Way-Too-Early 2016 NFL Fantasy Rankings
If there’s one thing I hate about writing, it’s going with the flow. I can’t stand the cheesy way-too-early rankings and how every single fantasy writer does it. It drives me bonkers when writers take overused topics and use cheesy titles and concepts that everyone has seen.
That being said, it’s time to reveal my rankings.
There’s no point in delaying, so I’ll start with quarterbacks, and we can all get on with our overly bland lives.
- Cam Newton- Take a journey with me, will you? Let’s travel back in time to August 19th. That was the date of Kelvin Benjamin’s (remember him?) injury, in which he tore his ACL running a route. His season-ender sparked in unison a groan from all Carolina Panther fans.
Coming into the season, there weren’t many Panther players who were on fantasy radars, due to the lack of talent within the offense. The only trusty weapons were Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen. I didn’t even trust Cam Newton.
Now, Newton is in a three-headed race for MVP, and is probably the frontrunner. He’s helped Ten Ginn finally establish his career, and he’s managed to make his other newbie/somewhat washed up receivers look like ball players.
Newton is only entering his prime, and with a healthy Kelvin Benjamin, a steady Greg Olsen, and an established running game, have no fear of drafting the Auburn product next season.
- Ben Roethlisberger- Big Ben has the most dangerous weapons in the league with Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, and Martavis Bryant. With Bell back and healthy, and a more than formidable receiving group, Roethlisberger will have no shortage of talent to use next season.
The Miami (OH) product was one of the best in the business this season when healthy this season. The problem with Roethlisberger, however, is that he has trouble staying healthy. I trust that as long as he’s on the field, he’ll put up reliable numbers next season with revamped stars to play with.
- Tom Brady- Brady will be 39 by the time the 2016 season begins, but that shouldn’t stop him from performing well enough to be an elite quarterback. The veteran always does a great job of utilizing his weapons, whether they be stars like Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, or lesser known players like Brandon LaFell and the likes.
This season put Brady near the top of the quarterback pecking order thanks to his 343.70 points. It’s arguably been the best season for New England’s quarterback since 2012. Brady is aging indeed, but he’s still a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and will be able to put up numbers that will suffice for any fantasy team.
- Russell Wilson- Ah, finally some youth. Wilson is by no means aged or even old enough to be in the middle of his prime. That, along with his mobility, gives Wilson some of the most consistent fantasy stock of many quarterbacks.
For some reason, Wilson’s numbers rose when Jimmy Graham suffered a season-ending injury. Graham will be back in full force to start 2016, but I suspect a new year will help Wilson and Graham mesh. Nevertheless, Wilson’s ability to gain yards on the ground and find paydirt with his legs provide ample reason to use him as your starter for next season.
- Carson Palmer- With so many injuries to star players this season, somehow Carson Palmer was able to piece his mangled body together to provide his best season since 2005.
(Palmer should be a great pick for owners next season, Courtesy www.adamjw84.sportsblog.com/)
The quarterback position is the most important on the field, and having capable players to throw to can only help a passer’s potential skyrocket. Palmer threw to Larry Fitzgerald primarily, and found David Johnson to be a running back who could catch sufficiently out of the backfield towards the end of the season. Look for Arizona to add another receiver either via the draft of free agency to further boost Palmer’s potential
The USC product’s age keeps me from ranking him any higher, but Palmer should be good enough to be a QB1 next season.
- Aaron Rodgers- Green Bay’s reincarnation of Brett Favre had a down season statistically, and that can largely be blamed on losing Jordy Nelson before the season began. Teams were able to play man defense in the secondary and stack the box against Rodgers, due to there being no respectable receiving threat for the entire year.
Rejoice, Packer fans. Jordy Nelson will be back in 2016. Nelson will vastly improve the entire offense, but this season clearly exposed Green Bay’s lack of depth. Although the Packers get Nelson back next season, I still can’t quite put Rodgers into an elite ranking for the time being.
- Andrew Luck- It was an interesting year for Andrew Luck. After coming in ranked no worse than second in quarterback pre-draft rankings, Luck played in just seven games this season. To make matters worse, Luck was less than impressive in his time in the game.
