This is one of my favorite articles every year.
Everyone wants their sleepers and studs and busts and all that stuff, but it becomes a lot less abstract when you compare it to a guy from last year. Who is this year's Ezekiel Elliott? DeAndre Hopkins? Travis Kelce?
You're about to find out.
Buy your fantasy draft materials at FantasyJocks and use code "Fusion" for 10% off!
Who is this year's Ezekiel Elliott?
Criteria: Highly-touted rookie running back that lights the league on fire
Donald: Leonard Fournette
I hate to take the easy answer here, but I think it has to be Leonard Fournette. I'm looking forward to seeing guys like Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, and Joe Mixon, but Fournette's situation has him primed for immediate success.
Mike: Dalvin Cook
No rookie will duplicate Zeke’s numbers, but my favorite rookie RB is Dalvin Cook. Neither Jerrick McKinnon nor Latavius Murray has been able to prove either one deserves the majority, and Cook was already thrust into the action in the Vikings first preseason game. It’s early, but I expect Cook to develop and be a major asset in many championship rosters.
Josh: Joe Mixon
Mixon has a legitimate shot at being a top-5 running back this season. He is extremely talented and should quickly take over the starting role. The Bengals also have the tools around Mixon to help him become a star.
Who is this year's Todd Gurley?
Criteria: Consensus top 10 RB that ends up disappointing
Donald: DeMarco Murray
I was a big fan of Murray heading into 2016, but I don't like how last year ended. In the final 5 weeks, Derrick Henry scored five touchdowns to Murray's one, plus Henry out-rushed Murray twice. Henry's involvement is just enough to give me pause.
Mike: Melvin Gordon
Immediate reflex tells me Zeke, simply because of the uncertainty of suspension. If Zeke isn’t suspended, I’m thinking Melvin Gordon is the weak link in the top five or so RBs off the board. I detail why here.
Josh: Jordan Howard
Howard looks a lot like Todd Gurley did a year ago. Outstanding rookie year with a lot of big plays but a bad team surrounding him. Will Howard’s talent prevail? Or will he be crippled by his supporting cast?
Who is this year's Jay Ajayi?
Criteria: RB that starts the season as a backup but ends up being a formidable starter
Donald: Jamaal Williams
The Ty Montgomery - Jamaal Williams competition is going to be very interesting. Montgomery fumbled in his first preseason game, so the highly-touted Williams is inching ever closer to the starting job. If Montgomery falters, he'll still contribute in the receiving game so don't worry about him completely falling off.
Mike: Mike Gillislee
New England let LeGarrette Blount walk and filled their need for a goal-line back by signing Gillislee from division rival Buffalo. He could be the guy who does everything but catch passes, as they have White and Lewis for that already.
Josh: Jamaal Williams
Williams was a workhorse back at BYU and has a ton of talent. Plus, Ty Montgomery could be more of third down back for the Packers. If Williams is given the starting role this season, he should be highly productive in Green Bay’s high powered offense.
Who is this year's Tevin Coleman?
Criteria: Backup RB who stays a "backup" but still contributes extensively
Donald: Marlon Mack
Frank Gore won't get hurt because he's made of titanium, but the Colts will need a jolt out of Mack to keep their high-powered offense rolling.
Mike: Adrian Peterson
This sounds odd, but I’m going Adrian Peterson. Currently, he’s listed behind Mark Ingram, but I think AP still has enough left in the tank to return value. Plus NO never really seems to believe in Mark Ingram.
Josh: Tevin Coleman
What can I say? Coleman is extremely talented, but he is still going to be the back up this year, especially after Freeman’s huge contract. He will still play an important role for the Falcons.
Who is this year's Melvin Gordon?
Criteria: Mid-round RB that becomes a premier piece of his offense
Donald: Danny Woodhead
Woodhead is perpetually under-drafted, and Joe Flacco dumps the ball off a truly mind-blowing amount. If Woodhead stays healthy, he's going to be a PPR machine.
Mike: Carlos Hyde
A guy I’m targeting as later RB help is Carlos Hyde. He was probably drafted decently high last year, and there’s a chance he may be again, but his current ADP is about 61 overall. It seems like I see more and more positive Hyde reports every day, so I’ll continue the (quiet) hype.
Josh: Mike Gillislee
Gillislee was excellent as a backup for the Bills and the Patriots had to give up a draft pick to acquire him. Gillislee has an opportunity to take over the “LeGarrette Blount” role for New England. Patriots running backs can be difficult to trust but Blount had 18 touchdowns last year...I'll take the risk.
