Enough of this “way too early” garbage. With Scott Hanson and his quad boxes of delight now three weeks removed, the fantasy football withdrawals are hitting harder than ever. Fill the void and jump into our “not soon enough” 2017 Fantasy Football rankings.
Of course, values will change as the dust from free agency and the draft begins to settle. Still, it’s crucial to recognize your original thoughts BEFORE all of the other “expert” rankings pollute and bias your mind. This way, you have a base of your own, independent gut feelings (a “Stream of Gut” if you will), before beginning your offseason research.
Blabber cease. On to the 2017 Fantasy Football rankings. These assume 1/2 point PPR scoring to achieve a happy medium between the two formats (it’s also the best, most common format). As a huge sucker for tiers, I’ll be releasing different positional groups each day (i.e. RB1s, RB2s, Flex plays) before ultimately combining them all into a final Big Board by the beginning of February.
Tier 3 – Upside WR2s
While there’s too much uncertainty or risk to make these guys desirable WR1s, they all bring immense upside to the WR2 slots. All are worth looks beginning in Round 3.
10. Davante Adams (GB)
No one’s game progressed more than Davante Adams in 2016, who had his breakout a year later than everyone expected: 75 catches, 997 yards, and a whopping 12 TDs, good for the 8th most half PPR points (.5 behind Michael Thomas). Reports emerged that he played through a brutal ankle injury all 2015, so this dominant bounce back is far more in line with what to expect moving forward. Or even better.
Think about it. Adams is only entering his fourth season. He consistently flashed chemistry on all routes with Rodgers: from back shoulder fades, to timing deep posts, to quick hitches, Adams was up and down the route tree with arguably the top signal caller not named Brady. With Jordy Nelson another year older, there’s no reason Adams can’t step up for an even greater share of this valuable target pie. At worst, he’s the clear #2 in one of the leagues most explosive aerial attacks, and another full offseason will only help him further his game. He’s the sexiest WR2 around, and I’m not kicking myself if my backfield is stacked and Adams is my top pass-catcher.
11. Doug Baldwin (SEA)
While he didn’t maintain the torrid 14-TD pace of 2015, Baldwin’s 94 catch, 1128 yard, 7 TD 2016 kept him in the top 10 fantasy WRs for a second straight year. Similar to the Seattle offense as a whole, Baldwin was quite streaky in 2016, dropping into single digit half ppr points in 8 of his 16 games, but then topping 26 points on three other occasions.
Still, Baldwin’s role as Russell Wilson‘s #1 remains secure; if this offense improves it’s overall consistency ala their 2015 stretch run, Baldwin could yield a massive season. I imagine a mix between his insane 2015 and inconsistent 2016, leading to sexy WR2 production and perhaps even a WR1 revival. The floor and ceiling are both quite high here.
12. Amari Cooper (OAK)
Many will have Cooper ranked above this, and the talent is undeniable. But so is the inconsistency, as Cooper scored single digits in 50% of his contests, leading to him tallying less fantasy points than teammate Michael Crabtree in 2016.
Of course, Cooper still flashes some bonafide WR1 goods, plus he plays with one of the top signal callers in the game assuming Derek Carr‘s healthy — having Cooper even this high reflects my expectation of another leap forward in Year 3, potentially a massive one. Yet, another unpredictable, streaky 2017 is certainly a real possibility, and Cooper should best be treated as a sexy WR2 as a result.
13. Julian Edelman (NE)
Since the days of Wes Welker, New England has churned reception machines out of the slot, and Edelman has proven among their best. Since ascending to the lead role in 2013, Edelman has never dipped below 92 catches when he plays 14 or more games: 105 receptions in 2013, 92 in 2014 (14 games), and 98 in 2016. In 2015, when limited to only 9 contests, Edelman was on pace for his best numbers yet, as a full 16 would have yielded 108 catches, 1230 yards, and a whopping 12 TDs — bonafide WR1 numbers. Regardless of the situation, Edelman will always be a reliable source of PPR points.
Still, Edelman’s 2016 was hurt by the early quarterback carousel, and he was particularly lost in the red zone with the monstrous Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett hulking over him. Both tight ends are expected back, but, unfortunately, Gronk’s health is far from a guarantee. If the ultimate seam stretcher is limited for part of 2017, Edelman’s value would soar: he ranked fourth in WR points once Gronk exited thanks to a tsunami of targets (17, 11, 12, 15, 12, 8, 13 regular season, 13 and 10 in the playoffs). Clearly, monitoring 87’s recovery from back surgery is crucial, as Edelman goes from dependable but unsexy WR2 to a quality WR1 in his absence. He’s ranked in the middle ground right now.
14. Brandin Cooks (NO)
While inconsistent, Cooks scored double digits in more contests than either Amari Cooper or Doug Baldwin, topping both in fantasy points and finishing in the top-12 WRs for the second straight year. So why is he ranked below either?
Quite simply, Michael Thomas. Whereas the two wideouts alternated between 1A and 1B throughout 2016, I believe Thomas will emerge as the true alpha in 2017. Indeed, Drew Brees’ second option will carry serious fantasy weight, as the Saints should absolutely remain among the most explosive aerial attacks in the NFL. And yes, Cooks is among only a handful of guys can rip a screen 99 yards through the entire defense. He’ll still net a few 30 points weeks in 2017 for sure. Still, those disappearing acts are likely to go up, making Cooks a far more attractive WR2 than WR1.
