by Jake Miller

The Jake Miller guide to fantasy football

If there’s one thing that we can all agree on in these trying times, it’s that Kyle Shanahan lost us the Super Bowl. I mean, we had the most threatening offense since the 2013 Broncos, (and, according to some, the fifth-best offense of all time) and he couldn’t find three plays in the playbook that would keep us in field goal range. He sucks.

Sorry. Other than that, I think I speak for all of us when I say that fantasy football is the only reason I know ANYONE on the Browns or Jets. It’s an integral part of NFL football and, quite frankly, probably the only reason I pay attention to any non-Falcons games. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that regard, so to help out anyone who might not know who to trust as their third WR, here’s my 2017 fantasy rankings. 

NOTE: Please don’t send me angry emails if I lead you astray. I really want you to succeed. I promise. 

QBs

1. Aaron Rodgers

2. Drew Brees

3. Matt Ryan

4. Tom Brady

I know, I know. “But Jake, Tom Terrific is the best, most dreamiest player since Barry Sanders! He deserves to go number one in every draft!”

While this may be true, Tommy is officially the big 4-0. That’s incredibly old for a quarterback. Only one QB (Warren Moon) entered a season 40 or older and actually played well. (Before you start typing me an angry email, Brett Favre was 39!) I don’t think his drop-off will be drastic, but I wouldn’t count on more than 12 full games of elite-level play.

5. Russell Wilson

6. Andrew Luck

7. Marcus Mariota

The Titans picked up Corey Davis in the draft. They stole an (albeit aging) Eric Decker from the Jets and retained Delanie Walker and DeMarco Murray. Mariota has an array of offensive weapons and should be able to take advantage of his running ability even more this year. 

8. Cam Newton

9. Kirk Cousins

10. Jameis Winston

11. Derek Carr

12. Philip Rivers

SLEEPERS

1. Joe Flacco (pictured)

Is Joe Flacco elite? This issue has been at the forefront of almost everyone’s minds since his Super Bowl win in 2013. While we may never know for sure, I do know that the additions of Jeremy Maclin and Danny Woodhead to that receiving corps gives him his best passing options since that season.

2. Carson Wentz

I predicted he would be the greatest player to come out of last year’s draft. I stand by that prediction. He’s (hopefully) comfortable in his new offense and now he’s got Alshon Jeffery to throw to. He’s certainly not going to get worse.

BUST

1. Dak Prescott

Think about it. Opposing defenses won’t have to prepare for Ezekiel Elliott for six games this season. With that threat gone, I predict Prescott will find himself with a lot less time to throw the ball. Elliott masked Dak’s deficiencies last year, but he won’t be able to hide them this season. 

RBs

1. David Johnson

2. Le’Veon Bell

3. LeSean McCoy

4. Devonta Freeman

5. Leonard Fournette

As a general rule, I avoid rookies in the early rounds. Last year, I passed on Ezekiel Elliott and got Todd Gurley. That was awful. I’ve learned from my mistakes this year and decided that putting last year’s best running back (sorry, Christian McCaffrey) on the league’s second-worst offense (sorry, Jets) will only bring me more fantasy points.

6. Jordan Howard

7. Melvin Gordon

8. DeMarco Murray

9. Lamar Miller

10. Todd Gurley

11. Jay Ajayi

He had three 200-yard games. He also had 12 games where he ran for less than 80 yards. Besides the fact that this is probably the most inconsistent season ever, it should be a red flag. I don’t like him as much as other people do.

12. Carlos Hyde

13. Marshawn Lynch

14. Ezekiel Elliott SSPD

15. Ty Montgomery

16. Mark Ingram

17. C.J. Anderson

18. Darren McFadden

McFadden will, in theory, play Elliott’s full workload for six games. In 2016, this was equivalent to about 19 fantasy points per game. This should be a simple decision. If you end up drafting Zeke, he is a must-draft handcuff. 

