Just like any year of fantasy football; sleepers, busts, and many other categories are discovered throughout the course of the season. In 2016, the fantasy world provided us with another whirlwind of unpredictability, heartbreak, triumph, and just plain enjoyment by not only fantasy football fans and players around the world, but for fantasy sport nuts as a whole also.
To wrap our heads around the craziness of busts, surprises, and dominance let’s break down the top stories out of these topics. At the end of this article, a peak at next year’s ADPs (Average Draft Position) will be examined also.
Carson Palmer (QB – Arizona Cardinals): Because of a strong season from under center in 2015, Palmer was expected to contend amongst the league’s elite QB’s this season. But bad team play from Arizona and Palmer himself led to an ADP of 54.2 (sixth highest among QBs), resulting him to finish 2016 at 19th among the position. Maybe Palmer wasn’t seen as a top 3 finisher this year at the position, but the shock factor would’ve been very small if so.
Drafted in 97 percent of leagues, (three percent leftover from keeper leagues), Palmer finished the year owned in just 77 percent of leagues. The aging QB may have played himself out of fantasy relevance for eternity. All in all, a disastrous season from Palmer left owners feeling incredibly frustrated. Every fantasy owner should be thankful for the QB pool always being deep and easy to stream.
Todd Gurley (RB – Los Angeles Rams): An easy first round pick in 99.5 percent of leagues, Todd Gurley was undoubtedly the first RB off the board in 2016 drafts with an ADP of 5.16. The end result? Pretty much the complete opposite. Gurley finished the year as the 20th RB overall. As a result, Gurley proved to be the hardest player to own, start consistently, and own up to your draft mistake (although who could blame the hype?).
Gurley failed to reach even 900 rushing yards, and only scored six touchdowns. Gurley hurt even more owners in PPR leagues as he put up just 327 receiving yards. These are numbers you see out of a mid-round back, definitely not a potential top 5 pick. TG3 was certainly tough to cut bait this season as he even finished the year with a 99.4 percent owned rate.
DeAndre Hopkins (WR – Houston Texans): With an ADP of 12.3, Hopkins was seemingly a pretty safe pick in the first round from as early as pick #6 to pick #10, especially in PPR leagues. Hopkins certainly did not live up to the first round hype, in large part because of QB Brock Osweiler struggling for the entire year. Hopkins finished the year as the 36th overall WR in the league, an immense drop off from what was expected of him.
Hopkins always seemed to work well with the QB carousel that was presented to him, but this year was a different story. His 78 catches was solid for those in PPR leagues, and definitely gives hope for next year as he has proven he can still get a ton of looks even without a Pro Bowl QB. Owners also did keep the trust in him as he finished the year with a 96 percent owned rate.
Jay Ajayi (RB – Miami Dolphins): Way back in September, the Dolphins were set to start Arian Foster in the backfield. Genius fantasy owners knew where the handcuff was and in comes Jay Ajayi with an ADP of 94.37. Now, here at the end of the fantasy season, Foster walked away from football and Ajayi was the league’s fourth highest rusher with three 200 yard games and eight touchdowns. After having this breakout season, Ajayi can certainly be taken early second round in next year in drafts.
Jordan Howard (RB – Chicago Bears): After it looked like Jeremy Langford would be the lead back for Chicago, Jordan Howard literally came out of nowhere. Howard had a league ADP of 149.65 (undrafted in standard leagues). To put this in perspective, the Marshawn Lynch extremists who were holding out for a ‘Beast Mode’ comeback propelled his ADP to 149.10. Howard took the job and never looked back once. He virtually went from zero percent owned to 91.4 percent by the end of the year. Howard rushed for 1,313 yards which was second in the league, and adding seven touchdowns (six rushing, one receiving). In total, Howard finished the year as the ninth overall fantasy running back.
Melvin Gordon (RB – San Diego Chargers): Much like Howard and Ajayi, Gordon had a very late ADP of 98.03 after being forgotten when he failed to score a single touchdown in 2015 to go along with five fumbles on 184 carries. Although Danny Woodhead is a PPR league specialist, his injury can be given some of the credit for Gordon’s success this season. Finishing as the eighth overall RB, higher than Howard and Ajayi, Gordon finished three yards short of 1,000 and added 12 touchdowns (two receiving).
Dak Prescott (QB – Dallas Cowboys): Sure, we knew Dak was going to be relevant in fantasy, but did we really expect him to finish sixth among QBs? Of course quarterback ADP’s need to be taken with a grain of salt and we all know why, but he was taken 20th overall among QBs while being taken 141st on average. Prescott finished with 3,667 yards through the air, a TD:INT of 23:4, to go along with 282 rushing yards and six TD’s on the ground, his above average ground attack is what propelled him into the top 10 of fantasy QBs this year.