Slightly less sexy and / or more risky, the following guys belong in the 4th – 5th round conversation, despite having ceilings that rival those above.
15. DeAndre Hopkins (HOU)
Hideous. Disgusting. Puke-worthy. None of these adjectives accurately capture the horror of Hopkins’ Osweiler-infected 2016. Frequently drafted among the top four wideouts, Hopkins was a very worth candidate for Bust of the Year. To quote:
After a dominant 2015 in which Hopkins was welcomed into the fantasy elite, his pitiful 2016 was a steel-toed kick to the balls. Despite common belief that Brock Osweiler would help his game reach new heights, Hopkins regressed mightily in all categories: 78 catches, 954 yards, and 4 TDs, down from 111 catches – 1,521 yards – 11 TDs the year prior despite “escaping” the Carousel of Crap Quarterbacks. Infuriatingly, Hopkins continued making his circus reel toe tapping, finger tip reeling grabs, but only about three for 50 yards a game. He was simply sucked into the gaping black Oswelierian hole, and dragged fantasy hopes and dreams with him. After being selected as the 5th overall player and WR4, his 37th positional rank was undoubtedly season-ruining.
Ridding himself of his horrible case of Osweiler will be necessary for Hopkins to maintain this top-15 ranking; he’d plummet like an anchor down to the 28-30 range. But really, Osweiler might be the only quarterback that can hold down such a supreme talent. The hands, body control, deceptive speed — all of it was full on display in 2016. Hopkins simply needs someone that can deliver the mail even half-competently, as a ball within 10 yards of him is getting snagged up. This ranking assumes this half-competent arm is secured, and Hopkins rebounds majorly.
16. Tyreek Hill (KC)
Think this is crazy? Hill actually topped this ranking during his emphatic rookie debut, scoring the 14th most WR points in half PPR formats. This is insane, given the team barely used him until Week 7… from which point he was the 6th highest scoring WR. While not a true WR necessarily, Hill is an absolute freak athlete, and Andy Reid is the king of scheming up creative ways to get his guys in space.
Sure, the league will have a year of tape. And yes, oftentimes gadget players bust (hello, Cordarrelle). Hill will be the exception. No one will be more exciting to draft in 2017, and the “way too early” ranking lists that have him around WR30 (hello, ESPN and Untalented Mr. Baldfuck) are dead wrong.
17. Allen Robinson (JAC)
See Hopkins, DeAndre. Insert Blake Bortles and new quote:
Following his massive sophomore breakout (80 catches, 1,400 yards, 14 TDs), Robinson was widely drafted as a top-five WR and within the top-15 picks of drafts. Surely, these woeful investors were expecting more than a paltry 68 catches, 883 yards, and 6 TDs (maybe half of expectations). Particularly frustrating, the volume for consistency was there: 8th most targets in the league. But any owner who saw pass after pass sail over his head, or repeated misfires on jump balls, knows Robinson hauled in less than half of these attempts. Ultimately, this floundering effort yielded the 31st most fantasy points on the year — the ballyhooed Pierre Garcon and his #172 overall price tag would’ve netted more points. Unless you drafted quality depth and hopped off the Robinson train early enough, Robinson was a mistake that was near-impossible to bounce back from.
So… why’s he in 2017’s top-20? Well, because he’s still huge. And he can still leap. And Bortles is still salvageable (I think?). There’s a real chance Robinson flops again, in which case he can be written off. But there’s a real chance he bounces back and has the season we were all imagining. Assuming the price is right, I’d be willing to take a stab.
18. Alshon Jeffery (FA)
Alshon’s tough to rank without knowing his landing spot, so we won’t spill too much ink here. Just know, despite a busty 2016, Alshon has the size, speed, and absurd hands to be an absolute terror and bonafide WR1. If he lands with the right QB (Hi, Tom Brady), Alshon has the potential to vault into the top-10. He’s easily 2017’s sexiest free agent to track for fantasy purposes.
19. Keenan Allen (LAC)
Keenan, I just can’t quit you. Even though he didn’t last a full game, Keenan was back to his chain-moving, target-hogging ways to open 2016. As has become the norm, Allen suffered an ACL tear shortly after the first half, and yet another season became “what could’ve been.” Monitoring his recovery will be important, yet Allen always seems to enter camp in the best shape yet; I’ll certainly fall head over heels once Philip Rivers raves about how amazing his star wideout looks. The math is simple: you’ll receive WR1 numbers for as many games as Allen lasts. This may be two, or it may be a full season.
20. Sammy Watkins (BUF)
God, I was so disgustingly high on Watkins entering 2016, labeling him “The Next DeAndre Hopkins” and breakout WR of the year. Turns out his foot surgery was far more of a hinderance than I originally believed. Nonetheless, Watkins is one year removed from ranking 7th in Fantasy PPG in 2015, including his torrid nine game finish that paced him at 86 catches, 1,600 yards, and 16 TDs. The talent is still there.
Unfortunately, Tyrod Taylor, the quarterback whom which Watkins accomplished this all with, is expected out. Nonetheless, new OC Rick Dennison is expected to emphasize the zone running game to set up play action deep balls and run after the catch opportunities, all of which could greatly benefit Watkins… but he’ll need a QB that can get him the ball and a clean bill of health before any of that matters.
This covers the upside guys, but plenty more options exist to round out your WR2 and WR3 slots. Check in again next week for a full list of these prospects.