It’s football season again and that means that it’s time to fire up the fantasy football leagues again. Each year fantasy owners try to put together the best team that they can so they can win their league championship.
Everywhere you look you can find predictions on who will be good and who won’t be in the upcoming season. But so many of those sources are affiliated with networks and teams, that you never know who you should take advice from.
Here are the top picks that you should look to grab up and those that you should stay away from. As someone that has played fantasy football for many years, I know that there are many of you out there that know that you can’t always believe the so-called “experts”. I don't claim to be an expert but I have won my share of league championships over the years so I know what to look for and what to expect. So here is a little help for the experienced user and a great list to follow for the first time fantasy football owners.
You should know who was good last year or the year before, but won’t be this season. You should also know that great statistics with one team last season won’t always translate to great stats this year with a different team. And you should also know that once a football player gets old, he is old and there is no surprise season in the making. Read on to find out who these players are and who you should try to grab up for your team as quickly as you can.
15 Julio Jones (Atlanta Falcons - Wide Receiver)
When building your fantasy football team you need to choose your wide receivers carefully. Most leagues will give you two or three in your starting lineup so you have to get as many points as you can from them. One of your top picks should always be Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons.
Jones had a monster year last season and this year could be even better. He won’t last long in any draft so you’d better pick him up early. Last season he had 136 catches for 1,871 yards and he scored eight touchdowns. He had 100 yards or more receiving in nine games and that alone is good for a ten point game in fantasy football. If you tack on a touchdown it’s a sixteen point game for him and those are nice days to get from your receivers. Many people believe that he will be the best point producing wide out this season so don’t think twice about grabbing him as soon as you can.
Over the course of last season he scored a total of 239 fantasy points and averaged just under 15 points per game. If you don’t want him on your squad you obviously have no visions of winning your league championship.
14 Odell Beckham Jr. (New York Giants - Wide Receiver)
If you can’t get Julio Jones for your team another great option is picking up Odell Beckham of the New York Giants. He too can be considered a WR1 and if you are lucky enough to land both Beckham and Jones you will be good to go for the year.
Don’t worry about the leg injury that the Giants are reporting. It’s just a minor injury and he’ll be good to go on opening day. Don’t expect him to put up the same numbers as he did last season though. He is still going to put up fantastic numbers but Eli Manning has a few other solid options to throw the ball to this year. With Victor Cruz coming back to the lineup he will surely take some passes away from Beckham but don’t take that as Beckham won’t see the ball because he will. His numbers will rival what he did last year and that’s not a bad addition for your team by any means. New York drafted Sterling Shepard and he will see a little time in the offense as well but he won’t be a reason that Beckham will have decreased numbers.
If you’re a Giants fan the offense is looking very strong for this season and Beckham will be a major part of it. Grab him if you have the chance.
13 Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers - Wide Receiver)
If it’s at all possible, you’d love to fill out your three wide receiver starting lineup by choosing Antonio Brown. The sensational receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers is not showing any signs of slowing down and should put up another great season. He is a great pick for your WR1 position and if you can pair him up with Beckham and/or Jones you’ll be set for the entire season.
Brown is deserving of a new contract but he is aware that Pittsburgh doesn’t give contract extensions until a player is in the final year of their current deal. To this point he has been very professional about it so his production isn’t going to suffer any. He is in the prime of his career and he wants to keep showing that he deserves a new deal.
He is 27 years old and as long as he stays healthy his best football is still ahead of him. Last season he caught 136 passes for 1,834 yards and scored ten touchdowns. If you think those numbers are insane, wait until you see what his final numbers will be this year. If you are up to draft and he is available and you don’t choose Antonio Brown, you aren’t serious about wanting to win your league.
12 David Johnson (Arizona Cardinals - Running Back)
The Arizona Cardinals have recently said that David Johnson will be the back that leads them this season. After making it known that he will be getting the “bulk” of the carries this season, he moves right to the top of the list of running backs that you must have on your squad.
Chris Johnson signed a one year contract to stay in Arizona after he had a very strong year last season but it’s David that has moved to the top of the depth chart now. Chris will add a great second back for the Cardinals and that will keep defenses constantly on their toes, but for fantasy purposes you should grab up David as soon as you can.
He scored eight touchdowns last year and had close to 600 yards rushing and he also proved that he can catch the ball. What wouldn’t be a bad backfield for your squad would be picking up both of the Johnson’s, David and Chris. David will clearly be the RB1 this season in the desert but Chris isn’t going to just vanish. Grab David as soon as you can and then add Chris later in the draft once your starting lineup is set.
11 Todd Gurley (Los Angeles Rams - Running Back)
First of all it’s strange to write the words Los Angeles Rams again. Life seems to be one big circle doesn’t it? That’s what the people in LA are going to be thinking about because they aren’t going to be thinking about winning football.
