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.

2017 fantasy football position rankings: Running Backs

Continuing our series of position rankings for the upcoming 2017 fantasy football season, we’ll take a look at running backs before turning to wide receivers next week. We’ve ranked the QBs from 1 to 32. We’ll rank the running backs from 1-36, the wide receivers 1-36 and the tight ends 1-24. Defenses and kickers will be ranked 1-12.

The top three running backs are so close, but I give the edge to David Johnson since he had 80 receptions last year and caught passes for more yards than Dez Bryant, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall and Jordan Reed.

1. David Johnson, Cardinals—He nearly carried the ball 300 times last season and caught 80 passes. There’s no reason to think he won’t be used to that degree yet again.

2. Le’Veon Bell, Steelers—No worries about an early-season suspension this time around. I had him No. 1 early in my rankings, but Johnson’s touches gave him the edge at this point.

3. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys—Elliott couldn’t have had a better rookie season. Given that, you have to assume he has just a tiny bit of regression. The Cowboys will also want to save him from too much work by using Darren McFadden to relieve some pressure.

4. LeSean McCoy, Bills—Mike Gillislee is in New England now, so if McCoy can stay healthy he might get even more work than he already does.

5. Jordan Howard, Bears—Howard gained the most yardage between the tackles in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus. He should see an increase in touches given that he’ll likely be playing with a rookie quarterback at some point.

Jordan Howard #24 of the Chicago Bears is hit by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix #21 of the Green Bay Packers as he scores a touchdown in the 4th quarter at Soldier Field on December 18, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Packers defeated the Bears 30-27. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

6. Melvin Gordon, Chargers—Gordon’s value has been improved by this offseason. Danny Woodhead is a Raven and the Chargers didn’t draft a running back, they drafted two offensive linemen. Gordon will continue to dominate touches in the backfield.

7. Devonta Freeman, Falcons—Have no fear of Tevin Coleman, Freeman actually is more productive when Coleman gets touches. If the Falcons can continue to run a potent offense without Kyle Shanahan, Freeman will do well.

Devonta Freeman #24 of the Atlanta Falcons fails to reach the pylon against Vinnie Sunseri #40 of the San Francisco 49ers during the first half at the Georgia Dome on December 18, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

8. DeMarco Murray, Titans—He surprised some people last season, given his average draft position was in mid-to-later rounds. Murray suffered from Chip Kelly’s sideways run scheme the year before so he was undervalued in drafts in 2016. He seems to be back to his Cowboys-era self.

9. Jay Ajayi, Dolphins—Three games rushing for at least 200 yards can’t be ignored. Plus, it looks as if he’s making strides in the passing game. He showed his ability as a pass catcher in college so if he improves in that portion of his game he could be remarkable.

10. Lamar Miller, Texans—The addition of D’Onta Foreman may end up helping Miller stay fresh all season. Quality touches will be the key to his success in addition to decent volume.

11. Todd Gurley, Rams—He remains an RB1 despite his rough season last year. That’s because the volume is still there. His bad season probably means he can be had in the second round. But he’ll end up being undervalued if he goes after the first.

Todd Gurley #30 of the Los Angeles Rams rushes for a first down during the fourth quarter of the game against the Carolina Panthers at the Los Angeles Coliseum on November 6, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

 

12. Spencer Ware, Chiefs—He got great news when the Chiefs didn’t re-sign Jamaal Charles, but they did end up drafting Kareem Hunt. Keep an eye on training camp to make sure Ware holds firm to the starting spot.

13. C.J. Anderson, Broncos

14. Isaiah Crowell, Browns

15. Carlos Hyde, 49ers

16. Mark Ingram, Saints

17. Tevin Coleman, Falcons

18. Adrian Peterson, Saints

19. Latavius Murray, Vikings

20. Eddie Lacy, Seahawks

21. Leonard Fournette, Jaguars

22. Marshawn Lynch, Raiders

23. Doug Martin, Buccaneers

24. Mike Gillislee, Patriots

25. Robert Kelley, Redskins

26. Ty Montgomery, Packers

27. Jeremy Hill, Bengals

28. Derrick Henry, Titans

29. Frank Gore, Colts

30. Bilal Powell, Jets

31. Ameer Abdullah, Lions

32. Christian McCaffrey, Panthers

33. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers

34. Paul Perkins, Giants

35. Matt Forte, Jets

36. Joe Mixon, Bengals

Fantasy football Week 10 recap and waiver wire suggestions

Week 10 produced a lot of late-game drama as well as two of the best games of the season. The contest between the Cowboys and Steelers had seven lead changes, as did the game between the Seahawks and Patriots on Sunday night.

