Fantasy Football: Bold predictions for 2017 NFL season

Fantasy Football: Bold predictions for 2017 NFL season

Fantasy Football is all about taking educated guesses.

You can look at your respective teams over and over and over again throughout the week, and there's still a good chance you'll be second guessing your lineup decisions.

Nobody's found the correct recipe for success.

Which is why the majority of our bold predictions will probably look like a train wreck when the season concludes.

For more analysis on our bold predictions and a look ahead to Week 1, listen to the latest Fantasy Football Fix Podcast.

1. Marcus Mariota will be the No. 1 fantasy PLAYER this season.

Oftentimes, even in PPR leagues, QBs rank as the No. 1 overall fantasy player simply by virtue of volume. Of course, there's also a smaller gap between the top QBs and the mid-tier options, so I'm not saying Mariota will be the most VALUABLE fantasy player this season. But put together his amazing efficiency throughout his career, his low turnover rate, his ability to scramble/run and an increase in weapons are all tangible things to point to. But what about the fact he's now entering his third year in the league and playing with a ton of confidence? (Tony Andracki)

2. C.J. Prosise will become a Top 25 RB in PPR leagues.

He's currently listed third on the Seahawks' depth chart entering Week 1, but I don't expect that to continue. Plus, he could be listed third and still wind up with the most fantasy points of anybody not named Russell Wilson in Week 1. Depth charts mean nothing in the flow of the game. But even still, the two guys ahead of him — Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls — carry huge question marks, including injury concerns. Prosise is dynamic and electric and is a far better receiver than either guy ahead of him. He averaged more than 8 yards per touch last season, proving he can be a major fantasy factor even if he doesn't get 20 touches a game. Chris Carson is not a concern, despite a huge preseason. Christine Michael and Robert Turbin had major preseason impacts with the Seahawks in the past and never were close to be worth a roster spot in fantasy. By the time the fantasy playoffs roll around, Prosise will be the unquestioned top Seattle back to own if he stays healthy. (TA)

3. John Brown will be the best fantasy WR in Arizona.

Larry Fitzgerald is going 19th among WRs, 45th overall. Brown is the 54th receiver off the board, 133rd overall. Fitzgerald is 34 now and even though he had an absolutely fantastic season last year, it was mainly by sheer volume. He averaged a career-low 9.6 ypc and faded down the stretch, scoring just 1 TD in his last 11 games with 5 rpg, 36 ypg in his last four contests. He had 1,023 yards, but only one game over 100 on the season. My point? There's plenty of room for Brown to emerge as a successful weekly option even if Fitzgerald repeats, but there are so many signs pointing to regression for Fitz. Brown, meanwhile, finally seems to have his sickle cell condition under control and he's only one year removed from a 65-catch, 1,003-yard, 7 TD performance and that was with Fitz two years younger and Michael Floyd eating up 89 targets, 849 yds and 6 TD. (TA)

4. DeMarco Murray finishes outside the Top 25 running backs.

He's 29 now, he's coming off a season in which he accrued more than 340 touches and last year was a bit of a fluke, even for him. Prior to 2017, Murray had 215 receptions, but only two of those went for TDs. Last year, he had 3 receiving TDs, which seems like an aberration and rather unsustainable. Even if he stays healthy — he's only missed one game the last three seasons — there's no guarantee he stays productive (remember his 2015 season where he barely topped 1,000 yards from scrimmage and only had 7 TDs in 15 games? Plus Derrick Henry has proven he's capable of taking on a bigger load. The Titans offense runs through Mariota now (this is HIS team) and they have their sights set on contending and won't want to burn out Murray to do so. All that points to a letdown for Murray. (TA)

5. Austin Hooper has more fantasy points than Rob Gronkowski.

Rookie tight ends make almost no impact in the Fantasy landscape. NFL teams want them to come to the league, learn the playbook and block. Keep in mind, that's how it used to be for wide receivers, too, at least in terms of fantasy points. It was typical for the third season in the league to be the breakout for WRs, but then guys like ODB went and blew that narrative out of the water. It's still the case for rookie TEs. Gronk's rookie season wasn't even anything to write home about, besides his 10 TDs because he only racked up 42 receptions and 546 yards while playing every game that season. Hooper is THE guy now in Atlanta, a high-powered offense with plenty of weapons and entering his second year after making no impact as a rookie. This isn't to say that Gronk is going to have a bad season; I'm more worried about his health. I absolutely believe he will average more points per game than Hooper, but he'll ultimately be on the bench for a few games. If you draft Gronk, why not get a guy like Hooper in the last few rounds of the draft as a handcuff of sorts? (TA)

