The 2017 fantasy football awards

Week 17 ended with some fireworks as the NFL playoff picture wasn’t totally clear until late. Now that the regular season is over, we can take a look back on the fantasy football year. Here are my 2017 fantasy football awards, complete with MVP, the All-Fantasy team and much more.

The MVP: Todd Gurley, RB, Rams

He was my most disappointing player of 2016, given the spot in which he was drafted. This season he turned it all around, thanks in large part to rookie head coach Sean McVay. Gurley rushed for 1,305 yards, good for second in the league, and caught 64 passes for 788 yards. He totaled 19 touchdowns on the season, including 13 on the ground to lead the NFL. With the Rams looking like the NFL’s team of the future, if not present, I expect Gurley to keep it going next year.

2017 All-Fantasy Team

Quarterback: Russell Wilson, Seahawks (3,983 yards passing, 34 TDs, 586 yards rushing, 3 TDs)
Running back: Todd Gurley, Rams (1,305 yards rushing, 13 TDs, 788 yards receiving, 6 TDs)
Running back: Le’Veon Bell, Steelers (1,291 yards rushing, 9 TDs, 655 yards receiving, 2 TDs)
Flex: Alvin Kamara, Saints (728 yards rushing, 8 TDs, 826 yards receiving, 5 TDs)
Wide receiver: Antonio Brown, Steelers (101 rec., 1,533 yards, 9 TDs)
Wide receiver: DeAndre Hopkins, Texans (96 rec., 1,378 yards, 13 TDs)
Wide receiver: Keenan Allen, Chargers (102 rec., 1,393 yards, 6 TDs)
Tight end: Rob Gronkowski, Patriots (69 rec., 1,084 yards, 8 TDs)
Defense/Special teams: Jaguars (8 TDs, 21 INTs, 55 sacks, 17 FF, 12 DFR, 2nd in points allowed)
Kicker: Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots (45 XP/47 XPATT, 37 FG/40 FGA, 8 FGs made beyond 40 yards, 4 FGs made beyond 50 yards, Long of 62)

Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) catches a pass for a touchdown as Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden (21) defends during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 25, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Best rookie: Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs

Hunt gained at least 100 yards from scrimmage in the first seven games of his career. When Spencer Ware went down in the preseason, Hunt landed on many radars, but I didn’t expect him to lead the league in rushing. He hit a lull before finishing the season strong. He took his only carry in Week 17 for 35 yards and a score. That sealed the rushing title for the rookie as he finished with 1,327 yards.

Best waiver pickup: Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints

When the season started it was tough to see how the rookie out of Tennessee was going to be a factor in the Saints’ backfield. It looked like Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson would take a large share of the touches. Once Kamara caught 10 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown in Week 4, the Saints jettisoned Peterson to Arizona and things opened up for the rookie.

Running back Alvin Kamara #41 of the New Orleans Saints evades cornerback Brent Grimes #24 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as he rushes 7-yards for a touchdown during the first quarter of an NFL football game on December 31, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

Best bang for your buck: Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins

The Dolphins lost Ryan Tannehill to start the season and when Jay Cutler was brought in, there wasn’t much hope for big fantasy games from Miami. Landry has proven that he can be a reliable target no matter who starts at QB. He led the league with 112 receptions as he gained 987 yards and scored nine touchdowns. He finished as a WR1 even though he was drafted as a low-end WR2.

Breakout player: Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles

His injury couldn’t have come at a worse time, but you can’t ignore how well he performed up until then. Wentz’s rookie season was decent, but the way he ran the offense for Philadelphia this year put him in the MVP conversation. Not one of his games was a dud. He would have been fantasy’s top quarterback had he not missed the final three games of the year. Wentz finished with 3,296 yards passing and 33 touchdowns. He also rushed for 299 yards.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, right, escapes a tackle by Los Angeles Rams nose tackle Michael Brockers during an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Best comeback: Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers

Before this season, Allen played in just nine games the previous two years combined. He played in all 16 games this year and lived up to the potential displayed in his rookie year. Allen recorded career highs in receptions and yards with 102 and 1,393. He scored six touchdowns and had an outstanding run from Week 11 through Week 14.

