Players you MUST draft for your fantasy teams – by Rob Grimwood

I know how it works. It starts with the draft; an excitement inside you builds as you start piecing together landing spots whilst examining college stats and talent potential. Then OTA’s come beckoning and you realize fantasy season is just around the corner. That’s the moment when you start scouting for your own team. Some players you are naturally drawn to. Maybe it’s players who play for the team you support or it could be a player who has been successful for you in the past. Either way, sometimes there are players that slip through the cracks and are disregarded without any real thought or deliberation.

As I flick through my rankings, I find myself drawn to a few players that I can see having a very productive season for fantasy GM’s and I want to share these with you. In some of these cases they are being overlooked by industry personnel and I think it’s a damn right travesty!

Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

I get it, All-Pro Guard Andrew Norwell left in the free agency to join the ever-improving Jacksonville Jaguars and so far this off-season Daryl Williams (Right Tackle) and Amini Silatolu (Left Guard) have also been ruled out for at least a few weeks into the new season. So the offensive line is pretty beat up at the moment in Charlotte but it sounds as if neither Williams or Silatolu will miss too much of the season, so that O-Line may be at full strength sooner rather than later.

Even so, in my strange, bizarre and somewhat illogical way of thinking – I don’t think this upsets Cam Newton’s fantasy stock too much – if at all. There’s not many better scrambling Quarterbacks when the pocket collapses. This equals more yards on the ground for arguably the best running QB the league has ever seen. Newton has a career rushing average of 617 yards per season and is currently the leagues most successful QB rushing TD scorer of all time with 54. With a depleted wide receiver corps, it is likely that Carolina will exploit their talents in the ground game with potential superstar Christian McCaffrey and new acquisition C.J Anderson. This explosive ground game also includes Cam’s elite ability when using his legs and is used as a goal-line back as well as a signal caller which packs plenty of touchdown upside.

camnewt
Photo Credit: Mike McCarn/AP Photo

The passing game won’t be completely quashed though, rookie D.J Moore oozes talent as one of the top receiving prospects in this years’ draft class and don’t forget Greg Olsen will be returning to his role as Cam’s primary red-zone weapon. Devin Funchess proved last year that he can be a useful asset (63/840/8) and if he can replicate anything near that this season, the Panthers offense could well be a force to be reckoned with.

Stat Projection: 3,373 yards/24 TD’s/632 rush yards/5 rush TD’s 

Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears

Yes, I get it – Howard’s value is rinsed when you talk about PPR league formats because the guy clearly has catching issues. He knows that hence the extra hours he’s been putting in after practice during training camp, solely working on pass catching.

The narrative of ‘Howard is capped in PPR formats’ is the biggest load of baloney in fantasy anyway. Take last year as a prime example. Bear in mind, this is Howards pass-catching ability at its absolute floor with 125 yards off 23 receptions – a measly 5.4 yards per reception, he still managed to be the 14th best running back. That’s’ a ‘whopping’ 4 whole places below his standard scoring rank.

Howard is a focal point of a much-improved offense this offseason. With the additions of Allen Robinson, rookie Anthony Miller, and tight end Trey Burton – unlike last season, the opposing defense will have more to worry about than just the run when facing Chicago as the passing game should open up. There shouldn’t be as many stacked boxes to face and Howard has the raw talent to take advantage of this improved situation. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Howard could be a double-digit touchdown rusher this season, so don’t let the PPR narrative sway your drafting habits.

Stat Projection: 1,302 yards/10rush TD’s/34 rec/245 rec yards

Wide Receiver

Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers

Allen is a stud, a target monster, a freak athlete. I can’t run out of superlatives when describing the former Cal Bear. If Keenan Allen didn’t blow your socks off last season, you weren’t watching. Philip Rivers was dialed into his main receiver throughout the season, targetting him 159 times and connecting on 102 of them. Allen translated that into 1,393 yards and 6 touchdown – finishing 3rd in PPR leagues behind only Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins.

-L-CHARGERS
Photo Credit: Scott Varley/Daily Breeze-SCNG

Unfortunately, Allen suffered from two horrific injuries (lacerated Kidney and a torn ACL) which kept him out of the majority 2015 and 2016, but they weren’t injuries likely to keep hindering him throughout his career, especially after such a dominant showing last year. Like Howard in Chicago, Allen is part of a team that has improved throughout the off-season, their high powered defense should be able to get the offense some more time on the field. With Hunter Henry out for the season, Keenan Allen will once again likely be the target hog for Rivers, especially with sophomore Mike Williams back at full health and drawing coverage out wide.

However, there is a drawback. The overwhelming talent puts Allen firmly in the 2nd round in fantasy drafts. So unfortunately if you haven’t got an early to mid pick, you likely won’t see him. But, if you are in this vicinity, I urge you to pick him up – Keenan Allen is in a position where he could finish as the best receiver in football.

Stat Projection: 110 recs/1352/9 TD’s

Tight End

Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota was the beneficiary of the biggest Quarterback move in the free agency when they acquired former Redskin Kirk Cousins on a 3 year/$84m contract. Cousins had a good rapport with the ever-injured Jordan Reed when he was in the field and I fully expect that to transfer into Minneapolis with Kyle Rudolph.

Kyle Rudolph,Josh Norman
Photo Credit: Alex Brandon/AP Photo

Rudolph is one of the most elusive red zone targets in the NFL. In the last 3 seasons, the 28-year-old has scored 20 touchdowns for the Vikes. That’s more than Greg Olsen, Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce and Jimmy Graham. In fact, only Rob Gronkowski (22 TD’s) has outscored Rudolph in the touchdown department. Yet all of the names mentioned above are being drafted above him.

So what gives? I’m guessing fantasy GM’s are worried about the decimated Vikings offensive line where they might not be able to protect Cousins well enough to provide chances in the passing game. That means that Cousins is going to have to get the ball out quicker, ideally to a big receiver who can create space in the middle of the field… you catch my drift? As a 7th round pick in PPR leagues, Rudolph has the ability to win your team weeks. Don’t waste an early pick on a tight end when he is sitting there in the middle rounds but could see himself in the 7-9 touchdown range.

Stat Projection: 68 recs/691 yards/ 7 TD’s

by Rob Grimwood – @FFBritBaller

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