By now, I hope you know NFL Fantasy LIVE has returned to your television screen. And if not, shame on you. Because we're back, baby.
NFL Fantasy LIVE is running a five-part series this week called "NFL Fantasy LIVE: Top 50 Players of 2016," airing each night on NFL Network at 8:00 p.m. ET. So far the show has revealed players 50 through 21, with the latest 10 entrants on the list being discussed on Wednesday night. Oh, right, the list. The list was compiled using the aggregate ranking from our esteemed panel of analysts, so it's not just one person's rankings -- it's the best picture as to how our collective group of football diehards view the fantasy landscape in 2016. Good stuff, right?
Each night I'll provide a reaction and analysis piece on the latest 10 players who have been unveiled. Below, you'll find the list of players, followed by my analysis of each position. Let's get to it!
- C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver Broncos
- Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders
- Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints
- Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
- LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills
- Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints
- Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
- Thomas Rawls, RB, Seattle Seahawks
- Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Jets
Sometimes money talks in fantasy football, which is why we should be less worried about C.J. Anderson in 2016. After his strong postseason performance, the Broncos locked him up with a four-year $18 million dollar deal. Anderson was a disappointment last yea. He was relegated to a committee backfield as he fought his way back from foot and knee injuries, but the backfield should mostly be his this fall (pending more injuries). Fully healthy and in a more run-heavy offense, he should be set to bounce back in a big way.
Amari Cooper led all rookie wide receivers in every statistical category, with only Tyler Lockett tying his touchdown total (six). Word out of Oakland is he's taken the next step and built an improved rapport with quarterback Derek Carr. Cooper possesses immense talent and his ceiling is huge if everything goes right this fall (which is why he's being drafted as a high-end WR2). However, his floor is pretty low too. He only saw seven targets in the red zone last year (compared to 13 for Michael Crabtree), and with the Raiders defense improved this offseason, the team might not need to rely on Carr's arm so much to win games. That could lead to an increase in rush attempts instead of passes late in games, reducing Cooper's opportunities. I'm not saying don't draft him, I'm just expressing a few words of caution.
Brandin Cooks scared the fantasy world when he posted six single-digit fantasy outings in the first seven weeks. He rallied after that, though. After Drew Brees got healthy, the duo synced up, resulting in Cooks scoring 13-plus fantasy points in six of his final nine games. He could be a bit of a boom-or-bust player on a weekly basis, as he had three games with 3.5 or fewer points down the stretch, but his weekly ceiling is worth chasing at this point in drafts. Plus, when plugged in beat writers are suggesting Cooks' floor is 1,200 yards, it helps fantasy fans feel a bit more comfortable.
Cam Newton is one of the elite fantasy quarterbacks worthy of an early-ish pick, but he should be the QB2, as I expressed yesterday. Yes, Kelvin Benjamin is returning but Cam and the Panthers scored touchdowns at a historic clip last year. They're certainly due for some regression, which slides Newton down a peg for me.
LeSean McCoy's 12.2 fantasy points per game last year was the seventh most among top-20 scoring running backs. He managed that without many touchdowns. Despite leading the team in red zone touches, McCoy managed just three scores in that space. He'll need to be more effective this year if he hopes to fend off Karlos Williams (assuming he gets in shape), who was much more effective close to the end zone, scoring four touchdowns on 11 rushing attempts. Still, the Bills were the most run-heavy team in the league last year, and should remain ground-oriented in their attack.
Prior to his injury, Mark Ingram was the RB4 in standard leagues and one of the most consistent players in all of fantasy. In 12 games he scored less than 9.6 fantasy points just once. The return of a healthy C.J. Spiller will take a small chunk out of Ingram's workload, but he proved he was capable of a three-down workload last season and will likely keep that up in 2016. He's a value at this point in drafts.
To say Eddie Lacy was a fantasy disappointment in 2015 is the understatement of the century. By the end of fantasy draft season, he was close to being the No. 1 overall pick thanks to his presumed consistency. That all fell to pieces as he battled weight issues and injuries all season. Now slimmed down, healthy and playing for a new contract, Lacy is a prime bounce-back candidate. Getting him in the third round will be a total bargain this fall.
Thomas Rawls made it this high on this list, because when we initially made these rankings his injury status was still a relative mystery and the C.J. Prosise hype train hadn't left the station. If Rawls earns the starting gig, he should be able to produce at a solid fantasy level, as his 5.6 yards per carry in 2015 were the most among running backs with at least 100 attempts. However, he was barely used in the passing game, and Prosise figures to earn that work this year. His floor will be quite low if this is a committee, especially in PPR formats. He should be a few tiers back in this list in my opinion.
When considering where to draft Mike Evans, throw out last year. Seriously, take those stats, print them out, and throw them right in the trash. It was a bad year for Evans, who is a very talented player. He carried injuries into the early portion of the season and even admitted he lacked a great rapport with rookie quarterback Jameis Winston. He and Winston worked to improve their chemistry this offseason. With Vincent Jackson inching closer to the twilight of his career, Evans could inherit an even bigger portion of the passing volume. He's a high-end WR2 this year without a doubt.
Yes, Brandon Marshall might have Geno Smith as his quarterback in 2015, but no, you shouldn't be that worried about it. The combination of Chan Gailey's offense with Marshall and Eric Decker as the top receivers will give Smith every opportunity he needs to succeed. Marshall won't come close to his crazy stats from last year -- even if Fitzpatrick returns -- but he should post solid WR2 numbers regardless of who his quarterback is.
So there you have it. That's my reaction and analysis to the latest crop of 10 players from "NFL Fantasy LIVE: Top 50 Players of 2016." Check back tomorrow for my reaction to the next 10 players ... after you watch the show on NFL Network at 8:00 p.m. ET. You can find each night's piece at www.nfl.com/fantasytop50.
Until next time ...