By: Jackson Kane (Twitter: @TheJacksonKane)
The Top 10 Offenses To Target In 2017
There are many different strategies when drafting for fantasy football. When I’m looking to assemble my juggernaut of a team, I like to target players on high-powered offenses. There is room on your roster for guys on subpar NFL teams, but I like to make sure they’re either a first or second option on their respective squad. Today, I’m going to focus on strictly the overall offenses to target in your 2017 fantasy drafts. If the majority of your roster is constructed of players from these 10 teams, you’ll be on top or near the top of your league standings by season’s end:
10. New Orleans Saints
The 2016 version of the Saints finished the season with a 7-9 record and missed the playoffs, so how special could they have been? Well, Sean Payton’s offense did something that had only been done once before in the history of the NFL. The 2016 Saints offense joined only the 2013 Denver Broncos as teams with a 5,000-yard passer (Drew Brees), 1,000-yard rusher (Mark Ingram) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas).
The 2017 version of the Saints will be without the services of Cooks, who moved on to join the defending world champion Patriots. The Saints did however add Adrian Peterson to the roster, along with Ted Ginn Jr. The reason I’m so high on this offense heading into the season is because they own what could be one of the best running back committees in all of football. The duo of Ingram and Peterson could be lethal. Secondly, the addition of Ginn Jr. will do wonders for the rest of the receiving corps, opening up the short to intermediate routes. And lastly, Michael Thomas was just a rookie last season. He will only continue to evolve and improve with time.
9. Carolina Panthers
There was this video floating around Twitter near the beginning of OTAs of Kelvin Benjamin running routes. Truthfully, he looked terrible. But even with that image in my head, I still can’t discount the firepower that both he and this Panther offense possess. Both Benjamin and his quarterback, Cam Newton, were below average by their standards in 2016, but their freak athleticism always gives them a chance to put up numbers on any given Sunday.
Newton has received heavy criticism in the past for his inability (or unwillingness) to slide down on running plays to save himself from serious injury. That clearly played a factor in his running style last season. Newton rushed the ball just 90 times for 359 yards in 2016, both career-lows. The addition of Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey will help Newton tremendously moving forward. The read option wasn’t a particularly huge threat with an aging Jonathan Stewart, but the fresh legs of McCaffrey should add another layer to Mike Shula’s playbook. And don’t forget about the most consistent tight end in the game, Mr. Greg Olsen.
8. New York Giants
The Giants made a few headlines this offseason with a couple of pretty good moves in my opinion. First, they signed an aging, but talented, Brandon Marshall to add to an already potent receiving corps. The second move that caught my eye was cutting ties with Rashad Jennings. As some of you may recall, I proclaimed Rashad Jennings as the “Catfish” of the fantasy world last season. He has a tendency to look enticing from time to time, but ultimately, he’s going to let you down with his 3.3 yards per carry self.
The latter of those moves opens the door for a guy that showed promise when given the opportunity last season: Paul Perkins. Perkins averaged 4.1 yards per carry and 10.8 yards per catch. His yards per catch average can be deceiving considering he broke off a 67-yard catch and run, but still. The UCLA product has talent and will be given some opportunities, especially with Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Marshall opening up the box for him.
7. Los Angeles Chargers
When Danny Woodhead went down early in 2016, Melvin Gordon owners may have raised their level of optimism a bit. But nobody could have predicted the explosion in production by the second-year back out of Wisconsin. Gordon tallied 997 rushing yards in just 13 games last season along with 10 touchdowns on the ground. The injury to Woodhead also opened the door for Gordon to show his receiving skills out of the backfield. He hauled in 41 balls for 419 yards and those numbers could be crushed this year if he stays healthy.
Philip Rivers and the receiving corps also put up huge numbers in 2016; Rivers threw for 4,386 yards and connected for 33 touchdowns. And nearly all of that was done without Keenan Allen, who tore his ACL during the first half of Week 1. Introduce him back into this lineup alongside first round pick Mike Williams and the now experienced Tyrell Williams? Anthony Lynn might have taken the perfect job.
6. Oakland Raiders
One of the best running backs of the last decade made his return to the NFL this offseason after a year away from the game. He’ll be playing for his hometown Oakland Raiders. His name is Marshawn Lynch. Lynch’s bowling ball running style, combined with his savvy and veteran presence are exactly what the Raiders were looking for to complement Derek Carr and his receivers. Lynch’s return to the game came just in time after Latavius Murray decided to sign with the Minnesota Vikings.
