Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Way Too Early 2016 Fantasy Football Rankings

There is plenty of uncertainty around 2016 rankings done in the dead of winter.  Hell, there's a lot of uncertainty around rankings done right before the season starts.  Keep in mind, I was among the vast majority who had Eddie Lacy as a no-brainer-top-3 pick entering 2015.  Yikes!

But one thing is for sure: it's never too early to get a jump on next season.  Here are a few key dates to keep an eye on in the coming weeks...

The Ides of March (ish): Free agency begins. 
Last year we saw big names like DeMarco Murray and Jeremy Maclin switch teams. 
What about this year...?  Matt Forte?  Alfred Morris?

Mid-to-late April: Weekly schedule released. 
I like seeing the schedule release for a couple of reasons:
1. I can pick out a couple of potential dates to check out a game at FedEx Field.
2. I can start refining my fantasy defense rankings based on matchups and see which teams/players get screwed with the early byes (which also affects my rankings, slightly).

April 28: NFL Draft starts in Chicago.
You probably won't hear anything else from me until this point in time.  Maybe another rankings update, but probably not until after we see where the college guys land.  I have a handful of rookies in my rankings right now, but that's also assuming they end up in decent fantasy situations (and not buried in the depth chart).  For some guys that might not matter, but for most it will.

End of July / Beginning of August: Training Camps Start.
It seems like a long time from now, but it'll be here before we know it!

So here's my initial list for the 2016 fantasy football season.  A lot will change between now and August (or whenever you do your fantasy draft).  A lot might even change in the next 2 or 3 months.  But this is a start.  I have several names that didn't quite make the top-168.  They might make the cut when things start really taking shape.  But that's a long time from now.  As usual, you'll find defenses and kickers at the very bottom of the list, but I'll end up moving the defenses around slightly (the kickers will stay at the tail end though).  Who knows?  Maybe my money league will finally vote to remove the kicker position, and I can narrow this thing down to a top-156 by the end of the summer!

You'll notice the color coding that I use to denote positions, and the big red line in the mid-40s helps me when I consider guys right below that as potential keepers.  Again, these are rankings for my league with my rules.  They're also predictions several months ahead of time, so whatever.

But enough talk.  Here's my first edition of the 2016 rankings!


