The fantasy football season is finally upon us. Every season there are several players who go way beyond expectations, helping your team win the championship. Here are ten guys you are going to want to have on your team this year.
10. Matt Ryan
Right off the bat, I am going to come off as a homer, but this is something that I am still stunned by. The Fantasy experts across the board have Matt Ryan ranked outside of the top 20 for quarterbacks this year. Last year was the worst season of Matt Ryan’s career outside of maybe his rookie season, and he still managed to finish 19th in fantasy points, so the ranking of 22nd is almost blasphemous. Heading into 2016, Ryan now has a top tier offensive line, a plethora of running backs and a revamped receiving core that still by the way has Julio Jones. This offense is going to put up points, and Ryan has proven to be a valuable fantasy commodity in the past. He is just a year removed from finishing as the 7th ranked QB in fantasy football. The last time the Falcons offense had this kind of talent was 2012. Ryan finished with over 300 fantasy points that season. He has been a top ten fantasy option for three of the past five seasons. Ryan is going to have a bounce back year and will probably find himself starting on some rosters in standard leagues at some point this season.
9. Latavius Murray
Latavius Murray got his first stint as a starter for the Raiders last season. He had a very productive year, playing in all 16 games and recording over 1,000 yards rushing. Murray finished as the tenth best fantasy running back, but for some reason is not getting the kind of credit he deserves. ESPN currently has ranked at RB 20, which is extremely low considering his production from last season, and the fact that he has nobody nipping at his heels for his job. Murray is the lone proven running back option in a Raiders offense that is beginning to make major strides. The Raiders will be moving the ball up and down the field, and Murray should see an uptick in his touchdown total from the six that he had last year.
8. Jamaal Charles
Jamaal Charles has been a fantasy superstar for the majority of the time he has been in the league. In 2013, he shattered fantasy records, recording over 300 fantasy points as a running back. If Charles is healthy, he is a top 7 pick in this draft, but because of his injury concerns I have seen him go as late as pick 30 and he rarely goes before the third round. Charles is expected to be ready opening day, and while injury concerns are always in the back of my mind, I do not draft around them. This type of talent is to great not to be take in the first two rounds. Andy Reid’s offense fits his dual-threat game perfectly. I expect Charles to have a big year, and I will be taking him before the end of round two.
7. Tom Brady
He is going to be suspended for four games. So what? Brady is the best quarterback to play the game, and at 39, he still has got it. Quarterback and tight end are the two meh positions for me. If you can get a great one, awesome, but if not you are going to be just fine. Brady combined with any quarterback you choose to fill in for him will combine to be a top 5 fantasy quarterback. Oh and by the way, he is going in the 7th round in most drafts. This is a no brainer in my book, If you can snag Brady in the sixth round or later, you should definitely do it.
6. Frank Gore
Yes, Frank Gore still plays in the NFL and he is actually still very productive. Gore signed a multi-year deal with the Colts last offseason and was by far there most efficient ball carrier. He managed to finish 12th among running backs, rushing for close to 1,000 yards and 7 TDs. It has been a while since the Colts have had a 100-yard rusher in a single game, and Gore is no longer the type of workhorse he once was, but there are not any other options in Indianapolis. Gore is going to get the bulk of the carries and most importantly he will get the envious goal-line carries for an explosive offense. ESPN currently has him ranked as the 30th ranked running back and he is going in the late rounds in most drafts. I have to go all the way back to 2005, Gore’s rookie season, to find a year Gore failed to be a top-20 fantasy running back. I would bet that he finds a way to do it again, even at age 33.
5. Amari Cooper
Amari Cooper had a fantastic rookie campaign for the Raiders. He caught for over 1,000 yards and 6 TDs. Those numbers are terrific, but there is no stat that really tells you Cooper is undervalued, yet. Cooper is that one great receiver that comes into the NFL every couple of years. He is as good as a Julio Jones or Odell Beckham Jr., he has just yet to show it yet. ESPN currently has Cooper ranked as the 14th fantasy wide receiver, which is not bad by any means, but he could be in for an Odell Beckam Jr. kind of break out season. The Raiders offense is on the rise. Derek Carr is an improving commodity, and Cooper already saw 130 targets last season. Look for an increase in all areas of Cooper’s stats, as I expect him to be WR1 this year.
4. Kelvin Benjamin
Football fans were robbed of seeing Kelvin Benjamin’s progression in his sophomore season. In Benjamin’s rookie campaign, he caught for over 1,000 yards and 8 touchdowns for the Panthers. Shockingly, Carolina’s offense actually improved in Benjamin’s absence. Most of that was due to the unbelievable progression of Cam Newton. Newton made Ted Ginn look like Randy Moss out there. No offense to Ginn, but he is far less talented than Benjamin. Benjamin will be getting most of the targets for Carolina and is poised for a breakout season. ESPN currently has Benjamin ranked at 18th among wide receivers. Once again not bad, but Benjamin has the potential to be a top 5 guy at the position.
3. Randall Cobb
There is no question Cobb disappointed fantasy owners last season. In Jordy Nelson’s absence, Cobb was supposed to step up and be the Packers star wide receiver. However, fantasy owners found out quickly that the loss of Nelson was not going to help Cobb’s fantasy value. It actually really hurt it. Cobb became the focal point of opposing defenses and never really got things going. A consensus top-three round pick a year ago, is now going in the fifth round of most drafts and ESPN has him ranked as their 23rd best wide receiver. Good news for Cobb though is Jordy Nelson is returning to the field this season. With Nelson back, I expect Cobb to back to his normal ways.
2. Derrick Henry
This is why I always like to watch a healthy dose of preseason before drafting. Derrick Henry is currently being drafted as low-tier RB3, but his stock is on the rise. Henry was an absolute monster at Alabama, capping of his career with a Heisman trophy and a national championship. So far, he is picking up right where he left off. He carried the ball 10 times for 74 yards and a touchdown in the Titans preseason opener. Henry is a prototypical workhorse back, and I think he is going to be better than Eddie Lacey. The big question is DeMarco Murray. Murray is set to start in front of Henry, but it might actually turn more into split backfield sooner rather than later. Even if Murray gets the majority of the carries, he has reputation for being injured. That will likely be a problem again this season, leaving Henry with some of the best upside available late in the draft.
1. Chris Ivory
36th! Really? 36. Yes, that is where ESPN ranks Ivory among running backs heading into this season. This is where I just sit and wonder how?! Ivory was has been one of the most underrated running backs in the game over the last couple of seasons. He finished 8th among running backs in fantasy points last season with the Jets. Now he heads to Jacksonville. I understand Yeldon put together a nice rookie campaign, and the Jaguars have a couple options other than Ivory to run the ball, but the Jags brought this guy in for a reason. They brought him in so they could establish a run game between the tackles that they have lacked since the prime of Maurice-Jones Drew. Ivory is one of my favorite players to watch in the NFL, even when he was with the Saints. He runs so hard and is so physical. I expect him to be Jacksonville’s workhorse back and at least a top-20 running back this year.