 25 points per game, per ESPN standard scoring. So, after such a poor outing in 2016, why do I think the Jags are worthy of ranking? Well, despite the horrid stat line, Jacksonville is actually a very talented defensive unit. They added, even more, talent over the off season. Calais Campbell, AJ Bouye, and Barry Church were all brought in to help transform a defense that’s good on paper, into a defense that’s good on the field. They’ll be usable this season.

Where I’d draft them: 14th round. Draft them ahead of only your kicker.

14. Los Angeles Rams

Some of you might think I’m crazy for having the Rams on this list after last year, but I think I might even have them a little low. Last season, the Rams scored 72 fantasy points, forced 18 turnovers, and allowed 24.6 points per game, per ESPN standard scoring. That’s less than stellar, but a lot has gone down since then. Head Coach, Jeff Fisher, and Defensive Coordinator, Greg Williams, are now gone, replaced by Sean McVay, and legendary Defensive Coordinator, Wade Phillips. With all due respect to McVay, Phillips is the reason I’m both excited, and optimistic. With him at the helm, the Rams will surely improve their horrid red zone defense, which allowed touchdowns at a 71% clip last year. Phillips is also likely to get the most out of Aaron Donald, and Robert Quinn, who are both elite pass rushers. Total it all up, and you get a defensive unit that’s going to catch some folks by surprise next season.

Where I’d draft them: 13th or 14th round. I see a big season coming, but they’re still a defense. Don’t draft early

13. Oakland Raiders

Man, am I going to rank any good defenses at any point? Don’t be fooled. Despite giving up 24.1 points per game, and only scoring 74 fantasy points last season, the Raiders forced a whopping 30 turnovers, per ESPN standard scoring. That was second to only the Atlanta Falcons, who forced 33. The Falcons didn’t make this list because they like to blow 28-3 leads at bad times. As for the Raiders, the ability to create that many turnovers are extremely appealing to any fantasy owner. They’ve improved their secondary a bit, and that should hopefully help them keep the yards and points allowed down. If Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack help bring the Raiders’ sack total up from the 25 they got last season, then Oakland might just live up to their potential.

Where I’d draft them: 13th or 14th round. The high number of turnovers is nice, but that can fluctuate year to year. Potential is there, but don’t draft them too high.

12. Pittsburgh Steelers

We finally get to a historically good defense. Last season, the Steelers scored 91 fantasy points, forced 23 turnovers, and allowed 20.4 points per game, per ESPN standard scoring. It was business as usual for the “Steel Curtain” in 2016, and it should be more of the same this season. With the exception of the Patriots, Pittsburgh’s defense was able to smother their opponents, especially in the red zone, where teams only scored touchdowns on them 48% of the time. The Steelers have talent at every defensive position, and they’re hoping newly drafted rookie, TJ Watt, can eventually replace their long time defensive anchor James Harrison. They’ll be solid all season long.

Where I’d draft them: 13th round. We’re starting to get to more usable defenses now. Honestly, if you chose to stick with Pittsburgh all season long, they would help you more than they’d hurt you. Sometimes, that’s all you can really expect from your defense.

11. Philadelphia Eagles

A seriously underrated D/ST, in my opinion. Last season, the Eagles scored 127 fantasy points, forced 26 turnovers, and allowed 20.7 points per game, per ESPN standard scoring. Defensively, the Eagles have one of the best lines in all of football. Their front four can cause havoc, but they need some help in the secondary, and their line backers aren’t exactly blowing people away. What really makes this unit desirable to fantasy owners is their special teams. A weapon like Darren Sproles can seriously turn a game around in the blink of an eye. All he needs is a punt and some room to work. They’re a solid defense, and they’re gonna give you a fair amount of extra points via their special teams.

Where I’d draft them: 13th round. I’m not sure if you’re starting to notice a pattern, but I don’t recommend taking any defense early. Not even one with such an upside on special teams.

10. Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have been one of the league’s most dominant defenses for over a decade. Last season, they scored 118 fantasy points, forced 28 turnovers, and held teams to 20.1 points game, per ESPN standard scoring. It was a solid season, but despite finishing inside the top 10 in points per game, yards per game, and turnovers, you’d want the same defense we’d all grown accustomed to seeing. The Ravens noticed it too, and they addressed the issue over the off season. They used their first 4 picks in the NFL draft on defensive players, and also signed veteran free agents Brandon Carr, and Tony Jefferson. They should easily be a top 10 defense this year.

Where I’d draft them: 13th round. This is getting pretty redundant now, but virtually no defense is worthy of being taken early. The Ravens are no different

9. Carolina Panthers

The Panthers’ offense wasn’t the only ones suffering from a SuperBowl hangover last year. After an awesome 2015 season, their defense also took a step back in 2016. They scored 101 fantasy points, forced 27 turnovers, and allowed 25.1 points per game, per ESPN standard scoring. It was obvious that Carolina’s defense missed Josh Norman. They ranked 29th in passing yards allowed and looked even worse than that when they had to defend Julio Jones. Their secondary is still going to be an issue, but their defensive line got even stronger with the additions of Julius Peppers, and Daeshaun Hall over the off season. Assuming that Luke Kuechly is back to 100%, the Panthers should resemble their 2015 form again this year.

Where I’d draft them: 13th round. Bounce back year should be coming. They’re going to be a solid option this season. The later you land them, the better value they’ll hold.

8. New York Giants

From a team that took a step back last season, to one that made a huge leap. The Giants went from a bottom 5 defense in 2015, to a top 5 defense last season. They scored 130 fantasy points, forced 25 turnovers, and allowed a 17.8 points points per game, per ESPN standard scoring. Last season was just a glimpse of the potential this Giants defense has. They were the only team that could slow down the Cowboys’ offense last season, and they’re looking to carry that’s over to this season. They lost Jonathan Hankins over the off season, but they added Dalvin Tomlinson through the draft to help improve the defense. I see another big year in store for the Giants.

Where I’d draft them: 12th or 13th round. I wouldn’t mind taking a chance one round earlier on a defense with the potential that the Giants have. Just don’t get too cute.

 7. Houston Texans

Now we’re getting into the really good defenses. Last season, Houston scored 102 fantasy points, forced 17 turnovers, and allowed 20.5 points per game, per ESPN standard scoring. Despite losing JJ Watt for most of the season, the Texans led the NFL in total yards last year, and surprised most experts with their resilience. A returning Watt will no doubt provide a boost to an already strong Houston defense, and will keep them hovering around the top 5 all season long. I’d feel comfortable rolling them out as my defense every week.

Where I’d draft them: 12th round. I won’t go as far as calling them elite, but they’re in the next tier. I’d feel comfortable reaching for them a little bit sooner.

6. New England Patriots

From a strictly football standpoint, the Patriots probably have the best defense on this list. Last season, they scored 117 fantasy points, forced 23 turnovers, and allowed a league low 15.6 points per game, per ESPN standard scoring. From a fantasy standpoint they’re a bit less dominant, but great nonetheless. What makes them so good is their ability to adapt to my style of play. The addition of Stephon Gilmore over the off season will only add to their versatility, and will have them around the top 5 in all defensive categories.

Where I’d draft them: 11th or 12th round. This is where I start to tolerate reaching for defenses you want. As long as you don’t go too crazy, the Patriots should hold good value all year long.

5. Arizona Cardinals

We’ve arrived at the top 5, and what a way to kick it off. On paper, the Cardinals might very well be the most talented defensive unit in the league. They’ve got elite talent at every important position. Last season, they scored 143 fantasy points, forced 28 turnovers, and allowed 22.6 points per game, per ESPN standard scoring. They lost Calais Campbell to free agency, but brought in Carlos Dansby to boost the 2nd best run defense in the league last year. Add him to a core of Patrick Peterson, Chandler Jones, and Tyrann Mathieu, and it’s hard not to get excited about the Cardinals defense.

Where I’d draft them: 11th or 12th round. The Cardinals play in one of the most offensively challenged divisions in the league, the NFC West. Draft them and reap the benefits.

