32 Shamelessly Bold Predictions for the 2017 Fantasy Football Season
After years of arguing with @FFHitman and @JasonFFL, one of the most profound realities we have all come to know in fantasy football is the simple fact that we can, via bias and preference, bend stats and predictive analysis to our will if necessary. That is one of the reasons why having the three of us together on the show works so well for the listener. There are checks and balances to rein in our hopes and dreams, our hatred and burnt expectations. We argue, you benefit, and reason and logic reign (mostly).
This article serves to dispose of such rational thought and instead delivers to you my 32 shamelessly bold gut calls for the 2017 fantasy football season, one for each and every franchise in the NFL. These are my bold calls after an offseason of observation, film, and analysis has permeated my exoskeleton. After the dust settles on the season, we’ll see how many are truly outlandish and how many are accurate enough to hold over my cohorts heads in glorious prideful exuberance, the way any good fantasy football player should.
Disclaimer: Many of these are hot and spicy. Do with them as you will, whether that’s nothing at all or you base your entire season off of them. Just remember to pack your Pepto and hold on tight.
I give you my unabashed gut calls for 2017:
Miami Dolphins: Jay Ajayi will score 20 times
He’ll be the centerpiece of the offense and dominate touches on the ground and through the air. If he’s healthy, he’ll be a fantasy force. Draft him.
New York Jets: Austin Sefarian-Jenkins will end up a top 12 fantasy tight end
He’s sober, down 25 lbs, and still a freak athlete. With inexperienced WRs on the outside, he’ll be the go-to check down and a seam destroyer for whatever QB the Jets roll out week to week.
Buffalo Bills: Sammy Watkins will play 16 games
Perhaps the boldest of all takes, Sammy will finally play a full season. If for no other reason than the Bills passed on his option and things like that generally happen to Bills fans. I’m sorry. A full season of Sammy means a top 6 fantasy finish is in the realm of possibility.
New England Patriots: Julian Edelman will lead the NFL with 105+ receptions
Brandin Cooks is flash but Julian is pure production. I’m tired of the hype. Grab your lunch pail and go to work with the Brady-to-Edelman connection in 2017.
Baltimore Ravens: Danny Woodhead will lead the Ravens in both receptions and receiving yards
The mini mismatch is back again and in a perfect situation in Baltimore with Joe Flacco. I’m not impressed with the WR core and if Kyle Juszczyk can deliver fantasy value from the FB position, Woodhead is going to eat on a weekly basis.
Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton will be this year’s Matt Ryan
Dalton will surpass career highs in TDs (33) and yards in a season (4293) with the triumphant return of his weapons and the powerful pass catching of his RB’s (Mixon, Bernard).
Pittsburgh Steelers: JuJu will be an occasionally start-worthy revelation
The glisten of Antonio and flash of Martavis dominate fantasy owners view, but the wise Dynasty player will load up on shares of JuJu Smith-Schuster. The big-bodied slot receiver will carve out an important role and impress in year one.
Cleveland Browns: Isaiah Crowell will carry the ball 290 times
The Crow has never carried the rock 200 times in a season but will be counted on to tote the pigskin to the tune of 18 times a game in 2017. Just 24 years old, the freshly enhanced offensive line and improvements on defense will help Crowell to new career highs across the board.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Allen Robinson will disappoint you and Dynasty owners yet again
It pains me to write, but this team is ch-ch-ch-changing. The defense will prove to be a force and the investment in Leonard Fournette will slide the pendulum of conservative play too far to the don’t-let-Bortles-kill-us side of the aisle.
Houston Texans: Lamar Miller may be primed for early retirement
No one in the league had a worse elusiveness rating than Lamar Miller last year (PFF). He made Trent Richardson look good between the tackles. Most attribute it to injury, many to being overworked. I think Lamar’s best days are behind him…and you’ll think it too when 2017 ends.
Indianapolis Colts: Donte Moncrief will be this year’s Davante Adams
Queue the Moncrief music drop: Double digit touchdowns, paying off on the potential and expectations, league-dominating quarterback play. Moncrief will be hyper efficient in the red zone and stay healthy for the majority of the year. That’s all he needs to do to be a fantasy force, especially in standard leagues.
Tennessee Titans: Derrick Henry’s time has not yet come
Stop projecting the Henry breakout. I expect numbers to mirror his rookie season and DeMarco Murray to once again be the bell cow, king of the hill, and go-to RB in two-minute and passing situations. Henry will ride benches and be a less-than version of Tevin Coleman. The future is bright, but you’ll have to wait another year.
Kansas City Chiefs: Alex Smith and Spencer Ware lose their jobs
Perhaps not as bold a take as others, but a rough first half will have these two pals searching for work. Pat Mahomes and Kareem Hunt will usher in a new era of Chiefs football, replete with gunslinger play and shifty versatility. Cash in on your Ware shares early.
Los Angeles Chargers: Antonio Gates will remain Antonio Gates
Can’t stop, won’t stop. Gates will put up another top 12 finish on the back of go-to receptions and a pile of TD’s yet again. His fantasy finishes over the last 10 seasons include 9 in the top 10 and one that fell short due to injury. Rivers adores his now-slow frame and the rapport will be enough to annoy Hunter Henry owners in 2017.
Oakland Raiders: Amari will arrive
Amari Cooper’s first two seasons in the NFL are some of the best by any rookie / 2nd year wide receiver in history. Yet fantasy owners found themselves in the shadow of Michael Crabtree’s ever-consistent production. This year Amari Cooper will show the league exactly what consistent explosive play looks like and double his TD total (10) while he’s at it.
