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Published: Jan. 4, 2017 at 11:13 a.m.
Updated: Jan. 4, 2017 at 12:38 p.m.

Top 10 Fantasy Football Draft Bargains of 2016

Drafting a championship caliber fantasy squad requires hitting on late-round bargain players that end up returning greater value than their average draft position (ADP) suggests. Sometimes, these kinds of players are easy to identify, like Melvin Gordon. He had nowhere to go but up after a zero-touchdown rookie year. But with some players, luck can be a factor. Take Davante Adams for example, who seemingly came out of nowhere this year to rise to the top of the wide receiver ranks. Yeah, didn’t see that one coming. Check out the full list of 2016 fantasy draft bargains below. How many did you own?

10 Photos Total

  • Graham was a player that many fantasy analysts, including myself, advised against drafting back in August ... and for good reason. The star tight end was recovering from a torn patellar tendon, an injury that in the past had severely limited players attempting to return to playing form. And that's exactly why he came as a bargain in drafts. Well, he proved his doubters wrong. Graham finished as the TE4 with 65 catches for 923 yards and six touchdowns on the season. Given the cluster that was the tight end position this season, Graham's 7.8 fantasy points per game average were impressive (Travis Kelce led TEs with 8.6 FPPG). Graham was Russell Wilson's second-most targeted pass-catcher behind Doug Baldwin, and he posted three 100-yard games during the year and will likely be one of the first tight ends drafted next season. 10

    Ryan Kang/NFL

    10. Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle Seahawks | NFL.com ADP: 13

    Graham was a player that many fantasy analysts, including myself, advised against drafting back in August ... and for good reason. The star tight end was recovering from a torn patellar tendon, an injury that in the past had severely limited players attempting to return to playing form. And that's exactly why he came as a bargain in drafts. Well, he proved his doubters wrong. Graham finished as the TE4 with 65 catches for 923 yards and six touchdowns on the season. Given the cluster that was the tight end position this season, Graham's 7.8 fantasy points per game average were impressive (Travis Kelce led TEs with 8.6 FPPG). Graham was Russell Wilson's second-most targeted pass-catcher behind Doug Baldwin, and he posted three 100-yard games during the year and will likely be one of the first tight ends drafted next season.

  • When Dak Prescott took over for an injured Tony Romo in the preseason, he went from dynasty league prospect to potential late-round flier in redraft leagues. It took him a few games to get going once the regular season started, as he didn't throw a touchdown pass until Week 3. But once he got into a groove, nobody could stop him. On one of the most run-heavy teams in the NFL, Dak managed 3,667 passing yards, 23 passing touchdowns to just four interceptions and added six rushing scores, three of which came in his first five games. He registered six 20-plus fantasy point games on the season and finished as the QB6, averaging 17.9 fantasy points per game. Just for good measure, Prescott finished the year with the best completion percentage, touchdown-to-interception ratio and passer rating by any rookie quarterback in NFL history. 9

    James D. Smith/Associated Press

    9. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys | NFL.com ADP: 15

    When Dak Prescott took over for an injured Tony Romo in the preseason, he went from dynasty league prospect to potential late-round flier in redraft leagues. It took him a few games to get going once the regular season started, as he didn't throw a touchdown pass until Week 3. But once he got into a groove, nobody could stop him. On one of the most run-heavy teams in the NFL, Dak managed 3,667 passing yards, 23 passing touchdowns to just four interceptions and added six rushing scores, three of which came in his first five games. He registered six 20-plus fantasy point games on the season and finished as the QB6, averaging 17.9 fantasy points per game. Just for good measure, Prescott finished the year with the best completion percentage, touchdown-to-interception ratio and passer rating by any rookie quarterback in NFL history.