4. Minnesota Vikings

The Vinkings stared off hot last year, especially their defense. They allowed just 63 combined points during the first 5 games of the season, and got off to a 5-0 start. They scored 157 fantasy points, forced 27 turnovers, and allowed 19.2 points per game, per ESPN standard scoring. Unfortunately for the Vikings, their offense didn’t match their defense, and they eventually became too much dead weight to carry. Things should be a bit different this year though . The Vikings added Latavius Murray through free agency, and drafted Dalvin Cook in the 2nd round of the NFL draft, so they should have way more ball control this year. That’s great news for the defense, and anyone who owns them.

Where I’d draft them: 11th or 12th round. It’s rare to see a defense get dragged down by their offense, but it’s a real possibility for the Vikings. If it wasn’t for that, they’d be ranked even higher. Regardless though, they’re going to have huge games, and a great season.

3. Seattle Seahawks

The top 3 defenses are pretty much interchangeable. It’s honestly all about preference. All three will be elite. We start off with the Seahawks. Last season, they scored 113 fantasy points, forced 19 turnovers, and allowed  18.3 points per game, per ESPN standard scoring. They would’ve had an even better season, but they lost their anchor Earl Thomas halfway through the year.  Despite losing Thomas though, the Seahawks finished in the top 5 in points and yards allowed, and 3rd in sacks. With a healthy Thomas, and what should be a motivated Richard Sherman, the Seahawks should be locking teams down again this season.

Where I’d draft them: 11th round. They’re going to be elite all season long, and they also have the luxury of playing in the NFC West. If they stay healthy all year, they will challenge for the top spot in fantasy. They should be vintage the Seahawks this year.

2. Denver Broncos

This season is really going to show us a lot about the Denver defense. Last season, they scored 146 fantasy points, forced 27 turnovers, and allowed 18.6 points per game, per ESPN standard scoring. They mostly looked like the same dominant defense that carried them to a SuperBowl the year before, but not against the run. Uncharacteristicly, the Broncos were 28th in the league against the run last season, and losing legendary Defensive Coordinator, Wade Phillips, won’t help improve that. Regardless, they still have Von Miller, and one of the best defensive units in the game so I’m not worried about them at all.

Where I’d draft them: 9th or 10th round. They should be one of the first 3 defenses to get drafted. If they can just improve their run defense a bit, they will defiantly be elite.

1. Kansas City Chiefs

You can agree or disagree, but in my opinion, the Chiefs are going to dominate the rest of the league defensively this year. Last season, they scored 140 fantasy points, forced 33 turnovers, and allowed 19.4 points per game, per ESPN standard scoring. All that virtually came without Derrick Johnson, and Justin Houston, who were injured most of the season. Their absence was felt though, as the Chiefs were in the bottom 10 in both yards allowed, and sacks. They lost Dontari Poe to free agency, but getting Johnson, and Houston back at 100% should be more than enough to end the season as the #1 fantasy defense.

Where I’d draft them: 10th round. I honestly couldn’t be mad if you decide to reach for them earlier. They’re going to be worth the pick, regardless of where you take them. Odds are they’ll go off at some point, and win you a couple of games. If I had my pick of any defense, I’d take them.

 

Wesly Avendano
Baseline Times NFL Contributor

 

 

Fantasy Impact: Ezekiel Elliott’s Suspension

Oh boy. What a huge mess we’ve got in Dallas. The Cowboys’ most dominant offensive weapon, Ezekiel Elliott, has been suspended for 6 games by the NFL. I’m not going to sit here and put in my two cents on whether he should’ve been suspended or not. That’s irrelevant at this point. What I will do, however, is break down the impact that Elliot’s suspension will have on this fantasy season. Before I do though, I just want to say, that this incident is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t draft your fantasy team until a week before the season starts. I get it, you’re excited that fantasy is back, and you just want to have your team already, but look at what could happen. I’m sorry, but scratching the fantasy itch is hardly worth losing the most important player on your roster. We haven’t even played one game in the regular season yet, and all the Elliott owners are already scrambling to hold their teams together. The later you draft, the lower the odds are of an injury, or suspension, ruining your season before it even starts. Keep that in mind when selecting a draft date.

So where do Elliott owners go from here? This isn’t just any running back you’re losing. Elliott led the NFL with 1,631 rushing yards last season, so hopefully, you took some sort of precaution when drafting him. Either Alfred Morris, who has a career average of 4.3 yards per rush attempt, or Darren McFadden, who has a career average of 4.2 yards per rush attempt, should’ve been a late draft pick for any Elliott owner. Even the recently signed Ronnie Hilman, could be worth something in Elliott’s absence. Dallas has the best offensive line in all of the football, and whoever gets the bulk of the carries behind that line, will certainly be a worth a starting spot. What if you didn’t take any of those players though? Well, then you need to hit the waiver wire and see what’s left. Remember that every single season, plenty of valuable players are left sitting on the waiver wire after the initial draft, and right before the regular season starts. Do some research, have a little faith, and take a shot on a player.

The other option you have, and the option I’d go with, is trying to pull off a trade before the season starts. You can try to include Elliott in the deal, but you have to understand that if you do, you’d be selling him for a fraction of his normal value. Nobody is going to pay you full price for a guy who’s going to miss multiple games, let alone 6 games. You can try to add another player to the deal to bring the value back up, but don’t go too crazy. The whole point of a trading is to make your team better not worse. I wish there was some sort of default advice that would cover all the Elliott owners, but unfortunately, there isn’t. If you’re in the unenviable position of owning Elliott right now, it’s not the end of the world. The season still hasn’t even started. Both times I won my league, I had to do it with basically nothing at my #1 RB position, so who’s to say you can’t win it with half a season of an elite RB. When Elliott comes back, whether it’s in week 8, or earlier, he’ll be fresh, and motivated. Patient Elliott owners will probably be handsomely rewarded at the end of the year.

If you haven’t drafted yet, and you’re still considering taking Elliott, do it. Just make sure you take one of his back ups too or draft another RB that can start for you until Elliot’s suspension is over. Odds are Jerry Jones, and the Cowboys, are going to use every single resource available to them in order to get this suspension thrown out. I don’t believe it’ll get thrown out, but I definitely anticipate it being reduced to at least 4 games. If it is reduced, I can still see Elliott going in the 1st round. He’s extremely talented, and his situation isn’t unlike LeVeon Bell’s situation last season. Bell was still going in the first round of some drafts, and when he returned, he looked every bit like a top 5 pick. This suspension sucks for Elliot owners, or anyone who was hoping to draft him, but remember that this is a fluid situation, that could change at any second. If you have Elliot, don’t panic, do your due diligence, and make the move that’s best for your team. Whether that means keeping him or dealing him. If you were hoping to own Elliott, don’t be scared off. Just understand that what you’re drafting now, isn’t what you would’ve been drafting a week ago.

Wesly Avendano
Baseline Times NFL Contributor 

 

 

Stop Drafting Adrian Peterson So Early

This offseason, the Saints made a somewhat unexpected splash in free agency. By signing Adrian Peterson to a two-year, $7 million deal, New Orleans added some impressive veteran depth to its backfield. It surely wasn’t Peterson’s first choice, but he found out pretty quickly that there weren’t a ton of teams actively seeking out 32-year-old RBs with injury problems and a checkered past off the field – even if that RB is a future Hall of Famer.

For many years, Peterson was at the height of his game. He’s a once-in-a-generation athlete, 16th All-Time in Rushing Yards, and won the MVP in 2012. He’s just two years removed from leading the league in rushing, so it’s not inconceivable that he could regain his otherworldly form that earned him the nickname “Purple Jesus” during his time in Minnesota, but that’s not likely.

 

 

According to FantasyPros, fantasy-footballers are grabbing AP at a nice spot in their drafts. Currently coming off the board at the 69th pick, Peterson is being taken in the 6th round by some of you. The sixth! He’s being drafted ahead of safer bets like Kelvin Benjamin, Stefon Diggs, Cam Newton, and Frank Gore, in addition to a ton of other players with much higher upside.

Don’t draft him that early. Here’s why:

The Saints pass more than nearly every team. 

This may be a surprise to some of you, but the Saints are a pass-first offense and receiving is hardly one of Peterson’s strengths. Last season, New Orleans threw the ball 63.44% of their offensive snaps – good for 5th most in the league. As long as Drew Brees is at the helm, the ball will spend more time in the air than in the hands of his backfield. That won’t change just because the front office brought in an aging superstar.

