2017 NFC South division preview

2017 NFC South division preview

The NFL regular season is fast approaching. In the blink of an eye, Sep. 7 will arrive and the Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off the 2017-2018 NFL season. In the meantime, Hagan’s Haus will be bringing you the divisional previews and predictions of how teams will finish in their respective divisions. Without further ado, here is the 2017 NFC South division preview.

4: New Orleans Saints

Last season: 7-9

Strength of schedule:15

Oh when the Saints go marching in, they bring with them no defense. The Saints are hoping the additions of A.J. Klein and Manti Te’o will improve a defense that gave up 28.4 points per game last season. They also drafted defensive backs Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams to improve one of the league’s worst secondaries.

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo credit: Matthew Hinton)

Although New Orleans has made an effort to improve their defense, it won’t become great overnight. Despite ranking 11th in fewest plays per game, the Saints ranked 14th in rushing and 31st in passing. Until this unit shows on-field improvement, there is no way the Saints can win the division or earn a wild card berth.

Offensively, the Saints are absolutely loaded. They have future Hall of Famer Drew Brees under center. New Orleans has committed to Michael Thomas as the go-to guy on the outside in just his second season. Coby Fleener is more than a reliable tight end to compliment Thomas in the middle of the field and in the red zone.

The Saints are also blessed in the backfield with Mark Ingram, future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson and rookie Alvin Kamara. This trio of running backs will give defensive coordinators nightmares.

New Orleans has a pretty easy schedule this season and the offensive side of the ball is going to be straight fireworks. As is the story every season with Saints, can the defense be good enough to help them win games? The answer is no. Every game will be a shootout and opposing defenses are going to make more game winning plays. The Saints will be competitive because of their offense, but the defense will be their downfall yet again.

Prediction: 8-8 (3-3), miss the playoffs

3: Atlanta Falcons

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo Credit:http://www.sportingnews.com)

Last season: 11-5

Strength of schedule: 13

I am a firm believer in Super Bowl hangovers. Just look at how the Panthers’ season went last year after losing Super Bowl 50.

The Falcons’ players are saying all the right things about moving on and using the humiliating let down as motivation for this season but when push comes to shove that loss will be in the back of their mind. The first team to start coming back on them will bring out those painful memories.

Atlanta is also the defending NFC champions and they will get every team’s best shot. Their division is one of the toughest in the NFL and the Buccaneers and Panthers did a lot to improve.

Besides the hangover and their schedule, Atlanta has to prove they can play great defense for an entire season. The first half of last season was abysmal defensively. The Falcons finished the season ranked 27th in points, giving up 25.3 per game. Atlanta saw such a high volume of points scored in the fourth quarter. They ranked 31st in fourth quarter scoring giving up 9.9 points per fourth quarter. If that trend continues they will struggle to win games.

Offensively, the Falcons are loaded. Matt Ryan had a career year that led to him being named league MVP. It is unlikely that he has a second consecutive MVP caliber season as very few players have ever won back to back MVPs. Only four players have done so: Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.

Ryan will have a slight drop off in production but not enough to warrant concern. The offense will put up plenty of points and still be electrifying but as mentioned earlier, they will be given the best shot from every team and it will cause them to come up short a few more times than most can expect.

Atlanta’s defense must improve and play to the ability they did in the second half of the season in order to get back to the postseason. Due to a massive Super Bowl hangover, an improved division all-around and a defense that will likely be mediocre, the Falcons come up short and miss the playoffs.

Prediction: 9-7 (3-3), miss the playoffs

2: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last season: 9-7

Strength of schedule: 14

Tampa Bay had a solid season last year but missed the playoffs. This season they should take the next step and make the playoffs behind a very solid offense that has improved. The upgrades on offense include the additions of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard. Both of which will turn this offense from good to great.

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

The Buccaneers were led by their passing game, averaging 245.4 yards per game. Mike Evans is one of the top receivers in the league and the combination of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard will cause defensive coordinators to adjust their game plans leaving Mike Evans with more one on one looks.

The running game only averaged 101 yards per game but Doug Martin only played eight games last season. Martin will start out the season suspended but is eligible to play in week four.

Once Martin returns the running game will start to get rolling, making it even easier for Jameis Winston to air it out. Everything will finally come together for the Bucs offense this season. Don’t be surprised if the 2017 Buccaneers finish with a top 10 offense.

Tampa Bay must become a better defensive team to truly take the step and make the playoffs. The Bucs ranked 22nd in both rush and pass defense giving up a total of 367.9 yards per game. Gerald McCoy will have a Chris Baker next to him to improve the rush defense but it will take more than just one new defensive tackle.

The Bucs should have a better pass defense because the defensive line will get tons of pressure from the trio of Robert Ayers, William Gholston and Noah Spence. Spence had 5.5 sacks in his rookie campaign. With an entire year in the Bucs system, Spence could improve and show the ability he displayed at Ohio State.

In total, this defense gave up 25.3 points per game. If the Bucs can improve that but just four points the offense should easily score more than 21 points per game with all the talent they have.

Tampa Bay will have a balanced offense capable of big play ability. Their defense will also be improved and with an easy schedule, the Bucs should have a solid shot at a playoff berth.

Prediction: 10-6 (3-3), wildcard candidate

1: Carolina Panthers

2017 NFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: http://www.panthers.com)

Last season: 6-10

Strength of schedule: 16

Carolina had a Super Bowl hangover but this year they are locked and loaded. Cam Newton is determined to correct last seasons mistake and retake his MVP form. The front office also made quality moves to get this team back to the big game.

The Panthers added key playmakers in the draft to help Cam. Christian McCaffery has already put Panther defenders on skates based off of leaked practice videos. That includes Panthers defenders such as all-world linebacker Luke Kuechly. Curtis Samuel, out of Ohio State, was also a key piece the Panthers picked up in the draft but has yet to practice due to a nagging hamstring injury.

Even without Samuel, Cam has Jonathan Stewart, Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin back. With all these weapons and an upgraded offensive line, the Panthers can become one of the premier offenses in the NFL.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers are still as dangerous as ever. The front four have some studs at defensive tackle in Star Lotuelei and Kawann Short. Off the edge, the Panthers bring back Mario Addison and Charles Johnson. This front four is fierce and to beef it up, even more, Panthers legend Julius Peppers has returned to finish his career in Carolina.

The linebacking corp is arguably the best in all of football with Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson. This front seven is going to cause major havoc to opposing offenses.

The Panthers secondary is where their defense struggled last season. To improve this unit, the Panthers signed Mike Adams, a safety, who had 12 interceptions in his three seasons with the Colts. Carolina also brought back Captain Munnerlyn, who is one of the best nickel corners in the league. These additions to the secondary, paired with an elite front seven means the Panthers will have a top 10 defense and the Lombardi Trophy is a realistic goal this season.

These additions to the secondary, paired with an elite front seven means the Panthers will have a top 10 defense and the Lombardi Trophy is a realistic goal this season.

Prediction: 12-4 (4-2), division champion

 

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Cam Newton

NFL early season games to watch: Gut check games

As nice as it is to have NFL football back on our television sets, preseason games are often a tough watch. However, it is now more than fashionable to look ahead to the regular season.

