The Number One Pick in 2017 Fantasy Football Drafts Is…

It’s pretty crazy to me that we are at Opening Day baseball, because we are just 4 months away from the fantasy football hype train going into full motion. Really, we are under a month, because things definitely begin to kick up after the NFL Draft. Then we have spring practice, then rookie camp, then training camp and then before you know it, we’ll be at the Hall of Fame game. Well, maybe. We’ll have to see how that turf is.

The big question is who to draft at number one. In the last two years, the answer was a pretty solid Antonio Brown, but that actually may have not been the correct move depending on the scoring system on the site you play.

2017 is shaping up to be one of the most interesting years in fantasy football in recent memory. There is depth at most offensive positions, really with the exception of the quarterback position, and a lot of these guys could easily end up being day one starters. I certainly don’t think we’ll be talking about any of these guys as the top overall picks in redraft leagues in 2017, but they could be top ten picks.

That’s not what we are interested in though. I am interested in who should be the top overall pick in your fantasy drafts in 2017. I’m going to make the cash for several players, and then we can see who has the most solid case for the number one pick.

Antonio Brown 

Brown is coming off an overall solid 2016 campaign, which saw him pull in 106 receptions for 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns. That sounds very solid, but this is actually the worst year he’s had in the past four years in standard scoring. The touchdown numbers were nice, but he had 30 less receptions than the year before, which in full point PPR reduced his scoring considerably.

I think there is a pretty good explanation for that: Martavis Bryant’s suspension had a negative impact on his ceiling. The Steelers struggled with finding a consistent receiver opposite Brown, as Sammie Coates can’t catch footballs and Darrius Hayward-Bey isn’t exactly the best receiver to begin with. If you drafted him number one, you probably aren’t upset, but you didn’t get what you got in previous year.

What does 2017 hold for him? Well, Bryant should be back, but he saw a lot of his production while Le’Veon Bell was sidelined to start the year. As long as he plays all games, I think that does bring Brown’s overall value down a smidge. Another plus is that Justin Hunter is coming in, and this will easily be the best quarterback situation he’s had in his career, so that could open up some additional chances for Brown if the other receivers keep defenses honest.

Le’Veon Bell

Bell is another guy who has to be consider as one of the choices for the top overall pick in season long drafts.  In just 12 games this year, he managed to put together 261 carries for 1,268 yards and 7 touchdowns, as well as 7 catches for 616 yards and 2 scores. That’s almost 1,900 yards total in only 12 games. His 16 game numbers would be absolutely insane at that pace, and he won’t have DeAngelo Williams behind him, presumably, this year.

While Brown certainly has his appeal, in my opinion, Bell is the guy I’d rather have. He’s more than capable of leading your fantasy team to the promised land, and it wouldn’t shock me if he was the top overall fantasy scorer in 2017.

David Johnson

It’s hard to talk about running backs without talking about David Johnson. I was admittedly down on him in 2016 because it’s tough to want to invest your top overall pick in a guy who has only managed one year of production in the league. I have no problems admitting that I was wrong, and there is little question that I will be buying in this year.

What did 2016 look like for him? How does 293 carries for 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns, while producing 80 catches for 879 yards and 4 more touchdowns sound? Pretty good, am I right? Oh, it also doesn’t hurt that Bruce Arians says he wants Johnson to carry the ball more in 2017 because clearly 293 carries isn’t enough.

Andre Ellington has moved on to wide receiver, which could somewhat impact Johnson’s receiving totals, but that was a huge amount anyway. You don’t want to see him losing any production, but he’s a solid, 3 down back with huge upside, so yeah, I want him in my lineups.

Ezekiel Elliott 

Speaking of another guy I was down on in 2016, we move on to Ezekiel Elliott. I think I was just thinking that he would not have the ceiling that many thought he would, but he definitely proved me wrong. He had an amazing season to say the least, and if it wasn’t for Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson having slightly better years, I think we’d be talking much more about Elliott right now.

322 carries for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns as well as 32 catches for 363 yards and another score is not a back rookie campaign by any stretch of the imagination. He was running behind the best offensive line in the league, and he had a quarterback in Dak Prescott that the league just really didn’t have much information in.

The problem in 2017 is that the secret is out on Dak Prescott. Teams will have an entire year of footage to study to get him down perfectly. The Dallas offensive line also lost a few pieces, which could be a big decision maker in how I look at Elliott when doing my season long leagues.

Julio Jones

Jones is likely going to be looking for blood in 2017 after seeing the Falcons blow the Super Bowl, as well as dealing with a leg injury that kept him out of two games in addition to really affecting his overall ability to play in another 3-4 games.

As a result of that injury, his campaign ends up looking pretty poor with 83 catches for 1,409 yards and just 6 touchdowns. He’s only managed one double digit touchdown season in his career thus far, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for that number to jump a bit.

He’s definitely one of the elite receivers in the game, and he’s shown that even if he doesn’t end up with a lot of touchdowns, he can really put together a season with a high number of receptions and yards, which offsets the randomness in touchdowns anyway. Most people won’t consider him for the first pick, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t at least list him here.

Jordy Nelson

It may seem a bit odd to see Nelson on this list, but does it surprise you considering he was the #2 receiver in many PPR formats? That shocked me a bit too when I saw it, but when you think back to 2016 and what he did, it really isn’t too surprising.

His 2016 campaign was very good, with 97 receptions for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns. That might seem fluky, until you consider that he had almost the exact campaign in 2014. Normally, you’d look through the stats log and say that the touchdowns are fluky, but they aren’t because Nelson is who Rodgers looks for in the red zone.

Nelson turns 32 this year, but showed really no signs of aging in his age 31 season, especially considering he was coming off a pretty significant surgery. There is certainly no question about it in my mind: he needs to be considered near the top in your drafts.

LeSean McCoy

The last guy who we are going to talk about is LeSean McCoy. He’s an odd name to be on this list to some, but consider how his team is assembled. They only have Sammy Watkins on the outside, and that just isn’t enough for the team to not rely on McCoy.

All things considered, it was a strong year for Shady. He managed to carry the ball 234 times for 1,267 yards and 13 touchdowns, while adding 50 catches for 356 yards and another touchdown. This was in 15 games, as well, and he left at least one other game relatively early in the game to boot.

He’ll be 29 years old when the season starts, so we’ll avoid a lot of that “30-year old season” talk for one more year. The Bills went out to grab one of the best fullbacks in the game, Patrick DeMarco, so they are committed to giving Shady all the room to run he could possibly need.

So what’s the verdict? Well, to be honest, even in PPR formats, I think this will be the first year in about 4 years where I will not be looking toward a receiver at pick number one. I think we’ve talked about enough running backs, but the decision to me comes down to two of them them: Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson.

I can see the case being made for either, and it’s a strong one. Honestly, I just don’t think either is a bad play. For me, my number one is going to be David Johnson. He’s got less wear and tear [and that’s saying something] and his team will need him this year now more than ever.

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