When the Saints do pass it to a running back, it’s incredibly unlikely that Peterson will be on the receiving end of Brees’ throws. Travaris Cadet is listed as the third back on the Saints’ depth chart, but he won’t be doing much running this season. Last year, Cadet had 4 rushes for 19 yards, but he corraled 40 of 54 targets for 281 yards. His role is likely to stay the same this year, which means Peterson won’t see the field on third downs.

Mark Ingram is better than Adrian Peterson. 

The number one reason All Day will continue his gradual descent into insignificance has nothing to do with Peterson himself.

Mark Ingram is going to make sure you forget that #28 is even on the roster. He makes Peterson’s presence redundant because everything that AP can do, Mark can do better. Ingram is in his prime, and he enters 2017 following a season where he tallied 1362 total yards and 10 touchdowns. His last season average of 5.1 yards-per-carry is higher than all but one of Peterson’s seasons. His 46 receptions on 58 targets are more than Peterson ever had.

Again, Mark Ingram will not have a better career than Adrian Peterson. Please do not think that’s what I’m implying, but Ingram at 27 is better than Peterson at 32.

Fantasy Takeaway: 

Adrian Peterson is a Mark Ingram insurance policy. Ingram will still continue to see the bulk of the workload, and he’ll have a much more productive fantasy season than Peterson. AP is an obvious handcuff, but should not be going in the 6th round.

It was a good signing by the Saints and a fine landing spot for Peterson. However, the only way Purple Jesus’ fantasy value is resurrected is if Ingram suffers a significant injury and doesn’t return.

 

Kory Schulte, Baseline Times

2017 NFL Fantasy: Top 15 TE Rankings

Now we’re getting into the thick of things. The tight end position is very crucial in fantasy football. Many times, it can be the deciding factor in a close match up. For example, if two teams are caught in the middle of an epic game, matching each other point for point, and each team has only a tight end left going into “Monday Night,” then the team with Gronk has the advantage over the team with Coby Fleener.

The big problem with tight ends is depth. The position is so barren, that after the top 6 or 7 are gone, you’re pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel. Sure, one of the guys you draft late might have a breakout year, like Tyler Eifert in 2015, but those are long odds. It’s so hard to predict which tight ends are going to score big on any given week, that some fantasy owners opt to stream tight ends throughout the season, rather than hold on to any specific one for the year.

So without any more delay, here’s my top 15 TEs for 2017. Pay close attention. It could be the difference between a championship season, and “there’s always next year.”

15. Charles Clay

We kick our rankings off with a guy that could be a solid streaming option throughout the year. Last season, Clay had  562 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns, and a total of. 136.2 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. He did most of his damage during the fantasy playoffs. Between weeks 14-16, Clay scored 62.7 fantasy points. That’s not his typical output, but at least he’s shown he can score big at times. He’ll be worth streaming a couple of times.

Where I’d draft him: I wouldn’t. He’s a solid streaming option, but he’s not worth rostering. He’ll be in a new offense this season, and the possibility of seeing fewer snaps is a real one.

14. Antonio Gates

In his prime, Gates was a fixture in the upper echelon of TEs. Now in the twilight of his career though,  Gates is no longer an elite TE option. Last season, Gates had 548 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns, and a total of 147.8 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. It all boils down to health for Gates. He’s got a QB that isn’t afraid to force the ball to his receivers, he’s just got to be on the field more. That’s easier said than done at this point tho.

Where I’d draft him: As late as possible. Gates is tricky. He’s going to have at least one monster game during the season, but it’ll be impossible to predict. If you do decide to draft him, keep a close watch on Hunter Henry. I never advocate handcuffing a TE, but Gates/Henry are an exception.

13. Jason Witten

Another guy who’s passed his prime, but can still contribute. Last season, Witten had 673 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns, and a total of 152.3 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. Witten has the benefit of being in efficient offenses, having a solid QB, and he rarely misses games. This could finally be the season when his production dips significantly, but I’d have to see before I believe it.

Where I’d draft him: 13th round. He’s no longer going to produce like he once did, but he’s going to make sure you don’t get a zero from your TE. Sometimes that’s all you need to squeeze out a win.

12. Jack Doyle

I’m very excited about Jack Doyle. I plan on drafting him as my TE this season. Although, now that I’ve said that, someone in my league will probably draft him early, and try to trade him to me. Doyle was a revelation last season, totaling 584 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns, and 145.4 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. He wasn’t even the starter at the beginning of the season. This year, with a full off season to prepare, Doyle should be even better.

Where I’d draft him: 12th or 13th round. Now that Dwayne Allen has been traded to the Patriots, Doyle is the top TE for the Colts. The added snaps should make for a bigger fantasy season for Doyle. He’s a solid option, especially later on in drafts.

11. Eric Ebron

Ebron has the potential to be a top fantasy TE. The problem is, he’s had that potential ever since he entered the league in 2014, and has yet to fulfill it. Last season, Ebron had 711 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, and totaled 144.2 fantasy points. The reason Ebron keeps getting the benefit of the doubt is that we keep hoping one of these years everything will click, and he’ll become more productive. Here’s hoping for the best.

Where I’d draft him: 12th round. Matthew Stafford is a gun slinger. A QB like that can make a star out of a player like Ebron. Megatron’s shoes still haven’t been filled. Maybe this is the year Ebron fills them. Even if he doesn’t, he’ll be able to help you out during a few weeks of the season.

10. Kyle Rudolph

Some people will think I’m way too low on Rudolph, but I’ve never been much a believer in him. He had an amazing 2016 season, totaling 840 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns, and 209 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. I won’t go too far and call his season a fluke, but I will say he massively over achieved. I expect him to come back down to Earth this season.

Where I’d draft him: 10th round. If he ends the season as the #2 scoring TE in fantasy again, I’ll look really dumb. Luckily, I have supreme confidence that lightning won’t strike twice for Rudolph. He is a legit TE option tho. Sam Bradford has always favored his TE’s, and I see that trend continuing this season. Just temper your expectations a bit.

9. Cameron Brate

The TE’s start getting a bit more efficient now that we’re in the top 10. When the Buccaneers released Austin Seferian-Jenkins 2 games into the 2016 season, I didn’t think they’d find such a suitable replacement, especially so quickly. However, Cameron Brate stepped up and had a breakout year. Last season, Brate had 660 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns, and a total of 171 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. The entire Tampa Bay offense is poised for a big season. That includes Brate.

Where I’d draft him: 8th round. With all the defensive attention Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson are going to attract this season, Brate should find himself open plenty. I see Jameis Winston throwing a lot of touchdowns this season, and Cameron Brate should be the recipient of a few of those. Potential steal in the later rounds.

8. Jimmy Graham

If Jimmy Graham is back to full speed, I could see him getting close to his old elite status. Last season, Graham had 923 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns, and totaled 189.3 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. The Seahawks could always use some help for Russell Wilson, and Graham gives him a big target to aim for in the red zone.

Where I’d draft him: 7th or 8th round. He’ll probably go much higher solely based on name recognition, but the earlier he’s taken, the bigger risk he is. I believe he’s still got the shot to be an elite fantasy TE, but just don’t reach for him too early.

7. Tyler Eifert

Eifert was one of fantasy football’s biggest breakout stars in 2015. 2016 however, was an injury plagued let down. Last season, Eifert had 394 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns, and totaled 189.3 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. Assuming he’s healthy, Eifert should be back to his old efficient ways. The Bengals will be glad to get such a big weapon back.

Where I’d draft him: 7th round. If he’s healthy, he’s got elite potential. That’s proven to be a big “if” lately though. I like his chances, but not enough to burn an early pick on him.

6. Delanie Walker

Walker is one of the safest, and most consistent, TEs in fantasy. Last season, he had 800 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns, and a total of 188.1 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. He’s been carrying the majority of the Titan’s receiving load for the last two seasons. This year he’ll get some help in the form of Eric Decker. I expect Walker to keep being consistent.

Where I’d draft him: 5th round. Not going to get many zeros or 1’s from Walker, he kicks off the portion of the rankings where you can start to reach for a TE. If being strong in that position is important to you, I wouldn’t mind reaching for Walker if you have to.

