Fantasy Football: Must-Have Players in 2017
Every year we have the discussion about who “my guys” are. You know, the guys we tout all offseason long. The ones that we’ve talked about a million times because we have stats and facts to back them up. When it comes down to it, these are the players that you’ll reach for to ensure you get them. If you don’t, you’re no longer able to say they’re “my guy.”
With that being said, I’ve put together my offseason list of “must-have” players, even if it means I need to reach a round or two to get them. I’ve told readers before that just because you like Player X more than Player Y, you don’t need to overpay when the MSRP is already listed. If you overpay too much, you’ll remove all the equity you liked about them in the first place. With that being said, I’ll list where the player is currently being taken, as well as the highest I’d be willing to reach for him.
Andrew Luck (IND) Current ADP: QB7
This may shock some people considering Luck is questionable to play in the first game of the season, but the fact that the Colts haven’t signed a veteran backup to the team, it’s quite telling about his inevitable return. Despite missing one full game and playing through a shoulder injury that required surgery, Luck managed to throw for 4,240 yards and 31 touchdowns, finishing as the No. 4 quarterback in fantasy. I got him in the ninth-round of an analyst draft the other day, but I’m willing to reach for him as the No. 4 quarterback off the board, if needed. But keep in mind that you shouldn’t take him before the sixth-round range. There’s no need to reach in front of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, or Drew Brees, though he may finish in front of them. If it turns out that Luck misses a week or two, snag Eli Manning for that time, as he’ll play the Cowboys and Lions in the first two weeks. He can be the player that you hear people saying “how in the world did we let him fall that far in drafts?” this time next year.
Andy Dalton (CIN) Current ADP: QB17
If I miss out on Luck because quarterbacks just flew off the board before the sixth round, your contingency plan should be Dalton. Earlier this offseason I wrote him up in a player profile (read here) which stated he’s finished as a top-12 quarterback in four of the last five seasons and has never finished outside of the top 18 quarterbacks. With A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert healthy, Dalton has averaged 18.1 fantasy points per game, which would have been the No. 7 quarterback in 2016. Add in a pass-catching Joe Mixon and field-stretcher in John Ross, and you have even more profit. The offensive line is a slight concern, but seven QB1’s from 2016 were among the top-12 most-sacked quarterbacks in 2016. It’ll be difficult to blitz Dalton with those weapons at his disposal. I’d be willing to take him as high as the No. 12 quarterback off the board.
Carlos Hyde (SF) Current ADP: RB16
For those who are in leagues with me, they already know Hyde is on my team, simply because I’m willing to draft him over guys like Isaiah Crowell, Lamar Miller, Christian McCaffrey, and Marshawn Lynch. For a guy who played on the sixth-lowest scoring team in the NFL, behind one of the worst offensive lines, for one of the worst head coaches in the NFL, yet still finished as the No. 9 running back in points per game, Hyde is being extremely undervalued. While the offensive line is still an issue, the addition of Kyle Shanahan whose running backs have totaled 43 touchdowns over the last two years should help. Shanahan liked Hyde back when he was with Cleveland and said Hyde still has room to grow. There isn’t a talent close to him on this roster, and that includes fourth-round rookie Joe Williams, who was demoted to third-string behind undrafted Matt Breida this preseason. I’m willing to snag Hyde in the third-round if necessary, though he’s available in the fourth-round a majority of the time. Read more on Hyde in his profile here.
Spencer Ware (KC) Current ADP: RB19
It’s not often you get a discount on running backs, but Ware is someone who’s cheaper than he should be, simply because the Chiefs drafted a running back. After letting Jamaal Charles walk, they needed a replacement running back, so this should’ve come as no surprise. While some clamor for Kareem Hunt, it’s been clear that it’s Ware’s job to lose. After seeing him run with the first-team offense for every snap in the preseason opener, you should draft him with a bit more confidence, especially since he looked really good in that game. Sure, Hunt got to play with the first-team offense in Week 2, but Andy Reid said they just wanted to see how the rookie would handle reps with the starters. His 5.7 yards per touch was impressive to some, but keep in mind that Ware has averaged 5.7 yards per touch over the last two years, in the regular season, you know, when the games count. To read more on Ware, check out the player profile I did on him here. I currently have him ranked as the No. 14 running back, but you can grab him in the fifth-round every time.