But Todd Gurley is more than enough reason to buy tickets to games in LA this year. And if you’re smart you’ll make him a top choice for your fantasy football team. He proved last year that he is back to 100% healthy and ready to go. Believe me when I say that he is the best player on the Rams. For that reason he will get plenty of touches this year and will put up more points than he did last season. He finished with ten touchdowns last season but he really only played regularly in 12 games. The Rams just didn’t know how to fit him into the offense. Now they know that he is their ENTIRE offense and he is good enough to be successful anyway.
He can easily be your RB1 and if you can grab either of the Johnson’s out of Arizona or Le’Veon Bell of the Steelers you’ll be sure to see plenty of fantasy points go up for your team this season.
10 Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers - Running Back)
Le’Veon Bell can be your RB1 but you need to know that he probably isn’t going to be available in the first four games of the season. He is appealing a four game suspension to start the season but it doesn’t look promising that he will win it. If you can grab Gurley or David Johnson for the first month of the season and keep Bell on your bench it would be a very smart move.
He has taken most of the carries in training camp so far and he looks like he is fully recovered from the torn MCL and PCL that he suffered last season. To this point everything looks like he is ready to return to the top of the rushing yardage charts but if he does miss those first four games it will hurt those chances.
Don’t pass on him in the early rounds just because of his suspension. Once he comes back there is plenty of time for your team to recover even if you lose your first four games of the year. Pittsburgh will have plenty of offense to display this season and with one of the top quarterbacks in Ben Roethlisberger, one of the top receivers in Antonio Brown and one of the top backs in Bell, they have one of the most balanced offenses in the NFL. And they will be using every single weapon they have so don’t pass on a chance to pick up Bell for your squad.
9 Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts - Quarterback)
Don’t write off Andrew Luck based on what happened last season. He should be one of your top picks for quarterbacks for your fantasy team this season. He was injured for most of the season last year and it showed in his stats when he was on the field. But now that he is coming into his fifth season in the NFL, look for him to join the ranks of the elite signal callers in the league.
The Colts have revamped their offense and they are now a very balanced squad. This is going to lead to a lot of success for Luck. He will be throwing the ball to T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett this year and that will not only lead to a lot of touchdown passes but a ton of yardage as well. If he stays healthy you should expect a 4,000 plus yard passing season from him with thirty touchdown passes or more. And don’t forget that the Colts still have Frank Gore in the backfield to keep defenses honest.
There is no reason that Luck shouldn’t approach the 5,000 yards passing mark in this upcoming season and that’s why he should be your QB1 without question.
8 Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers - Quarterback)
Simply put, Cam Newton does it all. The starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers should be at the top of any draft list among quarterbacks. He can run and he can pass and he gives every defense that faces him fits. He seems to score at least one touchdown every single game whether it’s a pass or a running score, and on most days he will both run and pass for a score on the same day.
Take a look at what he did last year when he was the NFL’s MVP. He totaled almost 4,500 yards and was involved in 45 touchdowns. He brought Carolina all the way to the Super Bowl where they suffered a very hard to swallow loss and they will be looking to return there this year. And the team may be better this season than they were last year. Kelvin Benjamin’s return will help open the field up for Newton and expect to see him running all over the place. And if he can’t take off out of the pocket, he has plenty of weapons to choose from to throw the ball to.
Without question Cam Newton should be the guy you take as your QB1. But if you’re lucky enough to be able to grab both him and Luck, you can pencil yourself in for a spot in your league championship game. And now to the players you should avoid.
7 Adam Vinatieri (Indianapolis Colts - Kicker)
The Indianapolis Colts brought back legendary kicker Adam Vinatieri but you shouldn’t be so quick to jump on that bandwagon. The 43 year old kicker signed a two year contract that is worth between 5-6 million dollars and this will be his 21st year in the NFL.
His name is definitely recognizable because he is one of the best kickers that the league has ever seen. But don’t get drawn in by the name when you see him available on your draft board. The fact of the matter is that his best days are long behind him now and he doesn’t have the same success on the road as he shows when the Colts are playing at home.
While playing at home in Lucas Oil Stadium Vinatieri is still one of the best around. But the Colts play eight games on the road and he just doesn’t do as well in the elements as he used to. The days when he could not miss while playing for the New England Patriots are long gone now. If the Colts played in an outdoor stadium there is a question of if he would have been signed to a new contract.
If you feel the need to pick him up based on his name alone, you would be wise to sit him on the bench when the Colts are on the road. Only play him when they are at home or playing on the road in an indoor stadium.
6 Jay Cutler (Chicago Bears - Quarterback)
You should only pick up Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears if you absolutely have to. And even then you should look at other options. His name for some reason always resonates much larger than the stats he puts up on the field. His fantasy points are a disappointment every year to anyone that grabs him and this season most should know well enough to not even waste a precious roster spot on him. Maybe if the Bears improved you might want to give him a look but they didn’t. As a matter of fact they got worse. They lost some key people including Matt Forte to the New York Jets. With Forte gone their running game is lame at best. This will lead to Cutler staring up at the Chicago skyline from his back on the Soldier Field turf more often than not.