5. Greg Olsen

The TE’s really start getting good now. Last season, Olsen had 1073 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns, and 207.3 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. Carolina was suffering from a SuperBowl hangover last season, and Olsen still managed to be dominant. Cam might not be 100% this season, but that shouldn’t slow Olsen down too much.

Where I’d draft him: 3rd or 4th round. Like I said above, Cam Newton probably won’t be fully healthy this season, but that might actually benefit Olsen. If Cam’s arm isn’t up for throwing deep, it could mean frequent dump offs to his running backs, and especially Olsen.

4. Jordan Reed

I really like Reed as a player. He’s got great hands, and he’s Kirk Cousin’s favorite red zone target. The only problem is he’s quite injury prone. Last season, Reed had 686 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns, and a total of 168.6 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. His season would’ve been even better had he not missed 5 games. That’s Reed’s whole career in a nutshell though. If he plays he’ll be great. Just be wary of his injury risk.

Where I’d draft him: 3rd round. This one is very tricky. If Reed was 100%, he would be a challenge for the top spot in these rankings. However, Reed is already a question mark to start the season. He’s got a toe injury and is seeking further opinions on it. He might be too good for you to pass up. If you do draft him though, for God’s sake, be smart and handcuff Vernon Davis to him. You’ll thank me later.

3. Rob Gronkowski

I’m saying it right now, Gronk’s days as the unrivaled #1 TE are over. I mean how many games does he have to miss before we brand him as injury prone? Last season, Gronk had 540 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns, and totaled just 97 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. He’s been one of my pet peeves for a couple of seasons now, I can’t tell you how sick I am of seeing him on the sidelines year after year with an injury.

Where I’d take him: 3rd round. He’s not playing all 16 games this season. Hell, he’s not even going to play the 13 games that most fantasy seasons consist of. Don’t burn an early pick on him, if you do, take Dwayne Allen too as insurance. You’re going to regret it if you don’t have some sort of back up plan in place.

2. Martellus Bennett

If I had more guts, he’d be #1 on this list. Last season, Bennett had 701 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns, and a total of 168.1 fantasy points, per week ESPN standard scoring. He’s going from Tom Brady to Aaron Rodgers, so it’s not crazy to think he’s due for an even bigger season. Bennett is the total package at TE, and Aaron Rodgers has always loved targeting his TE’s. This is going to be an amazing pairing.

Where I’d draft him: 2nd round. There’s too much talent out there to take many TEs before the 2nd round. I wouldn’t hate it if you took Bennett earlier though. He’s going to be consistently good all year long. Draft him and enjoy the move.

1. Travis Kelce

Here’s the new top TE in fantasy football. Last season, Kelce had 1,125 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns, and a total of 223 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. He could use a few more touchdowns, but other than that, he’s great. I expect him to follow up his 2016 season with another top TE performance. The only one who I could see stopping that would be Martellus Bennett. Let’s just hope he’s done recording reality dating shows.

Where I’d draft him: 1st round. Like I said before, I don’t usually agree with taking a TE early, but Kelce is the one exception. Alex Smith loves throwing to the middle of the field, and that’s where Kelce operates. Plus, he’s got incredible speed, and agility, to add yards after any catch. He’s going to be the deciding factor in many fantasy games this season. If you get the chance to draft him, do it. He’s hands down your best option at this position.

 

Wesly Avendano
Baseline Times NFL Contributor

More 2017 Fantasy position rankings

2017 NFL Fantasy Football Top 15 QB Rankings
2017 NFL Fantasy Football Top 15 RB Rankings
2017 NFL Fantasy Football Top 15 WR Rankings

 

2017 NFL Fantasy: Top 15 WR Rankings

Wide receiver, my favorite position in fantasy football. Why is it my favorite position? Simply put, wide receivers are game changers, in more than one way. First off, they can turn any particular game around in one play. A perfectly executed screen play, or a good ol’ fashioned bomb down the side line from a QB, can mean up to 15 fantasy points in the blink of an eye, even more depending on your scoring format.

Second, a wide receiver can turn your entire season around if you acquire them via trade or waivers. In 2014, I was lucky enough to pick up both Odell Beckham Jr. and Kelvin Benjamin, through waivers before they were big names. They helped bring me home a fantasy championship that year, and I know I’m not the only one. Every year, a previously undervalued receiver finds himself in the top 10, in terms of fantasy scoring, and their owners reap the rewards all season long. To me, that’s what makes a position truly valuable.

Sure, a wide receiver’s value is directly tied to his QB, and in some scenarios, that’s not a good thing (every Browns wide receiver ever). Other times tho, a wide receiver is talented enough that it doesn’t matter who’s taking the snaps under center, they’re going to score regardless. I’m a strong believer in drafting wide receivers early and also taking flyers on wide receivers late. You never know what you might end up with. With all that being said, here are my top 15 wide receivers for the 2017 season.

15. Terrell Pryor

Coming into last season, I was skeptical of Pryor’s ability to adapt to playing wide receiver. I was even more skeptical of Pryor being fantasy relevant as a member of the Cleveland Browns. He proved all his skeptics, including me, wrong. Last season, Pryor had 1,007 receiving yards, and 4 touchdowns, playing on one of the worst offenses in all of football. He totaled 213.4 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. This year he moves to Washington, who has a better offense, and who has a QB who isn’t afraid of slinging the ball.

Where I’d draft him: 4th or 5th round. If Pryor was able to put up points in a totally putrid offense, then just imagine what he’ll be able to do in Washington. I’m excited to see the results. They won’t all be huge games this year, but Pryor has the potential to win you a fee weeks.

14. Tyreek Hill

Some people might think this is a bit high for Hill, but I’m a believer in his talent. He’s got good hands and is perhaps the fastest wide receiver in the game right now. Last season, Hill had 593 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns. He also added 267 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns, and 3 return touchdowns. He totaled 217 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. This guy is super versatile. He’s going to rack up points in every single for way possible. A great football mind, like Andy Reid, will know exactly how to use him this season.

Where I’d draft him: 4th or 5th round. If Hill has the season I expect him to have, this might be the last year you can get him this cheap. That kind of talent usually tends to rise to the top. It’s only a matter of time before people start to notice. Draft Hill, and look like a genius!

13. Jarvis Landry

These ranks are for standard scoring. If they were for PPR scoring, Landry would be much higher. Last season, Landry had 1,136 receiving yards, 4 receiving touchdowns,  and totaled 231.3 fantasy points, per ESPN scoring. The guy is a target’s machine. Sure, he could score a few more touchdowns to increase his value, but he’s still an extremely solid #2 WR option. Supposedly, Ryan Tannehill is going to become a good QB one of these days, and if that happens, Landry becomes even more valuable. Look for him to have a solid 2017 campaign.

Where I’d draft him: 4th round. There are more eye popping options out there, but there aren’t many more consistent options. Nobody loves 7’s and 8’s, but those scores won’t lose you any games, and those are the scores you can constantly rely on Landry for. Don’t get greedy! Take the sure points and be happy!

12. Amari Cooper

Cooper had a solid 2016 season. He had 1,153 receiving yards, 5 receiving touchdowns, and totaled 232.3 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. So why did his season feel underwhelming? Simple. He has the talent, plays in a stacked offense, and has an elite QB. When all those stars line up, you have to produce a bit more than Cooper did. The good news is he’s probably due for an uptick in production. The bad news is, we all thought that last year too.

Where I’d draft him: 4th round. Call me a hater, but there’s just something about Cooper that makes me skeptical about his ability to be an elite wide receiving option. Derek Carr had an MVP worthy season last year, and Cooper still wasn’t an elite WR. Michael Crabtree is more of a touchdown maker, and I could see him stealing some more scores from Cooper this year.

11. Brandin Cooks

Okay, this one is going to sound odd, but Cooks is this high on the list because he’s a Patriot now. He’s also this low on the list because he’s a Patriot. Let me explain. Last season, Cooks had 1,173 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns, and totaled 246.3 fantasy points, per ESPN scoring. Those numbers came in an absolutely pass happy offense. Sure, Cooks plays with arguably the best QB in the history of football now, but it’s not an offense that’s built around him, and Tom Brady has never really been known for force feeding receivers not named Randy Moss, or Gronk.

