C.J. Prosise

Fantasy Football: Bold predictions for 2017 NFL season

Fantasy Football: Bold predictions for 2017 NFL season

Fantasy Football is all about taking educated guesses.

You can look at your respective teams over and over and over again throughout the week, and there's still a good chance you'll be second guessing your lineup decisions.

Nobody's found the correct recipe for success.

Which is why the majority of our bold predictions will probably look like a train wreck when the season concludes.

For more analysis on our bold predictions and a look ahead to Week 1, listen to the latest Fantasy Football Fix Podcast.

1. Marcus Mariota will be the No. 1 fantasy PLAYER this season.

Oftentimes, even in PPR leagues, QBs rank as the No. 1 overall fantasy player simply by virtue of volume. Of course, there's also a smaller gap between the top QBs and the mid-tier options, so I'm not saying Mariota will be the most VALUABLE fantasy player this season. But put together his amazing efficiency throughout his career, his low turnover rate, his ability to scramble/run and an increase in weapons are all tangible things to point to. But what about the fact he's now entering his third year in the league and playing with a ton of confidence? (Tony Andracki)

2. C.J. Prosise will become a Top 25 RB in PPR leagues.

He's currently listed third on the Seahawks' depth chart entering Week 1, but I don't expect that to continue. Plus, he could be listed third and still wind up with the most fantasy points of anybody not named Russell Wilson in Week 1. Depth charts mean nothing in the flow of the game. But even still, the two guys ahead of him — Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls — carry huge question marks, including injury concerns. Prosise is dynamic and electric and is a far better receiver than either guy ahead of him. He averaged more than 8 yards per touch last season, proving he can be a major fantasy factor even if he doesn't get 20 touches a game. Chris Carson is not a concern, despite a huge preseason. Christine Michael and Robert Turbin had major preseason impacts with the Seahawks in the past and never were close to be worth a roster spot in fantasy. By the time the fantasy playoffs roll around, Prosise will be the unquestioned top Seattle back to own if he stays healthy. (TA)

3. John Brown will be the best fantasy WR in Arizona.

Larry Fitzgerald is going 19th among WRs, 45th overall. Brown is the 54th receiver off the board, 133rd overall. Fitzgerald is 34 now and even though he had an absolutely fantastic season last year, it was mainly by sheer volume. He averaged a career-low 9.6 ypc and faded down the stretch, scoring just 1 TD in his last 11 games with 5 rpg, 36 ypg in his last four contests. He had 1,023 yards, but only one game over 100 on the season. My point? There's plenty of room for Brown to emerge as a successful weekly option even if Fitzgerald repeats, but there are so many signs pointing to regression for Fitz. Brown, meanwhile, finally seems to have his sickle cell condition under control and he's only one year removed from a 65-catch, 1,003-yard, 7 TD performance and that was with Fitz two years younger and Michael Floyd eating up 89 targets, 849 yds and 6 TD. (TA)

4. DeMarco Murray finishes outside the Top 25 running backs.

He's 29 now, he's coming off a season in which he accrued more than 340 touches and last year was a bit of a fluke, even for him. Prior to 2017, Murray had 215 receptions, but only two of those went for TDs. Last year, he had 3 receiving TDs, which seems like an aberration and rather unsustainable. Even if he stays healthy — he's only missed one game the last three seasons — there's no guarantee he stays productive (remember his 2015 season where he barely topped 1,000 yards from scrimmage and only had 7 TDs in 15 games? Plus Derrick Henry has proven he's capable of taking on a bigger load. The Titans offense runs through Mariota now (this is HIS team) and they have their sights set on contending and won't want to burn out Murray to do so. All that points to a letdown for Murray. (TA)