  • The Raiders boasted one of the most potent offensive attacks of 2016, and the team's top two wideouts benefitted greatly. Both Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper finished the year as top-12 fantasy wideouts, but it was Crabtree who proved to be the better bargain based on his average draft position. With a Round 10 ADP, Crabtree delivered great value on a weekly basis for his fantasy owners. He led the Raiders in targets (145), receptions (89) and receiving touchdowns (eight). Crabtree tied for second among all NFL wideouts with 23 red-zone targets and his 9.4 fantasy points per game bested Cooper's 9.3 mark, despite the latter costing fantasy owners a much higher draft pick (Round 3). 8

    Greg Trott/Associated Press

    8. Michael Crabtree, WR, Oakland Raiders | NFL.com ADP: 10

    The Raiders boasted one of the most potent offensive attacks of 2016, and the team's top two wideouts benefitted greatly. Both Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper finished the year as top-12 fantasy wideouts, but it was Crabtree who proved to be the better bargain based on his average draft position. With a Round 10 ADP, Crabtree delivered great value on a weekly basis for his fantasy owners. He led the Raiders in targets (145), receptions (89) and receiving touchdowns (eight). Crabtree tied for second among all NFL wideouts with 23 red-zone targets and his 9.4 fantasy points per game bested Cooper's 9.3 mark, despite the latter costing fantasy owners a much higher draft pick (Round 3).

  • Following a slow start, Jay Ajayi emerged as the savior Miami's backfield -- and fantasy managers -- needed. Many drafted around Ajayi because Arian Foster projected to be the team's lead back, and he was, until Foster retired mid-season due to injury. The Dolphins were forced to thrust Ajayi into a workhorse role and it paid off for everyone involved. Once he took the reins, Ajayi went on a streak of eight straight games with eight or more standard fantasy points including back-to-back 200-yard rushing games (plus another 200-yard rushing game in Week 16). He recorded five contests with 20-plus carries and failed to post a game with fewer than 12 carries once he took over as the bell cow in Week 5. There were a couple of instances where Damien Williams vultured Ajayi on the goal line, but fantasy owners were satisfied with his eight touchdowns, especially for a guy drafted on average in Round 10. 7

    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    7. Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami Dolphins | NFL.com ADP: 10

    Following a slow start, Jay Ajayi emerged as the savior Miami's backfield -- and fantasy managers -- needed. Many drafted around Ajayi because Arian Foster projected to be the team's lead back, and he was, until Foster retired mid-season due to injury. The Dolphins were forced to thrust Ajayi into a workhorse role and it paid off for everyone involved. Once he took the reins, Ajayi went on a streak of eight straight games with eight or more standard fantasy points including back-to-back 200-yard rushing games (plus another 200-yard rushing game in Week 16). He recorded five contests with 20-plus carries and failed to post a game with fewer than 12 carries once he took over as the bell cow in Week 5. There were a couple of instances where Damien Williams vultured Ajayi on the goal line, but fantasy owners were satisfied with his eight touchdowns, especially for a guy drafted on average in Round 10.

  • With a top-eight finish among fantasy quarterbacks last year, Kirk Cousins' emergence as a legitimate fantasy option was no fluke. He finished 2016 as fantasy's QB5 and was one of just five signal callers to collect 300-plus fantasy points on the year. He finished third in the NFL in passing yards (4,917) and averaged 18.8 fantasy points per game with 29 total touchdowns (four rushing). After a Week 1 disappointment, Cousins went on a streak from Week 2 through Week 14 where he averaged 19.95 fantasy points per game, offering owners a consistently high floor. He averaged 37 pass attempts per game in Washington's pass-first offense and was able to throw for nearly 5,000 yards with a ton of talented options around him. He did struggle down the stretch with a fantasy playoff-ruining 9.7 points in Week 15, but followed up in Championship Week with 29.8 points to cap off a solid season. Cousins was drafted on average in Round 14. 6

    Damian Strohmeyer/Associated Press

    6. Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins | NFL.com ADP: 14

    With a top-eight finish among fantasy quarterbacks last year, Kirk Cousins' emergence as a legitimate fantasy option was no fluke. He finished 2016 as fantasy's QB5 and was one of just five signal callers to collect 300-plus fantasy points on the year. He finished third in the NFL in passing yards (4,917) and averaged 18.8 fantasy points per game with 29 total touchdowns (four rushing). After a Week 1 disappointment, Cousins went on a streak from Week 2 through Week 14 where he averaged 19.95 fantasy points per game, offering owners a consistently high floor. He averaged 37 pass attempts per game in Washington's pass-first offense and was able to throw for nearly 5,000 yards with a ton of talented options around him. He did struggle down the stretch with a fantasy playoff-ruining 9.7 points in Week 15, but followed up in Championship Week with 29.8 points to cap off a solid season. Cousins was drafted on average in Round 14.