John Brown (ARI) Current ADP: WR46
There are some worried about Brown’s health, and while I get that, you have to understand the value of risk/reward. Do people drafting Rob Gronkowski in the second-round feel like they are guaranteed to get 16 games out of him? No, but when he’s on the field, he’s worth that risk. I’d argue that Brown is worth the risk as the No. 30 wide receiver off the board, but again, you don’t need to pay that. He’s going in the 9th/10th round of most drafts, but I’d be willing to pay a seventh-round price. He’s one of the players whose value varies a lot from league-to-league, and unless you know you can get him late, don’t wait too long. Brown is fantasy football’s best kept secret and I explained why here.
Jeremy Maclin (BAL) Current ADP: WR39
Did you know that prior to his injury plagued 2016, Maclin was eighth in touchdowns at the wide receiver position over his last three years played. Most seem to have forgotten the player Maclin was before he came to the Chiefs to play with game-manager Alex Smith. He’s scored seven or more touchdowns in four of the last six seasons, he’s averaged anywhere from 12.4 yards per reception to 15.5 yards per reception, and he’s in the prime of his career at 29 years old. When the Ravens said they’d be using him in the Steve Smith role, your ears should perk up because Smith averaged 8.3 targets per game with the Ravens, a pace of over 130 for the year. He’s a rock-solid WR3 with WR2 upside, so feel free to start targeting him in the sixth-round, though he’s usually available in the eighth. I wrote up a longer reaction to his signing with the Ravens here.
Stefon Diggs (MIN) Current ADP: WR30
It seems that some have missed the memo that Diggs was really good last year, I mean really good. Some will say that he was up and down, but as talked about in my new series “Boom, Bust, and Everything in Between,” not many wide receivers aren’t. Diggs actually had a reason to be a bit more volatile than most, as he was dealing with injuries much of the year, but still managed to finish as the WR24 in standard points per game and WR14 in PPR points per game. To see some of his splits from last year when he was hurt versus when he wasn’t, check out his profile here. He’s being drafted with guys like Brandon Marshall and Emmanuel Sanders when he should be drafted by guys like Jarvis Landry and Michael Crabtree. Feel free to pull the trigger in the fifth round.
Martellus Bennett (GB) Current ADP: TE8
The Green Bay Packers actually spent money in free agency? Wait, what?! Yeah, it’s a rare occasion that happens, but you should take note when they do. Bennett is among the best receiving tight ends in the game, and although there are a lot of mouths to feed in Green Bay, Bennett is going to get fed the ball. He finished as the TE7 last year on just 73 targets from Tom Brady. He and Hunter Henry were the only two tight ends to finish in the top-18 with fewer than 75 targets. Going to Aaron Rodgers might even be an upgrade (ducks) from Brady. Rodgers has targeted his tight ends 103 times in each of the last two seasons, which is lower than most teams, but when you’re throwing to Richard Rodgers and Jared Cook, it may be the smartest thing to do. Bennett wasn’t brought in to play the same role those guys did. He’s typically available in the eighth round of most drafts, but I’d have no issue reaching for him in the seventh.
Jack Doyle (IND) Current ADP: TE14
It’s often hard to find value at tight end, as there aren’t many fantasy relevant players at the position. With that being said, Doyle is a phenomenal value late in drafts. Coming off a season in which he finished as the No. 13 tight end while playing second-fiddle to Dwayne Allen should speak volumes, but it hasn’t in the fantasy community. If you somehow missed it, Allen was traded to the Patriots and backup tight end Erik Swoope just underwent surgery on his knee. If that wasn’t enough to peak your interest, Andrew Luck has targeted his tight ends an average of 135 times per season. There was just one tight end (Dennis Pitta) who finished outside the top-8 last year while seeing more than 95 targets. Doyle should surpass that number in 2017. On average, he’s going at the end of the 11th round, but you should just take him once everyone has drafted their first tight end, as early as the ninth- or tenth-round.