It’s not a dream. Football season is only three weeks away, and with that comes the resurgence of one of the most competitive online sports leagues in the world; fantasy football. Whether it’s for a weekly league or for the full season, it’s always a scramble for team owners who are trying to determine which players will be your savior and which ones will ride your bench. It’s easy to be confident in drafting and starting your all-stars like Aaron Rodgers, Le’Veon Bell or Julio Jones week in and week out, barring injury.
But what about the players who we inevitably pass over each year, who then go on to exceed all expectations we had of them? I’m talking about guys like Matt Ryan who wasn’t ranked as one of the highest QBs in the 2016 fantasy draft, yet ended up finishing in the top three. I’m talking about Melvin Gordon who had an awful rookie season, but then vaulted into the top echelon in the 2015-2016 season. These surprises happen year after year. It was DeMarco Murray in 2014, Cam Newton in 2015 and as previously mentioned, Matt Ryan in 2016. While these are just a few players to have had incredible seasons, others can come out of the woodwork and lead your fantasy team into the playoffs. Looking forward to the 2017-18 season, we should be expecting to see some more players have breakout seasons.
Tyreek Hill is a name that people should be eagerly watching out for.
Hill burst onto the scene last year in electrifying fashion, displaying unstoppable speed and agility. While his overall receiving stats weren’t all that impressive, finishing with 61 receptions, 593 yards and six TDs, Hill also showed his explosiveness as a kick returner, punt returner and change-of-pace running back.
Hill is a jack-of-all-trades type of player and a walking highlight reel. Now, with the departure of Jeremy Maclin, Hill shouldn’t have much competition to fill the Chiefs’ WR1 role. Expect Hill to be much more involved in the receiving game and to be a lot more than a utility player, even with Alex Smith throwing to him.
His usage on special plays will take a hit, but he’ll be heavily involved on the offensive side of things. The ceiling for Hill is quite impressive – his mix of speed, strength, agility and vision makes him a threat to score every time he takes a snap.
Robert Kelley is another name that stands out.
Was his rookie season anything to celebrate? Probably not, but at least it’s nothing to sneeze at. He started nine games, finishing with 704 yards, averaging 4.2 yards per carry and rushing for six touchdowns. He will likely be hungry after coming off of a sub-par 2016 season. He won’t be able to fall into the sophomore slump that Todd Gurley fell victim too.
The Redskins did sign another running back in the fourth round of the draft in Samaje Perine. He was a stud at the University of Oklahoma, amassing 4,122 yards in his three years there. Perine is a strong and fast runner, but there’s a fair amount of adjustment that he needs to make before he’ll be ready for the NFL. We know he’s strong, but he’s also raw and unproven.
Robert Kelley will have the first shot to be the starter for the Redskins, and I expect to see Kelley feel more comfortable in his starting role than he was last year. He has talked about watching film and changing his running style to be more patient like that of Le’Veon Bell. If Kelley can execute, he will be a force to be reckoned with.
Finally, enter Terrance West, the running back for the Baltimore Ravens who could be in prime position for a breakout season.
Healthy for all 16 games last season, West started 13 of them. He finished with five rushing touchdowns and 774 yards on 193 attempts, averaging just about four yards per carry.
Going into the 2017 season, West will be the starter from the first snap. Additionally, there are a few other aspects looking up for West. With the recent injury to Joe Flacco – who could potentially miss week one – the Ravens could be looking to run the ball more and be a bit more conservative with their cannon arm quarterback.
Furthermore, Baltimore’s schedule looks very promising for rushers as nine of 16 regular season games will be played against teams who ranked in the bottom ten last season in rush defense. While at a first glance, the Ravens backfield may look crowded especially with the newly signed Danny Woodhead, it’s not as competitive as it might seem. John Harbaugh has a lot of confidence in the 26-year-old and expects him to be the workhorse.
Harbaugh has also mentioned that Kenneth Dixon has the same workhorse potential; however, Dixon is suspended for the first five games – immediately decreasing his value. Woodhead is a nice addition to the Ravens backfield but will ultimately only be used as a change of pace and third down back.
Each year, without fail, players surprise us. I guess that’s part of being a good fantasy team owner – looking for value that can exceed expectations. However, we continually follow the draft projections thinking that things will be different. While a lot of the time these players end up working out just fine, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that they don’t always live up to the expectations that we place on them. As we enter the new NFL season, remember to keep in mind that some players will be undervalued and it’s your job as a fantasy owner to find those underrated players and lead your team to victory.
Obviously draft smart and don’t take players in the first round that have a good chance of being available in the fourth or fifth rounds, but remember to keep an eye open for those players that could have breakout seasons and surprise us all. Oh, and don’t take a kicker till the last round. Please.