The 2017 fantasy football season is almost here. After months of research, tape study, and reflection, our analysts are ready to unveil their predictions for how the fantasy season will unfold. Below they weigh in on six different categories: Fantasy MVP, Breakout Player of the Year, Biggest Disappointment, Biggest Bargain, Rookie of the Year, and Waiver Wire Add of the Year.
Review each analyst's picks and let them know your choices on social media or in the comments below.
2017 Fantasy Player of the Year
Michael Fabiano - David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals: Am I going with the low-hanging fruit here? Absolutely. I would have done the same (and I likely did) back in the days of Marshall Faulk and LaDainian Tomlinson, and Johnson has the look of that kind of running back. That's why he's the consensus No. 1 overall pick in fantasy football drafts ... he's a serious statistical machine.
Alex Gelhar - Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: While Bell's pseudo-holdout (he wasn't under contract) is a slight cause for concern as those can lead to soft tissue injuries (hamstring, groin, etc.), Bell is healthy now and will be operating in the most loaded offense of his career with Martavis Bryant back in the fold. If he plays 16 games it's hard to not see Bell finishing as the highest scoring running back/player in the league.
James Koh - Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: If the band can finally stay together this year in Pittsburgh, points will flow like water down the Allegheny. Some worry about a competition for targets/scores, but like LaDainian Tomlinson (yes, I went there) with Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson, Keenan McCardell and Michael Turner, I'm not scared. More scoring opportunities could put Lev in line for a monster year.
Matt Franciscovich - Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers: Rodgers posted 40 passing touchdowns last season and rushed for four himself. His rushing scores are what separates Rodgers from the other top fantasy quarterbacks. It's pretty rare for Tom Brady and Drew Brees to run one in, and Cam Newton is not the rushing touchdown powerhouse he used to be. The only guy who could give Rodgers a run for his money in this category would be Russell Wilson, but I'm sticking with Rodgers. He has a gazillion weapons and is the best quarterback in the NFL and fantasy.
Matt Harmon - Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks: The veteran passer has all the ingredients necessary to challenge for a QB1 overall finish and be a true weekly difference-maker this season. The Seahawks passing game is stocked with weapons like never before with a dialed-in healthy Jimmy Graham, slot maven Doug Baldwin, possibly emerging young speedsters Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson and much more. Couple that with Wilson being due for statistical progression coming off career lows in rush attempts and touchdown rate and you have the fixings for a dominant fantasy campaign.
2017 Breakout Player of the Year
Michael Fabiano - Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans: If you're looking for this year's version of Matt Ryan, look no further than Mariota. Entering his third NFL season, he has plenty of starting experience in the pros. He also has a talented cast of offensive characters around him, as the additions of Corey Davis and Eric Decker give Mariota a great chance to break out in 2017.
Alex Gelhar - Ty Montgomery, RB, Green Bay Packers: The Jamaal Williams truthers have been loud this offseason, but Montgomery will lead this backfield in 2017. And when he does, he'll also lead plenty of fantasy managers to the postseason with an RB1 campaign buoyed by his dual-threat abilities in the Packers high-scoring offense.
James Koh - DeVante Parker, WR, Miami Dolphins: We've seen it already in the preseason, Cutty is gonna Cutty and that means YOLO balls being thrown up to Parker. Plus, while the receiving corps is solid up and down, Parker is materializing as a first or second option for the Adam Gase-led passing offense. This all translates to mean Parker could see north of 120 targets and post top-15 wide receiver production. Sign me up.
Matt Franciscovich - Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions: In line for 200-plus touches in Detroit, Abdullah is primed for a breakout year in his third pro season. Some may be wary of a foot injury that led to 15 missed games last year, but by the looks of it, that's in the rearview. He's been aggressive, quick and productive in preseason action and should be a factor in the passing game, too. Plus, you can get him a decent discount in redraft leagues.
Matt Harmon - Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings: The third-year wide receiver already started building a strong career resume with 136 catches in 26 games his first two seasons. Yet, this is the year where Diggs establishes himself as one of the top receivers in football and a top-15 fantasy wideout. Diggs can win at all areas of the field as one of the best route-runners in the game today. The Vikings will play him outside more this season, after lining up in the slot on 59 percent of his plays last year, to get him more downfield chances and avoid some of the poundings that playing inside brings. After averaging 8.6 targets per game in 2016 Diggs should have no problem eclipsing 135 targets if he stays healthy in 2017. Opportunity and talent collide for fantasy's top breakout player for the coming season.
