Play enough fantasy football and you're bound to find guys that you like and want to have on your team by any means necessary. These are your Ride or Die guys. The players who are either going to lead you to fantasy success or sink the whole operation.
We here at NFL Fantasy are no different. Fantasy analysts ... they're just like us! We spend the time from February to July scouring pro and college game tape, pouring over endless statistical spreadsheets and taking the temperatures of our takes to seek out the players we're certain are going to be studs.
And now the time has come for me to grace you with my Ride or Die players for the 2016 fantasy football season. These are players (1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR) that can be drafted in Round 5 or later in most re-drafts that will return top-15 value at their respective positions. Follow me on Instagram for season-long updates on how this group fares. Let's see if I live to regret this.
Here we go.
Eli Manning, New York Giants: Few, if any, of us have been shy about promoting Manning's fantasy potential with another year in Ben McAdoo's offense coming. In fact, it's probably had a lot to do with the Giants signal-caller going from an original ADP in the double-digit rounds to coming off the board on average in the eighth round. Still, Manning remains a quality option for anyone who tends to wait a little longer to get a fantasy quarterback. He's landed in the top-15 in nine of the past 10 seasons -- including four top 10 finishes.
If that's not enough, there's more excitement about the Giants pass-catchers in 2016 than has been felt in a long time. Expectations are high for rookie Sterling Shepard. Will Tye has the chance to be a deep sleeper tight end while Shane Vereen and Rashad Jennings (121 combined targets in 2015) offer outlets from the backfield.
Oh yeah ... and there's that Beckham character, too.
Dion Lewis, New England Patriots: The Man Who Slayed Belitricks is more than deserving of a spot on this roster. Through the seven games he played last season, Lewis was averaging 12 fantasy points per game -- better than Lamar Miller, David Johnson and Danny Woodhead. It's always dangerous to try and extrapolate numbers like that over the course of a 16-game season ... but never let it be said that I don't live dangerously. At Lewis' pace from last season, he would have scored 192 total points, which would have been good for fourth. That's not PPR, folks. That's standard scoring.
Need proof of how important Lewis will be to the Patriots offense this year? They've made the decision to hold him on the PUP list in an effort to preserve him for the regular season despite a lack of setbacks in his recovery from knee surgery. With a head coach that values players who are "multiple", Lewis' dynamic ability to make plays as a runner and receiver means he can regain last season's 55 percent share of the snaps.
Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals: I can hear it now ... "Marcas, Gio's in a committee and had just two touchdowns last season. How can you be so high on him?" Well, it's because he's a good football player. It's also because Bernard provides for the Bengals offense the same type of options that Dion Lewis does for the Patriots. Last season, Bernard topped 1,200 scrimmage yards for the second time in his three NFL campaigns and far outperformed Jeremy Hill just on the eye test alone.
But to more directly answer those questions -- the Bengals have a committee approach in their backfield (like most of the NFL) but this is arguably the most well-defined committee in the league. Even with Hue Jackson taking his act to Cleveland, Bernard is still expected to be the chain mover while Hill works as the hammer. Keep in mind that touchdowns are a fickle beast ... and that works both ways. Bernard totaled 15 scores in his first two seasons before posting just two last year. Conversely, Hill wasn't exactly spectacular in the red zone last season averaging just 2.1 yards per carry (compared to Bernard's 4.7 YPC average). Here's where you hope talent and offensive fit win out.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers: I wrote at some length about Cobb's 2016 potential in my offseason Bust-a-Move series. Last season he was considered a disappointment in comparison to his breakout 2014 campaign. When Jordy Nelson went down with an injury, the expectation was that Cobb would slide up to the WR1 spot and gobble up most of that vacant production.
We all learned a valuable lesson about the need to have a bona fide No. 1 receiver who can attract attention from defenses and set everyone else up to prosper. If anything, 2015 gave us a new appreciation for Jordy Nelson. But that's not to suggest that Cobb isn't an extremely talented player. His 2014 campaign was not a fluke and if the Packers offense is anywhere near as potent as most expect this season, another 1,200 yards and double-digit touchdowns is not an impossibility.
Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals: The path to being a top-15 fantasy receiver generally includes being part of an efficient, up-tempo offense with a quarterback who can consistently get the rock to his playmaking receivers. Sure, it sounds simple. Then again, we keep trying to make Jeremy Maclin a WR1. Okay, maybe that's not 100 percent fair.
Regardless, Floyd won't have any of those obstacles down in the desert. The Cardinals ran the fifth-most plays in the league last year and were tied for sixth in yards per play. Top it off with Carson Palmer who finished third in passer rating last year, and all of the requisite elements are there. But let's not forget Floyd himself who's been vying for WR1 honors on this roster for the past couple of seasons.
Beginning the year with a finger injury put him at a disadvantage but from Week 10 until the end of the season, he led the team with 530 receiving yards. He also proved his big play potential by averaging 12.3 air yards per reception (fifth-best in the NFL last season) and 21.3 air yards per target (third-best). With a full, healthy season there could be big things in the offing for Floyd.
So there you have it, my #RideOrDie2016 squad. Check in all season long to track their progress. And keep the conversation going -- let me know your guys either in the comment section or on Twitter @MarcasG.
Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com and a man who is foolhardy enough to put this list on the Interwebs. Find him on Snapchat at marcasg9.