Fantasy football can be a frustrating hobby. Without fail, every year there are always those players you just know are going to be home run picks that don’t quite live up to your expectations. However, there is nothing quite like the feeling you get when a player you snagged late in the draft ends up helping you win a title. As the 2017 NFL season wraps up I thought it would be fun to take a look back and pick out a few players from each position that either ruined your season or helped lead you to the promised land. In order to identify these players I looked at their ADP (average draft position) before the start of the season and compared that with their positional ranking after week 16. I tried to leave out players that were hurt during the season and placed on injured reserve, but there are a few exceptions. There are always too many players to fit into one column when looking at this sort of data, but these are the ones I felt were most notable.
Jared Goff – Los Angeles Rams
Preseason ADP: 29th
End of season ranking: 8th
Jared Goff’s rookie season last year was anything but promising for the former number one draft pick. The Rams were one of the worst teams in the league, and Goff was being heralded as a bust. Fast forward to 2017 and critics are eating their words. There’s no doubt that Sean McVay should be the coach of the year after turning around this team in just one year and developing Goff into a more than capable NFL quarterback. The second year signal caller had his ups and downs early in the season, but he likely helped guide his fantasy owners to the playoffs as he had five consecutive games with at least two touchdown passes down the final stretch of the season. Considering Goff was being drafted third from last at his position, a top ten finish is incredibly impressive.
Carson Wentz – Philadelphia Eagles
Preseason ADP: 16th
End of season ranking: 4th
Speaking of guys that were drafted late that paid off, Carson Wentz was a blessing for fantasy football owners this season. Wentz had shown flashes last season as a rookie, so there was some cause for optimism heading into this year. However, Wentz was still sitting at 4th at his position after week 16 even after getting injured and placed on injured reserve after his matchup with the Rams in week 14. Wentz threw for multiple touchdowns in all but three games this season and was extremely effective as a runner outside the pocket at times. The hope here is that he’s able to make a speedy recovery from his knee surgery and get back onto the field early next season. If that ends up being the case he should be drafted in the top five at quarterback.
Blake Bortles – Jacksonville Jaguars
End of season ranking: 12th
Say what you want about Blake Bortles, but this guy just keeps finding ways to finish as a QB1 year in and year out. While he’s been a garbage time hero over the last couple of seasons, the Jaguars were actually a contender this season thanks to a strong rushing attack and stout defense. This caused Bortles to become more of a game manager, and his fantasy production suffered as a result early on in the season as he failed to throw for more multiple touchdowns in consecutive games until week 12. Bortles found the end zone at least twice in five straight games over the final weeks of the season and was a popular play in many lineups during the playoffs. There’s a lot of uncertainty for Bortles’ future as we head into the offseason, but we do know one thing. As long as he plays he’ll find a way to sneak into fantasy relevance.
Dion Lewis – New England Patriots
End of season rank: 17th
Funny story here. Dion Lewis was not the first Patriots running back drafted in fantasy leagues this season. Your next thought might be James White, but that would be incorrect as well. Good old Mike Gillislee holds the honor as being the first Patriots running back selected, and he was a healthy scratch for a good chunk of the year. That just goes to show you that you just can’t trust this New England coaching staff when it comes down to running backs. Dion Lewis was being drafted after other players like Jamaal Charles, Darren Sproles, and Jacquizz Rodgers and was a steal in every sense of the word, particularly late in the season. It took until week six for the Patriots to give Lewis more than ten carries, but once they did he continued to gain steam. His fantasy season ended with a triumphant closing as he accumulated more than 63 combined points in weeks 16 and 17. I’m not going to sit here and say that Dion Lewis will be the back to own in New England next year. Hell, LeGarrette Blount broke the franchise rushing touchdown record just two years ago. However, Lewis will likely be drafted in later rounds once again in 2018. He’s certainly worth grabbing considering his upside.
Duke Johnson Jr – Cleveland Browns
End of season ranking: 12th
Duke Johnson was PPR gold this season. While Isiah Crowell was generally drafted as a low-end RB1 (talk about a disappointment), Johnson was easily the most consistent source of fantasy production in Cleveland’s backfield. He never carried the ball more than 10 times in a game but was targeted 93 times in the passing game and finished the season with 74 receptions for 693 yards. That’s more catches than Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski, and Dez Bryant. Furthermore, that’s more receiving yards than the likes of Kelvin Benjamin, Amari Cooper, and DeVante Parker. Considering the lack of talent on offense, I feel that Johnson will be a sneaky draft pick next season in PPR leagues. He didn’t make a splash this season and could be a lesser known player you’ll want to target in later rounds.