The Colts failed to protect whichever quarterback was under center this season, leading to a one dimensional attack on offense for the entire season. Luck will continue to get battered next season.
Although it seemed as if the Indy wideouts would be more than helpful this season, they did fail for chunks of the season. T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, and Donte Moncrief, when healthy, can take some of the load off of Luck, and provided a chance to recharge for next season.
- Philip Rivers- Philip Rivers seems to put up good numbers each year, but his team is yet to take the leap into being playoff contenders each season. Rivers had a great first half of the season, drawing faint MVP support early in the season.
That all changed with the injury of Keenan Allen. Allen was have a breakout year, and was on his way to a Pro Bowl. Immediately after Allen’s injury, Rivers’ play began to decimate.
There’s plenty of talent in San Diego’s offense. Youth and established veterans are sprinkled into the Charger passing attack, so Rivers should be a low end QB1 next season.
- Blake Bortles- Bortles just finished his second season in the NFL, yet he’s already fourth in passing touchdowns and passing yards in Jacksonville team history. Bortles’ 2015 was worlds better than his rookie campaign.
Suddenly, the Jags seem to have a bright future. Bortles, T.J. Yeldon, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, and Julius Thomas are all respectable fantasy options and are all on the same youthful offense.
The future is bright in Jacksonville, and Blake Bortles may be part of the next generation of great quarterbacks. Bortles is a great pick in dynasty leagues, especially with the changing of the guards in generations of quarterbacks. The Central Florida product will only get better in years to come.
- Drew Brees- There’s so much uncertainty in New Orleans right now around Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton. This causes me to be leery on Brees for 2016. The Saints announced Payton will stick around for next season, but I’m still not confident in what New Orleans can do next season.
There’s really no high-value passing threats, and Brees seems to be aging quickly. I could see Brees returning to mid QB1 status, but the upside isn’t as loud as the concerns elsewhere. Temper your expectations on Brees in 2016.
Just missed the cut: Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor, Kirk Cousins, Derek Carr
After the entire running back position was slaughtered in 2015, 2016 is a shot in the dark.
- Le’Veon Bell- Le’Veon Bell is the best running back in the NFL as long as he isn’t being injured by the Cincinnati Bengals. Bell is just 23 years old, and he’s a monster in PPR formats.
I’ve owned Bell for three seasons, and I know first hand how good and reliable he really is. Barring a setback from his latest knee injury, expect Bell to be the best of the best at any position.
- Todd Gurley- If Todd Gurley can score double-digit points in all but three of his games this season with a murky quarterback situation, imagine what he could do with an actual NFL quarterback.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Gurley is part of the future of the NFL. He’s been a great find for St. Louis, and as long as the Rams can find a quarterback, his numbers will rise.
(Todd Gurley looks to build off an extraordinary rookie season, Courtesy AP)
If you miss out on Bell, draft Gurley. He’ll be one of the best options in 2016, period.
- Devonta Freeman- After being the number one rusher in 2015, Freeman should stay at the top of your draft board for next season. He’s taken the Atlanta starting job and ran with it (literally), and he’s a young runner who can excel in the offense.
Matt Ryan must find a way to be a threat so the Falcon offense isn’t one dimensional. Throwing to Julio Jones and using Freeman as a runner and pass-catcher provides no excuse for Ryan.
Freeman will be great, no doubt. He still won’t be quite good enough to be a surefire number one pick in any draft.
- Adrian Peterson- Entering his tenth season in the NFL next season worries me a little with Peterson. He’s maintained a pretty healthy career, as he’s played in no less than 12 games excluding last season.
Peterson will be the workhorse yet again for the Vikings. He’s also a part of a growing passing offense, which may take some attention away from him.
Peterson will do what he’s always done. Expect a 1,200 yard, 12 touchdown season from the Oklahoma product.
- Doug Martin- Doug Martin was healthy this season. When Doug Martin is healthy, Doug Martin is good (see 2012 season.)
