Below are my (Smitty) 2017 Bold Predictions for the 2017 fantasy football season. There is no set schedule for the release of these predictions, so check back often, as I could add 1-2 in one week, or space the release of each out a bit. I would say to expect 1-2 per month at a minimum, but I could crank out 3-4 in one month, it all boils down to what players jump out to me as I head into the coming weeks and months of the 2017 fantasy football season. Enjoy!
2017 Bold Predictions
1. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski will have career years; Brady will throw for 40-50TDs, Gronk will pull in 12-15TDs.
(5/22/2017) Folks, not all Bold Predictions have to be ‘out of nowhere’ gems hidden in the later rounds of a fantasy football draft. In fact, even the number one Bold Prediction doesn’t have to be a deep sleeper name… the only thing that defines a Bold Prediction, or breakout call, is that expectations are blown away (production vs draft value). Big name player or not, a player like Tom Brady is expected to throw for 35-37TDs; however, if the guy tosses let’s say 45-50TD passes in 2017 (and monster yardage), something that I am predicting, well, he just likely won his owners the league championship, as Brady would be destroying expectations. Same goes for Gronk, who has a 1,000-yard/7-10TD expectation.. I’m predicting a monster 12-15TD season with 1,200+ yards and easily over 80 receptions. Folks, my number one advice for 2017 is this… own both Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski on the same team this year — at least in one league. If you can build a strong team around this duo, my prediction is that such a team would flat-out dominate 2017. Not just win, but flat-out dominate. Tom Brady hasn’t had a receiving weapon (outside of Gronk) like Brandin Cooks since Randy Moss, and I think this year is going to be a season for the record books for that Patriots offense. The best part about this draft/acquisition approach in keeper formats is that both Gronk and Brady have much lower dynasty values than redraft values. Yet, I give both a couple elite years left, which is a long time in dynasty. So, my advice is to build off both players in all formats, dynasty or redraft, and if both stay healthy (which is the only real IF for Gronk), I see fantasy production being generated that mirrors the Randy Moss days in New England, where Brady threw for 4,800 yards and 50TDs. I expect the same TD totals and maybe more passing yards.
2. My Derrick Henry and Tevin Coleman ‘Stash Strategy’ will help win leagues in 2017!
(9/2/17) Stashing Derrick Henry and Tevin Coleman will help win leagues in 2017! That’s my prediction for redraft. If you have already drafted, no worries, both are still very attainable via trade, especially if you do complex trades, 2-for-2 or 3-for-3, etc… Now, I’ve beat like a dead horse that both Coleman and Henry are must-have players for all DeMarco Murray and Devonta Freeman owners, and I love both of those guys this year IF you have the handcuffs. I think Freeman/Coleman is the safest RB outside of David Johnson and LeVeon Bell to be honest… still, even loving Freeman this year, owning Coleman alone is a strategy all on its own. Same goes for Henry. Why? Because it allows you to beef up on other players that don’t rely on Coleman or Henry getting touches, and if one does land in their team’s starting line-up, let’s say one of Freeman/Murray go down, you instantly get a top 5RB to plug into your line-up, a strategy that takes a team that already has first-, second- and third-round players, and it takes that team to a whole other level. If you have Melvin Gordon, Mike Thomas, Drew Brees, Kareem Hunt already, then let’s say you stash both Coleman and Henry, imagine if you were then given a top 5RB to pair with your team. Counting on injury is not something you bank your entire season on, but with these two players, you can use either as a flex out of the gate (even in their back-up roles). So, in this case, you are drafting cheap RB2/flex players as they are in their current roles, and you can use them effectively right away, the risk is zero… the upside, however, if they get in the line-up, is league winning! So if you haven’t drafted yet, don’t hesitate to snag either once their names start nearing the top 10-12 available players to draft on your league management’s prerank list… abuse this predraft list if possible!! And, if you have already drafted, target these guys in trades, even if you have to do bigger deals to dilute the impact of their involvement… meaning, if you just ask for Coleman or Henry, someone might say NO and wonder what you know… you’re reminding them how much upside they have, as you’re targeting just them in a deal… Make smart trades, dilute the value, but don’t make crazy downgrades at other line-up spots just to get these guys, but get creative and make tons of offers until one lands.