2017 Biggest Disappointment
Michael Fabiano - Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons: Ryan was a statistical monster a season ago, finishing second in fantasy points among quarterbacks despite being picked late (or not at all) in drafts. But you know what I always say about "magical seasons" ... they're often hard to duplicate. I don't think Ryan will be a complete bust, but he is going to see a significant drop in points.
Alex Gelhar - Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: The hyper-talented back is going in the second or early third round, a price that will haunt drafters when the Jaguars offense (i.e. Blake Bortles) torpedos Fournette's chances of a top-12 finish. He'll probably be a middling RB2, but that's not what he's being drafted as.
James Koh - Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears: The loss of Cameron Meredith was a big blow to a passing game that was on track to be a disaster anyway. Stacked boxes all game long will lead to dwindling efficiency and the emergence of Tarik Cohen will dampen Howard's receiving production, an area where he struggled in 2016.
Matt Franciscovich - DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans: Move over DeMarco, there's a tank named Derrick Henry steamrolling for the primary role in Tennessee. Sidelined with a hamstring injury for much of August, Murray didn't look like his old self in his preseason debut, albeit in a small sample size. Meanwhile, Henry has played the majority of snaps with the Titans first team offense and looks smoother, faster and better prepared for whatever comes his way. I can see the Titans' backfield workload being split at worst as Murray ages. He's being drafted as a top-10 fantasy back, so tread with caution.
Matt Harmon - Terrelle Pryor, WR, Washington Redskins: The idea of Pryor in Washington, and even the fit from a route assignment and team-need standpoint, is a nice one. However, if fantasy drafters are truly intent on paying a mid-third round, WR13 price for his services they simply aren't accounting for the downside his selection brings. Washington comes with a full house of pass-catchers with All-Pro tight end Jordan Reed, emerging slot receiver Jamison Crowder, former first-rounder Josh Doctson and receiving back Chris Thompson. With all those players in the fold, it will be hard for Pryor to become a target hog in this offense, which you're essentially banking on him being at his fantasy price tag. Of course, injury-related chaos could change the picture and remove some of his prone-to-maladies teammates as obstacles, but paying up for that as a certainty feels unwise. Love the player, hate the price.
2017 Fantasy Rookie of the Year
Michael Fabiano - Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: I picked Ezekiel Elliott in this spot last season, and I'm sticking with the running back position and Fournette. A dynamic playmaker at the collegiate level, he combines talent and the potential for a major workload in an offense that wants to run the football. I can see a season with 1,100-plus rushing yards and eight touchdowns.
Alex Gelhar - Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: I really wanted to pick Dalvin Cook here, but it's simply too hard to ignore the combination of Hunt's skill set, bountiful opportunities in Kansas City, and attachment to an Andy Reid offense that historically helps running backs produce in fantasy. This will be a close race between Cook, Hunt, and McCaffrey, but I have to give the edge to Hunt for now.
James Koh - Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: Given Andy Reid's extensive history and success with running backs, and given Hunt's anticipated workload (massive), there's a real chance Hunt could finish the year as a top-10 fantasy back.
Matt Franciscovich - Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings: With extended first-team reps in the preseason, it seems the Vikings have groomed Cook to be their featured back beginning in Week 1. With the exception of Kareem Hunt in Kansas City, the other top rookie backs have more obstacles to full-time work. Cook should be a game-changer for Minnesota's league-worst run game from a season ago and I fully expect him to be a fantasy RB1 at season's end.
Matt Harmon - Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers: Yes, the Panthers don't have an extensive history of using their running backs in the passing game. No Carolina back has eclipsed 40 catches since Jonathan Stewart (47) did it in Cam Newton's rookie year back in 2011. However, Christian McCaffrey is simply a transformative figure in this offense and the Panthers will look to build the scoring attack around his abilities. No quarterback threw into tight coverage more often than Cam Newton last year, per Next Gen Stats, and it's clear the Panthers want to afford him the opportunities for more layups in the years to come, which McCaffrey's quick separation proficiencies and potential to run routes from a variety of positions are tailor made for. Lock-in 60 catches for McCaffrey this year to go along with dynamic ability as a true runner.