Never say die award: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals

Fitzgerald was last season’s “Never say die” award winner, and he just keeps producing. His future is up in the air right now, as is Carson Palmer’s. Their coach Bruce Arians just announced his retirement. It would be surprising if Fitz called it quits after turning in the year he had this season. He was second in the league with 109 receptions. He gained 1,156 yards and scored six times in his 14th year, one of his best.

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals makes a catch against the Seattle Seahawks in the first quarter at CenturyLink Field on December 31, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Worst regression: Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons

I predicted his regression before the season started. The biggest reason for it is losing Kyle Shanahan to the 49ers. The production Ryan had in 2016 was unsustainable, but his numbers dropped drastically this year. After throwing 38 touchdowns in 2016, he managed just 20 this season. That’s the least amount of TD passes he’s had since his rookie year when he threw 16.

Biggest disappointment: Terrelle Pryor, WR, Redskins

Pryor had a great breakout year last season, catching 77 passes for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns when he moved to wide receiver. That was with the Browns, so most expected him to keep putting up big numbers as he joined Kirk Cousins and the Redskins. The situation was ripe for a new No. 1 wideout to join Washington as DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon left the team. Instead, Pryor caught just 20 passes for 240 yards and one touchdown in ten games. With him being drafted as high as the second round in most fantasy leagues, he turned out to be a big bust.

All-Injury team

2017 was a tough year for a lot of top fantasy talent. You could make an all-star squad out of all the big names that fell to injury this year. So I did.

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) watches his team play during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Running back: David Johnson, Cardinals
Running back: Dalvin Cook, Vikings
Flex: Ty Montgomery, Packers
Wide receiver: Odell Beckham Jr., Giants
Wide receiver: Pierre Garcon, 49ers
Wide receiver: Brandon Marshall, Giants
Tight end: Jordan Reed, Redskins
Kicker: Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy football Week 12 recap and top waiver wire picks

Congrats if you have been waiting on Julio Jones to have a breakout game that justified your use of a high draft pick on him. The wide receiver for the Falcons has been good all season, but he hasn’t had a performance that could win your week until Week 12. Jones caught 12 passes for 253 yards, including a 51-yard score from fellow receiver Mohamed Sanu. That makes three 250-plus yard games in Jones’ career. No other receiver in NFL history has more than one.

Sanu also had a good game as a result of the long touchdown pass. He added eight catches for 64 yards, though the single TD pass already gave him a double-digit performance in six-point TD fantasy leagues.

Keenan Allen also put up a huge game for owners who had possibly been regretting drafting him too high. For the most part, though, he hadn’t been overvalued during drafts this season due to his injury history. He caught 11 passes for 172 yards and a 42-yard touchdown in the win over the hapless Cowboys on Thanksgiving.

Keenan Allen #13 of the Los Angeles Chargers runs the ball in for a fourth quarter touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 23, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

On the other side of the ball, Dez Bryant and Dak Prescott continue to be big disappointments. Bryant has played below his asking price all year while Prescott has gone into a deep swoon over the last three games. In six-point touchdown leagues he’s scored 13, minus-2 and 3 points in that stretch.

Bryant had just three catches for 37 yards on Thursday. The touchdown-dependent wideout hasn’t scored since Week 7 against the 49ers. He has single-digit fantasy performances in non-ppr leagues in each of his last five games and has yet to gain over 100 yards in a single game this year.

The NFC East has fallen out of the hands of the Cowboys due in large part to the successes of the Eagles this season. Philadelphia is running away with the division title and it’s mostly because of Carson Wentz and his offensive weapons.

Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles passes the ball to Zach Ertz #86 against Christian Jones #52 of the Chicago Bears in the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on November 26, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

If it’s not Zach Ertz hauling in passes from the second-year signal caller, it’s Alshon Jeffery or Nelson Agholor, or one of many out of the backfield. Wentz and Ertz are the centerpieces of the offense, however. The quarterback proved it again with a ho-hum 227-yard, 3-TD performance. Wentz also rushed for 29 yards against the Bears.

Ertz caught 10 passes for 103 yards and a 17-yard touchdown. Both Jeffery and Agholor caught touchdowns as well on the day.

A big disappointment this week was Jay Ajayi. The Eagles’ running back situation is starting to look like that of New England, where you can’t predict who will be the most productive from week to week. This week it was LeGarrette Blount, who carried the ball 15 times for 97 yards. Ajayi had just six total touches for 33 yards.

A running back that hasn’t disappointed in many weeks is Alvin Kamara. He continues to impress and makes a case as the No. 1 running back in New Orleans. He outscored Mark Ingram this week against the Rams. Kamara’s versatility and high efficiency are huge values in fantasy leagues. He finished with 84 yards rushing, but he also added six catches for 101 yards and totaled two scores. Usually it’s safe to play both Saints running backs and come away with either RB1 or high-RB2 numbers. This week Ingram was hurt by a pass interference penalty that took away a touchdown for him as he totaled just 36 yards.

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara, top, jumps over Los Angeles Rams cornerback Kayvon Webster during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

One rookie who has struggled to gain solid footing is Joe Mixon. He finally broke out in Week 12 as he ran for 114 yards and scored. It was the first time he eclipsed 100 yards on the ground this season. He also caught three passes for 51 yards.

Another running back worth mentioning, not because of a huge week but because he is consistently putting up solid weeks, is Latavius Murray. After being relegated to single-digit carries when Dalvin Cook was the lead back in Minnesota, Murray sputtered out of the gate when he took on the featured role. In Week 7 he rushed for over 100 yards and scored to spark a nice run in which he’s scored in four of five games. Murray is currently on a three-game scoring streak and faces the Falcons next.

Murray’s quarterback, Case Keenum, is starting to look like more than a spot start candidate at the position. He threw for 282 yards and two scores while rushing for 20 yards and another touchdown. That performance made it four straight solid outings. He’s thrown nine touchdowns to three interceptions in that span.

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum rushes for a 9-yard touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017, in Detroit. The Vikings won the game 30-23. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

Sharing the field with Keenum on Thanksgiving was Marvin Jones of the Lions, who came through with six receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns. It was a bit of a surprise performance against a tough Vikings defense.

Something that didn’t come as a surprise was the performance of Antonio Brown. The guy just performs week in and week out, elevating the play of Ben Roethlisberger in the process. Brown had 10 receptions for 169 yards and two scores. That helped Roethlisberger reach 351 yards to go with four TD passes.

Le’Veon Bell had a great game as well, rushing for 95 yards while catching 12 passes for 88 more.

Also playing Sunday night was Brett Hundley, who finally looked like an NFL quarterback. He threw for 245 yards and three touchdowns against a tough Steelers defense. Davante Adams was the beneficiary of most of Hundley’s throws. Adams caught five passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. Rookie Jamaal Williams also had a touchdown reception in the best game of his career. He gained 135 yards from scrimmage and scored twice.

Jamaal Williams #30 of the Green Bay Packers runs upfield after a catch for a 54 yard touchdown reception in the first quarter during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on November 26, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Among the biggest disappointments this week were Kareem Hunt, Jordan Howard and Leonard Fournette. Danny Amendola, T.Y. Hilton, Demaryius Thomas and Golden Tate had some of the worst performances for wideouts.

Along with Prescott, Marcus Mariota had one of the worst weeks for a quarterback against a bad Colts team.

Top waiver wire picks

Brett Hundley, QB, Packers: 245 yards, 3 TDs.

Jermaine Kearse, WR, Jets: 7 rec., 105 yards, TD. He had fallen off in previous weeks and was dropped by a lot of teams. His performance against the Panthers could be a sign of things to come.