Having his best game as a pro, Ezekiel Elliott totaled 209 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning 32-yard touchdown in the final seconds. He started the day with an 83-yard touchdown reception, gaining most of the yardage after a short catch. He was easily the highest-scoring running back of the week.

Ben Roethlisberger had the best fantasy game as a quarterback, throwing for 408 yards and three touchdowns. The difference between Big Ben’s play at home versus the road is remarkable. Keep that in mind when deciding whether to start him in the future. He has two nice matchups coming up, but after that things could get rough.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

Roethlisberger’s brilliant fake spike and eventual touchdown pass to Antonio Brown nearly clinched the victory for the Steelers. Brown caught 14 passes for 154 yards and a score to lead all receivers in fantasy points this week.

Not completely overshadowed was Dez Bryant, who made six catches for 116 yards, including a 50-yard score. It was a great recovery from last week’s dud against a bad Browns defense.

Dak Prescott continued to be a solid start for fantasy owners. He threw for 319 yards and two touchdowns. He did lose a fumble, but that didn’t mar his fourth straight game with multiple touchdown passes.

Speaking of touchdown passes, there were 15 quarterbacks who threw for at least two touchdowns this week.

Among the best performers were Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Marcus Mariota and Russell Wilson.

Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints throws the ball during the second half of a game against the Denver Broncos at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 13, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints throws the ball during the second half of a game against the Denver Broncos at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 13, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Rodgers has accounted for at least three touchdowns in four straight weeks. He threw for 371 yards and rushed for 27.

Brees has been a must-start for years now, as evidenced by his 303-yard, 3 TD performance against a tough Broncos defense.

Wilson looked like his old, mobile self on Sunday night, throwing for 348 yards and three touchdowns.

Mariota is arguably the hottest fantasy quarterback and just had his sixth straight great performance. He threw for 295 yards and four touchdowns in the blowout win over the Packers.

Marcus Mariota #8 of the Tennessee Titans runs with the ball during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Nissan Stadium on November 13, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Marcus Mariota #8 of the Tennessee Titans runs with the ball during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Nissan Stadium on November 13, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

A big part of that win was DeMarco Murray, who rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown. It was his fifth game rushing for more than 100 yards. He hasn’t had a bad game all year and even threw a touchdown pass this week.

Other top performers out of the backfield were Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount, David Johnson and Ryan Mathews.

Mathews was a bit of a surprise after his head coach claimed Darren Sproles was the no. 1 back on the team earlier in the week.

Ryan Mathews #24 of the Philadelphia Eagles leaps over Robert Alford #23 of the Atlanta Falcons to score a touchdown in the fourth quarter during a game at Lincoln Financial Field on November 13, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Falcons 24-15. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Ryan Mathews #24 of the Philadelphia Eagles leaps over Robert Alford #23 of the Atlanta Falcons to score a touchdown in the fourth quarter during a game at Lincoln Financial Field on November 13, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Falcons 24-15. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Bell and Johnson each totaled over 100 yards from scrimmage while scoring twice. Blount scored three times while rushing for 69 yards.

In addition to Brown and Bryant, this week’s top wide receivers were Jordy Nelson, Doug Baldwin, Allen Robinson, Tyrell Williams and Stefon Diggs. Wideouts had a good week, as 10 of them had 100-yard games.

Tight ends made their impact this week with ten of them catching a touchdown. Delanie Walker led the pack with 124 yards and a score. Cameron Brate had 84 yards and a touchdown. Martellus Bennett didn’t score but had 102 yards.

Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker (82) tries to get past Green Bay Packers free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21) in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker (82) tries to get past Green Bay Packers free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21) in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

That brings us to the other tight end in New England who was a bust this week. Rob Gronkowski had just three catches for 56 yards. The Seahawks are great, but Gronk is usually able to produce big numbers despite the matchup.