Teams can change a lot over 16-plus weeks. Even so, early fall games frequently foreshadow the future. Here is a single game from each of the first four weeks of the season that will tell us a great deal about the teams involved.

Week 1: Bucs at Dolphins

Patriots/Chiefs, Seahawks/Packers and Giants/Cowboys will get all the opening week headlines. This battle of Florida teams is a solid undercard that should not be overlooked.

NFL early season games to watch

Photo: zambio.com

The hype train has been rolling all offseason for Tampa Bay. With Jameis Winston only getting better, it is easy to see why. The charismatic signal caller has tossed 50 touchdowns in his first two seasons.

Also, new additions DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard should help free up top pass catcher Mike Evans. Toss in a young defense that had some really nice moments last year, and the end of a long playoff drought becomes realistic. Opening up against a playoff team from last season will serve as a nice measuring stick.

For Miami, the season hinges on the play of retiree-turned-knight in shining armor Jay Cutler who is back to play for his biggest supporter in head coach Adam Gase. If Cutler is healthy and motivated, he can still throw for over 3,500 yards like he did under the direction of Gase in Chicago.

However, if something is not right with the Cutler experiment, the Bucs are certainly good enough to exploit it and begin what will be a long year for the Dolphins.

Week 2: Cowboys at Broncos

Regardless of the outcome of Ezekiel Elliott’s appeal, the Cowboys are in for a dogfight with the Giants in the opener. However, the rubber will really meet the road here. As long as all members of the “No Fly Zone” are around, the only way to move the ball on a consistent basis against Denver is on the ground.

The Broncos got pushed around at the point of attack in 2016, finishing 28th against the run. If Dallas cannot run the ball here, they will likely struggle in a big way in Elliott’s absence. Conversely, going up against what is widely regarded as the best offensive line in football will be a fantastic gauge of improvement (if any) against the run for Denver.

Week 3: Seahawks at Titans:

Much like Tampa Bay, there’s lots of talk about Tennessee ending a lengthy playoff drought this year after exceeding expectations in 2016.

NFL early season games to watch

Photo: larrybrownsports.com

The Titans are a rarity in the modern NFL. They run the ball as much or more than they throw it. Games are rarely placed squarely on the shoulders of quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Mariota does a great job fulfilling his role and taking care of the football. He put up 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions last year.

No team has mastered the physical brand of football that the Titans are trying to build a powerhouse with better than Seattle over the last half decade. Barring key injuries, Seattle will be in the mix again this year.

However, if the Titans want to sit at the big kid table of the NFL, this is their chance to prove they belong.

Week 4: Panthers at Patriots:

With the exception of Josh Norman departing, many of the main cogs for the Panthers are the same as they were when Carolina reached the Super Bowl just two years ago. However, a similar cast of characters also posted a losing record last year.

The Patriots are the gold standard in the NFL. That will likely remain the case as long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are around. While talk of them going undefeated is ridiculous, they will certainly be the toughest team in the league to beat.

Make no mistake that Cam Newton and the Panthers still have the talent to play with any opponent in any location. Their performance against the reigning Super Bowl champions will speak volumes about whether their true identity is the team that reached the Super Bowl, or the team that fell off a cliff last year.

 

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NFL top 100 players 2017: 30-21

The NFL season is right around the corner and all the lists of top players of the NFL are out. There is only one problem with these lists: they look back on the 2016 season too much. This list will look forward to the 2017 season and predict who will be the top 100 players for the 2017 season. The Game Haus staff compiled their lists together to rank who they think will be the top 100 players this upcoming season.

This is the eighth installment, containing players 30-21.

30. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL Top 100

Mike Evans (Photo by buccaneers.com)

Jameis Winston has developed into a good quarterback, but has a lot of help from Mike Evans, who has turned into an elite receiver. In 2016 he had a great season that resulted in a Pro Bowl appearance. He finished last season with 96 receptions for 1,321 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Evans is a matchup nightmare at 6’5″ and 231 pounds. In 2017 Evans can continue to move up the ranks of the receivers in the NFL. The emergence and continual progression of Winston will help, but the offense will have some new weapons that might take away some of the double teams. Desean Jackson and O.J. Howard were both added this offseason and the hope for the Buccaneers is that opponents will have to pick and choose, if and who, they decide to double team.

With more help on the offensive side of the ball, Evans should find himself open more and he will capitalize.

Comments: “Mike Evans is a bad man, he makes cornerbacks look like children. The crazy thing is I can see him getting even better.”-Robert Hanes

29. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL Top 100

Ben Roethlisberger (Photo by denverpost.com)

The Steelers have a really good offense because of the “Killer B’s” of Ben Roethlisberger, LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown. Roethlisberger is aging, but is still leading a very good offensive unit that ranked sixth in total yards in 2016. His 2016 campaign saw him throw for 3,819 yards, 29 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Roethlisberger is now 35, but still has proven to make good throws. With Brown and Bell back, the offense should be balanced and dynamic. The Steelers also get Martavis Bryant back from suspension this year, giving Roethlisberger a plethora of weapons to use. Pittsburgh’s offensive line is very good and will have to try to keep Roethlisberger healthy, as he hasn’t played in a full 16 games since 2016.

With the weapons and talent he has, Roethlisberger is destined to put up great offensive numbers again in 2017.

Comments: “The only thing holding Roethlisberger back is injury and the contemplation of retirement. On a great offense with Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, Roethlisberger will be a top 30 player in the NFL. His ability is what is going to make the Steelers a contender in the AFC once again.”-Joe DiTullio

28. Marcus Peters, CB, Kansas City Chiefs

NFL Top 100

Marcus Peters (Photo by mercurynews.com)

Peters has only been in the NFL for two seasons so far and has cemented himself as one of the best corners and players in the NFL already. In 2016 he had 45 tackles, six interceptions, 20 passes defended, one forced fumble and three fumble recoveries.

Kansas City’s pass defense is average, but Peters does his part. He covers really well and has success against the best of receivers. In his two seasons, he has 14 interceptions already and is getting the reputation of being a ball-hawk. His productivity will continue because of his great instincts for the ball.

In 2017 a lot of quarterbacks will try to shy away from Peters and throw in a different direction, which is the ultimate sign of a great corner.

Comments: “Ever since Peters has come into the NFL he has been a magnet for the football. The Chiefs don’t always utilize his talents the correct way but he is a great young corner. This is the perfect spot for Peters.” -Matthew Hagan

27. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

NFL Top 100

Russell Wilson (Photo by sportsonearth.com)

Seattle doesn’t do a great job of protecting Wilson, but he is still productive. In 2016 he threw for 4,219 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The stats are good, but the most impressive thing about Wilson is that he has never had a season of lower than 10 wins.

The Seahawks looked primed for another great season. Wilson will still not have great protection, but the Seahawks tried to improve by drafting Ethan Pocic and signing Luke Joeckel. If Wilson has been good the last few years, he will do fine with this offensive line as well. He still has Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham to throw to and the running game should take a little bit off of his plate with a few options to carry the ball.