Ricky Seals-Jones, TE, Cardinals: He still isn’t owned in many leagues, likely because last week could have been a fluke. But when you see that his success has been tied to the play of Blaine Gabbert, it might be smart to add him.

Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers: 70 yards from scrimmage. He’s doing a little bit of everything and serves as a nice complement to Melvin Gordon. A must-have handcuff for Gordon owners.

Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers: 4 rec., 40 yards, TD. If JuJu Smith-Schuster’s hamstring heals up sooner rather than later, you’ll have to temper your expectations of Bryant. He’s finally out of the doghouse and performing well.

Chargers defense/special teams: Their last two games have been spectacular and they get to face the Browns in Week 13.

Dontrell Inman, WR, Bears: 4 rec., 64 yards. He’s been somewhat productive in his three games with the Bears.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy football Week 11 recap and top waiver wire picks

There were some hard lessons learned in Week 11 as we get ever closer to the fantasy football playoffs. Hopefully it’s not too late and the lessons learned will help you qualify for the playoffs.

If Dak Prescott is on your team and you entered Sunday night with a small lead, you probably lost this week. Prescott scored negative points as he was responsible for four turnovers and failed to score a touchdown in any capacity.

RELATED: Fantasy football Week 12 rankings.

Without Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup, Prescott looks like a mediocre quarterback at best. You couldn’t really blame the running game Sunday night, though. Alfred Morris rushed 17 times for 91 yards. The biggest issue facing Prescott is the lack of adequate pass protection. With Smith missing from the left tackle spot for two straight games, the Cowboys have given up 13 sacks. It was clear that Prescott was off the mark due to concern with the pass rush Sunday night.

Prescott isn’t a typical gunslinger. He needs solid protection, a good play-action game and his receivers to get clearly open. Prescott’s receivers aren’t doing that for him right now. In fact, one of his picks was off a tipped pass by Terrance Williams.

Even if Smith returns to action on Thanksgiving, Prescott may struggle against the Chargers who have a strong pass rush and intercepted five passes Sunday. Fantasy owners should not view him as an automatic start anymore with back-to-back bad games.

Dez Bryant also hasn’t had a strong game in four straight weeks. He’s been a big disappointment this season and has to be considered a weak WR2 to strong flex option from here out.

Another tough lesson learned in Week 11 was that the Patriots pass defense isn’t as bad as their numbers indicate. Derek Carr looked like a decent play this week, but he managed just 237 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

The Patriots surrendered 350 yards passing per game in the first two weeks of the season. Since then, they’ve allowed 265 yards per game over that last eight games. They haven’t allowed a quarterback to throw for more than 237 yards in each of the last four weeks. You probably won’t want to start Matt Moore of Miami or whomever Buffalo throws out there to play quarterback against the Pats in the coming weeks.

One of the toughest truths to come to terms with in Week 11 is that there’s something wrong with the Chiefs offense. Alex Smith has struggled in three of the last five games, but I’m a lot more worried about Kareem Hunt.

After he started his career by gaining at least 100 yards from scrimmage in seven straight games, Hunt hasn’t gained more than 77 yards in three in a row. Even more concerning, Hunt hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 3.

You could say at least Tyreek Hill is playing well, but his consistency is seriously lacking. He was decent on Sunday, catching seven passes for 68 yards. Not knowing when he’ll pay off leaves owners in a pickle as the playoffs approach.

One wide receiver that’s a model of consistency this season is Adam Thielen. He’s the only receiver with at least five catches in every game this year. Thielen and the Vikings earned a big win over the upstart Rams Sunday. His 65-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter put the game away for Minnesota. Thielen finished with six catches, 123 yards and a TD. He’ll try to extend his three-game scoring streak going against the Lions in Detroit. They held him to five catches and 59 yards in Week 4.

The Lions had a strong defensive performance that week and there were some big ones in Week 11. The Ravens, Jaguars, Chargers and Eagles all had huge performances.