Where I’d take him: 3rd or 4th round. Don’t fall for the hype. Cooks is going to have a great season, but some people are acting like he’s going to turn into Antonio Brown over night just because he plays with Tom Brady now. Don’t reach too early for him, and temper your expectations a bit, or you might be in for a letdown.

10. T.Y. Hilton

Another guy who could lay claim to “fastest wide receiver in the game.” Hilton is a legitimate home run threat every time he steps on the field. Last season, Hilton led the league with 1,448 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns, and 273.8 fantasy points, per ESPN scoring. He’s got a trigger happy QB in Andrew Luck, and enough help around him to keep opposing defenses honest.

Where I’d draft him: 2nd or 3rd round. If he falls to you in the third, consider yourself lucky and take him. Hilton is Andrew Luck’s favorite target, and if he can bump up his touchdown total just a little bit, he could be a top 5 fantasy wide receiver this year. Worth the price tag.

9. DeAndre Hopkins

Hopkins’ struggles last season were directly related to his QB’s inability to get him the ball. He only had 954 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns, and totaled 197.4 fantasy points, per ESPN scoring. Hopkins is poised to have a bounce back year. The QB situation in Huston still isn’t ideal, but getting rid of Brock Osweiler was addition by subtraction. Expect vintage Hopkins.

Where I’d draft him: 2nd round. If Hopkins had a halfway way decent QB He’d be way higher on this list. He has elite talent, but he still hasn’t mastered the art of throwing the ball to himself. Be happy if you get him, just know his QB’s might drive you a little crazy.

8. Michael Thomas

Thomas has been a hot name since the end of last season. He had 1,137 receiving yards, 9 touchdowns, and totaled 255.7 fantasy points per ESPN scoring. When Brandin Cooks was traded to New England, the hype doubled. Thomas is stepping into the role of Drew Brees’ #1 WR. The role has done justice for many over the years. Thomas should be great this year.

Where I’d draft him: 2nd round. Thomas has the potential to take fantasy football by storm this year. However, there’s always the possibility of a letdown. Shall I remind us all of Cordarrelle Patterson and the breakout season he was about to have right before he didn’t? His price tag is going to be steep. Just be sure you know what you’re buying.

7. A.J. Green

One of my favorite wide receivers in the league. Last season, Green had 964 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns, and totaled 186.4 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. He missed the last 5 games of the season, or his totals would’ve been higher. He’s good a solid QB in Andy Dalton, and elite talent. He’s a solid #1 WR option.

Where I’d draft him: 1st or 2nd round. Green has had a couple of injury issues over the last few seasons, but he remains one of the best wide receivers in all of football. The return of Tyler Eifert should help take some defensive pressure off of him. I see a bounce back year coming.

6. Dez Bryant

Another extremely talented wide receiver who had a down year. Bryant was plagued by injuries for most of 2016. He ended the season with 796 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns, and totaled 180 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. I hate giving Cowboy fans any hope, but I see a huge bounce back year for Bryant. He’s part of the reason I’m so high on Dak Prescott.

Where I’d draft him: 1st round. If some people in your league forget how good he is, and you get him in the 2nd, then you’re lucky. Bryant is an elite player in this league, and the fact that some people might have forgotten that is going to motivate him to prove it all over again. I hate the Cowboys, and I’d draft him.

5. Jordy Nelson

When you’re Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target, you get an automatic spot in the top 5. Last season, Nelson had 1,257 receiving yards, 14 touchdowns, and totaled 304.7 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. You can make an argument that Nelson wasn’t even back to full speed yet last season, and that’s what makes him so enticing.

Where I’d take him: 1st round. 14 touchdowns coming off a torn ACL? That’s impressive. He’s in an elite offense and is obviously a touchdown magnet, Nelson is well worth the early pick. Once upon a time, I  used to draft Jordy Nelson every year. Maybe it’s time for one last run together.

4. Mike Evans

Evans had a breakout year last season. He had 1,321 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns, and totaled 304.1 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. Evans joined the ranks of the elite WR’s, and he’s poised to build on his career year. I’m excited to see what he and DeSean Jackson can do together.

Where I’d draft him: 1st round. Jameis Winston is going to have a career year, and it could mean an even bigger year for Mike Evans. He already proved last season that he’s a huge goal line target. Who’s to say he can’t build on that this year. I’d feel lucky to land him.

3. Odell Beckham Jr.

OBJ wants to be the top paid player in the league. I’m assuming if he wants that kind of money, he’s planning on balling out of his mind this year. Last season, Beckham had 1,367, 10 touchdowns, and totaled 296.6 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. Those totals were low by OBJ standards. Expect a return to the super human Beckham this year.

Where I’d draft him: Top 5. Beckham is obviously Eli Manning’s favorite target. Now, with the arrival of Brandon Marshall, opposing defenses will no longer be able to lock in on OBJ. I expect some big plays from Beckham this season, and all the points that come along with those plays.

2. Antonio Brown

This is a toss up. Brown is a freakish talent, and he’s on arguably the best offense in all of football. Last season Brown had 1284 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns, and totaled 307.3 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. Brown could’ve been #1 on this list, but his QB is more of an injury risk.

Where I’d draft him: Top 5. I couldn’t be mad if someone took Brown #1 overall. I get it. He’s so impressive, but if Ben Roethlisberger misses any games, for any reason, Brown becomes less valuable. Nonetheless, if he’s there, and you pass on him, you’ll probably regret it.

1. Julio Jones

It’s going to be Julio’s world this season, and we’re all just going to be living in it. Last season, Jones had 1,409 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns, and totaled 259.9 fantasy points. That’s a solid season for a wide receiver, but a down year for Jones. That, coupled with the disappointment of losing the SuperBowl, should be enough to push Jones to a career year.

Where I’d draft him: Top 3. It’s all just a gut call, but I honestly feel like Jones is going to be on a war path this year. He and Matt Ryan must feel embarrassed by the collapse, and I think they’re going to try to erase that memory by having frequent trips to the end zone. If he’s your top pick, you nailed it.

 

Wesly Avendano
Baseline Times NFL Contributor

ICYMI: More 2017 Fantasy position rankings

2017 NFL Fantasy Football Top 15 QB Rankings
2017 NFL Fantasy Football Top 15 RB Rankings

 

 

 

2017 NFL Fantasy: Top 15 RB Rankings

It’s time to rank running backs, arguably the most frustrating position in fantasy football. With the exception of a few players, the days of the “workhorse back” are gone, and what we’ve been left with is an annoyingly hard to predict “running back by committee” scenario. We’ve all been there, you’re player drives his team down the field, breaking off a couple of big runs in the process. Then when it’s time to punch in the touchdown for a big payoff, the back up running back, or in some cases, the “goal line back” comes in and steals it.

It’s flat out irritating, and unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more common. In some cases, a fantasy owner is left in the unenviable position of having to burn a roster spot to draft two members of the same backfield. The New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals are the two teams that jump to mind immediately.

Barring injury, the Patriots are possibly the hardest team to predict, in terms of running back usage, but the Bengals aren’t far behind. From the days of the “Stevan Ridley or Shane Vereen games” in New England. To the more recent days of Cincinnati running backs, Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill, dipping into each other’s fantasy value, the running back position has transformed into a cluttered mess. A cluttered mess that I get to rank! So let’s get to it!

15. Matt Forte

Forte will turn 32 during the 2017 season, but a handful of backs, including Forte, have proven that age is just a number. He’s no longer the elite player he once was, but he’s still an effective option to have at the #2 RB position, or flex. Last season Forte totaled over 1000 yards from scrimmage. He rushed for 813 yards, and 7 touchdowns, while racking up 263 receiving yards, and 1 touchdown through the air. He scored a total of 183.6 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. If Collin Kaepernick finds himself starting for the New York Jets at any point this season, the added threat of a mobile QB could open up some more room for Forte to operate.

Where I’d draft him: 5th round. Forte is no longer the consistent scorer he once was. He’s also no longer on a proficient offense like he was in Chicago, but he’s going to have some pretty big games this season. It’s getting harder to predict when the big games will come nowadays, but the potential is still there.

