Now that the regular season is in the books, we can take a look at some of the most surprising players from 2016.
Matt Ryan, Falcons- Matt Ryan has been projected to take that “next step” for years. I’m sure he cost many an owner a playoff spot over the years (guilty). In 2016 he finally delivered with consistent play/points throughout the season. 4944 passing yards, 38 TDs, only 7 picks- Matt Ryan had an elite year. I still won’t draft him in the first 5 rounds!
Dak Prescott, Cowboys- While Dak Prescott didn’t really surprise me, (I drafted him) I had no idea he had 6 rushing TDs. He’s not a typical running QB, but he has youth and speed on his side. His final numbers for 2016 are pretty impressive for a rookie: 3667 passing yards, 23 TDs, and only 4 picks. 29 combined TDs impressive going into season 2.
Cam Newton, Panthers- I know what you are thinking: Cam had a bad year. That’s exactly it! I think many of us thought he would slide a little. Last year he lead Fantasy Football with 35 passing TDs and 10 rushing TDs. In 2016 he fell to 19 passing TDs, and just 5 rushing TDs. A drop of 21. That’s a lot of points. Especially after getting back his #1 target in Kelvin Benjamin. Cam should rebound at least a little in 2017, and will have an easier schedule as well.
Jordan Howard, Bears- Probably the biggest surprise in the running back world, was Jordan Howard of the Chicago Bears. This 5th round pick ended up only 2nd in rushing behind the Cowboys rookie runner Ezekiel Elliott, with 1313 rushing yards. That was in only 12 starts! Elliott had 9 more rushing touchdowns. Howard is a legitimate top Fantasy running back, and should improve on his 2016 stats.
DeMarco Murray, Titans- He didn’t fool me because I saw how he was running in preseason! DeMarco rebounded nicely from his off year in Philadelphia. He had 12 total TDs even after having had 5 vultured
LaGarrette Blount, Patriots- Blount came out of nowhere and ran for 1161 rushing yards and 18 rushing TDs. If you have watched the Patriots, you know things change from week to week. One thing is certain, Blount put a lot of opponents away. The Patriots paid a lot of money to Dion Lewis, which clouds the picture for 2017.
Todd Gurley, Rams- I’m not sure many people saw Gurley running for less than 900 yards and 10 TDs. That’s exactly what the 2nd year running back did. Blame the line, or blame not having a capable QB, it definitely wasn’t on the young RB. The $64k is: will the Rams fix up the line? They moved up to get QB Jared Goff, who had a tough time getting on the field, and wasn’t that productive when he did.
Jordy Nelson, Packers- We all know what Jordy could do, we didn’t know what he would do, and that was pick right up where he left off before he tore his ACL. It wasn’t all puppies and rainbows in Green Bay, but by mid-season Nelson and Rodgers were hooking up early and often. Look for Jordy to be among the first 3 WRs taken in 2017.
DeAndre Hopkins, Texans- Just when I was warming up to Hopkins as a top 5 receiver, his new shiny QB let the Fantasy world down. The biggest surprise is that Hopkins produced no matter who the QB has been in the past. How bad does this make Brock Osweiller? Maybe we will find out in the offseason. Congrats for turning a stud into a dud!
Terelle Pryor, Browns- Pryor came on early and was consistent all year. Not bad for this QB turned running back. He piled up 1007 receiving yards, 4 receiving TDs, 1 rushing TD, and 9 passes! Pryor is a free agent in 2017, so watch where he ends up. He could be a sleeper for the upcoming season.
Alshon Jeffery, Bears- The Bears had real QB carousel going on this year, but that didn’t hurt Jefferey in the past. Alshon didn’t help himself any getting suspended for 4 games (PED suspension). Generally a “matchup proof” WR, Jeffery was a Fantasy afterthought this season. He is a soon to be free agent, who’s value might get better if he leaves the Bears.
Tight Ends, Kickers, and D/ST:
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots- Gronk stayed healthy in 2015, and had the entire offseason to build on it. He couldn’t get it going in 2016, starting off with a bad hamstring. He then got lit up by Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas and wasn’t the same after that. Gronk has taken a tremendous beating over the years. Will he get back to his 2015 form in 2017?
Travis Kelce, Chiefs- No surprise Kelce was among the top 5 tight ends in points, but I didn’t see him leading the league. Travis had an up and down first half of the season, but came on later to be a Fantasy stud.
Defense and special teams usually fluctuates. The Vikings, Broncos, Chiefs, and Cardinals were all top 5. It was surprising to see the Seahawks fall out. The Texans dropped pretty far after losing JJ Watt. Look for the usual suspects to return to the top 5, baring injuries or huge losses in free agency.
Wait, you really thought I was going to talk about kickers? That’s funny! It’s like you don’t even know me!