Wilson will have to make plays on the run like he has his whole career, but he has thrived before and will again in 2017.

Comments: “He is a winner plain and simple. His offensive line was atrocious last season and he barely had a running game. Yet, he still put up big numbers.”- Robert Hanes 

26. Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle Seahawks

NFL Top 100

Bobby Wagner (Photo by seahawks.com)

Wagner can sometimes be overlooked for people giving adoration to Russell Wilson, the “Legion of Boom” and the pass rush, but he is one of the league’s best linebackers himself. He led the NFL in tackles in 2016 with 167. He added 4.5 sacks, one interception, three fumbles forced and one fumble recovered.

With the “Legion of Boom” behind him and a good defensive line in front of him, Wagner has the freedom to go run after the football knowing everyone else is doing their jobs. In 2017 Wagner will once again be flying to the football and amass a lot of tackles. He has a knack for doing everything well, which makes him a top 100 player in 2017.

Other people on the Seahawks might get more attention, but Wagner is a great defender that will be near the ball on a lot of plays this season.

Comments: “Wagner is rated a bit too high for my taste. Seahawk linebackers benefit from a good defensive line and a great secondary. Wagner is talented but on any other team he wouldn’t be a top 50 player.” -Matthew Hagan

25. Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks

NFL Top 100

Richard Sherman (Photo by richardsherman25.com)

Three Seahawks in a row and there are more coming. Sherman has been one of the best corners in the NFL for what seems like forever. In 2016 he recorded 58 tackles, four interceptions, 13 passes defended and one fumble recovery.

Sherman gets some heat for only covering one side of the field instead of trailing the other team’s best receiver, but he does his job phenomenally. With the other members of the “Legion of Boom”, Sherman will return once again to do his job and create one of the best secondaries in football.

In 2017 Sherman is going to try to keep his status as one of the best corners in the NFL and will likely come away successful.

Comments: “Sherman is the best corner in the NFL. He locks down an entire side of the field. He is on his way to a hall of fame career and is truly one of the best players in the league.” -Matthew Hagan

24. Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks

NFL Top 100

Earl Thomas (Photo by youtube.com)

His season was cut short after he broke his leg in the Seahawks eleventh game, but Thomas still had a good season in that time. He finished his 2016 season with 46 tackles, two interceptions, 10 passes defended and a fumble recovery.

The Seahawks defense was significantly worse after Thomas’ injury, which showed how good of a player he truly is. When he was on the field Seattle allowed just 16 points per game, but when he wasn’t they allowed 23 points per game. This season he will help restore the Seahawks’ defense to elite status with his big-hitting, ball-hawking nature.

Thomas is coming back from an injury, but his natural instincts will still be sharp, making him one of the best players in the NFL.

Comments: “When Thomas went down with injury, the entire Seahawks’ defense changed for the worse. Thomas could be higher on this list with the big impact he has. If he can recover from his injury he is in no doubt a top 25 player in the NFL.”-Joe DiTullio

23. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans

NFL Top 100

J.J. Watt (photo by jjwfoundation.com)

Watt only played three games in 2016 due to injury, but if he can recover, he will be a great player once again. In his three games he had eight tackles, 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. When he was healthy in 2015 he led the league with 17.5 sacks.

Houston ranked tenth in the NFL as a scoring defense last season without Watt, but they needed more pass rushing. They had just 31 sacks, which tied for 24th in the NFL. Watt will rejoin Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney, which will help. Watt will be one more problem for opponents’ offensive lines to worry about and will produce in 2017.

There is no reason to believe that Watt won’t be a great, physical force in 2017 if he recovers from his injury.

Comments: “Health is the only concern with Watt. If not for last year’s injury, he would be in the top ten”- Dylan Streibig 

22. Landon Collins, S, New York Giants

NFL Top 100

Landon Collins (Photo by giants.com)

The Giants hit the jackpot by selecting Collins with the first pick of the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Ever since he came into the NFL, he has produced. Last season he had 125 tackles, four sacks, five interceptions, 13 passes defended, one touchdown and one fumble recovery.

With Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie taking care of shutting down receivers, Collins is free to play instinctive football. He flies to the football and usually makes a play. Collins is so effective because he can do so many different things. He can cover, blitz and provide good run support.

Collins has been extraordinary in his first two seasons and will continue to improve in the coming years.

Comments: “This man is basically a whole defense by himself. Not to say he doesn’t have good pieces around him but, I think he will be a top 20 players by the end of the season.”-Robert Hanes

21. Tyron Smith, OT, Dallas Cowboys

NFL Top 100

Tyron Smith (Photo by insidethestar.com)

Smith has been one of the best tackles in the NFL and is entering his prime years. The Cowboys have two other offensive linemen on this list: Travis Frederick and Zack Martin, showing how good of an offensive line they have. Smith is ranked the highest out of all of them. He made his fourth straight Pro Bowl in 2016 and added his second appearance as a first team All-Pro.

Like the other linemen from Dallas on this list, he helped Ezekiel Elliot have a great first season in the NFL, as he rushed for 1,631 yards. Most impressively for Smith though was his pass protection, as he allowed just two sacks all season. As the left tackle who goes up against a lot of effective pass rushers, that is an outstanding output.

Dak Prescott has to feel comfortable with how good his offensive line is going to be in 2017, especially with Smith protecting his blindside.

Comments: “Smith is clearly one of the best offensive linemen in the league and deserves this spot. He will keep Dak Prescott upright in 2017 and also help the Cowboys have a good ground game. Smith will make his fifth Pro Bowl in 2017 and is well on his way to a Hall of Fame career.”-Joe DiTullio

NFL Top 100 Players:40-31

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2017 fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 10-1

Here it is, my final and most important list of receivers. These receivers will fill up the first and second round of most drafts and will fill the void of your number one receiver.

2017 fantasy football wide receivers

https://static.seattletimes.com

10. Doug Baldwin (Seattle Seahawks): After a breakout season in 2015 with 1,069 yards and 14 touchdowns, Baldwin had another 1,000-yard season with seven touchdowns. Regression was expected from Baldwin last season, but I don’t expect that trend to continue this season.

Russell Wilson didn’t target Baldwin as much as he should’ve in the red zone last year. He found success there but he found it using his other receivers.

Where Baldwin did succeed was in his productivity. Baldwin ranked seventh in receptions and seventh in yards after the catch with 447. Another season as Wilson’s number one target, Baldwin should finish as a WR1 this year.

9. Amari Cooper (Oakland Raiders): Amari Cooper has been the receiver that the Raiders hoped he would become after selecting him fourth in the 2015 NFL Draft. After back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Cooper has the ability to take the next step in 2017.

In the touchdown category, Cooper only has the opportunity to go up after seasons with six and five touchdowns. Now with Marshawn Lynch in the mix, Cooper will find trouble in the red zone but the volume will be there. The Raiders want to get Cooper the ball more and if that happens, he’s a lock for top 10 production.

8. T.Y. Hilton (Indianapolis Colts): The receiving leader in 2016 wasn’t Antonio Brown, Julio Jones or Odell Beckham Jr. It was, however, T.Y. Hilton. Hilton and Andrew Luck were on another level last season. After four straight 1,000-yard seasons, T.Y. can upgrade his touchdowns and be a top five receiver easily.

