Well, the 2016 NFL season is over. Hopefully you are flush with cash and trophies from all the leagues you won, instead of wallowing in sorrow at the mistakes you made. As we all know though, the NFL season never really ends and neither should fantasy! Whether you're preparing for a dynasty draft or waiting patiently for the 2017 redraft season, this is the time of year to put in the work that will bring you a championship next season.
Since the NFL Draft is almost upon us, it is time to look at some incoming rookies. Now, I'm not Mel Kiper so I won't pretend to know where the, what I consider to be, elite skill position players will actually end up. However I am going to tell you where I wish they would end up in order to have the best fantasy success for 2017 and beyond.
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
My dream destination: Cleveland Browns
Don't worry, you read that right, I am in full mental health, at least to some degree, suggesting that an elite talent like Fournette’s best landing spot is the woeful Cleveland Browns. Before you close this article because you think I'm an idiot, give me a chance to explain myself. The Browns have actually made some moves this offseason that show they might be transforming into a competent NFL franchise. The signings of right guard Kevin Zietler and center JC Tretter are proof that Cleveland understands that most success in the NFL happens by dominating the line of scrimmage. Add those two to left guard Joel Bitonio and perennial All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas and Cleveland has the makings of a top 5 offensive line. Also, head coach Hugh Jackson loves to run the football. Aside from last season, no team that Jackson was either the head coach or offensive coordinator has finished lower than 7th in rushing production, and he has never had a running back as talented as Fournette. At 240 pounds, Fournette ran a 4.5 40 yard dash at the NFL combine, proving that he has the breakaway speed to outrun defenders, in addition to simply being able to manhandle them. Last season, undrafted third year player Isaiah Crowell averaged 4.8 yards per carry behind a worse offensive line than the Browns currently have. I know the Browns have had the most comical quarterback situation in NFL history since they rejoined the league in 1999, but this regime has done a great job of stockpiling draft picks over the next two seasons, so one of them should turn into a decent quarterback, right? RIGHT? Even if they don't, there's worse ways to hide a deficiency at quarterback than handing the ball off to an elite talent like Fournette 20-30 times a game.
Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Dream Destination: Tennessee Titans
Corey Davis isn't only the most prolific FBS receiver in history, he may be the best player to ever come out of that level of college football. At 6’3” and 213 pounds, Davis has the prototypical size that NFL scouts are looking for, and the tape to back it up. In Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception, Harmon stated that Davis had a 76.9% success rate against man coverage, which puts him in the 94th percentile and is comparable to players like Alshon Jeffery and Allen Robinson. As for the Titans, they may have gotten a free agent steal in Rishard Matthews who had 65 catches for 985 yards and 9 touchdowns last season, but his 60% catch rate puts him just below Tyler Lockett and just above Ted Ginn, neither of whom are known for their excellent hands. Rishard is better served as a number 2 as he slowed down the last few weeks of the season due to defenses paying more attention to him. I say let the Titans use the number 5 pick they stole from the L.A. Rams and give Marriotta a sure handed true number 1 wide receiver that can box out defenders and help the “exotic smash mouth” offense reach it's true potential.
Dalvin Cook, RB, FSU
Dream Destination: Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay loves them some home state players don't they? Not only would Dalvin hardly have to relocate, but he would also be a perfect fit in Dirk Koetter’s offense. Dalvin may be the best all around back in the draft, with deceptive strength and speed and a great ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Last year, Charles Sims ranked 8th amongst qualifying running backs in targets per game, and they especially liked to utilize him in the red zone. Koetter also displayed a desire to run the ball, as the team was 8th in the league in rushing attempts despite having Pro Football Focus’s 23rd ranked offensive line. Even while Martin missed most of the season, they were able to make Jacquizz Rodgers fantasy relevant as he 4.32 yards per attempt and ran for 560 yards despite only starting 5 games after being signed off the street. Drafting Cook would allow them to finally part ways with Martin without losing talent in the process. An offense with Jameis Winston, DeSean Jackson, Mike Evans and Dalvin Cook? Sign me up!
