Zero to Fantasy Hero: AFC players who will become weekly contributors in 2017
The 2017 NFL Draft and Free Agency have maligned many a veteran player, but all is not doom and gloom for guys who have been in the league for awhile without major roles. The moves made this offseason have opened up windows of opportunity for more than a few guys that you need to think long and hard about in your fantasy drafts this year. These are some of my favorites in the AFC:
Corey Brown WR, Buffalo Bills: Brown has existed in relative obscurity during his three previous seasons in the league, outside of a pedestrian 447 yd, 4 TD campaign during Carolina’s ill-fated Super Bowl run in 2015. Now the third WR in Buffalo, Brown has a real chance to make a name for himself, as Sammy Watkins and now Zay Jones (knee sprain in OTAs) have shown themselves to be somewhat susceptible to leg injuries.
Mike Gillislee RB, New England Patriots: Gillislee raised many an eyebrow with his 8 TD 2016 season as the backup to LeSean McCoy in Buffalo. He should have an expanded role as the “big” back in New England, filling the shoes of battering ram LaGarrette Blount. Nothing is ever certain in a Patriots backfield, but Gillislee should at minimum be the go-to in goal line situations.
Andy Dalton QB, Bengals: Dalton has been sneaky useful in years past for fantasy purposes, but he is likely to exceed his past performances this season. With the additions of powerhouse RB Joe Mixon and fastest 40 ever WR John Ross, and including AJ Green, a healty-ish Tyler Eifert and quickly rising Tyler Boyd, Dalton has the fullest arsenal of weapons he’s ever had at his disposal. He’s going to be a steal in all formats this year.
Bilal Powell RB, Jets: Powell played second fiddle to Matt Forte much of last season, until Forte’s injuries overwhelmed him over the second half of 2016. Don’t expect Forte to reclaim his role as the starter this year. I mean, he’s participating in the NFL Broadcast Boot Camp right now – for players planning on transitioning to broadcast jobs. With one foot already out the door, the 32 year-old poses little threat to Powell as the lead back going into the season. Rookie Elijah McGuire may start to push at some point, but Powell is the back to own in New York.
Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore WR, Ravens: Perriman has more apparent value, but Moore could surprise a lot of people this year. Both players are primed to break out on a Ravens team with little veteran presence in the WR corps outside of Mike Wallace. Dennis Pitta is on the decline too, so don’t expect much pressure from him for targets. Neither one of these has done anything in the league yet, so none of your competition will see them coming…unless they’re also members of RosterWatch nation, that is.
Jared Cook TE, Raiders: Cook has never quite lived up to expectations anywhere he’s played in the NFL, despite showing flashes of usefulness throughout his career – most recently in Green Bay. Now a part of a wide open offense as a Raider, with little competition outside of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree for targets, Cook has his best opportunity ever to do some fantasy damage. I’m excited about anyone attached to Derek Carr’s arm, and Cook will be an upgrade on the flopping Clive Walford.
Jack Doyle TE, Colts: Sharing the field for much of 2016 with Dwayne Allen, Doyle could have a huge season in 2017 now that Allen is a Patriot. If you combine their 2016 totals, you have a 990 yd, 11 TD monster of a season, and though that seems an unlikely outcome for Doyle, he should come close as the Colts haven’t significantly upgraded their pass catchers this offseason. He’s easily a TE1 and probably a top 5 TE for the foreseeable future.