3. Jay Ajayi will produce top 5RB numbers in 2017!
(3/22/2017) Jay Ajayi was on our Bold Predictions list last season, and for good reason. He exploded. So, can he once again be a breakout in 2017? Sure. First off, any player can be a sleeper, even a bigger name player, someone like Ajayi who has already had a breakout season. Everything boils down to ADP and how much a player can explode from his draft position… and, because Ajayi is currently looking at a 2.02-2.05 ADP, he still has tons of room to outperform his 2017 ADP given he could quite possibly reach top 3-7 overall value. Do NOT draft him at that value, as you do NOT have to. His ADP is in the second-round, and in order to get ‘insane’ upside value out of Ajayi in 2017, he should be your second-drafted player. One of my favorite strategies this year is to trade a 3rd-round pick, or better yet a 4th-round pick, into the 2nd-round in order to get that elite RB in the 2nd-round (all while keeping your first- and second-round picks. Trade your 3rd-round pick with a 5th- or 6th-round pick and move that 3rd-round pick into the high 2nd-round and land yourself two Jay Ajayi-type players to go along with your 1st-rounder. So, what could Ajayi’s numbers look like in 2017? Well, considering he rushed for 1,272 yards (4.9) and 8TDs (with 27/151/0TDs through the air) in 2017, on what was essentially 12 starts, I see no reason the rusher couldn’t crank out 1,400 rushing yards, 10TDs, to go along with more like 35-40 receptions for 250 or so yards and 1TD. The Dolphins want to get him more involved in the receiving game, which I firmly believe will happen. The last thing I will say is that many might suggest this isn’t bold, and in a sense, and it isn’t ‘deep sleeper’ bold, not every prediction will be. But, even bigger name players can get overlooked enough to help you win a league, and when a RB that has top 5RB upside can be had in the 12-15 range (overall), you’re looking at a player that can help you win a league.
4. Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman together are equal to the 1.01!
(7/28/2017) So, what does this mean? Well, let me start off by repeating a bit of what I wrote on the recent stock market write-up:
(7/28/17) Devonta Freeman has been one of the players I have talked up most this off-season, at least in that top 15 overall player range. The Tevin Coleman threat has been lingering over Freeman for a bit now, yet people don’t realize that Freeman is only 25 years old and Coleman 24. Freeman also has only three-played seasons on his resume, and he has missed just one game in three years of play. He is coming off back to back 1,000-yard/450+ receiving seasons, each of which he pulled in 14 and 13TDs and 73 and 54 receptions. That’s insane football, folks. Tevin Coleman is almost a must for all Freeman owners, let’s be honest… but, it’s not because Freeman could get replaced by Coleman, it is because that offense is built around that RB role, and either would produce top 5-10RB numbers, if not better, per start. And, both guarantees you top 5-10RB numbers, and owning just one rusher all by himself doesn’t give you that kind of security. So, Freeman/Coleman is technically more valuable than any RB in fantasy, if you ask me. The safety factor of owning both is quietly (meaning you don’t actually value it as such) as valuable as a 1.01 pick… And, Coleman practically has flex-worthy value each week even in his backup role. Ok, so I said all this below well over a month ago. Why am I following up on this? Well, Freeman and the Falcons are getting closer to working out a long-term deal/extension, and once that happens, buying low in dynasty will be tough. Right now, the naive fantasy owner out there (in dynasty) probably still has concerns about Coleman, but an announcement of a new deal will surely reset that owner’s thinking and they may start looking at Freeman, once again, as the long-term stud in ATL, which he is. In dynasty, reach out. Buy low. I have sold LeSean McCoy in dynasty for Freeman. Give up more, get creative, just attack now, though.
So, as I outlined above, in bold, I quietly (meaning you don’t draft/trade at these expectations) believe that at season’s end in 2017, Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman will equal the 1.01 in hindsight. I’m not suggesting you add the two fantasy totals together, I’m suggesting that each week we will know who the main starter is (It will be Freeman when healthy)… but, because owning both is so powerful, the 16 starts you get (using one rusher) out of that duo will outscore any single running back in fantasy football in 2016. The 16 starts resulting from this duo could look something like: 1,200 rushing yards, 70 receptions, 600 receiving yards and 15TDs.
