With the most notable names accounted for via free agency and the NFL Draft officially in the rearview mirror, winners and losers can be determined from this offseason. In this two-part series, I will examine players that have witnessed an increase or decrease in dynasty stock since last season. First, all attention will be focused on those with rising value heading into 2017.
While 2015 could represent his statistical ceiling with 111 receptions for 1,521 yards receiving and eleven touchdowns, DeAndre Hopkins is a logical rebound candidate after a disappointing 2016 campaign. Remember, the 24-year-old wide receiver registered a pedestrian 78-954-4 receiving line last season amidst less than inspiring quarterback support.
A primary reason to remain optimistic about Hopkins’ long-term outlook is the newfound presence of Deshaun Watson. The Houston Texans clearly envision the rookie signal caller as a franchise chess piece, as the team elected to trade up and select him 12th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. If Watson and Hopkins can establish a rapport and build off of their Clemson connection, the tandem could become an elite stack in fantasy football. Invest in Hopkins while he is coming off of a lackluster campaign, as his stock will continue to rise as the regular season approaches.
After a remarkable rookie campaign in which he finished as the WR7 overall in PPR formats, it’s hard to believe that Michael Thomas could improve his fantasy outlook for 2017. Due to the departure of Brandin Cooks to New England, it appears that the notion is actually a realistic possibility. Although it could be difficult to exceed his reception total (92) from 2016 this upcoming season, Thomas is in an excellent position to surpass the 1,137 yards receiving he delivered that ranked ninth overall in the NFL.
Entrenched as the primary weapon in the New Orleans aerial attack this year, Thomas should easily eclipse the 122 targets he earned as rookie last season. Outside of Willie Snead, the 24-year-old wide receiver has minimal competition for volume. Look for the Ohio State product to build off of a superb first season in the NFL during his sophomore tour, as he and Drew Brees stand as elite duo in fantasy and reality.
Even though LeSean McCoy is slated to turn 29 years old this offseason, he is among a rare breed of running backs in the NFL that are not part of a committee. In 2016, this allowed him to rank sixth in the league with 1,267 yards rushing. McCoy also contributed 50 receptions for 356 yards and a score in Buffalo’s aerial attack en route to finishing as the RB4 in PPR formats.
Now that Mike Gillislee is a member of the New England Patriots, McCoy appears poised for a massive workload in 2017. Former fifth-round pick Jonathan Williams out of Arkansas is a candidate to earn increased responsibility moving forward, but McCoy should remain the focal point of Buffalo’s rushing attack barring durability issues. Yes, he has missed five games over the past two seasons. However, McCoy’s fantasy stock is on the rise based on his job security for 2017.
Despite posting a career-high in receptions (61) and receiving yards (711) in 2016, Eric Ebron has been the subject of offseason criticism in fantasy circles. The 24-year-old is a work in progress, but the Detroit Lions appear committed to his development after waiting to select a tight end in the form of Michael Roberts until the fourth-round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
If Ebron is able to find the end zone at a more frequent rate in his fourth professional season, the North Carolina product could very well emerge as an elite talent at his position in dynasty. After all, he only managed to score a touchdown on one occasion in 2016. This certainly limited his fantasy ceiling, but Ebron possesses the athleticism as a former first-round pick to elevate his stock in the future.
This time last year, Donte Moncrief was at the forefront of breakout discussions. Due to an overwhelming amount of hype, the 23-year-old wide receiver was unable to deliver on expectations. Of course, the Mississippi product was also limited to nine games in 2016 because of various shoulder and hamstring injuries.
As he prepares for his fourth campaign in the NFL, Moncrief will enter a contract season in 2017. Given the lack of depth outside of T.Y. Hilton at the wide receiver position in Indianapolis, Moncrief stands as an offseason winner in terms of role security. Phillip Dorsett and Kamar Aiken will battle for duties in three wide receiver sets, but neither pose as a threat to become starters. Barring continued durability woes, Moncrief’s floor for 2017 could represent the 30 receptions for 307 yards and seven touchdowns he recorded last season.