I don’t know about you, but I’m full-on ready for fantasy football. Sure, we have to wait until early September for things to start firing up, but that doesn’t mean we can’t prepare.
You’re probably most familiar with my work regarding the Indianapolis Colts, but I am broadening my focus to cover fantasy even more this year. When the draft ends, as do NFL minicamps, and we sit here, waiting for training camp, I have to keep my football fix going somehow.
Naturally, I wanted to start with my position-by-position rankings. This will be my first of two sets of rankings, the second one coming in September right before the season starts. As we all know, injuries and roster moves can effect a lot of what happens between now and then. I wanted to start with just 25 players at each position for now, as my rankings will definitely change, even if it’s only slightly. The next edition will broaden with deeper positions like running back and wide receiver.
(Rankings and ADP from FantasyPros.com)
Discussing my initial top-25 fantasy football rankings for QB, RB and WR
由 Jake Arthur, Pro Football Spot 发布于 2017年7月6日
A quick breakdown of my QB, RB and WR rankings.
Top 25 Quarterbacks
Rodgers always finds a way to get it done, and that equals fantasy points. He is a perennial 4,000-yard/30-touchdown passer. His top receiving trio of Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cob returns, the Packers upgraded over tight end Jared Cook with Martellus Bennett. And, Rodgers’ starting running back, Ty Montgomery, is a converted wide receiver. Passes will be flying in Green Bay.
I expect Rodgers and Brady to go neck-and-neck as the top fantasy quarterback. Brady’s supporting cast is ridiculous after adding Brandin Cooks and Andrew Hawkins to go with Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, etc. And now, Rob Gronkowski is healthy. With LeGarrette Blount no longer on the roster, Brady is bound to put more passes in the hands of running backs this year as well.
The Colts aren’t going to rush Luck back onto the field until his shoulder is 100% ready, but that should still be early in the year, if not by Week 1. With TY Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Kamar Aiken and Jack Doyle to throw to, the Colts should put up a ton of points and yards. Plus, all of Luck’s RB’s can catch. Look at it this way: Luck missed a game last year and still finished fourth among QB’s. He has a more consistent starting cast in 2017, and the Colts have the league’s “easiest” slate of games in 2017. With Luck as the point man, fantasy owners will be pleased with their return on investment from drafting him.
Brees needs no introduction to fantasy owners. The Saints downgraded from Cooks to Ted Ginn this offseason, but Michael Thomas and Willie Snead are still around (and ascending). Overall, Brees’ offensive teammates are relatively the same as they have been. Brees has thrown for at least 4,400 yards every year since 2006 (!!!), and he’s eclipsed 5,000 yards five times in that period. He’s thrown at least 32 touchdowns each of the last nine years. I don’t see him falling off of the map soon, although it’ll happen eventually.
Ryan caught fire last year, big-time. He was without Julio Jones for two games in 2016, otherwise Matty Ice might’ve hit the 5,000-yard/40-touchdown mark. The Falcons lost offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in the offseason, which may prove to be a big deal. However, you have to imagine that Steve Sarkisian knows to get the ball to Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel and Austin Hooper on offense. More airtime for Ryan means more fantasy gains for owners.
Top 25 Running Backs
Johnson was everything that people dreamed he’d be in 2016. The multi-purpose back touched the ball a whopping 373 times for an average of 5.7 yards and 20 total touchdowns. He is still Arizona’s best offensive player and is only entering his third year, so they need to keep doing what they’re doing with him.
Like Johnson, I don’t see any reason why Bell can’t continue his dominance into 2017. If it weren’t for the constant threat of injury or suspension with Bell, he might even be my RB1 this year. Between the return of WR Martavis Bryant and the additions of JuJu Smith-Schuster (a very good blocker) and Justin Hunter, that should help pull a defender out of the box. The Steelers know to feed Bell, and he may have more opportunities for big plays with a deepened receiving corps to his sides.
