Fantasy Forensics: Studs and Duds for the 2017 Season

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As the NFL season approaches, the Bettor Take Cover staff prepares you for your fantasy football leagues by breaking down which offensive tandems we’re buying for the season and which we’re selling.

Editor’s Note: This article was written with daily fantasy markets and strategies in mind, but our advice is also applicable to snake and auction drafts. 

Studs

Chance Cassidy: Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

The Giants have one of the best receiving corps in the league. Sterling Shepard has another year of experience under his belt, and the addition of Brandon Marshall will make it more difficult for defenses to lock in on Odell Beckham Jr. Rookie tight end Evan Engram should also open up the middle of the field for Manning and Beckham. Beckham is a top three receiver anyway, but his value will increase even further with more threats around him. There are a lot of question marks with Manning’s consistency, but he should have one of the best years of his career with this many weapons around him. Defenses have to worry about OBJ every single play, and he is one quick slant away from a huge touchdown every snap. With better talent around him, I look for him to have an even higher ceiling this year.

Cody Jinnette: Kirk Cousins and Terrelle Pryor, Washington Redskins

I debated whether to go with Pryor or Jamison Crowder here. I really like them both, but I decided to go with Pryor because I think he’s an early season bargain. Pryor is electric and will establish himself in that second tier right under OBJ, Antonio Brown and Julio Jones by the end of the season. He was productive in Cleveland despite abysmal quarterback play, and I’m excited to see what he does with a real QB. Even with a new offensive coordinator, I expect Cousins’ to produce another year full of please-pay-me-I’m-in-yet-another-contract-year-please-god-someone-help numbers. He’s priced outside the top 10 QB’s in the NFL, but I expect him to end up as a top seven QB. If Pryor starts rising or he has a difficult matchup against a cornerback, don’t be afraid to go with the Cousins-Crowder combo either.

Brock Little: Derek Carr and Amari Cooper/Michael Crabtree, Oakland Raiders

This is the year, Raiders fans. Derek Carr just inked a massive contract extension, and he’s poised for another big season after last year’s breakout year. The Raiders added Marshawn Lynch at running back in addition to the best offensive line in the NFL, which should open up the passing game even further for Carr and his talented receivers. Third year wideout Amari Cooper is worthy of a second round pick in your draft. He has an incredible ceiling, and he should produce WR1 numbers as the Raiders’ No. 1 target. Michael Crabtree is the No. 2 option, and he would be the top target for several teams in the league. Crabtree would be a great pick in the fourth or fifth round as a WR2/Flex, and he will be a heavy contributor in what should be an explosive Oakland offense.

Cody Jinnette: Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

As I wrote in my rookie column, I think the Bengals’ offense will be vastly improved this year. They have more weapons to pull coverage away from Green, and Dalton is only a year removed from producing top 10 numbers. There aren’t many quarterbacks cheaper than Dalton who will even be starting by Week 7, so Dalton is about as cheap as it gets for a second tier fantasy quarterback. Green is a stud, and he was putting up numbers similar to Julio and OBJ before his injury last season. Save some money by selecting him over Brown, Beckham and Julio, and spend you hard earned fake-but-real money on a RB2 that actually starts for his team.

Chance Cassidy: Jameis Winston and Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jameis Winston has already established himself as an up-and-coming quarterback, and he has the ability to become an elite QB. It only took a few minutes of watching Hard Knocks to realize the whole team has complete faith in him, including receiver Mike Evans. Evans is one of those receivers who is almost impossible to cover one-on-one due to his massive 6’5, 225-pound frame. Opposing defenses will have to worry about DeSean Jackson over the top, which will make it even easier for Evans to get open. If the Bucs can avoid the Hard Knocks curse, Winston will steal more touchdowns than crab legs this season and Mike Evans will have a huge season.

Duds

Cody Jinnette: Cam Newton and Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers

I love Cam. I’m the president of his fan club. But I won’t be touching him in daily fantasy at the beginning of the season. He’s the second most expensive QB going into week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers (great matchup… Oh god, don’t let me talk myself into this), and he’s in an offense that’s going through a lot of personnel and scheme changes. I need to see it to believe it. Even when I come around on Cam, I’m not touching Benjamin. I don’t trust him to:

A) Stay in shape

B) Run his routes instead of jogging them

C) Actually fulfill his potential as a red zone target (especially with Cam vulturing touchdowns there).

I’d really steer clear of all Carolina wide receivers. If you really want to take advantage of some of their easy matchups, get Olsen as a premium tight or hope Christian McCaffrey or Chris Samuels can become legitimate weapon to pair with Cam.

Chance Cassidy: Tom Brady and Brandin Cooks, New England Patriots

There is no doubt Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks of all time, and new addition Brandin Cooks makes the Patriots’ offense look virtually unstoppable this season. The main issue with this combo is Brady spreading the ball around too much. Brady has so many weapons to throw to, and he spreads the wealth to his unlimited supply of receivers, running backs, and of course, Gronk. Additionally, Belichick changes his gameplan weekly, so we never know who the focal point of the offense will be. Some weeks it’s Gronk, sometimes it’s Julian Edelman, and sometimes it’s a backup running back like James White, who was the hero in the Super Bowl. For the price of these players, I would recommend staying away.

Brock Little: Eddie Lacy/C.J, Prosise/Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle running game is going to be bad this year. Their offensive line was atrocious last season, and the offense ranked 25th in total yards. The outlook for the 2017 season doesn’t seem great either after starting left tackle George Fant tore his ACL in a preseason game. The unit will be bad again, and I’ll pass on all three of the Seahawks’ running backs this year.

Eddie Lacy was my favorite running back to come out of Alabama, but it’s hard to imagine him having much success behind this offensive line. Thomas Rawls has been getting some first team reps at RB, but Lacy will likely receive the bulk of the carries this season. He’s lost some weight due—likely due to a clause in his contract—but the OL situation is so bad that I don’t think he has a bounce back year. C.J. Prosise is also a threat to steal carries away from both Rawls and Lacy, so I wouldn’t draft anyone from their back field before the eighth round. They are all lower tier flex options.

Cody Jinnette and Chance Cassidy: Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys

CJ: I will not go after any premium players in the Cowboys’ passing game, period. Dak spreads the ball around and doesn’t go deep as often as I’d like. His average yards gained per pass attempt (8.0), yards gained per pass completion (11.8), and adjusted yards gained per pass attempt (8.6) were all middle of the road during his rookie year. Dez’s price is out of proportion to what we saw from him a season ago; he’s a prime example of premium price for a premium name. Also, it’s not crazy to think that Dak will slump a little and the offense will slow down some, at least until Ezekiel Elliott is back from suspension. I think Dak could be a good pick for the value (he’s not that expensive), but tying Dez to him is really risky. If Dez falls in price, we can revisit this, but until then, I’ll refrain from tying my QB to a WR if it means paying a small fortune for him.

CC: If there is ever a perfect setup for a sophomore slump for a QB, this is it. Most of Dak’s first season success was a result from a highly efficient running game. With Ezekiel Elliott set to miss the first six games of the season, Dak will have more pressure on him to create offense. Having one of the best offensive lines on the team will help, but Dez Bryant is notoriously hard to please, and if the team struggles early, I can see it having a negative impact on Prescott. Dak’s price is too high for all the risk going into the season so avoid him and any Cowboys wide receiver at all costs.