By Josh Williams

 

One of the great things about the National Football League is that there are always headlines and stories throughout the entire year, including the offseason. With free agency already starting and the NFL Draft approaching, this is a great time to look forward to the start of the season. With that said, here is a look at who you should be targeting for your Fantasy Football team next season.

Must Have Players

 

Pittsburgh Steelers Running Back Le’Veon Bell

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At age 25, Bell will be entering the prime of his career. Bell should be healthy after having groin surgery to repair the injury that bothered him during the playoffs. Bell is known for his patient style of running and rushed for over 1,200 yards last season. Bell also caught 75 passes out of the backfield. He should have another big season. Of course, everything is depending on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returning.

 

Arizona Cardinals Running Back David Johnson

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Johnson sprained his MCL in the final game of the season, but should be healthy for the start of training camp. Johnson had a fantastic season and made a lot of fantasy football owners very happy. Johnson scored 20 touchdowns and nearly gained a 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving. Stud running backs are hard to come by in fantasy football, so if you have the chance to draft Johnson, do so without blinking. With defenses making him the focal point of their game plan, he may not score 20 touchdowns again, however Johnson will still make fantasy owners rejoice this season.

 

Dallas Cowboys Running Back Ezekiel Elliott

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The fourth overall pick in last year’s NFL Draft, Elliott took the league by storm as a rookie, leading the league in rushing by gaining 1,631 yards to go along with 15 rushing touchdowns. Will Elliott suffer a sophomore slump? It is extremely unlikely given the talent that surrounds Elliott in quarterback Dak Prescott, tight end Jason Witten, and wide receiver Dez Bryant. The Cowboys also have arguably the best offensive line in football, so Elliott could potentially surpass his rookie year.

 

Atlanta Falcons Wide Receiver Julio Jones

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Julio Jones has a scary combination of size and speed that makes him a matchup nightmare for defenses. Jones was impacted by a painful foot injury in the playoffs and still dominated. When healthy, Jones is one of the NFL’s most dangerous weapons and should be targeted early in the fantasy league draft.

 

Cincinnati Bengals Wide Receiver A.J. Green

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Due to injury, Green failed to gain over 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career last season, which is a sign of how great a player Green is. Green makes great use of his 6’4” frame to win jump balls over smaller defensive backs. If healthy, Green should have another outstanding season.

 

Quarterbacks To Target

 

Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers

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Rodgers remains the most talented quarterback in the NFL. Despite the major injuries on offense, Rodgers almost single handedly lead the Packers to the Super Bowl. Even in a down year, Rodgers still threw for 40 touchdowns and over 4,000 yards passing.

 

New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady

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At this point, you can make a strong argument that Brady is the best player of all-time. Looking for his sixth Super Bowl ring this season, Brady could have one of his best seasons as the team recently acquired speedster wide receiver Brandin Cooks.

 

Breakout Players

 

Los Angeles Chargers Running Back Melvin Gordon

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Gordon could be primed to cement himself as one of the best running backs in the NFL. Entering his third year, Gordon should rush for over 1,000 in his career for the first time and record his second straight season of scoring double digit touchdowns.

 

Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz

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Wentz had a solid if not spectacular rookie year. However, The Eagles have given Wentz some weapons this offseason in wide receivers Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery to go along with Jordan Matthews. Wentz could have a big year.

 

Players To Avoid

 

New York Giants Wide Receiver Sterling Shepard

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Shepard enjoyed a nice rookie season, scoring eight touchdowns. His role seemed like it would be increasing following the release of Victor Cruz, then the Giants went out and signed Brandon Marshall.

 

Cincinnati Bengals Running Back Jeremy Hill

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Hill has stagnated since his nice rookie season, and now he’ll try to get back on track behind a Bengals offensive line that just lost its two best linemen in Kevin Zeitler and Andrew Whitworth during free agency. You should avoid Hill even as a low round pick.

 | Posted by | Categories: Fantasy Football, NFL | Tagged: Fantasy Football, NFL |