Martin rushed for the most yards per carry in his career this season, proving his efficiency. If only he could’ve found the end zone more than just six times.
Martin finished third in scoring this season, and Devonta Freeman and Adrian Peterson beat him out in large part thanks to his lack of touchdown scoring. If Martin can score around nine times next season and stay healthy, he could carry you to a championship.
- David Johnson- Johnson is the final running back that I will trust as my RB1. He’s taken Arizona’s lead role down the stretch of this season, scoring 107.4 points in the final six games in
which he’s been an integral part of the offense.
I’m concerned however that Johnson could be next season’s Jeremy Hill. Johnson and Hill both broke out during the latter halves of their rookie years, causing me to be very cautionate with Johnson.
- Matt Forte- Here’s a fun fact: In each of Matt Forte’s eight NFL seasons, he’s finished as a RB1. However, the Bears have hinted that they’re open to giving increased looks to Jeremy Langford next season, limiting Forte’s potential.
That of course is unfortunate unless Forte signs elsewhere this offseason. The Tulane product is a free agent this offseason, so his landing spot can drastically change his stock. Make sure to stay tuned to Forte’s off season before you make a choice on him.
- Mark Ingram- Saints’ running back Mark Ingram is dealing with the same problems as aforementioned Drew Brees. There’s little stability in the offense, and until we see what happens during the offseason, Ingram is a risk as your RB1.
Even so, Ingram was able to be a top running back in fantasy before his season-ending shoulder injury. I think Ingram has the potential to be a RB1, but I am not confident in having him as my top rusher next season.
- Jamaal Charles- Charles is going to be 30 during the 2016 season, and he’s coming off his second ACL tear in five years. The Texas product has been injury prone, but elite when healthy.
This provides a serious conundrum for fantasy owners. Do you take the upside of the healthy Charles, or back away due to his injury history? This season, I won’t be jumping after Charles. However, if you can grab him as your RB2, you’ll be in great shape.
- LeSean McCoy- Fantasy owners have been frustrated with McCoy in his last two seasons. His production has left owners upset, and he’s been very inconsistent.
McCoy still could be a steal in the draft if picked at the right time. There’s a lot of upside with him, but he’s got two capable running backs on his own team to watch out for.
McCoy could lose some goal line work, and he could have another disappointing year. Despite that, I still like McCoy has a high-end RB2.
Just missed the cut: DeMarco Murray, Lamar Miller
Wide receivers were rather steady this season, and probably provided the least amount of headaches in 2015.
- Antonio Brown- If there’s a more dominant player in the NFL, I’m yet to see him. In his ten games with Ben Roethlisberger this season, Brown racked up 98 catches, 1,351 yards, and nine touchdowns.
If Brown would’ve had Big Ben for all 16 games, he would’ve tallied an unreal 157 catches for 2,162 yards and 14 scores.
That’s all you need to know. There is no better player to have in fantasy football, and you could justify taking him as your number one pick in 2016.
- Julio Jones- Julio Jones was on a record-breaking tear for most of the season, and especially in the early part. As Matt Ryan began to implode, so did the Falcons’ chances of making the playoffs.
Even with inconsistent play from Matt Ryan, Jones still had an uncanny 136 catches for 1,871 yards and eight touchdowns. Jones was able to stay healthy for the entire year, which clearly proved his elite WR1 status.
Drafting the Alabama product will give you an easy start at WR1, especially in PPR formats.
- Odell Beckham- I warned owners of drafting Beckham last season (although I was right about Lacy, Anderson, and Hill being busts), yet he had an amazing sophomore campaign. He was a great find for those who bought him, scoring 223.30 points.
If you are in a PPR league, Jones and Brown are certainly better options, but in standard scoring, rolling with either of the top three will do.
If it wasn’t for Beckham’s 13 touchdowns, his production would’ve been a little less, but grabbing him early won’t hurt your fantasy chances.
- Demaryius Thomas- Thomas turned in a lesser season than many expected, and that could be attributed to the lack of a concrete quarterback in Denver. Nevertheless, Thomas still finished as a high-end WR2.
