With the end of the Super Bowl comes the official end of the 2016 season and the beginning of the 2017 season. Below is a list of veteran players that had down years in 2016 but I believe can have a major impact in the 2017 fantasy football season. All players on this list have been top 20 fantasy options at one point or another but faded for various reasons last year. They will look to recapture their prior glory this season. I have ranked the players 1-8 with player #1 being a lock to have an impact and player #8 being a long shot to help their team or be fantasy relevant.
8 players whose fantasy production in 2017 could outperform their draft value:
1. DeAndre Hopkins – WR – Texans: Hopkins had a very underwhelming 2016 campaign for the Texans and that was mostly due to poor play from then QB Brock Osweiler. Hopkins finished 29th in receiving yards with 954 yards and only 4 TDs. The Texans will need to do something and have said as much about the QB situation. There are not a lot of great options to pursue in the free agency pool. Guys like Josh McCown and Brian Hoyer are not going to be long term solutions to their problem so the Texans may make a move in the draft. Just competent play from a vet or rook should improve Hopkins’ output tremendously. Is it possible Deshaun Watson falls to them in the 1st Round?
2. Alshon Jeffery – WR – Bears (FA): Jeffery is a free agent and will likely be highly targeted. He was suspended for 4 games last season for PEDs but beyond that his QB play has been very subpar. Jay Cutler and Matt Barkley have been far from quality QB options for the #1 receiver and he could find himself in a more favorable situation this fall. Heading into a new situation is not always idea for a WR but I think Jeffery would benefit and rebound to be a top 15 WR.
3. Kelvin Benjamin – WR – Panthers: Kelvin is coming off of a down year in his 1st year back after an ACL injury. His performance was not up to par with where fantasy owners wanted him to be, though he did still manage 941 yard and 7 TDs on 63 receptions. Benjamin should be more confident in his repaired knee and we will see the Benjamin from his rookie campaign. With TE Greg Olsen another year older and WR Ted Ginn Jr. set to be a free agent, there will likely be opportunity for Benjamin to see more targets.
4. C.J. Anderson – RB – Broncos: Much like Adrian Peterson, Anderson is also recovering from a torn meniscus that cut his 2016 season short. Prior to the 2016 season the Broncos resigned Anderson after he received offers from other teams. Although the Broncos are high on Devontae Booker, he did not run away with the job by any means and Anderson will still have a role in Denver. In 2016, Booker played in all 16 games and rushed for 612 yards on 174 carries to average 3.5 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Anderson played in 7 games and rushed for 437 yards on 110 carries for a 4 yards per carry average. Something to think about.
5. Demaryius Thomas – WR – Broncos: The reality with Thomas is that he didn’t have a terrible year, with 90 catches and 1083 yards but he did only manage 5 TDs. Thomas saw 33 less targets last year than he did in 2015 and I think that can be attributed to who was playing QB. That said, going into 2017 the QB situation in Denver doesn’t have a long term solution yet. Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch will likely be the guys to battle it out in camp for the starting spot but maybe, just maybe, Tony Romo?
6. Jamaal Charles – RB – Chiefs: Charles will be coming off a essentially 2 year absence with his knee injury and is far from a top 10 back anymore. That said, he has had 2 years to get the knees healthy and it is 2 less years of wear and tear on him physically. Charles played 15 games in 2014 when he rushed for 1033 yards. Charles is doubtful to be a workhorse RB again, but his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield will give him a role. It remains to be seen whether or not Charles will be a Chief next season as they could save $6 million+ by parting with him.
7. Adrian Peterson – RB – Vikings: Surely Peterson will end up as a free agent unless he wants to restructure his deal for far less money. Peterson is owed $18 million this year and he hasn’t shown that he is the AP of old or that he is worth that money. Assuming he hits the open market, one must remember that he is really only a 2-down back with an inability to pass block for the QB and he’s also lacking as a receiver out of the backfield. With that being said, it is uncertain what he can still do seeing how he has been behind a Vikings O-line that is below average at best. AP will be looking to prove he is still the man in 2017 and he might be able to do that in the right situation. AP to the Texans? Is that a fit? He and Lamar Miller would make a solid 1-2 punch.
8. Josh Gordon – WR – Browns (FA): Gordon is likely done playing football for the Cleveland Brown and for that matter could be done all together. Gordon would surely be a welcome WR1 for whichever team he ended up on but it is still unclear if and when he will play again. In 2017 Gordon looked good in his limited preseason action with Robert Griffin III throwing him the ball, so there is reason to believe he still can get it done. If Gordon can stay clean and latch on with a team, he should be on your fantasy radar.