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Jameis Winston among must-own fantasy QBs in 2017

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There aren't a whole lot of things in life you must do. Breathe. Eat. Um ... excuse yourself. That's the list.

Of course, if you're going to thrive in this world the list of things you have to do gets a little bit longer. That list starts looking like a receipt from a popular national drugstore chain. So allow us to add to your list of things you must do in order to not only survive, but thrive, this season in fantasy football with a list of quarterbacks you'd be wise to target this season.

The consistently elite bargain


Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins

The whole weird contract saga between Cousins and the Washington front office is confusing and mind-numbing and will earn you exactly zero fantasy points. What will earn you lots of fantasy ponts is having a quarterback that has averaged 4,500 passing yards and 27 touchdowns across his two seasons as a full-time starter. Alas, Cousins' candidacy here doesn't come without a couple of concerns.

Perhaps the one cause for concern is the change of offensive coordinators. After working with Sean McVay, Offensive Boy Genius for two seasons, Matt Cavanaugh now takes over in the lab. It's often hard to use past performance as a predictor of future practices, especially considering in his last stint as an offensive coordinator (BAL 1999-2004), Cavanaugh oversaw a run-heavy offense. Then again, he also had Jamal Lewis during his 2,000-yard season.

It's encouraging that Cavanaugh has been Washington's quarterbacks coach for the past two seasons, which has given him a chance to get a close-up look at the offense while also building a rapport with Cousins. The hope is that the transition to a new playcaller will be a smooth one.

The other issue is how well Cousins will vibe with some new pass-catchers. But it's a muted concern. After all, he'll still have Jamison Crowder who acquitted himself very well in 2016. Then there's Terrelle Pryor, who was far and away the most productive receiver in an otherwise anemic Browns passing game. Add in Jordan Reed (as long as he stays healthy) and there is quite an arsenal for Cousins to work with.

Of course, this is all about Cousins being a draft value. But what else would you call a player who's been in the top 10 at his position for the past two seasons yet is still coming off the board after players like Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger, who both have major fantasy red flags this year? I call it a pretty good deal.

The fantasy quarterback surrounded by youth and speed


Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

I'm sure the very mention of Alex Smith in a fantasy football column is generating groans from across the interwebs. And yes ... in general terms, he's every bit as uninspiring as you remember him. But let's consider the cast around him and what it could mean for his outlook in 2017.

Last season, the Chiefs were one of three teams (DET, NE) with more yards after the catch than air yards. That's not super surprising considering Smith's reputation as King of the Checkdowns. But it does speak a little bit to the burners catching the ball for Kansas City. First and foremost, there's Tyreek Hill who might currently be the fastest player in the league. Then there's Chris Conley, who burned up the 2015 combine with a 4.35 40-yard dash. Or De'Anthony Thomas and his 4.34 40.

Even the guys not noted for their straight line speed were still pretty elusive last season. Travis Kelce was third in the NFL in yards after the catch. Spencer Ware was 25th. The point is that Kansas City's roster is loaded with players who can be dangerous with the football in their hands. The other point is that this group isn't particularly old. Among the key playmakers on the roster, Kelce is the most senior, entering his fifth NFL season.

So how does any of this actually make Alex Smith better? That's where you look to the schedule. The Chiefs in 2017 face a slate that includes a slew of teams that were susceptible to allowing big YAC numbers in 2016. Certainly things rarely remain static from year to year when it comes to NFL defenses. But seeing as how this is what we have to go on, it's at least a start.

The fantasy bounce-back no one saw coming


Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

It wasn't all that long ago that Dalton was on track to be a top 10 fantasy quarterback. Before a fractured thumb prematurely ended his 2015 season, he was the seventh-best player at his position. Sure, plenty of people like to snicker at the concept of Andy Dalton, Productive Fantasy Quarterback but it's really a real thing guys.

Something has clicked for Dalton in the past couple of seasons, notably his ability to protect the football. After tossing 17 picks in 2014 alone, the Red Rocket has been intercepted just 15 times in the last two seasons combined. The biggest difference between his solid 2015 play and his mediocre showing in 2016 seems fairly easy to pinpoint -- six fewer games with A.J. Green.

