By: Jackson Kane (Twitter: @TheJacksonKane)
The Top 10 Offenses To Avoid In 2017
I recently dropped my list of Top 10 Offenses to Target in 2017. Some fantasy footballers agreed with most of the list, some didn’t. It happens. Well, here is my opinion on the opposite end of the spectrum. The teams that you should ultimately shy away from for a variety of reasons: Quarterback uncertainty, youthful rosters, lack of overall talent, etc. If you’re a fan of one of these teams, sorry bro, but the truth hurts. I’ll start with the best of the worst and work my way to the bottom.
10. Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill will most likely never be a top tier, even middle tier-type of fantasy star, but he is consistently mediocre as far as NFL quarterbacks are concerned. As long as he is the signal caller for this Dolphin offense, it is hard to expect huge, huge numbers from his receiving corps. Obviously, Jarvis Landry is a PPR monster and more than capable of explosive performances in standard, but after him, what can you expect from this offense? Kenny Stills was a pleasant surprise for some fantasy owners last season when he scored nine touchdowns and topped 700 yards. DeVante Parker totaled over 700 yards as well. But can anyone besides Landry be counted on from week-to-week in anymore than a plug-in flex spot on your roster? I don’t think so.
Part of my reasoning for thinking that this offense is going to disappoint in 2017 would be Jay Ajayi. “What?!? How?!? Ajayi was a beast last year, dude!” The London, England native put together impressive numbers as far as season totals: 1,272 rushing yards, 4.9 yards per carry and eight touchdowns. But if you take a deeper look at his 2016 season, what will you find? I see a guy with three 200-yard games. Impressive, clearly. But once you get over that shiny statistic, you’ll find a guy that failed to put up 80 or more yards in eight of the 12 games he had at least 12 carries. I think the hype is too large for the “Jay-Train” heading into 2017.
9. San Francisco 49ers
This could be a head-scratcher for some fantasy pundits, but hear me out: The 49ers brought in Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to turn around the NFL’s second-worst offense in 2016. Shanahan was the orchestrator of the seventh-highest scoring offense in the history of the NFL last season with the Falcons. Shanahan guided Matt Ryan and his cast of characters to a whopping 540 total points in 2016. In six of his nine seasons as an offensive coordinator in the league, he has produced a top 10 offensive team. Clearly, this team won’t be near the top of the league in offensive production, but it’s not preposterous to think that they’ll be slightly better than the 2016 version. With all that being said, the Niners will still only have two guys, in my mind, that can be played week-to-week in fantasy: Carlos Hyde and Pierre Garcon.
8. Minnesota Vikings
Sometimes, things happen to a franchise that can alter their future for years to come. The ACL injury that Teddy Bridgewater suffered last August might just be one of those instances. The injury forced the Vikes’ to bring Sam Bradford into the fold last year. Bradford was not terrible by any means (career-highs in yards, completion percentage and quarterback rating), but does that translate to fantasy production in 2017? Minnesota possesses a collection of young, talented receivers, but the scouting report on Bradford has basically sorted itself out by now. He’s a game-managing quarterback and that doesn’t usually render huge fantasy totals.
The Vikings did bring in two pretty talented backs this offseason: Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook. This is one of the more intriguing backfields I think for a lot of fantasy guys. Can they concoct a formula much like Atlanta’s two-headed monster of a backfield or will this be more of a hot hand approach? Of all the guys on this roster, I think the upside of these two backs is tremendous for fantasy as opposed to the receiving corps. Kyle Rudolph is always going to be a threat in the red zone for this team, but where will all the targets go? Stefon Diggs? Adam Thielen? It could be hard to calculate.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Basically any and every fantasy football expert marked Blake Bortles as a bust candidate heading into 2016. I, against my better judgment, thought Bortles could maybe replicate his 35 touchdown season of 2015. He was far from that mark in 2016. His 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions were far from ideal for Allen Robinson owners (me) and Allen Hurns stockholders. So what can we expect from this offense is 2017? I don’t even think Doug Marrone knows what to expect out of his own team. I doubt many people will take the bait of selecting Robinson in the second round again this year, but he wouldn’t surprise me at all with a 1,000-yard, 10 touchdown season. Is anyone else in this passing game worth a draft pick? Maybe late in your draft.
Part of Bortles’ struggles would have to be attributed to their porous running game. T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory were less than satisfactory in 2016. The Jags elected to select Leonard Fournette with the fourth overall pick, which could end up being a huge move for Jacksonville. He’ll be a highly coveted guy, especially in dynasty league formats. The freight train of a back didn’t catch many balls at LSU, but reports from OTAs have said that he’s working on it. If Fournette can develop into an every down back, he’ll be a very valuable fantasy asset.
6. Kansas City Chiefs
The one question every fantasy football player wants the answer to heading into 2017 is, “Will Tyreek Hill be able to replicate the success he had during his rookie campaign?” The firecracker of a wide receiver and return specialist totaled 12 touchdowns in 2017, six in the passing game, three on the ground and three in the return game. He’s dynamic, explosive and slippery. But should you believe in the hype or let somebody else endure the inevitable sophomore slump? I personally believe that the departure of Jeremy Maclin will open the doors up that much more for Hill in the passing game. Obviously, you can’t really predict how much of an impact a guy will make in the return game, but you can probably bank on at least one return TD from Hill in 2017.
