2017 Fantasy Football: Positional Rankings and Top 100 After the NFL Draft – Bleacher Report

2017 Fantasy Football: Positional Rankings and Top 100 After the NFL Draft – Bleacher Report

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    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    Can you smell that? That delicious aroma wafting through the air?

    That’s the perfume of victory. The fragrance of conquest. The scent of glory.

    Or it could be nachos. I like nachos.

    With the NFL draft in the rearview mirror, fantasy football fanatics far and wide have already started fantasizing about the championships they are going to win in 2017. Imagining where they will put their shiny new trophy. Daydreaming of what they’ll do with their prize money.

    Hopefully not while they’re operating heavy machinery.

    Of course, to win their leagues those fantasy owners will first have to draft a roster filled with championship potential. Assemble a team dripping with upside and short on risk. Load up on players about to embark on successful seasons.

    And put together a bowl of lucky nachos.

    I can’t help you with that latter pursuit (I’m still cleaning cheese out of my CD-ROM drive), but to assist with the former, here’s an early look at the top players at each position in fantasy football for 2017.

    With a top 100 overall thrown in for good measurelike the proverbial jalapenos on top.


    NOTE: These rankings are for standard-scoring (non-PPR) fantasy football leagues.

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    I’ve been beating this drum for years, but I’ll hit the skins again.

    It may be tempting to spend an early-round fantasy pick on the likes of Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers or Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. They are Hall of Fame players who will all but certainly have wildly productive seasons.

    But when you can wait a round or two longer and get Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, a couple more for Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers or longer still for Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders, it just doesn’t make sense. The gap in production between the elite options and other weekly starters at quarterback just doesn’t justify the pick required to obtain them.

    Under center, patience is a virtue.

    Top Dog: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: Buoyed by last year’s wild stretch run, Rodgers was fantasy’s top quarterback in 2016. It’s his second top-two finish in the last three years, and if he stays healthy Rodgers will make it three out of four this season.

    Sleeper Special: Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The hype train is only just beginning for Winston after the Buccaneers spent the offseason adding offensive weapons. Sadly, that means his average draft position will probably climb steadily this summer.

    Buyer Beware: Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins: Cousins was a surprise top-five fantasy option a year ago after throwing for over 4,900 yards. Those numbers are going to be hard to back up in 2017 given Washington’s losses at receiver. Don’t get caught chasing ghosts.


    Rank Player Team
    1 Aaron Rodgers GNB
    2 Tom Brady NWE
    3 Drew Brees NOR
    4 Andrew Luck IND
    5 Russell Wilson SEA
    6 Matt Ryan ATL
    7 Cam Newton CAR
    8 Ben Roethlisberger PIT
    9 Derek Carr OAK
    10 Marcus Mariota TEN
    11 Philip Rivers LAC
    12 Matthew Stafford DET
    13 Kirk Cousins WAS
    14 Dak Prescott DAL
    15 Eli Manning NYG
    16 Andy Dalton CIN
    17 Carson Palmer ARZ
    18 Tyrod Taylor BUF
    19 Blake Bortles JAX
    20 Ryan Tannehill MIA
    21 Joe Flacco BAL
    22 Carson Wentz PHI
    23 Alex Smith KAN
    24 Sam Bradford MIN
    25 Brian Hoyer SFO

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    Eric Espada/Getty Images

    The running back position in 2016 was all about youth being served.

    The league’s leading and second-leading rushers (Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys and Jordan Howard of the Chicago Bears) were rookies. The top-scoring fantasy option (David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals), was in his second season in the NFL.

    Tailbacks aren’t the unquestioned kings of fantasy football they once were. But with the number of “bellcow” lead backs dwindling, finding a ball-carrier who can both stay healthy and average 20-plus touches a game is a key ingredient to a successful campaign.

    However, running backs also “bust” at a higher percentage than at wide receiver, and given the heavy workloads Elliott and Johnson saw last year and Le’veon Bell’s injury history one of this year’s top options in the backfield is probably going to be a season-killer.

    Top Dog: David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals: Johnson’s 373 total touches a season ago are a legitimate concern, but it’s hard to pass up the upside present with a player who topped 2,100 total yards and scored 20 touchdowns in 2016.

    Sleeper Special: Eddie Lacy, Seattle Seahawks: Lacy’s weight will no doubt be a big (pardon the pun) topic of conversation in fantasy circles this summer. But if he’s in any sort of shape but round, he’s a great fit in the Seahawks’ power running game.

    Buyer Beware: Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys: It pains me to write this as a big a fan of Zeke as you’re going to find. But the reigning rushing king has now carried the ball over 270 times in three straight seasons dating back to his time at Ohio State, and he had over 300 carries last season. That’s a red flag.