The Chargers had an amazing first half against the rookie quarterback for the Bills. Nathan Peterman threw five interceptions and got benched. The Chargers also scored twice to go with a forced fumble and a sack.

The Jags had five sacks, three forced fumble and a touchdown. The Ravens had six sacks, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

Defenses are an overlooked starting position and you’d do well to have a couple of options available in the final weeks of the regular season.

As you get ready for the final push, feel comfortable riding the usual suspects to big weeks. Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Roethlisberger are safe bets to keep being productive. Brady threw for 339 yards and three touchdowns while Brees topped out at 385 yards and two scores. Roethlisberger had the best performance in Week 11, throwing four touchdown passes. He has just one tough matchup the rest of the season.

Carson Wentz had a nice week as well, but it will be interesting to see how he does in the next three weeks. He faces the Bears, Seahawks and Rams, all teams in the top-10 in points allowed to quarterbacks. You have to respect what he can do at this point, however.

As for running backs, the dynamic duo in New Orleans continues to be outstanding. Mark Ingram rushed just 11 times for 134 yards and a touchdown. That’s 12.2 yards per carry. Alvin Kamara caught six passes for 74 yards and had a great juggling touchdown reception. He gained 116 yards from scrimmage.

LeSean McCoy, Latavius Murray and Jordan Howard also had big weeks. McCoy rushed for 114 yards and had both a rushing and receiving touchdown. Murray was more effective than Jerick McKinnon this week, rushing for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Howard rushed for 125 yards and scored.

Two rookies impressed in Week 11 as well, but face two different roads to end the season. D’Onta Foreman had his best game as a Texan, rushing for 65 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, he may have torn his Achilles on his final carry of the day. Samaje Perine broke out for the first time this season as he rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown. He’ll be a big waiver wire addition this week, especially since Chris Thompson is out for the season with a broken leg.

It probably wouldn’t surprise you to hear that Antonio Brown had the best week for wideouts this week. He gained 144 yards and scored three times on Thursday night.

It probably would surprise you to hear that Keenan Allen had the next best week among receivers. It was his most productive week as he caught 12 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns.

Another surprise came from Kenny Stills. It’s apparent that Moore likes the receiver. Stills finished with 180 yards and a touchdown.

Here are some waiver wire options to help you try to get to the postseason.

Top waiver wire picks

Samaje Perine, RB, Redskins: 117 yards, TD.

Blaine Gabbert, QB, Cardinals: 257 yards passing, 3 TDs, 2 INTs. He didn’t look bad against the Texans and could serve as another option for your team if you’re weak at quarterback.

Corey Coleman, WR, Browns: 6 rec., 80 yards. He returned to action and looks pretty good if you’re in desperate need for an outside option.

Ricky Seals-Jones, TE, Cardinals: 3 rec., 54 yards, 2TDs. The converted wide receiver seems to be a decent target for Gabbert.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy football Week 10 recap and top waiver wire picks

Just two running backs rushed for more than 100 yards in Week 10. Lucky for the New Orleans Saints, both running backs are on their team.

In what has become one of the best addition-by-subtraction moves this season, the departure of Adrian Peterson has unleashed a dangerous backfield for the Saints. Mark Ingram rushed 21 times for 131 yards and three touchdowns for his most productive game of the year. Alvin Kamara rushed 12 times for 106 yards and a touchdown, in addition to catching five passes for 32 yards. I suggested starting both in my start-sit column last Thursday because there’s enough opportunity to go around.

RELATED: Fantasy football Week 11 rankings.

In a game in which the Saints nearly scored 50 points, it was somewhat puzzling that Drew Brees didn’t have a touchdown pass. The Saints were so successful rushing the ball that they didn’t need to put up points through the air. Even Brees rushed for a score while only throwing for 184 yards.

A good amount of Brees’ passing yards went to Michael Thomas, who isn’t getting the credit he deserves this season as a fantasy asset. He may not be an exciting, high-ceiling type of player, but he’ll give you a nice scoring minimum each week. Thomas hasn’t caught a touchdown pass since Week 4, but he crossed the century mark for the first time this season with 117 yards receiving Sunday.

