Coaching changes, free agency, and the NFL Draft all loom as factors that will change the fantasy landscape in 2016. I’m here to alert you as to what to watch for and who the fantasy-impact players will be in 2016. It’s never too early to look ahead and see what the future may bring. Let’s dive in!
*Teams are in alphabetical order*
Arizona Cardinals – Tight End
The Cardinals will head into 2016 with returning starters:
The only position that does not have clarity is the tight end position. This offense could be even better with a solid tight end. Jermaine Gresham and Daniel Fells, their two leading tight ends, are free agents heading into the offseason. Imagine if they got an athletic tight end that could stretch the field more than the ones they have currently? It will be interesting to see how Bruce Arians and the Cardinals front office decide to improve their offense this season and if that means a TE acquisition that can make an impact.
Atlanta Falcons – Wide Receiver
Matt Ryan will return along with a combo of young talented running backs in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. They have to get somebody to help Julio Jones and the passing attack. Roddy White is on his last leg and Justin Hardy is a slot receiver that could become serviceable. They need a receiver on the outside opposite of Jones that can help carry the workload of the passing offense. If they can do that, it will help Matt Ryan coming off of this bad year. If they get a competent No. 2 receiver, he could be a 60+ receptions, 6+ TD kind of player in this offense as he should mostly see single coverage.
Baltimore Ravens – Wide Receiver
Somebody has to step up in 2016 at wide receiver for this team. Steve Smith is coming back for next year, but this should be his last year. This leaves Breshad Perriman, who is very unproven, as their No. 1 option. With Joe Flacco, a running attack of Justin Forsett and Javorius Allen, and young tight ends in Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams they should have a solid nuclues. They need weapons on the outside for Flacco to open up the offense. Next season, they may go with a lot of 2 TE, 2 WR sets and really hit the ground game hard and work off play-action, a style in which Flacco is very efficient.
Perriman could be their deep ball guy, but who will be their possession receiver? Will they try to limit Smith’s snaps? A wide receiver that takes on the starting role could be in store for a 80+ receptions, 8+ TD kind of season in 2016. Steve Smith had 46 receptions and 3 TDs in 5 games this season before getting hurt. Extrapolated over 15 games, he would have had 138 receptions and 9 touchdowns.
Buffalo Bills – N/A
Tyrod Taylor will likely sign a long-term deal with the Bills, LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams will be the backs, Charles Clay at tight end, with Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods as the only producing wide receivers. This offense is all in place for 2016 and will just need an offseason of establishing more chemistry to become more efficient. The Buffalo Bills offense won’t be high-powered in 2016, but could have some top-tier players at the three key positions that could produce solid fantasy seasons (Taylor, McCoy, Watkins).
Carolina Panthers – N/A
The only thing that will change with this offense next season is Kelvin Benjamin coming back. That will make Ted Ginn Jr. more efficient next season with him not having to be their best receiver, but just a deep-ball speed player on the outside. Greg Olsen is a stud tight end, Cam Newton will look to have another MVP season, and Jonathan Stewart and their running back depth chart isn’t changing a whole lot.
Chicago Bears – Wide Receiver
I think the Bears keep Jay Cutler due to lack of talent in free agency to replace him and a weak quarterback draft. Jeremy Langford will take over the reins at running back as Matt Forte will leave in free agency. Martellus Bennett is one of the best tight ends in the league. This leaves a gaping hole at wide receiver for 2016. Alshon Jeffery may leave in free agency, Kevin White missed all of 2015 with an injury to his shin, and Eddie Royal is a slot receiver forced to play outside. They will need a true #2 to go with White next season if Jeffery leaves. If Adam Gase, the offensive coordinator for Chicago, does not get a head coaching job this offseason, the Bears offense could be good, and overall, the Bears could be a surprise next season with an improved defense.
Cincinnati Bengals – Wide Receiver
Andy Dalton has been great his season and should be a Top-10 fantasy quarterback for 2016, the combination of Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill is good for the ground game, and Tyler Eifert could put up Jimmy Graham-type numbers (when he was with the Saints) next season. The biggest question mark heading into 2016 will be with the wide receiver position. A.J. Green signed a long-term deal before this season, but Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu are free agents this offseason. Can they afford to keep them both? Which one will they keep? Will they both leave? How these questions are answered will determine who will be in line for the #2 wide receiver position. Whoever wins that role could put up 60+ receptions and 6+ TDs.
Cleveland Browns – Quarterback, Wide Receiver
It is the same question every year: Who is going to be the Cleveland Browns’ quarterback next year? Could it be steady veteran Josh McCown? Young dynamic Johnny Manziel? A free agent acquisition like Kirk Cousins or Sam Bradford? A rookie from the 2016 draft? It won’t matter who the quarterback is if they do not add some actual talent on the outside. Dwayne Bowe is a massive failure, Brian Hartline is a glorified slot receiver, and Travis Benjamin is a speed guy who could leave in free agency this offseason. They need a #1 receiver or this offense and franchise cannot move forward, whoever the quarterback is at this point.
Dallas Cowboys – Running Back, Backup Quarterback
The Cowboys have been a disaster this season. Injuries to Dez Bryant and Tony Romo destroyed any chance of them becoming the NFC East champs. If they still had DeMarco Murray to run behind that offensive line, they may have stayed in the the thick of it and actually pulled it off. I expect Jerry Jones and the Cowboys to go get themselves some running backs this offseason either by free agency or via the draft. Here are some notable RB free agents this offseason: Matt Forte, C.J. Anderson, Lamar Miller, Chris Ivory, Doug Martin, Alfred Morris.
There are some strong runners coming out this year who should be taken in the first or second round: Ezekiel Elliot, Derrick Henry, Devontae Booker. They need a good back to use that offensive line effectively. A backup quarterback is also a very vital acquisition this offseason. Tony Romo’s health and future are a little cloudy and the Cowboys would be wise to invest in a young quarterback to develop. Will it be a veteran like Johnny Manziel or Robert Griffin III, or a rookie in this year’s class?