Carr has quickly risen to the top of the fantasy football landscape entering his fourth year. His 28 touchdowns to six interceptions in 2016 probably won plenty of leagues for fantasy footballers everywhere. The dynamic duo of receivers he throws to on a weekly basis, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, combined for 277 targets last season and 13 touchdowns. Many pundits have tabbed Crabtree as the superior fantasy option, but you can’t go wrong with either guy in 2017.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Do you remember how impressive Marcus Mariota was last season? Well, Jameis Winston has similar potential for a breakout campaign in 2017. The addition of DeSean Jackson and his 1,005 yards from the Redskins could be just what the Buccaneers need to return to the top of the NFC South. The deep threat is sure to keep the Buccaneers opponent’s two safeties on the field at all times, which in turn will open up other options. Adding talented tight end O.J. Howard from Alabama via the NFL Draft might end up being a significant fantasy transaction when it’s all said and done. Did I almost just move on from this paragraph without a mention of Mike Evans? Yeah, they still have that guy as well. Look out for this passing game!
Health issues really slowed Doug Martin in 2016, but he has shown in the past that he can be a focal point of a fantasy lineup when healthy. In the two seasons Martin has remained healthy (2012 and 2015), the “Muscle Hamster” topped 1,400 yards and found the end zone at least seven total times. Can he remain healthy for 2017 or will Martin let his believers down once again?
4. Tennessee Titans
Many people believe that the consensus best offensive line in football resides in Dallas. That might be true, but this Tennessee unit gives them a run for their money. DeMarco Murray was a league winner for many fantasy owners last season. His 1,664 total yards and 12 touchdowns were a pleasant surprise for anybody who took him late in the third or early in the fourth round.
Tennessee’s running game was lethal in 2016. Their passing game? Just a step below lethal. Marcus Mariota was phenomenal in his second season, garnering 26 passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns. Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker each surpassed the 800-yard receiving mark as well. Tennessee added another playmaker into the fold at the draft in the form of Central Michigan’s Corey Davis. The all-time leader in receiving yards in major college football history, Davis can and will make plays in this league from Day 1. Pair Mariota with one of his toys on the outside and you’ll be sitting pretty in your league.
3. Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers’ 40 passing touchdowns led the NFL last season. Add in Martellus Bennett to an already dangerous offense led by a pin-dropping quarterback and the rest of the league is going to have problems. Rodgers is the most talented signal caller in the game, so anytime you can own one of his weapons in fantasy, they possess some value. Rodgers has been on another level for quite some time now, but 2017 could be legendary for the Green Bay passing attack.
Running backs in Green Bay in 2016 were feeling what a Kardashian boyfriend feels: total instability and little spotlight compared to their significant other (Aaron Rodgers). Ty Montgomery and Eddie Lacy got their cracks at the position, but with the departure of Lacy to the Seahawks, Montgomery now has the reigns on the role. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry in 2016 on 77 carries. Obviously, 77 carries isn’t a large sample size, but he showed flashes of potential when given the chance. A guy I like to possibly take over the role later down the line would be rookie Jamaal Williams out of BYU. But for the time being, Montgomery should be a valuable guy, at least to start the year.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s nearly impossible to think of a more deadly trio in the NFL than Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. We’ll start with the passing attack. Big Ben connected for 29 touchdowns in 2016, but threw 13 picks also. Brown was amazing as usual, posting 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. Bell contributed 616 receiving yards, which ranked second among backs. Brown and Bell are obvious prizes in any fantasy draft, but will Roethlisberger cut down on the turnovers in 2017? I honestly believe so. He’s got a good chance to finish in the Top 10 in standard leagues if he can keep his turnovers to a bare minimum. Big Ben finished 18th among quarterbacks in standard leagues last season behind names like Dalton, Taylor and Bortles.
Le’Veon Bell is arguably the best fantasy player in football with his versatile skill set. His value is obvious to any avid fantasy player. But what will fringe guys in Pittsburgh be able to do this season? Eli Rogers? JuJu Smith-Schuster? A healthy Ladarius Green? Can these guys bring any week-to-week value consistently? I think Schuster and Green definitely will be in the mix for Mike Tomlin and company. Rogers? We’ll have to wait and see. Regardless, the Steelers are more dangerous than Donald Trump with a smart phone.
1. New England Patriots
The Pats claimed yet another Super Bowl last season. This season, they embark on the same mission, but with a few different components plugged into their lineup. One guy I’m particularly high on coming into this season would be former Buffalo Bill, Mike Gillislee. For his career, the former Florida Gator has 154 carries. He’s averaged 5.6 yards per carry on those carries. With LeGarrette Blount out of the frame, Gillislee and his owners should feast like Pac Man on all the goal line balls he’s going to be toting. Not to mention the myriad of running backs that Bill Belichick has stockpiled on the roster that could get some playing time. I think James White will be the main third down guy, especially after his Super Bowl heroics, but who knows with the Patriots.
New England pulled the wool over the league’s eyes once again with the trade robbery that led to the acquisition of Brandin Cooks. Cooks nearly topped 1,200 yards last season in the Big Easy and found pay dirt eight times. He’s just another gadget that Josh McDaniels will deploy on opposing defenses moving forward. The Patriots still have Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell on the outside as well. Now do you understand why they had to be number 1 on this list? It may be a guessing game each week trying to figure out who will get the points, but they are sure to be there in 2017!