These ‘Phins and Vikes will help you win your fantasy league.
The Miami Dolphins and the Minnesota Vikings started their 2016 seasons in opposite directions as the Dolphins began 1-4 and the Vikings started 5-0. Their fortunes changed quickly, however, as the Dolphins made the playoffs at 10-6 and the Vikings floundered, finishing at .500. Going into 2017, both of these teams not only have playoff upside, but fantasy upside as well.
This bi-weekly series of columns will focus on one or two teams and their fantasy-relevant players heading into next season. Player rankings are broken up into three tiers: ‘Start ‘Em’, ‘Flex or Stream ‘Em’, and ‘Pick ‘Em Up’. All fantasy rankings and stats are from Pro Football Reference or Fantasy Pros.
Jay Ajayi, RB (Dolphins)
Despite only starting a dozen games, Ajayi finished fourth in the NFL in rushing yards in 2016 (1,272) and tied for third in rushes over 20 yards (10). He was the 11th ranked runner in fantasy, mainly aided by three separate games of over 200 rushing yards. Due to his explosiveness, he is an RB1 heading into 2017. He rushed for 61 or less yards in four of his last six games last season, so he needs to find some consistency to maintain RB1 status.
Latavius Murray, RB (Vikings)
With the Raiders last season, Murray finished 13th in fantasy points at his position despite losing touches to rookies Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. He only averaged four yards a carry but had a nose for the endzone, scoring 12 times. He enters 2017 as an RB2, but will decline in value if his goal line work is decreased or if newly-drafted Dalvin Cook forces his way into the lineup.
Jarvis Landry, WR (Dolphins)
Landry enters 2017 as a bonafide WR2 with WR1 upside in PPR leagues. In 2016 he finished 16th in standard leagues and 13th in PPR. He finished tied for seventh in receptions with 94 but only found the endzone four times. He has never had more than five receiving touchdowns in a season, but if he can steal a couple touchdowns from Kenny Stills, who led the team with nine last season, his value will skyrocket.
Kyle Rudolph, TE (Vikings)
Last season, Rudolph led all NFL tight ends in targets (132) and finished third in receptions (83), en route to also finishing third in fantasy points for tight ends. Along with setting career highs in the aforementioned stats, he obliterated his previous receiving yards mark of 495 in 2015 with 840 in 2016. As long as Sam Bradford is throwing him the ball, Rudolph will remain a top tier tight end, just a shade under the likes of Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce.
Image Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Stefon Diggs, WR (Vikings)
The 2015 fifth round pick began last season on fire through the first two weeks, tallying 16 catches for 285 yards and a touchdown. He rapidly cooled off, however, only recording over 80 receiving yards in a game once in the final 11 he played. He was hampered all year by groin, hip, and knee injuries which caused him to miss the final three games. 2017 will be his third year in the league, so look for him to continue to take steps to solidify himself as the top option on Minnesota. He enters next season as a WR2/3.
Flex or Stream ‘Em
Ryan Tannehill, QB (Dolphins)
Tannehill has been a consistently average QB2 since his entrance into the league. Aside from his rookie season in 2012 and last season due to missing the final three games, Tannehill finished 16th, 9th, and 17th in 2013, 2014, and 2015, respectively. He starts the 2017 season as a worthy late-round backup to your starter or as a top-end streaming option on the waiver wire.
Sam Bradford, QB (Vikings)
According to a story on 1500 ESPN, Sam Bradford was the most accurate passer in the league last season as 83% of his passes were deemed accurate and 71.6% were completed. He was the most accurate signal-caller on throws of five yards or fewer and 20 yards or further. Ultimately though, his career best season only notched him 23rd amongst all quarterbacks in fantasy points last season. He, like Tannehill, is in the backup QB boat to begin 2017. He is a safe option on weeks when you need a streamer off waivers.
Julius Thomas, TE (Dolphins)
The 6’4” tight end is looking to bounce back after consecutive disappointing seasons in Jacksonville. He reunites with Dolphins head coach and former Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who Thomas thrived under while in Denver. With the retirement of Jordan Cameron, it will be Thomas’ job to lose. He has TE1 upside if he can stay healthy and once again reclaim the status of being one of the best red zone targets in the league.
Pick ‘Em Up
DeVante Parker, WR (Dolphins)
Parker showed solid growth between his rookie and sophomore seasons in the league, upping his reception total from 26 to 56 and his yardage total from 494 to 744. The Dolphins re-signed Kenny Stills in the offseason, which means Parker may need to up his game even more in order to become a reliable fantasy option. He is worth a bench or possibly a flex spot in deeper leagues.
Adam Thielen, WR (Vikings)
Thielen came out of nowhere in his third NFL season to lead the Vikings in receiving yards (967) and led all wide receivers on the team in touchdowns (5). He enters next season as the second wide out on the depth chart, but may lose targets to a fully healthy Stefon Diggs, newly signed Michael Floyd, and former first round pick Laquon Treadwell. He needs to be drafted in all formats, but we need to see similar production carry into 2017 for him to be a fantasy threat.
Kenny Stills, WR (Dolphins)
The wideout out of the University of Oklahoma is a bonafide deep threat for the Dolphins, ranking third in the league with 17.29 yards per reception while reeling in nine touchdowns. His touchdown production aided his ranking of 27th amongst wide receivers in 2016. Stills did all that while garnering six less targets than Parker, who finished 51st. Due to his touchdown necessity, there is not a high comfort level in playing Stills on a regular basis, but in any given week he could put your team over the top. He is a risky WR3 or flex play heading into next season.
Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Dalvin Cook, RB (Vikings)
The Vikings selected Cook with the 41st overall pick in this year’s draft. Fantasy players need to have a wait and see approach with Cook in terms of his use and effectiveness. Latavius Murray will most likely see the majority of touches early on, and his success or lack thereof could determine how many snaps Cook sees in his rookie season. The Vikings also had one of the worst run blocking lines in 2016 according to Football Outsiders. At the very least, he needs to be owned as a handcuff to Murray.
Despite both finishing in the bottom 10 in the NFL last season in yards per game, the Dolphins and Vikings feature solid offensive weapons on the rushing and receiving side that will surely contribute to many fantasy playoff berths.
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