Last year in fantasy football Cutler scored fewer points than Josh McCown and Blaine Gabbert. That’s embarrassing for him. He averaged 15.1 points per game, which was less than the top available free agent each week. That is more than embarrassing, that’s just flat out sad. And this year will see about the same results. Pretend he doesn’t even exist when you see his name on draft boards.
5 Brock Osweiler (Houston Texans-Quarterback)
There will be a lot of people that look at Brock Osweiler and remember what he did last season. But that’s all you should do, remember. Don’t think he is going to do it again. He parlayed his success in Denver into a huge contract with the Houston Texans. He got $72 million and $37 million of it is guaranteed. Great job for him to get paid. But the Texans are not the Broncos.
He has a few weapons around him that give him the potential to be a decent QB3 but you really shouldn’t worry about him at all. He won’t be worth the time to watch. He has Lamar Millar and DeAndre Hopkins but they aren’t enough to make him shine like he did last season. He may put together a decent year on the field as far as wins and losses go but he doesn’t have enough weapons to put up good fantasy points consistently each week.
This could change for the 2017 season as the Texans continue to try to build a winning team around their new quarterback but as far as 2016 is concerned stay away from him. If you pick him up all he will bring you each week is disappointment.
4 Bilal Powell (New York Jets-Running Back)
Bilal Powell has made a decent career so far as a backup NFL running back. When you look at his stats you see that he can put up some decent numbers but he only plays when the starting back is hurt or tired. The Jets have had a lot of that over the last few years. This has given Powell the chance to get on the field more than they planned on him doing.
This year he has been taking about half of the first team snaps with new starter Matt Forte. Don’t let that fool you. As camp continues those snaps for Powell will get fewer and fewer. Forte is the man and the Jets plan to run him hard. Powell will be used mostly on 3rd down plays and he has proven that he can catch the ball out of the backfield. But that’s not good enough to get you the points you will need out of that position.
He isn’t even worth the RB4 position if your league goes that far in depth for your roster. Now, if Forte gets hurt you should pick up Powell as quickly as possible, but as long as Forte is on the field Powell will spend most of the season on the bench, just like last year when he was behind Chris Ivory.
3 Justin Forsett (Baltimore Ravens - Running Back)
There was time not long ago that Justin Forsett was one of the best running backs in fantasy football. But his time at the top was short because he got hurt. Well actually it wasn’t going well before he got hurt. The injury just made it worse.
He didn’t adapt well to the new offense and only reached the end zone twice last season. Of course the broken arm kept him out of action but he was having a horrible season prior to that. The injury actually saved him from a much worse season.
All indications so far are that the Ravens are going to use a running back by committee format this season and that’s not good for the 31 year old Forsett. Kenneth Dixon was drafted by Baltimore and he will be involved in the running back committee and at times this season there could be a total of four backs running the ball for the Ravens. While that might be good to have fresh legs on the field, it won’t be good for either player’s fantasy football stats.
Just 24 months ago Forsett was a surprising RB1 for a lot of fantasy football teams. This season he may not be worthy of an RB3 spot. It’s a risk that’s just not worth it.
2 Victor Cruz (New York Giants - Wide Receiver)
When you start looking at wide receivers for your WR1 and WR2 slots you should bypass Victor Cruz. Don’t get drawn into the past. He once had back to back 1,000 yard receiving seasons and scored no fewer than nine touchdowns. But injuries and new roster members on the New York Giants have made those days a distant memory for Cruz.
He has looked ok in training camp to this point but he clearly isn’t what he used to be. Last season he fooled a lot of people into thinking he was coming back from his injuries but all that led to was a lot of disappointment for those that picked him up.
He may be a good option for you at the WR3 position but nothing higher and there are certainly better options available. He is third on the depth chart for the Giants right now behind Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard. This means that his targets will be much lower than in previous seasons. His only hope to have that number go up is if Shepard doesn’t prove to be as good as New York hopes he will be.
Victor Cruz used to be a top selection for wide receivers but now you should avoid him. There are plenty of other options out there that won’t lead to as much disappointment.
1 Steve Smith (Baltimore Ravens - Wide Receiver)
There are a lot of so called “experts” out there that are promoting Steve Smith as a must have for this football season. The Baltimore Ravens wide receiver is being touted as one of the top picks this season. Those people are insane and if you want to have a successful team this year don’t buy into the hype.
Sure there is no question that Smith was surprising a lot of people last year with his high level of play before he got hurt. He was on pace to gain close to 1,500 yards receiving. But then he got hurt and that right there is why you need to stay away from him. He is 37 years old now and reality says that 37 year old football players don’t rebound from serious injury like they did when they were 22 years old.
If the Ravens are looking for him to be their top receiver this season they are in a lot of trouble and won’t be going to the playoffs. There are far more options available to you that will pan out better over the course of the season. Smith isn’t going to get anywhere near 1,000 yards receiving this season and he shouldn’t even be an option for your bench.