Michael Thomas #13 of the New Orleans Saints attempts to catch the ball as Leonard Johnson #24 of the Buffalo Bills attempts to defend him during the second quarter on November 12, 2017 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Robert Woods had the best week catching passes, hauling in eight balls for 171 yards and two touchdowns for the Rams. His biggest play came on a 94-yard connection with Jared Goff. It was Woods’ second straight week scoring two touchdowns. I suggested you pick him up last week and if you did then he paid off for you right away.

Goff was one of my starts of the week and he came through with 355 yards passing and three touchdowns. He has nine touchdown passes and just one interception over his last four games. Goff is nearly a must-start every week. His three worst games came against the Redskins, Seahawks and Jaguars.

Speaking of the Redskins, Kirk Cousins had a nice bounce-back performance as he faced the Vikings. He threw for 327 yards and a touchdown in addition to rushing for two more scores. Cousins has had a solid season in terms of fantasy production despite lacking a true No. 1 at the wideout position.

Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins throws the ball during an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

A couple of quarterbacks that had some surprisingly productive days were Case Keenum and C.J. Beathard. Keenum put up 304 passing yards and tossed four touchdown passes for the Vikings. Beathard led the 49ers to their first win of the season as he threw for 288 yards and a touchdown pass.

Keenum’s success was due in large part to the play of Adam Thielen, who had eight catches for 166 yards and a touchdown. He’s the top receiver for the Vikings, even when Stephon Diggs is healthy in my opinion, and has been targeted at least eight times in every game since Week 3.

Another No. 1 receiver, who hasn’t been playing like one, is A.J. Green of the Bengals. The big-play receiver didn’t even finish last week’s game due to being kicked out for fighting in the first half. Green finally broke out of a three-week funk in Week 10 as he caught five passes for 115 yards and a 70-yard score.

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green scores a touchdown on a 70-yard pass play against the Tennessee Titans in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

One receiver who has been thrust into a No. 1 role is Sterling Shepard. With both Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall out for the season, Shepard will have to be Eli Manning’s top wide receiver target. The second-year player hasn’t disappointed for fantasy purposes. He caught 11 of his 13 targets for a career-high 142 yards receiving. I saw him as a top waiver wire target last week and he could end up being worth it with a great schedule coming up.

One final top-trending wideout I’ll mention is JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Steelers. I suggested picking up the rookie after his huge Week 8 performance even though he was off last week. If you waited out the Pittsburgh bye then you were rewarded with a great performance. Smith-Schuster caught five passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. Even the return of Martavis Bryant didn’t put a damper on the rookie’s three-game TD streak.

On the defensive front, the Falcons led the way by sacking Dak Prescott eight times, forcing two fumbles and allowing just seven points to a once potent Cowboys offense.

Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys is sacked by Adrian Clayborn #99 of the Atlanta Falcons during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 12, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Without Ezekiel Elliott and starting right tackle Tyron Smith, Prescott definitely struggled to get going. He rushed for a touchdown early but was disappointing after that. Of course, if Prescott struggles that means Dez Bryant wasn’t productive either.

Other disappointing performances were turned in by Tyrod Taylor, Adrian Peterson, Devonta Freeman and Jordy Nelson.

Taylor was a victim to an emerging Saints defense. Peterson couldn’t match his Week 9 performance on a short week in which he rushed 21 times for 29 yards. Freeman left his game early due to a blow to the head and Nelson still can’t get on the same page with Brett Hundley.

You don’t have much room for poor performances as you ready for a playoff push. Here are the top waiver wire targets heading into Week 11.

Top waiver wire picks

Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers: 10 rushes, 42 yards, 5 rec., 77 yards, 2TDs. He’s a must-own handcuff for all Melvin Gordon owners.

Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars: 6 rec., 55 yards, TD. He’s still owned in less than 60 percent of leagues on some platforms. He has caught at least 72 yards or at least one TD in his last four games and has a favorable schedule coming up.