He’s as productive as productive gets after ranking first in receiving yards and second in air yards. T.Y. Hilton also ranked eighth in fantasy points per game. The only way Hilton does the same thing as last season is if Andrew Luck can stay healthy. If that happens, Hilton will be a better receiver than he was last year.

7. Michael Thomas (New Orleans Saints): In a rookie class highlighted by stud running backs and Dak Prescott, Michael Thomas slid under the radar as one of the league’s best receivers. He was productive in the red zone, ranking fifth in red zone receptions and ninth in receptions overall.

Now Brandin Cooks is gone and Michael Thomas is stepping into the number one receiver role with the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees. Thomas starts the season in a tough spot facing the Vikings, Patriots and Panthers in his first three matchups. Defenses now know what to expect, but I’m still on the Michael Thomas bandwagon, as he’s a late first to early second round pick.

6. A.J. Green (Cincinnati Bengals): Do I need to talk about Green’s production or efficiency? His past numbers speak for themselves. From 2011-15, A.J. Green had 1,000-plus yards and double digit touchdowns every year but two. Last season, he didn’t have 1,000 yards but that’s only because he missed six games.

2017 fantasy football wide receivers

https://17245-presscdn-0-4-pagely.netdna-ssl.com

Green still finished with 964 yards in just 10 games. Obviously Andy Dalton’s favorite target, Green is in line for another big season. Standing at 6-foot-4 210 pounds, Green has big play ability and he’ll produce big time for the Bengals again this year.

5. Jordy Nelson (Green Bay Packers): After tearing his ACL in 2015, people wondered whether or not Jordy Nelson could bounce back to number one receiver status he once was. He not only removed doubt of being a number one receiver, he ended up as the number one receiver, in terms of fantasy that is.

Nelson formed a great duo with Davante Adams, creating terror for opposing defenses. Aaron Rodgers is destined to put up huge numbers in Green Bay, and will probably throw for 35 or more touchdowns.

The targets are there in the red zone, after last season, Nelson had 32 targets inside of the 20-yard line. Nelson is going to be a stud again in fantasy but expect a little regression in terms of touchdowns.

4. Mike Evans (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): Mike Evans started off last season with a bang. Through the first nine weeks of the season, Evans only had single digit weeks twice. He started to slow down a little after that however.

From week 10 on, Evans only had four double digit weeks. With the development of Jameis Winston, Mike Evans has the ability to be even better than last year. The only problem with Evans is how many targets may go to his fellow players.

With the addition of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard, targets are going to be spread around the Tampa Bay offense. Evans should still see most of the targets and stay a solid WR1.

3. Odell Beckham Jr. (New York Giants): Definitely the most outspoken player on this list, Odell Beckham Jr. is a once in a generation player. After coming onto the scene in 2014, Beckham Jr. hasn’t had a season with less than ten touchdowns. Last season he had 1,367 receiving yards and ten touchdowns. And that was his worst year as a pro. Odell was arguably the most productive receiver in the league last year ranking within the top 5 at categories such as receptions, receiving yards, yards after catch, touchdowns and fantasy points per game. The category Beckham could improve in is minimizing his drops. He had nine last season, his most since entering the league. Now Brandon Marshall is added to the mix which is a good and bad thing. It’s good for Beckham because he’ll see less double teams but it may minimize his red zone targets.

2. Julio Jones (Atlanta Falcons): The Falcons’ amazing season was helped out by Julio Jones and his play at wide receiver. After his third straight 1,000-plus yard season, is it possible that Julio could be even better than last year. The yardage won’t fall below 1,000 if he stays healthy for a full season.

However, that is a big if. Jones has only played two full seasons since entering the league in 2011. Other than health, Julio can improve in the red zone. He ranked 53rd in the league last season with five red zone receptions. If those numbers increase and the big bodied receiver gets more touchdowns, he’ll be the number one receiver in the league.

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

1. Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers): Business is boomin’ in Pittsburgh. Antonio Brown is in line for another big season with the Steelers. Since 2013, Antonio Brown has had at least 100 receptions, 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns in each season.

He ranked first in the most important fantasy candidate for wide receivers: fantasy points per game. Now Antonio Brown has Martavis Bryant back opposite of him for hopefully a full season which can lead to better things.

In two games where Antonio Brown was primarily double teamed, Sammie Coates was targeted a team-high 19 times. Now with Bryant back in the mix, those double teams should regress and Brown should be even better than last year.

 

Feature image courtesy of www.endzonescore.com

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Jameis Winston on the Rise

Jameis Winston on the rise in fantasy

Jameis Winston had an average fantasy season in 2016. He ranked outside of the top 12 on a per game basis but finished 10th in overall fantasy points at the quarterback position. He was, however, able to score at least 20 fantasy points in nine of his 16 games played and failed to post at least 15 fantasy points just once. Winston had 21.2 fantasy points per game that ranked 14th among QB’s. This was better then Cam Newton, Russell Wilson and Derek Carr who were all drafted higher then him. Jameis Winston is on the rise and poised to have a breakout 2017 fantasy football season. He is in route to being a top quarterback this year and you don’t want to miss it.

Winston should be expected to have a great season in large part due to the plethora of weapons he has. The Buccaneers signed wide receiver DeSean Jackson, drafted tight end O.J. Howard and they still have wide receiver Mike Evans and tight end Cameron Brate. This creates more opportunities as Winston is expected to have more designed roll-out plays called for him in 2017, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.

Jameis on the Rise

DeSean Jackson (Photo by: thefantasygreek.com)

Winston will have a deep threat to work with this season in Jackson. Last season Winston ranked towards the bottom in 40+ yard completions.  Jackson has proven he is one of the best deep threat receivers in the NFL, having five catches of 40+ yards that ranked seventh in the category. In fact, three of his four touchdowns came off from 40+ yard catches. With Jackson on the field, safeties will be forced to play a little deeper to respect his speed. This will open up the field for Winston to hit his underneath receivers.

The signing of Jackson doesn’t only help Winston, it also helps Evans. With Jackson’s speed making safeties play deeper, it will be more difficult to roll coverage in Evans’ direction. That will result in a lot more man-to-man coverages for Evans which he the size, speed and soft hands to take advantage of.

Winston will also have two tight ends to throw to. We have seen a quarterback by the name of Tom Brady excel with two reliable tight ends . Winston loved throwing to Brate last year as he was the second leading receiver on his team. Brate also led the league in touchdowns for tight ends and was second among receiving touchdowns inside of the 20-yard line.

O.J. Howard (Photo by: mmqb.si.com)

Winston will also have first round draft pick Howard to go along with Brate. Howard, from Alabama, could struggle early but he is still a weapon that defenses will have to respect. He can also be a valuable deep threat option along with Jackson. At Alabama three of his seven career touchdowns were from 40+ yards with two of them coming against Clemson in the National Championship game in 2015. Howard can be a game changer tight end the Winston can rely on especially a big target in the red zone.