Tyrell Williams (WR – Tyrell Williams): Of course the presence of Keenan Allen meant that Tyrell Williams went virtually undrafted, but to put his ADP of 150.89 in perspective, he was taken around the same position as free agents Wes Welker, Roddy White, Greg Jennings, Devin Hester and Nate Washington. Obviously none of these guys finished 2016 with true WR 2 value like Williams did, and some of these guys didn’t even see the field once. With that said, Williams finished the year as the 13th overall WR and put up 1,059 yards with seven TDs.
Aaron Rodgers (QB – Green Bay Packers): Finishing as the QB 1 in 2016 by just over 36 points, Aaron Rodgers’ slow start meant nothing to his strong finish, and ‘best QB in fantasy’ crown. Fantasy players who spent the 18.61 ADP on a QB were treated to an amazing fantasy season by Rodgers. At 380.02 fantasy points in standard NFL leagues, Rodgers enjoyed a 40:7 TD–INT ratio with 4,428 yards to go along with a very important 369 rushing yards and four TD’s on the ground. A total that helped fantasy owners immensely in the sneakiest of ways.
David Johnson (RB – Arizona Cardinals): Finishing nearly 35 points ahead of Ezekiel Elliott in standard leagues, David Johnson absolutely destroyed fantasy this year, and owners who may have reluctantly trusted his 5.51 ADP secured a big pay-day. For PPR leaguers, Johnson would have finished first ahead of Aaron Rodgers by nearly 30 points. An amazing 1,239 yards on the ground to go along with 16 TD’s, Johnson was deadly through the air by adding 879 receiving yards on 80 catches and four TD’s.
Ezekiel Elliott (RB – Dallas Cowboys): With so many receivers like Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., Jordy Nelson, T.Y. Hilton and Julio Jones leading the way, none of them completely dominated this season. Same with the fantasy tight ends of 2016 which saw minimal Gronk, and a good mixture at the top of Kelce, Olsen, Rudolph, Graham and Walker leading the way. Where we then look is back to the workhorse position of running back, and in steps Big Zeke. There was no denying that Elliot’s talent and work ethic are nearly unbeatable, but owners who took the ‘chance’ on his 8.64 ADP hopped on for the ride, were confident, and were given fantasy dominance at the position. Elliot put up 1,631 yards and 15 TD’s on the ground in his rookie season, while only fumbling once. This was good enough for 293.40 points in standard leagues, finishing behind only David Johnson for second most this season.
Early Look at 2017 ADP
*Top 10 ADP for the 2017 fantasy season
1. Ezekiel Elliott – Considering the rookie campaign, and the sky being the limit for Zeke, he should be taken first in drafts next season. The best O-line in the game, and on a great team, Elliot is looking like a slump-free monster.
2. David Johnson – Johnson should be going first in PPR leagues, but in standard leagues, Johnson comes in at second here with the question marks surrounding not only Carson Palmer, but their whole team.
3. Le’Veon Bell – Bell being taken first next year can’t be scrutinized either, while he is arguably the best combination of running and receiving in the NFL.
4. Antonio Brown – Brown didn’t exactly live up to the No. 1 overall pick last year, but he did put up over 100 catches and double-digit touchdowns yet again. Brown can potentially be taken over Bell in PPR leagues.
5. Julio Jones – If we can see more of what we saw from Matt Ryan in 2016, Jones is undoubtedly another top pick yet again. Averaging over 100 yards a game for four seasons in a row, Julio needs to get his TD amount up to remain a top 5 pick.
6. Odell Beckham Jr. – After a slow start, Odell was the No. 1 ranked fantasy WR from Weeks 5 to 16. In every season he has played, he has been top 3 in fantasy points per game for wideouts. Question marks about his attitude and shaky start are to be on the radar about, but nevertheless picking him as high as No. 3 isn’t outrageous either.
7. A.J. Green – Green was in for a career year in fantasy, but an injury got in the way. Out of his last five seasons, he’s only missed five games so durability cannot be a concern at this point and Green should still be drafted with confidence here.
8. Mike Evans – A ton of reasons here to believe that he and Winston are forming a nice relationship. Evans should be drafted with confidence for 2017 after proof of what he can do. With a career high in catches (96) and yards (1,321), Evans is going to look to top these totals once again.
9. Jordan Howard – A player who wasn’t even on the radar in 2016, Howard showed off his incredible durability and elusiveness this season. In spite of not being featured until Week 4, Howard finished in the top 5 in number of games with 100+ yards from scrimmage, and top 10 in evaded tackles. He also proved his worth catching passes, too.
10. Melvin Gordon – His talent can certainly be talked about in the same sentence as a Elliot or a Johnson, but the durability for Gordon is a small concern. He has missed multiple games in his first two seasons, but before his 2016 injury, he was right up there beside Zeke and DJ, who led the way as 2016’s best fantasy running backs.