It’s hard to tell what may happen with Denver’s quarterbacks, but I still trust Thomas can bounce back from a down season. Thomas was on the lower end of touchdown grabs, with six in 2015. That alone shows Thomas could very easily jump a few spots next season with more timely red zone grabs.
I prefer to take an elite running back and wide receiver with my first two picks. But if you are unable to do that, taking Thomas as your WR1 should suffice.
- Allen Robinson- It’s weird to rank any Jaguar in a top-ten list, but the Jags have a lot of potential to grab a playoff spot in the next few years. That chance hinges on what the young offensive skilled players can do. Allen Robinson is front and center in Jacksonville, and I see him being a huge part of the success for the Jags.
A-Rob finished fourth in scoring this season, and either scored a touchdown or notched 80 receiving yards in all but two games this season.
Robinson could become one of the next elite wideouts in an age in which the position is loaded with talent.
- DeAndre Hopkins- I wasn’t too sure about drafting DeAndre Hopkins this year, as were many fantasy pundits. Hopkins silenced the critics with a season that eclipsed 1,500 receiving yards and ten touchdowns.
DeAndre also did this with four different quarterbacks. Think about Hopkins with a quarterback who can at least start 16 games. Case in point.
7. A.J. Green- After injuries were sprinkled in his lackluster 2014 season, Green was able to shake off ailments for most of 2015 and turned in a low WR1 finish.
(A.J. Green improved after an injury-filled 2014, Courtesy talk-sports.net)
In 2016, Green may continue to lose looks to Tyler Eifert towards the red zone. However, Eifert has proved to be injury prone, which could mean Green may snag a few touchdowns that could’ve been Eifert’s.
Although a new star as emerged in Cincinnati, using A.J. Green as a low WR1 or very high WR2 will be a breeze.
- Jordy Nelson- A torn ACL kept Jordy Nelson out for the entire season, and his impact off the field was heard loud and clear in Green Bay. The offense as a whole struggled for the entire regular season, due to the Cheeseheads’ top deep-threat being absent.
Nelson and aforementioned Aaron Rodgers have clear chemistry, and they will pick up where they left off from 2014.
The injury bug concerns me with Nelson, but I suspect the Packers will utilize Nelson to the fullest next season.
- Keenan Allen- A season-ending kidney injury is not something you see very often, but Keenan Allen drew the short stick in 2015.
Allen was on pace to score 189 fantasy points, which would’ve been good for seventh in scoring among wideouts this season.
- Calvin Johnson- Entering his age 31 season, Calvin Johnson seems to be in the last days of his prime. Johnson is still good enough to make an impact for your team, as he quietly finished as a low WR1 this season.
The pass offense in Detroit was at times tumultuous this season, but as the year got older, Matthew Stafford and Co. were able to be effective. Johnson finished with 88 catches for 1,214 yards and nine touchdowns.
I didn’t like Johnson to be anything more than a high WR2 to enter 2015, and that’s about where he was. With Golden Tate in his second season in 2015, Johnson could’ve lost additional targets. In the end, Tate saw less targets than expected, paving way for what should be another dominant year for the Georgia Tech product in 2016.
Just missed the cut: Alshon Jeffery, Julian Edelman, Sammy Watkins,
There were several breakout tight ends this season. When the season began the tight end position looked as thin as ever. Now, there may be a plethora of top-level tight ends in 2016.
- Rob Gronkowski- 2015 was yet another season in which Rob Gronkowski turned in a stellar campaign. He scored 25 more points than the second-highest scorer among tight ends. His numbers could’ve been even higher had he not have missed the week 13 game against Philadelphia due to a violent knee sprain.
If there’s a better tight end to own in fantasy football, no one has seen him. If you see a ranking in which Gronk is not ranked first, that writer is simply trying to be too cute. Draft Gronk, and worry about your tight end position later.
- Tyler Eifert- I listed Tyler Eifert as a breakout candidate when the season began, and he didn’t disappoint. Eifert missed three games this season, and was limited in others, yet he still scored 13 touchdowns.