19. Bilal Powell

20. Paul Perkins

21. Joe Mixon

This is where I will go back to my rule of drafting rookies. Mixon will enter Cincinnati as RB2 until Giovani Bernard comes back from injury. When this happens, he will join the three-back committee in Cincy and become a source of misery for his owners, because the week that you bench him, he’ll score three touchdowns. When you start him, he’ll have thirty yards. This happens to me every year and I’m done with it. 

22. Christian McCaffrey

23. Isaiah Crowell

24. Dalvin Cook 

SLEEPER

1. Danny Woodhead

Folks, I know that drafting an aging running back coming off of an ACL tear usually ends in disaster. However, Woodhead will be in an offense that plays to his strengths, and he should take over first-team duties in Baltimore immediately. In his one full game before injuring himself, he accrued 120 total yards and one TD. He’s questionable for Week 1, but he’s worth a late-round flier. 

BUSTS

1. Jay Ajayi

2. Joe Mixon

3. Marshawn Lynch (pictured)

Lynch is a relatively old running back at 31, and he’s coming off a retirement. Even Brett Favre couldn’t stay away from the game for that long. I’m worried that he’s not conditioned for a full NFL season and I also don’t think the Raiders’ offense is suited for Lynch’s running style. I hope I’m wrong, since I love my Raiders, but I doubt they get more than 10 games out of him. 

WRs

1. Julio Jones

Yes, he’s injury-prone. Yes, Matt Ryan probably won’t be as good as he was last year. But Julio is still, in my opinion, the best wide receiver in the NFL and is certainly the biggest matchup problem in the league outside of Gronk. When he’s on the field, he’ll be the best player in fantasy.

2. Antonio Brown

3. Mike Evans

4. Odell Beckham Jr.

This is purely because of his severity-unknown ankle sprain. The hit that injured him looked nasty, so I would exercise caution until the Giants acknowledge how bad it is. 

5. A.J. Green

6. Jordy Nelson

7. Michael Thomas

8. Demaryius Thomas

9. T.Y. Hilton

10. Dez Bryant

With Zeke gone for the first six weeks, his stock went way down. He’ll have to be the focal point of the offense, but I don’t think Dak Prescott will be able to get off many deep balls now that opposing defenses don’t have to prepare for Elliott. There’s a strong possibility that he doesn’t catch more than fifteen deep balls.

11. Brandin Cooks

12. DeAndre Hopkins

13. Amari Cooper

14. Jarvis Landry

15. Doug Baldwin

16. Golden Tate

17. Michael Crabtree

18. Keenan Allen

I wish he could stay healthy, but I really don’t know if that’s possible. He’s played just nine games over the past two seasons and probably shouldn’t be trusted to play a full season this year either. If you’re willing to risk it, he could be a top-10 receiver if he plays all 16 games, but he could also tear his bicep in Week 3.

19. Alshon Jeffery

20. Jordan Matthews

21. Desean Jackson

22. Allen Robinson

23. Tyreek Hill

Last year’s fantasy darling is this year’s fantasy regret. He didn’t top 100 yards receiving once and, now that he’s WR1 in Kansas City, will likely be taken off of special teams, which was where a lot of his value came from last year. He should get more targets, but having short-yardage specialist Alex Smith throwing to him will not mesh with his skill set.

24. Jeremy Maclin

25. Kelvin Benjamin

A lot of people are down on him, since he’s somehow made Cam really awful in the two years he’s played. I think it’s just a coincidence. He’s super physically intimidating at 6’5″ and should take most of the red zone targets on the team this year. 

26. Jeremy Maclin

27. Terrelle Pryor

28. Brandon Marshall

29. Davante Adams

30. Kevin White

31. Larry Fitzgerald

He’s not getting any younger. The Cardinals don’t have a ton of receiving options outside of Fitzgerald, but at some point he’s going to slow down, and when he does he’ll get eaten up by opposing cornerbacks.

32. Willie Snead

33. Martavis Bryant

34. Emmanuel Sanders

35. Sammy Watkins

36. Donte Moncrief

SLEEPERS

1. Corey Davis 

Marcus Mariota looks comfortable in the Tennessee offense now, and Davis is the most lethal weapon in that receiving corps. Don’t be surprised if he goes for 1,000 yards in his rookie year.

