Happy New Year to all. This season has been crazy with many surprises. This will be the first time since 2003 that neither team from the previous Super Bowl made the playoffs. Several future Hall of Famers announced their retirements. Wait for your gold blazers, gentlemen. Many rookies surprised as well. Here is my Top 10 as well a watch list for next year and a few other thoughts. Thanks for reading this season.
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas – Not only is he the top fantasy rookie, he is also in the conversation for MVP. Elliott did not disappoint in his rookie year and is like the NFL rushing leader for 2016. Elliott has scored in double digits in every game, the first rookie ever to do so. Elliott lived up to his high draft status and only trails David Johnson in total yards and in fantasy at running back. His consistency is exactly what you want in an early fantasy pick. He is locked in as a Top 3 pick next season.
Dak Prescott, Dallas – If not for his teammate above, he would be the obvious pick for rookie of the year, fantasy or not. Prescott replaced an injured (again) Tony Romo and ran away with the opportunity. The fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State surprised everybody with his play and kept the job even when Romo came back. All Prescott did was lead Dallas to the No. 1 seed for the playoffs and tie an NFL record for most wins by a rookie quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger). For fantasy purposes, he was a great pickup either very late in drafts or on the waiver wire. To top it off, he only threw four interceptions. He showed great poise and leadership for his age.
Tyreek Hill, Kansas City – I seemed to be way higher than most on Hill and started talking him up so I thank him for making me look good. Hill picked up the offense and started to soar. He is the only rookie in the Super Bowl era to score via the run, pass, punt return and kickoff return in one season. The fifth-round pick out of West Alabama has speed to kill and reminds me of another great Kansas City return man, Dante Hall. His jumping up and taking the No. 1 role when Jeremy Maclin was injured also shows leadership potential. His 11 total touchdowns don’t hurt either.
Michael Thomas, New Orleans – It sure looks like Drew Brees has a favorite target; that is never a bad thing when Brees throws it so much. Thomas proved to be the best and most consistent wide receiver for New Orleans this year, surprising many because most experts expected a big year from Brandin Cooks. Michael eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards and had more than 80 catches. Thomas earned the trust from Brees by having very few drops and scoring eight times with two 100-yard games. The second round pick from Ohio State looks to have a bright future.
Jordan Howard, Chicago – In a lost season in the windy city, Chicago found a lone bright spot in Howard. The fifth-round pick out of Indiana has rushed for more than 1,000 yards and carries a yards-per-carry of better than 5.0. He also proved very capable as a pass catcher, something Chicago has always loved from its backs. He looks to be the top rookie rusher in Chicago history: yes, ahead of Matt Forte, Walter Payton, Gale Sayers and all. At this point, Howard looks like a Top 20 pick in fantasy for next year.
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia – Wentz started off on fire and Philadelphia was flying high. In midseason the wheels seemed to come off and the offense struggled. A big part of that was the suspension of tackle Lane Johnson. With that suspension, Wentz had less time to throw and obviously that had a ripple effect. His throws were off, he suffered many sacks and the offense seemed to shut down. It also didn’t help that his receivers dropped a ton of passes. It will help a lot in 2017 with Johnson back, but Philadelphia sure could use some guys who don’t drop the ball.
Sterling Shepard – New York Giants – To be honest, I thought he would finish higher before the season started. Sterling started off the season nice starting opposite Odell Beckham Jr., but seemed to lose a little by midseason. Thankfully he picked it back up some and helped the Giants get back to the playoffs. The second-round pick from Oklahoma scored eight times and shows promise for the future.
Rob Kelley, Washington – The undrafted free agent from Tulane is obviously the biggest surprise on this list compared to preseason rankings. Kelley was given the chance because starter Matt Jones couldn’t hold onto the ball and also got injured. Kelley came in and never looked back helping Washington to a high-octane offense that finished in the Top 5 in total yards. Put his per game average as a starter into the equation and he is a Top 15 back.
Hunter Henry, San Diego – Henry was the top tight end in the 2016 draft and was drafted in the second round out of Arkansas to be the successor to future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates. Henry proved worthy of that pick by proving to be a great red zone target for Philip Rivers and scoring eight touchdowns this season. Hunter also stepped up when Gates was injured for a few games this season. Henry should be good for years to come.
Derrick Henry, Tennessee – It is a shame that he didn’t go to a team with a bigger running back need, because Henry looked good when given the chance. DeMarco Murray had another great season, not allowing much for Henry. When allowed to run the ball, Henry looked great and ran the ball hard with great vision and instincts. If something happens to Murray, his fantasy value will skyrocket.
Will Fuller, Houston, poor quarterback play was a factor.
Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati – Picked up as the year went on.
Tajae Sharpe, Tennessee – Preseason darling seemed to disappear at times.
Robby Anderson, New York Jets – Got the chance because of injuries. Could start in 2017.
Wil Lutz, New Orleans – Great start for the undrafted rookie.
Wait ‘Til Next Year
Jalen Richard, Oakland – Shows great promise and Latavious Murray is a free agent.
Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore – Looks like the lead back next year.
Paul Perkins, New York Giants – Looks like the lead back next year.
Corey Coleman, Cleveland – Suffered through injury and several quarterback changes.
Josh Ferguson, Indianapolis – More was expected, especially as a receiver out of the backfield.
Laquon Treadwell, Minnesota – Biggest disappointment of the year. It really hurts since he is from my home team but he never quite caught on.
Roberto Aguayo, Tampa Bay – Really disappointing season since he was a kicker drafted high in the second round.