5. Austin Hooper has more fantasy points than Rob Gronkowski.

Rookie tight ends make almost no impact in the Fantasy landscape. NFL teams want them to come to the league, learn the playbook and block. Keep in mind, that's how it used to be for wide receivers, too, at least in terms of fantasy points. It was typical for the third season in the league to be the breakout for WRs, but then guys like ODB went and blew that narrative out of the water. It's still the case for rookie TEs. Gronk's rookie season wasn't even anything to write home about, besides his 10 TDs because he only racked up 42 receptions and 546 yards while playing every game that season. Hooper is THE guy now in Atlanta, a high-powered offense with plenty of weapons and entering his second year after making no impact as a rookie. This isn't to say that Gronk is going to have a bad season; I'm more worried about his health. I absolutely believe he will average more points per game than Hooper, but he'll ultimately be on the bench for a few games. If you draft Gronk, why not get a guy like Hooper in the last few rounds of the draft as a handcuff of sorts? (TA)

6. Keenan Allen finishes as a Top 10 WR in PPR leagues. 

Allen has yet to play a full season in his NFL career, missing 26 games in four seasons. He's only played in nine contests the last two years. So yes, injury is a concern, but he's currently healthy with no known lingering issues, so there's nothing to say he will for sure get hurt in 2017. When on the field, Allen is one of the top receivers in the league, averaging nearly 6 receptions and 8.5 targets per game. He has a potential to be a PPR monster with at least 6 receptions in 12 of his last 23 games, including 5 double-digit receiving games in that span. He's part of a high-performing offense that airs it out and figures to continue to do so yet again in 2017. For a guy going as the No. 18 WR off the board and 42nd overall, he's been criminally underrated leading into the fantasy season. (TA)

7. Ben Roethlisberger will finish as a Top 5 fantasy QB.

Look, we can all overanalyze Big Ben's home and road splits until we're blue in the face. I get it. But something that can all agree with is that Roethlisberger is a completely different quarterback when he's got Martavis Bryant in the lineup. When Bryant is on the field, Roethlisberger has tossed for 6,385 yards and 41 TDs in 19 games. Those numbers extrapolate to a season average of 5,376 yards and 35 scores, a total that would firmly place Roethlisberger as a Top 5 fantasy scorer at his position. While open for debate, let's not forget he has the NFL's best running back and wide receiver at his disposal in Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. My chips are all in on Big Ben in 2017. (Scott Krinch)

8. Russell Wilson will be the top fantasy scorer.

For the first time in his career, Russell Wilson wasn't a Top 10 fantasy quarterback. Don't expect that trend to continue. There's plenty of signs that point to a major turnaround around for Wilson. The Jimmy Graham of old appears to be lurking around Seahawks' headquarters. A healthy Graham would be a lethal weapon for Wilson in the red zone. Back in the slot, making defenders look foolish with a 3.27 separation rate (70.2 percent of his targets) is Doug Baldwin. Wilson also has emerging outside speed threat targets in Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson. The Seahawks also brought in Eddie Lacy to pair with Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise. Wilson has plenty of talent surrounding him and has no excuse not to exceed his 19.4 points per game average from 2016. (SK)

9. DeVante Parker will be a Top 15 fantasy wide receiver.

Remember when Jay Cutler used to air it out to Alshon Jeffery a few times a game? Well, expect Cutty to go full Cutty this season and let it rip, but only this time he'll be throwing the rock to a player he calls a "faster Alshon Jeffery." Third-year wide receiver DeVante Parker and his new quarterback in Miami have developed quite the connection over the last month. Look for Parker to be Cutler's go-to-guy with the Dolphins and for the former University of Louisville wideout to see at least double the amount of end zone targets (7) he had last year.  (SK)

10. Carlos Hyde will lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns.

"He's the lightest he's been since high school." I know it's cliche and we hear that every offseason referencing a handful of players around the league, but I'm buying it this time around for Carlos Hyde. Under new head coach Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers are going to rely heavily on the ground attack led by Hyde. The former Ohio State running back is coming off a career-best 4.6 yards per carry and has finished in the Top 10 in yards after contact the last two years. Now, he's got a head coach with a proven track record of making running backs elite (Devonta Freeman in Atlanta). With no proven backup running back on the roster and a band of misfits at wide receiver (excluding Pierre Garcon), look for Hyde to deliver a breakout season. (SK)

2017 Fantasy Football Sleepers and Busts

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USA TODAY

2017 Fantasy Football Sleepers and Busts

As we inch closer to the 2017 NFL season, the CSN Fantasy crew unveiled their sleepers and busts on Thursday's edition of the Fantasy Football Fix Podcast.

