Early 2017 fantasy position rankings
Jeff Ratcliffe offers his positional rankings for 2017 already, because fantasy never stops.
Early 2017 fantasy position rankings
The best part about fantasy football is the season never ends. Sure, technically speaking, the 2016 NFL regular season is over. But we’re in the thick of the playoffs with the NFL scouting combine just over a month away. Then there’s free agency which spills into the draft. Minicamps and OTAs follow shortly after. Before we know it, the Fourth of July is here and we’re right back into fantasy draft mode.
In other words, it’s never too early to start prepping for next season. Let’s get the 2017 fantasy football season started with our first batch of rankings. The following list is for standard scoring. Of course, this is only the first incarnation of 2017 rankings. With so much yet to unfold across the NFL landscape, this list will undergo many changes over the next several months. We’ll give plenty of updates, along with PPR and overall rankings.
There was some debate on this past year’s top signal-caller, but in 2017 Rodgers is the clear top fantasy option. He finished the season with an impressive run, which has continued into the playoffs. Better yet, he’s only finished outside the top-two in fantasy scoring twice since 2008, and one of them was due to injury.
From there, things get a little tricky. Brees is no spring chicken, but he put together another remarkable season and has an impressive surrounding cast. Brady will be 40 next season, yet has managed to keep Father Time at bay. Luck has No. 1 upside, but the overall state of the Colts offense – especially the run game – keep him out of the top three. Ryan is coming off a massive year, but could regress, especially if Kyle Shanahan bounces for a head coaching job.
After that point, we have the trio of Roethlisberger, Wilson and Newton. All three disappointed in their own ways in 2016, yet each offers massive upside. This will likely be a good area to attack for middle-round value.
There are also a few late-round options to keep an eye on. Mariota flashed top-five potential at times this past season. He has a lengthy recovery from a broken fibula, but he’s still trending in the right direction. Likewise, Winston improved his passing yards and touchdowns in his sophomore season. With Mike Evans emerging as an elite option, Winston has a QB1 ceiling. Either option coupled with the uber-safe Philip Rivers is an enticing late-round duo. Rivers has finished as a top-12 fantasy quarterback in eight of the last 10 years, including this past season when he tossed 33 scores.
|43||Duke Johnson Jr.||CLV|
The likely consensus top-three overall picks top the list at running back. Depending on your fantasy football pundit, you’re either going to see Johnson or Bell in the No. 1 spot. Bell gets the slight edge in our rankings due to his massive workload coupled with Johnson’s likelihood for touchdown regression. Elliott is in the conversation, but his somewhat limited role as a receiver puts him a tick behind the top two options.
Running back may see the most ranking fluctuations during the offseason, as there are a number of situations in flux. A few that stick out include the Vikings, Packers, Seahawks, Jets, Ravens and Bengals. Adrian Peterson is on the wrong side of 30 and owed a massive $17.75 million next season. Without a pay cut, he’s unlikely to be in a Vikings uniform next season, which would position Jerick McKinnon as the lead back.
Green Bay will face a decision at running back with Eddie Lacy set to become an unrestricted free agent. If they let him walk, Ty Montgomery and Christine Michael are the most likely in-house replacements. C.J. Prosise flashed massive upside before getting hurt midseason. He and Thomas Rawls could form a one-two punch for the Seahawks. The Jets have a 31-year-old Matt Forte coming off a lackluster season and an ascending Bilal Powell. A committee seems likely, but Powell is the more intriguing player. Baltimore could end up addressing running back in the draft, but Kenneth Dixon has to be considered the early favorite for lead back duties. Jeremy Hill dynasty owners should be concerned. There’s a chance he moves to a short-yardage role next season, which would position Giovani Bernard as the lead back.
Of course, it should also be noted that this is a strong running back class in the draft. Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, D’Onta Foreman, and others will make an impact in 2017 fantasy leagues.
|2||Odell Beckham Jr.||NYG|
|25||Terrelle Pryor Sr.||CLV|
|51||Will Fuller V||HST|
Again, we could easily debate the top two rankings. Beckham has been insanely consistent in his career with double-digit touchdowns in all three seasons as a pro. Brown is coming off a “down year” where he finished third among wide receivers in fantasy scoring. However, he very likely would have taken the top spot for the third consecutive season had he played in Week 17. Ultimately, it’s splitting hairs, and both players will likely come off the board after the Big 3 running backs.
We have a number of receivers poised for bouncebacks in 2017. Hopkins and Robinson top the list. Both were major disappointments given their respective ADPs, and that will drive down their upcoming draft stock. Likewise, the masses may be down on Cooper following his late-season decline. But keep in mind that he’s entering just his third professional season. That’s often a pivotal year for wide receivers where they take the next step forward (see: Evans, Mike circa 2016).
Tight end was extremely volatile in 2016 with a number of injuries affecting the position and little consistency from week to week. Gronkowski and Reed are among the least durable options, but both possess massive upside and remain atop the position. Kelce could join the elite tier if the Chiefs continue to use him as they did down the stretch.
There are some late-round options who look to have breakout potential. Ertz still hasn’t taken that next step, but he’s close. He was fantasy’s No. 1 tight end over the season half of the season. Henry will likely see an expanded role in San Diego Los Angeles. He showed a lot of promise as a rookie, catching a position-high eight touchdowns. Green flashed massive upside when he was on the field this season. If he can overcome his injury issues, Green could be a monster in the Pittsburgh offense.
Jeff Ratcliffe | Director of Fantasy
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.