    Rank Player Team
    1 David Johnson ARZ
    2 Ezekiel Elliott DAL
    3 Le’Veon Bell PIT
    4 LeSean McCoy BUF
    5 Devonta Freeman ATL
    6 Melvin Gordon LAC
    7 DeMarco Murray TEN
    8 Jordan Howard CHI
    9 Jay Ajayi MIA
    10 Lamar Miller HOU
    11 Todd Gurley LAR
    12 Isaiah Crowell CLE
    13 Leonard Fournette JAX
    14 Carlos Hyde SFO
    15 Mark Ingram NOR
    16 Eddie Lacy SEA
    17 Spencer Ware KAN
    18 Marshawn Lynch OAK
    19 C.J. Anderson DEN
    20 Tevin Coleman ATL
    21 Frank Gore IND
    22 Christian McCaffrey CAR
    23 Ameer Abdullah DET
    24 Matt Forte NYJ
    25 Dalvin Cook MIN
    26 Ty Montgomery GNB
    27 Derrick Henry TEN
    28 Doug Martin TAM
    29 Joe Mixon CIN
    30 Paul Perkins NYG
    31 Adrian Peterson NOR
    32 Jonathan Stewart CAR
    33 Bilal Powell NYJ
    34 Rob Kelley WAS
    35 Latavius Murray MIN
    36 Giovani Bernard CIN
    37 Mike Gillislee NWE
    38 Kenneth Dixon BAL
    39 Duke Johnson CLE
    40 Danny Woodhead BAL

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    The evolution of the National Football League has had a substantial impact on the wide receiver position in fantasy football leagues. Once a clear second fiddle to the running backs, the wideouts have ridden the increase in passing to a similar increase in fantasy value.

    It was a wide receiver (Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers) who was the leading choice as the No. 1 overall pick in fantasy leagues last year. Brown will most likely repeat that feat in 2017.

    The reason why is simple: Today’s pass-happy NFL means fewer wide receivers failing to meet fantasy expectations. And pass-catchers don’t take the pounding tailbacks do.

    Of course, there’s a flip side. The wide receiver position is also much deeper than at running back. Fantasy owners willing to roll the dice on running backs early have a better shot at finding viable fantasy starters at receiver in the middle rounds than vice versa.

    Decisions, decisions.

    Top Dog: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers: Even an admitted backaholic like me has a hard time arguing Brown as the pick at 1.01. The 28-year-old’s average stat line over the last three seasons is 123 receptions, 1,605 yards and 11 touchdowns. That’s a spicy meatball, son.

    Sleeper Special: Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles: Looking for WR1 upside available for a WR2 price tag? Look no farther than Jeffery, who has millions of reasons to try to reclaim past glories playing on a one-year deal with the Eagles in 2017.

    Buyer Beware: Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers: There’s no bigger red flag among fantasy receivers than a player whose finish the year before was held up by a huge spike in touchdowns. They are prime regression candidates the following season.


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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    The tight end position has become the most maddening in all of fantasy football. It’s a position headlined by the king of risk-reward fantasy options, and the top end features more than a few players whose chances of falling flat match their prodigious upside.

    There are essentially three roads that can be taken with tight ends. You can spin the wheel with one of those high-risk, high-reward options, hopeful they can stay on the field. If they do, you’ll have a sizable edge at the position.

    You can wait a bit longer and select a mid-range weekly starter like Cincinnati’s Tyler Eifert or Delanie Walker of the Tennessee Titans. Walker has a bit lower ceiling, but he’s a durable, high-floor type.

    Eifert is Gronkowski-lite: Great if he can can stay healthy, but it’s a big “if.”

    Or, fantasy owners can wait even longer and platoon the likes of Hunter Henry of the Los Angeles Chargers and Kyle Rudolph of the Minnesota Vikings. They aren’t going to win any weeks for you, but they’ll also be available later on draft day.

    Top Dog: Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots: It was tempting to list Travis Kelce here. Make no mistake—Gronk’s durability (or lack thereof) is a huge risk. But when healthy, he stands head and shoulders above every other fantasy option at the position.

    Sleeper Alert: O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It’s relatively rare for a first-year tight end to make a big fantasy impact. But Howard isn’t your typical tight end prospect either. The former Alabama star is exactly the sort of high-upside late-round pick who can win you your league.

    Buyer Beware: Martellus Bennett, Green Bay Packers: There’s been plenty of hullabaloo about “the Black Unicorn” joining Aaron Rodgers in Titletown. But it’s been a good long while since the Green Bay offense had a consistently productive fantasy tight end.