It didn't take a football genius to see that the Bengals were a much more effective offensive team with Green on the field. Hot take: losing a great offensive player to injury will make your offense weaker. But Green is back and (hopefully) healthy for a full 16 games this year. Put his talent back on the field with the more efficient Dalton, sprinkle in a dose of dual-threat running back Joe Mixon and watch the Red Rocket take off yet again.

The young QB on the cusp of greatness


Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

Mariota started to scratch the surface last year with a few early-season breakout games. Sadly, it ended in disappointment with a broken leg in Week 16. But we've seen what the best of the young Titans quarterback could be.

Part of his increased success came from using his legs a little more in 2016. After running the ball just 34 times as a rookie, that number bumped up to 60 in 2016. It was probably more in line with what many observers always expected from Mariota. Despite his apparent efforts to prove to the world that he was more than just an athletic running quarterback, it made sense for him to put one of his best attributes on display.

Now that he's established himself as a productive signal-caller (and a nearly unstoppable red zone force), he could be ready to take the next step with a new group of pass-catchers. The Titans have made a commitment to getting Mariota help in the passing game by adding free agent Eric Decker and drafting rookie Corey Davis. After just missing out on the top 10 last season, Mariota could kick the door down in 2017.

Second-year fantasy sleeper quarterback


Paxton Lynch, Denver Broncos

Yep, I said it. Fight me.

Dak Prescott isn't a sleeper. I'm not sure how much progression we can expect from Carson Wentz or Jared Goff. Cody Kessler will be looking over his shoulder at DeShone Kizer. And barring injury, none of the others may even see the field this year. That leaves us with Lynch.

As of this writing, Trevor Siemian reportedly has a lead in the race to be the Broncos starting quarterback but Lynch is said to be closing the gap. It's certainly encouraging that Emmanuel Sanders talked about Lynch looking "more relaxed" while Demaryius Thomas mentioned the young quarterback "lighting it up" at mini-camp.

Siemian wasn't terrible in 2016. He wasn't great either. The Broncos stuck with him last season because he was a safe, stable presence under center. The difference is that Lynch offers a more athletic option under center who's not afraid to take shots down the field. It's an option that could allow offensive coordinator Mike McCoy to do more things with his passing attack. Throwing to Thomas and Sanders isn't a bad way to get your feet wet in the NFL.

One late-round fantasy quarterback to rule them all


Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Everything is pointing to this being the year that Jameis Winston sprouts wings and flies to the upper echelon of fantasy QB stardom. In his first two seasons in the league, Winston has displayed a mixture of fearlessness and recklessness normally reserved for intergalactic bounty hunters. Now ... he has weapons.

That's not to suggest he was without aid in his first two years. Winston and Mike Evans have made beautiful fantasy football music together in the two seasons they've been teammates. Winston also played a large part in Cameron Brate's coming-out party last season. It's just that this year, the Bucs have gone all-in on trying to ratchet up their offensive danger level by putting DeSean Jackson and rookie tight end O.J. Howard in the mix. Suddenly Tampa's passing attack has the makings of a potent outfit.

If I could make one request, it would be that Winston do a better job taking care of the football. He's thrown 33 interceptions in 32 career games -- a number that isn't going to win a lot of adulation from anyone that isn't an opposing defender. If he can have a Dalton-like turnaround and keep the INT numbers down, a top 10 finish is a certainty while a top five ranking isn't out of the question.

The undervalued veteran fantasy quarterback


Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings

This whole list is feeling like it should be retitled "Fantasy Quarterbacks No One Wants ... But Really Should."

And you really should want Sam Bradford. I talked about it here but I'm willing to hit you with some of the highlights.

After posting respectable totals in an offense he had been given just days to learn, Bradford will now have a full offseason of study and a chance to continue working with a sneakily underrated receiving corps ... oh, and Dalvin Cook out of the backfield.

I'm not pretending that Bradford is going to be your undisputed QB1 each and every week. But considering where you're going to draft him, you're not expecting that anyway. Get yourself a solid QB rotation and prosper.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com and a man who can't really think of anything clever to put at the bottom of his signature right now. Usually it just comes to him. But today, he seems to have a mental block. Tweet him with your snappy repartee @MarcasG. If you read all of that, congrats. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat (marcasg9).

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