14. Carlos Hyde

Carlos Hyde was a standout talent coming out of Ohio State, and, at times, he’s shown glimpses of amazing ability. Unfortunately, Hyde has also been injury prone during his 3 years as a pro. He tore his MCL in week 16 of last season, but not before rushing for 988 yards, 6 touchdowns, and scoring 192.1 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. If he can manage to stay on the field this season, new 49ers Head Coach, Kyle Shanahan might have a “workhorse back” on his hands. That’s proven to be a big “if” though.

Where I’d draft him: 4th or 5th round. Carlos Hyde can definitely be frustrating to own at times. He can put up duds in favorable match ups, but he can also go over 100 yards rushing, and 2 touchdowns at any time. If you can pair him with a consistent RB #1, Hyde might just be what wins you a couple of games.

13. Leonard Fournette 

I’m excited about Fournette’s rookie season. His college career didn’t end the way he wanted it to. He had an injury plagued 2016 season and failed to get over 1000 yards rushing for the first time in his college career. I think Fournette will channel his disappointment, and bounce back with a great rookie campaign. The Jaguars’ backfield is a bit crowded with TJ Yeldon, and Chris Ivory also there, but I believe Fournette will separate himself more and more as the season goes on.

Where I’d draft him: 4th round. You might be able to get him later in some drafts but starting RB’s don’t usually last long. If Fournette is sitting there, pick him up. He should be in line for a big season.

12. Lamar Miller

I wasn’t big on Miller heading into last season, but he proved he can be valuable. Last year Miller rushed for 1,073, and 5 touchdowns. He also had 1 touchdown, and 188 receiving yards, for a total of 191.1 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. If DeShaun Watson ends up being the starting QB for the Texans, I can see Miller taking full advantage of the open running lanes his presence should create.

Where I’d take him: 3rd or 4th round. He has better value in the 4th round, but he might not last until then. Last season, the Texans weren’t exactly setting the world on fire on offense, but Miller still produced. He’s had a bit of an injury history too, but if healthy he could easily be a top 10 back.

11. Latavius Murray

Murray traded in his eye patch for a set of Viking horns, and I like the move. Last season Murray played in 14 games and managed to rush for 788 yards, and a staggering 12 touchdowns. He also added 264 yards through the air for a total of 208.2 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. The NFC north has historically been a run heavy division, and that could be great news for Murray owners.

Where I’d draft him: 2nd or 3rd round. The Vikings’ offensive line struggled last season, and Jerick McKinnon will certainly cut into some of his snaps, but I think Murray will still put up the numbers. He’s going to be a great #2 RB, and even a borderline #1 RB.

10. Todd Gurley

Todd Gurley. Todd, Todd, Todd. Unfortunately, Gurley didn’t live up to expectations last season rushing for only 885 yards, and 6 touchdowns. Gurly did add a new dimension to his game though, becoming a receiving threat for the Rams last season. He hauled in 43 receptions for 327 yards, and totaled 198.2 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. That’s a disappointing season for a guy that was taken top 5 overall in some drafts. He could bounce back, but I’d stay away.

Where I’d draft him: 2nd or 3rd round. The Rams didn’t exactly do much to inspire hope for the upcoming season. A repeat of last year is definitely a possibility for Gurly. The talent is there, but sadly that’s pretty much the only talent on the Rams’ roster, and the other team knows that too.

9. Marshawn Lynch

The return of “Beast Mode!” This might not go as great, but I’m being optimistic. The Raiders have a super talented offense, and if Lynch has anything left in the tank, he could put this team over the top. Lynch obviously didn’t play last season, and his 2015 season was injury plagued, so it’s been a while since we’ve really seen him play. It could backfire. But taking Lynch could also be crazy enough to pay off big.

Where I’d draft him: 2nd round. Like I said above, this could backfire on you. There’s a possibility that Lynch doesn’t have it anymore, and that he resembles former great Maurice Jones-Drew when he wore the Silver and Grey. If you’re a risk taker, Lynch could be your guy.

8. Jay Ajayi

I was a skeptic of Ajayi last season. I thought he’d eventually fizzle out, but he was a solid back all year. Last season Ajayi rushed for 1,272 yards, and 8 touchdowns, for 215.3 total fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. Adam Gase likes sticking to one RB for the most part and entering the season that’ll be Ajayi. That makes him very valuable.

Where I’d draft him: 2nd round. Ajayi might have just been a one-year apparition, but if he follows up his 2016 season he could be a #1 RB, and even sneak into the top 5 by the end of the year. He had some game changing performances last season, and a few more could be coming this year.

7. Jordan Howard

I’m not a big fan of the Bear’s offense, but Howard is the exception. Last season he rushed for 1,313 yards, and 10 touchdowns. He also added 419 receiving yards, and 2 touchdowns through the air, totaling 230.1 fantasy points, per ESPN scoring. The Bears are going to need to run the ball early and often to be able to win games this year, and that’s great news for Howard and his owners. I’m excited about his season.

Where I’d draft him: 1st or 2nd round. You could get lucky and get him in the 2nd round, but he’ll go in the 1st in most drafts. A starting RB who’s going to get a lot of volume. That’s music to any fantasy owner’s ears. Draft him early, and watch the points roll in.

6. Melvin Gordon

There’s a chance you got Melvin Gordon in the 3rd or 4th round last year. That won’t happen this year. Not after Gordon rushed for 997 yards, and 10 touchdowns, last season. He also added 419 yards, and 2 touchdowns through the air, totaling 250.6 fantasy points, per ESPN scoring. Danny Woodhead’s departure will only serve to keep Gordon’s touches healthy. He will be a #1 running back option this season for sure.

Where I’d draft him: 1st round. Melvin Gordon was a dual threat, and a touchdown machine last season. Sadly, his owner’s lost him in the playoffs. I see him picking right back up where he left off. Be happy if u get him.

5. LeSean McCoy

I was pretty low on “Shady” going into last season. I thought the hamstrings would be a bigger issue. They did bother him all season, but they didn’t stop him from rushing for 1,267 yards, and 13 touchdowns. He also had 356 receiving yards, and 1 receiving touchdown, totaling 298.3 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. With his “elite” status still intact, McCoy will look to keep the train rolling. Another top 5 season is likely coming.

Where I’d draft him: 1st round. McCoy has been an elite fantasy option basically his whole career, and don’t see that changing this year. When you start drafting running backs in the 1st round, you might want to consider a handcuff, but McCoy is as solid as they come.

4. Devonta Freeman

I’ve never been a big believer in Freeman, but even I can’t deny the talent anymore. Last season he rushed for 1,079 yards, and 11 touchdowns. He added 462 receiving yards, and 2 touchdowns, for a total of 284.1 fantasy points. All that came while sharing a substantial amount of carries with Tevin Coleman. Freeman missed the end of the SuperBowl, and I think he’s going to be out for blood this season. Making him a superb fantasy RB for all owner’s.

Where I’d take him: Top 10 overall. Freeman will likely still share carries with Coleman this season, but they both proved last year that there are enough carries in Atlanta to go around. Freeman will be a beast all season long. I strongly suggest drafting him.

3. Ezekiel Elliott

Elliot was a flashback to the glory days of fantasy running backs last season. The rookie rushed for a league leading 1,631 yards, and an amazing 15 touchdowns. He added 363 receiving yards, and 1 touchdown through the air, totaling 325.4 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. Eliott might face a suspension to start the season, but if your team can stay alive until he gets back, he’s worth it. I hate the Cowboys, but I’d be ecstatic to own Elliot.

Where I’d draft him: Top 10. Eliott is a once in a generation type talent like Adrian Peterson, and LaDainian Tomlinson, before him. If he’s there take him and be happy. The suspension might be an issue, but he’s still worth the pick, especially with that offensive line to run behind.

2. David Johnson

Last season I had the chance to draft either Johnson or Todd Gurley. I chose Gurly, and I regret it every single day! Last season Johnson rushed for 1,239 yards and scored a whopping 16 touchdowns. He added an impressive 879 receiving yards, and 4 touchdowns, for a total of 407.8 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. The Cardinals’ offense might be in store for a bounce back season, and that could just mean more scoring opportunities for Johnson. He’s well worth an early pick.

