With week 16 coming to a close and fantasy football ending there is only one thing on my mind, next season. Now (RIGHT NOW) is the time to take note of what players are doing well and could be sleeper draft picks next year. Also it is good to take note to see who will be an overrated pick in next season’s draft. There is still a whole off-season where anything can happened changing our thoughts on players. A team could beef up their offensive line making a average running back a RB1, a tem could draft a first round wide receiver putting last years breakout WR1 in more of a WR2/3 position. Either way, we will have to wait and see. In the mean time here are my initial next year busts and players to watch.
NEXT SEASON (expected) BUSTS:
- Marcus Mariota, QB
Mariota was a phenomenal QB for where he was drafted on average. With a well-rounded team and Mariota’s ability to run with the ball he was almost a for sure start every week. In a horrific turn of events Mariota fractured his right fibula and will need four to five months to recover. Though he should be back by the offseason depending a smooth recovery a fibula fracture is a dangerous one for a athlete that needs his legs. Mariota may not be able to dance outside the pocket or run with the ball as efficiently next year, which are some of his most appealing abilities.
- Eddie Lacy, RB
I cannot imagine Lacy as a high draft pick to begin with but either way I would avoid unless it is towards the latter end of your draft. Lacy may or may not be with Green Bay next year but even if he is on another team next year that needs a starting RB I am not sure if Lacy can get it done. He did not disappoint fantasy owners as much this season but that is because Green Bay gave Lacy good blocking and a good share of carries. As we could see this season, Green Bay does not have much depth to their RBs. If Green Bay keeps Lacy I have to imagine they add more depth to their RBs in the offseason taking carries away from Lacy. If another team picks up Lacy, that team will also (assuming) have picked up other RBs too, or drafted a RB as well, also taking away some carries from Lacy. We will have to wait and see.
- DeMarco Murray, RB
Bust may be a hard word here. The case with DeMarco Murray is simple; I do not think he will be bad for fantasy next year, just not as good as he was this year where he was in the top five RBs of the season. The reasoning for this is the Titans will get Derrick Henry more involved. The talent with Murray and Henry is amazing and the Titans have done a great job filling their roster with two workhorse backs. As we could see towards the end of the season is the Titans were incorporating Henry more so into the snap count and Henry was doing an amazing job with his opportunities. Come next season I predict Henry’s snap count will be even higher and Murray’s will be even lower, making it hard to spend that first round pick on him.
- Tyrell Williams/Dontrelle Inman, WRs
With the season ending injury to Keenan Allen these two receivers stepped up to help fill the roll. The biggest surprise was Williams who became almost weekly start. With Allen coming back next season these WR’s rolls will surely diminish. Their talent is still there and if worst comes to worst something were to happened Allen again they are great pick ups but to me that is all they are next season.
- Jordan Reed, TE
Reed helped and destroyed many fantasy owners this season with many up and down games. He is such a talent as he is just a larger wide receiver. Too fast and great route running for a linebacker to cover him and too big and strong for a cornerback to cover him. Reed just can not seem to keep healthy. Believe me, he is still better than many other tight ends out there and should not go too far down in the draft but this last season he was going average 39th in most fantasy drafts. That was before players like Travis Kelce, Delanie Walker and Jimmy Graham. Even if he were to drop down a few spots I still do not know if I would take the risk that my starting TE may miss a third of the season.
- Rob Gronkowski, TE
Like Jordan Reed, Gronk cannot seem to stay healthy either. Now having said that I still think he could be one of the best tight ends next season, the talent is there and Tom Brady LOVES to target him, the issue is similar to the issue I have with Jordan Reed. Gronk was draft in the first round or early second round in most fantasy draft last season. If he would stay healthy it is a fine draft as he is sure to get targets, especially in the end zone, but unfortunately he just keeps having injury issues plaguing him through the season. Hard to spend a first round pick on someone who may miss some of the season.
- Vikings D/ST
The top defense this past season nearly went undrafted in most fantasy drafts. I am sure most won’t make that mistake again, but only armatures will over compensate and draft this defense in the middle rounds rather than near the end. Don’t be fooled next season, no matter how good a defense may be I can not think of any reason to draft it before the final rounds. Plus as we saw, though very strong at the beginning of the year the Vikings D/ST started to give up more yards and touchdowns near the end of the season.
NEXT SEASON (expected) “SLEEPER” LIST:
- J.J. Nelson, WR
The second year wide receiver has seen little touches over those two years but as we saw now at the end of this past season he is full of talent and potential. Not only does he have the speed, holding the fifth fastest 40-yard-dash time in combine history, but he even has the route running ability and hands to become a great receiving option for the Cardinals. With Michael Floyd gone we saw a rise in targets for Nelson. John Brown unfortunately deals with side effects from his sickle cell trait and misses games on occasion (we do hope he can figure it out) and Larry Fitzgerald may not be coming back next season. All this coincides with the Cardinals need a new go-to target and Nelson could become just that.
- Derek Carr, QB
People will be low on Carr due to the fact he was injured so terribly the second to last game of the season. He was lucky though that the end result will only be six to eight weeks. Due to the area of the break, if it were worse he could’ve missed up to preseason. A few reasons I am not worried about Carr. He stays in the pocket; next to the Cowboys the Raiders have one of the best offensive lines and pass protectors. His receiving options are already great and could get even better during the off-season. He will have had plenty of rest during this offseason to get back to fighting shape and become perhaps another potential MVP of the season candidate. This injury may frighten some from picking him up, do not let it scare you.