Tom Brady was also disappointing as he failed to throw a TD for the first time this season in addition to throwing his first pick.

Jay Cutler should have done way better against the Bucs. He had less than 200 yards passing and accounted for three turnovers. On that same note, Alshon Jeffery turned in a stinker as well. And now he’ll miss the next four games due to a PED violation.

Brandon Marshall, Ty Montgomery, DeAndre Hopkins and Mike Evans all disappointed.

Out of the backfield Carlos Hyde, Todd Gurley and Jonathan Stewart didn’t come through.

Waiver wire suggestions:

Running backs

C.J. Prosise, Seahawks (23 touches-153 yards)

Thomas Rawls, Seahawks (Pete Carroll says he’s ready)

James Starks, Packers (10-44, TD)

Wide receivers

Jamison Crowder, Redskins (4-37, TD)

Tight ends

Ladarius Green, Steelers (3-30, just missed TD catch)

Defense/special teams

Whichever defense is facing the Browns that week

Fantasy football position rankings heading into final weekend of drafts

It’s the final weekend before the fantasy football season kicks off. Here’s a look at my position rankings for the upcoming season. For quarterbacks I’ve listed two deep for a 12-team league. I’ve listed three deep for running backs and four deep for wide receivers. I’ve also listed the top 12 tight ends and defense/special teams.

Quarterbacks

1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
2. Cam Newton, Panthers—I don’t think he’ll be quite as productive as he was last year, which is why I have him behind Aaron Rodgers.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) looks to pass during an NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) looks to pass during an NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

3. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
4. Andrew Luck, Colts
5. Drew Brees, Saints
6. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
7. Tom Brady, Patriots
8. Blake Bortles, Jaguars
9. Carson Palmer, Cardinals—I’ve dropped him a couple of spots from the last time out because he hasn’t looked great in preseason. Plus there’s always the fear of him getting hurt. If he stays healthy, he’s got the weapons to end up as a top-5 quarterback.

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws prior to an NFL preseason football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws prior to an NFL preseason football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

10. Eli Manning, Giants
11. Philip Rivers, Chargers
12. Derek Carr, Raiders
13. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jets
14. Tyrod Taylor, Bills
15. Kirk Cousins, Redskins
16. Jameis Winston, Buccaneers
17. Matthew Stafford, Lions
18. Andy Dalton, Bengals
19. Marcus Mariota, Titans
20. Matt Ryan, Falcons
21. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
22. Alex Smith, Chiefs
23. Jay Cutler, Bears
24. Brock Osweiler, Texans

Running backs

1. David Johnson, Cardinals—I think he has the potential to be the best back in the league. That said, he will probably not be the first running back taken in your draft. If not, make sure you don’t pass him up.

David Johnson #31 of the Arizona Cardinals runs with the ball against the Houston Texans in the first quarter of a preseason NFL game at NRG Stadium on August 28, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
David Johnson #31 of the Arizona Cardinals runs with the ball against the Houston Texans in the first quarter of a preseason NFL game at NRG Stadium on August 28, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

2. Todd Gurley, Rams
3. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
4. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
5. Lamar Miller, Texans
6. Le’Veon Bell, Steelers
7. Eddie Lacy, Packers
8. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
9. Mark Ingram, Saints
10. LeSean McCoy, Bills
11. Devonta Freeman, Falcons
12. Doug Martin, Buccaneers
13. C.J. Anderson, Broncos
14. Latavius Murray, Raiders
15. Thomas Rawls, Seahawks
16. Jeremy Hill, Bengals
17. Matt Forte, Jets
18. DeMarco Murray, Titans
19. Carlos Hyde, 49ers
20. Jeremy Langford, Bears
21. Melvin Gordon, Chargers
22. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
23. Ryan Mathews, Eagles
24. Frank Gore, Colts
25. DeAngelo Williams, Steelers
26. Arian Foster, Dolphins
27. Matt Jones, Redskins
28. Chris Ivory, Jaguars
29. Gio Bernard, Bengals
30. Derrick Henry, Titans
31. Rashad Jennings, Giants
32. Duke Johnson, Browns
33. Danny Woodhead, Chargers
34. Ameer Abdullah, Lions
35. Isaiah Crowell, Browns
36. Christine Michael, Seahawks

Wide receivers

1. Antonio Brown, Steelers
2. Odell Beckham Jr., Giants
3. Julio Jones, Falcons
4. DeAndre Hopkins, Texans—Really excited to see what he can do with Will Fuller, Jaelen Strong and Braxton Miller spreading the defense thin.

DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans looks for room after a reception against the Arizona Cardinals in the first quarter of a preseason NFL game at NRG Stadium on August 28, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans looks for room after a reception against the Arizona Cardinals in the first quarter of a preseason NFL game at NRG Stadium on August 28, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

5. A.J. Green, Bengals
6. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
7. Allen Robinson, Jaguars
8. Brandon Marshall, Jets
9. Jordy Nelson, Packers
10. Mike Evans, Buccaneers
11. Keenan Allen, Chargers
12. Amari Cooper, Raiders
13. Alshon Jeffery, Bears
14. Sammy Watkins, Bills
15. Brandin Cooks, Saints
16. T.Y. Hilton, Colts
17. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
18. Randall Cobb, Packers
19. Jeremy Maclin, Chiefs
20. Donte Moncrief, Colts
21. Eric Decker, Jets
22. Jarvis Landry, Dolphins
23. Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers
24. Doug Baldwin, Seahawks
25. Michael Floyd, Cardinals
26. Julian Edelman, Patriots
27. Josh Gordon, Browns
28. Marvin Jones, Lions
29. Golden Tate, Lions
30. Allen Hurns, Jaguars
31. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
32. Tyler Lockett, Seahawks
33. John Brown, Cardinals
34. Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos
35. Jordan Matthews, Eagles
36. DeSean Jackson, Redskins
37. Sterling Shepard, Giants
38. Michael Crabtree, Raiders
39. Kevin White, Bears
40. Willie Snead, Saints
41. Corey Coleman, Browns
42. Stefon Diggs, Vikings
43. Torrey Smith, 49ers
44. Tavon Austin, Rams
45. Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers
46. Travis Benjamin, Chargers
47. Laquon Treadwell, Vikings
48. Michael Thomas, Saints

Tight ends

1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
2. Jordan Reed, Redskins
3. Greg Olsen, Panthers
4. Travis Kelce, Chiefs
5. Delanie Walker, Titans
6. Coby Fleener, Saints
7. Gary Barnidge, Browns—He may not duplicate last year’s numbers, but Robert Griffin III could use him as a security blanket.

Tight end Gary Barnidge #82 of the Cleveland Browns catches a touchdown pass during the first half of the preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 18, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Tight end Gary Barnidge #82 of the Cleveland Browns catches a touchdown pass during the first half of the preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 18, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

8. Tyler Eifert, Bengals
9. Julius Thomas, Jaguars
10. Antonio Gates, Chargers
11. Zach Ertz, Eagles
12. Jimmy Graham, Seahawks

Defense/special teams

1. Broncos
2. Seahawks
3. Cardinals
4. Panthers
5. Texans—They’ve got a Week 1 matchup against a hurting Bears offense and J.J. Watt may be healthy enough to play by then.

Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints is sacked by Jadeveon Clowney #90 of the Houston Texans, John Simon #51 and Whitney Mercilus #59 in the first quarter durting a preseason NFL game at NRG Stadium on August 20, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints is sacked by Jadeveon Clowney #90 of the Houston Texans, John Simon #51 and Whitney Mercilus #59 in the first quarter durting a preseason NFL game at NRG Stadium on August 20, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

6. Vikings
7. Rams
8. Chiefs
9. Patriots
10. Bengals
11. Jets
12. Raiders

Fantasy football Top 100 heading into final weekend of drafts

It’s the final weekend before the fantasy football season kicks off. No matter what kind of league you’re in, a just-for-fun league or a serious money league, you’ll need a cheat sheet. Here’s what we’re offering up at the Statesman. So without further ado, here are the top 100 fantasy football players in standard leagues for 2016.