5. Adrian Peterson will be a top 5-10RB in 2017!
(6/19/2017) Adrian Peterson is getting no love whatsover. His Redraft ADP is in the 4th- to 6th-round range, and it’s in fact that wide a range… but, more noticibly, his dynasty ADP is significantly less, especially in existing leagues. Now, do I think AP can last for a string of years? No, he is now 32, but that doesn’t mean he can’t help you win a dynasty championship right now, thus he is one of my top buy recommendations in dynasty right now, as he can be had for a 2nd or third rounder in many cases. People value 2nd and 3rd rounders way too much in dynasty. I mean, don’t give them away, but I love trading such picks for ‘now’ pieces, players that can help me win a title right now. I’m always building a young team along side this thinking, though, but veteran players can be bargains and help fill in the gaps… one needs to be good at both the ‘now’ and the ‘future’ building process in order to excel in dynasty formats. Peterson got hurt last year at the very beginning of the season (only rushing for 31 yards in Week 1 and 19 yards in Week 2). He came back in Week 15 to carry the ball just six times, almost using the game as rehab. The season prior to that, though, he had 1,485 yards and 11TDs. Aside from less than two games last year, before getting hurt, there was no reason to think AP had declined in talent… He is super human… in that 1,485 season just prior to last season, he averaged 4.5 yards-per-carry. Minnesota was not a great situation to be in over the last handful of years, and AP has now stepped into one of the better offenses in the entire NFL, one that throws a ton to the running back. I love the argument that AP can’t catch, or the argument that he won’t pull in a bunch of passes in New Orleans in 2017. It’s said often, but it’s a statement made by people just looking at the game logs and not the situations. If you look at the situation, Minnesota just didn’t have the desire to throw to AP, or the talent around the rusher. They should have thrown to him more, as he proved in 2009, with Brett Favre, that he could pull in passes. That year, AP pulled in 43 balls for 436 yards. He had a 36/341-yard season the next year. The stud is fully capable of pulling in 50+ balls in NO in 2017, and I am buying low everywhere I can, redraft and dynasty alike (and especially in dynasty). And, quickly back to his ADP, which is no-risk territory… he is near the 4.02-6.05… that’s guys like Sammy Watkins, Tyreek Hill, Eddie Lacy, and in some cases closer to the 4.01, that’s a Demaryius Thomas… that’s still a risk worth taking if you ask me, but especially so the further on down the line you go with that ADP range… Doubt him all you want, or suggest that he may not have the season I am hoping for… that’s fine! But, before you cast this idea aside, consider that the risk is so low, it’s almost non-existent… not just low, it’s a 2nd-rounder in dynasty, and a WR3, in some cases, in redraft… yet, the upside, in dynasty or redraft, is “win a league” awesome! I think double-digit TDs, 50 receptions and well over 1,400 total yards is easily in the cards for AP in New Orleans in 2017. He could play a lot better than this, too. In hindsight, I feel many will be saying “man, why did I doubt him in that New Orleans offense? Why?” Don’t be that owner when the risk is so, so low.
6. Martavis Bryant will flirt with top 12WR numbers in 2017!
(7/20/2017) Martavis Bryant has been conditionally reinstated by the NFL, which is huge for those of us waiting on his NFL rebound. He is only 25 and has so much upside. His risk has been minimal given his ADP, most of the off-season that is, and I have written all off-season long on why to buying low now vs. later…. His value is sure to climb now, but how high will it climb? If it stays in the 5th- to 7th-round range, I think there is still tons of room to explode from that draft/trade value. The guy has scored 14TDs in 21 career games and averages over 17 yards per catch. He can both stretch the field and go up and get any ball, as he stands 6-4, 211 pounds. He is an absolute beast physically. If you take his career average of 17 yards per catch and apply 80 receptions, along with his .66TD per-game average, the guy could easily drop 80 receptions for 1,400 yards and 9-12TDs. Should prospective Bryant fantasy owners draft him anywhere near this expectation? No. This is a given, but I always have to acknowledge ADP and where “not” to draft a guy. Bryant is a WR2/3 at best heading into 2017, via start-up or trade. If you overpay, you run the risk of getting burned. Hold him if you own him already in dynasty, his value will only likely increase… If you have yet to draft, grab him as close to WR3-type value as you can and hope he stays out of trouble (a relatively big IF at this point, but well worth the risk at his current going rate/value). He could truly win you a league if you invest at the right spot and he stays on the field!