Todd Gurley – Los Angeles Rams
End of season ranking: 1st
You could make a case for Todd Gurley being both the Comback Player of the year and the MVP in the NFL. Gurley was extremely impressive as a rookie, which caused him to be a popular draft selection last season. Unfortunately he was one of the bigger busts in 2016, which caused his draft stock to slide as a result. It’s possible that Gurley fell to the third round in your draft this season, which makes his fantasy production all the better. His involvement in the passing game was something that was lacking last year and only added to his impressive campaign this season. Gurley scored less than 16 fantasy points in only three games and finished the season with a whopping 95 combined points in the last two games of the playoffs. You can go ahead and pencil this kid in as a top three running back next season with the impressive company of David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell.
Adam Thielen – Minnesota Vikings
End of season ranking: 9th
Adam Thielen was generally not very well known until he quietly started racking up receptions and yards over the second half of last season. As the 2017 season approached Stefon Diggs was being drafted 19 spots before his counterpart at the wide receiver position, which seemed about right at the time. Diggs caught four touchdown passes in the first three games of the season before nagging injuries set in, which opened the door for Thielen to take over as the primary receiver for Case Keenum. There was a span in the middle of the season where Thielen had at least five receptions and 85 yards in six out of eight contests while scoring four touchdowns in the process. I would assume we will see a similar situation next season with Diggs being drafted as the number one receiver over Thielen. The smart move there would be to wait and draft the latter further along in the draft.
Keenan Allen – Los Angeles Chargers
End of season ranking: 3rd
I said during the preseason that Keenan Allen would finish the year as a top five wide receiver if he was able to stay healthy. You won’t find a bigger believer in this guy outside of Phillip Rivers, and I was thrilled to see him thrive this season. Allen’s career has been plagued by injuries over the last few years, but most of us recall how impressive he was when healthy early in his career. While he was able to reel off a couple of 100 yard games early in the season, it wasn’t until week 11 when Allen truly broke out. The veteran receiver racked up 39 receptions, 547 yards, and found the end zone four times in a four week span that very likely helped his owners make a run for the playoffs. Considering the upside here you have to assume that Allen will be a top five receiver off the board heading into drafts next season. There’s no reason to think that he can’t continue to produce at a high level as long as he stays healthy.
DeAndre Hopkins – Houston Texans
End of season ranking: 2nd
Consider DeAndre Hopkins the Todd Gurley of wide receivers this season. In 2016 Hopkins struggled mightily with Brock Osweiler and finished the season behind players like Brandon LaFell, Kenny Stills, and Mike Wallace. Despite his talent, that likely scared off many people heading into this year as he was being drafted 12th overall at his position. Those that rolled the dice on him were rewarded handsomely. Hopkins caught passes from four different quarterbacks this year and thrived with each one of them. Nuk had just one game with less than double digit points all season and scored at least 14 fantasy points in every other contest which was good enough for him to finish second in the league behind Antonio Brown. Considering the Texans should have DeShaun Watson back next year, look for Hopkins to be a top three receiver selected in your draft.
Vernon Davis – Washington Redskins
End of season ranking: 15th
If we’re being honest here, it’s not likely that you drafted Vernon Davis. Although, it would have been completely understandable considering Jordan Reed’s injury history. At this point if there’s one sure bet in fantasy football it’s that Reed will inevitably get hurt at some point in the season. The talented tight end made it all the way to week 8 before the injury bug hit this year, which opened up the door for Davis to take over as the go to receiving tight end for the Redskins. The veteran had a streak where he had at least 65 receiving yards in six out of seven games and looked locked in as a favorite target for Kirk Cousins. Unfortunately, things stalled down the stretch and Davis finished just outside of TE1 territory. Looking forward to next season, I’m not sure we’ll see a repeat of this sort of production. There are a lot of question marks here, particularly Kirk Cousins’ future in Washington.
Cameron Brate – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
End of season ranking: 10th
Many thought Cameron Brate was done for after Tampa Bay drafted OJ Howard. While that may soon be the case in the next couple of seasons, Brate was still a very serviceable tight end at times this year. He started off with a bang as he either caught a touchdown or had at least 60 yards in six consecutive games. Unfortunately, subpar quarterback play from Ryan Fitzpatrick after Jameis Winston’s injury caused just about every offensive player for Tampa Bay to struggle. Heading into next season I think we’ll likely see OJ Howard start transitioning into more of a featured role, which will diminish Brate’s production. You’ll likely be looking for your starting tight end elsewhere.
Zach Ertz – Philadelphia Eagles
End of season ranking: 3rd
Zach Ertz started his dominance towards the end of last season when he finally started clicking with Carson Wentz. Ertz finished 2016 averaging over 88 yards over the last five games and snagged three touchdowns in the process. Heading into this season Ertz was the 10th tight end off the board behind guys like Tyler Eifert and Marcellus Bennett only to finish the year third behind Gronk and Travis Kelce. It took until week nine for Ertz to have a game with less than double digit fantasy points, which is something that only happened five times all season. The concern for me here is the timeline for Carson Wentz’s return in the offseason. His injury didn’t happen until late in the season, and that type of knee injury generally takes quite some time to heal. If Wentz is healthy to start the year, then Ertz should be one of the top five tight ends off the board.
Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
End of season ranking: 28th
I assure you this is not some veiled shot at Aaron Rodgers, and I’m certainly not trying to take the easy way out by putting him on this list. Rodgers’ injury came in week six of the season after he had been on an absolute roll to start the year. The super star signal caller completed six full games this season. The first three he threw for at least 300 yards in each contest and threw a total of ten touchdowns in the other three games. Rodgers was the first quarterback off the board in most drafts this season, so the fact that his injury occurred before the halfway point of the year was something many owners likely struggled to rebound from. There’s no reason to think that he won’t be selected as he number one quarterback again next season, but, as a rule of thumb, just be sure you snag a capable quarterback later in your draft.
Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons
End of season ranking: 15th
Not to pat myself on the back too much, but I called this one. Generally speaking, most people assumed Matt Ryan would take a step back this season. He had a career year last season, so those numbers were already going to be extremely difficult to replicate. However, the loss of Kyle Shanahan in the offseason combined with one of the biggest choke jobs in Super Bowl history just made me extremely leery of Ryan. What I did not expect out of the veteran was the sudden flood of turnovers he’d have this year. Ryan completed 20 touchdown passes and turned the ball over a whopping 15 times. Needless to say that’s not a very good ratio. A second year to get more comfortable with Steve Sarkisian’s system should help boost Ryan’s numbers some next year. However I don’t anticipate him finishing as a top five quarterback, which is where he was drafted this year.
Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders
End of season ranking: 19th
I really thought this was going to be the year that Derek Carr broke out and showed everyone he deserved to be the highest paid quarterback in the National Football League. That obviously was not the case. Carr was drafted as a QB1 and finished 19th at his position. To put that into perspective Andy Dalton finished the season higher, and Jacoby Brisett was behind Carr by less than a point. If that’s not a tough pill to swallow I don’t know what is. Carr threw for more than 300 yards just twice this season and failed to throw more than one touchdown pass in ten games. This year was disappointing by all accounts considering the hype surrounding the Raiders in the offseason. Derek Carr is still a talented quarterback, and I believe he still has a bright future ahead of him. Unfortunately, I’ll be tempering my expectations heading into next season.
Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons
End of season ranking: 15th
It’s hard to look at the numbers and say Devonta Freeman had a bad season. However, he finished outside of RB1 status and was generally drafted towards the top of the second round. When you go back and look at some of the running backs drafted later, a 15th place finish isn’t exactly what you were hoping for. Freeman came out of the gate swinging to start the season as he averaged 18.6 points over the first four games. Unfortunately, it took until week 15 to surpass that total again due to Atlanta’s offensive struggles and a concussion that knocked Freeman out of a few games. His impressive showing in the semifinals was overshadowed by a measly 11 carry 36 yard performance in week 16. The good news here is there is little uncertainty heading into 2018. The Falcons have committed to Freeman for the foreseeable future, which will make things interesting for Tevin Coleman. Coleman will be entering into a contract year and will have additional motivation to show what he can do in hopes of landing a big pay day.
DeMarco Murray – Tennessee Titans
End of season ranking: 18th
This is one a lot of people saw coming. DeMarco Murray was a force to be reckoned with last season. He looked rejuvenated in a Titans uniform and racked up over 1,500 total yards and scored 12 touchdowns. A big step back was imminent this year, but I’m not sure I expected Murray to rush for only 659 yards. It’s not like Murray is suddenly not a talented player, because he is. Unfortunately, he’s an aging running back with a lot of miles on the tires. For that reason, I think I’m keeping my distance heading into next year. Furthermore, the changing of the guard seems to be only a matter of time considering that Derrick Henry, while not finding the end zone as much as Murray, out-rushed the veteran by almost 100 yards on the season.
Jay Ajayi – Philadelphia Eagles
End of season ranking: 31st
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t all in on Jay Ajayi heading this into this season. I attribute his early season struggles in Miami to being underutilized at times and the fact that Jay Cutler was essentially a one year rental at quarterback. Let’s be honest, opposing defenses aren’t afraid to let Jay Cutler try to beat them. A surprising mid season trade sent Ajayi to Philadelphia, which excited many fantasy owners. Unfortunately, the Eagles’ crowded backfield didn’t lead to very much opportunity for Ajayi. His best game came in his first week for Philadelphia as he racked up 77 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. You have to assume that next season will be different. An entire offseason to get adjusted to the team’s system should allow Ajayi to seize control as the Eagles primary running back.