1 . Le'Veon Bell: Should be back to full health and could still be playing for his first, big contract.
2 . Todd Gurley: Could easily make a case for him at the top spot as well.
3 . Antonio Brown: Best fantasy WR in high-volume pass offense.
4 . Odell Beckham, Jr.: Top-5 fantasy WR in each of his first two seasons in the league.
5 . Julio Jones: Over 200 targets in 2015. With Roddy in decline, don't see that number falling.
6 . Devonta Freeman: Another Falcon this high? Devonta was top fantasy RB in 2015, so yeah.
7 . Jamaal Charles: Top fantasy RB in 2013. But also played 5 or fewer games in 2 of last 5 years.
8 . Adrian Peterson: Age/usage a concern, but it's Adrian Peterson...
9 . Rob Gronkowski: Best fantasy TE last two years in a row. Healthy = 1100+ yards and 11+ TDs.
10 . Doug Martin: Lovie is gone, but Martin should still play (miniature) workhorse role if he stays.
11 . David Johnson: I can't see CJOK back, and Ellington can't stay healthy. DJ is the future.
12 . DeAndre Hopkins: Unless Houston locks him up in the offseason, he'll be in a contract year.
13 . Allen Robinson: Top-5 WR in 2015. I think he'll be top-5 again. Jags will always be passing.
14 . LeSean McCoy: A top-10 RB when healthy, but always expect a handful of games missed.
15 . Mark Ingram: If he can play 16 games, 1500 total yards and 10+ TDs not unrealistic.
16 . Lamar Miller: Ajayi could cut into his time, but we'll see what the new coach thinks of both RBs.
17 . AJ Green: At least 1000 receiving yards every year in the league. Consistent, safe pick.
18 . Dez Bryant: With a healthy Romo, expect 1300 yards and at least 12 TDs from Dez.
19 . DeMarco Murray: Chip Kelly's departure could (should) mean DeMarco back in a bellcow role.
20 . Latavius Murray: Probably one of my 2016 keepers. Young and entering contract year.
21 . Eddie Lacy: Also in a contract year, but can he lay off the cheeseburgers...?
22 . Marshawn Lynch: With future in Seattle uncertain, Beast Mode is hard to rank right now.
23 . T.J. Yeldon: If Jag offense continues to improve, and TJ gets goal line work? Watch out!
24 . Demaryius Thomas: Six TDs was lowest total since 2011. Concerning, but he's still elite.
25 . Alshon Jeffery: Legitimate shot to be top fantasy WR if he can play 16 games.
26 . Andrew Luck: Entering a contract year and a lot to prove after an injury-filled 2015.
27 . Cam Newton: Top-5 fantasy QB every year except 2014.
28 . Jordy Nelson: Just a year removed from being the #2 fantasy WR.
29 . Sammy Watkins: Missed 4 games in 2015 but was top-10 in average fantasy points/game.
30 . Brandon Marshall: 1500 yards and 14 TDs was unreal...not sure I believe it happens again.
31 . Arian Foster: Also entering a contract year, health will continue to (literally) make or break him.
32 . Jonathan Stewart: Missed last 3 games of the year, but easily top-20 RB based on average.
33 . Matt Forte: I don't think he'll be a Bear in 2016, so this ranking could fluctuate considerably.
34 . Calvin Johnson: This is assuming he doesn't retire young a la Barry Sanders.
35 . Keenan Allen: Not to keep harping on contract year guys, but Keenan also playing for a deal.
36 . Mike Evans: Not a top-25 fantasy WR in 2015, but target monster and Jameis will improve.
37 . Aaron Rodgers: With Jordy back, could easily make a case for him as the #1 fantasy QB.
38 . Russell Wilson: A strong second half of the season landed him in the top-3 fantasy QBs again.
39 . Ezekiel Elliott: This high ranking assumes he lands in a good spot (i.e. Dallas, Indy, ...)
40 . Carlos Hyde: Back to back Buckeyes! Rough rookie year ending with injury. High upside.
41 . Jeremy Hill: Rough sophomore season ending with horrible fumble. Still 11 rushing TDs though.
42 . Chris Ivory: Increased use of Powell might have me lowering Ivory a bit more.
43 . Dion Lewis: A lot of assumptions, Belichick's whims, etc.
44 . Justin Forsett: Likely will split carries with Buck Allen, but still tons of value here.

