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Regular Season, Updated: 9/4/17


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 Antonio Brown, PIT (Bye: 9)
1
Height: 5’10”   Weight: 186   DOB: 1988-07-10   Age: 29
College: Central Michigan   Draft: 2010 Round 6 (26) 
SeasonTeamGameRec Yard TDAtt Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2014PIT16129 1,698 13 4 13 0 249.1 15.6
2015PIT16136 1,834 10 3 28 0 246.2 15.4
2016PIT15106 1,284 12 3 9 0 201.3 13.4
2017 (Projected)PIT 108 1,388 11 1 11 0 205.9  

Outlook: I've come to learn that the Steelers fantasy preview is the lowest hanging fruit in the land of pretend football. Antonio Brown joins his teammate Bell as some of the most no-brainer picks in our hobby. Brown has been a dynamo, easily finishing as the highest scoring player in PPR and Standard leagues alike. His numbers were due for a regression after his mind-blowing 2015 season, but even losing 30 receptions and 600 yards kept him near the top spot. I know there might be a little trepidation with the return of Martavis Bryant, but they made magic during the 2014 and 2015 seasons when they were on the field together. Bryant's deep play ability actually helps Brown work on the underneath routes. There is no better bet in fantasy football at the receiver position making Brown a shoe-in as the first pass catcher off the board.


 Odell Beckham Jr., NYG (Bye: 8)
2
Height: 5’11”   Weight: 198   DOB: 1992-11-05   Age: 24
College: Louisiana State   Draft: 2014 Round 1 (12) 
SeasonTeamGameRec Yard TDAtt Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2014NYG1291 1,305 12 7 35 0 206.0 17.2
2015NYG1596 1,450 13 1 3 0 223.3 14.9
2016NYG16101 1,367 10 1 9 0 197.6 12.4
2017 (Projected)NYG 97 1,382 11 0 0 0 204.2  

Outlook: Despite posting career highs in targets (169) and catches (101), Beckham finished 2016 with his fewest touchdowns (10), lowest catch percentage (59.8%), and lowest fantasy points per game in his three-year career, yet still finished as the No.5 WR in fantasy football. A positive regression to a career average catch percentage of 65 percent would result in a more efficient OBJ in the red zone, and a likely increase in touchdown catches. The addition of Marshall and Engram will no doubt reduce the number of targets for Beckham unless Manning decides to set a career high in pass attempts. But fewer targets may not be a bad thing for Beckham owners, as more quality targets, especially in the red zone, would make him more of an effective scoring weapon while hopefully keeping him healthy for a full 16-game season.

I wrote extensively in my Brandon Marshall piece that the addition of Marshall to the passing game has a wide spectrum of possibilities for Beckham, with the most positive being an increase in fantasy production due to a decrease of double and triple coverage schemes from opposing defenses. The negative end of the spectrum could be a disgruntled OBJ causing turmoil on the field and in the locker room, which would have a direct adverse effect on his production.


 Julio Jones, ATL (Bye: 5)
3
Height: 6’3”   Weight: 220   DOB: 1989-02-03   Age: 28
College: Alabama   Draft: 2011 Round 1 (6) 
SeasonTeamGameRec Yard TDAtt Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2014ATL15104 1,593 6 1 1 0 195.4 13.0
2015ATL16136 1,871 8 0 0 0 235.1 14.7
2016ATL1483 1,409 6 0 0 0 176.9 12.6
2017 (Projected)ATL 100 1,487 9 0 0 0 202.7  

Outlook: Julio Jones has gone from being arguably the top fantasy receiver to merely being one of the top ten options for fantasy managers to consider on draft day. From 2012 to 2015 the Falcons attempted at least 600 passes during the regular season. That number dipped to 537 last season; a total less than 25 other NFL teams. This helps explain why Jones' targets per game dropped below double-digits for the first time since the 2012 last season. The lower target load not only had an impact on his overall fantasy scoring, it made Jones a little less consistent as a fantasy asset posting five games with 6 or less fantasy points. Turf toe and recurring hamstring injuries are additional red flags fantasy owners must consider as Jones has only played in all sixteen games once over the past four seasons. The Falcons frequently let him play at less than full health to keep defenses honest which makes him a potentially tough lineup choice during the fantasy campaign. He had surgery on his foot during the off-season so there is hope that he can put some of his lower body injuries in the rearview mirror. Despite the risks, Jones possesses elite talent on one of the highest scoring teams in the league yielding the potential to be one of the game's best overall fantasy players in 2017.