Top 100 overall

1. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers
2. David Johnson, RB, Cardinals
3. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants
4. Todd Gurley, RB, Rams
5. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
6. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
7. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys–In the last week, his average draft position has jumped from the tenth pick of the first round to the sixth. Seeing his performance in the third preseason game got a lot of owners excited. I’ve got him seventh on the board.

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) rushes against the Seattle Seahawks in the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, in Seattle. The Seahawks beat the Cowboys 27-17. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) rushes against the Seattle Seahawks in the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, in Seattle. The Seahawks beat the Cowboys 27-17. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

8. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans
9. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals
10. Lamar Miller, RB, Texans
11. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys
12. Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars
13. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots
14. Brandon Marshall, WR, Jets
15. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers
16. Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers
17. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers
18. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers
19. Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers
20. Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs–The lastest word is that he’s running behind on his recovery. It’s the second time he’s had to recover from an ACL injury. Spencer Ware is taking first team reps right now, but it’s not yet clear if Charles will actually miss any games.
21. Mark Ingram, RB, Saints
22. LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills
23. Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons
24. Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers
25. Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders
26. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears
27. Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills
28. Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints
29. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts
30. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos–You can say he’s attempting to have a bounce back year, but not many receivers need to bounce back after catching 105 passes for over 1,300 yards while scoring six touchdowns. I’m a believer in Trevor Siemian so Thomas could be great again.

Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) makes the catch as Los Angeles Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson (22) pursues during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)
Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) makes the catch as Los Angeles Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson (22) pursues during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

31. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
32. Cam Newton, QB, Panthers
33. C.J. Anderson, RB, Broncos
34. Latavius Murray, RB, Raiders
35. Randall Cobb, WR, Packers
36. Thomas Rawls, RB, Seahawks
37. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Chiefs
38. Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals
39. Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins
40. Matt Forte, RB, Jets
41. DeMarco Murray, RB, Titans
42. Donte Moncrief, WR, Colts–He’s in line for a breakout year. He can play like a possession receiver, but he’s got the skills of a deep threat. If he ends up combining those abilities he could end up being the best receiver in Indy.

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Donte Moncrief (10) walks off the field following an NFL preseason football game in Indianapolis, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016. The Eagles defeated the Colts 33-23. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Donte Moncrief (10) walks off the field following an NFL preseason football game in Indianapolis, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016. The Eagles defeated the Colts 33-23. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

43. Eric Decker, WR, Jets
44. Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins
45. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers
46. Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers
47. Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
48. Jeremy Langford, RB, Bears
49. Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers
50. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks
51. Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals
52. Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers
53. Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers
54. Andrew Luck, QB, Colts
55. Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots
56. Ryan Mathews, RB, Eagles–He had just over 100 carries last year because DeMarco Murray was in town. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry and if he remains healthy, big if, he should put up very good numbers.

Philadelphia Eagles running back Ryan Mathews (24) runs against the Indianapolis Colts during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Indianapolis, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Philadelphia Eagles running back Ryan Mathews (24) runs against the Indianapolis Colts during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Indianapolis, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

57. Drew Brees, QB, Saints
58. Josh Gordon, WR, Browns
59. Marvin Jones, WR, Lions
60. Golden Tate, WR, Lions
61. Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs
62. Frank Gore, RB, Colts
63. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers
64. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Steelers
65. Arian Foster, RB, Dolphins–If he’s available this late, don’t feel bad about taking him. He’s gone earlier in a lot of drafts, even as high as the third round. I don’t advise taking him earlier than the fifth round.

Miami Dolphins running back Arian Foster (34) slips past Atlanta Falcons strong safety Keanu Neal, left, during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Orlando, Fla., Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016.(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Miami Dolphins running back Arian Foster (34) slips past Atlanta Falcons strong safety Keanu Neal, left, during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Orlando, Fla., Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016.(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

66. Matt Jones, RB, Redskins
67. Allen Hurns, WR, Jaguars
68. Chris Ivory, RB, Jaguars
69. Gio Bernard, RB, Bengals
70. Delanie Walker, TE, Titans
71. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals
72. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
73. Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks
74. Derrick Henry, RB, Titans
75. John Brown, WR, Cardinals
76. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos
77. Rashad Jennings, RB, Giants
78. Coby Fleener, TE, Saints–Fleener’s got Drew Brees throwing him the ball, how can he not be a good option as your tight end.

