At this point, I think we’ve all realized that fantasy football simply never ends. Even the off-season is filled with fantasy football speculation – free agency, the NFL Draft – it’s all one big cycle.
This year’s fantasy football draft season is filled with many boom-or-bust candidates. Some showed flashes of brilliance throughout the 2015 season, and others were sidelined with season-ending injuries. Some are looking up at their bright futures in the NFL, and others are clinging on, hoping for their chance to shine.
If last year was any indication, a fantasy football season isn’t won or lost by your first few draft picks – just ask the owners of Eddie Lacy, Marshawn Lynch, C.J. Anderson, Jamaal Charles, Dez Bryant, or Jeremy Hill – players drafted in the first round of last year’s drafts and failed to reach their hype, either due to injury or poor play.
This year is no different. There is potential throughout every round, but that potential can either end with a surprise top-10 finish – otherwise known as a steal – or enter a downward spiral – otherwise known as a bust.
For this chart, a steal is any player with a current ADP (average draft position) in Round 10 or later who finishes better than expected. A bust is any player with a current ADP in Round Five or earlier who finishes the year worse than expected.
FANTASY FOOTBALL: POTENTIAL BUSTS AND STEALS
TOP POTENTIAL STEALS FOR 2016 FANTASY FOOTBALL DRAFTS
1. Donte Moncrief, WR (IND) – Top of Round 10
Donte Moncrief is being drafted so low because of all of the question marks surrounding him. Will Andrew Luck come back 100% this season? In 2016 will we see the Indianapolis Colts team that reached the AFC Championship in 2014?
In three games with Luck in 2015, Moncrief pulled in 17 catches for 200 yards and three touchdowns. He finished 2015 with 62 catches, 733 yards, and six touchdowns. Moncrief will be the number two receiver behind T.Y. Hilton, but his play will be much more consistent and easier to predict than that of Hilton. If you take Moncrief in Round 10, you’re landing a player who could wind up being a consistent number two receiver.
2. Coby Fleener, TE (NO) – Bottom of Round 10 OR Top of Round 11
The position of tight end has been one of much variance as of late. There has been a significant drop off from the top-tier tight ends to the bottom, but that drop off is becoming less and less significant. Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen, Tyler Eifert, and Jordan Reed are still among the upper-echelon of players at their position. Potentially drafting Coby Fleener in Round 11 is a good example of why you either want to be the be first or last person to draft a tight end. Fleener will probably wind up being the 10th tight end taken off the board and he has a very high upside since his quarterback is Drew Brees.
Eighth, third, first, first and second are the overall finishes of Brees’ tight ends since 2011. Four of those seasons were when Jimmy Graham was in New Orleans and the most recent is with Benjamin Watson. I’d venture to say that Fleener fall somewhere between Graham and Watson when it comes to athletic ability, making him a viable option to finish in the top-10 of tight end rankings.
3. Rashad Jennings, RB (NYG) – Round 11
Rashad Jennings finished 2015 with double-digit fantasy points in four straight performances. He’s on the wrong side of 30, but has very little wear and tear on him. He’s the most talented running back on his team and with Tom Coughlin and his running back by committee idea gone, new head coach Ben McAdoo has the option to lean on one guy.
Shane Vereen is the pass-catcher. Andre Williams can’t catch a pass and has shown very little explosive ability.
I think Jennings used the last four games of 2015 to show McAdoo what he could do. This will be McAdoo’s first head coaching gig, and the best way to continue to alleviate pressure from Eli Manning, is to establish a solid run game to go with that new defense, where the Giants added some nice pieces this off-season through free agency.
4. Ladarius Green, TE (PIT) – Round 11
Pittsburgh was possibly the best landing spot for Ladarius Green. The Steelers have lost second-year receiver Martavis Bryant for the entire 2016 season due to suspension, thus losing their biggest receiver–although, height and weight isn’t everything–just ask Antonio Brown. Green fills a void the Steelers need, which is a redzone threat. Green is six-foot-six and is three inches taller than the next pass catcher, Darrius Heyway-Bey is six-foot-three.
