A trio of running backs will be the most coveted fantasy options in 2017.
The 2016 season has seen countless unexpected performances from the highs and lows of the spectrum, whether it be the fall from grace of Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley or the resurgence of Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson. Before looking at what I think will be the Round 1 average draft position (ADP) in standard, non-ppr, 10-team leagues come 2017, let’s take a look back at how we drafted in 2016.
According to FantasyPros, the 10 players taken in Round 1 were as follow:
1 - Antonio Brown, WR (Steelers)
2 - Odell Beckham Jr., WR (Giants)
3 - Todd Gurley, RB (Rams)
4 - Julio Jones, WR (Falcons)
5 - David Johnson, RB (Cardinals)
6 - Adrian Peterson, RB (Vikings)
7 - Ezekiel Elliott, RB (Cowboys)
8 - DeAndre Hopkins, WR (Texans)
9 - Rob Gronkowski, TE (Patriots)
10 - A.J. Green, WR (Bengals)
Onward we go to 2017. Hope is in the air and your fantasy draft is right around the corner. Here is how I think the fantasy community should collectively pick in a standard league.
1st Overall - Le’Veon Bell, RB (Steelers)
Le’Veon Bell was an absolute monster despite playing only 12 games during the regular season. He averaged about 157 yards per game from scrimmage (105.6 yards rushing, 51.3 yards receiving). His per-game average of 20.2 fantasy points is second among halfbacks this season, behind David Johnson. What edges Bell over Johnson is the dynamic offense that he plays in and the week to week consistency that comes with it. Pittsburgh’s offense averaged 26.4 points per game during their seven-game win streak to close out the season, which would have ranked fifth overall if maintained throughout. They should rank among the league’s highest scoring teams next season and make Le’Veon Bell worthy of the top fantasy pick.
2nd Overall - David Johnson, RB (Cardinals)
While the aforementioned Bell edges David Johnson ever so slightly, you really cannot go wrong with either Bell or Johnson. Johnson averaged 138.2 yards per game from scrimmage (82.2 yards rushing, 56 yards receiving) and scored an incredible 20 total touchdowns before his Week 17 injury in Los Angeles. Some touchdown regression in 2017 can be expected. There are also some questions in the air in regards to the Cardinals offense as a whole. Whispers of retirement from quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald headline their offensive uncertainties heading into next season. Regardless, Johnson should remain the centerpiece of the offense.
3rd Overall - Ezekiel Elliott, RB (Cowboys)
The rookie sensation out of Ohio State ran away with the rushing title this year, rushing for 318 more yards than second place Jordan Howard, fellow rookie running back of the Chicago Bears. He also has 16 total touchdowns behind ProFootballFocus’ number one ranked offensive line throughout the season. Entering the season, OT Tyron Smith, C Travis Frederick and OG Zack Martin were all part of the top five best offensive linemen in the game according to PFF. Assuming the line’s health and quarterback Dak Prescott’s continued improvement, Elliott will remain a fantasy staple for years to come.
YOU KNOW IM THANKFUL FOR THE BIG FELLAS. BEST Offensive line in the game. https://t.co/RugLbYbFzH— Ezekiel Elliott (@EzekielElliott) November 25, 2016
4th Overall - Antonio Brown, WR (Steelers)
Despite the fact that Antonio Brown finished with his lowest yardage total since 2012 and was finally dethroned in leading the league in catches, I have faith that the Brown of years past will once again take center stage in the Steelers high-powered pass game in 2017. His production from 2013-2015, which totaled 375 catches, 5,031 yards and 31 touchdowns, is enough to make him the first wide receiver off the board next season once again.
5th Overall - Odell Beckham Jr., WR (Giants)
Odell Beckham Jr. bookended his 2016 campaign with a slow start and terrible drops in the playoffs. After not scoring in his first four weeks and only totaling 303 yards, Beckham Jr. owners were wishing they went in a different direction. But since averaging 75 yards a game over that first month, he averaged over 88 yards and scored 10 times to close out the season. His talent is still among the league’s best as he finished the year third in both catches and yards. In 2017, Beckham Jr. owners will hope for more consistency in the first month of the season.
6th Overall - LeSean McCoy, RB (Bills)
If you were able to snag LeSean McCoy this year in your draft, you most likely got a heck of a bargain as he was the 12th running back off the board and 26th player overall according to FantasyPros. McCoy had a huge year, finding paydirt 14 times and leading the league in yards per rushing attempt with 5.4 among backs with over 150 carries. The Buffalo Bills firing of defensive-minded Rex Ryan and hiring of former Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott as their head coach should not negatively affect McCoy’s rushing game going forward and is a safe pick in the middle of the first round.
7th Overall - Mike Evans, WR (Buccaneers)
The chemistry between Mike Evans and second-year starting quarterback Jameis Winston grew immensely this season as the 6‘5” wideout finished top six in receptions, yards and touchdowns at his position. He also was first in total targets, so his stock will only continue to rise. A lack of a true second option in Tampa Bay forces Winston to heave it to Evans more than he probably should, and us fantasy owners certainly do not mind.
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8th Overall - Julio Jones, WR (Falcons)
Julio Jones missed two games and had four games of 35 or less yards in 2016. He also followed up each of those poor performances with 100-plus yard games, highlighted by his 300 yard outburst against the Carolina Panthers in Week 4. His highs are so high that you can live with some of the lows. He is the featured piece in the league’s highest scoring offense as the Atlanta Falcons averaged 33.8 ppg during the regular season (no other team reached 30), so his production should continue to warrant a first-round pick.
9th Overall - DeMarco Murray, RB (Titans)
There are obvious strikes against DeMarco Murray having a first-rounder type season again next year. He’ll be 29, backup running back Derrick Henry is poised to take on more of a workload, and that horrid season he spent in Philadelphia is still lurking in the minds of fantasy owners heads. Much to people’s surprise, he finished the season third in rushing and managed to stay healthy for the full slate for only the second time in his career. He has only missed one game in his last three seasons, so the formerly oft-injured runner has shaken off the injury-prone tag. As long as the Titans pick up where they left off, Murray will be a great choice at the end of the first round.
10th Overall - Jordan Howard, RB (Bears)
Only three running backs had seven different 100-yard rushing games in the regular season: Ezekiel Elliott, LeSean McCoy and Jordan Howard. The former fifth-round pick did not rush for fewer than 77 yards in his last nine games of the season and averaged 5.2 yards per carry overall. Howard should be a late first-round pick in most drafts next season and will hopefully garner even better production if the Bears find an answer at quarterback that isn’t Matt Barkley or Jay Cutler.
Edited by Justin Peroff.
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