Fantasy Football: 2016 Duds to 2017 Studs
At the end of last week, we talked about players who are being drafted in the top few rounds, despite there being signs that point to them being a bust in 2017 (read here). It’s a hard thing to do, because there are typically just four or five players who’ll be drafted in the first two rounds who’ll completely bust. On the other hand, there are plenty of players being drafted outside the top few rounds who’ll be looked at as studs next year.
Just because you’re considered a “dud” or a “bust” one year, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a player can’t bounce back. Look no further than Matt Ryan in 2016. He finished as the No. 19 quarterback in 2015, but came back in 2016 to not only finish as the No. 2 quarterback, but also win the NFL MVP award. This is more common than you’d realize, despite us having access to more information than ever. In 2016, five of the top 10 quarterbacks were drafted outside the top-10, seven of the top 18 running backs were drafted outside the top-27, eight of the top 18 wide receivers were drafted outside the top-30, and five of the top 10 tight ends were drafted outside the top-10. Today, we’ll be looking at players that were considered “duds” in 2016, but can enter “stud” status in 2017.
John Brown (ARI – WR): Current ADP: 122
Throughout the entire offseason, I’ve been banging the drum for Brown, suggesting that he’s good enough to be a starter on your fantasy team. After flashing in his rookie season with Drew Stanton under center, Brown was one of just three wide receivers to finish in the top-24 with less than 105 targets in 2015. The other two were Doug Baldwin and Sammy Watkins, two guys being selected as top 18 wide receivers right now. Larry Fitzgerald is a year older and Michael Floyd is gone, leaving the possibility for Brown to sneak into the 120-target range. If that’s the case, he’ll finish as a top-20 receiver.
Russell Wilson (SEA – QB): Current ADP: 75
This time last year, Wilson was in the conversation with both Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees to be selected as the top quarterback off the board. For good reason, too, as Wilson had improved his fantasy finish every year since coming into the league, from QB10 in 2012, to QB8 in 2013, and then QB3 in both 2014 and 2015. His ADP was the 47th player off the board at this time last year, but it’s slipped all the way down to 75 as of right now, and I was able to get him in a mock draft in the seventh-round the other day. He was clearly playing hurt to start the 2016 season, where six of his first seven games netted 14 or less fantasy points, a number he hit just three times in 2015. Over the final nine games of 2016, Wilson looked more like himself, totaling 19.7 fantasy points per game, which would have been good enough to be the No. 6 quarterback in points per game. His pass attempts have increased each year, leaving room for much more than we’ve already seen.
Doug Martin (TB – RB): Current ADP: 73
As the positive reports keep rolling out of the Bucs OTA’s, Martin’s ADP has been skyrocketing. He was a disaster in 2016 averaging just 2.9 yards per carry, though 2.5 of those yards did come after contact. With the offseason acquisitions to the receiving corps, Martin should see much lighter defensive fronts. Martin is one of just two running backs who’ve had multiple 1,400 rushing yard seasons over the last five years, so he’s earned the benefit of the doubt. If you recall his 2014 season when he averaged just 3.7 yards per carry and scored two touchdowns, you’ll also remember how he fell down draft boards in 2015, then wound up finishing as the No. 3 running back that year. Opportunity is king for running backs and Martin is going to get a lot of it, on what should be a top-10 scoring offense.
C.J. Anderson (DEN – RB): Current ADP: 56
I’m not sure why some have labeled Anderson as a bust in 2016, because he was the No. 11 running back in fantasy football when he went down with his season-ending injury in Week 7. He was playing behind a poor offensive line, against some of the better run defenses during that time as well. The Broncos spent a lot of money to keep Anderson prior to last offseason, as the Dolphins actually signed him to an offer sheet. Over the last three seasons, Anderson has averaged 4.55 yards per carry and scored a touchdown every 25.9 carries, while the rest of his teammates have averaged 3.93 yards per carry and a touchdown every 34.2 carries. The signing of Jamaal Charles likely has owners gun-shy, but it’s not even a lock that he makes the team. After adding Pro Bowl offensive guard Ron Leary (former Cowboys lineman) in free agency, they also added offensive tackle Garrett Bolles in the first-round of the NFL Draft. It appears they’re ready to commit to the run, though Anderson was already averaging 15.7 carries per game before getting hurt last year.
Allen Robinson (JAX – WR): Current ADP: 39
It’s tough to argue with the numbers on just how bad Robinson’s 2016 season was, as even my own article on fantasy points above/below expectation (read here) pointed out that Robinson would have finished as the No. 9 wide receiver if he’d just been average outside the red zone. With that being said, Robinson was one of the league’s best in that category in 2015. It’s likely there is middle ground, but there are a few things going in his favor. The Jaguars did add Leonard Fournette, Brandon Albert, and Cam Robinson, three players who should help him out right away. Fournette will receive attention that T.J. Yeldon didn’t, and the combination of Albert/Robinson at left tackle is sure to be an upgrade on Kelvin Beachum, who was atrocious in 2016. Pass attempts will go down for their offense as a whole, but the loss of Julius Thomas frees up 6.3 targets per game (his average over the last two years). Sure, the remaining tight ends will see some of those, but this should help with the loss of pass attempts. I’m not taking Robinson in the top three rounds, but if he falls into the fourth, you’re likely snagging him at his floor.