News & Analysis

What fantasy options could lead their positions?

By Dan Clasgens
Jul 9, 2017

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HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 07: DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans scores against the Oakland Raiders in their AFC Wild Card game at NRG Stadium on January 7, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)"n

Take a glance across the new and improved PFF consensus fantasy football rankings and you’ll find only a few differences at which player each of our analysts have atop the various spots.

There are a handful of favorites to be the top producer at their respective position, but there are some longshots too. Here’s a look at some players who have the best chance at coming out on top by position, including the obvious names and some not-so-obvious ones, along with my best guess at the odds for each guy to be the No. 1:

Quarterbacks

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (5/2)

He’s only finished as fantasy’s top quarterback twice since taking over as a starter in 2008, but has ended as one of the top two at the position seven times in nine seasons. Last year he became the first quarterback in league history to throw 39-plus touchdowns while rushing for at least four scores and compiling 350 or more yards on the ground.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots (4/1)

Brady turns 40 next month, but he has shown no signs of slowing down. Despite missing four games, he still managed to be a huge factor in 2016. Counting the playoffs, Brady threw for multiple scores in eight of his last 10 games while averaging 305.6 yards per contest during that span. The Patriots loaded up on even more offensive weapons this offseason and that should help Brady keep his elite fantasy status.

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (5/1)

After finishing as fantasy’s No. 1 signal-caller in three of five seasons, Brees has fallen short of the mark in four straight years. However, he has been in the top three in all but one of those campaigns. He is coming off his fifth 5,000-yard season. No other player has accomplished that feat more than once in his career.

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (9/1)

Injuries have slowed Luck’s development. Over the past 22 games he’s only thrown for 46 touchdowns, which leaves him in the shadows when stacked up against the group. However, his consistent production on the ground and an improving Colts’ offensive line leaves plenty of room for optimism. It was just three years ago that he finished as the top quarterback.

Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins (15/1)

Since Jay Gruden’s arrival in D.C. three years ago, the Redskins have averaged 286 yards per game through the air, the fourth-most in the league. Washington has all the pieces in place for a special season on offense and a defense that is shaky enough to keep Cousins throwing early and often. He’s playing for a contract (again) and the quarterback in second half of the top 10 with the highest ceiling.

Running backs

Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers (3/1)

Bell’s biggest hurdle to being fantasy’s top running back is himself. Suspensions and injuries have been the only thing to slow him down the past few years as he has averaged 141 yards per game. The Steelers’ bell cow has registered 128.7 total yards and 4.8 catches per game over 47 career games.

David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals (7/2)

Last year’s top fantasy producer at the position, Johnson compiled 2,118 yards from scrimmage and scored an astounding 20 times. To put that into perspective a bit further that equaled 36.1 percent of Arizona’s offensive yardage and 41.7 percent of the team’s scoring.

Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys (5/1)

After leading the NFL in rushing with 1,631 yards to go along with 16 total touchdowns as a rookie, it’s exciting to imagine what Elliott will do for an encore. He was the workhorse running back a year ago, rushing the ball 20 or more times in 12 of his 15 games.

Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers (9/1)

LeSean McCoy falls ahead of Gordon in most preseason rankings, but the Chargers’ third-year running back has a higher ceiling. He bounced back from a scoreless rookie campaign to find his way into the end zone 12 times in 2016. The Chargers are loaded with offensive weapons, but have little behind Gordon on the depth chart. If he stays healthy he’ll rack up plenty of touches to compete for the top spot at running back.

Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins (14/1)

From Week 6 on, there was no running back in football that had more carries or rushing yards than Ajayi. Dolphins’ head coach Adam Gase is already on record saying that the third-year runner could see 350 carries in 2017. He ranked first in PFF’s elusive rating metric at 76.0 and was also No. 1 in both forced missed tackles (58) and yards after contact (3.46). Durability concerns linger and the bulk of his production came in just three games, but if these metrics play out over a 16-game span Ajayi will emerge as a Tier 1 fantasy running back.

Wide receivers

Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers (4/1)

A strong case could still be made for Brown to be the No. 1 overall pick in PPR leagues and he is still the safest bet to finish as the top wide receiver. Over the last four years Brown has dominated and only missed one game. During that span, the Steelers’ wideout has averaged 120 receptions, 1,579 receiving yards and 10.8 touchdowns per season.

Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants (9/2)

Few players in the NFL are more electrifying that Beckham. He’s been a top-five fantasy wide receiver in each of his three seasons, yet has never grabbed the top spot. He has had at least 90 catches, 1,300 yards and 10 TDs every year of his career. Beckham should benefit from having fewer double teams with the addition of Brandon Marshall.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (5/1)

Jones has put up 1,624 yards per year and 108.3 per game over the last three seasons, but has had trouble finding his way into the end zone and that has kept him from finishing as the top wide receiver. He’s only scored double-digit touchdowns once in six pro seasons, scoring 6.7 touchdowns per year for his career. New offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian wants to get Jones more involved in the red zone in 2017, so there is hope that TD total could be on the rise.

Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7/1)

The Bucs’ wide receiver produced three 1,000-yard seasons before the age of 23. The team has added more weapons to the mix and that could cut down on his league-high 171 targets he saw a year ago. Still, Evans still has room to grow and with Jameis Winston also having another year under his belt Tampa Bay is an offense on the rise and Evans remains the team’s most prolific playmaker.

A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals (12/1)

Green was limited to just 10 games a year ago due to a torn hamstring, but before he went down he was on pace for 117 yards and 1,714 catches. Like some other names on this list, Green has had some supporting pieces added around him in the offense and that could cut down on targets coming his way. He’s hit double digit scores in three of his last six seasons and averaged 5.6 catches and 83.0 yards per contest during his time as a pro.

DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans (16/1)

A year ago at this time, most were projecting Hopkins as a first-round producer. Things didn’t quite turn out as many hoped though in 2016m as the Brock Osweiler signing turned out to be a disaster for the Texans. With rookie Deshaun Watson likely to take over as the starter sooner rather than later there is hope for a bounce back in Houston. Watson’s ability to move around in the pocket should open some doors for Hopkins to make some big plays down the field. There are safer bets for production outside the top-five guys on the board, but not many other wide receivers that have a ceiling high enough to leapfrog that group.

Tight ends

Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots (3/1)

Gronkowski is as a safe as a bet as any player to lead their position in fantasy points were it not for his durability concerns. He averaged over 12 touchdowns per year in seasons where he’s played at least 10 games. Since 2011 he has finished as TE1 three times and TE2 once in standard formats. However, Gronk has only started in 75 of a potential 112 career games and is coming off a December back surgery to repair a herniated disc.

Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs (6/1)

Unlike Gronkowski, Kelce has proven to be durable of late, as he has played in 48 straight games. He’s coming off a career year in which he led tight ends in receiving yards (1,125) and was second in receptions (85). His value would get a big boost if the Chiefs figure out way to get him in the end zone a bit more often as Kelce only has scored 14 times over the last three years. With the departure of Jeremy Maclin, look for him to garner an even larger share of the team’s targets.

Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals (18/1)

The Bengals’ tight end is the biggest long shot on this list and rightfully so considering he’s missed 27 games due to myriad injuries during his four pro seasons. If he could manage to post the first 16-game season of his career though, Eifert could make a strong push to land at the top of position based on his knack of getting in the end zone. He scored five times in eight games last season and 13 times in 13 contests in 2015. Aside from a weak offensive line, Cincinnati is loaded with talent in its offense and Eifert will be a top red-zone option for Andy Dalton when he’s on the field.

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