Before we get into our regularly scheduled program, please feel free to take a second and pat yourself on the back Barry Horowitz style if you won your Fantasy league. Even if you didn’t, thanks for reading The Playlist in 2016. You are still a champion to me. Now, back to your regularly scheduled article:
Another NFL regular season is in the books, but that doesn’t mean Fantasy Football is gone until next September. First, you can play Daily Fantasy, which is a great substitute with instant gratification. Second, if you are in keeper and dynasty formats, the fun is just beginning. Here’s a quick look at 2017 and beyond.
Press Play for 2017
Into You By Ariana Grande
“The temperature’s rising in here. Is this gonna happen? Been waiting and waiting for you to make a move. Before I make a move.”
Jameis Winston (QB, Bucs) – He was passed up by a few other young signal callers (Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota), but Winston still has the most raw talent of the young generation QBs. After a strong finish to his rookie season, Winston was a popular breakout candidate for 2016. He again flashed, but the team crumbled around him outside of Mike Evans and breakthrough tight end Cameron Brate. Look for the Bucs to aggressively upgrade their WR depth, especially opposite Evans. If Doug Martin’s contract is voided as speculated, there are question marks with the run game, as well. Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims are useful, but neither are backs that can carry the load over the course of a season. Buy Winston aggressively in dynasty formats and select him as a backup QB this summer with the expectation that he becomes your eventual every-week starter.
Jay Ajayi (RB, Dolphins)- I was a fan of Ajayi when he was drafted, particularly with Lamar Miller a free agent at the end of 2015. However, I could never tell where the new regime stood with him after drafting Kenyan Drake early and then signing Arian Foster this summer. It took some time and another Foster injury for his talent to win out, but he wasted no time establishing himself as a legit RB1. With three 200-plus yard rushing performances and eight TDs, Ajayi went from potential roster cut in September to league-winning workhorse. His running style and rumors of bone on bone knee condition are a major concern long-term, but for 2017, he’s an ascending talent. Sell high in dynasty, buy him in the second round of re-draft leagues.
Sammy Watkins (WR, Bills) – After a step forward in 2015 despite missing three games, Watkins looked like a WR1 option for 2016. The breakout potential was shelved rather quickly thanks to a foot injury. He did make his way back and just burned the Dolphins for 7-154-1. In a low-volume passing attack under Rex Ryan, Watkins true ceiling has been limited. It remains to be seen who will be under center for the Bills in 2017 and who will be calling the shots. All those factors will definitely have an impact on Watkins value, but he’s a buy for me right now. The talent is very real, and he will only be 24 years old at the start of next season.
Travis Kelce (TE, Chiefs) – It is not expert advice to tell you to draft Travis Kelce. Seeing what he has been able to do this season, he has to be considered a locked-in Top 5 option. While he was a Top 5 pick in a number of leagues last year, that was based largely on potential. He does not have the same injury concerns as Jordan Reed, Tyler Eifert or Rob Gronkowski. Unfortunately, he also does not share in their red zone prowess, but that could be a product of opportunity. If Kelce can take another step forward in 2017, he could push Gronk as the Top TE. He is the type of talent that can dominate the position as long as they keep feeding him. You’ll need to spend a Top 40 pick in order have him on your team next year.
Press Pause for 2017
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me by Elton John and George Michael
“I can’t light no more of your darkness. All my pictures seem to fade to black and white. I’m growing tired and time stands still before me. Frozen here on the ladder of my life.”
Carson Wentz (QB, Eagles) – Wentz flashed early on and ended up holding his own all season, but he was no Fantasy option. That could change in the very near future, as soon as the Eagles bring in a legitimate WR1 target and find a consistent running game. That will all be easier said than done, though, and expectations should be tempered for 2017. On the plus side, building around Wentz will clearly be a priority in Philadelphia. He has the size, athleticism and arm strength to be a true difference-maker. You’re not likely to get him affordably unless you play in a 10-team, 1QB format or a standard league. He’s a flier in seasonal formats and a must-own in dynasty 2QB leagues.