 Mike Evans, TB (Bye: 1)
4
Height: 6’4”   Weight: 231   DOB: 1993-08-21   Age: 24
College: Texas A&M   Draft: 2014 Round 1 (7) 
SeasonTeamGameRec Yard TDAtt Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2014TB1568 1,051 12 0 0 0 177.1 11.8
2015TB1474 1,208 3 0 0 0 138.8 9.9
2016TB1696 1,321 12 0 0 0 204.1 12.8
2017 (Projected)TB 92 1,302 10 0 0 0 190.2  

Outlook: Can you say rebound? Missed opportunities plagued the Winston to Evans connection in 2015, but the two turned the corner last season to make Evans one of the games brightest young fantasy stars. If there was a chink in his armor last year it was in his consistency as the year wore on. Winston's favorite target averaged 15 fantasy points per game over the first six games but only 12.5 over the next five games. In fact, Evans only found the end zone in four of his ten games after Week 7. Repeating last year's lofty totals won't be easy now that the team has improved the talent pool but he is a better bet than most to reach double-digit touchdowns and post 1200 receiving yards putting him firmly in the top ten fantasy wide receivers for 2017. Evans has already proved he can be a legit WR1 for fantasy owners but the offense may need to take a step forward for him to maintain his ranking. Still, the former Aggie offers the upside to finish as the league's top fantasy receiver with one of the highest floors at the position so you will need to pony up some extra bucks if you want to roster him this year.


 Jordy Nelson, GB (Bye: 8)
5
Height: 6’3”   Weight: 217   DOB: 1985-05-31   Age: 32
College: Kansas State   Draft: 2008 Round 2 (5) 
SeasonTeamGameRec Yard TDAtt Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2014GB1698 1,519 13 0 0 0 229.9 14.4
2016GB1697 1,257 14 0 0 0 209.7 13.1
2017 (Projected)GB 86 1,225 11 0 0 0 188.5  

Outlook: There was a time when an ACL injury to a 30-year old receiver would be a near death knell. Oh, how times have changed. Not only did Nelson return to the top of the receiver rankings by the end of 2016, he did so in dramatic fashion, scoring 14 touchdowns, and gobbling up 152 targets. His 97 receptions were only 1 off his career best, and while he saw a near 20% reduction in his yardage totals from his last healthy season, he most likely provided one of the best values at receiver last year.

With such a stellar return to form, it's clear Nelson isn't going to be a gamble pick in 2017. He's another year removed from the injury, played a full 16 games, and only got better as the season wore on. I think it's likely that he's reached his career highs, and he's a step slower, but he's Aaron Rodgers favorite target, especially in the red zone, and has such elite body control and route running ability that he's a lock to finish in the top-10. I do expect him to fall a few pegs, especially with Green Bay having a more balanced offense, and the addition of Martellus Bennett, who could soak up a few of those red zone scores. He's great value in standard and PPR leagues alike, and is someone I'd be happy to have as my WR1.


 Michael Thomas, NO (Bye: 5)
6
Height: 6’3”   Weight: 212   DOB: 1994-06-16   Age: 23
College: Ohio State   Draft: 2016 Round 2 (16) 
SeasonTeamGameRec Yard TDAtt Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2016NO1592 1,137 9 0 0 0 167.7 11.2
2017 (Projected)NO 97 1,265 8 0 0 0 174.5  

Outlook: Michael Thomas didn't disappoint as a rookie in 2016. He set the bar awfully high finishing the year as a top ten fantasy performer and helping more than a few fantasy teams win championships. Thomas is in an ideal situation catching balls from an accurate passer where he can use his big mitts in every facet of the passing attack making him a true all around threat wherever he lines up on the field. He's almost a lock to improve upon his 120 targets from a year ago which gives him a realistic shot to go over the century mark in receptions. When the Saints don't run the ball in the red zone, Thomas should be a frequent target giving him upside to reach double digit TDs. He will garner more attention from opposing defense this season so there is a chance he experiences some struggles with double teams early on. For this reason, Thomas remains a tick below the position's elite but offers the type of floor that makes him ideal building block for your fantasy squad in 2017.


