Here is to hoping you brought home the championship in your Fantasy league. Most leagues end their Fantasy season after Week 16, so this column is going to be dedicated more towards what to look forward to next year rather than next week. However, don’t worry; in the column that I will write this coming Thursday, we will look at matchups you can exploit next weekend for those that do indeed count Week 17.
We may not know where the Raiders are going to play next season, but we do know they have the nucleus of what could be a very good offense. Derek Carr took a huge step forward this season toward proving to everyone that he can be a franchise quarterback. Amari Cooper is a legitimate number one NFL wide receiver and Latavius Murray is a solid running back. With the right moves in the NFL Draft this spring, they could be a playoff threat next season.
Yes, Kirk Cousins, we do like that. Cousins may be a free agent after the season, but he’s not going anywhere. Even if the Redskins can’t come to a contract agreement with him, they can use the franchise tag as sort of a bridge to see if he’s the real deal before giving him one of those ridiculous contracts for a QB. Jordan Reed also proved this year that if he can stay healthy, he’s easily a Top 5 TE, and until Washington drafts or acquires a true number one WR, he will be a favorite target for Cousins.
There is no doubt that Chip Kelly made a mistake in signing DeMarco Murray. It doesn’t take a genius to see that he’s not a fit in the Eagles’ offense, but to assume that the Eagles will release him this off-season may be a mistake. Murray is guaranteed $9 million next season; that’s a pretty big cap hit to take for a player that will certainly help another team (Dallas?). The bigger question may be what to do with Sam Bradford. He also doesn’t seem to be a fit in this offense, which is predicated on the QB being able to move around in the pocket. Although Bradford is not a statue back there, he’s not Russell Wilson either. The Eagles will have two huge decisions to make with regard to Bradford and Murray after the season that will go a long way towards deciding their immediate future.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is yet another QB who can be a free agent after the season. He has resurrected his career with the Jets, and it seems likely that he and the team will be able to come to a deal. What separates Fitzpatrick from Cousins and Bradford is that Fitz will be 34 years old in November. No one really knows how much time he has left.
It just doesn’t matter who is throwing to DeAndre Hopkins; all he does is put up numbers. He won’t be the number one WR taken in Fantasy drafts next season, but he won’t go too long after that either.
What will the Browns do with Johnny Manziel? Has he shown enough during the past couple of games to prove to the Browns that he is worth the trouble? This will be key, as the Browns are likely to have a Top 3 pick in the draft. Odds are they will either have to either select a QB or trade out of the pick to a team that wants one. Fantasy owners also shouldn’t forget about Josh Gordon. He can apply for re-instatement on Feb. 3, and all reports are that he is doing well. If he hits the ground running and Manziel can continue to improve, this offense will at the very least have some interesting parts. The defense, however, needs a lot of work.
Who will be the number one Fantasy QB next season? Andrew Luck had quite a few supporters this year, but he was pretty much a bust even before he got hurt (kidney). Will we go back to the well next year? If we do, it better because the Colts fixed the offensive line problems that are getting their QB crushed. With even an average offensive line the Colts could once again be one of, if not the best offenses in football. But more importantly, they need to protect the investment they have in Luck.
Where to begin with the Dolphins? They will, in all likelihood, have a new coaching staff next season. Lamar Miller can be a free agent and it seems unlikely that he would want to come back. Ryan Tannehill took a step back this year. Sure, it may not have been all his fault, but he certainly didn’t help matters any. If I was drafting today, the only Dolphin that would be on my radar is WR Jarvis Landry, who is still money in a PPR league.
Calvin Johnson is no longer a WR1 in Fantasy and he may not be that for Detroit either. Because of his salary cap hit next season the Lions will either have to restructure his contract or say goodbye. He would look really good in New England, Carolina, Washington, or Seattle next year.
While it’s true that Dallas probably wins the NFC East in a walk if Tony Romo stayed healthy, he will be 36 in April, so it may be unlikely that he will ever play a full season again. The Cowboys have issues all over the place. Sure, Darren McFadden had a good comeback season, but does anyone want to bet he can do that again? Jason Witten is getting up there in age and the Cowboys are going to have to start to look for their TE of the future. Another WR isn’t out of the question either, but no matter what they do, this team will only go as far as Romo can take them in 2016.