7. Alvin Kamara is a gem and has top 8-12RB upside for the future.
(8/20/2017) Alvin Kamara is deceptively-fast, as his forty time wasn’t super impressive, but his game speed is ultra-impressive. He has power and decisive moves, and the Saints traded up in the 2017 NFL Draft in order to select the Tennessee rusher. Sean Payton has compared some of his skills to Marshall Faulk. Now, before we get carried away here, it’s important to note that his situation is a tough one for 2017, as the Saints signed Adrian Peterson, who is also on this Bold Predictions list; I love AP per start this year… and they still have Mark Ingram. So, this is more of a dynasty call here, and a “if injuries happen” kinda redraft call. I think that Saints rusher will be super productive in 2017, so owning all three backs is not the worst strategy in the world if the ADPs/trade values all make sense. But, Kamara has a strong shot at grabbing the the future starting gig in New Orleans. In his second preseason game, Kamara rushed five times for 61 yards and a touchdown, and his first carry of the game was a big 50-yard touchdown run. And, he rushed four times for 35 yards his week 1 preseason opener. Again, he has a cloudy 2017, but my job is to call out players when I see elite talent. This kid has it. The second half of the equation is touches/workload, which is the tough part. Watch Kamara shred the Chargers in this preseason run (for 50 yards):
8. Marlon Mack is a gem and has top 8-12RB upside for the future.
(8/20/2017) Marlon Mack is 5-11/210. He is a super-talented rusher that has a real opportunity to start games early on this season. And, his future is bright in Indy if he can capitalize this season, which I think he will. In only three college seasons, Mack set USF all-time records in rushing yards (3,609), all-purpose yards (4,107), and touchdowns (33), finishing his career with a 6.16 YPC average. Mack carried the ball five times for 45 yards in Saturday’s Week 2 preseason game. He looks the part. Folks, I honestly see a lot of Leveon Bell in his game. I think he can be a real start if he gets the touches. Watch some preseason film on him:
9. Mike Gillislee will have a top 5-10RB season in 2017 and score 10+TDs!
(7/20/2017) You won’t find many higher on Mike Gillislee last year than I was. I had him on my Top 10 Bold Predictions, which is pretty high in the expectations department when he was a clear backup rusher at the time… and he remained a backup all season, but he did show flashes of what I predicted he would play like and he did so in several of his games last season. He never carried the football more than 15 times, and he only had double-digit carries on four occasions. His 577 yards (5.7 YPC) and 8 rushing TDs (1 receiving TD) was more than solid in what was really just a change-of-pace role in Buffalo last year; his explosiveness is head-scatching in the sense that bigger fantasy circles aren’t calling for this guy’s breakout campaign in NE here in 2017. I mean, he isn’t totally flying in under the radar, for he is kinda being called the likely replacement for last year’s starter Blount. That said, many aren’t buying in. Is their risk? Sure! I love his talent and skill set, clearly, and the coaching staff seems to love him in NE, however, there is that chance he doesn’t get the touches we think he will get. That’s fantasy football, and that’s the nature of that NE coaching staff and rushing situation. That’s also why I have James White in this prediction as well, and he can be handcuffed very easily given his 10-13 round ADP… One has zero excuses to not snag both rushers if you go with this prediction… The great news is that Gillislee’sADP is also a steal in redraft, and his dynasty ADP is near 7.01. That could change, though, let me start there. I predict it will, and by several rounds, which will suck for those loving this prediction and hoping the value stays this awesome entering August redraft drafts. This is a great spot if his ADP remains there, though. We are talking about potential 10TD upside (look at Gillislee last year with 9 total scores, and Blount scored 18 rushing TDs in this same NE role that Gillislee is supposedly stepping into)… At 6.10 to 7.01, you’re looking at players like Delanie Walker, Paul perkins, Emmanual Sanders, Jamison Crowder, Cam Newton and Larry Fitzgerald. While there is nothing wrong with those players, Gillislee is all of the sudden looking way more upside than risk if you ask me. Invest at anywhere near these player names/value (especially via trade in existing leageus). Folks, here is a pattern…
- 18TDs! That’s how many Blount had last year…
- Gillislee had 9 total scores himself as a backup last year…
- Last year, I had him in my top 10 Bold Predictions based only on how great he looks on film, as he wasn’t a starter and had no signs of becoming a starter.