 A.J. Green, CIN (Bye: 6)
7
Height: 6’4”   Weight: 207   DOB: 1988-07-31   Age: 29
College: Georgia   Draft: 2011 Round 1 (4) 
SeasonTeamGameRec Yard TDAtt Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2014CIN1269 1,041 6 2 2 0 140.3 11.7
2015CIN1686 1,297 10 0 0 0 189.7 11.9
2016CIN1066 964 4 0 0 0 120.4 12.0
2017 (Projected)CIN 80 1,188 8 0 0 0 166.8  

Outlook: Before going down with a serious hamstring injury in Week 11, A.J. Green was having a career season. In only 10 games, Green had racked up 66 receptions and nearly 1,000 yards. Among the ten games he played in, Green went over 150 yards three times, and was well on his way to being the overall WR1.

Injuries have been a part of the Green story two of the past three years. He's missed ten games in that span, but when he's been on the field he's been easily a top 5 player at his position. His size/speed combination is nearly on par with Julio Jones, and he's demonstrated some tangible chemistry with Andy Dalton over the years. Green is still in the prime of his career, and has several guys around him that will help keep the defense from focusing too much of their attention on him. Green will continue to be peppered with targets, but the addition of Mixon should mean the Bengals will have an improved running game, so getting past 130 targets might be stretch. Conversely, if the running game doesn't gel, Green has the highest upside out of any receiver not named Beckham or Jones. He's one of a handful of guys with the talent and opportunity to be the highest scoring player at his position.


 T.Y. Hilton, IND (Bye: 11)
8
Height: 5’10”   Weight: 183   DOB: 1989-11-14   Age: 27
College: Florida International   Draft: 2012 Round 3 (29) 
SeasonTeamGameRec Yard TDAtt Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2014IND1582 1,345 7 2 20 0 178.5 11.9
2015IND1669 1,124 5 0 0 0 142.4 8.9
2016IND1691 1,448 6 0 0 0 180.8 11.3
2017 (Projected)IND 80 1,225 6 0 0 0 158.5  

Outlook: T.Y. Hilton remains one of the hardest players to cover in the NFL. As Andrew Luck's favorite target in the Colts passing game, Hilton finally surpassed the 150-target plateau in 2016 on his way to a top ten fantasy finish amongst receivers. Slightly under-sized compared to many of the game's great pass-catchers, Hilton has been remarkedly durable having played in every game over the past two years. The former third round pick led the NFL in receiving yards last season while posted five 100-plus-yard performances. He benefitted from Donte Moncrief's seven-game absence so anyone investing in Hilton this season should expect slight regression. The real limiting factor to Hilton's fantasy ceiling is the lack of elite touchdown potential. Hilton lacks the size to be difference maker on "jump ball" routes and Andrew Luck frequently looks to his tight ends near the goal. As a result, Hilton is one of the safest fantasy picks at his position after the top five or six are off the board, making him a low-end WR1 in all formats.


 Doug Baldwin, SEA (Bye: 6)
9
Height: 5’10”   Weight: 189   DOB: 1988-09-21   Age: 29
College: Stanford   Draft:
SeasonTeamGameRec Yard TDAtt Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2014SEA1666 825 3 1 8 0 101.3 6.3
2015SEA1678 1,069 14 0 0 0 190.9 11.9
2016SEA1694 1,128 7 3 2 0 155.0 9.7
2017 (Projected)SEA 87 1,102 8 0 0 0 158.2  

Outlook: One of the premiere slot receivers in the league, Doug Baldwin has also proven that he is one of the top fantasy wide receivers after back-to-back years finishing as a WR1. Baldwin's 2015 season was seen by many as being a little fluky due to an insane touchdown run, but he was able to remain extremely productive even when his touchdown total was chopped in half in 2016. At 5'10" and less than 200 lbs, Baldwin doesn't project as a prototypical red zone threat so his seven touchdowns in 2016 would seem to be more in line with what we should expect moving forward, but Baldwin does the majority of his fantasy damage with sheer volume. Baldwin's 94 receptions in 2016 were 16 more than he had caught in his best previous season and he also set a career high with 1,128 receiving yards.

Perhaps the best thing for Baldwin's fantasy value is the reality that the Seahawks simply did not invest into their wide receivers heading into the 2017 season. Baldwin was clearly the team's top target in each of the past two seasons and that doesn't seem likely to change this season. The nice thing about Baldwin being the team's top target while primarily playing out of the slot is that he is able to avoid many of the league's top cornerbacks as most of them simply are not asked to play inside, even against teams like Seattle who do not have great outside weapons. That should mean a continued high target volume and thus a high floor most weeks making Baldwin of the safer options on the board.