  • New Orleans is usually a great landing spot for a rookie wide receiver given that Drew Brees perennially throws for 5,000 yards with his eyes closed. The only issue in fantasy is that there are so many mouths to feed that Brees tends to spread the ball around. But that didn't pose a problem for the talented Thomas, who ended up leading all rookies with 92 receptions, 1,137 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns. He finished with about five fewer fantasy points than his teammate Brandin Cooks and ranked as the WR9 in standard scoring leagues (Cooks was WR8). Thomas recorded three 100-yard games, and two multi-touchdown games in his first pro season. Not too shabby for a rookie who you could have drafted in Round 16, or perhaps snagged off the waiver wire once he started dominating the target share in New Orleans. 5

    Bill Feig/Associated Press

    5. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints | NFL.com ADP: 16

    New Orleans is usually a great landing spot for a rookie wide receiver given that Drew Brees perennially throws for 5,000 yards with his eyes closed. The only issue in fantasy is that there are so many mouths to feed that Brees tends to spread the ball around. But that didn't pose a problem for the talented Thomas, who ended up leading all rookies with 92 receptions, 1,137 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns. He finished with about five fewer fantasy points than his teammate Brandin Cooks and ranked as the WR9 in standard scoring leagues (Cooks was WR8). Thomas recorded three 100-yard games, and two multi-touchdown games in his first pro season. Not too shabby for a rookie who you could have drafted in Round 16, or perhaps snagged off the waiver wire once he started dominating the target share in New Orleans.

  • LeGarrette Blount, Zero-RB strategy hero. For fantasy owners who saw the light and understood that Blount was the only real option out of the backfield for the Patriots this season, the veteran back was a revelation. He led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns, ranked second in the league with 299 rush attempts and posted a career-high 1,161 rushing yards. The big man also recorded four 100-yard games and four multi-touchdown games while averaging 14.1 fantasy points per contest. This is a running back who was drafted, on averaged in Round 13. There may be no better example of how you can score valuable running backs late in drafts. 4

    Ryan Kang/NFL

    4. LeGarrette Blount, RB, New England Patriots | NFL.com ADP: 13

    LeGarrette Blount, Zero-RB strategy hero. For fantasy owners who saw the light and understood that Blount was the only real option out of the backfield for the Patriots this season, the veteran back was a revelation. He led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns, ranked second in the league with 299 rush attempts and posted a career-high 1,161 rushing yards. The big man also recorded four 100-yard games and four multi-touchdown games while averaging 14.1 fantasy points per contest. This is a running back who was drafted, on averaged in Round 13. There may be no better example of how you can score valuable running backs late in drafts.

  • Admit it, you were skeptical about Melvin Gordon in fantasy drafts heading into the 2016 season. It was difficult to be optimistic since he didn't score in his rookie campaign and had a knee procedure in the offseason. But he came out of the gate hot, scoring two touchdowns in the season opener and never looked back. He had just one performance all season with fewer than nine fantasy points in games that he finished and averaged 16.1 fantasy points per game for the year. Gordon posted 30-plus points twice and had three 100-yard games. He also absorbed pass-catching work when his teammate Danny Woodhead went out for the year with a knee injury in Week 2, which only boosted Gordon's weekly floor. Despite missing the final three games of the year with an injury, Gordon finished as the RB8 with 12 total touchdowns and over 1,400 yards from scrimmage. He'll be closer to a first-round pick next season rather than the Round 10 value you could have drafted him at in 2016. 3