Eifert’s inability to stay healthy has plagued him many times in his young career. The only real concern with the Notre Dame product is whether or not he’ll be able to stay on the field, and off the injury report.
- Jordan Reed- Jordan Reed is a very similar tight end to Tyler Eifert. Reed is a young, talented tight end, but finds himself injured far more often than he’d like. He only missed two games this season, but was commonly listed on the Redskins’ injury report throughout the weeks.
As far as we know, the Redskins have a quarterback of the future.
(Jordan Reed’s ability to stretch defenses makes him an attractive pick in 2016, Courtesy Washington Post)
Kirk Cousins was successful this season, and Reed should be able to feed off that. Having the Florida product in your starting lineup should pay dividends in 2016.
- Greg Olsen- Greg Olsen is as reliable as any tight end in the NFL. As he gets older, he’s still able to stay on the field, all the while turning in solid fantasy games.
Olsen may lose targets next season to Kelvin Benjamin, but that doesn’t concern me too much. Drafting the Miami (FL) product will simply give you consistent and quality point totals each week.
- Julius Thomas- Although the beginning of the season was nonexistent for Thomas, once he got on the field, he showed spurts of being the Denver tight end we’ve come accustomed to enjoy.
Thomas enjoyed four straight games with a touchdown, but he turned in just one game over 80 yards receiving. It seemed there was still something missing in 2015 from Thomas, but he should string together a few games in which he topples 12 fantasy points in 2016.
- Gary Barnidge- The Barnyard Dog became a staple in Cleveland’s stale offense, as he recorded 1,043 yards and nine scores. He was able to do that with three different players under center, which in any realm is impressive.
Barnidge will be 31 in the 2016 season, which worries me somewhat. However, he should still be able to produce TE1 numbers throughout the 2016 season.
- Travis Kelce- Travis Kelce was labeled a breakout candidate coming into 2015, but he may not have put up the numbers many expected. His monster 22.60 point game in week one led many to predict he’d overtake Rob Gronkowski in 2015 as the number one tight end.
Kelce came crashing back down to earth as the season went on. His ability to gain yards after the catch made him a valuable asset in Kansas City, but his next best game was a 12-point performance in week 12.
Kelce’s upside is still there, but his lack of targets in an already stingy pass game in Kansas City keeps me from ranking Kelce any higher.
- Jimmy Graham- Torn patellar tendons suck, just ask Jimmy Graham. After suffering this injury against Pittsburgh in week 12, his season came to a crashing halt. Graham was just beginning to fit into the Seahawk offense when his injury came.
I labeled Graham as a bust coming into 2015, and I guess I was kind of sort of right. Next season, I’m a little more confident in him, but I still think if you can grab another player on this list with him you’ll be in great shape. Don’t reach for Graham next season.
- Zach Ertz- Although his first 13 games left more to be desired, Zach Ertz turned it on to close his third season in the league. In Ertz’s final three games, he tallied 35 receptions for 450 yards and one touchdown.
The final chunk of Ertz’s 2015 provided optimism for his 2016 season. He still has competition within his own team with fellow tight end Brent Celek. I’m not all that worried about Celek, and I think Ertz could turn in a very solid 2016.
If you do anything next season in fantasy football, make sure you play Ertz in week 16. In his past two week 16’s, Ertz has 28 catches for 237 yards. Bizarre as it is, it’s true.
- Delanie Walker- Delanie Walker turned back the clock to turn in his best season of his career in 2015. He caught 94 passes this season, and added 1,088 yards with six scores. Walker has consistently been a useable fantasy tight end, but hasn’t produced enough to warrant elite status.
If Walker ends up as your backup, you’ll be in great shape. Even if you draft him as your starting tight end, he should be consistent enough to be at least adequate. I don’t advise using him as your starting tight end unless you have a very solid starting lineup at other positions.
Just missed the cut: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Kyle Rudolph, Ladarius Green, Eric Ebron
So there you have it. There’s no need to do anymore research until your draft. Just pull up this article, and you’ll be good to go.
Make sure you let me know what you think about these rankings in the “Miller Time” and “Fantasy Football” forums.