Orleans Darkwa, RB, Giants: 14 rushes, 70 yards. Darkwa is definitely the No. 1 running back for the Giants at this point. He passes the eye test and just needs a handful more touches in order to have real value.

Rex Burkhead, RB, Patriots: 10 rushes, 36 yards, 3 rec., 27 yards, TD. He’s getting involved and could end up being a winning flex play as you hit the playoff push.

Jermaine Gresham, TE, Cardinals: 5 rec., 64 yards, TD. He’s scored in each of the last two weeks and has a favorable schedule coming up and through the fantasy playoffs.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy football: Week 2 rankings

A weird Week 1 is in the books and with that we take a look forward to my Week 2 fantasy football rankings. Every week I’ll give you rankings for each position. Make sure to check back every Tuesday for analysis, trends and waiver wire advice throughout the season. In addition, every Thursday we’ll bring you start/sit suggestions. Rankings will be updated throughout the week so make sure to check back here.

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Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy Football: Week 1 Rankings

It’s finally here. Week 1 of the NFL regular season starts Thursday and that means the kickoff of the 2017 fantasy football season. Every week we’ll give you our rankings for each position. Here’s the first installment. Make sure to check back every Tuesday for analysis, trends and waiver wire advice throughout the season. In addition, every Thursday we’ll bring you start/sit suggestions.

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Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

17 for ’17: Fantasy Football Predictions for 2017

Fantasy football success can come through many avenues. It can come through dogged research and statistical analysis. It can come through eye tests and understanding likely game scripts. Sometimes success comes from going with your gut. Ideally, your preparation is a well-rounded mix, but there’s a lot to be said for that gut feeling. With the NFL season a week away from kicking off, here are 17 gut predictions for the upcoming fantasy football season. Make sure to stay updated up until your draft with our standard and PPR rankings.

1. David Johnson will rush for 1,000 yards and gain 1,000 yards receiving. Last season he was 121 yards shy of accomplishing the feat when he got hurt in the final game of the season. This time he’ll make it happen. The receiving corps isn’t outstanding, so he’ll have ample opportunity to be used in the passing game. He caught 80 passes last year, more than Brandin Cooks, Terrelle Pryor, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson and Pierre Garcon.

2. Todd Gurley won’t be as disappointing as last season, but he won’t finish the season as an RB1. While it’s great that Jeff Fisher is finally gone and Sammy Watkins is now on the team, Gurley still has a bad line in front of him. In addition to that, he just doesn’t look good when he has to make one guy miss. He rushed for 3.2 yards per carry last season and had a long run of just 24 yards.

3. Martavis Bryant will finish the season as a WR2 or better. Before he was suspended last season, he was targeted 92 times in 2015. He caught 50 passes for 765 yards and six touchdowns. Bryant has looked solid in preseason and his talent is undeniable. He’ll definitely be able to hold off Eli Rogers, Sammie Coates and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

4. Marshawn Lynch won’t break 850 yards rushing. His coach said he doesn’t want to give him more than 200 rushing attempts. It’ll be tough for him to be an RB1 with that volume. Also, people forget that before he was injured in 2015, he wasn’t playing very well. He had 417 yards on 111 carries for a 3.8 yard per carry average. He scored just three times.

5. Jay Cutler will make DeVante Parker a WR2 and Julius Thomas a TE1. Smoking Jay Cutler has never lacked ability. He just needs a good situation in which to thrive. If he can get the ball out quickly and rely on Jay Ajayi’s running ability, the passing game will open up and provide nice numbers Parker and Thomas wouldn’t have gotten with Ryan Tannehill.

6. LeGarrette Blount will have major regression, rushing for less than 8 touchdowns this season. He had 18 rushing touchdowns last season and won’t come close to that production this year. The running style of the Eagles isn’t conducive to Blount’s style. The Eagles’ best back last year rushed for just 661 yards. Blount was in a perfect situation last year. He won’t repeat.