Rex Burkhead
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The New England Patriots have been one of the most difficult teams to predict the fantasy value of their running backs. Dion Lewis led them in the Divisional Round with three touchdowns and 64 total yards. LeGarrette Blount had 31 yards and James White had just one touch (19-yard TD). In the Conference Championship Round Blount led the way with 55 total yards and a score. Lewis had 19 total yards and White had eight. In the Super Bowl it was White’s turn with 139 total yards and three touchdowns. Blount and Lewis each had 29 yards.
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Blount won’t return, but the Patriots will still have a three-headed monster with Lewis, White and newly signed Rex Burkhead. At first glance you wouldn’t expect Burkhead to take on a major role, but his contract suggests otherwise as he became the Patriots’ first $2 million runner since 2010.
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Burkhead had just 344 carries for the Bengals, sharing the load with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. Burkhead’s 4.6 yards per carry was better than Hill’s 3.8 and Bernard’s 3.7 respectively. He caught 17 passes for 145 yards, which was less than Hill’s 21 for 174 and Bernard’s 39 for 336.
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What is Bill Belichick thinking? For starters, he is not conventional. He saw something in Wes Welker, Chris Hogan, James White the list goes on and on. He has a great history of picking little known players and making stars of them. Danny Woodhead, Julian Edleman, again the list goes on and on.
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What would draw Belichick’s interest? He had 31 rushing yards and 143 receiving yards with a pair of touchdowns prior to last year. Why I wouldn’t call 489 total yards and a pair of touchdowns a break out year, he did show a little something. It couldn’t have been their 2016 meeting as Burkhead had just 16 yards on two carries. My guess is that his payday was in part to a fit that Belichick sees in their system and a 144 total yards effort to close out the season against the Baltimore Ravens.
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Should you trust Burkhead as your RB2? I would have to say no. The potential is there, but track record is not. Plus, with Dion Lewis and James White on roster, any hold on a starting job is pretty weak. If Burkhead coughs up the ball or struggles, Belichick will likely turn to the hot hand. I’d pencil him in as a RB3 with Lewis and White serving as RB4s.  It is going to be frustrating owning any of the Patriots backs. It may be worth letting someone else have that headache.

Latavius Murray
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The Minnesota Vikings closed the chapter on Adrian Peterson’s tenure with the club with the signing of Latavius Murray. While Peterson is still looking for a home, we’ll take a look at the fantasy football impact of the signing.
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Murray ran for 788 yards last year and 12 touchdowns, sharing the load with Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. Richard finished with 491 yards while Washington had 467 yards. Murray ran for a decent 4.0 yards per carry, but some of that success can be contributed to running behind one of the best offensive lines in the league last year. Richard (5.9 ypc) and Washington (5.4 ypc) were more effective per touch, minus the scoring of course.
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Murray did a nice job in the passing game with 33 receptions for 264 yards.
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In 2015 Murray ran for 1,066 yards at 4.0 ypc and six touchdowns with 41 receptions for 232 yards. In 2014 he had 424 yards at 5.2 ypc and two touchdowns with 17 receptions for 143 yards.
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He should see his fair share of carries as the primary running back, but will likely see his production in the pass game see a dip. Jerick McKinnon, who ran for 539 yards at 3.4 ypc and a pair of touchdowns with 43 receptions for 255 yards and two more scores, should remain the Vikings’ primary pass catching running back.
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The Vikings have made some upgrades to their offensive line, but they were dreadful last year, averaging 3.2 yards per carry as a team. Peterson had a 1.9 average, McKinnon was 3.4 and Matt Asiata was 3.3. While they will be better, it’s pretty safe to say Murray will be running behind an inferior line in 2017.
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Despite that fact, Murray still figures to be a solid RB2 thanks to his ability to get in the end zone. Asiata had six scores last year and Murray is most certainly a preferred back. McKinnon, meanwhile, falls to RB4-5. He really only has value in PPR leagues.

Eddie Lacy hurdle
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Eddie Lacy has been a major disappointment the past couple of years. He played just five games last year, finishing with 360 yards (28 receiving) while failing to score a touchdown. This is after a down year with 758 yards (188 receiving) and five total touchdowns. Despite those struggles he landed on his feet with the Seattle Seahawks.
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The Seahawks finished 25th in the league last year in rushing and 24th in yards per carry. Injuries to Russell Wilson, which limited his scrambling, and Thomas Rawls took a toll. In 2015 the Seahawks finished 3rd in rushing and 7th in ypc. During Marshawn Lynch’s run the Seahawks were a premier rushing team, finishing in the top five 2011-2014.
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Seattle’s banking on Lacy to provide that physical running style that made Beast Mode a national sensation.
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Lacy has the chops if he can keep his weight under control and stay on the field. He finished with 1,178 yards (257 receiving) and 11 touchdowns as a rookie and 1,139 yards (427 receiving) and 13 total touchdowns in his second year. Despite struggling the past couple of seasons, Lacy still maintains a healthy 4.4 yards per carry average and 29 touchdowns in 51 games.
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Lacy’s arrival puts a serious hamper on Thomas Rawls’ fantasy prospects. He came in with high expectations, but busted out on fantasy owners with 349 yards (96 receiving) and three touchdowns on a 3.2 ypc average. Christine Michael, with 469 yards (96 receiving) seven total touchdowns and a 4.0 ypc was actually more productive. Rawls will get a chance if Lacy falters, but it’s Lacy’s job to lose.
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C.J. Prosise, who finished with 172 yards on 5.7 yards per carry to go with 19 catches for 208 yards will serve as the change of pace back. He won’t be on fantasy radars either.
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I’ve been burned by Lacy the past two years. I’m not sure I have the stomach for a third year of him. He’s a risky play, but there definitely is upside.

