Donald Gibson & Mike Streb
This has always been my favorite article to write. It allows readers to draw very clear comparisons between 2015 and what can be expected in 2016, and it also lets me kind of feel like a wizard. I asked my colleague Mike Streb to give me his input as well.
If you haven't drafted yet, feel free to use this as a bible. If you have drafted, well, uh, try to adjust your team based on these claims? Maybe? I don't know.
1. Who is this year's Cam Newton?
Criteria: QB taken in the back half of most drafts who blows up and leads his team to fantasy glory
DG: Marcus Mariota
It seems like every day, I get more excited about the Titans offense, which is weird considering...they're the Titans. Another year of development for Mariota will obviously help, and the additions of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry at RB along with the hopeful emergence of a receiving corp to complement Delanie Walker should mean good news for the Titans.
MS: Ryan Fitzpatrick
If you read my article on sleepers in the draft kit, then you know that I think Fitzmagic will do well again this year. Another year with Marshall and Decker and an added, but aging, Forte and the emergence of Powell will put Fitzmagic in the top 10 of QBs this year. He won't get you as many rushing TDs as Newton, but he can get you a couple.
2. Who is this year's Devonta Freeman?
Criteria: Young and fairly unproven RB who absolutely blows up
DG: Melvin Gordon
Melvin Gordon. Gordon has been having an excellent preseason so far (he actually scored a touchdown!), and I expect that to leak into the regular season. Danny Woodhead will still be the receiving back, but if the Chargers offensive line is decent and can stay healthy, I expect a significant improvement on Gordon's rookie campaign.
MS: Derrick Henry
People forget that Henry is a workload back. I realize that the Titans went out and signed DeMarco Murray, but I think Henry will be at least getting a 50/50 share by the end of the season. He's the RB of the Titans future and they may decide to give him an early shot at the full workload earlier than expected this season.
3. Who is this year's DeAndre Hopkins?
Criteria: Second-fourth round WR who sees a massive increase in usage and production
DG: Keenan Allen/Brandin Cooks
These two are pretty similar in terms of situation, though last year wasn't quite similar for them. Also, I don't pass up an opportunity to talk about Brandin Cooks. Keenan Allen averaged just over 11 targets per game in the 8 games that he played last season, and that includes the game where he got injured (5 targets). For comparison, Julio Jones led the NFL with 204 targets (12.75 per game). If Keenan and Philip Rivers (and that line, again) can stay healthy, it's going to be dangerous.
On the contrary, Brandin Cooks wasn't on that pace last year (just over 8 targets per game). Marques Colston and Ben Watson have been replaced with Michael Thomas and Coby Fleener, but I still expect Cooks to be more involved. The Saints throw more than any team in the league, and it's not like their defense is going to be anywhere near good. A Cooks eruption is in the cards.
MS: Donte Moncrief
I think the days of Luck to T.Y. all game are over. Moncrief is a legit receiver and has all of the tools to become the number one on Indianapolis. He may not possess T.Y.'s speed, but he is a good, possessive receiver and he could lead the Colts in targets this year.
4. Who is this year's Gary Barnidge?
Criteria: Random late round TE who ends up being a huge steal
DG: Dwayne Allen
Allen was essentially worthless last year, but Coby Fleener is gone (which you just read), and now Allen is the only TE worth caring about in Indy. A healthy Andrew Luck means he'll be around 4,500 yards (at least), and Allen should reap some of those benefits.
MS: Eric Ebron
Duh, did you not expect this pick? Did you not read my previous articles? Ebron is expected to get close to 100 targets this year according to Jim Bob Cooter. Megatron's redzone targets are up for grabs and I'm not convinced Golden Tate and Marvin Jones are reliable receivers. Scoop Ebron up late.
5. Who is this year's Eddie Lacy?
Criteria: First-second round RB who simply pisses you off on a weekly basis
DG: Jamaal Charles
No question. I've been preaching all offseason that I was concerned about Charles, yet people kept drafting him as a second round RB. Reports are coming out of camp that Charles may actually be a backup for the time being as he regains trust in his leg, so I won't be surprised when he's the reason you're smiting the fantasy gods in early October.
I can see multiple picks in the top two rounds pissing owners off this year. To be specific, I'm looking at Jamaal Charles, Thomas Rawls, and Devonta Freeman. Each one of the mentioned are expected to relinquish a decent amount of rushing attempts to their backups this year, and as a Rawls owner, I'm not happy.
