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RISERS and FALLERS: Honorable and dishonorable

With most leagues finishing up in Week 16, the season has already unofficially come to a close. A lot has changed since your fantasy draft as every single one of your players has seen their value flux. Some players have walked a golden path to stardom while others completely messed themselves in 2016 and will be light years away from where they once stood in the rankings. Here’s the ultimate breakdown of the Risers versus the Fallers.

Risers

Quarterback: Dak Prescott (Honorable mention: Derek Carr)

Prescott may arguably be the fantasy MVP given that he was likely a free-agent pick-up after Tony Romo‘s injury. Getting a player free of cost who goes ahead and combines for 30 touchdowns on the year is the definition of a win. Prescott’s projections next season will be sky high after his stellar rookie year. Next year, he’ll get his entire offensive line back, Ezekiel Elliott will have a pro season under his belt, hopefully Dez Bryant can stay healthy for a full 16 games, and Cole Beasley will be a known commodity for his quarterback. Prescott’s play not only created value for himself but he may end up shoving Tony Romo off to a new home (hopefully Denver) where he can become a viable option, increasing overall depth at the quarterback position.

Running back 1: David Johnson

With all the hype behind Ezekiel Elliott for MVP and people falling all over themselves for Le’Veon Bell‘s running style, Johnson has almost become a forgotten man. Never have we seen a player have the type of season that Johnson had and do it so quietly. With well over 2,000 total yards, 77 catches, and 20 touchdowns, Johnson had the kind of season that would make LaDainian Tomlinson blush. Arizona was a mess this season and there are bound to be shakeups coming down the pipe (head coach and quarterback for example) but Johnson should remain unfazed. Next season, don’t discount the fact that Johnson plays behind maybe the second best offensive line in the league when you’re drafting at the two spot. He’s gone from a low-end first round selection to a top-three overall.

Running back 2: Melvin Gordon

It was a crying shame to see Gordon go down in Week 14. He had successfully hit the reset button and was well on his way to joining the elite when he suffered his injury. Through the first 13 games, Gordon went for 997 yards rushing with 400-plus yards receiving. He managed to clear the pylon 12 times as well. Those are the kind of numbers most would be happy to see their running back finish a 16-game slate with. Gordon was a steal this past draft but his price tag is going to go through the roof in 2017. If Gordon can go into Week 17 and turn in a big showing, owners will have a lasting memory in the back of their minds as they enter the off season.

Wide receiver 1: Jordy Nelson

After suffering an ACL injury last year, it was 50-50 what kind of season Nelson would be in for. Either he would respond with vigor and return to his prominence, or he’d take the path of Kelvin Benjamin and fail to live up to expectations. Lucky for us, Nelson took the high road and went over 1,000 yards with 14 scores. With another great season coming to a close, Nelson has done enough to join the ranks of the likes of Mike Evans and Odell Beckham next season. We hope you enjoyed his relatively low cost this year as he’s going to be a mid-first rounder next go around.

Wide receiver 2: Doug Baldwin

Over the years, we can’t help but laugh at all the drafters who scoff at an amazing season and completely write the player off. When Victor Cruz had his breakout 1,600-yard season, everyone seemed quick to jump off the train as there was no way he could produce like that again. This season, the single player with the most haters was unquestionably Doug Baldwin. “He can’t repeat those touchdown totals.” “He won’t see that many targets again.” “The running game is to going to take over.” Well, thanks for the bargain bin win. While it’s true that the touchdown total has come down from last season, he does have 8 on the year when you include the trick play TD toss to Russell Wilson. Eight touchdowns is nothing to sneeze at, especially when you consider someone like Julio Jones only has 5 on the year. Sitting at 92 catches and 8 scores with a game left to go, Baldwin could see his first 100-catch year while flirting with double-digit TDs.

Tight end: Jimmy Graham

While everyone was chasing after Thomas Rawls and Russell Wilson, it was Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham that they should have been hot for. Sitting at over 850 yards with 6 touchdowns, Graham could inflate his stats even further. In fact, with all the issues surrounding Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Reed, it could be Travis Kelce and Jimmy Graham going 1 and 2 from the tight end spot next season. Graham has shaken off the potential career-threatening knee injury and returned to being one of the biggest mismatch nightmares in the NFL. Being a year further removed from his surgery will only increase our expectations of him in 2017.

Flex: LeGarrette Blount

A 1,000-yard season alone would have been enough to justify his draft position. Then you factor in the 17 touchdowns and it looks as though you got a bonus first round selection for free. With one more still to go, there is the outside chance that Blount joins Arizona’s David Johnson as the only two backs to break into the 20-touchdown total. A lot can go wrong with the Patriots’ running back position year to year but as long as Blount returns next season, he’ll have a low-end RB1 label attached to his name.

About Patrick White

Have been with Sharks for seven years. Been printed and published. Have been copied by, faced off against, and beaten some of the fiercest competition and abbreviated outlets in football. If you read RnF and live by the old "If you're not first, you're last" mentality, you'll be just fine.