Elliott is still positioned behind the NFL’s most dominant offensive line. That enough is good for at least 1,000 yards. Mix that with the fact that Elliott is actually really good, and we could see him hit 1,600 yards again. I wish I could find the specific tweet that I saw, but somebody suggested recently on Twitter that the Cowboys will elect to ride Elliott as hard as they can for as long as they can rather than preserve him and use him lightly for 8+ years. Barring injury, Elliott should be among fantasy’s top RB’s for the foreseeable future.
I always sleep on McCoy, and he always proves me wrong. I’m not doing Shady wrong this year, though. Though he should begin to enter the twilight of his career in the next few years, he should still be in his prime right now. And, with an oft-injured, depleted receiving corps, the Bills have all of the reason in the world to keep giving McCoy the ball. It especially helps now that Mike Gillislee isn’t around to vulture McCoy’s touchdowns.
After stealing him off of the waiver wire early in 2016, Howard is my guy. For the Bears, I imagine he’ll have to be theirs, too. Chicago has a bunch of young, unproven variables, and they’re going to have to have someone to depend on. Why not the NFL’s reigning No. 2 overall rusher? Howard was just a rookie in 2016 but carried the weight of the Bears offense on his shoulders to the tune of 281 touches for 1,611 yards of offense. Look for that to increase in 2017.
Top 25 Wide Receivers
Brown being my top guy is a no-brainer at this point. It’s become routine for him to post otherworldy stats, catching over 100 balls for four straight years. In fact, he averages 120 catches for almost 1,600 receiving yards and nearly 11 touchdowns in that time. Imagine what Brown’s numbers could be if quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is healthy for a 16-game slate.
If the Monstars played football, Jones would be their star player. People still mourn Calvin “Megatron” Johnson’s retirement, but look no further than Atlanta to find a player who is at least Johnson’s equal. The only thing that holds Jones back is the occasional injury. Despite that, he’s still a can’t-miss stud and always Matt Ryan’s favorite target.
I am all aboard the Evans hype train. I was drawn to his 175 targets from Jameis Winston last year, but the fact that they only connected on 55% of those shows that there is still a ton of potential between the duo. Now that the Buccaneers added DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard to take pressure off of Evans, it will put him in even more winnable matchups.
Odell Beckham Jr.
Not that No. 4 is a low rank, but I like Beckham Jr. more than his placement would indicate. My main issue is with Eli Manning’s lack of consistency. Not to mention, Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard are bound to take some of Beckham’s targets. The best thing about OBJ is that he makes the most out of every catch. His speed, agility and ability to change direction without slowing down make him a threat to score at all times. Don’t let the spread-out targets deter you from investing in Beckham.
Nelson is kind of the wide receiver version of LeSean McCoy for me. It doesn’t seem right to pick him very high, but he’ll wind up getting you either 1,200 yards or at least 10 touchdowns every year. Nelson is also one of the most consistent receivers in fantasy, being that he’s Aaron Rodgers’ go-to guy inside of a pass-heavy offense. Nelson is a non-regrettable acquisition.
Discussing my top 25 fantasy rankings for TE, K and DST.
由 Jake Arthur, Pro Football Spot 发布于 2017年7月8日
A quick breakdown of my TE, K and DST rankings.
Top 25 Tight Ends
Plain and simple; when Gronkowski is healthy, he can’t be stopped. By all indications, he’s back to his normal self, physically. The Patriots may have a ton of weapons, but Gronk will always be Tom Brady’s favorite. When healthy, you can write in 10-plus touchdowns for Gronk.
Especially since the release of Jeremy Maclin, Kelce is Kansas City’s top option in the passing game. As a west coast passer, Alex Smith has a perfect match in Kelce. He allows Smith to keep things safe, within 15 or so yards of the line of scrimmage. But, Kelce has the added ability to run after the catch, even if it’s a bubble screen. He had a career year in 2016, and his numbers may all improve in 2017.
Reed’s only problem is staying healthy. Like Gronkowski, Reed dominates when he’s on the field, but you never know how long he’ll be there. With the offseason departures of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon, Reed should absolutely be the focal point of the Redskins offense. However, he’s also now got Terelle Pryor to help take pressure off of him. Proceed as normal with Reed as a top fantasy option, unless of course, he gets hurt again.