Mike Evans – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
End of season ranking: 18th
How disappointing were the Buccaneers this season? This offense is loaded with talent, Mike Evans was my preseason pick to lead all wide receivers from a fantasy standpoint. Evans was just about as close to a sure thing as you could get heading into this year, and he actually had a pretty solid start to the season when you go back and look at the numbers. He had at least 60 receiving yards in seven out of the first eight games and found the end zone four times over that span. The wheels really started coming off the tracks after Jameis Winston’s shoulder injury, and there’s no denying the fact that Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t necessarily the guy you want operating your offense for multiple weeks at a time. I’m chalking this season up to just a bad situation all around. Mike Evans is one of the best wide receivers in the league and should be a top five pick in next year’s draft.
Amari Cooper – Oakland Raiders
End of season ranking: 42nd
What in the hell happened here? This was supposed to be the year Amari Cooper came into his own and vaulted into super stardom. The Raiders boast two extremely talented wide receivers in Cooper and Michael Crabtree, which makes their offensive struggles this so mind boggling. The former Alabama standout only had two games with over 100 receiving yards, but he made those two performances count. Cooper scored 60.5 points in those contests and finished the season with a total of 158.4 points. That means over 38% of his season long production came in just two contests. I don’t know about you, but that’s enough to scare me off next season. I would assume that Cooper will still be drafted higher than Crabtree as fantasy drafts begin later this year. Do yourself a favor. Wait a few rounds and draft the second guy.
Terrelle Pryor – Washington Redskins
End of season ranking: 101st
Terrelle Pryor was an incredible story last season. He spent his first few season in the NFL as a quarterback before converting to the wide receiver position and racking up over 1,000 yards for the Browns. Naturally, Pryor cashed in on his success and took his talents to Washington. Surely he would be able to put up at least similar numbers with the Redskins now that Kirk Cousins was throwing him passes, right. The answer is absolutely not. Pryor struggled from the start this year with his best game coming in week three when he caught five passes for 70 yards and a touchdown. It was just the second contest where he would record more than 40 yards and was his only touchdown of the year. The bottom dropped out in week ten when Pryor logged only 28 offensive snaps and failed to record a single catch. It turns out that he was dealing with an ankle injury and would later be placed on injured reserve, but it’s obvious that he has a long way to as a newly converted wide receiver in the NFL.
Jordan Reed – Washington Redskins
End of season ranking: 35th
If you’re still drafting Jordan Reed on your fantasy football team, then you’re simply just a glutton for punishment and disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, Reed is an extremely talented tight end. This guy simply just can’t stay healthy for an entire season. To make matters worse, he wasn’t very good even when he was on the field this year. Reed scored two touchdowns in he eight games he played in, and both of them came in the same contest. It took until December 14th for Reed to be placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, despite not playing since week eight against the Cowboys. At this point there’s just no way you can draft him with confidence. As long as he’s healthy Reed will be one of the first tight ends off the board in fantasy drafts. Save yourself the frustration and snag someone else in later rounds.
Tyler Eifert – Cincinnati Bengals
End of season ranking: 90th
I’m one of those people that truly believes that Tyler Eifert can be a force at the tight end position. When healthy, all this guy does is catch touchdown passes. Unfortunately, he’s similar to Jordan Reed in the fact that he just can’t get away from the injury bug. Eifert played in eight games in 2016, and he had five touchdowns during that span. In fact, Eifert has played 39 games in his short career in the NFL and has 20 touchdowns to his credit. That means he has a 51% chance to find the end zone when he’s on the field. You don’t have to be a gambling man to like those odds. Eifert was only active for two games this year before getting shut down, but he shouldn’t have any limitations heading into next season. He’s a free agent with a clean bill if health, so it will be interesting to see where he lands. I’m cautiously optimistic that Eifert could be a steal in later rounds if he can stay healthy and finds himself with the right team.
Martellus Bennett – New England Patriots
End of season ranking: 36th
Remember how excited everyone was when Martellus Bennett suited up for the Patriots a couple years ago? Visions of Tom Brady throwing darts to both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez danced in our imaginations. While his numbers in New England were respectable, the pure joy we experienced when we learned that Bennett would be a Packer was palpable. Here we had a proven receiving tight end that was paired with arguably the best quarterback today in Aaron Rodgers. Sadly, the veteran tight end failed to surpass 60 receiving yards once this season and could very well retire after a rumor filled fiasco that saw him leave Green Bay mid season and land back with the Patriots. Oh what a tangled web we weave. Until further notice Martellus Bennett should be the furthest thing from your mind next season.
I would like to thank all of you that took the time to read our columns each week and communicate with us on Twitter. In case you couldn’t tell, we are all incredibly passionate about fantasy football here at No Huddle. Please keep in the touch during the offseason with the latest news and notes, and don’t forget to check out our podcast and leave a review on iTunes. See you next year!