Where I’d draft him. Top 5. Johnson could have easily been #1 on this list, it’s honestly all about preference. Johnson is going to get the ball plenty in Arizona, and with his type of talent, that’s going to equal huge fantasy days. If I got the chance to draft Johnson, I’d right my wrong, and take him.

1. Le’Veon Bell

I owned Bell his rookie season, and I haven’t been able to land him since, but I wish I had. Despite missing 4 games last season, due to suspension, Bell rushed for 1,268 and 7 touchdowns. Always an elite receiving option, Bell added 616 receiving yards, and 2 touchdowns, totaling 317.4 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. This guy is the definition of a stud running back. Despite the awesome numbers last year, Bell could’ve actually scored even more had DeAngelo Williams not stolen a few scores.

Where I’d draft him: #1 overall. Elite running backs are an endangered species in fantasy football, and although they can be frustrating, the right one can be worth his weight in gold. I consider Bell to be the best running back in the league, and I consider him to be on the best offense in the league as well. All signs point to him being the top back in the game this season. I’d want him over any other running back.

Wesly Avendano
Baseline Times NFL Contributor

ICYMI: Check out Wesly’s top 15 Quarterback rankings here

Follow @BaselineTimes for more NFL Coverage

2017 NFL Fantasy: Top 15 QB Rankings

Football is right around the corner! In less than 60 days, the Kansas City Chiefs will travel to Foxborough to face the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots, and officially kick off another season of America’s favorite sport. It’ll also mark the beginning of the 2017 fantasy football season, and over the last few years, that’s become almost as important as the NFL season itself. The scouting and mock drafting have already begun for some fantasy GM’s, so let’s start looking forward at some of the top QBs for the upcoming fantasy season.

15. Phillip Rivers

Our first entry on the list will drive you nuts, but he’s also too good to pass up in the later rounds. I owned Rivers last season, and it was a roller coaster ride throughout the entire year.  River did pass for 4,386 yards and 33 TD’s last season. However, turnovers were an issue. His 21 interceptions, and 5 fumbles, last season brought his total fantasy points down to only 258.9, per ESPN standard scoring.  That’s not a bad point total, but when you pass for over 4,000 yards and throw over 30 TD’s, you should be scoring a bit more points. The return of Keenan Allen should provide Rivers with another reliable target out there. Rivers is an excellent option for those who chose to wait on QB, just be aware that he’s going to be bringing a lot of turnovers to your team with him.

Where I’d draft him: 10th round or later. Rivers will no doubt put up some big points for you during the season, but be warned, he’s going to throw his fair share of heart breaking, and potentially game losing, interceptions as well. The later you can get Rivers, the better. He’s a good complimentary QB to have on a team with a lot of talent. Just don’t expect to be able to anchor your entire team with him. He’s a solid option, but he does present a risk.

14. Eli Manning

From one turnover machine to another. In all seriousness, Eli Manning is probably going to catch some people by surprise this year. Manning has never really been an eye popping fantasy QB. He turns the ball over a lot, and he’s not much of a runner, so you’re not getting any unexpected points from him.  This season, however, I feel like Eli is going to shock a few folks with his numbers.  last season Manning put up 4,027 passing yards and 26 TD’s, but 16 picks and 4 fumbles aren’t ideal.  He ended last year with only 224.2 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. That’s a low total for a QB. I expect that number to go way up though, especially considering that Brandon Marshall’s 6 foot 4′ frame will now be running across the middle of the field, and pulling defenders away from Odell Beckham Jr. That probably has Manning itching to get out there and start throwing the ball around.  The Giants still don’t have a strong running game, which means Manning will probably be passing early and often.

Where I’d draft him: 9th or 10th round. I’m a believer in Manning’ upcoming season, but I’m not insane. There’s obviously plenty of safer options out there other than Manning, but if you find yourself scrambling to find a decent QB in the later rounds, you should definitely consider kicking the tires on Eli. Be prepared for some mind numbing interceptions, but also know that some big games are bound to come with the type of weapons that Eli will have at his disposal.

13. Kirk Cousins

This one was a tough decision to make. Last season, Cousins had a magical run. He passed for 4917 yards, 25 TD’s, and 12 interceptions. He also added 4 rushing TD’s, which brought his season total to 300.3 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. So why do I have Cousins outside my top 10? Call it a hunch. I just feel like the contract disputes between Cousins and Washington are going to have a negative effect on him. Football is hard enough without dragging contracts into it. That’s not to say he’s going to have a bad season. The addition of Terrell Pryor is very intriguing to me, but the health of Jordan Reed is always an issue, and DeSean Jackson took his home run hitting abilities to Tampa Bay with him, so Cousins could be looking at a down year.

Where I’d draft him: 8th round. I understand that I’m a bit low on Cousins, so the odds are he won’t be around til the 8th round in your league. If somehow he is though, consider it a gift and snatch him up. Whether he has a down year or not, Washington is pretty much reliant on his passing to create offense. The only problem is, opposing defenses are aware of that too. DeSean Jackson not being there to “take the top off the defense” is going to take some getting used to for Cousins, but all in all he should still have a solid year. Just don’t expect him to repeat his performance from last season.

12. Marcus Mariota

I’m excited about Mariota’s upcoming season. I see him having a career year.  Last season Mariota threw for 3,426 yards, 26 TD’s, and 9 interceptions. He added 349 yards and 2 TD’s on the ground, bringing his total to 259.9 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. His season ended early due to a broken fibula in week 16. Had he played in week 17, perhaps his numbers would’ve been bit higher? The addition of veteran wide receiver, Eric Decker, during the off season, will provide Mariota with a bit more fire power, and a sure handed playmaker to go along with Delanie Walker. I’d feel comfortable rolling Mariota out as my starter next season.

Where I’d draft him: 7th or 8th round. I feel confident that Mariota will take the next step this year, but he still presents some risk. Eric Decker is a solid addition to the offense, and he’s going to help, but he’s not the kind of star wide receiver that can cover up his young QB’s mistakes. The Titans possess a solid running game, so that could pose a potential problem for Mariota owner’s, but if he takes the next step-year like I think he will, there should be plenty of points to go around.

11. Matthew Stafford

Remember when everyone thought Matthew Stafford was only good because he had Calvin Johnson? He obliterated that narrative last season, throwing for 4327 yards, 24 TD’s, and 10 interceptions, totaling 279.8 fantasy points, per ESPN scoring. I don’t see any reason why Stafford wouldn’t be able to repeat that performance again this year. The Lions still don’t have anything solid in terms of a running game, so you have to figure it’s going to be the Matthew Stafford Show. I expect him to pass, and pass a lot.

Where I’d draft him: 7th round. Stafford is a safe pick to me. The departure of Megatron made him a better overall QB, he spreads the love around evenly, and he managed to avoid too many turnovers last year. The usage is going to be there. If he can keep taking care of the ball, Stafford could easily end the season as a top 10 QB.

10. Jameis Winston

This one might seem a bit high to some people, but I’m pretty excited for Winston’s upcoming season, and I actually wanted to rank him higher. The addition of DeSean Jackson and the continued improvement of Mike Evans should help the young QB reach career highs this season. Last year Winston had 28 TD’s and 18 interceptions, passed for 4,090 yards, and scored 256.1 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. With a home run hitter like DeSean Jackson in Tampa Bay now, those numbers should go up. As long as the TD’s go up a bit without dramatically increasing the interceptions, Winston should be a bargain in most drafts.

Where I’d draft him: 6th or 7th Round. I’m not the only one high on Winston, so someone in your league might jump on him early, but I think if you can get him in the 6th round or later, you’re going to end up getting a steal. I could see him ending the season as a top 5 QB.

9. Ben Roethlisberger

This one could turn out to be low. Anytime you have the weapons that Roethlisberger has, you’re gonna put up points, but Big Ben has a bit of an injury history, so assuming that he won’t play all 16 games of the season isn’t much of a stretch. Ben will get a very big weapon back this year though, in the form of Martavis Bryant. Last time we saw Bryant on the field, he looked every bit like a potential #1 WR. Adding him to the combo of a bona fide #1 WR like Antonio Brown, and possibly the best RB in football, Le’Veon Bell, has to boost Big Bens numbers if he can stay on the field. Last year, Roethlisberger threw 29 TD’s, 13 interceptions, passed for 3,819 yards, and put up 252.2 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. He also added 1 rushing TD. My advice would be to just make sure you have a solid back up if you’re going to draft Big Ben. You wouldn’t want your fantasy season depending on his health. That has the potential of ending badly.

