11 key fantasy football players for 2016
Where 11 key fantasy players stand in 2016
Beyond his fantasy football top 150 rankings, Ben Standig examines 11 key players for a look at why they are where they are on the list.
1. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh
Simply a monster for the fantasy football set. Even though quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn't play in four games last season, even though the Steelers didn't have playmakers Le'Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant for stretches, Brown couldn't be stopped no matter the defensive focus. He tied with Julio Jones for the league lead in receptions (136) and 37 yards behind Jones' 1,871. That Bell (suspension) will miss the opening four games and Bryant the entire season for another failed drug test means Big Ben will throw early and often toward his top receiver. What can Brown do for you? Plenty.
5. David Johnson, RB, Arizona
Look back at the 2015 fantasy season and specifically the teams that reached the Super Bowl in your league. There's a good bet one of them had the Cardinals rookie because Johnson's late surge carried many a team. That difference making ability as runner and receiver is what made the Northern Iowa product such a dynamic threat even if it took some time before the Cardinals starting feeding him. Despite limited work overall, Johnson tied for fifth in the NFL with 13 touchdowns. Outside of Carson Palmer throwing passes to his wide receivers, though shouldn't be any limited work worries for Johnson in 2016.
6. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas
Many football folk love the Cowboys. That can lead to some level of overvaluation with the fantasy players. That's probably the case with the Ohio State rookie. There are reasons why Elliott could finish as the top fantasy player n 2016. First off, the 6-foot-0, 225-pounder has the good and the three-down skill set that warrants heavy work. Second, Elliott gets to start his career behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Third, Dallas wants to protect quarterback Tony Romo from yet another injury and feeding the runners works with that in mind. Key word in that sentence, runners, as Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris warrant touches. How many they get will go a long way toward Elliott's numbers. If the rookie dominates the work, he might actually provide true draft value for those landing him outside the top five.
8. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati
There is no issue with the Bengals top wide receiver except for how at times the Bengals use their top receiver. By that, we mean not feeding Green consistently. Though he finished with 1,297 yards, nearly half (605) came in four games. That could change in 2016 seeing as Cincinnati lost Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones in free agency. Perhaps those defections lead to Andy Dalton targeting Green time after time after time.
18. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh
Another smh scenario for Bell, who will miss the opening four games for a violation of the NFL drug policy. If active from the start, we might be talking about the top running back. Instead, Bell likely slides into the middle-to-late part of round two. Considering bye weeks don't begin until Week 4 and then only two teams are off, fantasy owners should have enough resources to replace Bell. If you're an owner who can stomach not having their second round pick for the opening month, Bell could be a game-changer once he returns. Just remember why he's missing games in the first place and the risk of another failed test.
28. Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland
Looking to plunk down some money in Vegas on an outside candidate to lead all fantasy receivers in points? Then look long at the second-year receiver, who caught 72 passes for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns during his rookie campaign. Now that he gained experience in the league and with rising quarterback Derek Carr, Cooper can let his instincts take over. That passing attack is why Oakland could take over the AFC West if Denver's quarterback situation flops.
39. Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina
Rob Gronkowski is the runaway choice as the top tight end. Next on the list is a true debate between Olsen and Washington's Jordan Reed. Grab either in the 3rd/4th range and realize you now have a massive edge over all non-Gronk owners. As for which one, Olsen probably has the best chance for week-to-week success because the Panthers don't have the same deep set of outside receivers as the Redskins. Either way, congrats. Once these three are off the board and perhaps Travis Kelce, the best plan is focus elsewhere and target the position depth in the middle to late rounds.
80. Arian Foster, RB, Miami
After six rounds, most fantasy teams will have their core lineup in place. If the risk elsewhere isn't extreme and the second running back wasn't selected in the top 2-4 rounds, the seventh is a good go-big slot. Foster epitomizes such a scenario. Good chance he beats out Jay Ajayi for the starting spot. If so, good chance he racks up stats behind that offensive line. For Foster, it's all about health. In this spot, even if another injury strikes, we're talking about a Flex option or part of a mix-and-match RB2 scenario. Grab Ajayi later for handcuff purposes and you're set. Some risks are worth taking. Foster might be one of them.
85. Tom Brady, QB, New England
Let's spare everyone the deflate jokes and focus on how the insane suspension will fuel Brady's 2016 campaign. When he returns in Week 5, he'll do so with calm and anger -- and Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. From say Week 6 on, don't be shocked if Brady finishes as a top-5 fantasy quarterback. That's why somewhere in the seventh or eighth round, start plotting a Brady pick with one of the viable QB2 types. Matthew Stafford and Joe Flacco have nice schedules early. Then Brady takes over. Good luck, defenses.
104. Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington
After rewriting the franchise record book last season following, everyone has the same question: Is Kirk Cousins a one-hit wonder? The simple answer is no, but his fantasy value remains complicated. The Redskins have playmakers all over the offense and needed continuity coming off an NFC East title. That's why by ranking, Cousins is in the low-end QB1 mix. That there are so many interesting quarterback-by-committee options behind him, including Andy Dalton and Matthew Stafford, is why waiting on quarterback remains wise. If other owners in your league don't like Cousins, scoop him when you put your QBBC together.
106. Kamar Aiken, WR, Baltimore
Based on 2015 numbers, the Ravens wide receivers have a top five schedule this coming season. Based on his performance last year and the questions elsewhere, Aiken is the best bet when it comes to taking advantage of the inviting situation. Steve Smith turns 37 and Mike Wallace turned into a one-dimensional receiver long ago. The 6-foot-2 Aiken went 75-944-5 last season. Based on the situation, he can beat those numbers.