Carlos Hyde (RB, Niners) – Hyde is a frustrating talent. When healthy, he often looks like a bulldozing beast. Injuries have plagued him since he’s entered the NFL. He will turn 26 at the beginning of next season and is entering a make or break year for his value. The Niners entire team is a disaster, and Hyde has been a victim of that at times. He’s definitely an RB2 that possesses Top 10 upside, but he’ll need massive changes to both sides of the ball before reaching that ceiling. If you draft him in 2017, make sure it is after the Top 50 picks or else there is simply too much risk. There are similar gambles you can take rounds later. In dynasty, he’s a sell if you can get someone to buy into his ultimate ceiling. He has simply not proven to be consistent or dependable.
Stefon Diggs (WR, Vikings) – Diggs is a very explosive, talented wideout and one I would welcome on my Fantasy team. However, I am not willing to pay WR2 money to get him. Diggs dealt with inconsistent QB play from Sam Bradford and that is not expected to change in 2017 with either him or Teddy Bridgewater under center. After a hot start, Diggs faded and then came back with a three-game vengeance and then faded again. I also expect a step forward (hopefully multiple) from LaQuon Treadwell and Adam Thielan looks very capable of sticking around, as well. His skill set says more Randall Cobb than it does Antonio Brown. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but it means he’s not likely to develop into an elite option. With that said, I would absolutely buy in dynasty if you can find a willing owner.
Jimmy Graham (TE, Seahawks) – There is no denying Graham’s ability. This is more about his situation. Once Tyler Lockett got fully healthy, they seemed to go away from Graham as a focal point of the offense. Case and point, Graham has nine targets in the last three games while Lockett has 17. It will certainly depend on defensive matchups and game flow, but Graham may not be a Top 3 TE lock for next season. Despite being 30 years old, he’s still a strong hold in dynasty formats and his game-to-game upside is matched only by a handful of TEs. For 2017 seasonal leagues, though, he is at risk of being overdrafted if Lockett and Doug Baldwin are going to garner a majority of the targets.
Who Tells Your Story by The Roots, Common and Ingrid Michaelson
“The path to perfection is rarely achieved. I head in that direction, I dream and believe. An underground dude that overachieve.”
Geronimo Allison (WR, Packers) – This is a long shot because of how stacked the Packers receiving corps is. Speculation has already started that Randall Cobb could be on a different team in 2017. That makes sense with the money he’s owed and the emergence of Davante Adams. Another question is what they’ll do with Ty Montgomery. I think he should stay as an RB-WR hybrid, but ultimately I write about Fantasy and have no real say. Let’s assume he stays in the backfield for this experiment and Cobb is wearing a different jersey. That leaves a 32-year-old Jordy Nelson and previously inconsistent Adams as the top two receivers, with little behind them outside of Allison, Trevor Davis and twitter’s favorite son, Jeff Janis. His progression will be something to watch closely this summer.
Rico Gathers (TE, Cowboys) – Dallas needs to upgrade the tight end position with Jason Witten pretty much doing a light jog out there on all of his routes. Gathers, who played basketball at Baylor, is a raw product, but one that is certainly worth a roster spot if you have the space. He has the requisite size and freakish athleticism to be a Jimmy Graham-type of receiver. Whether or not he can develop as a football player is another question, but the Cowboys may start to find out this summer.
Rex Burkhead (RB, Bengals) – Burkhead will get a chance to carry the load for the Bengals in Week 17, which is perfect timing for the soon-to-be free agent. Expect Burkhead to leave Cincinnati for greener pastures and hopefully a third-down role on a new team. He is never going to be a lead back, but is an excellent receiving back. He is worth stashing now to see where he ends up. In the right spot, he could be a sleeper for Top 30 PPR potential.
Mike Glennon (QB, Bucs) – In the QB-starved NFL, Glennon should be one of the best available arms on the market. He was a project when drafted, but showed up well in limited action. The time to acquire him in dynasty leagues was a year ago, but you still might be able to snag him in the offseason before he signs. Accuracy and decision-making were major questions for him, but the size and arm strength are definitely there. It cannot be any worse than the Brock Osweiler experiment in Houston.