We’re at the point of the NFL offseason when most of the major events have passed, and now all 32 teams have almost completed rebuilding their identities. Every year, free agency and the NFL Draft restructures the NFL landscape. Some teams make significant changes while others look to simply shave off the rough edges of already solid roster components.
Now is also a time to start analyzing and deciphering how all these changes impact the Fantasy Football world. Since it’s still rather early, today I’d like to go over some of the bigger acquisitions; the most impactful ones like the most promising Fantasy rookies and the players who switched teams and how that affects their draft stock.
The Rookie Class
The Following are my Top 3 projected rookies for 2017 Fantasy Football:
Corey Davis, WR, Titans – The fifth pick overall in this year’s draft. Some might say this was a reach at five, but the Titans biggest need on offense was a WR and now they have one, and a very good one at that. Davis is a tall, physical wideout who excels with his route-running ability and aggressive nature to the ball. Although most would agree that he isn’t the best skill position player drafted, he did go to the perfect team for his skill set, and that’s why he’s ranked here.
The Titans desperately needed a big, red zone playmaker for their passing game. Their running game was spectacular last season with the one-two punch of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. On the flip side, their wideouts were inconsistent and lacked overall talent. This is a case in which a single addition can make all the difference for a team, and you can be sure Marcus Mariota will be looking for Davis early and often in 2017, making him my pick to become the highest scoring rookie in Fantasy.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers – The eighth overall pick in the draft, McCaffrey is a multi-dimensional weapon who uses his vision and elusiveness to create space. The Panthers might have reached a bit on McCaffrey but once again, this is exactly what they needed on their offense. Their wide receiver corps wasn’t anything to get excited about last season, especially after Kelvin Benjamin’s less than mediocre comeback season, so they could’ve gone with a big playmaking wideout as well. However, Carolina still has the makings of a more ground and pound based team even though their secondary was torched often in 2016. One of the keys here is to keep Cam Newton healthy by running the ball with more authority while also killing some clock and tiring defenses in the process.
The Panthers haven’t had a quality pass catching back in a while, and Jonathan Stewart is an average at best pounder up the middle with no other key attributes. McCaffrey adds an element they desperately needed, and this addition can really help keep the offense on the field and minimize the opportunities for opposing offenses to key on their shaky secondary. His usage may vary, and that’s why I have Davis ahead of him, but it will grow as the season progresses. Plus, his pass-catching ability makes him a big threat in PPR leagues, not to mention his propensity to be an electric kick/punt returner, which adds value in leagues that award you for that.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans – This might be a gutsy call because it’s rare for a rookie quarterback to become Fantasy-relevant, but in this case, I’ll make an exception. Why? First of all, to me he will be the best QB of this draft class when it’s all said and done. Secondly, he’s a perfect fit in Houston. The Texans won their division last season, although it was pretty much by default because of poor play throughout the division. They were an above average team because of their strong defensive play. On the surface, it may look like their defense was exploited on more than a few occasions, but a lot of it had to do with how poor their offense was. The Texans had one of the worst offenses in the league, if not the worst, and most of it had to do with extremely poor performances at quarterback. Now, with Osweiler gone, Watson has a great opportunity to turn this offense around, and it’s not like the Texans don’t have the playmakers to do it.
The running game wasn’t very good, but Lamar Miller and the offensive line isn’t completely at fault here; it all stems from the QB play. The receivers have talent. I even believe there’s explosive talent within this group with big playmaker DeAndre Hopkins and speed demon Will Fuller now in his second season. I still believe Lamar Miller has talent and will bounce back nicely this season. So, it rides on the shoulders of the multi-talented Deshaun Watson, and if my assessment is correct, he has all the makings to become a Top-12 Fantasy QB in 2017.
Others That Will Have a Significant Impact
- David Njoku, TE, Browns
- Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars
- Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings
- John Ross, WR, Bengals
- Mike Williams, WR, Chargers
- OJ Howard, TE, Buccaneers
- Evan Engram, TE, Giants
Players Who Switched Teams
Latavius Murray, RB, Vikings – Murray is a large, strong, and fast in a straight line back. Many people don’t believe in him, but I do. He proved he can carry a full load in 2016 after a mediocre 2015 season with the Raiders. He was a touchdown vulture last season and had a decent yards per carry total, not to mention his above average ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. I feel the Raiders misused him a little by throwing both Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington into the mix way too often. Murray did miss a few games last season due to injury, and at times the Raiders missed his presence. The issue in Minnesota will be the acquisition of rookie Dalvin Cook, who figures to take at least half the load away from Murray. No worries here, though, Cook’s a rookie who will need to adjust to NFL play speed, and the Vikings are built to run with a very solid defense and sub-par QB play. Murray will see his fair share of carries, and although he may not have the same bludgeoning offensive live he did in Oakland, he will surely see more touches.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Patriots – This is more of a 1A than a two here because Cooks theoretically should have a bigger impact in Fantasy circles than Murray; but there are some things that concern me. First, other good and great receivers have come to New England in the past and didn’t perform well at all, a la Chad Ochocinco. The Pats are also a strange team. Belichick switches up his game plan constantly. One week he may run the ball 30 times and the next he may pass it 50 times; it all depends. Cooks is somewhat of a streaky player as it is, so this doesn’t help his case. He’s a home run hitter and an over the top threat; he is very talented but undersized and sometimes makes big errors. The Pats like to spread the love around to all their components, so Cooks might be very frustrating to own.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Saints – I was torn between Peterson and Alshon Jeffery here, but his pedigree and new team give him the edge here. The Saints are a high flying, high powered machine. The Vikings, on the other hand, were never even close. Finally, Peterson will have the opportunity to run wild with a prolific offense and quarterback, this should be very interesting. One of my concerns is Mark Ingram, who isn’t a bad back and doesn’t get the credit he deserves; I also believe he’s been misused in New Orleans. Ingram will clearly take touches away from Peterson, but maybe they’ll use him on third downs and in the passing game, where he’s excelled at times. Either way, Peterson is a legendary back with the strongest work ethic and drive I’ve ever seen. So I expect him to have a very big year with these Saints unless, of course, he gets injured again; the biggest reason he’s number three on my list instead of one.