The NFL Playoffs have continued to entertain and we saw plenty of intriguing performances that may have raised an eyebrow when it comes to 2016 Fantasy Football value. Could Jeff Janis break through the clutter in Green Bay? Is Sammie Coates the next emerging Steelers receiving stud? Can Tyler Lockett ascend to the top of the depth chart in Seattle? What happens to Charcandrick West, and to a lesser extent Spencer Ware, when Jamaal Charles returns? All those questions and more will be covered this offseason. For now, The Playlist will stay focused on playoff football and discuss the 2016 outlook from some of the AFC and NFC’s top two squads.
Smile Away by Paul McCartney
Cam Newton (QB, Panthers) – “Ah, smile away sweetly now, Come on now, ooh, sweetly smile away. Yes, sir! smile away. Now, smile away quietly now. Oooh, ho, ho, ho..” Newton has been a constant top performer since his rookie season, but he took his game to a new level in 2015. He finished as the number one overall QB in standard scoring leagues by a healthy margin. After four years of declining statistics, Newton turned in his best season yet. He will enter next season as a 27-year-old with unlimited upside. The return of Kelvin Benjamin and the further development of Devin Funchess should help Newton keep his passing game upside in tact. There is no hotter name at QB in dynasty formats right now, as he is battling Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers at the position’s mountaintop. He is a candidate to be over-drafted in seasonal formats, but will be worth every penny in long-term leagues.
What Do You Mean by Justin Bieber
Brock Osweiler (QB, Broncos) – “When you don’t want me to move. But you tell me to go. What do you mean?” Osweiler filled in admirably for an injured Peyton Manning late in the season. He entered the league as a raw prospect and held his own in his first extended playing time. He completed almost 62-percent of his passes for nearly 2,000 yards and 10 TDs, at times looking like he had full command of the offense. Osweiler will be a 25-year-old free agent this spring, making his future completely up in the air. Are the Broncos comfortable with him as their signal caller in 2016 if Manning retires? They will need to give him a long-term deal most likely. In a QB-starved league, another franchise is definitely likely to overpay for him. His value in two-QB formats is all over the map. While I would not be interested in acquiring him if billed as a future stud, I am happy to take a risk on his talent and potential situation for a reasonable cost. After all, there is considerable risk here. He could very likely be a career back-up that never gets a real shot as a starter. Check in on the Osweiler owner soon before the rumors start to pick up about his potential landing spots and Manning’s future in Denver.
Justify My Love by Madonna
C.J. Anderson (RB, Broncos) – “Wanting, needing, waiting. For you to justify my love Hoping, praying. For you to justify my love.” In addition to a questionable QB situation, the Broncos’ front office will also be dealing with a void in the running game. Both Anderson and Ronnie Hillman are free agents in the offseason. After breaking through at the end of 2014, Anderson struggled during the first two months of this season and was forced into a timeshare with Hillman that he has not been able to shake. He has played better since the Broncos’ bye week and was a key piece to the Broncos’ game plan last week against a tough Steelers run defense. Entering the market as a 25-year-old, Anderson might end up a free agent steal. He showed the skills to be a lead back and is definitely worth picking up on the cheap heading into the offseason. He should come at a considerable discount compared to last spring. In seasonal formats, his value is going to be tied directly to the situation he ends up in.
It’s Over by Rod Stewart
Andre Ellington (RB, Cardinals) – “They’re ain’t gonna be a winner. It’s over. Oh, my dear, what happened to us? Tell me, where did it all go wrong?” We talked about David Johnson last week and how he basically made Ellington irrelevant this season. To be fair, Ellington was hurt for a majority of the season and Chris Johnson was the first to push him to the bench; David just came in with the flying elbow at the end. Is it over for Ellington for Fantasy in general or just in Arizona? Well, as the Cardinals found out last season, he is not a featured back, but that does not mean he won’t have value. He is an excellent receiving back and operates at his best when seeing around 10 touches per game. That makes him a change of place type and a handcuff for Johnson owners. His value has peaked and it is never going back up to where it was in the offseason prior to 2014. It is also worth noting he came into the league already 24 years old, so he is not as young as one might think. If you own him in a keeper format, you might as well hold onto him unless the Johnson owner comes knocking at your door.
Stronger by Kanye West
Michael Floyd (WR, Cardinals) – “N-now th-that that don’t kill me. Can only make me stronger. I need you to hurry up now. Cause I can’t wait much longer. I know I got to be right now. Cause I can’t get much wronger. Man I’ve been waiting all night now. That’s how long I been on ya. I need you right now!” We have been waiting on the big breakout from Floyd for a good three years now. He had a nice jump from rookie to sophomore numbers, but has not had a 1,000 yard season since. It was supposed to go similar to the DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Johnson situation in Houston, but it appears Larry Fitzgerald has more in the tank. John Brown came in last year and added yet another mouth for Carson Palmer to feed. That has been a part of Floyd’s inconsistency, which plagued him until November of this year. Since then he has had five 100-yard performances and four TDs. He added two scores in last week’s Divisional Playoff round. Floyd is not a free agent until after the 2016 season, so owners could be in for another year of WR3 numbers and the week-to-week guessing game regarding which Cardinals receiver is going to go off. Floyd is a quality target in dynasty formats if you are patient. He could be a go-to receiver in 2017.
Lose Yourself by Eminem
Julian Edelman (WR, Patriots) “Look, if you had, one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted. In one moment. Would you capture it, or just let it slip??” While Rob Gronkowski is certainly the most feared receiving option on the Patriots, Edelman just might be the most important. Once Wes Welker left town prior to the 2013 season, Edelman made the most of his opportunity. He has averaged more than 6.6 catches per game in the three seasons since. Edelman is never going to be a huge yardage or TD performer, but in PPR formats he is gold. At 30 years old, he is a situational talent that should be have at least two more effective seasons left. If you are a contender, he is the exact type of talent you could pick up to strengthen your starting lineup. If you are in the middle of a rebuild, however, he should be traded to the highest bidder for younger, higher upside players. In redraft leagues, you have to consider him a locked-in WR2 that will deliver a weekly high floor.
Follow The Leader by Eric B. and Rakim
Rob Gronkowski (TE, Patriots) – “So keep starin soon ya suddenly see a star. You better follow it cause it’s the R. This is a lesson if ya guessin and if ya borrowin. Hurry hurry step right up and keep following. The Leader.” The tight end position was a quagmire for the entire 2015 season if you did not own Gronkowski. Sure, Greg Olsen was his typical reliable self and you might have gotten tremendous value on Tyler Eifert or Jordan Reed, but for the most part it was a merry-go-round of inconsistency. That is part of what makes Gronk so valuable. He is basically a WR1 option that plays TE, with double-digit TDs in every season in which he has played at least 11 games. He will be 27 next season and despite his concerning injury history, Gronkowski is in a tier by himself. Trading for him in a long-term format would be nearly impossible, but totally worth it not to have to play TE roulette each week.
Carolina On My Mind by James Taylor
Greg Olsen (TE, Panthers) – “In my mind I’m gone to Carolina. Can’t you see the sunshine? Can’t you just feel the moonshine?” Olsen has emerged as one of the most reliable TEs at an unreliable position. He turned in the best Fantasy season of his career and registered a second straight 1,000-yard campaign. Olsen has been the picture of health as well, missing just two games all the way back in his rookie season. 2016 will be his age-31 season and the rollercoaster is likely to start its downward descent. The good news is he is still athletic enough to be a TE1 for a few more seasons. He is the perfect right now TE to have while grooming a younger option to replace him.