With Matt Forte likely gone in free agency, Jeremy Langford will be a strong RB2 to start next season. Forte could be an option for the Cowboys if they don’t pick up a running back in the draft, and maybe even if they do.
Doug Martin is also a free agent after the season, and he may not be back in Tampa since they can give the starting job to Charles Sims if they so wish. Martin has had a comeback season after disappointing for a couple of years. It will be interesting to see how the market reacts to his services. Jameis Winston had his ups and downs but looks like the real deal, although, he is unlikely to crack the Top 15 in QB rankings next season.
What will the Falcons do for a second WR next season? It seems they know that Roddy White is done and they will need someone to take the heat off of Julio Jones. Is Justin Hardy ready to be that WR? He could be a sleeper come draft time.
I wonder if not having Kelvin Benjamin has made Cam Newton a better QB. He’s had to spread the ball around. He’s even made Ted Ginn Fantasy worthy. Somehow, though, I have a feeling that Benjamin is going to be drafted way too high next season. Fantasy owners will believe that Newton, the likely MVP this season, will play even better with a healthy Benjamin, who in turn, will put up Pro Bowl-like numbers.
Could Ben Roethlisberger be the top QB in Fantasy next year? He will certainly have the weapons to be so all around him. Antonio Brown will be the top WR taken and possibly the first pick overall in PPR leagues. Martavis Bryant should only get better (assuming he can stay out of trouble) and Markus Wheaton is a serviceable WR3. This team is going to put quite a few points on the board. Will DeAngelo Williams eat into some of the playing time of LeVeon Bell? Unlikely, but he may end up being more than just your normal handcuff next season.
The Jaguars may be a slightly more advanced Raiders squad. Blake Bortles will still make his share of mistakes but Allen Robinson is a legit Top 10 Fantasy WR and some will argue Top 5. Allen Hurns is Top 20, with T.J. Yeldon looking like an above average RB and Julius Thomas a Top 10 TE, this offense is going to put up plenty of points. Can Bortles be starting Fantasy QB next year? Yes, but with QB being so deep in Fantasy I’m not going to reach for him.
Will Drew Brees be back in New Orleans next year? Like Calvin Johnson with Detroit, he will need to have his contract restructured, something he just may not want to do. It’s not like there isn’t another team or six that won’t give him the money he wants.
Todd Gurley will be a Top 10 RB next season but I would temper my expectations until we see just what kind of weapons the Rams surround him with. Right now, he’s it; the rest of the cupboard is bare.
Doug Baldwin has been as hot as any WR over the past six weeks, but next year he will be a proceed with caution WR. He might he make my Top 20, sure, but it would be low end, and I still want to see if the Hawks look to acquire or draft a true number one wideout. Thomas Rawls should take over the lead back role, as it would seem unlikely that the Hawks bring Marshawn Lynch back. Rawls is more than likely a high end RB2 for me.
The Packers’ offense misses Jordy Nelson more than anyone could’ve suspected. I wonder if Aaron Rodgers will slip in drafts next season. I don’t like to take a QB early, but maybe Rodgers or Luck will fall to Round 6 or so; unlikely, but you never know. Eddie Lacy may end up being the biggest Fantasy bust this season. I would still draft him, but not as a RB1.
David Johnson will certainly be a RB1 next season. Chris Johnson won’t be back and Andre Ellington hasn’t done much in two years. With that passing offense, the argument can be made that Johnson is a Top 5 back as of now, heading into your draft.
Teddy Bridgewater failed to take that next step this season. Sure, Mike Wallace didn’t work out as the deep threat and Charles Johnson disappeared off the face of the planet, but he still had one of the best backs in the NFL in Adrian Peterson and a breakout WR in Stefon Diggs. More was expected from Bridgewater but it just didn’t happen.
As always feel free to follow me on Twitter and ask any questions you, @georgekurtz.