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The real bullets are about to fly. Who is poised to snap back with a vengeance? What player could finally deliver on previously high set expectations? Yahoo fanalysts Brad Evans, Dalton Del Don and Liz Loza discuss.
After a forgettable 2016, the player slated to make the biggest bounce back is ________.
Brad – ALSHON JEFFERY. It’s high comedy how many individuals have already written off Jeffery. Look at the vertical options that flank him. Torrey Smith is a streak-only receiver. Zach Ertz is allergic to the end zone. And Nelson Agholor has accomplished little in his brief NFL tenure. Point blank, Jeffery is going to entice a handsome target share, possibly exceeding 25 percent (140-plus). Though his catch percentages logged previously in Chicago damaged retinas (’15: 57.4, ’16: 55.3), he should be Carson Wentz’s primary option at all points on the field.
If the QB steps forward in his development, it’s conceivable Alshon finishes in range of 80-1200-8. Of course, he needs to overcome soft tissue issues, but the WR is a phenomenal Round 4 target (38.4 ADP, WR20) currently in drafts.
Dalton – KELVIN BENJAMIN. He didn’t even reach 1,000 yards and scored two fewer touchdowns than he did during his rookie season last year, but Benjamin was returning from major surgery, and he’s still just 26 years old. He should be fully healthy entering 2017, and most wide receivers really don’t thrive completely until their third season in the league. Benjamin dealt with a down year by Cam Newton, and he’s clearly Carolina’s WR1 moving forward (the Panthers also project to have one of the easier schedules this season, especially against No. 1 cornerbacks). Even in disappointing year, Benjamin got 8.0 YPT last season, and he’s going to continue to be peppered with looks in the red zone. I’ll go ahead and predict 1,200 yards and a dozen scores.
Liz – TODD GURLEY. Go ahead and moan, but the Rams are already a better franchise under Sean McVay than they ever were with Jeff Fischer calling the shots. Jared Goff is up to 220 pounds and surrounded by playmakers like Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp. I know it sounds crazy, but there’s an actual passing game in LA, which should obviously open things up for Gurley. Plus, with Lance Dunbar on the PUP, Gurley should continue to be involved as a receiver out of the backfield. With a rebuilt offensive line that includes the All-Pro talents of Andrew Whitworth, the Rams’ workhorse figures to eat and run.
Once promoted incessantly by various “experts” but failed to meet expectations, 2017’s ultimate post-hype sleeper is ______.
Dalton – DERRICK HENRY. I was as guilty as anyone hyping him last year, but Henry proved essentially fantasy worthless thanks to DeMarco Murray’s big season. It may yet again rely on the latter getting injured, and admittedly Henry’s ADP isn’t super cheap for someone slated to be a backup, but the upside here is that of a top-five overall player. The Titans should win their division, have a budding star at QB who now has many weapons with arguably the best offensive line. If Murray goes down, Henry will be the biggest common dominator of winning fantasy teams in 2017.
Liz – AMEER ABDULLAH. I’ve been pounding the table for an @Ameerguapo bounce back since June. Abdullah may have lost the fantasy community’s faith after underwhelming in back-to-back campaigns, but the Lions remain staunchly in support of their former second round pick. Management did zero to address the position during the draft, choosing to focus primarily on the defense.
With little competition behind him, Abdullah figures to be prominently featured. In fact, the team’s website estimated a 200 carry season, which would come out to 12.5 rushing attempts per game. Totally believable considering he averaged 10.7 attempts per contest as a ROOKIE. Abdullah’s athletic ability in tandem with his situation could earn him 1,200 combined yards and 9 total scores this season.
Brad – DUKE JOHNSON. Billed ceaselessly in some circles as a breakout candidate last summer, Duke, and his measly one TD in 2016, didn’t quite live up to the hype. Though he crushed in several peripheral categories like yards per touch (6.9, RB3), breakaway run percentage (RB5), yards after contact per touch (RB5) and juke rate (RB2), his value was reserved to FLEX slots only in PPR formats. Isaiah Crowell remains the hammer, but the weather vane arrows north for the Johnson this fall.
According to Hue Jackson, the multipurpose back could see an increased role as a Danny Woodhead-type. Operating behind what should be a well-oiled offensive line and given the likely negative game scripts, he has reasonable odds of penetrating the RB top-20 in PPR. It’s nutty his ADP rests in the mid-90s, even in reception-heavy leagues.
David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell are off the board. The next RB that must get picked is ______.
Liz – LESEAN MCCOY. Posting RB1 numbers five of the past seven seasons, McCoy has been one of the most consistent producers at the position. In 2016 he racked up the sixth most yards after contact (416), the most breakaway runs (20), and the second best catch rate among RBs (87.9%), proving why he’s considered one of the most elite dual threats in the league.
With Rick Dennison designing Buffalo’s offense those numbers figure to remain static. Last year in Denver, Dennison heavily featured C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker in the passing game, as they together averaged 6.3 targets per contest. Before that, when he was in Houston, the Texans backfield managed over 100 looks three of the four years that Dennison was in charge. And we all know what he did for Arian Foster’s career. Shady may not pound the ground as much in 2017, but his work as a pass-catcher will more than make up for it… especially with Sammy Watkins moving coasts.
Brad – MELVIN GORDON. For weeks, I’ve ceaselessly defended Gordon, to the point of exhaustion, as a legitimate top-five pick. His excellent YAC and breakaway run contributions, voluminous projected workload, favorable offensive environment and offensive line upgrades point to another strong RB1 campaign (FF: 1800 total yards, 11-14 TDs). McCoy is very much in this conversation, but give me the guy tied to Philip Rivers and the stronger surrounding cast. Still not convinced? Read this.
Dalton – JAY AJAYI. This entails a big tier here, and Jordan Howard is close on my board, but let’s go with a player who’s 24 years old who’s recorded 200-yard rushing games in 25 percent of his starts. The Dolphins have a strong offensive line when healthy, and while I get the worry about Ajayi’s reliance on big plays may cause some concern, those big games shouldn’t exactly be held against him. He had the sixth most yards after contact per touch (1.7) among all backs (and third most after contact in total with 484), so Ajayi sure looks like a star. He’s the biggest steal in fantasy football if you somehow are able to get him in round two. Just look at his latest preseason performance. He’s easily worth a first round pick.
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