DeSean Jackson
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A look at the recent NFL signings and their fantasy football impact.
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Buffalo Bills
The Bills signed both Mike Tolbert and Patrick DiMarco. DiMarco will be a full back and Tolbert will be a running back. LeSean McCoy should get excellent blocking from his fullback, but he could lose some goal line touches with Tolbert’s arrival. McCoy remains a strong RB1. Steven Hauschka’s should remain a quality kicker in Buffalo’s offense.
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Chicago Bears
The Bears broke the bank to bring in Mike Glennon. Good for Glennon. I don’t think he’s the answer in Chicago. Probably the next in a long line of overpaid free agent signings at the QB position. Ahem, Brock Osweiler.
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Cleveland Browns
Kenny Britt left a bad situation with the Los Angeles Rams for a bad one in Cleveland. He’ll be a WR3-4 at best. Speaking of Brock, he won’t look any better in a Browns uniform.
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Philadelphia Eagles
Alshon Jeffery was a nice addition for Carson Wentz. He should be a WR2 with WR1 potential. Torrey Smith was a nice deep threat add as well. He figures to be a WR4. Wentz should move up to the middle of the QB2 landscape.
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New England Patriots
The Pats must be out on the Martellus Bennett Sweepstakes after acquiring Dwayne Allen in a trade. He’s a solid low-end TE1 bet if he can stay healthy.
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San Francisco 49ers
The Niners added Brian Hoyer at QB. It is not all that exciting for fantasy purposes. He’ll be a QB2 at best if he wins the starting gig. Pierre Garcon was brought in as a new weapon. Solid signing. He’ll be in WR3 territory.
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs made a splash signing deep threat DeSean Jackson to pair with Mike Evans. Great 1-2 punch. Jameis Winston should take another step forward into QB1 territory next year. Jackson should be a solid WR2 as well. Washington’s passing game definitely took a hit losing Jackson and Garcon.

Brandon Marshall
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The New York Giants made a splash by signing Brandon Marshall to join forces with Odell Beckham, Jr. to give the G-Men one of the best wide receiver duos in the league.
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The clear winner in this signing is Eli Manning. He now has two top 20 receivers at his disposal. The Giants offense is heavily geared towards the passing attack and this will help. If receivers try to take Odell away, Marshall will make them pay. Play Odell without help over the top, you’ll pay. It’s great news for Eli.
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Brandon Marshall also gets a boost. He gets an upgrade at quarterback and is in a more favorable offense. He finished with just 59 catches for 788 yards and three touchdowns. In 2015 he had 109 catches for 1,502 yards and 14 touchdowns. Look for Marshall to land somewhere in the middle of those two campaigns. He’s a solid WR2 going into 2017.
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You would think that Odell Beckham, Jr. takes a little hit as Marshall will command a lot of targets, but I think there is plenty to go around. Beckham had 101 catches for 1, 367 yards and 10 TDs. He wasn’t as dominant as he was in previous years, but it’s hard to be upset about his production. He should be able to match last year’s production. Marshall will take some of the attention away from Beckham. He should also push him to be at his very best
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Sterling Shepard’s value takes a hit. He caught 65 passes for 683 yards and 8 touchdowns as a rookie. I think he can match or beat the receptions and yardage totals, but he likely takes a hit in the touchdown department. One would have predicted he take a major leap in his second year, but that isn’t likely to be the case now that Marshall is in town. He’ll likely remain on the WR4-5 radar.