By Bold Predictions standards, those things should be adding up to “Ok, yeah, he might just be setup to explode” by now if you’re still reading this. Watch the footage below, the dude looks amazing, quick, can catch, he has power and is awesome between the tackles… Now keep in mind that’s all footage in Buffalo, he is now in the best offense in the NFL. Given James White can pull in 60 receptions for 500-600 yards and 5-6TDs as a back-up/change of pace player, he screams upside, too. Both are needed. Both give you an insanely-valuable, yet super underrated, RB2 in 2017.
10. Kenny Golladay is going to be a star and potential WR1.
(8/9/2017) Kenny Golladay is not a huge name in fantasy football – yet. I think that will soon change, and it might happen way too quickly. The 2017 rookie receiver is fighting for the Lions’ WR3 job, but he’s already making some noise and looking like a red zone monster. He is 6-4, 213 pounds, but he moves a lot like a faster AJ Green. I’m not saying he is as good as AJ Green just yet, I’m merely drawing a playing style comparison. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones are both decent receivers, sure, but neither is a stud WR1 for a team… they are both kind of 2a WRs, so Golladay has a real shot to develop into the Lions’ future stud WR1. We don’t have a ton to go off other than his college stats and footage, mixed with some camp work, but folks, sometimes you can just see elite in a player, and I think this kid screams elite. In his two seasons at Northern Illinois, he posted the following lines: 73/1129/11TDs in 2015, and then 87/1156/10TDs in 2016 (with 192 rushing yards). In the pros, I eventually see him posting similar numbers, folks. I think this is a double-digit touchdown receiver right here, he just needs a shot and he should have that shot in Detroit! Check out some of his camp footage. He’s a beast:
11. Amari Cooper will be a top 3-6WR in 2017!
(3/25/2017) Like DeAndre Hopkins, Amari Cooper is extremely underrated right now (2.11-3.01 ADP in redraft). It’s amazing how hard fantasy worlds are being on Cooper right now. Last year was only his second season as a pro, and he is only 22 years old (23 in June). He had a rough year last year, despite still pulling in a respectable 83/1153/5TDs; but, I admit it, I was expecting more like 1200-1400 yards, 100 receptions and 10TDs or more in 2016. Still, some elite WRs take two-played seasons before they breakout during their third NFL season. Dez Bryant needed that time frame to get into his groove, and I see no reason why Cooper can’t excel well past his 2016 numbers. And, I mean well past! First off, Derek Carr is a stud, and that Raiders offense is already a force for years to come. Michael Crabtree had a big season in 2016 (89/1003/8TDs), and I think defenses will absolutely be looking to stop both he and Cooper this year, not just Cooper. This means that Cooper will see less double coverages, and I firmly believe we’re going to see 2017 numbers like the numbers that I quoted above: 1200-1400 yards, 100 receptions and 10TDs or more. One thing I get asked a lot is, how do I come up with my bold predictions? Is it a stat-based formula? Gut? The truth is it’s a combo, but more than anything, it’s watching a player and seeing the flashes of amazing. I see that in Cooper. I see a top 1-4 fantasy WR right now. The two-best buy-low WRs in football right now are, by far, Amari Cooper and DeAndre Hopkins. Both easily have top 1-5WR appeal for the now and future, and I will be attacking both via trade in every league I’m in.
12. Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook are top 12RBs now, and one will be 1-5 in 2017!
