The NFL regular season is a week away from being over and that means two things; It’s time for the post season, and it’s time to start preparing for next years NFL Fantasy Draft. It’s never too early to start preparing, even if you will probably care a ton now, then won’t think about it again until the NFL draft on April 26th. This list is most likely going to change drastically towards the start of the season, but it’s fun to speculate.
Let’s start with some rookies. If we want to rank the quarterbacks coming out in the draft it would be some variation of Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, Mason Rudolph and Lamar Jackson. Honestly speaking none of them will be on your fantasy radar for next season, even Jackson. Darnold and Rosen will find themselves in a rebuilding franchise with few pieces for their current spot except for the winner of the two that gets OBJ in New York. Allen will fall to a team that is ready for a playoff push now, but the little we know about the Wyoming student doesn’t make me ambitious for fantasy. Mayfield will most likely go to a team that has a quarterback in place but is looking for the future such as the Bengals, Chargers or Ravens, making him sit and wait for his turn. Jackson will most likely go to a team that is taking a flyer on the former Heisman winner since the rushing capabilities he brings to the table normally don’t transition well to the NFL without the big arm to back it up. The Skill position players are extremely dependent on where they are draft but I think it’s safe to assume someone like Saquon Barkley will be a staple point of whichever offense he goes to. Another couple names to monitor are wide receivers Calvin Ridley and Courtland Sutton who could be impact players depending on their drafted positions. Long story short, until the draft its difficult to say anyone but Barkley is relevant.
Next we’ll go with the busts. For this part, I looked for some sophomore slumps and situations that could lead players we expect to be great to under perform. Think about Derek Carr and Jameis Winston for this one. Both quarterbacks were dark horse M.V.P. saviors this season and both quarterbacks largely underperformed. Luckily for anyone who drafted them, the quarterback position is one of the easiest to plug and play. Getting a Brees / Brady / Rodgers is ideal, but the draft value of a Kirk Cousins in the 9th round allows you to get more points from a skill player. Let’s break this down by position, and all players are going to be based off if they were to stay with their current NFL team.
Alex Smith – Smith will most likely play his last season in Kansas City unless he can squeak out a Super Bowl victory for Andy Reid. The former 49er has been deemed the new age game manager, and even with an elite season much of his statistics can be awarded to Tyreek Hill. If Smith somehow stays with the Chiefs, expect Mahomes to make the jump to starter.
Jared Goff – Goff was sensational this season and was probably the greatest turn around story the NFL has seen. McVay has made the rams a legit Super Bowl contender and the team’s core isn’t much different from what Jeff Fisher was working with. Goff has to regress though, it’s inevitable. I’m not suggesting that Goff will be a complete unusable bust in 2018, but he should be largely over drafted and you have to assume NFL team’s will learn to combat this explosive offense.
Case Keenum – This one for me goes without saying. If a pattern forms where one variable is the outlier on a six year scale, it’s safe to say that the outlier is less likely to happen than the medium. What does that mean? This season won’t repeat itself for the former Ram. Keenum is having a record season and has been not just managing games, but winning them. Coming out of Houston, Keenum was the most productive passer in college football history. Case threw for 17,557 passing yards in college and any time you can throw for 10 miles, that’s worth a look. My real reason for adding him to this list is he will be over drafted by the guy in your league who thinks this is an inside information type of pick. Let Keenum get drafted by someone else.
Chris Thompson – Don’t forget what Thompson did in his early weeks for the Redskins. When healthy, the catch and run back only topped ten carries in one game against the pathetic 49er’s run defense. Thompson made his bank in the passing game, and now that teams are aware, I don’t see him gaining the same success. If Thompson is available in late rounds take him as a flyer, but don’t plan a roster around the guy.
Alvin Kamara – Hear me out. Alvin Kamara is an all world talent who will most likely find a nice role in NOLA and have no problem being a stud, but it’s impossible to assume he will have the same production now that teams are aware of his talent. Coming out of Tennessee, Kamara was an extremely talented back that scouts worried might not be able to handle a 20+ run workload. He doesn’t need to do that with Mark Ingram also on the team, but if I’m a defensive coordinator in 2018, I’m writing a game plan for Kamara over the veteran Ingram. Watch for Regression.
Carlos Hyde – Hyde has been a safe 10+ point a week kind of back recently despite pricing together a few good games in 2017 against tough opponents. Carlos Hyde is a tough runner and his style doesn’t traditionally bode well for the long term. There have been exceptions in the form of Frank Gore, but Hyde has had ankle issues that don’t go away. With Jimmy G the goat under center, I would assume the 49ers look to some younger runners for the future in 2018.
Davante Adams – Adams was tremendous this season and put together a nice string of seven 15+ point weeks in 2017. It has to increase with Aaron Rodgers coming back, right? I don’t believe so. Rodgers can make almost any human an NFL talent, but his favorite target is and always had been Jorday Nelson. Nelson had a pathetic year without the NFL’s most talented thrower and I think Rodgers makes it his mission in 2018 to put his friend back on the receiving map. Adams is big and talented, but it looks that he will become a red-zone threat more than a go to receiver in 2018.