Bill Belichick Super Bowl
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Given Bill Belichick’s track record of plugging in veteran players, it is no surprise that Adrian Peterson and the New England Patriots have at least been linked in talks. Obviously Peterson would have to take a dramatic paycut, but as Karen Guregian mentioned in the article, he has already been heavily compensated. If a Super Bowl ring is high on Peterson’s wish list, the Pats are a nice landing spot.
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If the Patriots are going to take a gamble on Peterson, they need to be sure that it is going to work out for them.
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LeGarrette Blount ran for 1,161 yards on 3.9 yards per carry, but scored 18 touchdowns. His usage took a back seat in the Patriots’ Super Bowl run as both Dion Lewis and James White took turns as the star back. Blount finished with just 35 carries for 109 yard (3.1 ypc) with a touchdown in three playoff wins. Blount is a free agent, and could find himself too expensive for the Patriots’ tastes.
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Enter Peterson to the equation. While All Day didn’t live up to his name last year thanks to injuries limiting him to three games and ineffectiveness (1.9 yards per carry on 37 touches), let’s not forget that he ran for 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns on a 4.5 ypc the year prior. Peterson has 2,418 career carries for 11,747 yards (4.9 ypc) and 97 rushing touchdowns. The blame doesn’t fall entirely on Peterson. The Vikings’ offensive line was downright offensive last year. Plus Norv Turner’s play calling left plenty to be desired.
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He will turn 32 this month, but he has had just 385 carries over the past three years because of injuries/suspension. Not to mention, there aren’t many players with his recovery ability or physique.
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Whether or not Peterson has anything left in the tank is not my concern regarding a fit with the Patriots. They would get a good sense of the shape he is in early on. Again, as long as the injuries have healed, expect Peterson to be in great shape. The major roadblock for Peterson joining the Patriots is his fumbling issues. He has fumbled 39 times during his career, losing 23. The Patriots simply do not put the ball on the ground. When they do, an immediate trip to Belichick’s doghouse ensues. The Patrtiots were middle-of-the-pack with nine fumbles last year. They tied for second with seven in 2015 and four in 2014.
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Keep an eye on this because of the fantasy football implications, but my money says Peterson will be landing elsewhere.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Miami Dolphins
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The 2016 fantasy football season has come to a close and has left plenty on the table for conversation. Among the top scorers at their positions, Aaron Rodgers led quarterbacks, David Johnson led running backs, and Mike Evans and Jordy Nelson finished tied atop the wide receiver crop. Having these four players at the top left some surprised, considering only one of these teams would move on to the postseason.The season also had a long list of shortcomings, under performers, and nagging injuries to reduce output. Below we’ll detail some of the headlines of the 2016 fantasy season and look ahead to what 2017 could have in store.

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We start with underwhelming performers. Two names that we find at the top of the list are two running backs: Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles. Peterson was a first-round pick in nearly all leagues, but rarely saw the field in 2016. Peterson went down in week 3 of the season with a meniscus injury. Through those three games, Peterson wasn’t exactly setting the fantasy world on fire. He only accumulated 72 total rushing yards through three contests and failed to reach the end zone. He was off to a disappointing year before the injury occurred.

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Jamaal Charles entered the 2016 as a question mark with big upside attached to his history of success in the league. Charles was coming off a season that he saw cut short due to a torn ACL. He was being drafted in the late second to early third rounds of most leagues. Charles spent the first few weeks on and off the injury report, not once seeing the field. During this time the Chiefs leaned heavily upon both Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West. Both Ware and West reaped the benefits of Jamaal Charles’ absence. Once Charles made his return, it was too little too late for the fantasy stud of old. The backfield was crowded and he never returned to a form he once owned. Later in the season the team would place Charles on IR and would mark a second disappointment for fantasy owners.

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The 2016 season also offered a sit and wait perspective with both Le’Veon Bell and Tom Brady. Bell was forced to sit out the first three games due to breaking the substance abuse policy and Brady received his four-game reprimand for his involvement in the deflate scandal. Bell would go on to finish in the top four for running back scorers and Brady would come in at 11th among quarterbacks. Not bad for having a heavily reduced work log to make up the distance among league leaders. Owners who were able to secure these talents in later rounds were the ones who were reaping the benefits of a fantasy playoff run.

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The 2016 also had its fair share of surprises. We go back to the running backs and visits Dallas for a dynamic duo. Jordan Howard of the Chicago Bears was a lone bright spot in a dismal season. The Bears finished near the bottom of the league in most statistical categories and win to loss ratio. Howard had over 1300 yards, which placed him near the top rushers in the league.

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Jay Ajayi was a second unicorn of a fantasy draft pick. Compiling multiple 200 yard performances, Ajayi was the diamond in the rough we all hope to seek out before he gains the eyes of the other players in our leagues, finishing fourth in the league in rushing yards. The Dallas Cowboys also brought the heat from an unlikely source category: the rookies. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott created a tandem that ended their season as the top team in the NFC. Both players out-performed their projected value and made for nice additions to any fantasy roster.

