NFL free agency is just weeks away and the make up of the league is just about to start changing from 2016 into 2017. This list of players are players whose 2017 fantasy value relies heavily on what happens in the offseason. I avoided obvious top 10 players because their value can only change so much.
10 Fantasy Players To Watch This Offseason
10. Carlos Hyde – Running Back
Hyde’s 2016 season was a very productive one considering that he played on a 2-14 team. The 49er’s can not get a lot worse and how they address the quarterback position will play heavily into how their 2017 turns out. QB also significantly effects Hyde’s value. If Kaepernick returns to start in 2017 Hyde’s value may take a hit. In games Kaepernick started for the Niners, Hyde did not rush for a single TD. However, he did catch three scores. Hyde has the potential to be a top 10 RB1 next season but this will only happen if he gets a different QB who won’t vulture his TDs and rushing yards.
9. DeSean Jackson – Wide Receiver
Jackson’s value is obviously determined by where he lands during the offseason but he was also a very valuable WR at the end of last season. In five of Jackson’s last seven games he scored over 11 points and we again saw the deep threat ability that he has been known for all his career. If Jackson goes back to Philadelphia, him and Carson Wentz could pair up nicely. DeSean would be a helpful weapon and help open up the field through the air. If he stays in Washington he is going to have to fight for receptions and more importantly TDs, with Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder becoming Kirk Cousins preferred targets.
8. Jameis Winston – Quarterback
Winston and Mike Evans have something special between them and that might hit the next level in 2017. The Buccaneers are a team only a few good pieces away from becoming a contender in the NFC. Winston is playing with an offensive line that was ranked 23 by Pro Football Focus in 2016-a key contributor to his 10 fumbles and six lost. The line also did not help the running backs out. Tampa Bay used four different starting running backs throughout the season, giving Winston limited reliability on the ground. If the Bucs address their offensive line troubles and keep Winston off the ground, he could turn into one of the elite quarterbacks in fantasy football.
7. Martellus Bennett – Tight End
Bennett’s fantasy value relies (like Jackson) on where he lands. If Bennett stays in Foxborough, like he said he wants to, he will remain a number one when Gronk is hurt and a number two when he is healthy. The reason the offseason is important to Martellus is because if he leaves the Pats and lands on a team like the Giants, he could become an elite tight end option in fantasy this season. Bennett caught seven scores, tying him for third amongst tight ends last year despite starting only 12 games.
6. Jamaal Charles – Running Back
It feels like every year you must keep an eye out for Charles health status. Charles used to be a consensus top 5 running back in the NFL but two injury plagued seasons later, he remains a question mark. Kansas City GM John Dorsey has said “I see Jamaal as a Kansas City Chief” but another injury to his knee and Charles could be cut. However, if Charles is able to comeback healthy in 2017 he has the ability to return to RB1 form even with Spencer Ware as the Chiefs other option. Charles is again a toss up at this point in the offseason but the NFL’s all time leader in yards per rush attempt could surprise us.
5. John Brown – Wide Receiver
Brown broke onto the scene in 2014 and took another step up in 2015. Unfortunately his 2016 campaign was not the same. His receiving yards regressed from 1003 in 2015 to nearly half this season at 517. He also only caught 2 scores. Brown’s poor fantasy numbers can be attributed to the play of Carson Palmer. Palmer looked awful almost all year and is returning for 2016 season. Under Palmer, Brown saw almost two less targets per game in 2016 than 2015. Brown has the speed and big play potentially to be a reliable WR2 but will dependant on Palmer and their O-line’s ability stay healthy.
4. Alshon Jeffery – Wide Receiver
The last free agent on this list is only one who is truly a game changer. Jeffery’s fantasy year was ruined by his three quarterbacks and a four game suspension and a return to Chicago this season would not help. Jeffery’s most successful seasons came as option 1A to Brandon Marshall and since he has become a number one option his number have dropped. For Jeffery to reach his full fantasy potential he must have another option to take some of the pressure off of him. If Alshon lands in either Tennessee or Tampa Bay he could return to his earlier career form and once again be a WR1 option.
3. Tony Romo – Quarterback
Romo is THE question mark that everyone wants to see answered this year. Romo is expecting to get cut by the Cowboys because of his 24.7 million dollar cap hit and Dak Prescott’s record breaking 2016 rookie year. Where Romo plays will obviously effect his fantasy stock but their are many variables that go along with if he will be a successful fantasy player. Those factors include the style of offence, his o-line and if he can manage to not get hurt. His most rumoured destination are the Broncos and the Texans who both have stout defensive groups. This will allow Romo to not get exhausted by playing too many snaps. He also would not be playing from behind as much. Romo is truly a player you can not take your eyes off of because of his floor and ceiling.
2. DeAndre Hopkins – Wide Receiver
Hopkins was labeled by some as the biggest fantasy bust of 2016 but has the talent to bounce back. In 2015 Hopkins looked like one of the next great receivers in the NFL but Houston’s Brock Osweiler experiment derailed the entire Texans offence. For Hopkins to return to form he will be hoping for anyone but Osweiler to be playing QB.
Hopkins scored over 14 points, nine times in 2015 (standard leagues) but just once in 2016-week 2 against the Chiefs. He also caught 33 less balls and seven less TDs. However, the Texans have the tools to make Hopkins a fantasy star again. A good offensive line, a good second option in Will Fuller V will take pressure off Hopkins and Lamar Miller at running back to open up the play action. For Hopkins, the X-factor remains who is (or not) throwing the ball to him.
Todd Gurley – Running Back
Todd Gurley had an incredibly disappointing 2016 season after being a consensus top 10 draft pick in most leagues. Gurley became the victim of a one dimensional offence that could not do anything besides to run the ball. Once teams know that running is your only strong point, the box is going to get stacked. This is why Gurley only ran for over 80 yards once all year. He ran over that mark seven times the previous year.
If Gurley is going to be an impact fantasy player and an RB1 he needs help. The Rams need to start by improving their offensive line. If they can address the line this offseason it will give Jared Goff more time to throw and open up options in the offence. If Goff becomes a threat to throw the ball then the Rams can start using both Gurley and Tavon Austin to run the ball. This would give Gurley some more holes to run through and the potential to return to his big play self fro 2015.
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