Dez Bryant – The days of the X-Man dominating opposing defenses is over and it went quickly. Bryant is one of the more dominant receivers in my life time and was as passionate of a player the NFL has ever seen. A Whiny baby some times, but passionate still. Bryant is on the downfall of his career and he doesn’t look to have a Larry Fitzgerald resurgence anytime soon. Avoid Bryant this season, because the Cowboys will if he keeps dropping easy catches.
Adam Theilen – This pick might be the one that bites me in the ass. Theilen is an amazing worker and earned his name amongst the greats this season. I loved watching the Vikings this season and Case Keenum knew how to find his top receivers, but that situation is a quagmire at the moment. If keen continues as the Vikings QB, Theilen should be fine. If Bradford or Bridgewater get the nod, it’s too much uncertainty for me to take Theilen as high as others might want to. You can find comparative numbers in the later rounds, just look at Robby Anderson and Nelson Agholor.
Now for some good news. Here are some guys I see making a run at Fantasy M.V.P. next season.
Carson Wentz – Wentz has cemented himself as one of the more elite fantasy options in the NFL. There were questions about his abilities last season which were squashed with his play before a torn ACL benched him for the season. It’s safe to assume there will be some regression here, but I don’t believe that the regression will be anything negative. I am a firm believer that there are four quarterbacks in the league who will try and win you a game over losing a game. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, and Carson Wentz.
Deshaun Watson – Even with Dak Prescott performing similarly the previous year, no-one thought that this season would be a coming out party for the former National Champion. Watson was perfect before being placed on IR with an injury, and still finished as quarterback 24 despite missing week 9 on. In his time as the starter the former Tiger threw 20 touchdowns in 7 weeks and rushed for two more. Although again, a regression is inevitable, I think that any quarterback throwing the ball the DeAndre Hopkins has a shot at an M.V.P. season.
Jimmy Garoppolo – When the Patriots decided to trade away Jimmy G to the 49ers, I really believe they thought they were doing what’s right for the New England organization. Garoppolo was in the final year of his rookie deal and teams were preparing to offer max deals so the Pat’s decided to sell now and see what they could get for the most highly sought after backup I think I have ever seen. In his time with the 49ers, only Blake Bortles and Cam Newton scored more Fantasy points. The new regime in the Bay will do everything they can to get Garoppolo the skill players to succeed.
Marlon Mack – The Indianapolis Colts would be the laughing stock of the NFL this season if it weren’t for the Browns pathetic play and Jacoby Brissett saving some jobs. I strongly believe that they will look to the future for a rebuilding process despite having a franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck. This decision should prove positive for second year running back Marlon Mack. Mack was never given the starting job in Indy and I think that is strongly due to the teams understanding that you don’t do HOF’er Frank Gore dirty. When Mack was used, he had some nice outings and proved to be a viable option in the passing game. The USF alum is more of a flyer than a for sure starter, but the depth chart has no other names on it, proving a good opportunity for the back.
Joe Mixon – Mixon had a slow start to 2017 and never really seemed to get the full workload we expected him to, partially due to a concussion suffered in week 13 against the Steelers. Looking at just his on field actions, Mixon is a great talent that can be used all across the board for the Bengals. There were seven games in 2017 where Mixon was given 10+ carries, and two of those games hit the 20+ mark. One game was a great performance, while the other was rather pathetic against a talented run defense in Denver. Expect Mixon to be their guy in 2018.
Derrick Henry – I think since his entrance into the league I have drafted Derrick Henry in every league I have been a part of. His size and abilities are truly from another world. When given the work load, Henry is unstoppable. Most of his points come in runs at the end of games the Titans have already won where the Alabama alum is suppose to run out the clock, but gallops into the end zone untouched. The Titans are headed into the 2017 playoffs on a terrible skid of performances, so look for them to try Henry as a lead back next season instead of the veteran Murray.
Cooper Kupp – Coming off of winning the Rams “Rookie of the Year” award, Kupp is developing into the trusted hands that a young quarterback looks for in every situation. Not to stereotype the small white slot receiver, but Edelman and Welker made a ton of money off of being their quarterbacks favorite targets. Kupp had a large target share in a talented offense and his production is no joke. Kupp was only held to less than ten points six times in 2017, and never left a game with less than two catches through week 16.
JuJu Smith-Schuster – Juju has quickly become a household name due to his childlike demeanor and wonderful celebrations, and I suppose some of that love can be attributed to an outstanding rookie campaign. JuJu found the end zone six times in 2017 through week 16 and was a vital part of the leagues most explosive offense. The Steeler’s have had trouble forming a true receiving core behind M.V.P. candidate Antonio Brown, but they found something int the young receiver out of USC. JuJu is a legit WR2 play in most situations and can open up the field with more than just pure speed. He understands his role and just wants to win, what else could you ask for?
Kenny Golladay – Unless you follow the preseason hype train or love the Detroit Lions, it’s safe to assume you forgot about Kenny Golladay after week one. In his first NFL game, Golladay had four catches and two touchdowns, one of which was a diving catch on a full sprint into the end zone. The Lions were stoked about KG and his red-zone talent in the preseason. I strongly believe the Lions will be a contender next season, and with Tate and Marvin Jones also on the chart, the offense should be firing on all cylinders if they can cement a talented running back in the offseason.