Last but not least, the running game in Tampa is finally healthy. All of the moving parts in the backfield from last year have created a deeper, more confident stable of runners that offer multiple pass-catching options for Winston. This will help Winston from having to force the ball down field which led to 18 interceptions. Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers will be the primary pass-catchers out of the backfield and Doug Martin will pound the ball taking some of the pressure off Winston (after finishing is PED suspension).

Winston may not be a top five quarterback but he is a quarterback you should be targeting after the top players at the position are gone. He will rarely lose you a week as Tampa’s offense is built around him. Winston looks to be ranked between the 10th to 12th quarterback and thus won’t be drafted high. He could be the steal of your fantasy draft at quarterback as people aren’t quite sold on him yet. He enter as a high-end QB2 in most leagues but has the potential to be a QB1 as the season progresses.

 

Featured image from nytimes.com

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NFL Field

Fun With Projected NFL Win Totals

I am a football nerd and proud of it. With the NFL Draft in the rear view mirror, another favorite offseason event of mine took place earlier this week. Las Vegas released their projected regular season win totals for all 32 NFL teams. Here are my three favorite over/under bets for 2017.

Cowboys (Under 9.5 wins)

Unless you are an all-time great, this league has a way of humbling players whose careers get off to a hot start. Dak Prescott could be the latest example of that.

If he takes just a half step back from his 2016 season that saw him toss 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions, the effect will be dramatic.

In addition to their own division where all three opponents are at least reasonably capable, Dallas squares off with the western divisions in each conference, along with the Falcons and Packers. That is a really tough schedule for any team.

Dallas will still be very competitive, but that defense is not scaring anyone. The addition of Brandon Marshall makes the Giants the most complete team in the NFC East, and they already beat Dallas twice last year.

Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott will have to be superhuman again for this team to be close to where they were last year. That is a tough thing to bank on.

Browns (Over 4 wins)

This one is a bit dicey given the quarterback situation. None of Cleveland’s options are particularly appealing in the short term.

Even so, accumulating talent is the name of the game in the NFL. They’ve added linebacker Jamie Collins and three freakishly talented first-round draft picks that actually made sense. Add that to franchise mainstay Joe Thomas and this roster is already much better than last year’s 1-15 squad.

Cleveland Browns

Photo: dawgpounddaily,com

Several of Cleveland’s losses last year were relatively close. They’ve improved via the draft and free agency. They also have a schedule that includes the likes of Jacksonville, Minnesota, the Jets and division rival Cincinnati twice. Four wins does not seem like much to ask.

Bucs (Over 8 Wins)

In each of the last two seasons, an NFC South team has risen from relative obscurity to reach the Super Bowl. If you are a fan of odd trends, here are a few reasons why Tampa Bay could follow their division rivals.

The thought of Jameis Winston throwing to Mike Evans along with new additions O.J. Howard and DeSean Jackson is enough to make any defender lose sleep. Winston gets better with every snap. The organization surrounding him with this kind of talent will only expedite that process.

Jameis Winston

Photo: cbssports.com

Most of the same faces are on the young defense that is far from perfect. They did have a few shining moments last year, including holding Seattle and the Saints to under 15 points.

The Super Bowl might be a reach in the minds of some, but eight wins feels like stealing.

 

Featured Image by flannerysdublin.com

 

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Why You Didn’t Win Your DFS League

You just woke up after the best night’s sleep you had all week and let out a magnificent yawn as your body adjusts to the light. After going downstairs, open up FanDuel, turn to your favorite NFL pregame show, and look to adjust your DFS lineup. But this morning is different. You wake up to find that the Giants and Rams are tied at 10 during the third quarter.

Depending on your dedication you either woke up early to check your lineup, or, did not play in a league that included the 9:30 AM EST game. Whether you overslept or not isn’t the point. The point is, the London series is a back breaker to the average DFS player. As players, we already have to deal with Monday and Thursday night games detracting from the 1 PM EST main event pool.

This past Sunday, we lost access to players like Todd Gurley, Odell Beckham Jr., and Eli Manning. While they may not be playing well at the moment, these players have posted gaudy numbers in the past and have been critical to many people’s success in DFS.

Discovering Diamonds in the Rough 

With the number of options decreasing further from the 1 PM EST main event, finding an optimal lineup becomes even more challenging. Moreover, this makes finding key sleepers borderline impossible, for example, Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers was owned by 42.23% of all FanDuel players this weekend (NumberFire). This means without the ability to pay up for backs like Lamar Miller or CJ Anderson, you’re sleeper play becomes chalk. Thus, you lose your competitive edge in large tournaments.

Jacquizz Rodgers runs through a putrid Niners rush defense

Jacquizz Rodgers ran through the 32nd ranked Niners rush defense to accumulate 16.8 points

If you did play Rodgers, you’re ecstatic about the 16.8 points he produced. Given his low price tag, you no doubt were able to pay up for players like Julio Jones and AJ Green, right? Well, so was everyone else.

Jones and Green were the two highest owned players in all of FanDuel this past weekend. The two elite receivers were owned at 47.84% and 45.81% respectively (NumberFire). Once again, even though the decision to play them both was correct, you lost your tournament edge.

The first reason why you didn’t win your DFS League is that your lineups weren’t unique enough, and it wasn’t your fault. Blame our friends across the pond for the inability to roster Odell Beckham Jr. and dilute the ownership of Jones and Green.

 

Chalk vs. ChAnce

Since you, and many others, will have to keep dealing with these ridiculous London games, let’s look at ways to sift through the chalk plays and regain our competitive advantage. The best place to start is by examining player matchups. Jacquizz Rodgers was so widely owned not because he was a starter, but because the 49ers had the worst ranked run defense in the NFL. So, given his price tag, his volume, and his opponent, Rodgers became a no brainer.

On the other hand, Melvin Gordon was facing a top 10 rush defense in Atlanta, and a bottom third pass defense. Gordon’s price tag was also high at $8,000 given his unfavorable matchup. These factors contributed to a crazy low ownership of Gordon, 5.01% in fact (NumberFire). While both Rodgers and Gordon has successful outings, Gordon had a monster game and accumulated 33.1 points, more than doubling the production of Rodgers.

What’s the point? Understand the way other players are picking lineups, and counter their way of thinking. Now, let’s look at one player at each core position this week to be considered chalk and one to be considered chance.

Quarterback:

Chalk: This week’s chalk play at quarterback is none other than the golden boy, Tom Brady. Not only is he projected to be the highest scoring Quarterback, but also his DFS floor is outstanding. This past week versus the Steelers was his lowest scoring game to date with 18.18 points. Look for the Patriots to establish the run and come over the top with play action. If Ryan Tannehill can score 16.26 points and find receivers running free throughout the secondary, then no doubt Brady can as well.

Chance: While he may never seem like a chance play, Drew Brees will have an ownership under 5% this week. Why? Because the Saints play the Seahawks, who have a top-10 rush and pass defense. But here’s the key: The Saints are playing at home, which means, play Drew Brees. In each of his three home games, Brees has scored at least 25 points and topped 30 points twice. If you think I’m crazy about Brees’ ownership, he was only owned by 2.58% of players this past Sunday against the Chiefs, where he scored 25.68 points (NumberFire).

