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2016 fantasy football predictions: Who's No. 1?

The 2016 fantasy football season is almost here. After months of research, tape study, and reflection, our analysts are ready to unveil their predictions for how the fantasy season will unfold. Check out all of the predictions for several major categories below.

2016 Fantasy Player of the Year

Michael Fabiano - Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams: Gurley didn't start his first NFL game as a rookie until Week 4, which makes his 1,106 yards, 10 touchdowns and 187.4 fantasy points even more impressive. He also averaged almost 16 fantasy points per game in the 12 games he started. Gurley will be one of the next great fantasy runners.

Marcas Grant - Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers: Now that he has his band back together -- plus a slimmer Eddie Lacy -- Rodgers is poised to lead one of the most potent offenses the NFL has ever seen. After a disappointing (by Rodgers' standards) 2015 season, the league's top quarterback will be back with a vengeance in 2016.

Alex Gelhar - David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals: Assuming no quarterback pulls a Cam Newton from last year, I expect Johnson to make a serious run at this award. His ability both as a runner and pass-catcher sets him up for one of the highest fantasy ceilings of any player in 2016.

James Koh - Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys: I'm not scared in saying Zeke could legitimately be in line for one of the best rookie rushing seasons of all time. The former Buckeye looked like Earl Campbell against the Seahawks. He could push for 1,800 total yards with 13 to 15 touchdowns behind this offensive line and playing in the NFC East.

Matt Franciscovich - Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers: By definition, the Fantasy Player of the Year is the player who scores the most fantasy points. And it's almost always a quarterback. So I'm going with Aaron Rodgers because he's got his Jordy back, he's got his Eddie back and he's going to have his mojo back. Watch out for the Packers this season.

Matt Harmon - Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants: It wouldn't surprise me if we look back in November and wonder why Beckham wasn't the clear 1.01. The Giants ranked ninth and sixth in the NFL in pass attempts in Ben McAdoo's offense the last two seasons but don't have too many options to sling those passes at. If Odell sees an Antonio Brown/Julio Jones level share of the targets, he could crush the scoreboard in his second season.

2016 Breakout Player of the Year

Michael Fabiano - David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals: Johnson started a mere five games as a rookie, but he still finished seventh in fantasy points among running backs. You might consider that a "breakout season," but I don't ... not when you consider how high his statistical ceiling is when you project him over 16 starts. D.J. is a monster.

Marcas Grant - Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers: We seemed on the way to having this happen last year until an unfortunate injury derailed Allen's season. Now that he's healthy and ready to go, Allen should see a large volume of targets and has a chance to finish the year as a top-five fantasy receiver.

Alex Gelhar - Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers: Last year was a perfect storm of disastrous circumstances for Gordon. He came in with over-the-moon expectations, had to play behind a patchwork offensive line (26 different lineups in 16 games), and the passing game sputtered without most of the top options. All of that has changed this year. Gordon looks more confident and explosive as a second-year player, resembling the back who ran roughshod over the Big Ten. The team believes in Gordon and will give him every chance to succeed. He will take those chances and run his way to a breakout season in 2016.

James Koh - Marvin Jones, WR, Detroit Lions: My favorite sleeper this year and a guy I tabbed as my #MarchTo1100 choice, Jones could legitimately see 130-plus targets this year. If he does don't be surprised if he goes for 1,200 receiving yards and eight to 10 scores.

Matt Franciscovich - Christine Michael, RB, Seattle Seahawks:Welcome to The Awakening. I caped up for Michael before the preseason started, and he's impressed thus far. He'll push for touches behind Thomas Rawls and could develop a major role in what's likely to be a committee backfield in Seattle.

Matt Harmon - Donte Moncrief, WR, Indianapolis Colts: The easiest breakout to spot this season, everything is pointing up for Moncrief. He plays in an offense that could push for the league lead in pass attempts and will be hard pressed to see less than 120 targets. His game took a big step forward last year and the stats will reflect that this season.

