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Players to Target in 2016

NFL training camps are about to open up and football players are going to start reporting. You know what that means?! Football season is upon us – obviously. You didn’t come here for the comedy show though. Today I will name some players to target and in the coming weeks I’ll cover some landmines to avoid. This series of articles is really just a cute way to name undervalued and overvalued players in your upcoming drafts. As one of the best fantasy minds in the world today, I suggest you take these to heart. Let’s get down to business.

Targets

Amari Cooper

The list of rookie WRs to top 1,000 yards is extremely short – it’s includes Randy Moss, Odell Beckham and A.J. Green. Cooper’s rookie season was an absolute eye opener for most of the season but as he wore down during the latter stages of his first year, as most rookies do, it put a damper on the outlook for 2016. You may actually be receiving quite the discount believe it or not. If Cooper had duplicated his first 8 career games during the second half of 2015, he would have finished with 90 receptions, 1,300 yards and 8 TDs; would we be getting him at the 2nd/3rd round turn? No shot. Elite route running, run after the catch ability and another valuable year of experience in a very good situation on an offense trending up means Cooper has a floor of 1,200 yards and 8 TDs. That is a lot more than you can say for the running backs you would be drafting in the same tier of your draft. Be on the right side of history here. Draft Cooper, and when he exceeds his floor by a couple hundred yards and a couple scores, you’ll realize this was the last year of his career you will be able to draft him at his current discount.

 

Michael Floyd

Possibly the biggest bargain in all of fantasy football currently. With an ADP (average draft position) in the 50-55 range as the 25th WR drafted, you are drafting a a player who dominated on the field once healthy in 2015. Floyd didn’t have an injured knee, or ankle, or hamstring; rather simply a hand. Fully healed, Michael Floyd took the field in Week 4 and after getting acclimated back into the intricate Cardinals passing attack had 100 yards or a touchdowns in 6 of the next 8 games (Cardinals’ starters didn’t play much in Week 17). He truly only had one down games with his seventh best game of those eight being a 5-catch, 70-yard performance. He had over 100 yards receiving in five of those same eight games. We are easily talking about one of the ten best receivers in the league over that stretch. Yet, he is suddenly now being drafted 25th at the position?? Did I miss another injury here? Because that is the only thing that will stop him in 2016. Receivers with his athleticism don’t come along very often. The 26-year-old has averaged 17.1 yards per catch on 99 receptions over the last two seasons. Sixty-five catches is definitely not too much to ask here, and if that happens, we are looking at 1,100+ yards.

 

Rashad Jennings

It is dollar store discounts like these that have me avoiding ALL running backs in the early rounds in fantasy football these days. I have not been drafting RBs early (rounds 1-3) for a few years now and this year seems to me to be the very best as far as mid-to-late round RB talent goes. Sure, Jennings is 31 years old and has never even eclipsed 900 yards rushing, but guess what, just like every other RB taken before him, the odds point to them not lasting a full season. Jennings is clearly the best runner in the Giants backfield right now and undoubtedly the most complete back of the bunch. At 4.4 yards per carry and 10.0 yards per reception in 2015, Jennings is not a worn down 31-year-old back.

Jennings was leaned on heavily by the Giants offense in the last month of the season – going over 100 total yards in each of the last four games for the New York Football Giants. He had 86 touches to be exact over those four games. Am I expecting Jennings to get 20 touches per game all season long? Well no, he’s a RB and won’t last. But to open to season am I expecting him to get 18 per game? Yes, I really am. And here is the best part, over those four games when he proved he can be plenty productive given the opportunity, he only played a grand total of 150 snaps. Wait, that is only 37 snaps per game. Not so heavy of a load as we thought. Jennings will open the season in a very similar role and is a huge bargain at his current ADP of the 100th player off the board.

 

Eric Ebron

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Is a backup fantasy tight end someone to target? Sure, if you know how to win your fantasy football league. What if you miss out on the BIG 3 tight ends (Gronkowski, Reed, Olsen)? My recommendation is to wait, and wait a while. Grab a couple potential breakout players with Ebron leading that discussion. Ebron just turned 23 years old, folks. That is a baby in the NFL. The only thing about this baby is that he is 6’4″, 265 pounds and is a smooth, explosive athlete who just needed a little time to perfect his craft. Ebron improved in every statistical category from his rookie year to his 2nd year as a pro and it would hardly be shocking if he did that again in his third year.

Ebron was the 4th-most targeted player on the Lions in 2015, and will clearly become the 3rd most important skill position player on the offense in 2016. There will be 149 available targets in the Lions offense due to the retirement of Calvin Johnson. And while Marvin Jones is no slouch; Ebron is a virtual lock to increase his snaps from 617 and his targets from 70. Matthew Stafford threw the football 592 times a year ago and there are not many reason to believe that will decrease. The other telling stat from this football team – Eric Ebron averages MORE THAN two more yards per catch than does Golden Tate. If Ebron can crank out 537 yards and 5 TDs in a limited role over 14 games, even a slight uptick and two more games played could put him in the 750 yards, 7 TD category. That would tie him exactly with Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce in points scored. Travis Kelce‘s average draft position is 65 overall; Eric Ebron‘s is 135.

 

Ryan Tannehill

Yes yes, we heard this song and dance this time last year. But now Adam Gase is in town and simply put, the man knows successful offensive football. Crazy to think that 4,300+ yards and 25 touchdowns was a disappointment for Tannehill in 2015, but it was with the level of hype he reached going into the season. He finished as the QB15 in fantasy football, so now he is being drafted around the same area, correct? Well no, more like being drafted after 18-19 other QBs are off the board.

Ryan Tannehill is going to improve his numbers, period. The Dolphins were worst in the NFL in 3rd down conversion – that will not happen again. DeVante Parker has emerged as a potential WR1 in this offense, with Jarvis Landry filling his role admirably in the slot and tight end Jordan Cameron‘s talents just sitting there finally asking to be used correctly. The Phins plan to push the tempo as well which absolutely suits Tannehill’s skill set better. Quicker decisions, but more control at the line with the use of his athleticism fits perfectly into what Gase is trying to accomplish on offense. Throw in that the team will be using the unproven Jay Ajayi and Arian Foster, who will be limited due to his age and injury history, at running back and the fact that the offensive line has improved, and Tannehill’s ADP of 140 overall makes him virtually free with a real chance of him living up to his 2015 hype of a top 6-9 QB.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @JohnnyLFootball and feel free to ask me any questions you have leading up to your draft. You can also catch me on the radio Thursday Mornings 945ET/845 Cental time starting on July 28th as I will be talking fantasy football every week on the Scotty Mac Sports Ticket radio show – 93.5 FM Panama City, 100.3 FM Destin and 97.1 Pensacola. Listen in with the Tune In radio app on your phone or tablet and thanks again for reading. Have a great week.

About John Lanfranca