Listen to our Podcast for more in-depth analysis and take a look at the complete list of sleepers and busts from Tony Andracki, Scott Krinch and Glynn Morgan below.

SLEEPERS

De'Angelo Henderson (RB), DEN - ADP: 170 (undrafted)

A true sleeper - a sixth round pick who has come out of nowhere (Coastal Carolina) to turn heads in camp. CJ Anderson is locked in as the starter in the Broncos backfield right now, but Jamaal Charles is far from a sure thing and Devontae Booker fell out of favor there toward the end of last year. Henderson is small (5-foot-7, 208 pounds) but he was a good receiver in college and was the featured back, showing he's more than just a change-of-pace guy. He's not currently being drafted in leagues and is drawing Maurice Jones-Drew comparisons.

CJ Prosise (RB), SEA - 128.5

From Weeks 7-11, when Prosise was actually healthy, he racked up 369 yards on 45 touches - an insane average of 8.2 yards per touch. Yes Eddie Lacy is in town, but Prosise is far and away the team's best receiver and he will surely get an opportunity to make an impact out of the backfield assuming he is healthy. He's a guy that has already proven he doesn't need a ton of touches to be fantasy-relevant. But imagine if he actually were fed the rock 12-15 times a game. Draft him in the 12th round and get hyped about his enormous breakout potential. About as much fantasy upside as an 11th or 12th rounder can get.

Dion Lewis (RB), NE - 170 (undrafted)

After returning from knee injury his touches per game:

8, 10, 9, 4, 20, 17, 13 then playoffs (15-8-7)

Yes they're fickle, but that was with LeGarrette Blount in town and is Mike Gillislee really going to change things all that much? Lewis totaled 489 yards in 10 games coming off an injury. You never know what you're gonna get in Belichik's backfield, but Lewis is their most dynamic running back and is now presumably healthy. White only had 5 touches in 2 playoff games before breaking out in the Super Bowl, while Lewis had 21 touches. Don't forget what Lewis did in only 7 games in 2015 - 234 rushing yards, 36 catches, 388 rec yds. He's tantalizing and you can get him shockingly late in drafts.

Rookie RBs: Joe Williams (SF), Jamaal Williams (GB), Marlon Mack (IND), Kareem Hunt (KC), Samaje Perine (WSH)

All rookie RBs that are flying under the radar and all five plus Henderson have the potential to be better than Cook, Fournette or McCaffery just based on opportunity. They're all emerging as the primary backups to more elder statesmen (some more elder than others, *COUGH* FRANK GORE *COUGH*) who have serious question marks, like Ty Montgomery's blocking, Frank Gore being old as shit, Spencer Ware not being able to handle feature back duties, Rob Kelley being unproven, CJ Anderson failing to live up to CJ Anderson and so on.

Cam Meredith (WR), CHI  - 108.4

Why is this guy still underrated? He was the top fantasy wide receiver for a few-week stretch last year and while you can't evaluate a guy just based off a few hot games, he's emerged as a legit top-flight receiver over the last two years and the ISU kid may very well be the Bears' No. 1 option even with a healthy Kevin White. Plus, they figure to throw a bunch - even if it is Mike Glennon taking those snaps - so Cam should get plenty of work. From Week 5 on, Meredith was a Top 20 fantasy WR, and that includes 3 straight clunkers in which he only had one catch a game from Weeks 7-10.

