Keep these guys on your radar.
5. Jared Cook
Consensus Rank: 26th TE
This is an incredibly bizarre anomaly, in which the majority of “expert” services predict Cook’s productivity to actually decline after leaving the Nick Foles/Case Keenum dumpster fire for perhaps the NFL’s best quarterback. Doesn’t make sense to you? Me neither.
Cook is a massive target, runs well, and fills a gaping need for the pass-happy Packers offense. With the end of the Andrew Quarless experiment, and an incredibly uninspiring past two seasons from Richard Rodgers (sans the catch against the Lions), Cook should step into the featured tight end role in what could be the NFC’s best aerial attack.
Yes, I realize he just had foot surgery, but Cook is expected to return prior to Week 1. Dropping to the 10th+ round in most draft formats, give me a 6’5″ 255-pound red zone target for Aaron Rodgers anytime.
4. Marvin Jones
Consensus Rank: 37th WR
This may be the most perplexing ranking of any player in all football. Jones, signed abruptly and for far too much money, as if the Lions thought they were an NBA team, is the supposed replacement for the now retired Calvin Johnson.
While I realize replacing Megatron with Marvin Jones is a bigger downgrade than Marko Jaric’s new girlfriend, Jones is still the only legitimate option on the outside for an abysmal running team that relies heavily on the pass.
Golden Tate, also severely underrated but a couple spots ahead of Jones, is more of a slot guy at well under 6 foot, and with his advancing age at a position so agility dependent, who knows what decline he could be in store for?
The Lions have an idiot for a quarterback, a gunslinger in the mold of Brett Favre just without the ice water veins and playoff heroics. Stafford can throw 5 picks a game for all we care here, the Lions will be perpetually playing from behind, and without any ability to run the ball with any semblance of consistency.
Jones is a fringe top 20 option this year, but will be going extremely late in drafts.
3. Stefon Diggs
Consensus Rank: 41st WR
Can someone explain to me what the fuck has happened to Diggs that warrants this ranking? In his inaugural season, Diggs spent the last 8 weeks making Fanduelers rich and giving the 144 picks in front him the middle finger on his way to the end zone.
Diggs is what the Vikings hoped Cordarrelle Patterson could become when they wasted a 1st round pick on their now 5th wideout. In the second half of the year, when Coach Mike Zimmer opened up the offense and Diggs’ role in it, Diggs carried, received, and threw the ball on his way to a blistering 8-game stretch that accounted for over 80 percent of his total fantasy points.
Extrapolate his second half to a full season’s worth of games, and you’ve got a 1,200 yard, 10 touchdown receiver in an offense that will only improve as QB Teddy Bridgewater and the second year wideout mature in the league.
After cutting the trainwreck that is Mike Wallace, Diggs should be the #1 option in Minnesota, with he and rookie Laquon Treadwell forming the best young receiver duo in Minnesota since Moss and Carter.
A #1 option on an improving team with the ability to carry the ball, play wildcat quarterback, and even pass? Don’t let him slip by.
2. Matt Ryan
Consenus Rank: 23rd QB
Most experts have “studs” such as Ryan Tannehill, Joe Flacco, Brock Osweiller, Tyrod Taylor, and Ryan Fitzpatrick ranked ahead of Matty Ice, which I personally find offensive to the intelligence of us as consumers.
While I realize 2015 was a down year for Ryan and the Falcons in general under first year Coach Dan Quinn, Ryan has averaged a top 10 overall fantasy finish the last 5 seasons, and possesses perhaps the best target in all of football in Julio Jones.
What I find even more oddly inconsistent is the Eli Manning “OBJ bump,” as one FOX “expert” called it, asserting a large value increase for Manning due to the presence of his undeniably talented receiver. Fair enough, but how can the same not apply to Ryan?
The Falcons play in a Dome, and in a warm weather division in which the back end of the schedule should keep Ryan, and the Falcons passing attack, out of the snow and frigid temperatures that deflate balls (supposedly) and offenses in the North.
Look for Ryan to have a major bounce back season, as the Falcons make the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
1. Jamaal Charles
Consensus Rank: 14th RB
This really is a “what have you done for me lately?” society we live in, isn’t it? Charles, coming off of a significant injury but slated to return before week one, has been relegated to C.J. Anderson status in the Roto world, dropping to his lowest pre-season fantasy ranking since his rookie season.
Let’s be a little more rational for a second. In Charles’ last two full healthy NFL seasons, he has averaged almost 1200 yards rushing, nearly 500 yards receiving, and 16 total touchdowns. Those numbers last season would’ve made him the third best running back in the fantasy world.
Yet, even though he is not only healthy for 2016, but running behind the best offensive line of his career in Kansas City, Charles’ turning 29 and his latest injury appears to have scared off consumers like an E. coli outbreak.
But, like Chipotle, the craving for Charles’ services will return, as the electric and versatile definition of a “three down back” regains his 2014 form and the Chiefs again make the playoffs. Charles is worthy of consideration in the late first round, not the 3rd, the round in which he is supposed to be taken now..
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