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Dream Destination: Carolina Panthers
There's one question every Carolina fan has been asking themselves all offseason: how in the hell are we going to replace Ted Ginn? I'm only kidding, but Ginn leaving does leave a huge vacuum in receiving production as Ginn was the team's second best producer from the wide receiver position, with Corey Brown being a distant third at 27 catches for 240 yards. Thought for most of the season to be the top receiver prospect heading into this year's draft, Williams may have been passed by on some teams boards by the aforementioned Davis, but that has more to do with Davis’s upside than Williams lack of talent. Williams is a physical freak, capable of boxing out defenders on 50/50 balls or taking a slant to the house. His long arms give Williams an outstanding catch radius, and given Cam’s accuracy issues, especially throwing the ball too high, he's going to need it. While I'm still a believer in Kelvin Benjamin’s talent, he showed last season that he isn't able to dominate when he's the only wideout the defense has to worry about. The much hyped Devin Funchess may look like a physical freak, the fact of the matter is he's not a good football player. Head coach Ron Rivera has expressed desire to have Cam run less, but he won't be able to do so with Carolina’s current wide receiving core. Pair Williams with Benjamin and the Panthers have the potential for one of the best receiving duos in the league for years to come.
Christian McCaffery, RB, Stanford
Dream Destination: Kansas City Chiefs
So the Jamal Charles era has ended in Kansas City, and while some are saying that Spencer Ware will be fine as his replacement, I say why not replace him with a RB with a very similar skill set? McCaffery is the son of a former NFL wide receiver, and may be one of the best receiving backs to come out in the last five years. Last season, Ware ranked 33rd in receptions amongst running backs and that's with the most checkdown prone quarterback in the NFL in Alex Smith. Ideally, Reid would like to have an RB that can excel further in that department ala Jamaal Charles in 2013 and 2014 when he combined for 110 catches and 984 yards. Even going back to his Philadelphia days, Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy were generally amongst league leaders in receptions at the running back position. McCaffery isn't just a third down back though as he displayed in college the vision and burst to excel in an every down role. McCaffery in Kansas City would also allow Ware to return to his more comfortable complimentary role as he seemed to slow down the second half of last season as he averaged 4.98 yards per carry through the first seven games, to just 3.8 over the last eight games of the season. Andy Reid has long since been thought of as an offensive genius, and having an offense with Christian McCaffery and Tyreek Hill on the field would give defenses fits, even if Alex Smith is the quarterback.
Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
Dream Destination: The Oakland Raiders
I'll be honest, I could have put any of these running backs on the Raiders and it would have been a perfect fit, but Mixon’s game fits their scheme the best for me. An elite talent since he came out of high school, the only question on most scouts minds regarding Mixon is which grade is higher; his draft grade or his piece of shit grade. While I tend to lean toward the latter, there's no denying his ability. An elite mix of speed, vision and power, Mixon would push Fournette and Cook as the top running back in this class if it weren't for his character concerns. But since when has Oakland given a damn about someone’s character? Last year Oakland was one of the best run blocking teams in the league, averaging 2.07 yards before contact. The addition of Kilechi Osemele gave an already good unit a tone setter and absolute mauler in the run game and turned them into Pro Football Focus’s 4th ranked offensive line. The Raiders also have a future perennial pro bowl quarterback in Derek Carr and a plethora of weapons in the passing game that keep the defenses from stacking the box. Despite missing 2 games, Latavius Murray was the 12th ranked running back in fantasy last season and I think most would agree he's not nearly as talented as Mixon. If you're willing to put aside this man’s lack of character, Mixon on the Raiders would instantly be an RB1 for me and a value for years to come.
Well that's it for now. The 2017 draft class has been hyped for the past two years and so far is living up to it as these 6 players only scratch the surface of talent that could have an impact in 2017 and beyond.
Anthony Reimer is a contributor and member of the FLAFFL House Family. Follow him on Twitter @reimeras & on the Fantasy Life App @mrmeseeks