(2/16/2017) Both of these rookie running backs are special, so special that I could see both being top 10RBs almost immediately, with one being a top 1-5RB of the future. While rookies can now shine like top 20 overall fantasy talents during their rookie season, something that wasn’t the case 10 years ago, very few have ever been top 5 overall players during their entire rookie season. Zeke Elliott proved it can happen, but will it happen again any time soon? I think it is very possible with one of Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook. Fournette (6-1, 235 pounds) runs like a mixture of Adrian Peterson and Bo Jackson, while Cook (5-11, 215 pounds) plays a lot like DeMarco Murray. Based on the comparison, you can likely envision Cook being almost equal parts rushing and receiving, while Fournette will be a solid enough receiver, but will be heavily-geared toward elite-like rushing and double-digit rushing TDs. I love both backs for both the now and the future, and my early guess is that Fournette has the better shot at a Zeke Elliott like rookie season. That does not mean Cook can’t also be this good right out of the gate, as landing spots could determine a lot. In a few of my dynasty leagues, I am making it a rebuilding goal of mine to acquire both the 1.01 and 1.02 in the same league(s) so that I can have both runners on a roster or two. For more on these two players, read the 2017 Rookie RB Write-ups here.
13. DeAndre Hopkins will be a top 1-5WR in 2017!
(3/25/2017) Like Amari Cooper, DeAndre Hopkins is extremely underrated right now. And, I’m talking in both dynasty and redraft. His current redraft ADP is around 3.02, which is crazy-low. That’s below players like Mark Ingram, Michael Thomas, TY Hilton and others. This is one of the best low-risk/high-reward situations out there in fantasy football in 2017, in all formats. In dynasty, his value might be a little higher than his redraft value, so maybe 2.10, but is still near as good. Hopkins is a top 4-8 overall talent in my view, yeah, you heard me… overall… and while his QB situation held him back last season, there is still a decent chance Tony Romo, or other solid passer, ends up in HOU in 2017. If Romo does in fact end up in Houston, I would venture to say that Hopkins’ value could very well climb all the way back up into the top 12 overall… which means that redraft leaguers, who typically draft in August, might not be able to take advantage of the decreased value, as it uncontrollably might rise back into top 12ish overall value. However, dynasty leagues can take control of this situation right now before things change or rebound… buy-low! Buy him at late 2nd-round value, because that’s how you crush your league mates on this move. If you buy him at elite WR1-value, you are not buying low. I think Hopkins can bounce-back in 2017, even if Romo doesn’t land in Houston. He is elite. Many WRs in the past have been elite with iffy QB situations. DHop is one of those guys, the kind of player that can go get a football and make an ok passing game great. He had a bad year in 2016 (78/954/4TDs), but he is fully capable of 100/1300-1400/8-10TDs during any given season. He is only 24 years old, turning 25 in June… he will still get better and better each and ever season, and he could be the best WR in football still, especially in 1-2 years (under a more stable passing attack). Buy-low in dynasty, and pray that he has this kind of value (2.08-3.02) in redraft come draft day in August! He can win you a league at his current value, which is one of the most undervalued values I’ve seen in years for a top 1-5 overall capable player.
Jarvis Landry will finally become a top 5-7 fantasy WR.
(1/4/2017) I know many felt burned buy the guy in 2016, but make no mistake about it… Jarvis Landry is Odell Beckham-talented and an upgraded passing attack is the only thing standing in his way of reaching top 5-7 fantasy WR-type numbers. He didn’t have the worst 2016 fantasy season, as he pulled in 94 receptions for 1,136 yards and 4TDs.. his situation results in a lot of short routes, and his TD upside isn’t huge in Miami (not his fault). While Miami might not make changes this upcoming off-season, I think it’s a safe time to buy-low on Landry given he can likely be had at fair market value right now. So, to get him at no real risk (he can earn back his current trade value), yet big-time upside, I think it makes him a safe player to attack right now via trade. The guy had 111 receptions for 1159 yards and 4TDs the year prior, so his yardage totals have been consistently low when compared to the receptions, and again, the TD opportunities just aren’t there. The skill is, though. He and Beckham have been compared in the past and for quietly-good reason… With a stronger passing game, I envision 1300-1400 yards, 100-105 receptions and 8+ TDs.