The running game in K.C. is somewhat of a mystery at this point. Spencer Ware made the most of his audition in 2016, but will he be the long-term answer? The Chiefs drafted rookie Kareem Hunt out of Toledo in the third round, so maybe they aren’t completely sold on Ware. Regardless, I don’t think this team is a 12-4 team in 2017. Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are guys you should be targeting in drafts. Ware is definitely a guy you shouldn’t hold in high regard come draft time.
5. Houston Texans
The Texans were a 9-7 club in 2016 and made the playoffs, even with the enigma that is Brock Osweiler under center for much of the season. That is a testament to just how great this defense is. Coming into 2017, the Texans look to be handing the reigns to Tom Savage to start the year. They drafted DeShaun Watson out of Clemson with the 12th pick, so he’s their long-term solution, but will he appear much in his rookie season? With the strong defense and running game that Houston has, Bill O’Brien will most likely want Savage or Watson to take a ball security/game manager-type role. DeAndre Hopkins was still able to accrue 974 yards and four touchdowns in that same type of offense in 2016, but will Savage or Watson make it that much better?
Houston ranked 29th in total yards last season. I believe that gets a bit of a bump this year, but not by much. They should lean heavily on Lamar Miller and their defense. Miller was able to top 1,000 yards in 2016, but that was due in large part to his large workload. O’Brien called Miller’s number a career-high 268 times. The Texans drafted Texas back D’Onta Foreman with the 89th pick in April’s draft. He could cut into Miller’s workload, but Miller will still be a borderline RB1 in all formats.
4. Chicago Bears
2016’s version of the Chicago Bears finished 15th in total yards. Unfortunately, all those yards didn’t necessarily lead to points, as the Bears finished tied for 28th in points per game with 17.4. Whether it was Brian Hoyer or Matt Barkley, Chicago’s passing game was a disaster in 2016. The departure of Alshon Jeffery to the Eagles has given three young receivers an opportunity to make a fantasy splash; Cameron Meredith, Kevin White and Markus Wheaton could be worth a spot on your roster if the Bears have a viable quarterback under center. Unfortunately, the Bears made it appear like they don’t know who they want as their starter Week 1. They signed Mike Glennon this offseason then drafted Mitch Trubisky shortly after. We’ll see how it plays out, but this team has more questions than your girlfriend after you like another girl’s picture on Instagram.
One thing that isn’t a question in Chicago is, “Who is this team’s running back?” Jordan Howard took the league and fantasy world by storm in 2016, rushing for 1,313 yards on 5.2 yards per carry. The second-year back reportedly underwent eye surgery during the offseason to improve his pass-catching. He caught 29 balls in 2016, but that number is sure to rise with a possible rookie starting at quarterback. He’s the only Bear I would feel safe investing an early draft pick on in fantasy drafts.
3. Cleveland Browns
The Browns averaged 16.5 points per game last season, which was good for 2nd-worst in the league. The front office brought in Brock Osweiler and DeShone Kizer to compete for the starting spot at signal caller. A huge hit to this offense’s fantasy appeal came when Terrelle Pryor decided to sign with the Redskins. Cleveland did bring in Kenny Britt to take his spot, but he’s no Pryor. Corey Coleman made some waves during his rookie campaign, but only played in 10 games. It will be hard to put much stock in any Cleveland receivers this coming season unless Kizer is better than anyone expects. Osweiler showed his true colors in 2016, so this offense’s ceiling is awfully low.
Isaiah Crowell had easily his best season as a pro in 2016. The Alabama State product averaged 4.8 yards per carry and garnered 1,271 total yards. Will he be able to duplicate that type of production in 2017? I believe he can because of the weakness at the quarterback position on this team. He’s the only Brown I would put much faith in in fantasy.
2. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams totaled 4,203 yards as an offense in 2016. That ranked dead last in the NFL. It was so terrible in fact, they were 727 yards behind the next closest team (the 49ers). Los Angeles started the year with Case Keenum at the helm. That went about as good as you would guess it would. They then made the move to their first-round pick Jared Goff. New Rams head coach Sean McVay has stated that he wants to get Tavon Austin involved more and even test him out as a deep threat. Whether this will work remains to be seen, but it’s good news for Austin, the Rams only relevant fantasy threat on the outside.
It’s been a tale of two seasons for Todd Gurley. During his rookie season, he averaged 4.8 yards per carry in 13 games. He topped 1,100 yards and scored 10 touchdowns on the ground. His sophomore season? Gurley toted the rock 49 more times and played three more games than his 2015 season, but managed to rush for only 885 yards. The Rams are under new guidance with Sean McVay at the helm, but will that be enough to turn both Gurley’s production and the team around? Time will tell.
1. New York Jets
Todd Bowles’ team lost two of their most explosive playmakers during the offseason; Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall will be wearing different uniforms in 2017, which does not bode well for whoever is under center in the Big Apple. Whether it’s Josh McCown or Christian Hackenberg, this offense will struggle to manufacture points. McCown has been a journeyman backup for the entirety of his career, while Hackenberg still doesn’t appear ready to step into the spotlight. Quincy Enunwa will be a popular name in fantasy, but I don’t see why with the current state of his quarterback situation. I’ll pass.
The Jets backfield is the classic head versus heart scenario for football fans. Matt Forte has been a staple of consistency during his nine-year career. He’s surpassed the 1,000-yard mark on the ground five times and 400-yard mark in the air six times. But the Jets need to use their head when deciding who should be starting Week 1. Bilal Powell has been under appreciated for much of his career, but fantasy pundits see the value. Powell has averaged 4.3 yards per carry or better in three straight seasons, including a seemingly erroneous mark of 5.5 in 2016. Regardless of who is starting in the backfield, points will be coming few and far between for this offense in 2017.