Best Value Picks of 2016
It’s always fun at the end of a long fantasy season to look back and see who exceeded expectations. In other words, to find out who were the value picks. The following is a list of players that pleasantly surprised fantasy owners in 2016. They’re not necessarily entirely based on the average draft position (ADP) and the year-end result, but those certainly do help in determining good value.
*ADPs were gleaned from several fantasy sites via FantasyPros. Results are based on standard scoring leagues.
ADP: QB19, FINISHED: QB3
Ryan’s MVP-caliber season wasn’t in many 2016 forecasts. His ADP was QB19 before the season started. He ended the season as the QB3, throwing for nearly 5,000 yards and 38 touchdowns — both career highs; his seven interceptions were a career low. Ryan’s quarterback rating of 117.1 led the NFL and was the fifth highest in the league’s history for a single season. Further speaking to his efficiency was the fact that he achieved a career year on just 534 pass attempts, the fewest passes he’s thrown since 2009.
Time will tell if Ryan’s outbreak was an outlier or a sign of things to come. A potential departure of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan could certainly spell regression, but Ryan has averaged 4,692.6 yards and 29 touchdowns over the last five seasons. His 2016 campaign could very well turn out to be the plateau of his career, but Ryan can no longer be regarded as a backup fantasy quarterback.
ADP: QB21, FINISHED: QB9
The rookie phenom was supposed to be the Cowboys’ third-string quarterback, at best, behind Tony Romo and Kellen Moore heading into the 2016 season. Injuries to both Romo and Moore coupled with an impressive preseason paved the way for Prescott to take over the starting role, and he never looked back. Prescott amassed the most impressive rookie season of any quarterback in NFL history, totaling nearly 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns. What was most impressive about Prescott, though, was his lack of interceptions, something to which most rookie signal callers fall victim. He completed just four passes to the opposition.
Having Ezekiel Elliott and arguably the best offensive line in the NFL was beneficial, of course, and Elliott will limit Prescott’s fantasy value as long as he’s healthy. That being said, Prescott’s running ability does give him added value. He found the endzone six times on the ground in his inaugural season. Prescott’s dual-threat ability makes him a low-end QB1 for 2017 fantasy drafts.
ADP: RB64, FINISHED: RB9
The future of Chicago’s coaching staff is unclear at this point, but Howard could be the rock upon which to build this franchise. He is too talented to be ignored and should continue to be featured no matter who is on the sideline. With gaudy numbers in his first professional season, one can expect Howard’s ADP to be in the first or second round next season.
ADP: RB63, FINISHED: RB26
Talk about a late bloomer. Kelley didn’t see meaningful game action until Week 8 after Matt Jones suffered a knee injury. As such, his year-end result may not seem as impressive. Kelley still cemented himself as the starter for the remainder of the season, although Chris Thompson kept Kelley from featured status. Kelley only started nine games, but he made the most of them, rushing for 704 yards and six touchdowns on the year.
Ironically, the Redskins may have found their next Alfred Morris just a season after Morris left for the Dallas Cowboys. Kelley has a similar running style and is not too involved in the passing game, just like Morris. Be careful not to think too far ahead, though. Kelley will need to assure Washington that he’s their man while fending off Jones and Mack Brown. He’ll have more value in standard scoring leagues with Chris Thompson locked into the pass-catching role.
ADP: WR121, FINISHED: WR15
Tyreek “The Freak” Hill took the league by storm in his rookie year with his blazing, dazzling, captivating and unfair speed. He did everything for the Chiefs, scoring six times as a receiver, three times as a runner and twice as a returner. In fact, Hill is the first rookie since Gale Sayers (1965) to score a touchdown by way of a reception, run, kick return and punt return.
Hill’s receiving numbers don’t jump off the page — he only caught 61 passes for 593 yards — but he’s an X-factor. Head coach Andy Reid and the Chiefs should continue to implement him in every aspect of the offense and on special teams. His return ability makes him extra valuable in return yardage leagues, while his lack of volume in the passing game makes him less valuable in PPR leagues. His versatility and nose for the endzone make him a WR2 option in 2017.
ADP: WR73, FINISHED: WR7
Adams caught just 53.2% of his targets and became notorious for dropping passes last season. Just one year later and Adams upped that number by nearly 10 percent, catching 62.0% of his targets. Although, he still had some big drops, particularly in the endzone. Even so, the third-year receiver finished only three yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark while catching 12 touchdowns, tied for second in the league behind his teammate, Jordy Nelson (14). It’s difficult to trust a player after one good season, especially in fantasy football, but Adams deserves credit for his bounce-back performance and is an early-round consideration for 2017. He’s not a bad play in daily contests this weekend either.
ADP: WR67, FINISHED: WR11
Matthews was one of the better free-agent acquisitions last offseason as far as wide receivers are concerned, but there wasn’t much buzz surrounding him heading into the season. His ADP was WR67 before the season started, but he finished the season as WR11.
Matthews’ 65 catches left something to be desired, but the Titans did put an emphasis on running the ball after acquiring DeMarco Murray and drafting Derrick Henry. Delanie Walker should still be viewed as the top receiving option in Tennessee despite a relatively disappointing season, but more attention must be given to Matthews going forward. Taking him in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts next season would be ideal.
ADP: TE32, FINISHED: TE6
Brate was projected by many to be the Buccaneers’ No. 3 tight end behind Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Luke Stocker. Naturally, he went undrafted in most fantasy drafts. The fallout of Seferian-Jenkins propelled Brate into the starting role, and he made the most of it. He was counted on and trusted right away, too, with Vincent Jackson being lost for the season in October.
The projected third-stringer finished the season tied for the league lead in touchdowns among tight ends (8). San Diego Chargers rookie tight end Hunter Henry also had eight scores. Brate really came on late in the season, finding the end zone six times in his last nine games after scoring just twice in his first six games, with both of those touchdowns coming in one game. The third-year tight end earned the right to retain his starting job heading into 2017. He could be just as involved next season, too, if Vincent Jackson is not re-signed in free agency. View Brate as a low-end TE1 to high-end TE2 following his career year.
Other nominees: Matt Ryan, LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, Spencer Ware, Michael Thomas, Tyrell Williams, Terrelle Pryor, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph, Hunter Henry