Coby Fleener #82 of the New Orleans Saints is tackled by Lawrence Timmons #94 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on August 26, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Coby Fleener #82 of the New Orleans Saints is tackled by Lawrence Timmons #94 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on August 26, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

79. Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles
80. Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars
81. DeSean Jackson, WR, Redskins
82. Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers
83. Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals
84. Duke Johnson, RB, Browns
85. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Lions
86. Eli Manning, QB, Giants
87. Gary Barnidge, TE, Browns
88. Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants
89. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns–Both Browns running backs are pretty good value picks. Not much risk taking either of them this late, but they could pay off.

Cleveland Browns running back Isaiah Crowell (34) rushes for yardage during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla., Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Cleveland Browns running back Isaiah Crowell (34) rushes for yardage during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla., Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

90. Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders
91. Christine Michael, RB, Seahawks
92. T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jaguars
93. Kevin White, WR, Bears
94. Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals
95. Julius Thomas, TE, Jaguars
96. Broncos defense/special teams
97. Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers
98. Willie Snead, WR, Saints
99. Corey Coleman, WR, Browns
100. Charles Sims, RB, Buccaneers

It’s time to start mock drafting

It used to be a good idea, but now it’s pretty essential to go through a few mock drafts in order to prepare yourself for an upcoming fantasy football season. I took part in one this week and learned a couple of things. First off, here’s the team I selected in a standard league mock draft on NFL.com.

mymockteam

mymockteam2

Drafting from the tenth and final spot of the round posed an interesting challenge. The first mistake I made was not taking a running back with my first two picks in the snake order. Though there’s some depth at the position on this team, there’s no clear RB2. Some might argue that Carlos Hyde isn’t even an RB1 at this point, but if he’s healthy I think he will be. Questions are swirling around DeMarco Murray, T.J. Yeldon, Thomas Rawls and Dion Lewis, however.

The wide receiver spot looks pretty good with A.J. Green and Amari Cooper taking the WR1 and WR2 spots, with either Donte Moncrief or new Lions receiver Marvin Jones taking a flex spot.

Tight end is probably the most solid position, but with Rob Gronkowski going without Tom Brady for four games Coby Fleener could get a couple starts if he has an instant connection with Drew Brees.

Speaking of quarterbacks, Ben Roethlisberger is a solid starter with Antonio Brown as his main weapon and let’s hope he doesn’t have to miss any time with an aging Tony Romo as his backup.

A few other things I learned from the mock draft:

  • David Johnson is likely a top-5 pick. The person with the first pick in my mock draft took him, but he should probably go no lower than sixth.
  • Le’Veon Bell probably won’t be the first, or maybe even second, running back selected. My draft had Johnson and Todd Gurley go ahead of him.
  • Ezekiel Elliott is no-doubt a first round pick. He went eighth in this mock draft, but I’ve seen him go higher.
  • Don’t be surprised if the first round is half running backs, half wide receivers. Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green went in the first round of this mock.
  • Lamar Miller is right in the late first round, early second round territory. Don’t feel like you’re being too risky taking the new Texan in the first.
  • If DeMarco Murray has a bounce back year, someone will be happy having taken him in the sixth or later.

NFL rookies likely to make an immediate impact

Rookies always make an impact in fantasy football and if you make a smart pick on a first-year player he could help you get over on your fantasy competition. Todd Gurley, David Johnson and Amari Cooper were big contributors last season as rookies. Odell Beckham Jr. probably won a championship for some of you the year before as a rookie for the Giants. Here’s a look at some new talent that will make an early impact.

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys: This list has to start with Zeke. The buzz around him leading up to the draft increased daily and the Cowboys eschewed conventional wisdom to select what they must think is a special player. He has all the traits you want in an every-down back. He’s tough, with good size and has the speed to break off long runs. He can even catch the ball well out of the backfield. Add to that the fact he’ll be running behind one of the best offensive lines in the game and you could see why he could put up big numbers. The biggest obstacle to him impacting the game early on is the fact that he’s in a crowded backfield. Darren McFadden is still in town, and he rushed for over 1,000 yards for the first time since 2010 last year. But it was just his second time playing all 16 games. Add to that, Alfred Morris was signed as a free agent and Lance Dunbar is expected to fill a third-down role. That’s got to show how much the Cowboys think of Elliott, given that there’s barely room in the backfield. We think he’ll be the lead back early on and put up the best numbers of any rookie this season.

