Revisiting the 2016 NFL Draft (Fantasy Football)

by Nick Johnson | @bigplaycoachj | Featured Writer
Apr 18, 2017

An improved Broncos’ offensive line should mean more production for Devontae Booker

It is often said that a player needs three years in the league before he can truly be judged as a valuable draft pick or a bust. I’ve taken a look back at last year’s selections and identified some guys who may not be quite as successful as they were in their rookie seasons, as well as some players who could be heading into a breakout sophomore season.

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Regression Players

Tyreek Hill (WR/RB – KC)
The speedster they call “Tyfreak” had a monstrous first season for the Chiefs, scoring touchdowns from every angle: running the football, catching passes, returning kicks, and returning punts. He was electric with the football and carried a Kansas City offense that would have been rather inept without him on the field. Hill returned more than enough value for his 5th round draft capital, but seasons like Hill’s 2016 campaign are rather improbable to replicate.

Week to week, his production was largely dependent on the big play, and even more reliant on touchdowns. Scoring plays are so much less predictable than yardage and touches.

This offseason, Andy Reid will scheme up plenty of creative ways to get the ball in Tyreek Hill’s hands, but opponents will have more time to gameplan against Kansas City and shut down Hill. With Kansas City’s lack of offensive weaponry, defenses can hone in on Hill now that they’re taking him more seriously.

Sterling Shepard (WR – NYG)
When the Giants signed perennial pro-bowler Brandon Marshall, it put a damper on Sterling Shepard’s immediate impact in the fantasy world. Dynasty owners believed they had hit the jackpot when they selected Shepard in 2016 Rookie Drafts, and long term they just may have, but the 2017-2018 NFL season will not be as productive for Shepard as his first season in the Meadowlands.

Victor Cruz left in free agency, but with the addition of Marshall, Shepard is at best the third option for Eli Manning. The third pass-catching option for a team with an aging passer is about as appealing as a Browns-Bears Super Bowl pairing.

Breakout Players

Derrick Henry (RB – TEN)
DeMarco Murray sits atop the Tennessee Titans backfield depth chart, but he will turn 30 next year and age is the biggest determinant in running back decline. Derrick Henry has already begun to supplant Murray, and with each passing day, his opportunities will grow.

In the final four games of the 2016 regular season, Murray had 21, 23, 16, and 12 touches, respectively. Henry had 13, nine, six, and 16 over the same span, despite averaging just 6.6 touches in the season’s first 12 games. Henry has the body to be a dominant NFL player for many years and a year of seasoning will do nothing but help him as he heads into his second year as a Titan.

Daniel Lasco (RB – NO)
I’m willing to wager that the first thing you thought when you read this was, “Who is Daniel Lasco?” He’s an electric running back out of Cal that has been vaulted into the backup role in Sean Payton’s New Orleans offense. The same Saints’ offense that made Darren Sproles a viable fantasy player for years and won many owners fantasy championships when Tim Hightower went crazy to close out the 2015 season.

As long as Payton and Drew Brees are in New Orleans, elusive backs will be of major value. According to Player Profiler, Lasco has a Burst Score of 138.1 (99th percentile among RBs) and runs a 4.46 forty yard dash (86th percentile among RBs). His athleticism in open space is elite, and the opportunities will be there for him to make plays.

Stay Patient

Will Fuller (WR – HOU)
The thought of Will Fuller lining up opposite of DeAndre Hopkins with Brock Osweiler under center sounded quite appealing a year ago. Today, it makes me rather sick. Thankfully, Houston has parted ways with the money pit that is Brock Osweiler, and a new quarterback will be manning the helm for Bill O’Brien.

Who that quarterback is, we don’t know yet. Tom Savage looked serviceable in his limited action at the end of the year, but with only Savage and forever-NFL-backup Brandon Weeden on the active roster, it’s practically a guarantee that they acquire an arm in the draft.

Fuller’s future is a bit cloudy right now, but with an upgrade at quarterback, he might reach the production we envisioned he would when he was selected in last year’s draft. It’s a waiting game for Fuller owners.

Devontae Booker (RB – DEN)
It’s no government secret that the Broncos’ offensive line was abysmal in 2016. They simply could not find cohesiveness and were unable to create any holes in the run game. The primary victim of their inadequacy was late round pick, Devontae Booker.

Day Three, and often Day Two NFL draft picks are not given much of a chance by fans and fantasy owners alike, while first round selections can linger on fantasy rosters for years. When C.J. Anderson went down for the season and Booker was penciled in as the new starter, excitement abounded. Not three weeks later, most fantasy owners had already forgotten Booker was even a thing.

This offseason Denver has bolstered their front five, signing talented guard Ronald Leary away from the Cowboys and project tackle Menelik Watson from the Raiders. The Broncos could very well draft a lineman or two as well. Devontae Booker is a talented back, who should see an increase in efficiency behind a revamped line.

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Nick Johnson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Nick, check out his archive and follow him @bigplaycoachj.

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