6. Keenan Allen finishes as a Top 10 WR in PPR leagues. 

Allen has yet to play a full season in his NFL career, missing 26 games in four seasons. He's only played in nine contests the last two years. So yes, injury is a concern, but he's currently healthy with no known lingering issues, so there's nothing to say he will for sure get hurt in 2017. When on the field, Allen is one of the top receivers in the league, averaging nearly 6 receptions and 8.5 targets per game. He has a potential to be a PPR monster with at least 6 receptions in 12 of his last 23 games, including 5 double-digit receiving games in that span. He's part of a high-performing offense that airs it out and figures to continue to do so yet again in 2017. For a guy going as the No. 18 WR off the board and 42nd overall, he's been criminally underrated leading into the fantasy season. (TA)

7. Ben Roethlisberger will finish as a Top 5 fantasy QB.

Look, we can all overanalyze Big Ben's home and road splits until we're blue in the face. I get it. But something that can all agree with is that Roethlisberger is a completely different quarterback when he's got Martavis Bryant in the lineup. When Bryant is on the field, Roethlisberger has tossed for 6,385 yards and 41 TDs in 19 games. Those numbers extrapolate to a season average of 5,376 yards and 35 scores, a total that would firmly place Roethlisberger as a Top 5 fantasy scorer at his position. While open for debate, let's not forget he has the NFL's best running back and wide receiver at his disposal in Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. My chips are all in on Big Ben in 2017. (Scott Krinch)

8. Russell Wilson will be the top fantasy scorer.

For the first time in his career, Russell Wilson wasn't a Top 10 fantasy quarterback. Don't expect that trend to continue. There's plenty of signs that point to a major turnaround around for Wilson. The Jimmy Graham of old appears to be lurking around Seahawks' headquarters. A healthy Graham would be a lethal weapon for Wilson in the red zone. Back in the slot, making defenders look foolish with a 3.27 separation rate (70.2 percent of his targets) is Doug Baldwin. Wilson also has emerging outside speed threat targets in Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson. The Seahawks also brought in Eddie Lacy to pair with Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise. Wilson has plenty of talent surrounding him and has no excuse not to exceed his 19.4 points per game average from 2016. (SK)

9. DeVante Parker will be a Top 15 fantasy wide receiver.

Remember when Jay Cutler used to air it out to Alshon Jeffery a few times a game? Well, expect Cutty to go full Cutty this season and let it rip, but only this time he'll be throwing the rock to a player he calls a "faster Alshon Jeffery." Third-year wide receiver DeVante Parker and his new quarterback in Miami have developed quite the connection over the last month. Look for Parker to be Cutler's go-to-guy with the Dolphins and for the former University of Louisville wideout to see at least double the amount of end zone targets (7) he had last year.  (SK)

10. Carlos Hyde will lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns.

"He's the lightest he's been since high school." I know it's cliche and we hear that every offseason referencing a handful of players around the league, but I'm buying it this time around for Carlos Hyde. Under new head coach Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers are going to rely heavily on the ground attack led by Hyde. The former Ohio State running back is coming off a career-best 4.6 yards per carry and has finished in the Top 10 in yards after contact the last two years. Now, he's got a head coach with a proven track record of making running backs elite (Devonta Freeman in Atlanta). With no proven backup running back on the roster and a band of misfits at wide receiver (excluding Pierre Garcon), look for Hyde to deliver a breakout season. (SK)

Fantasy Football Fix Podcast: Sleepers, busts and what to do with Ezekiel Elliott

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Fantasy Football Fix Podcast: Sleepers, busts and what to do with Ezekiel Elliott

Slavko Bekovic, Scott Krinch, Glynn Morgan and Tony Andracki break down decisions on suspended running back Ezekiel Elliott and where he should be going in drafts, whether this affects his keeper status and more.