 Amari Cooper, OAK (Bye: 10)
10
Height: 6’1”   Weight: 211   DOB: 1994-06-18   Age: 23
College: Alabama   Draft: 2015 Round 1 (4) 
SeasonTeamGameRec Yard TDAtt Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2015OAK1672 1,070 6 3 -3 0 142.7 8.9
2016OAK1682 1,149 5 1 0 0 144.9 9.1
2017 (Projected)OAK 78 1,122 7 0 0 0 154.2  

Outlook: Now entering his third season as a pro, Amari Cooper continues to establish himself as one of the league's premier pass catchers and it seems to be clear that he has not yet met his full potential. Cooper's 1,153 yards in 2016 led the Raiders and he dropped just four total passes in his second season. What's interesting is that while Cooper started the season red hot with four games of 125-plus yards in his first eight contests, he failed to eclipse even 80 yards in a game over the second half of the season. He remained productive enough to not be a complete flop due to some timely touchdowns, but there is some concern that the 23-year-old will continue to be frustratingly inconsistent. The talent is certainly there, however, and he was really only a few missed targets away from a near double-digit touchdown season, which would've made him a top-10 player at his position in 2016. The nice thing about Cooper is that there isn't a whole lot of competition for targets outside of Michael Crabtree in the Oakland offense, so as long as he's healthy he should continue to provide enough big games mixed in with some duds that fantasy owners will be happy selecting him as a low-end WR1.


 Brandin Cooks, NE (Bye: 9)
11
Height: 5’9”   Weight: 189   DOB: 1993-09-25   Age: 24
College: Oregon State   Draft: 2014 Round 1 (20) 
SeasonTeamGameRec Yard TDAtt Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2014NO1053 550 3 7 73 1 86.3 8.6
2015NO1684 1,140 9 8 18 0 169.8 10.6
2016NO1678 1,173 8 6 30 0 168.3 10.5
2017 (Projected)NE 74 1,018 7 7 52 1 155.0  

Outlook: In the history of the NFL, no other wide receiver has been blessed to play with two different first ballot hall of fame quarterbacks like Brandin Cooks, who left New Orleans after two seasons catching passes from Drew Brees to move to New England and work with Tom Brady.

At just 24 years of age, the former first round selection from Oregon State owns consecutive 1100-yard seasons, with 20 career receiving touchdowns. As a member of the Patriots, Cooks joins a crowded receiving corps dominated by a tight end in Rob Gronkowski who commands a significant percentage of targets each game and a coach who is not afraid to employ game plans that could limit Cooks' targets from one week to the next.

Fantasy owners want to own a piece of the New England offense because it is potent and the Patriots will put up one of the highest point totals in the league this season. The problem is predicting when and to whom the points will be distributed to, making Cooks a less desirable option compared to other wide receivers taken in the early rounds of fantasy drafts. Cooks has the ceiling of a WR1 but given the all the mouths to feed in New England, his likely output will look more like a WR2.


 Dez Bryant, DAL (Bye: 6)
12
Height: 6’2”   Weight: 218   DOB: 1988-11-04   Age: 28
College: Oklahoma State   Draft: 2010 Round 1 (24) 
SeasonTeamGameRec Yard TDAtt Yard TDFPtsFPts/G
2014DAL1688 1,320 16 0 0 0 228.0 14.3
2015DAL931 401 3 0 0 0 58.1 6.5
2016DAL1350 796 8 0 0 0 127.6 9.8
2017 (Projected)DAL 73 1,067 8 0 0 0 154.7  

Outlook: Bryant finished with a somewhat disappointing 9.8 fantasy points per game in 2016, well off his career-best 14.3 in 2014 when he posted 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns on 136 targets. After playing 16-game slates in his previous three seasons, various injuries have limited the former first round pick to just 22 games dating back to the start of 2015.

On a positive note, Bryant enters the season healthy and showed a positive rapport with Prescott in the 13 games the two played together in 2016. Despite a low catch total (50 catches on 96 targets), Bryant posted a career-best 15.9 yards per catch while on pace for double digit touchdowns.

One of the biggest knocks against Bryant and the main reason why he is not ranked higher is the demanding schedule he faces to start the season, with tough matchups against elite cornerbacks like Patrick Peterson, Aquib Talib, and Trumaine Johnson. Also, Bryant will be shadowed for four divisional games by Josh Norman and Janoris Jenkins - two cornerbacks that have limited his production in the past.