Kenny Golladay (WR), DET - 134.6

The under-the-radar NIU/Chicago receiver who's turning heads in Detroit during camp. He's 6-foot-4, 218 pounds and on a team that is searching for consistent WR play.

Donte Moncrief (WR), IND - 93.2

Been predicting a breakout for him for the last two years and it hasn't happened yet. With Andrew Luck's shoulder issue, there is legitimate concern about the value of the Indy receivers, but keep in mind, Moncrief is still only 24 years old, he has 16 tuddies in only 19 career starts (though he has played in 41 total games), he's in a high-powered passing offense and you won't need to invest a lot in him. If this is the year he breaks out, it won't cost you much of a gamble. Yeah, he's TD dependent, but he's going 94th overall, the NO. 37 WR.

Eric Ebron (TE), DET - 130.8

We're still waiting for him to breakout. Could that be this season? He finished as the No. 14 fantasy TE last year despite scoring 1 TD, missing essentially four games and dropping a bunch of balls. He had only 1 target in a Week 12 contest but averaged more than 7 targets/gm in his other 12 contests and set a new career high in catches and yards. This is the year he becomes a Top 10 TE and has the potential to be a Top 5 TE. Remember, he was the former 10th overall pick back in 2014.

MORE SLEEPERS

Eli Manning (QB), NYG

Deshaun Watson (QB), HOU

Bilal Powell (RB), NYJ

Doug Martin (RB), TB

Dalvin Cook (RB), MIN

Paul Perkins (RB), NYG

Jamison Crowder (WR), WSH

Terrelle Pryor (WR), WSH

DeVante Parker (WR), MIA

Martavis Bryant (WR), PIT

Zay Jones (WR), BUF

Cooper Kupp (WR), LAR

Martellus Bennett (TE), GB

Austin Hooper (TE), ATL

Gerald Everett (TE), LAR

BUSTS

Leonard Fournette (RB), JAX - 22.5

Going to be awfully tough to live up to draft stock, the Jags' line is rough, teams can stack the box, he's still a rookie, etc. He's going in the second or third round, as the 9th RB off the board. It's going to be nearly impossible for him to live up to that.

Devonta Freeman (RB), ATL - 9.9

I feel like I doubt Freeman every year. Is he really the No. 4 RB? He already has one concussion this year, he had one in 2015 as well and don't forget about Tevin Coleman now that it appears he's got his sickle cell under control. And OC Kyle Shanahan is gone now. And he just got paid, so no contract year anymore. There are plenty of causes for concern, and not a guy I can feel comfortable about drafting in the Top 10.

Joe Mixon (RB), CIN - 56.2

How could he possibly live up to this ADP? The off-field issues, he's a rookie, Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill are around, etc.

Dez Bryant (WR), DAL - 20.1

Over the last 2 years, Bryant has played in 22 games, but his stat line only looks like this: 82 rec, 168 tgt, 1,197 yds, 11 TD. That's right, he's caught only 48 percent of his targets, and those are season numbers, not 2 year/22 gm numbers. Yes, he's had some terrible QBs playing with and rookie Prescott last year, but still. He hasn't even been a per-game elite asset since 2014. Way too high a price tag for a guy with that bio.

Rob Gronkowski (TE), NE - 17.7

Has only played 16 games in a season once in his career. The last 5 years, he's missed 24 games and he had several games played last year where he didn't notch a fantasy point. He's clearly the top tight end and far and away the No. option on a game-to-game basis, but only when he's healthy and since that isn't a sure thing, can't justify drafting him in the second round.

MORE BUSTS

Dak Prescott (QB), DAL

Cam Newton (QB), CAR

Spencer Ware (RB), KC

Eddie Lacy (RB), SEA

Adrian Peterson (RB), NO

Matt Forte (RB), NYJ

Latavius Murray (RB) MIN

Julian Edelman (WR), NE

Brandon Marshall (WR), NYG

Alshon Jeffery (WR), PHI

DeSean Jackson (WR), TB