Running Back:

Chalk: Jacquizz Rodges will no doubt be another popular play this week. His price of $6,600 and his matchup vs. the 28th ranked Raiders rush defense makes him prime for another successful fantasy outing. Once again, you can play Rodgers again this week, just understand that you’ll need to differentiate your lineup at other positions. Also, be careful about the emergence of Peyton Barber. Barber had 12 carries for 84 yards and stole a touchdown from Rodgers against the 49ers.

Chance: Ty Montgomery will prove to have a big day against the Falcons. While he’s nowhere near the runner that Melvin Gordon is, Montgomery is going to be extremely effective out of the backfield. With 20 catches on 25 targets over the past two weeks, his role in the passing game will remain large. He also doesn’t have to be an efficient runner to score points, as Gordon only accumulated 68 yards on 22 carries last week versus Atlanta.

Wide Receiver:

Chalk: For the second week in a row, Mike Evans will have an ownership percentage over 25% across all FanDuel contests. With players Like Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, and Odell Beckham Jr. unavailable, Evans is the second most expensive receiver at $7,900 and has a great matchup against the Oakland Raiders, who has the worst ranked pass defense. In five of Evans’ last six outings he only scored less than 16 points once and scored more than 20 points twice.

Chance: Justin Hunter is starting to gain a lot of traction. While his outing against Miami was not impressive, he got the start in place of Robert Woods and played 53 of the 57 offensive snaps. This past Sunday was the first time since Hunter joined the Bills that he didn’t have a touchdown. Expect Hunter to have a high volume of touches as the Bills will likely be playing from behind and with a price of $5,200, he gives any lineup great flexibility.

Tight End:

Chalk: Do I really need a whole paragraph to talk about why Rob Gronkowski is chalk this week? Since Brady’s return, Gronkowski hasn’t had a game in which he scored less than 13.4 points. Expect Gronkowski to do major damage on play action deep down the middle of the field.

Chance: If you are looking to take advantage of the Raiders defense this weekend, look to Cameron Brate. The emergence of Russell Shepard against the 49ers cut into Brate’s production, but the only player to score a touchdown against the Raiders last week was Julius Thomas. Since the Buccaneers are not playing the 49ers, expect the game to be much closer and force them to throw the ball more often, leading to a higher volume for Brate.

I just want to be clear, I am not suggesting that rostering any of these chalk players is foolish. Tom Brady and Mike Evans are going to produce. Just know that if you decide to roster one of these players, you’ll need to find another area of your roster to regain your competitive edge when it comes to ownership.

NFC South: Can Cam & The Panthers Be Dethroned?

The NFC South division was formed in 2002 when the NFL realigned. From 2002 through 2012 there had never been a repeat champion of the division. That has since changed and for the past three season Cam Newton has led the Carolina Panthers to three straight division titles. It hasn’t been just because of Cam, but because of the great Carolina defense. The Panthers have a great team but this year they could be in danger of being dethroned. Here is how I think the NFC South will pan out this season.

Next Page

Top 100 NFL Players (90-81)

Hopefully you had time to check out my first article in the series of top 100 NFL players because it is time to move onto the next list. If you haven’t read it yet you can read it hereThe next list are the players I ranked 90-81 and featured are some very talented players who, at times, could make it higher on this list due to consistency or health. Just a reminder that this list is who I think will be a top 100 players for the upcoming season. As I have mentioned before, Football debates are fun and I hope the more I dive into my top 100, fans see this list and begin to debate it. Without further ado here we go!

(Photo Credit: ESPN)

(Photo Credit: ESPN)

Next Page

2016 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings

Top 20 Quarterbacks: Young quarterbacks fill out top 15

Top 20 Running Backs: Veteran rusher is number one, with young guns rising in rankings

All rankings are PPR rankings. Although some of my colleagues here at The Game Haus disagree, PPR is the way to go. I believe it, and you, the fans, believe it too (according to our Twitter poll). Here’s your 2016 fantasy football wide receiver rankings.

1. Antonio Brown

2016 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings

AB is the best wide receiver in the NFL. (Photo: Getty Images)

From Surefire Wide Receviers: “Antonio Brown is the number one overall player in fantasy football. If the owner of the number one pick in your draft doesn’t take Brown, deliver a swift backhand to said owner’s jaw. There’s no reason to be cute about it. AB is far and away better than all other receivers and players since 2013.

Numbers make arguments better, so let’s talk about numbers. Antonio Brown caught 136(!) passes last season, good for second-most in a single season in the history of the NFL. Brown played in all 16 games in each of his last three seasons, proving he’s nothing short of incredibly durable.

Brown’s numbers are already huge, but what if his quarterback would’ve played all 16 games? Ben Roethlisberger missed four games last season, which took Brown out of his normal rhythm. Had Big Ben played each game last season, Brown would’ve been on pace to finish with 158 catches for 2,128 yards and 13 touchdowns. The receptions and yards would’ve broken their NFL single season records.

Again, don’t be cute about taking anyone over Brown. He’s the best receiver in football, bar none. If he gets Ben Roethlisberger for all 16 games this season, Brown could break records. He’s the biggest stud in PPR leagues ever. Now, make him the biggest stud on your team by doing all you can to draft him.”

2. Julio Jones

From Surefire Wide Receivers: ”

Remember that time I told you AB caught 136 passes, which was the second-best in a single season? Well, Jones tied Brown’s mark with 136 receptions of his own. For the first three games in 2015, it looked like Julio Jones would overtake Antonio Brown as the best wideout in the league. His game log below shows exactly why.

Game 1 9 catches, 141 yards, 2 touchdowns
Game 2 13 catches, 135 yards
Game 3 12 catches, 164 yards, 2 touchdowns

Jones would cool off for the next two games, yet finished the season with four total games under 90 yards receiving. One of those games saw Jones reel in seven passes for 88 yards, two yards shy of the mark of 90 yards.

Antonio Brown is the best wide receiver in the NFL, but Julio Jones is the clear number two option. He demands targets from Matt Ryan, receiving 203 of them to lead the NFL last season. Jones also averaged 116.9 yards per game, good for first in the league. Draft Jones as the a distinguished WR1, as no player will top Brown or Jones’ production this season.”

3. Keenan Allen

From Surefire Wide Receivers: “Keenan Allen’s 2015 season was as successful of a half-season as we’ve seen. Allen suffered a lacerated kidney which promptly ended his season. Allen’s first eight games had him on pace for 134 receptions for 1,450 yards and 8 touchdowns. He was also on pace for 194 points, which would’ve been good enough for sixth among wide receivers.

The most intriguing aspect of Allen’s 2016 outlook is the fact that he owns targets in San Diego. Allen played in just half the games for the Chargers, yet he still finished with 89 targets (on pace for 178), which was second on the team. That number is just crazy. When Philip Rivers likes a receiver, he absolutely makes sure that receiver gets plenty of targets (see Antonio Gates/Vincent Jackson). Allen will dominate the targets this season, with Antonio Gates on his way out and no other viable receiver in the offense.