    Rank Player Team
    1 Rob Gronkowski NWE
    2 Travis Kelce KAN
    3 Greg Olsen CAR
    4 Jordan Reed WAS
    5 Jimmy Graham SEA
    6 Tyler Eifert CIN
    7 Delanie Walker TEN
    8 Zach Ertz PHI
    9 Martellus Bennett GNB
    10 Hunter Henry LAC
    11 Kyle Rudolph MIN
    12 Jason Witten DAL
    13 Eric Ebron DET
    14 Jack Doyle IND
    15 Coby Fleener NOR
    16 O.J. Howard TAM
    17 Jared Cook OAK
    18 Zach Miller CHI
    19 Antonio Gates LAC
    20 Julius Thomas MIA
    21 C.J. Fiedorowicz HOU
    22 Dennis Pitta BAL
    23 Dwayne Allen NWE
    24 Austin Hooper ATL
    25 Charles Clay BUF

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Repeat after me.

    I will not, under any circumstances, draft a kicker before the final round.

    I will not, under any circumstances, draft a kicker before the final round.

    I will not, under any circumstances, draft a kicker before the final round.

    There. Don’t you feel better?

    It’s really that simple. Drafting a kicker before the last round is a wasted pick. Kickers are a dime a dozen. They are also unpredictable.

    The slight advantage you just might get with an “elite” kicker isn’t worth it. Draft depth. Take a late flier on a young player brimming with upside.

    Just do not, under any circumstances, draft a kicker before the final round.

    Top Dog: Stephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots: Gostkowski is one of the best kickers in the NFL and plays for one of the most potent offenses in the league. He’s a fine choice—as the first pick of the last round.

    Sleeper Alert: Nick Folk, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs brought in Folk to battle second-year pro Roberto Aguayo in camp. Whichever kicker wins that competition will be punching them through for a Tampa offense that looks potent on paper.

    Buyer Beware: Any kicker taken before the last round. Have I mentioned that?


    Rank Player Team
    1 Stephen Gostkowski NWE
    2 Justin Tucker BAL
    3 Matt Bryant ATL
    4 Dan Bailey DAL
    5 Mason Crosby GNB
    6 Adam Vinatieri IND
    7 Cairo Santos KAN
    8 Brandon McManus DEN
    9 Matt Prater DET
    10 Graham Gano CAR
    11 Chris Boswell PIT
    12 Sebastian Janikowski OAK
    13 Wil Lutz NOR
    14 Blair Walsh SEA
    15 Josh Lambo LAC
    16 Dustin Hopkins WAS
    17 Caleb Sturgis PHI
    18 Phil Dawson ARZ
    19 Steven Hauschka BUF
    20 Nick Novak HOU

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    There isn’t a harder position to predict in fantasy football from year to year than team defenses.

    It isn’t just a matter of the personnel changes or unforeseen injuries that can turn last year’s stud into this year’s dud. There’s also often a disconnect between what makes a good NFL defense and what makes a good fantasy defense.

    Take the Houston Texans, for example. In 2016, the Texans led the NFL in total defense. But thanks to a lack of the big plays that lead to fantasy points in most scoring systems, the Texans finished the year 20th in fantasy points in NFL.com default fantasy scoring.

    As such, while it might be tempting to grab what appears to be an “elite” team defense in the middle rounds, the smarter play is to “stream” defenses—pick one late with a couple of favorable matchups to open the year and then swap them out on the waiver wire once the matchups dry up.

    Top Dog: Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals may not have one of the NFL’s best defenses, but they do possess an aggressive unit. Over the last two seasons that’s led to plenty of sacks, takeaways and a top-three fantasy finish.

    Sleeper Alert: Carolina Panthers: The Panthers were second in fantasy points among defenses in 2015 and open the season with two juicy matchups—a Week 1 trip to San Francisco followed by hosting the Buffalo Bills.

    Buyer Beware: Houston Texans: Now, it could be the return of a healthy J.J. Watt will result in a spike in sacks that boosts Houston’s fantasy production. However, they remain a prime candidate to be overdrafted by folks who hear “league’s No. 1 defense” and don’t dig any deeper.


    Rank Team
    1 Arizona Cardinals
    2 Denver Broncos
    3 Seattle Seahawks
    4 Minnesota Vikings
    5 Kansas City Chiefs
    6 New England Patriots
    7 Carolina Panthers
    8 Houston Texans
    9 New York Giants
    10 Baltimore Ravens
    11 Los Angeles Rams
    12 Philadelphia Eagles
    13 Pittsburgh Steelers
    14 Jacksonville Jaguars
    15 Green Bay Packers
    16 Cincinnati Bengals
    17 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    18 Buffalo Bills
    19 Oakland Raiders
    20 Atlanta Falcons

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Before we get to the big board, a quick note.