Plus, the CSN Fantasy crew gives their sleepers and busts, including Rob Gronkowski. Leonard Fournette, Kenny Golladay and why LeGarrette Blount is actually on both lists.

Check out the entire podcast here:

The Rotoworld 2017 Fantasy Football Draft Guide provides tiers, projections, ADP reports, mock drafts for many different types of leagues, Sleepers and Busts and much more. Get the NFL Draft Guide now.

Without Lamarr Houston, Bears have a problem

Without Lamarr Houston, Bears have a problem

On the first day of training camp, before the Bears even took the field for practice in Bourbonnais, Pernell McPhee was placed on the physically unable to perform list. Just two days later, we learned the self-proclaimed “violent” outside linebacker who was supposed to be the prized free agent signing of Ryan Pace’s first offseason as Bears GM, had arthroscopic surgery to “clean out” whatever had built up in his right knee between reporting day and minicamp in June. That came after offseason labrum surgery. Which came after surgery on his left knee last offseason.

A presumably healthier McPhee was coming back, stud edge rusher of the future Leonard Floyd was expected to make a leap in his second season, and Willie Young and his 24 sacks in three years with the Bears were returning.  So some believed Lamarr Houston and his nearly $7 million cap figure, which jumps to almost $9 million in the fifth and final season of his deal in 2018, were expendable. After the McPhee news this week, sometimes the best move is the one you don’t make. The Bears weren’t pushed against the salary cap, so they didn’t have to cut him loose. Good thing they didn’t. Houston heard the rumors and speculation, but didn’t pay much attention.

“No, I’m not worried about that,” the seven-year veteran said after Friday’s practice in Bourbonnais. “In the NFL, there’s 31 other teams. If it doesn’t work out for one team, I’m sure there’s something else that’ll happen.”

Houston’s been in Chicago for three years. The second was great, with eight sacks readjusting to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, which he had a taste of with the Oakland Raiders. The first and third seasons with the Bears were lousy, tearing an ACL in both knees, limiting him to just ten games, including only two last season. Those knee injuries added to the thinking his time at Halas Hall wouldn’t last much longer.

“It was rough but adversity breeds success in my mind so I believe it was all for the better," Houston said.

Houston blocked out the noise as he went through a long rehab for the second time in three years.

“This is a competitive league and anytime you get hurt, there’s always the 'next man up' theory," Houston said. "So you can’t really focus on whether it’s about you being missed. It’s more about the team being successful.”

Now the Bears have to consider themselves lucky to have Houston. And hope the injury bug doesn't bite him again, or Floyd, or Young, or Dan Skuta or Sam Acho before the games start to count. Houston was brought in by former Bears GM Phil Emery in 2014 after an 8-8 season under Marc Trestman. His first ACL injury on his first Bears sack during a blowout road loss to the New England Patriots was almost emblematic of that chaotic, at times embarrassing, season.

“It’s much different now,” Houston says entering year three under John Fox, despite the 9-23 record. “We have a more cohesive locker room. Guys are excited to be here, they want to play football, they want to win. You can feel the vibe around the building. Everybody’s really into what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, and I think that’s going to make us a much better football team."

Houston now looks to flash back, performance-wise, to 2015, in his first season under Vic Fangio, and most of a defensive staff that seems to have the minds and architects in place. Now it’s a matter of having the right talent, and keeping it as healthy as possible, despite the ominous start with McPhee.

“We have to put in the work to show our identity and what we want that to be. Right now (it’s early) we don’t have an identity," Houston said. "We’re working and we’re going to find one before camp is out. I think we’re all excited about that and putting our best foot forward doing it. I think that’s something we have to earn. We have to work to build it and we’re going to keep on punching away.

“Thankfully we have the same defense and same coaches so I can get right back in this defense and get rolling again. Just to be around practice, be around the guys, the coaches, I’m very grateful for it and very excited about it. I’m not really worried about proving what I can do. I’ve got the same coaches, they know what I can do. Right now I’m thinking of getting thru the process, making steady progress and getting back out on the field and playing hard."