2016 Biggest Disappointment

Michael Fabiano - Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons: Freeman came out of nowhere to lead all runners in fantasy points last season. He also had a historic four-game stretch where he scored nine times and put up 25-plus points in each contest. That isn't happening again. I wouldn't be surprised if he fell out of the top 10 backs for 2016.

Marcas Grant - Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: This year's Steelers offense isn't the one we've been used to seeing over the past couple of seasons. No Martavis Bryant for the full season. No Le'Veon Bell for three games. No Ladarius Green for who knows how long? Antonio Brown is great, but he can't do everything. Big Ben could struggle this season.

Alex Gelhar - Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints: He's being drafted as a high-end WR2 currently, and I fear the number of talented options in the Saints' passing attack will force Cook into a handful of outings where he isn't a focal point of the offense (as was the case last year). His season-long numbers will still probably be good, but his week-to-week volatility will be a headache and cost some fantasy owners a trip to the playoffs.

James Koh - Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots: Edelman comes off the board in Round 5 and I just don't get it. He has a lonnnnng injury history, Tom Brady will be gone for four games, he's topped 1,000 receiving yards just ONCE in his seven-year career and his seven scores last year were a career high as well. You would need almost everything to go right for him to pay dividends as a fifth-round pick.

Matt Franciscovich - Coby Fleener, TE, New Orleans Saints: Back in May, Coby Fleener seemed like a shoo-in as a top-five fantasy tight end. But with several reports from Saints camp that he's having a hard time learning and fitting into the offense, fantasy drafters should take heed of this drum beat. Fleener's projected value may not be as simple as "Saints tight end equals copious touchdowns."

Matt Harmon - DeVante Parker, WR, Miami Dolphins: Earlier in the offseason, many pegged the Miami wideout as a clear breakout player for the 2016 season but Reception Perception always viewed him as a player not ready for that title. There has been zero positive offseason buzz on Parker and Kenny Stills ran ahead of him in the preseason. We're out of reasons to spend a single-digit round pick on him.

2016 Fantasy Rookie of the Year

Michael Fabiano - Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys: I can't imagine anyone NOT listing Elliott in this space. He's a three-down runner with massive upside in a Dallas offense that made DeMarco Murray a fantasy star and turned Darren McFadden back into a productive fantasy runner. I wouldn't be afraid to draft him in the first round in 2016.

Marcas Grant - Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys: Yes, Zeke will be everything we expect him to be behind that monstrous offensive line. The insertion of Dak Prescott into the starting lineup could present an interesting option that involves a lot of read option with Elliott. Giddy up!

Alex Gelhar - Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys:Tony Romo's injury makes Elliott that much more indispensable to the offense. Darren McFadden averaged over 10 fantasy points per game while Romo was out last year, and Elliott is a much younger and better player than McFadden. Expect a monster season from the rookie in Dallas.

James Koh - Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys: See above.

Matt Franciscovich - Derrick Henry, RB, Titans: Yes, Ezekiel Elliot is the chalk pick here, and he's going to be great. But don't sleep on Henry either. Yes, he's behind a veteran starter on the depth chart, but if the Titans are smart, they'll realize that their offense will move better with Henry getting the rock. He moves piles. He can catch. He's got lateral quickness and goal-line power. He's a steal with his mid- to late-round asking price.

Matt Harmon - Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants: I'm just giving you someone other than the obvious (Ezekiel Elliott) here, because his greatness should be just that by now: obvious. Shepard is the clear-cut No. 2 receiver on an offense that will throw the ball a ton. He's already a strong route-runner who could push for 80 catches as a rookie.

2016 Biggest Bargain

Michael Fabiano - Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers: Admittedly, some ADPs are a little off ... but when I see Gordon coming off the board in Round 11, well, that stinks of a potential bargain. Do I guarantee he'll "break out?" No, but getting a starting runner with upside at that point is a steal. Gordon has also looked great in preseason work.