Although Green won’t be a primary target behind Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Markus Wheaton, and possibly Sammie Coates, he figures to factor in big time in the redzone and the middle of the field.
5. Brandon Coleman, WR (NO) – Round 14
Brandon Coleman is the “heir apparent” to Marques Colston, according to Saints general manager Mickey Loomis. Coleman is six-foot-six and 225 pounds, and he is one of two big bodied receivers New Orleans has now that Colston is gone. Willie Snead is five-foot-11 and Brandin Cooks is five-foot-ten. Tight end Coby Fleener, who is six-foot-six and 251 pounds, is the only other big option.
Any time a GM speaks out and compares a second year wide receiver to the best receiver his organization has ever seen, people take notice.
TOP POTENTIAL BUSTS FOR 2016 FANTASY FOOTBALL DRAFTS
1. Demaryius Thomas, WR (DEN) – Round 3
The above statistics are the number of touchdowns Demaryius Thomas has scored each year since entering the NFL in 2010. 2015 was the first year Thomas saw his touchdown production fall below 10 since 2011. Coincidentally, it was also Gary Kubiak’s first year as the Broncos head coach. Kubiak was previously the head coach of the Houston Texans from 2006-2013. A receiver has never caught more than 10 touchdown passes in a season with Kubiak at the helm; the closest was Andre Johnson who had eight in 2010.
Inside the 10-yard line, Kubiak has one gear and it’s running the football. Thomas will still have value regardless of who is the quarterback in Denver in 2016. The talented receiver will still probably produce 1,200+ yards, but don’t expect double digit touchdowns.
2. Jeremy Langford, RB (CHI) – Bottom of Round 2
Jeremy Langford is a player that is being drafted much too early. Everyone saw Langford’s breakout game, and the game that followed that one, but other than those two performances, the former Michigan State Spartan has been largely ineffective.
First things first, Chicago tried signing C.J. Anderson prior to him signing an offer sheet with the Miami Dolphins and eventually re-signing with Denver. That attempt to sign Anderson shows that the Bears have little faith Langford, who some were calling the future of the organization.
Langford averaged 3.6 yards per carry last season. He only averaged 2.7 against base defenses (the league average was 4.4!). He also had seven drops in 2015. That type of inconsistency is not worth a second round pick. There are better options.
3. Josh Gordon, WR (CLE?) – Round 5
THE MAN ISN’T EVEN REINSTATED INTO THE NFL, YET. PLEASE, STOP ASKING QUESTIONS ABOUT HIM. THANK YOU.
4. Latavius Murray, RB (OAK) – Middle of Round 3
Murray finished 2015 as RB11, but in a year where the position was ravished by injuries, that statistic doesn’t hold much weight. The six-foot-three, 230 pound back finished 2015 with 4.0 yards per carry and six touchdowns – both pedestrian numbers. He only finished with 100 total yards in three games last season and he only had six games where he finished with double-digit fantasy points.
Oh, and, just like Chicago, Oakland entered into conversations to try to sign C.J. Anderson too. That probably shows what little faith the Raiders have in Murray being the guy in Oakland That, along with the constant rumblings of where Oakland is going to draft a running back in this year’s NFL Draft , doesn’t bode well for Murray.
Murray has the potential to be a low-end RB2 at best, and the third round is not where you draft that position.
5. Carlos Hyde, RB (SF) – Round 5
Carlos Hyde is the hardest one to judge for me. On one hand, he is capable of being the player who was drafted as the heir to Frank Gore. He could very well be the player from Ohio State who can barrel over players and have a performance like Week 1 of the 2015 season against the Minnesota Vikings.
On the other hand, look at what happened between Chip Kelly and DeMarco Murray. Now, Murray and Hyde are two totally different people, but similar runners. Both have more of a downhill style and both love to carry the load for their team. That being said, Hyde running from shotgun might not be in his best interest, regardless of what he says during press conferences.
I’m intrigued by this situation and by the talent of Hyde. In round five, the former Buckeye could very well be a viable starter if that’s what you’re looking for, but I’d temper expectations quite a bit.
Above are five potential fantasy football steals and busts for the 2016 NFL fantasy season. Only time will tell how these players pan out this season.