Danny Woodhead led the team in targets last season- as a running back. That shows the state of San Diego’s passing offense. I expect Allen to contend with Green to be at the top of the second tier at the wide receiver position. There’s nothing really to worry about with Allen. I really can’t see the UC-Berkeley product finishing outside the top-five of receivers this season.”

4. Odell Beckham Jr.

Odell Beckham Jr. seems to be a unanimous decision to be nothing less than a top three wide receiver this season. I’ve got him at number four, so I guess that’s close enough. With 93 targets reeled in for 1,450 yards and 13 touchdowns, OBJ is a fantastic wide receiver. He is Eli Manning’s favorite target, which adds to his allure. I do think he’s overrated in part due to one play. The catch he made was one of the #GOAT, but since then people have treated him like he’s the best athlete on the planet. I get the hype for Beckham, but I will never take him at his asking price right now, and neither should you. Regardless, the LSU product is one of the best wide receivers in football, and I’d take him in the latter half of the first round.

5. Allen Robinson

ARob is elite this season, there’s no question. He had eight straight games with five or more catches last season, including a 10/153/3 game against Tennessee. Blake Bortles is part of the next generation of great quarterbacks, and the Jacksonville offense as a whole is improving. I love Allen Robinson this season, and you should too.

6. Brandon Marshall

Brandon Marshall bet Antonio Brown his car that he’d have more receiving yards. That’s enough for me to know Brandon Marshall still feels good at age 32. Marshall can and will replicate his success in 2016. He was the number three wide receiver in all of fantasy football last season, racking up a 109/1,502/14 statline. Marshall is by far Ryan Fitzpatrick’s favorite target, and I’m very confident Marshall has all the tools to be a WR1 again this season.

7. A.J. Green

2016 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings

A.J. Green is on track to have a revamped 2016 season. (Photo: Go-Bengals.com)

From Surefire Wide Receivers: “Once Brown, Jones, and Odell Beckham Jr. are drafted, the fourth-best wide receiver to be drafted is a toss up. Players like A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, and DeAndre Hopkins all will be taken after the top three in many drafts this season.

Frustrating as he may be, A.J. Green is in for a career year this season. Green’s root of inconsistency in 2015 is attributed to his lack of targets. With breakout star Tyler Eifert, two different but useful running backs in Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill, and two other receivers (Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones), vying for targets, Green became just another player in Cincinnati’s potent offense a season ago.

Wide receivers don’t like to share, and Green is no different. For the first time since his rookie season, the Georgia product saw less than 30% of the team’s targets go his way. This season, Green will see an uptick in targets. 39 percent of Bengals targets is now gone with the departure of Jones and Sanu. Brandon Lafell is expected to line up opposite of Green, but he simply will not demand much attention from Andy Dalton. Rookie wideout Tyler Boyd also joins the team to fill in as a slot receiver, but still won’t contend with Green for the most targets on the team.

Green’s only problem last season was a lack of attention from Andy Dalton. This season, it will be a Dalton to Green love affair. I’m not drafting Green with my first pick, but I’m very happy with him as my second pick in the middle of the second round.”

8. Jordy Nelson

I’ve got Aaron Rodgers as my number one quarterback, and Jordy Nelson is his favorite target. Nelson was the number two wideout in 2014, and didn’t play last season due to a torn ACL he suffered in the preseason. He’s on track to play in week one, and he will pick up where he left off in 2014. Nelson had 98 catches and 13 touchdowns in 2014, so the production was clearly there. People may be afraid of Nelson’s durability, and I get that. Still, I’m taking Nelson as a low WR1 this season.

9. DeAndre Hopkins

With no quarterback to catch footballs from last season, DeAndre Hopkins still managed to go bonkers. In 2015, he caught 111 passes for 1,521 yards and 11 scores. He was the number four wideout last season, finishing just below Brandon Marshall. Brock Osweiler is no savior, but he is a step up from the tumultuous quarterbacks Hopkins dealt with last season. The only downside with Hopkins is that the Texans signed Lamar Miller during free agency. Miller is a durable back that will consistently produce for the Texans, meaning the load will be taken off Hopkins at least a little. Hopkins is still a huge game waiting to happen, so he’ll be no lower than a low WR1 this season.

10. Dez Bryant

As mentioned in the quarterback rankings, Tony Romo can’t stay healthy behind the best offensive line in the NFL. Dez Bryant also failed to stay healthy last season, paving way for a terrible year in Dallas. Bryant is back to full health in 2016, as is Romo. This points to a recharged season for Bryant, who will be the primary target for Tony Romo once again. Bryant is as sturdy as they come, so taking him as a WR2 is gold.

I had a heck of a time ranking the next four players. Consider Alshon Jeffery, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Julian Edelman 11A, 11B, 11C, and 11 D, respectively.

11. Alshon Jeffery

When he stays healthy, Alshon Jeffery is a talent not many cornerbacks in the NFL can contain. He played in all 16 games in 2013 and 2014, but played just nine last season. I trust that he’s ready to go this season, and will stay healthy. The great news on Jeffery is that the top two pass catchers behind Jeffery have departed. Tight end Martellus Bennett is now a member of the New England Patriots, while running back Matt Forte has taken his talents to the New York Jets. Jeffery averaged 87 receptions for 1,277 yards and nine touchdowns in the two seasons he played every game. Sure, Kevin White has hype, but that’s all he has. Until he does something, I’m riding with Jeffery as my WR1, especially with him being the top pass catcher by far in Chicago.

12. Demaryius Thomas

Demaryius Thomas was a borderline WR1 last season, even though he caught passes from Denver quarterbacks with a collective passer rating of 76.3. That rating is second-worst in the entire NFL. It doesn’t matter who plays quarterback, and at what level- Demaryius Thomas will put up huge numbers regardless. Let other owners sulk on Thomas due to Mark Sanchez throwing to him. Oh well, Sanchez can’t be as bad as the play last season, so Thomas will absolutely be at the lowest a high WR2 this season.

13. Eric Decker

One of the more consistent wide receivers since 2012, Eric Decker is vastly underrated. His ADP may not say so, but to the general public, Decker is just the other receiver in New York. Decker posted 80/1,027/12 last season, his second in the Jets’ offense. It’s clear the Minnesota product is becoming more and more comfortable in the New York system. The forecast in New York is not changing. Matt Forte has been added, but most of the core remains. With Ryan Fitzpatrick now signed, roll with Decker as a huge WR2.

14. Julian Edelman

Julian Edelman is quite simply a PPR monster. In 2013, he caught 105 passes, and in 2014 he reeled in 92. Last season, he was on pace for a career mark of 107 catches. One thing is certain with Edelman: New England will feed him the ball with the use of screens and quick hitters, give Edelman ample opportunities to make plays. Due to the face that he’ll be catching passes from Jimmy Garoppolo for the first four weeks of the season, I had to put Edelman behind the three that are in virtual ties ahead of him. Martellus Bennett will also take some targets, but not a crucial amount. No matter what, the Patriots will find ways to get the former quarterback the football.