Olsen has been Mr. Reliable for Cam Newton for his whole career. Olsen has put up at least 800 yards each of the last five years, and over 1,000 yards each of the last three. He also averages 5.3 touchdowns per season with Newton. There’s no reason to expect Olsen to fall off yet.
Rudolph finally had that breakout season in 2016, finishing as fantasy’s TE2. He has been hyped every single offseason, and finally put up the numbers. Does it mean that is the player he is now? Is it the presence of Sam Bradford? I think it’s both. Rudolph should have another solid season, but the healthy returns of Gronkowski and Tyler Eifert could push Rudolph down the ranks a little.
Top 25 Kickers
Gostkowski went through an uncharacteristic slump in 2016, but why would you count on another one? Tom Brady is back and not suspended. Commence Gostkowski’s annual excellence.
Like Adam Vinatieri, Falcons kicker Bryant just seems to get better with age. Bryant is still the kicker for a high-octane offense, so there’s no reason to shy away from him. The 42-year-old nailed six field goals from at least 50 yards out last year also.
Tucker has arguably the best leg talent in the game. Aside from connecting on all but one of his field goal attempts in 2016, he went 10-for-10 on attempts from 50 yards or longer!
Bailey is a career 89.5% field goal kicker, and he kicks for a consistent offense. He’s also never missed an extra point, even after the league’s change to move them back.
At 44 years old, Vinatieri is the NFL’s ageless wonder. The 2012 arrival of Andrew Luck and the return of a high-scoring offense seems to have rejuvenated Vinatieri. Since 2012, he is 88.3% on field goal attempts and has gone 22-of-30 (73.3%) on attempts of 50 yards or more. However, one thing that concerns me for Vinatieri is the departure of Pat McAfee. The two were/are very close, and McAfee was Vinatieri’s holder for eight years. Vinatieri will have to get used to either Jeff Locke or Rigoberto Sanchez this year.
Top 25 Defense/Special Teams
The Broncos defense is still a top-flight unit with pass-rushers and ballhawks everywhere. They are a complete defense, not giving much on the ground, definitely not much through the air, and creating their own plays in the form of takeaways and subsequent touchdowns. The Broncos’ offense should also be a little better in 2017, so it takes pressure off of the defense.
The Seahawks have had a known elite defense for several years now, but they took a step back in 2016 to the No. 9 spot. Look for that to go up in 2017. Young defensive linemen Jarran Reed and Frank Clark will be another year into their development, and Seattle drafted Malik McDowell this offseason. McDowell was one of my favorite defensive players in the 2017 draft based on his ability to totally wreck an opposing offense almost single-handedly. The LOB gets Earl Thomas back. All is well again.
Kansas City Chiefs
Not only do the Chiefs have a playmaking defense, but they have Tyreek Hill returning punts. With the likes of Justin Houston, Dee Ford, Tamba Hali and Chris Jones, the Kansas City defense could get a sack anytime. With Marcus Peters and Eric Berry in the secondary, they can also come up with an interception at any time. We all know what Hill can do with the ball in his hands on special teams.
JJ Watt is back. There’s not much else I have to say to convince you that the Texans defense will be alright. They did lose A.J. Bouye this offseason, but they already had Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson and Kevin Johnson at corner. Houston’s offense also can’t be any worse than it was with “The Brockweiler” at the helm, so the defense won’t have to be on the field as much.
The Vikings defense is loaded with young talent either entering their prime or already in it. And, it’s on every layer of the defense. They had 40-plus sacks in 2016 and added Datone Jones to the line this offseason. That front seven making life easier for elite talent like Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith in the secondary means this unit is primed for success for a long time to come.
Jake Arthur is the AFC South Division Manager, Indianapolis Colts Team Manager, Assistant Director of NFL Content and a Featured Analyst for Pro Football Spot. He is also a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @JakeArthurPFS on Twitter as well as on Facebook. Check out his other work HERE.