(Projected Keeper Line in My Money League)
45 . Amari Cooper: Very inconsistent in second half of the season, but sky is the limit.
46 . Martavis Bryant: Another guy with HUGE upside. A full season would mean big numbers.
47 . Brandin Cooks: Still the top receiving option in New Orleans and Brees still throwing to him.
48 . Melvin Gordon: Force fed at times in his rookie year. Little success, but volume should be there.
49 . CJ Anderson: Looked much better in final few weeks of 2015. Could project to 2016...
50 . Randall Cobb: Should be back to top-20 fantasy WR with Jordy back on the outside.
51 . TY Hilton: Still a top-25 WR without Luck most of the year. Gotta like him for 2016.
52 . Kelvin Benjamin: Missed all of 2015 with knee injury after 1000 yards and 9 TDs rookie year.
53 . Ben Roethlisberger: Top-5 QB in 2014, only higher than Brady for keeper potential.
54 . Tom Brady: Hard not to automatically rank him as a top-10 fantasy QB.
55 . Drew Brees: Same goes for him, assuming both old-timers still relatively healthy.
56 . Tyler Eifert: Will be in a contract year and coming off a 13-TD season.
57 . Jordan Reed: Also entering a contract year, seemed to get better with Kirk as season went on.
58 . Greg Olsen: Top-7 fantasy TE each of last 3 seasons, and Cam's not getting worse.
59 . Giovani Bernard: In a contract year and still getting plenty of touches in Cincy's offense.
60 . Frank Gore: If Indy drafts a RB highly in April, Gore will slide down my rankings.
61 . Darren McFadden: Same goes for McFadden, though he does have less tread on the tires.
62 . Jeremy Maclin: Went from top-10 (Philly 2014) to top-20 (KC 2015). Boring, solid pick here.
63 . Julian Edelman: Top-10 WR in fantasy points/game, but only played 9 games in 2015.
64 . Eric Decker: Top-10 WR for 2nd time in 3 years. Can he reproduce it in 2016?
65 . Jarvis Landry: Parker emerging, but Landy just has a nose for the end zone.
66 . Michael Floyd: Another contract year guy, Floyd shows flashes of brilliance at times.
67 . Jeremy Langford: If Forte is gone, Langford instantly moves up 30 spots or so.
68 . Ameer Abdullah: Not sure he'll ever be a workhorse, but could still put up good numbers.
69 . Derrick Henry: Depending on where he lands, he could rise and fall a lot from here.
70 . Matt Jones: If Redskins don't re-sign Alfred, Matt Jones easily a top-20 candidate for 2016.
71 . Laquon Treadwell: By far the best WR of this year's draft class, might not be high enough here.
72 . Doug Baldwin: Entering a contract year and coming off his best season.  Arrow pointing up!
73 . Emmanuel Sanders: Also entering a contract year, but arrow pointing sort of sideways.
74 . Larry Fitzgerald: I'd say he's entering a contract year, but likely in his LAST year at his age.
75 . Carson Palmer: Won't be a sleeper in 2016, but still a good value in the 70s.
76 . Blake Bortles: Top-5 QB in 2015, but I'd be a little surprised if he does it again next year.
77 . Andy Dalton: Top-3 QB in 2013, top-10 (on avg) in 2015. Easily a top-10 2016 guy for me.
78 . Isaiah Crowell: Likely to continue splitting time with Duke, but Cleveland can run the ball.
79 . Alfred Morris: I think he'll be with a new team in 2016, but which one...?
80 . DeVante Parker: Had a great finish to 2016. Could see him as the #1 WR in Miami next year.
81 . John Brown: 1000 yards and 7 TDs in 2015.  Good value here in the 80s.
82 . Steve Smith: High risk at his age and coming off injury, but has top-15 upside.
83 . DeSean Jackson: Not sure he ever plays a full season again, but makes plays when he...plays.
84 . Allen Hurns: In a contract year and coming off a 1000 yard 10-TD season.
85 . Travis Kelce: Another contract year TE, but is limited by Alex Smith in that offense.
86 . Delanie Walker: At age 31, could see some regression.  But high target volume.
87 . Karlos Williams: Rex likes to run the ball, and Shady likes to get hurt.
88 . Duke Johnson: Should continue to get plenty of touches as COB running back.
89 . Charles Sims: Was quietly a top-25 fantasy RB in 2015. Not sure anyone sleeping on him now.
90 . Thomas Rawls: If Beast Mode leaves town, I'll move Rawls into my top-20.
91 . Jordan Matthews: Very disappointing 2015 after promising rookie year. How will 2016 look...?
92 . Michael Thomas: Maybe the 2nd rookie WR off the board, but we'll see where he lands.
93 . Golden Tate: A boring value pick here in the 90s, could move higher if Megatron retires.
94 . Michael Crabtree: Had his best year since 2012, and maybe found a home in Oakland.
95 . Tony Romo: A top-10 fantasy QB in both 2013 and 2014. Should be again if healthy.
96 . Tyrod Taylor: Could be playing for a contract, but either way I like his chances at top-10 too.
97 . Danny Woodhead: Now in his 30s, probably playing for his last contract. Still producing though.