2016 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings

Brandin Cooks is one of the next stars of the NFL. (Photo: Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

15. Brandin Cooks

I am quite high on Brandin Cooks this season. After chalking up 1,138 yards on 84 catches last season, Cooks will be even better this season. Entering his third season, the Oregon State product is primed for his best season ever. Willie Snead, Michael Thomas, and Coby Fleener are good enough to distract defenses, yet not take away targets from Cooks. I expect this season to be the last season Cooks is ranked less than a WR1.

16. Jarvis Landry

What I love about Jarvis Landry is that he was the ninth-best wide receiver last season, even without being touchdown dependent. With just four trips to paydirt last season, Landry has huge potential to rise in rankings as the season goes on. My problem with Landry is that there’s a lot of potential great young wide receivers in Miami. Couple that with Jay Ajayi receiving rave reviews, and Landry could see his target share go down in 2016. Still, Landry should be consistent enough to find himself as a quality WR2.

17. Mike Evans

Mike Evans has huge upside just like the aforementioned Landry thanks to his independence of touchdowns. Evans scored just three times last season, yet he still was the number 23 wide receiver last season. Evans’ stock drops in PPR formats, which is why he is number 17 for me this season. However, Jameis Winston is getting better, and so is the entire team in Tampa Bay. With 1,206 yards on just 74 catches last season, Evans is a big play machine. Provided he’s able to haul in 12 or more catches this season, Evans will be considered a hard WR2.

18. Amari Cooper

Rookie wide receivers very rarely produce productive fantasy numbers, but Cooper tried to break that mold last season. Although he wasn’t Derek Carr’s favorite target, Cooper still accounted for 1,070 yards on 72 receptions in his rookie campaign. Cooper will simply be a better NFL receiver this year, as one year of experience in an NFL offense can go a long way. There’s no reason to believe Cooper will decline this season, so trust him to be your WR2 all season.

19. Doug Baldwin

Doug Baldwin exploded for 14 touchdowns last season. Baldwin was at his best in the second half of the season, and Pete Carroll has already said he will employ a similar style of offense for this season. Baldwin will lose some targets to Jimmy Graham and Tyler Lockett, but overall, I expect him to be a WR2. He’s touchdown dependent, which is really worrisome. Expect his touchdown numbers to decrease, as it’d be very hard to maintain 14 scores again this season.

2016 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings

Sammy Watkins is able to stay on the field better than many think, so trust him as your WR2, or get hyped if he’s your WR3. (Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

20. Sammy Watkins

For some reason, Sammy Watkins is known for being injury prone, and that always hurts his draft stock. However, Watkins started all 16 games in his rookie season, and started in 13 games last season. He’s only missed three games in his entire career, yet some owners still don’t like him. I understand that Watkins finds his way on the injury report more than we’d like to see, but he still plays on nearly every Sunday. Watkins is more valuable in standard leagues, but he’s still a WR2 in any format. Provided Watkins can steadily raise his 60 reception total from last season, he will be known as a concrete WR2 by the end of the season.

21. Kelvin Benjamin

After putting up a solid 2014 rookie season, Kelvin Benjamin’s 2015 ended before it began after tearing his ACL. Now in 2015, Benjamin is on fantasy football owners’ radar once again. He’ll be a solid receiver, and the number one wideout for the Panthers. However, I expect Greg Olsen to take the most targets and receptions in Carolina, which will hurt Benjamin’s stock. Regardless, his 73/1,008/9 clip from 2014 provides signs of promise for 2016.

22. T.Y. Hilton

I really wanted to rank T.Y. Hilton higher. While charting wide receivers, I had him in the 11-19 crop. However, after doing some digging, I had to drop Hilton lower due to shear production alone. However, Andrew Luck attempted 88 deep passes in 2014, which led the NFL (PFF). Hilton was a top five wideout when it came to deep balls in 2014 (also PFF), which paves way for Hilton to be a classic boom or bust candidate. There will be weeks where Hilton is a WR1, but there will also be weeks where Hilton can’t score double digits. Be cautious with Hilton in 2016.

23. Jeremy Maclin

I wasn’t high on Jeremy Maclin in 2015, but I think he’ll be an asset to your team in 2016. Maclin was the hope to rebuild the Kansas City wide receiver corps last season, and he did just that. The Missouri product produced 87 catches for 1,088 yards and eight touchdowns last season. I think his numbers will rise in 2016 as he gets more comfortable with his role. Maclin is a WR3 for me now, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him reach WR2 numbers multiple times this season.

24. Michael Crabtree

Michael Crabtree is the definition of a possession receiver. He hogged 15 red zone targets in 2015, and earned 151 targets, 17 more than Amari Cooper. Reeling in 85 passes for 922 yards is impressive- I think. Anyway you slice it, you can trust Crabtree as a strong PPR option. He’s got limited upside, but expect Crabtree to be a solid WR2 this season.

25. John Brown

2016 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings

Emmanuel Sanders is a great backup option for your team. (Photo: denverbroncos.com)

John Brown was one of the most consistent wide receivers in the league last year. In nine of the 15 games he played last season, he recorded in between four and seven catches. He also had two other games with seven and 10 receptions. In eight games last season, Brown had 60 receiving yards or more. In 11 games in 2015, he had 12 fantasy points or more. With more than 12 points in all 16 games this season, Brown could see himself around 240 points, which would put him as a WR2 this season. Draft Brown as the premier playmaker in Arizona, and watch him win you a fantasy championship.

26. Emmanuel Sanders

As said with Demaryius Thomas, it doesn’t matter who plays quarterback for Denver. The quarterback quality can’t be as bad as it was last year. That said, Emmanuel Sanders still racked up 1,135 receptions on 76 receptions. There’s no reason to think his targets will go down, so trust Sanders as a WR2/WR3 mix.

27. Tyler Lockett

Maybe I’m crazy for this, but I like Tyler Locket- a lot. Tyler Lockett is the confirmed starting wide receiver paired with Doug Baldwin. He’s made “significant strides” in his game according to reports out of Seattle. Again, Pete Carroll has confirmed he will be rolling out the same style of offense as was implemented in the second half of last season, which is exactly when Lockett’s numbers surged. I’m taking Lockett, and expecting him to blow his ADP out of the water.

28. Donte Moncrief

Pegged as a sleeper last season, Donte Moncrief finished as a middling WR3. I expect him to improve upon his 64/733/6 stat line from last season, and begin to take away targets from T.Y. Hilton. Andre Johnson is now gone, making Moncreif the number two wideout in Indy. Stashing Moncrief could pay dividends, as he caught 80 percent of his red zone targets (8 of 10), and tied for more red zone receptions among returning players for the Colts.

29. Larry Fitzgerald

Larry Fitzgerald will always see playing time thanks to his ability to run block. He’ll see targets due to being in an explosive offense. I still think Fitzgerald’s play takes a dip this season with David Johnson and John Brown emerging as stars.

30. Randall Cobb

Randall Cobb will play second fiddle to Jordy Nelson. Although I still think Cobb is a good wide receiver, his inconsistency worries me. Cobb should still find around 75 catches, 900 yards, and around five touchdowns. Draft Cobb as your WR3, with upside to be a low WR2.