Where I’d draft him: 7th or 8th Round. He’s too much of an injury risk for me, but when healthy he’ll put up some big numbers. He could possibly win you some games by himself. Just don’t be shocked if he misses any time. I’m personally not a fan, but then he’s a solid QB option.

8. Russell Wilson

I’m a huge fan of duel threat QB’s, and now that we’re getting into the top 10, we’ll be coming across a few. The first one on the list, Russell Wilson (Winston isn’t really a rushing threat). Last season, Wilson threw for 4,219 yards, 21 TDs, and 11 interceptions. He also added 259 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD, and a receiving TD, for a total of 270.1 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. Wilson took more control of his offense last season, after the departure of Marshawn Lynch, and with still no solid running game in town (Eddie Lacy is hardly solid), we’ll most likely see a repeat this season. Wilson has improved as a pocket passer every season since he’s been in the league, assuming that he continues that trend this season, he should be an excellent option at QB.

Where I’d draft him: 5th or 6th round. I’m a big believer in Wilson. I expect him to be even better than he was last season. Plus, a returning Jimmy Graham could finally give Wilson an elite receiving option, something he’s sorely lacked during his entire career. His interceptions were a bit higher than I’d personally like last season, but he’s historically been very stingy with the football. As long as he gets back to that, I’d be ecstatic to have him as my QB.

7. Andrew Luck

Speaking of duel threat QB’s, here’s one of the best in the league. Last season Luck passed for 4,240 yards, 31 TD’s, and 13 interceptions. He added 341 rushing yards, and 2 rushing TD’s, to bring his total to 307.7 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. Luck could be ranked a little higher. After all, he’s got elite talent, and Elite weapons to throw the ball to. T.Y. Hilton will no doubt be the recipient of a couple Andrew Luck bombs during the season, and that just means fat points for all Andrew Luck owners.

Where I’d draft him: 3rd or 4th round. Like I said, Luck has elite talent and plenty of targets. My one knock on him is actually one of the attribute that makes him special, his ability to run. It’s awesome when he scrambles and creates point generating opportunities, but sometimes in the process of doing that, he opens himself up to hits that other QB’s simply aren’t exposed to. He’s an elite option at QB, just be aware that his injury risk is slightly higher than even your average running QB. If you take him, you’ll most likely be happy. Just get a good back up.

6. Derek Carr

I’m expecting big things from Carr this year. A broken fibula in week 16 (apparently that was a common occurrence that week) cut Carr’s season short last year, but before it did, he managed to pass for 3,937 yards, 28 Td’s and 6 interceptions. He scored 268.5 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. The addition of Marshawn Lynch over the off season, will no doubt create a few ideal play action situations for Carr, and his talented receiving duo of Amari Cooper, and Michael Crabtree, to take advantage of. I expect the Raiders to be competing for a playoff spot next year, so Carr should be playing meaningful games down the stretch, and that’s always good for fantasy owners.

Where I’d draft him: 3rd round. I see a big year coming for Carr. If he can keep his turnovers as low as he did last season (9 total), then I see no reason why we Carr can’t follow up and improve on his great 2016 campaign. If he falls to you past the 3rd round, consider yourself lucky.

5. Matt Ryan

The blown lead in the SuperBowl is going to do one of two things. It’s could haunt Matt Ryan, and the Falcons, all season long, preventing them from focusing on the season at hand. I don’t subscribe to that notion. I think the blown lead will serve as motivation for Ryan, and his favorite weapon Julio Jones. Last season, Ryan threw for 4944, 38 TD’s, and 7 interceptions, totaling 347.5 fantasy points, per ESPN fantasy scoring. I fully expect ‘Matty Ice” to go out there and wreck the league next season. Ryan is going to try his hardest to erase the memory of 28-3. I for one, wouldn’t mind him doing that on my fantasy team. I could see Ryan ending the year as the #1 QB.

Where I’d draft him: 2nd or 3rd round. Ryan has been a solid fantasy QB for nearly his entire career. Even if he doesn’t go on the tear I expect him to go on, he’s worth an early round pick. Ryan will rarely ever cost you a game, and when he’s feeling it, he can be just as lethal as any other top 5 QB. Draft him with confidence, he won’t burn you very often.

4. Dak Prescott

This one hurts me the most to have to rank. I’m an Eagles fan and absolutely hate the Cowboys, but I have to be impartial. I see big things on Dak’s horizon. Last season, Dak Passed for 3,667 yards, 23 Td’s, and only 4 interceptions. He also added 282 rushing yards, and 6 rushing TD’s, for a total of 286.7 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. All that was without a full off season to prepare as the starter. This year he’ll have that time to prepare, so assuming that he’ll be that much better doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch.

 Where I’d draft him: 2nd round. Legitimate passing threat. Legitimate rushing threat. Best line in football. Potentially the best RB in football, and an elite WR in the form of Dez Bryant. Enough said.

3. Drew Brees

My top 3 QB’s are honestly interchangeable. If you manage to land either of these guys you should be happy, and very hopeful about your upcoming season. That being said, they’re all flawed, so it just depends on how you personally feel about them. To me, Brees is the 3rd best out of them. Last season he passed for whopping 5,208 yards, 37 TD’s, and 15 interceptions, totaling 332.3 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. Those are impressive numbers, but the addition of Adrian Peterson might inspire the Saints to run the ball a bit more this season. Plus, the departure of a home run hitter like Brandin Cooks can’t be expected to go unfelt. Despite all that, Brees will be an elite QB again this year, just like he always is.

Where I’d draft him: 1st or 2nd round. I don’t typically agree with taking a QB early, then again I’ve never owned Drew Brees. The volume he gets makes him a desirable QB, but he does turn the ball over a bit, and unless Michael Thomas lives up to all the hype he’s entering the season with, Brees doesn’t have an elite receiving option. He’ll probably still overcome all that and pass for close to 5,000 yards, and over 30 TD’s.

2. Tom Brady

Starting in week 6 of last season, Tom Brady passed for 3554 yards, 28 TD’s, and only 2 interceptions, scoring 258.6 total fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. If my top 3 are interchangeable, then that goes double for my top 2. You can’t go wrong either way. The way I picked it was fairly simple, age. Brady is getting up there in age now, and despite the amazing season he just had last year, I can’t comfortably invest my season in an aging QB. Even if he potentially is the best QB ever. All that said, if he’s sitting right there in front of me, I’d probably be a hypocrite and draft him. I mean cmon, it’s Tom Brady.

Where I’d draft him: 1st round. Barring a freak injury, you’re most likely not going to regret anywhere you draft Brady. The combo of Julian Eddleman, Rob Gronkowski, and newly acquired, Brandin Cooks is going to make Brady that much more lethal. the best way to make sure you’re not in Brady’s path of destruction? Draft him.

1. Aaron Rodgers

Is anyone surprised? Rodgers is a bad man. Last season he passed for 4,428 yards, 40 TD’s, and 7 interceptions, totaling 380 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. He’s not always going to go on the type of tear he went on to end last year, but he’ll come close on many occasions. Rodgers has everything you want in a fantasy QB. He has elite weapons and just got another one in the form of Martellus Bennett. He plays in a tough division, which forces him to usually play out the whole season. Oh yeah, and he also possesses the mobility to stretch plays, and make something out of absolutely nothing. just ask the Cowboys about that. Last season Rodgers rushed for 369 yards and punched in 4 TDs too. That type of versatility is rare in such an elite arm talent. Needless to say, if you land Rodgers, you have a player that will keep you in most games by himself.

 Where I’d draft him: 1st round. You might be able to get him in the 2nd round depending on your league, but I wouldn’t risk it. If he’s there in front of you, take him. If you pass on him, you might regret it. As far as when in the first round to take him, I’d say whenever you feel like it. I do not endorse early drafting of most QB’s, but if you insist on doing it, there is absolutely no one better than Rodgers. Draft him, and you won’t have to worry about your QB position all year.

 

Wesly Avendano
Baseline Times NFL Fantasy Insider