6. Who is this year's Doug Martin?
Criteria: Mid-round RB coming off a disappointing season who redeems himself
DG: Ryan Mathews. I wrote a piece on FantasyPros about Ryan Mathews. If he can stay healthy, he's going to have a great year. Doug Pederson runs the ball a ton, and Mathews is very efficient when he gets the ball (averaged 5.1 yards per carry last season).
MS: Melvin Gordon
I'm so excited that I got Gordon in all of my drafts so far this year. You know you're having a bad rookie year when you fumble more than you score. Gordon is poised to have a bounce-back year in my opinion. Danny Woodhead is shifty and a great receiver out of the backfield, but the Chargers are going to have to rush it at least 20 times a game if they want to win any more games than last year. Gordon is going in rounds 7-9 and for a starting running back, you can't ask for better value.
7. Who is this year's Theo Riddick?
Criteria: "Backup" RB who ends up catching the ball a ton
DG: Duke Johnson
Duke may be not be the "backup" in Cleveland, but I don't wanna hear your complaining. I WROTE THE QUESTIONS! The Cleveland offense should be better this season overall, and Duke may be the most productive player on the field. Johnson had 61 receptions last year, and should see an increased running workload despite posting only 3.6 yards per carry in 2015. His competitor, Isaiah Crowell (aka Isaiah Cromwell aka Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England), averaged 3.8, so it's not like he's much better.
MS: Charles Sims
He had 51 receptions last season and if Doug Martin struggles like he seems to every other year, Sims could see an expanded role in the passing game simply by being on the field more. I don't think he'll have 90 receptions like Riddick did last year, but 65 could be in Sims' future.
8. Who is this year's Larry Fitzgerald?
Criteria: Receiver who's been around for a while but sees a spike in production and involvement
DG: Golden Tate
This is kind of a cop-out pick, as his situation is pretty obvious. Tate should be receiving plenty of targets this season as Matthew Stafford's likely first option after the arguably-premature retirement of Calvin Johnson. Tate averaged a meager 9.0 yards per catch last season but had a quiet-but-impressive 90 catches. He'll get plenty of targets and is a great mid-round option in PPR formats especially.
MS: Tavon Austin
I'm not completely staying with Donald's recommendation as "a player who has been around for a while", but I like Austin this year. Jeff Fisher mentioned in an interview with ESPN this summer that he expects Austin to catch close to 90 balls this year, not to mention his rushing and return stats. Austin's stat line could literally EXPLODE this year, and he's available until rounds 11-14.
9. Who is this year's Randall Cobb?
Criteria: Receiver thrust into an increased feature role who ends up disappointing
DG: Donte Moncrief
Okay, okay. Put down your flaming pitchforks. I expect Moncrief to have a solid season, as I really like what that offense is bringing to the table and the value where you can get most of them. However, as of this writing, Moncrief is being drafted with the 57th pick according to FantasyPros. I've even seen some leagues where he goes as high as the early fourth round. I think he'll return that 57th overall value, but I wouldn't go a whole lot higher. All I'm saying is temper your expectations.
MS: Kelvin Benjamin
This one usually depends on injury so its kind of a wait-and-see, but my gut is telling me Kelvin Benjamin. He's being drafted in round 4-5 in a lot of drafts, but I don't like the selection personally. There was too many players to feed last year in Olsen, Stewart, Funchess, and Ginn last year without Benjamin. He's definitely the best wide receiver on the team, but that does not mean Carolina will target him enough to equal his price.
10. Who is this year's Andre Johnson?
Criteria: Receiver drafted in the top six-ish rounds who ends up being absolutely worthless
DG: Larry Fitzgerald
This is a tough one, as Andre Johnson in 2015 was such a noble dumpster fire that it's hard to equate anyone to that. I'm going with Fitz because I wouldn't be surprised if one member of that three-headed receiving monster in Arizona got pushed to the side, and I'd bet that the older guy would be the one to go. Only time will tell.
MS: Marvin Jones
Aside from a couple games in the last few years in which Jones had multiple TDs, he has never really been fantasy relevant in my opinion. I certainly don't think he won't do anything this season, but he should be third or fourth in the pecking order in Detroit, behind Tate, Ebron, and potentially Riddick.
That's all we have for ya! I hope you enjoyed the FantasyFusion installment of "Who is this Year's ____?"
Don't hesitate to reach out to us in the comments section or via Twitter @DonaldGibsonFF and @FFMilkman. Do me a favor and tell us who you agree with more so we can trash talk each other.
Don't forget about the rankings!
Until next time!