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With the 2016 season long gone, owners look ahead to 2017 perspectives. The 2017 season will likely follow a format that mimics the this season: take a chance on players who are up against adversity and make sure you backup your studs. Injuries plagued most of the top positional players and opened the doors for new faces to showcase their talents in 2016. The Chiefs backfield, the Cowboys offensive attack, and players that led their teams when the record didn’t show for it helped make up for the big storylines in the 2016 season.

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2017 will be no different. Bounce-back candidates include: Cam Newton, Jay Cutler, C.J. Anderson, Doug Martin and even Julio Jones, who was on-and-off all season long. Target the players who have something to play for in 2017. Teams who almost tasted the success of the post season, but fell short are prime candidates on draft day. Search out the guys that don’t have the hype surrounding their play. The ones who are the silent performers; the ones who let their play do the talking and keep quiet off of the field.

 | Posted by | Categories: Fantasy Football | Tagged: Fantasy Football, NFL, Season review |

Brady Spike
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Now that the dust is settling on another season, let’s take a look at the QB landscape.
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The Elite
Tom Brady – Missed four games because of Roger’s vendetta. 3,554 yards, 29 TDs, 2 INTs which extrapolate to 4,739 yards, 39 TDs and 3 INTs. Set the Super Bowl record for passing yards as he got the last laugh. No signs of slowing and has a great group of weapons that fit his style. If Gronk can stay healthy, he’s even more dangerous.
Drew Brees – 5,208 yards, 37 TDs, 15 INTs. A remarkable fifth 5,000 yard season. He’s 38, but no signs of slowing. Good young receiving options.
Aaron Rodgers – 4,428 yards and an NFL-high 40 TDs to just 7 picks.
Matt Ryan – Matty Ice may have a Super Bowl hangover after that debacle, but he has the best receiver in the game, along with numerous weapons. MVP season with 4,944 yards, 38 TD and 7 INTs.
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The Next Wave
Andrew Luck – 4,240 yards, 31 TDs, 13 INTs. Great to see the TD-INT ratio come back. Adding 341 yards and 2 TDs on the ground has him knocking on that elite status.
Philip Rivers – 4,386 yards, 33 TDs. A little heavy on the INTs (21). Key injuries set him back, but still solid year nonetheless. Consistently delivers. Also consistently undervalued.
Ben Roethlisberger – 3,819 yards, 29 TDs, 13 INTs in 14 games. He’s a force but tends to deal with injuries. You’ll want a capable backup.
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Strong Options
Derek Carr – It’s a shame he got injured as he was in the MVP discussion with 3,937 yards and 28 TDs to just 6 INTs.
Kirk Cousins – Third in league with 4,917 yards, but a little light on TDs (25) to be considered in the upper echelon.
Cam Newton – 3,509 yards, 19 TDs, 14 INTs with 359 yards and five rushing TDs. Should produce more next year both with his arm and his feet.
Matthew Stafford – Same boat as Cousins with 4,327 yards and 24 TDs. Only 10 INTs though.
Russell Wilson – 4,219 yards, 21 TDs, 11 INTs with 259 yards and a rushing score. Injury limited his mobility. He should be back to his dual threat tendencies next year.
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Up and Coming
Marcus Mariota – 3,426 yards, 26 TDs, 9 INTs with 349 yards and 2 TDs rushing. Took a huge next step before being injured.
Zak Prescot – 3,667 yards, 23 TDs and 4 INTs with 282 yards and 6 TDs. Impressive rookie year. Future looks bright.
Jameis Winston – 4,090 yards, 28 TDs, 18 INTs. A little heavy on the INTs, but he did progress in year two.
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Veterans
Andy Dalton – 4,206 yards, 18 TDs, 8 INTs
Joe Flacco – 4,317 yards, 20 TDs, 15 INTs
Eli Manning – 4,027 yards, 26 TDs, 16 INTs
Carson Palmer – 4,233 yards, 26 TDs, 14 INTs

 | Posted by | Categories: Fantasy Football, NFL | Tagged: Fantasy Football, NFL, QBs, Quarterbacks |

 sb51
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It was a tale of two halves. In the end, my pick of the Patriots came true giving me a 9-2 mark in the postseason.
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Regular Season Record: 151-103-2 (.594)
Playoff Record:  9-2 (.818)
Overall Record:  160-105-2 (.603)


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