Get ready for your season with theScore’s 2017 Fantasy Football Draft Kit
At its core, fantasy football is a simple game. Figure out which NFL teams will score the most points and draft players on those teams.
It’s not always quite that simple when drafting receivers, though. Target-hog receivers on bad teams can sometimes produce elite fantasy totals, just as multiple members of a deep receiving corps can eat into each others’ targets and value. But generally, the fantasy teams left standing at the end of the season are the ones with the most shares in the NFL’s best passing attacks.
Below are five passing offenses we expect to produce multiple pass-catchers worth drafting:
2016 passing attempts: 674 (2nd in NFL)
2016 passing yards: 5,074 (1st)
Players to target: Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Willie Snead, Ted Ginn Jr.
Watch list: Coby Fleener
The Saints have ranked in the top-two in passing attempts every season this decade but one. As long as Sean Payton and Drew Brees are running the show, that trend will continue.
With Brandin Cooks now catching passes from Tom Brady, sophomore Michael Thomas is the top target for the Saints. Thomas led the Saints in catches, targets and touchdowns as a rookie and should do the same again this year, though his numbers could be depressed a bit by the No. 1 cornerbacks he’ll now face. Still, with a mid-second round ADP, Thomas is worth drafting.
The real value can be found in the rest of the Saints’ passing attack. Willie Snead has finished as a top-35 receiver in PPR leagues each of the last two years and although he will almost certainly improve on that this year now that he’ll play an every-down role, he’s being drafted outside the top 35. Snead might be the most undervalued player in all of fantasy football.
Ted Ginn Jr. is worth a look for owners in deep leagues. Ginn has a skill set similar to Cooks and is only two years removed from a 10-touchdown campaign in Carolina.
2016 passing attempts: 620 (5th)
2016 passing yards: 4,199 (7th)
Players to target: Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Martellus Bennett
Watch list: Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison, Jeff Janis
Any passing attack led by Aaron Rodgers will always be one you want a piece of, but lingering questions about how targets will be divided among the Packers’ receivers has created a significant opportunity for fantasy drafters to find value.
Jordy Nelson is the first Packers receiver off the board in drafts with an ADP in the late first or early second round. That might be a tad rich for a 32-year-old receiver, but no one caught more touchdown passes than Nelson’s 14 last season and he did it coming off a torn ACL.
Davante Adams is the next Packers receiver drafted and he typically goes after players like Jarvis Landry and Keenan Allen. That’s a tremendous bargain for a player who caught 12 touchdowns in 2016 and earned Aaron Rodgers’ trust. It’s possible Adams will emerge as the Packers’ No. 1 receiver and we just don’t know it yet.
Randall Cobb is being selected outside the top 100 picks after a disappointing 2016. The Packers say they want Cobb to be more involved this season, but he might need an injury to Nelson or Adams to become an every-week fantasy starter. He’s worth stashing in deep leagues.
The only notable new face in this attack is Martellus Bennett, a rare free-agent acquisition for the Packers. Bennett should be a perfect fit in this offense and serve as a nice upgrade on Jared Cook. If Bennett and Rodgers have chemistry and the former is used as the red-zone weapon he can be, Bennett will easily pay off his TE8 ADP.
2016 passing attempts: 607 (7th)
2016 passing yards: 4,758 (2nd)
Players to target: Kirk Cousins, Jordan Reed, Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder
Watch list: Josh Doctson
Kirk Cousins finished as QB5 in 2016, a year after a QB8 finish, and is a good bet to finish in that range again this season. The Redskins have certainly bungled things with respect to Cousins’ contract, but the fact remains that he will be quarterback for the team this season and that’s all fantasy owners need to know.
Around Cousins is a receiving corps that is without Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, the team’s two leading receivers in 2016, and their departures have created uncertainty about how targets will be divided among the team’s receivers this year. Where uncertainty exists in fantasy football, so does opportunity.
Jordan Reed will be the premier component of this passing attack if he stays healthy, but has never played 16 games in his career, battled through a major shoulder injury last year, and is already battling minor injuries at training camp. You can’t win the lottery without buying a ticket, so if you can stomach the bust risk that comes with drafting Reed, you might have the top-scoring TE if this is the season Reed finally stays out of the infirmary.
Terrelle Pryor was the Redskins’ big free-agent acquisition on offense. It’s remarkable what Pryor did last season; in his first full season as a receiver, he topped 1,000 yards in a terrible Browns offense that featured a revolving door at quarterback. Pryor is dripping with upside, but perhaps won’t see quite enough volume to hit every-week WR1 status.
The best value play on the Redskins is Jamison Crowder, who caught 67 passes as a part-time player last season and could hit triple-digit receptions in an every-down role this year.
2016 passing attempts: 550 (23rd)
2016 passing yards: 4,308 (4th)
Players to target: Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman
Watch list: Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan, Dwayne Allen
Tom Brady turns 40 next month and a strong argument can be made that he’s playing the best football of his career. The reigning Super Bowl MVP is set up for even more success this season after the Patriots upgraded his arsenal.
Joining the team via trade is Brandin Cooks, who finished as fantasy football’s WR8 last season with Drew Brees as his quarterback. The Saints attempted more than 100 more passes than the Patriots last season, and Cooks now has more competition for touches. He’s still in consideration as a low-end WR1, but don’t overdraft him.
Julian Edelman is on the wrong side of 30, but the Patriots just extended his contract and clearly see him continuing to soak up targets in the slot. If Edelman stays healthy, he could be a bargain at his ADP.
Beyond Cooks and Edelman, the depth chart is murky. Chris Hogan has weekly big-play upside, Malcolm Mitchell is a big body who flashed as a rookie, and Danny Amendola is somehow still on the roster. If you’re looking to strike it rich here, Mitchell is probably the stock you want to buy.
And, of course, there’s Rob Gronkowski, the consensus TE1 in fantasy drafts despite coming off back surgery. If Gronk stays healthy, he should hit double-digit touchdowns. If he doesn’t, Dwayne Allen is the tight end you want. He was acquired from the Colts and could put up numbers comparable to what Martellus Bennett did a year ago.
2016 passing attempts: 550 (23rd)
2016 passing yards: 4,308 (4th)
Players to target: Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson
Watch list: Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, Chris Godwin
The Buccaneers believe Jameis Winston is on the verge of becoming a superstar quarterback and their primary focus this offseason was to give the former first overall pick the weapons he needs to make that leap.
Mike Evans is the jewel of this passing attack and will cost you a first-round pick in drafts. Evans scored a dozen touchdowns in 2016 and could easily top that this year if Winston continues progressing, but it’s also possible Evans’ numbers will dip slightly with his targets likely to drop. No player in the NFL had more passes thrown his way last year than Evans.
DeSean Jackson was added in free agency and his deep skills should be a perfect fit for Winston’s big arm. Jackson is undervalued at his current ADP, perhaps because his touchdown totals have fallen off in recent seasons. Draft Jackson and bank on the rejuvenated speedster carving up secondaries.
The Buccaneers used their first-round pick on O.J. Howard, probably the most pro-ready tight end to come out of college in years. Rookie tight ends rarely carry significant fantasy value, but Howard has the chance to be the exception. We already know the bright lights of the NFL won’t be too much for him after watching Howard dominate in back-to-back national championship games.
Godwin is another rookie who is worth adding to your watch list. He’s a freaky athlete who could be dangerous if deployed out of the slot.
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