7. Dak Prescott will be a top-6 fantasy quarterback. The lack of Ezekiel Elliott for (likely) six games will force the Cowboys to rely on the second-year quarterback that has looked great in preseason. Prescott was third in quarterback rating last season, but threw for just 229 yards per game. That was 26th best last season. If he can keep the efficiency up in an increased passing role, his fantasy scoring could propel him to the top tier.

8. Jamison Crowder will score more fantasy points than Terrelle Pryor. He already has chemistry with Kirk Cousins, playing in all 32 games in his first two seasons. Crowder was targeted 97 times last season with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon both ahead of him last year. Pryor will be the focus of defenses, leaving Crowder with softer coverage.

9. Mark Ingram will be the best running back in New Orleans this season. He finally rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season, but the Saints brought in Adrian Peterson. Ingram had a very efficient season, rushing 205 times with a 5.1 yard per carry average. He’s rushed for at least six touchdowns in each of the last three seasons. What’s even more encouraging is his reception numbers over the last two seasons. He’s caught 96 passes in the last two years. Ingram had four receiving touchdowns last year.

10. Jeremy Hill will win out in the battle of the Bengals running backs. Joe Mixon looks like he can do anything, and he probably can if his head coach lets him loose. But Marvin Lewis doesn’t like to do that. Gio Bernard will remain the third-down back and provide a change of pace. Hill is a veteran and is nursing an ankle injury now, but if he stays healthy then Lewis will trust him.

11. Nobody will have 100 receptions this season. Just three receivers had more than 100 receptions last season. Larry Fitzgerald (107), Antonio Brown (106) and Odell Beckham Jr. (101) were the only players to accomplish that feat last year. Fitzgerald is getting old, Brown will share targets with Bryant and Beckham Jr. has Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram to contend with. The player that was next closest was Julian Edelman with 98 catches.

12. Matthew Stafford will respond to his mega contract with a top-8 fantasy performance this season. When the Lions didn’t draft one of the many available running backs, it became clear that they are happy with Stafford throwing the ball. Last season he threw 594 passes and the Lions rushed just 350 times, tied for the league low. With two agile, pass-catching running backs and a lot of receiving options, Stafford will put up big numbers.

13. Zach Ertz will be a top-5 tight end. Ertz was the number one receiving option in Philly last season, but when Alshon Jeffery joined the team it seemed he’d take a back seat. He may not be the top option for the Eagles anymore, but Jordan Matthews shipping off to Buffalo opens things back up. Ertz might be the No. 2 option but put up bigger raw numbers since he won’t be the focus of the defense.

14. Keenan Allen will play 16 games for the first time in his career. He’s looked great in the preseason and after playing just nine games in two years I’ve got a feeling he finally puts an entire season together. If he can pull that off, he’ll likely post career highs in catches and yards.

15. Andrew Luck won’t start the season, but he’ll end up as a QB1. He hasn’t practiced all preseason after undergoing shoulder surgery seven months ago. Chuck Pagano is being tight-lipped on the quarterback’s availability. It’s definitely a situation to be concerned about. But I just have a gut feeling that he’ll be back before too long. The good news is he’s falling in most drafts. You may be able to take him a lot later than his ADP (8th round). He’s going as low as the 11th in some drafts.

16. At least five rookie running backs will be RB1 or RB2 status. Leonard Fournette will benefit from volume while Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey can showcase versatility. D’Onta Foreman has looked great in preseason and it doesn’t take him a lot of touches to be productive. He’ll play second fiddle to Lamar Miller early, but he could break out when given the opportunity.

17. Kareem Hunt will be the top-performing rookie, outpacing the running backs mentioned in prediction No. 16. Spencer Ware had a great season last year, except he didn’t get into the end zone often. If Hunt continues to look like he does in preseason, with little competition in KC, he could end up as a high-end RB2 or even a low-end RB1. The Chiefs offensive scheme benefits the rookie greatly.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.