Denver Broncos: The 2018 starting Broncos RB is not on this roster
That’s another way of saying that CJ Anderson, Jamaal Charles, and now injured Devontae Booker are set to muddle through another season of disappointing fantasy performances for those on the hunt for a reliable RB option in Denver.
Dallas Cowboys: Dez Bryant won’t fulfill your hopes and dreams for him.
We all know the incredible fantasy player that Dez Bryant has been. 1300+ yards and 16 touchdowns in 2014 quickly remind us of what CAN happen when things go right for Dez. But here we are in 2017, a different quarterback, offense, and two seasons have passed in which he could not stay on the field or surpass 50 receptions. This team runs through Zeke now and while Dez will certainly have his boom games, don’t expect him to rise up as a fantasy force once again. He’ll be good, not great in 2017.
New York Giants: Brandon Marshall will be to Odell Beckham Jr. what Eric Decker was to Brandon Marshall.
Phew. The gist is this — the draft day value of Brandon Marshall in redraft leagues will far surpass the cost of Odell Beckham Jr. I have Beckham as my fifth highest ranked WR in 2017, but Marshall will give you TD heavy production and 80% of the production at a much lower cost.
Washington Redskins: Samaje Perine will make Rob Kelley feel like Matt Jones
Kelley was a revelation for Washington in the first half of the year, but his YPC dropped dramatically in the second half and the Skins spent a pick on Perine for a reason. He’s more dynamic and will wrestle the majority of the backfield away from Kelley by mid-season, putting Fat Rob out of a job…
Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz will be surprisingly great, even for fantasy players
It’s not reflected in my rankings (which are shamefully less bold than this article), but Carson Wentz has a shot at a surprising and top 15 type of season in Philly in 2017. Improved weapons, healthy offensive line play, and the physical tools to excel in year 2, Wentz may quickly go from streaming option to roster stalwart.
Minnesota Vikings: Dalvin Cook will set the world on fire
He’s moved up and up in my rankings and the combination of football speed and quickness and a set of mighty fine hands will turn him into a fantasy darling. It’s rare to find a rookie Zimmer will get behind, but Cook has what it takes. Put the combine in your rear view mirror and enjoy the fantasy fun.
Green Bay Packers: Davante Adams will end up the 5th most productive fantasy option in Green Bay
I hope you enjoyed your banner year Davante, because it’s not happening a second time. Nelson, Cobb, Montgomery, and even Bennett will outpace Adams in fantasy points in 2017.
Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford will push 40 touchdowns
He’s done it once before (given it was with Calvin Johnson) but Matty Snapback will find a way to light up the statsheet once again. With free yards out of the backfield (Abdullah/Riddick) and a potent WR core of Tate, Jones, and Golladay, Stafford will surprise and put up a banner year. Oh, and Eric Ebron will be involved too.
Chicago Bears: Cameron Meredith will prove he belongs, to the tune of 1110 yards and 8 touchdowns
Meredith is often viewed as a more of a flash in the pan than a fantasy force, but 2017 will prove otherwise. Glennon will lean on Meredith throughout the season and is in no jeopardy of losing his starting job in 2017. Meredith will be one of the fantasy fortunate’s best picks.
Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton yo-yo’s back into 2015 form and doesn’t stop running
The fantasy world was mentally destroyed by the Panthers collapse in 2016. The scars have pushed Newton down draft boards but he belongs near the top. He’ll keep running while gaining a new group of weapons including some free yardage out of the backfield in CMC. Newton will surprise people in 2017 and end up in the best-picks-of-the-year category.
New Orleans Saints: Michael Thomas will end up fantasy football’s #1 receiver
Forget all your troubles, forget all your cares and go down town to Michael Thomas. With one of fantasy football’s highest floors secured by quarterback Drew Brees, Thomas will put up 100+ receptions and double digit touchdowns narrowly outpacing the biggest names in fantasy football and landing himself in 2017’s fantasy lorebook.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston will finish outside the top 20
Winston’s newly revamped offense has the fantasy world buzzing. His 18 interceptions and the Bucs focus on balancing the offensive attack at the end of the year should have them concerned. A solid but not special fantasy player, he’ll bounce between good and bad games and ultimately return nothing on his draft day value.
Atlanta Falcons: The beat will go on. And on
Unlike the Carolina Panthers fall back to earth in 2016, this team is built to replicate it’s record setting offensive season. They’re well coached, loaded to the gills with talent, and I believe a near full repeat of last season’s historic numbers is in the cards. Buy Falcons.
Arizona Cardinals: David Johnson will end 2017 with more than 400 total touches from scrimmage.
The beat goes on for David Johnson as he meets his goal of 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards. The team is built to focus entirely on him and his age will qualm fears the coaching staff has regarding durability. He’s an athletic freak and will pace the NFL in total touches in 2017.
Seattle Seahawks: CJ Prosise will drop 80 receptions and 700+ yards receiving on NFL opponents in 2017.
Prosise’s explosiveness and unique skillset sets him apart in an offense in need of playmakers outside of Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham. He’ll be on the field often, in the slot, and frequently featured.
Los Angeles Rams: Todd Gurley will rid himself of his 2016 demons.
Gurley’s epic failure of a season left a bad taste in fantasy owner’s mouths and subpar point totals on their rosters. 2017 will bring frequent usage in the passing game and more big plays from the #1 weapon on the Rams offense. Sean McVay will find a way to more creatively and intelligently use Gurley, who should push 350 total touches.
San Francisco 49ers: Brian Hoyer will have a better fantasy year than Blake Bortles
Hoyer’s willingness to chuck it and the 49ers inevitable need to chuck it will work to Hoyer’s advantage in 2017. Hoyer will end up the garbage time fantasy force we all never saw, expected, or hoped for. Bortles on the other hand…