Ezekiel Elliott has all the attributes you want in a running back. He could play every down if the Cowboys trust him early on. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
Ezekiel Elliott has all the attributes you want in a running back. He could play every down if the Cowboys trust him early on. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)

Laquon Treadwell, WR, Vikings: With a young quarterback like Teddy Bridgewater, you’ll want a receiver who can win 50/50 balls. Treadwell is that kind of player, drawing comparisons to guys like DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins has produced with no-name qbs and Treadwell actually has a decent one in the backfield. We think he’ll produce the biggest numbers of rookie wideouts.

Josh Doctson, WR, Redskins: If anyone has a shot to be better than Treadwell as a rookie, it’s Doctson. He’ll be playing with the best quarterback of the rookie receivers on this list in Kirk Cousins. Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson will hold the WR1 and WR2 spots, but Jackson has missed eight games over the last two seasons and Garcon will be entering his ninth season.

Josh Doctson of TCU holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #22 overall by the Washington Redskins during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
Josh Doctson of TCU holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #22 overall by the Washington Redskins during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)

Corey Coleman, WR, Browns: He’s obviously in a bad place to win, but with the Browns needing lots of help at receiver, he should end up getting the lion’s share of targets. With no proven quarterback in town, his outlook isn’t great, but we could see him contributing to your team in your stars’ bye week or against a good matchup.

Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals: A.J. Green will be on the opposite side of the field and all Boyd will have to do is beat out Brandon LaFell, a player who has only caught more than 50 passes just once in five seasons. If Boyd can step up, he could start bringing in WR2-type numbers. With Green as the big-play threat, Boyd could fit in nicely as a possession receiver.

Derrick Henry, RB Titans: He’ll backup DeMarco Murray, but we just don’t trust Murray to stay healthy all season given that he’s done so just once in his five-year career. Henry should make an impact even if Murray is healthy because the Titans should run a lot.

Will Fuller, WR, Texans: His main role with Houston will be to free up DeAndre Hopkins by running off defenders. But that doesn’t mean he won’t hit the big play occasionally. He’s got the speed to run by anyone, though his hands are a bit of a liability. He won’t be a WR1 or WR2, but he could end up as a flex alternative if the Texans face a bad secondary that gives up the big play every once in a while.

Will Fuller will stretch the field for the Texans, but he's got to get better at catching the ball. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Will Fuller will stretch the field for the Texans, but he’s got to get better at catching the ball. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

C.J. Prosise, RB, Seahawks: Though Thomas Rawls was awesome last season, he’ll have more pressure to perform. Prosise’s value is in his pass-catching ability, but if Rawls struggles to perform as the starter, keep an eye out. We think Prosise is the logical handcuff to Rawls. The Seahawks must not be too confident in Rawls since they drafted three running backs.

Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants: If Victor Cruz has trouble coming back from injury, Shepard could find himself with WR2 numbers. Even if Cruz ends up bouncing back, Shepard can do some real damage in the slot. You can’t reach on him, but after you’ve got your top two receivers, feel free to go speculating.

Sterling Shepard could provide some useful fantasy numbers if Victor Cruz struggles to come back from injury. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Sterling Shepard could provide some useful fantasy numbers if Victor Cruz struggles to come back from injury. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Jordan Howard, RB, Bears: With the Matt Forte era over in Chicago it looks like Jeremy Langford who will fill the role. Don’t be surprised if Howard finds his way into a running-back-by-committee situation. He’s a bruising runner and if he’s not slow to the line he’ll be effective. He’ll put pressure on Langford not to falter.

Other likely contributors:
Kenneth Dixon, RB, Ravens
Devontae Booker, RB, Broncos
Paul Perkins, RB, Giants
Hunter Henry, TE, Chargers
Austin Hooper, TE, Falcons
Braxton Miller, WR, Texans
Michael Thomas, WR, Saints