2. Jarvis Landry (pictured, right)

3. Jeremy Maclin

He’s finally in an offense that caters to his strengths. Joe Flacco revitalized Mike Wallace’s mediocre career, and I think Maclin’s 10 times better than Wallace. I know that there are now three Ravens sleepers in this article, but I’m pretty confident in the ability of that offense.

BUSTS

1. Larry Fitzgerald (pictured)

2. Allen Robinson

It feels like cheating to call him a bust. Obviously, Blake Bortles did not pull his weight last season. If Robinson had a capable quarterback, he would be one of the five best wideouts in the league. He doesn’t, though, and the reason I’m putting him here is because I don’t think he’ll live up to his relatively meager expectations; my bet is that the Jags run the ball about 65% of the time to hide Bortles’ inadequacy.

3. Tyreek Hill

TEs

1. Rob Gronkowski

2. Jordan Reed

3. Travis Kelce

4. Delanie Walker

5. Greg Olsen

He’s not getting younger, either. He’s been a top-3 tight end since he came to Carolina, but this year the Panthers added Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel, who will catch far more passes than Jonathan Stewart ever did, and the offense also has two 6’4″ WRs (Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess) that will compete for targets. He’s not the weapon he once was.

6. Jimmy Graham

7. Kyle Rudolph

8. Martellus Bennett

I have high hopes for him. Aaron Rodgers made Jermichael Finley and Richard Rodgers fantasy relevant when they were hardly more than blocking tight ends in real life. Bennett is significantly more offensively talented and, when coupled with the fact that the Packers receivers as a whole are an injury risk, is poised for a breakout year.

9. Tyler Eifert

10. Eric Ebron

11. Jason Witten

12. Zach Ertz

SLEEPERS

1. Martellus Bennett (pictured)

2. David Njoku

Watch his highlights from Miami and you’ll see why you should consider him late. Gary Barnidge and Jordan Cameron both had excellent seasons as Cleveland’s tight end and now Njoku is stepping into that role.

BUSTS

1. Antonio Gates (pictured)

He’s old as dirt. While the other Chargers listen to XXXTentacion or Tay-K to get ready for games, he’s listening to Coolio and DMX. Do not draft.

2. O.J. Howard

I’m invoking the rookie rule again. Maybe use a late-round pick on him, but he’s competing for targets with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and Cameron Brate in Tampa. He’ll have a couple excellent games, but I anticipate that he’ll have a lot of terrible ones as well. 

DEF/STs

NOTE: Never reach for a defense. Houston’s D was ranked first at the beginning of last year but fell to 12th by the end. My strategy is to pick one in the last 3-4 rounds and hope that they do well Week 1. If they don’t, try dropping the one you picked and picking up the best defense from the previous week until you find one that consistently performs well. It always works. 

1. Kansas City

2. Arizona

3. Denver

4. Seattle

5. Minnesota

6. New England

7. New York Giants

8. Carolina

9. Cincinnati

10. LA Chargers

11. Philadelphia

12. Oakland

KICKERS

NOTE: Never, EVER pick a kicker before the second-to-last round. I don’t care if your dad told you that Stephen Gostkowski is sixth-round value. He’s not. You can find a good kicker by using the defense rule that I mentioned. Also, I think it’s worth noting that there was a 11-point differential between the third-best kicker and the 12th-best last year. Bottom line: kickers are the least important position to draft. 

1. Justin Tucker

2. Stephen Gostkowski

3. Matt Bryant

4. Dan Bailey

5. Mason Crosby

6. Wil Lutz

7. Cairo Santos

8. Caleb Sturgis

9. Brandon McManus

10. Matt Prater

11. Dustin Hopkins

12. Adam Vinatieri

IDP

Don’t do IDP. It’s for losers.

All photos labeled for reuse under Creative Commons licensing. All photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.