The 2016 fantasy football season has come to a close and has left plenty on the table for conversation. Among the top scorers at their positions, Aaron Rodgers led quarterbacks, David Johnson led running backs, and Mike Evans and Jordy Nelson finished tied atop the wide receiver crop. Having these four players at the top left some surprised, considering only one of these teams would move on to the postseason.The season also had a long list of shortcomings, under performers, and nagging injuries to reduce output. Below we’ll detail some of the headlines of the 2016 fantasy season and look ahead to what 2017 could have in store.
We start with underwhelming performers. Two names that we find at the top of the list are two running backs: Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles. Peterson was a first-round pick in nearly all leagues, but rarely saw the field in 2016. Peterson went down in week 3 of the season with a meniscus injury. Through those three games, Peterson wasn’t exactly setting the fantasy world on fire. He only accumulated 72 total rushing yards through three contests and failed to reach the end zone. He was off to a disappointing year before the injury occurred.
Jamaal Charles entered the 2016 as a question mark with big upside attached to his history of success in the league. Charles was coming off a season that he saw cut short due to a torn ACL. He was being drafted in the late second to early third rounds of most leagues. Charles spent the first few weeks on and off the injury report, not once seeing the field. During this time the Chiefs leaned heavily upon both Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West. Both Ware and West reaped the benefits of Jamaal Charles’ absence. Once Charles made his return, it was too little too late for the fantasy stud of old. The backfield was crowded and he never returned to a form he once owned. Later in the season the team would place Charles on IR and would mark a second disappointment for fantasy owners.
The 2016 season also offered a sit and wait perspective with both Le’Veon Bell and Tom Brady. Bell was forced to sit out the first three games due to breaking the substance abuse policy and Brady received his four-game reprimand for his involvement in the deflate scandal. Bell would go on to finish in the top four for running back scorers and Brady would come in at 11th among quarterbacks. Not bad for having a heavily reduced work log to make up the distance among league leaders. Owners who were able to secure these talents in later rounds were the ones who were reaping the benefits of a fantasy playoff run.
The 2016 also had its fair share of surprises. We go back to the running backs and visits Dallas for a dynamic duo. Jordan Howard of the Chicago Bears was a lone bright spot in a dismal season. The Bears finished near the bottom of the league in most statistical categories and win to loss ratio. Howard had over 1300 yards, which placed him near the top rushers in the league.
Jay Ajayi was a second unicorn of a fantasy draft pick. Compiling multiple 200 yard performances, Ajayi was the diamond in the rough we all hope to seek out before he gains the eyes of the other players in our leagues, finishing fourth in the league in rushing yards. The Dallas Cowboys also brought the heat from an unlikely source category: the rookies. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott created a tandem that ended their season as the top team in the NFC. Both players out-performed their projected value and made for nice additions to any fantasy roster.
With the 2016 season long gone, owners look ahead to 2017 perspectives. The 2017 season will likely follow a format that mimics the this season: take a chance on players who are up against adversity and make sure you backup your studs. Injuries plagued most of the top positional players and opened the doors for new faces to showcase their talents in 2016. The Chiefs backfield, the Cowboys offensive attack, and players that led their teams when the record didn’t show for it helped make up for the big storylines in the 2016 season.
2017 will be no different. Bounce-back candidates include: Cam Newton, Jay Cutler, C.J. Anderson, Doug Martin and even Julio Jones, who was on-and-off all season long. Target the players who have something to play for in 2017. Teams who almost tasted the success of the post season, but fell short are prime candidates on draft day. Search out the guys that don’t have the hype surrounding their play. The ones who are the silent performers; the ones who let their play do the talking and keep quiet off of the field.