2017 Biggest Bargain
Michael Fabiano - Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: If you held your fantasy draft before Spencer Ware went down with an injured knee, there's a good chance you landed Hunt with one of your final five to six picks. Congratulations on that move, because the rookie will end up being a league winner. I wouldn't be shocked if he finishes as a top-15 fantasy running back this season.
Alex Gelhar - John Brown, WR, Arizona Cardinals: I understand Brown disappointed last year, but in 2015 he had 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns. While he was injured earlier this offseason, Brown came back and caught two touchdowns in the Cardinals third preseason game. If he's healthy for most of 2017, 1,200 yards and several touchdowns are very well within his reach.
James Koh - Jeremy Maclin, WR, Baltimore Ravens: If I can hedge my pick, this, of course, depends on the health of Joe Flacco, but if he's right, this is a terrific match. There is a massive target vacuum with the departures of Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, and Dennis Pitta. An 80-catch, 1,100-yard season with eight to 10 touchdowns is absolutely a doable stat line with upside for more. Getting Maclin in the ninth or 10th round is a big-time bargain.
Matt Franciscovich - Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers: While his ADP is slowly creeping up, it hasn't reached the point where he cannot still be considered a bargain in redrafts. Benjamin looks to be in great shape, has scored twice in the preseason and could post double-digit touchdowns and 1,000 yards in what should be a new-look Panthers offense. You can still draft him in Round 6 after guys like Sammy Watkins, Jarvis Landry, and Mark Ingram. At that cost, he's basically your flex wideout who could produce high-end WR2 numbers.
Matt Harmon - Pierre Garcon, WR, San Francisco 49ers: The conditions that created a monster 2013 campaign where Garcon led the NFL in catches are once again in place this season in San Francisco this year; A Kyle Shanahan coached offense, a voluminous role with little competition and a likely poor team that will bring pass-heavy game scripts. Garcon has a strong chance to crack 140 targets this year and most of them will be of the high-percentage variety coming on slant routes where Garcon was a top-12 performer in Reception Perception last year. The perfect blend of opportunity and ability, Garcon is a top-24 fantasy wide receiver consistently going outside the top-32.
2017 Waiver Wire Add of the Year
Michael Fabiano - Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals: I went with Dak Prescott here last season, and that worked out well. Can I pull another rabbit out of the proverbial fantasy hat? It's going to be tough, but I'm going with Dalton. He's not being picked in a lot of drafts, but he's got the best offensive talent he's ever had in the NFL. The Red Rifle could shoot for the fantasy stars.
Alex Gelhar - Wendell Smallwood, RB, Philadelphia Eagles:LeGarrette Blount is 30 and Darren Sproles is 34. The Eagles likely want to rely on the run game to help Carson Wentz in Year 2, and if Blount falters even more than he already has in the preseason, Smallwood could steal some valuable work in this offense. And if either of the aging backs succumbs to injury, well, then Smallwood enters the RB2 discussion.
James Koh - Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks: Unlike other notable big-name RB handcuffs, Carson will go largely undrafted. But if Thomas Rawls continues to struggle with health, Carson could work himself ahead of Eddie Lacy. The Oklahoma State rookie has been stunningly powerful in the preseason and split first-team carries with Lacy in Seattle's preseason game against the Chiefs.
Matt Franciscovich - Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks: Have you seen this kid trucking linemen and running like a madman in Seattle's preseason games? He definitely has the skillset to be a bell cow, and with injury concerns surrounding the Seahawks' top three backs in Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise, Carson should be flagged on all waiver-wire watch lists. He's taken advantage of his preseason opportunities and it's only a matter of time before he gets a chance at a primary role.
Matt Harmon - DeAndre Washington, RB, Oakland Raiders: The second-year back consistently goes outside of the top-50 at his position in fantasy drafts, and is therefore a candidate to not survive the first few waves of cuts during the regular season. Yet, it shouldn't surprise any of us if he's the best running back in Oakland by the time December rolls around. It is not unfair to call Marshawn Lynch the biggest unknown of the 2017 fantasy campaign. His last regular season carry came on November 15th, 2015 and there were already reports suggesting the Raiders may look to keep his workload light. Should any number of variables go wrong with Lynch's return to the NFL game this year, Washington would suddenly inherit the lion's share of touches on one of the NFL's best offenses and may offer standalone value as a pass-catcher while that situation marinades.