    Scoring is a vital consideration when ranking players in fantasy football. This list was assembled with a fairly straightforward system in mind—no PPR, 10 rushing/receiving yards and 25 passing yards per point, with six-point touchdowns all around.

    If your scoring differs significantly, odds are your top 100 will too.


    Rank Player Pos. Team Rank Player Pos. Team
    1 Antonio Brown WR PIT 51 DeSean Jackson WR TAM
    2 David Johnson RB ARZ 52 Russell Wilson QB SEA
    3 Ezekiel Elliott RB DAL 53 Tevin Coleman RB ATL
    4 Le’Veon Bell RB PIT 54 Frank Gore RB IND
    5 Julio Jones WR ATL 55 Jimmy Graham TE SEA
    6 Odell Beckham WR NYG 56 Julian Edelman WR NWE
    7 Mike Evans WR TAM 57 Matt Ryan QB ATL
    8 A.J. Green WR CIN 58 Christian McCaffrey RB CAR
    9 LeSean McCoy RB BUF 59 Kelvin Benjamin WR CAR
    10 Jordy Nelson WR GNB 60 Brandon Marshall WR NYJ
    11 Devonta Freeman RB ATL 61 Ameer Abdullah RB DET
    12 Dez Bryant WR DAL 62 Tyler Eifert TE CIN
    13 Melvin Gordon RB LAC 63 Matt Forte RB NYJ
    14 Rob Gronkowski TE NWE 64 Cam Newton QB CAR
    15 DeMarco Murray RB TEN 65 Emmanuel Sanders WR DEN
    16 T.Y. Hilton WR IND 66 Terrelle Pryor WR WAS
    17 Michael Thomas WR NOR 67 Dalvin Cook RB MIN
    18 Jordan Howard RB CHI 68 Ben Roethlisberger QB PIT
    19 Amari Cooper WR OAK 69 Stefon Diggs WR MIN
    20 DeAndre Hopkins WR HOU 70 Ty Montgomery RB GNB
    21 Jay Ajayi RB MIA 71 Derrick Henry RB TEN
    22 Lamar Miller RB HOU 72 Doug Martin RB TAM
    23 Aaron Rodgers QB GNB 73 Eric Decker WR NYJ
    24 Todd Gurley RB LAR 74 Delanie Walker TE TEN
    25 Travis Kelce TE KAN 75 Willie Snead WR NOR
    26 Brandin Cooks WR NWE 76 Derek Carr QB OAK
    27 Doug Baldwin WR SEA 77 Tyreek Hill WR KAN
    28 Demaryius Thomas WR DEN 78 Donte Moncrief WR IND
    29 Alshon Jeffery WR PHI 79 Zach Ertz TE PHI
    30 Isaiah Crowell RB CLE 80 Joe Mixon RB CIN
    31 Allen Robinson WR JAX 81 Randall Cobb WR GNB
    32 Keenan Allen WR LAC 82 Martellus Bennett TE GNB
    33 Jarvis Landry WR MIA 83 Martavis Bryant WR PIT
    34 Leonard Fournette RB JAX 84 Paul Perkins RB NYG
    35 Tom Brady QB NWE 85 Hunter Henry TE LAC
    36 Carlos Hyde RB SFO 86 Marcus Mariota QB TEN
    37 Larry Fitzgerald WR ARZ 87 Adrian Peterson RB NOR
    38 Mark Ingram RB NOR 88 Jonathan Stewart RB CAR
    39 Drew Brees QB NOR 89 Philip Rivers QB LAC
    40 Greg Olsen TE CAR 90 Kyle Rudolph TE MIN
    41 Eddie Lacy RB SEA 91 Jamison Crowder WR WAS
    42 Jordan Reed TE WAS 92 Corey Davis WR TEN
    43 Sammy Watkins WR BUF 93 Pierre Garcon WR SFO
    44 Andrew Luck QB IND 94 Jeremy Maclin WR KAN
    45 Michael Crabtree WR OAK 95 Bilal Powell RB NYJ
    46 Spencer Ware RB KAN 96 Jason Witten TE DAL
    47 Marshawn Lynch RB OAK 97 Rob Kelley RB WAS
    48 Golden Tate WR DET 98 Matthew Stafford QB DET
    49 Davante Adams WR GNB 99 Rishard Matthews WR TEN
    50 C.J. Anderson RB DEN 100 Latavius Murray RB MIN

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