By: Josh Clark
DALLAS (105.3 The Fan) – The 2015 fantasy season is in the books. Your league had one winner and nine losers, or eleven losers, etc. Did you swing and miss on your first round pick this year? According to a majority of drafts, that answer is most likely yes. Injuries are part of the game of football and this year was no different. However, the strangeness of the top picks in first rounds of drafts getting injured was one that couldn’t have been expected. The names such as Le’Veon Bell, Jamal Charles, Andrew Luck and others haunt owners that built their teams around them. What can you do about it? Absolutely nothing. All you can do is just pick the best player when it’s time to make a selection next season.
Which players can you count on in 2016? I’ve compiled 12 names who I think should be worthy of a first round pick.
1. Le’Veon Bell (PIT/RB) – When healthy, Bell is the best fantasy back in the league. 2014 saw Bell amass over 2,200 yards (running & receiving) on his way to 11 touchdowns. Bell was a gamble this year as he was suspended for the first two games of the season. Many players still took a chance on him with their first pick. He did, however, respond with three 100-yard plus games in the six contests he played in, one of them being the game where he suffered an MCL and a PCL injury that ended his season. If Bell proves healthy in the off-season, I’d gamble on him again with the first pick in the draft.
2. Antonio Brown (PIT/WR) – What didn’t Brown do for you this year? Owners who gambled on the receiver in first rounds of drafts were handsomely rewarded. Brown has become a player that you can count on every single week, making him more valuable than taking any running back. I’d definitely consider Brown over Bell for the top pick in drafts next year. The only reason I have Bell over Brown is because of his dynamic abilities. Pittsburgh is a one man backfield no matter who the back is. However, in this high-powered offense, you can’t go wrong picking these guys first or second in 2016.
3. Julio Jones (ATL/WR) – Jones and Antonio Brown just missed out on setting the all-time record for catches in a season (136) set by Marvin Harrison, who had 143 in 2002. Jones was dominant on the field. He led the league in receiving with 1,871 yards (Brown was second with 1,834). Those two yardage totals are good enough for number two and four all-time for receiving yards in a season. Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice’s record of 1,848 yards in 2012 with a whopping 1,964 yard season. Jones is just like Brown in the fact that you can simply just trust that he is going to go on the field and perform. The only issue I see with Jones is his quarterback, who seems to be getting worse every season. At least Matt Ryan has tunnel vision when going back to pass. That alone is worthy of a first round pick.
4. Adrian Peterson (MIN/RB) – Another year goes by and Adrian Peterson doesn’t get any younger. No one knew how good Peterson would be this year coming off of a nearly year-long season suspension in 2014. Peterson responded by being the only running back that lived up to his first round fantasy draft status. AD led the league in rushing with 1,485 yards to go along with 11 touchdowns. He’s a solid top five pick in drafts in 2016.
5. Odell Beckham Jr.(NYG/WR) – Beckham is a star, but we saw that he has some maturity issues to overcome in the off-season after his antics with Josh Norman got him suspended in week 15. Nonetheless, he should be a top five receiver for the foreseeable future. Beckham flashed his skills all the way to a 1,450 yard season to go with 13 touchdowns.
6. Todd Gurley (STL/RB) – Gurley took the league by storm weeks four-seven when he ran for 100-plus yards in four straight games, before his troublesome offensive line didn’t open any holes for him for much of the remaining part of the season. Gurley’s upside makes him a top three running back next season.
7. Devonta Freeman (ATL/RB) – Where did that come from? If you’re like me and just happened to pick Freeman on the shear possibility that he would split carries with Tevin Coleman, then you made out like a bandit. Arguably the steal of every draft (if he was drafted in your league), Freeman will surely open training camp as the favorite for touches in Atlanta. His pass catching ability and amount of carries puts him in the upper echelon of running backs in fantasy. Freeman will have to continue to out-perform Coleman, although he didn’t do much of anything when given an opportunity this season.
8. DeAndre Hopkins (HOU/WR) – Hopkins has cemented himself among the league’s elite wide receivers. Hopkins went off for 111 catches for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns. Those numbers were posted with Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden all playing quarterback for the Houston Texans at some point in the season. It remains to be seen if Houston sticks with Hoyer next season, but you can feel good about him posting similar numbers.
9. Jamaal Charles (KC/RB) – Will Charles be in Kansas City next year? It’s an interesting thought since Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware have filled in well for the Chiefs since Charles was lost for the season with a torn ACL. No matter where Charles plays next season, he should still be a highly targeted player in drafts. When healthy, Charles is one of the best feature backs in the NFL.
10. Rob Gronkowski (NE/TE) – Gronk was on the fringe of first rounds in fantasy drafts last year. Gronkowski had a productive season before he went down with a knee injury. Gronkowski went over 100 yards five times and added 11 touchdowns in 2015. He’s locked in as the first tight end off the board.
11. David Johnson (ARZ/RB) – Johnson is the wild card on the list. We finally saw Johnson after injuries to Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington and he didn’t disappoint. Chris Johnson only got a one-year deal and Ellington is only signed through the 2016 season. David Johnson is primed to lead the Cardinals back field in touches next season, but be on the lookout in the off-season in case the team resigns Chris Johnson.
12. Allen Robinson (JAX/WR) – Raise your hand if you thought Allen Robinson was going to have a huge season? The Jacksonville wide out has emerged as a legitimate wide receiver number one after posting 80 catches for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. Blake Bortles and Robinson are certain to climb their position ranks heading into next year’s drafts.
Just outside the top 12: Dez Bryant, Thomas Rawls, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Tom Brady, LeSean McCoy
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