Marcas Grant - Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: He finished just outside of the top 10 last season (QB13), but was the seventh-best overall QB-scorer from Weeks 7 through 17. While Winston didn't frequently offer big point totals (he scored 20-plus points just twice), he offered one of the safer floors at the position by never scoring fewer than 12.4 points in any contest.

Alex Gelhar - Christine Michael, RB, Seattle Seahawks: Currently going in the double-digit rounds in almost all formats, Michael is this year's best candidate to turn in a Devonta Freeman-esque surprise campaign. Michael looks to be at worst part of a 1-2 punch in Seattle, and at best the team's primary back while Thomas Rawls works to return from his ankle injury. This situation checks all the boxes for a great fantasy running back campaign (talented back, good offense, elite quarterback, strong defense, etc.).

James Koh - DeSean Jackson, WR, Washington Redskins: Contract year. I'm not sure we need more analysis but if you do here you go: Washington's backfield has been decimated by injuries meaning this will encourage coach Jay Gruden to throw even more than they did last year, which was not a little. If he's healthy, D-Jax will see 110-plus targets and blow away his Round 8 to 10 value.

Matt Franciscovich - Jared Cook, TE, Green Bay Packers: You can pick up Cook, who presents top-five upside at his position, in the last round of your draft so you should probably do that in all of your leagues. Rodgers finally has the speedy tight end he's been lacking for years and Green Bay's No. 3 receiver competition is irrelevant due to Cook's presence. I'm calling 10-plus touchdowns for the former Ram.

Matt Harmon - Marvin Jones, WR, Detroit Lions: The Lions have ranked outside the top-six in pass attempts just once with Matthew Stafford under center. It's hard to fathom a scenario where Jones sees less than 120 targets and has a career red zone touchdown/target rate of 37.5 percent. His ADP is finally pushing the top-30 receivers but he can sneak into the top-24.

2016 Waiver Wire add of the Year

Michael Fabiano - Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys: Call me insane. Call me a Dallas homer. But Prescott has a lot going for him in Big D. The starter until Tony Romo returns, he'll be playing behind a great line in an offense loaded with talent. The rookie also has a great schedule based on FPA, and his skills as a runner make him interesting.

Marcas Grant - Shane Vereen, RB, Giants: The Giants backfield looks like it might gain a measure of clarity this year with Rashad Jennings taking the lead, but Vereen has a chance to make a big impact as a pass-catcher in Ben McAdoo's offense. He could end up as one of the reasons Eli Manning finishes the year as a top-10 fantasy quarterback.

Alex Gelhar - Chris Thompson, RB, Washington Redskins: With both Matt Jones and Keith Marshall recovering from injuries, look for Thompson to sneak in and pick up a ton of early work. Thompson was a dynamic pass-catcher for the Redskins last year, and should return to that role at the very least. His ability in space could make him a sneaky-good add this year. He could post a poor man's version of Danny Woodhead's 2015 season -- when he finished as the RB11 in standard scoring formats.

James Koh - Tajae Sharpe, WR, Tennessee Titans: I'm buying into the preseason hype. He's a 6-foot-2 wideout who runs sharp, daresay "Sharpe," routes (I'll delete my account now), ran a totally respectable 4.55 40-yard dash and has great hands if we are to believe the scouting/practice reports. With a developing Marcus Mariota, Sharpe could be a reliable every-week flex starter that you just got for free off the waiver wire.

Matt Franciscovich - Zach Zenner, RB, Detroit Lions:Ameer Abdullah is set to lead the Lions' backfield this year, but he doesn't have the power-running skill set it takes to be an option at the goal-line. Zenner is probably going to be that guy this year for Detroit and I can see him getting scooped on waivers as a touchdown vulture with upside for a bigger workload as the season progresses.

Matt Harmon - Malcolm Mitchell, WR, New England Patriots: A tremendous prospect and perfect fit in New England's offense, he came back quickly from an elbow injury and will take snaps at X-receiver. The Patriots skill position players ahead of him have injury questions. It wouldn't shock me at all if Mitchell is an established member of that target share by the end of the season, one way or another.

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