    Peter Read Miller/Associated Press

    3. Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers | NFL.com ADP: 10

    Admit it, you were skeptical about Melvin Gordon in fantasy drafts heading into the 2016 season. It was difficult to be optimistic since he didn't score in his rookie campaign and had a knee procedure in the offseason. But he came out of the gate hot, scoring two touchdowns in the season opener and never looked back. He had just one performance all season with fewer than nine fantasy points in games that he finished and averaged 16.1 fantasy points per game for the year. Gordon posted 30-plus points twice and had three 100-yard games. He also absorbed pass-catching work when his teammate Danny Woodhead went out for the year with a knee injury in Week 2, which only boosted Gordon's weekly floor. Despite missing the final three games of the year with an injury, Gordon finished as the RB8 with 12 total touchdowns and over 1,400 yards from scrimmage. He'll be closer to a first-round pick next season rather than the Round 10 value you could have drafted him at in 2016.

  • Davante Adams was completely avoided in fantasy drafts last summer because of his drop-plagued 2015 campaign combined with the healthy return of Jordy Nelson. But Adams came out of the gate on fire, scoring three touchdowns in his first four games. The third-year receiver proved to be a better secondary option for Aaron Rodgers than Randall Cobb, who was drafted much earlier but made less of an impact due to injuries. Adams finished the year with a 62 percent catch rate, hauling in 75 of his 121 targets for 997 yards and 12 touchdowns (two of which came in Week 17). He ended the 2016 campaign as fantasy's WR7 solidifying his status as one of the most extreme bargains of the fantasy season. 2

    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    2. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers | NFL.com ADP: 16

    Davante Adams was completely avoided in fantasy drafts last summer because of his drop-plagued 2015 campaign combined with the healthy return of Jordy Nelson. But Adams came out of the gate on fire, scoring three touchdowns in his first four games. The third-year receiver proved to be a better secondary option for Aaron Rodgers than Randall Cobb, who was drafted much earlier but made less of an impact due to injuries. Adams finished the year with a 62 percent catch rate, hauling in 75 of his 121 targets for 997 yards and 12 touchdowns (two of which came in Week 17). He ended the 2016 campaign as fantasy's WR7 solidifying his status as one of the most extreme bargains of the fantasy season.

  • Matt Ryan finished as the QB19 in fantasy last year so it makes sense that nobody wanted him in drafts heading into 2016. He was drafted on average in Round 15 on NFL.com. Then he went all elite on us, producing a QB2 fantasy campaign and setting records along the way. Ryan registered 12 games with 18-plus fantasy points (most in the NFL) and finished as a top-10 fantasy quarterback in 10 of 16 games this season. Ryan posted the fourth-highest passer rating in NFL history (117.1) and averaged more than 300 passing yards per game to go along with 38 touchdown passes. He became the first player in NFL history to throw a touchdown pass to 13 different players, proving that he's not completely reliant on the talents of Julio Jones -- although Jones' presence doesn't hurt. He had just four games all season in which he threw fewer than two touchdown passes and his lowest-scoring week was a 12.68-point outing against the Eagles in Week 10. Watch out for regression next year, though. 1

    Chris Keane/Associated Press

    1. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons | NFL.com ADP: 15

    Matt Ryan finished as the QB19 in fantasy last year so it makes sense that nobody wanted him in drafts heading into 2016. He was drafted on average in Round 15 on NFL.com. Then he went all elite on us, producing a QB2 fantasy campaign and setting records along the way. Ryan registered 12 games with 18-plus fantasy points (most in the NFL) and finished as a top-10 fantasy quarterback in 10 of 16 games this season. Ryan posted the fourth-highest passer rating in NFL history (117.1) and averaged more than 300 passing yards per game to go along with 38 touchdown passes. He became the first player in NFL history to throw a touchdown pass to 13 different players, proving that he's not completely reliant on the talents of Julio Jones -- although Jones' presence doesn't hurt. He had just four games all season in which he threw fewer than two touchdown passes and his lowest-scoring week was a 12.68-point outing against the Eagles in Week 10. Watch out for regression next year, though.

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