98 . LeGarrette Blount: Definitely a TD threat every week if he stays healthy and in New England.
99 . Rashad Jennings: Only 4 TDs in each of his first 2 seasons with the Giants. Low-end flex.
100 . Ronnie Hillman: If he can get 50% of the workload, he might need to be higher than this.
101 . Stefon Diggs: A young talent with a lot of upside. Then again, so was Charles Johnson...
102 . Tyler Lockett: Great speed and developed chemistry with Russell in the second half of 2015.
103 . Kevin White: Haven't seen him on an NFL field yet, but high upside in Chicago.
104 . Dorial Green-Beckham: Likely the #1 WR for the Titans in 2016...for whatever that's worth.
105 . David Cobb: And maybe...finally...the lead RB for Tennessee next year?  Who knows...?
106 . Javorius Allen: Some think he'll keep the starting gig over Forsett, but I'm not one of them.
107 . Bilal Powell: Showed good versatility when healthy Weeks 11-16. Low end flex potential.
108 . Derek Carr: I told you he was a "Next Level" guy! Will he finally crack the top-10 in 2016?
109 . Eli Manning: Coughlin may be gone, but McAdoo is still there...and Eli has OBJ, sooooo
110 . Philip Rivers: Top-5 QB in 2014.Top-12 in 2013 & 2015, but was top-5 in early part of 2015.
111 . Marcus Mariota: Up and down rookie year with injuries, but plenty of talent and upside here.
112 . Gary Barnidge: Tough to rank him this high, but also hard not to.
113 . Jimmy Graham: Seahawks O looked better without him, but he's still elite talent at the position.
114 . Julius Thomas: Very productive Weeks 11-15, but inconsistent and unhealthy otherwise.
115 . Ryan Mathews: I assume there will still be a role for him in Philly's offense...
116 . Andre Ellington: In a contract year, but likely now firmly behind D. Johnson on the depth chart.
117 . Travis Benjamin: Assumed to be Cleveland's #1 WR still, unless Josh Gordon returns.
118 . Willie Snead: A former futures contract guy now playing for a real NFL deal.
119 . Tavon Austin: Another contract year guy who finally showed his playmaking ability in 2015.
120 . Torrey Smith: Disappointing first year with 49ers, but can only go up from here...right?
121 . Vincent Jackson: Also in a contract year, but at his age likely could be near the end.
122 . Matthew Stafford: Will move him down further if no Megatron, but had a good 2nd half of 2015.
123 . Jameis Winston: Very consistent rookie year, playing all 16 games and all double-digit points.
124 . Kirk Cousins: Looked great in 2nd half, but still hasn't beaten a team with a winning record...
125 . Ryan Fitzpatrick: Assuming the Jets keep him around, might need to move him up a bit.
126 . Austin Sefarian-Jenkins: Missed a lot of rookie year due to injury, but talented TE.
127 . Antonio Gates: This is assuming he doesn't retire of course, but can't ignore Gates.
128 . Martellus Bennett: Coming off injury and in another contract year, probably for his last contract.
129 . Jay Ajayi: Not only a handcuff to Miller, but likely to start getting more work (maybe goal line?).
130 . Darren Sproles: Getting long in the tooth, but still quick and likely to get touches.
131 . Theo Riddick: Another small back in a contract year, Riddick could surprise people.
132 . James Starks: If you own Lacy, you have to own Starks. Could have value himself.
133 . DeAngelo Williams: Same goes for Bell owners. DeAngelo proved to be solid handcuff.
134 . Pierre Garcon: Probably playing for his last contract, but not sure what he has left.
135 . Donte Moncrief: Could be too low on him, since he appears to be one of Luck's favorites.
136 . Kamar Aiken: If Perriman actually exists, might have to drop Aiken a bit.
137 . Reuben Randle: I think Victor Cruz is done, so Randle is the de facto #2 WR for the G-Men.
138 . Markus Wheaton: In a contract year, but still the 3rd option...albeit in a good offense.
139 . Charcandrick West: We all thought Davis was the handcuff to have last year, so beware in KC.
140 . Antonio Andrews: Could be top handcuff. Could be the starter. Could be 3rd or 4th string...
141 . Denard Robinson: Yeldon's handcuff, and in a contract year himself.
142 . Alfred Blue: Foster's top handcuff, but I would be surprised if Houston doesn't draft a RB.
143 . Tevin Coleman: Obviously the handcuff to Freeman, but could see him getting more work too.
144 . Cameron Artis-Payne: Jonathan Stewart hasn't always been the healthiest RB...
145 . Seahawks DEFENSE
146 . Broncos DEFENSE 
147 . Cardinals DEFENSE 
148 . Panthers DEFENSE 
149 . Texans DEFENSE 
150 . Rams DEFENSE 
151 . Patriots DEFENSE
152 . Chiefs DEFENSE 
153 . Jets DEFENSE 
154 . Bengals DEFENSE 
155 . Packers DEFENSE 
156 . Ravens DEFENSE
157 . Stephen Gostkowski
158 . Justin Tucker 
159 . Steven Hauschka 
160 . Cairo Santos
161 . Graham Gano
162 . Mason Crosby 
163 . Dan Bailey
164 . Chandler Catanzaro
165 . Blair Walsh
166 . Adam Vinatieri
167 . Brandon McManus
168 . Josh Brown