- C.J. Anderson, RB
After a RB get’s injured and a rookie comes and take his place and does well, the former starter may be out of a job when he returns. This is not the case with C.J. Anderson. Devontae Booker tried to fill in for the Pro Bowl back but failed. The broncos will need the strong RB back for their offense to have any sort of chance in the future. Though Anderson was not securing wins for fantasy teams early in the season I have to imagine coach Gary Kubiak figure out a way during this offseason to use all the potential Anderson has.
- C.J. Prosise, RB
We got to see a little flash of Prosise during the season before injury took him out. Drafted as a third-down-back Prosise did show he could do more. Both catching the ball in the backfield, lining up as a receiver, and running the ball efficiently. Thomas Rawls is the Seahawks first and second down back but Rawls’ form seems to be going down from what we saw his rookie season and above all he continues to be plagued by injury. Prosise would be a good option that will probably not be going in the first half of your fantasy draft.
- Hunter Henry, TE
Henry and Antonio Gates were unpredictable on who would have the better game. Owners would have to flip a coin to see who to play in their lineup. Next season however, Gates may be retired. Even if he doesn’t retire and plays one more season he will be turning 37-year-old before next season. We know Rivers loves to target the tight end and we saw Henry has plenty of talent. Mix that in with Henry’s second year of playing and he will be a great grab during your draft.
- Kenneth Dixon, RB
All year we were waiting to see Dixon break out as the starting RB for the Ravens. We saw more of him to the end of the season but the little we did see, most would say he is better than Terrance West. West’s contract is up and could be leaving the Ravens. If that is the case, and the Ravens do not pick up another RB to take the starting job, Dixon will become an almost must start RB1/RB2.
- Eagles D/ST
Even as I write this I do not like this but the Eagles finished the season as the sixth best defense but have been under 50% owned most of the season. This shows that people are not looking the Eagles way come draft time. Hopefully ensuing that you could draft them in the last or second the last round or even pick them up off the waiver wire. Something to watch for is they do not get a first round pick for the 2017 draft so they will have to look to the free agency for top players and there are some good ones expected to be out there.
Who to watch during the offseason:
- Brien Hoyer, QB
When Jay Cutler was injured Hoyer stepped in an was a consistently good fantasy quarterback. Hoyer has had other previous seasons where he was also fantasy relevant. During the offseason many things can happen to Hoyer. He could stay at Chicago, become a backup somewhere else, or he could become a starter for another team. If the latter then Hoyer would be a great pickup if you do not want to select a QB until the final few rounds.
- Breshad Perriman, WR
It looks as if star WR Steve Smith Sr. will be hanging up his cleats after this season leaving an opening for a new stud at Baltimore. Perriman has not been too fantasy relevant. He was a first round pick but missed his whole first season. During his second season he did well for the team but nothing too crazy. He is a real talent, being one of the fastest players in the league he has the chance for a break away at any moment. Mike Wallace assumed WR1 duties this last season when Smith Sr. was injured but he will be 31-years-old by next season and (if the team doesn’t pick up another star WR or draft one) coach John Habaugh may want to get Perriman more involved.
- Corey Coleman, WR
We saw flashes of the 2016 first round pick early in the season, but after three unfortunate events for Coleman, 1)breaking his hand, 2) mediocre quarterbacks, 3) the rise of Terrelle Pryor Sr. Coleman started getting less targets as the season progressed. Pryor Sr. may be leaving the Browns this offseason, if that is the case Coleman becomes their next best option. Hoping they get their quarterback situation under control he is someone to watch during the offseason.
- Jalen Richard/DeAndre Washington, RB
The Raiders have ran a few different backs through the season but they seem to keep coming back to Latavius Murray. Murray could be leaving the Raiders this offseason and if so (and if they do not grab a free agent for draft a new RB) then one of these two 2016 rookies will take over the majority of the work. Best guesses go to Jalen Richard as he has shown more promise but it is hard to predict these kinds o situations. Chances are it will be a committee backfield for the first few games until one really defines themselves as the better back.
- Kendal Wright, WR
Write had something to prove this season, as he would be fighting for an extended contract. Finishing the season with his second year in a row with less than 500 yards, it did not go so well. He was injured partially for both seasons but still the Titans may need more receiving depth but with Rishard Matthews (whos contract is also up), Tajae Sharpe and Delanie Walker capable of taking over the bulk receiving work Wright is just too expensive. If Wright were to be picked up by a team in need of some receivers, or a team who utilizes all receivers then he could be a sneaky near the end fantasy draft pick or maybe even a waiver wire pick up.
- Kirk Cousins, QB
Cousins was playing for a contract this year and I believe he did well enough to earn one. My reasoning to watch Cousins isn’t to see if he is on the Redskins next year or not (though do look for that), it is all of his receiving options. Three out of five of the fantasy relevant receiving option was Washington are at the end of their contract (Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, and Vernon Davis) and could or could not come back. If Washington does not re-sign, draft or pick up more first team receiving depth during the off season Cousins’ options will be limited and may not have as good of a season as he did this past.
- Le’Veon Bell, RB
Bell is one of, if not THE, best RB currently playing in the NFL. He is expected to be the first (or one of the first) overall picks for next year’s fantasy draft. If Bell does not stay with the Steelers however that decision could backfire. I think no matter what team Bell goes to he is a definite first round fantasy draft pick. IF he were to go to a team that may not use him like the Steelers do, or a team with a god awful offensive line then no matter how good Bell is he would not be as good as he was at the Steelers. Now the opposite can happen as well, he could go to a run heavy team who has one of the best lines in the league. Only time will tell, just keep watch on Bell.