Who is this year's T.Y. Hilton?
Criteria: Second- or third-tier WR that has a chance to lead the league in receiving yards
Donald: Amari Cooper
I'm usually out on Cooper, but lately I've had a realization that there will be a year very soon that he explodes. Even if he doesn't get red-zone targets for whatever reason, he could still lead the league in receiving - exactly like T.Y. Hilton from last year.
Mike: Keenan Allen
My guy here is Keenan Allen, assuming he can stay healthy. Mike Williams (if he plays) and Tyrell Williams will be able to take some double coverages off of Rivers' favorite receiver. Sneaky play (and maybe a favorite player plug) could be Jarvis Landry. I hear a lot of hate from Donald about how Cutler won’t throw short passes to Landry, so maybe Landry will have more opportunities to go downfield.
Josh: Michael Thomas
Michael Thomas has an extremely high floor and an extremely high ceiling. Brandin Cooks is gone and Drew Brees is still throwing the ball in New Orleans. Thomas could end up having the most receiving yards and touchdowns this season.
Who is this year's DeAndre Hopkins?
Criteria: Top 10 WR who vastly underperforms
Donald: Mike Evans
The more I think about Mike Evans, the less I see myself drafting him. The Bucs offense is coming together nicely after the additions of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard, but that may hurt Evans. Among the top 20 receivers in targets in 2016, Evans ranked 1st in targets (175) and 17th in catch rate (54.9%) leading only DeAndre Hopkins (wink), Allen Robinson, and Brandon Marshall. Decreased targets in a generally inefficient offense could mean bad news.
Mike: Dez Bryant
Dez Bryant is still getting drafted as a top 10 WR, and I’m staying far away. The offense no longer suits his talents, and I see another disappointing year, hopefully without injury for his sake.
Josh: Dez Bryant
I love Dez’s talent but he is constantly injured and almost 30 years old. Dak Prescott was very good last year, but there are still question marks going into his second season. Dez could definitely underperform this year.
Who is this year's Michael Thomas?
Criteria: Young receiver thrust into fantasy stardom
Donald: Terrelle Pryor
Similar to Amari Cooper, Pryor is growing on me a lot lately. He goes to a Redskins offense that ranked 3rd in passing yards last year and immediately becomes the premier receiving option. He's expensive in drafts, but there is a world where taking him there is worth it.
Mike: Donte Moncrief
Moncrief is going to be the guy in Indy this year. I'm sticking to it.
Josh: Terrelle Pryor
Pryor is an athletic freak and is joining a team that is well...not the Browns, which is a big plus. Kirk Cousins is a huge upgrade at QB and Pryor should be getting plenty of targets. Pryor could easily be a top 10 WR this season.
Who is this year's Dak Prescott?
Criteria: Value QB who ends up being a very competent fantasy starter
Donald: Eli Manning
Eli gets another year with Odell Beckham Jr. and also has a new buddy in Brandon Marshall. Let's give him another good year before the drop off, eh?
Mike: Eli Manning
Last year, I predicted Fitzmagic would be a top 10 QB, so take this one with a grain of salt. I think this year, Eli is going to finish top 7. Yeah, I went beyond the top 10 projection, whatever. Eli has too much talent around him to allow him to finish at QB19, which is where he’s currently being drafted.
Josh: Tyrod Taylor
Taylor was the 8th best QB last year and was a top-15 QB in 12 of the 15 games he played. Taylor did lose Sammy Watkins but he was hurt most of last year anyway. He's as consistent as they come and should have a solid fantasy season.
Who is this year's Travis Kelce?
Criteria: Mid-round TE that becomes the focal point of his offense
Donald: David Njoku
This might be a bit of a stretch, but Njoku is a freak athlete and Cleveland doesn't have a ton of receiving options beyond Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt. I believe they'll be a run-first team, and I think they'll sacrifice some down-the-field bombs for high-percentage routes to the TE.
Mike: Eric Ebron
This question should have been phrased, “Who is this year's... Kyle Rudolph”, but I digress. Once again, I believe in Eric Ebron. Safe pick would be Delanie Walker, even with the weapons in Tennessee.
Josh: Zach Ertz
The Eagles just shipped their slot receiver, Jordan Matthews, to Buffalo, plus Wentz and Ertz showed solid chemistry at the end of last season. Ertz has been a quality TE for most of his career, but this is the year he becomes a top-5 fantasy TE.
That's it for us. Let us know who your guys are!