Written By: Cory Stace | @CoryStace
Member of Ball State Sports Link
It’s here; a 7-½ months wait has come to an end… The die-hard football fans everywhere have been getting excited to see their starting quarterbacks play for just 2 possessions just to get a little taste of what the upcoming season could hold. If you are an Eagles fan, you are feeling good. Packers, not so much.
A whole different story could be told for a fan that doesn’t know who Jameis Winston is, but still competes every year for their fantasy football league title. Fantasy Football is a time where a fan can live without having one team because they have 15 other players to root for on Thursdays, Sundays, and Mondays.
In Fantasy Football last season, we saw the impact of the rookie wide out. The likes of Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin (not this year), Jordan Matthews, and Sammy Watkins who all respectively scored in the top 26 in total points for the receiving category. Then there are always the breakout stars. Does Emmanuel Sanders or Justin Forsett ring a bell?
“The NFL season” has turned into “Fantasy Football season” for many. This year, who are the players from each team to keep your eye on and which players from each team could flop. I will be releasing two divisions per week leading up to Sunday’s games which is where the fun really starts.
It all has to start somewhere. The Steelers vs. Patriots on Thursday Night Opening Day. There are players I like from both of these teams, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be suiting up for this game. Here goes nothing, my first two divisions in my fantasy football team-by-team season preview.
Baltimore Ravens- Justin Forsett is the most highly touted player on this team fantasy wise. A career as a backup on multiple different teams finally found a home last season in a small back system with Gary Kubiak in Baltimore. Forsett signed a new 3-year contract with the team during the offseason. Forsett is someone I don’t like for this coming season.
New system on offense in Baltimore means Forsett might not fit as well as last season, and let’s remember, before last year he was nothing but a backup running back.
Steve Smith Sr. defies age at the wide receiver position. At age 36, Steve Smith Sr. has said that this year will be his last. He is feisty, and I expect Smith to go out with a bang.
Cincinnati Bengals- Jeremy Hill broke through the wall last season when Giovani Benard went down with injury in week 8. Jeremy Hill took it upon himself to then lead the Bengals in rushing the rest of the season and take the starting spot from Bernard. In just 9 weeks as the starting back in Cincy, Hill managed to rack up 9 touchdowns and become the 10th best running back in fantasy. Expect more of the same from Hill this season and many believe he could lead the league in rushing touchdowns this season.
A.J. Green had a down year last year for being one of the best receivers in the NFL. It’s crazy what a contract year can do for a guy, but I think A.J. Green bounces back in a big way this season and earning his money next offseason. Many like Mohamed Sanu as the #2 wide out in Cincy, but I say he is nothing but a 2nd option in a run heavy system.
Cleveland Browns- Johnny Football man… Wait, what? Josh McCown is starting. Another year, another bad quarterback situation in Cleveland. If Johnny Football starts, there is fantasy relevance, but if not, McCown will be a bottom half QB in fantasy this season with no star wide receivers to throw to.
The running back committee is complicated in Cleveland. Isaiah Crowell will start the year, but mark my words, Duke Johnson will finish the year as the starting running back in Cleveland. Duke Johnson has amazing vision and quickness coming out of Miami, and the Browns need to give something to their fans to make them think there is hope.
Pittsburgh Steelers- The Steelers offense this year has amazing talent across the board. One could argue that Le’veon Bell is the best overall running back in the NFL when he plays. Obviously he comes into the season riding a two-game suspension. Don’t let that be the reason to not pounce on him in fantasy because when playing, Le’veon Bell is my best running back in fantasy football.
I think with only 14 weeks of work he will still contend for a top 3 overall fantasy running back spot. The Steelers have an amazing wide receiver group as well. Antonio Brown is the best receiver in the NFL from last season, and he is the hardest worker off the field. He will continue to be great and once Martavis Bryant gets back from a 4-game suspension he is a solid flex play or WR2.
Big Ben will have lots of weapons to throw to so expect big things out of Pittsburgh.
Buffalo Bills- LeSean McCoy had a down year for fantasy owners last season playing in every game in a high powered Eagles offense but only coming in at 12th among fantasy running backs in points. During the offseason, Chip Kelly couldn’t resist on getting another Oregon Duck on his team and shipped McCoy off for Kiko Alonso.
Rex Ryan has said that they want to run the ball and run it often. My only question is if LeSean McCoy can handle such a big workload with that frame, and what is going to stop defenses from stacking 8 men in the box on every play with Tyrod Taylor at QB? LeSean McCoy could get moved all over the field with the mind of Rex Ryan, but only time will tell if he is a true RB1 in Buffalo.
Sammy Watkins is a great receiving talent, but with Taylor throwing the ball, he is a flex play or light WR2 at best. Bills defense is one of few that is an every week starting situation.
Miami Dolphins- With additions of Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings, and DeVante Parker in the offseason expect the Dolphins passing game to be ramped up a tad in this coming season. Ryan Tannehill is coming into his own and entering his 4th season. Tannehill is a QB sleeper who could sneak his way into the top 6 QB conversation this season after finishing last season as the 8th best QB in fantasy.
Jarvis Landry takes on the #1 role for the Dolphins this season, which means he will be going up against elite corners every week. I’m not completely sold that he will be able to beat the some of the corners in that division (Stephon Gilmore and Darrelle Revis). Time will tell on Landry, but he is definitely a good option as a WR2 or flex play to start the season.
Lamar Miller quietly snuck into the 9th best running back last year with over 1,000 yards and 8 touchdowns. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry last season, which sparks my interest with an improved passing game he could have bigger holes for running.
New England Patriots- During the 2007 season (Spygate Season), Tom Brady had over 4,800 yards and 50 touchdowns… If that doesn’t at least open your eyes a little bit to what is possible with Tom Brady’s motivation then stop reading now. I’m not saying that Brady is going to throw for 50 touchdowns, but it seems like Brady and the Pats may be looking to prove something this year.
It’s simple receiving wise for the Pats, Gronk is the #1 option and the best tight end in fantasy. Julian Edelman is someone who will get yards but not many touchdowns. I think Edelman is more suited to be a WR2 on the verge of WR1 status.
In terms of the running game, Blount is the guy after his suspension, but be cautious. Blount is a touchdown scorer, not a reliable rushing yards guy. He is a flex play once he is off his 1-game suspension.
New York Jets- The Jets have fantasy prospects but no one that jumps off the page. Brandon Marshall is the first guy I look towards as a possible fantasy option. I have him as a flex play at the moment, but with a new spread scheme system in New
York he could jump up higher because they are lining him up all over the field.
Chris Ivory is an underrated back that has potential as a starter. He is the starter for the Jets, there is no questioning that. With Todd Bowles at the helm, we expect the Jets to run, but I don’t think anyone has seen enough of Ivory’s ability to pencil him in as a reliable fantasy starter.
Ryan Fitzpatrick will sling it all over the field one week and throw for 90 yards the next. He just isn’t consistent enough to have a spot on anyone’s fantasy roster.