Whats good, people?! Its that time of year again. The NFL season is just about here. The gridiron gladiators will once again entertain us each week as we rely on their elite performance so that we can reign as fantasy football champions for one more year. The Wagner Wire is happy to get you started off in the right direction with a mock draft for our fantasy football kick-off. These projections are based off a 12-manager league format, with a points per reception (PPR) rankings system, and are optimized to reflect the current trends and rules of the NFL. With the NFL enforcing rules that benefit wide receivers and quarterbacks, it’s important to rank players accordingly. Strength of schedule is also a factor when considering which player to draft with your pick. NFL weeks 14, 15 and 16 are traditionally the fantasy football playoffs. Keep that in mind.
All stats are provided by Maximum Fantasy Sports and Oddshark.
#1. Antonio Brown – WR/Pittsburg
(139 Rec/1,834 Yards/10 TDs)
Once again AB has shown that he is the best wide receiver in the NFL. He was tied with Julio Jones as league leader in receptions with 136. Perhaps the stat that catches my eye first for receivers is the number of targets that they had. AB had 193 targets, and his numbers could have been greater. Lets try to remember that he was without Big Ben for a few games. Are you really taking a wide receiver over a running back for your overall 1st pick in the draft? YES! According to ESPN, the Steelers are tied for 23rd for strength of schedule in this upcoming year. The Steelers are a high powered offense that finished 5th in passing yards/game, averaging 283 yards. Don’t forget about his kick return ability also.
#2. Julio Jones – WR/Atlanta
(136 Rec/1,871 Yards/8 TDs)
The only thing holding Julio back is Matty Ice. Ryan has a tendency to start the season off on fire and then freezes up “Hotlanta” with his inconsistent and at times awful quarterback play, later in the season. Julio Jones is one of the biggest, fastest, and strongest receivers in the NFL. Maybe he used that Bigger, Faster, Stronger program back in high school? Whatever he did it worked. As I mentioned earlier, Jones and Brown tied for receptions last year with 136. One stat that may help differentiate Jones from Brown was the number of targets he had with 209. Atlanta was 6th in the NFL last year with 273 yards/game. The Falcons share the league’s toughest schedule this year with San Francisco, so that could slow Jones’ production, but if there is anyone that can do it, its Julio.
#3. Odell Beckham Jr. – WR/New York Giants
(96 Rec/1,450 Yards/13 TDs)
We all remember the embarrassing altercation between OBJ and Josh Norman last year. Norman signed with the Washington Redskins over the off-season, which means we’ll see this matchup at least twice next season. Lets be clear, OBJ had Norman beat a few times. OBJ had a few drops. Lets also remember that the Panthers were an elite NFL defense, and Norman has been labeled as a “Cover 3” corner. The Giants were 7th in the NFL in passing with 271 yards/game. The Giants are also tied with the Bears for having the 2nd weakest schedule during the 2016 campaign. He’s incredibly fast, and almost impossible to cover. It should also be noted that OBJ’s rifleman, Eli Manning, finished 6th on the year in passing yards with 4,436 yards. Eli looked for OBJ 158 times last year. The GMen air it out! You could easily argue that Antonio Brown, Julio Jones and OBJ could be #1 overall.
#4. David Johnson – RB/Arizona
(581 Yards/8 Rush TDs) (36 Rec/457 Rec Yards/4 TDs)
DJ exploded on the scene last year! Like the “Everything Bagel”, David Johnson can do it all. He explodes through the hole fast and hard. He can run between the tackles and break containment on the ends. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield is relief for Carson Palmer. DJ can also block. Palmer’s safety net proved to be imposing on opposing defenses. Palmer targeted DJ 57 times. Arizona is tied for 7th in the NFL for strength of schedule. Arizona was a well balanced offense last year with 112 rushing yards per game and 287 yards per game. I wouldn’t worry about DJ splitting too many carries. Arians love his new thoroughbred and will feature him this year. DJ is proving that running backs are still relevant 2016. He breaks through on The Wagner Wire as the 1st running back selected in 2016.
#5. Le’Veon Bell – RB/Pittsburg
(556 Rush Yards/3 Rush TDs) (24 Rec/136 Pass Yards)
Bell missed the first two weeks in 2015 due to a substance violation and DUI. It is important to note that he never actually failed his drug urinalysis. Why is this relevant? ESPN reported that Bell failed to show to a scheduled urinalysis and is facing a four game suspension. Bell is appealing the suspension and the will have a chance to get his suspension reduced since he hasn’t actually failed a NFL urinalysis yet. When Bell is on the field he is dangerous. Big Ben targeted Bell 26 times and Bell only missed two of Ben’s passes. I think Bell is the closest player we’ve seen to Marshall Faulk. I would have Bell over David Johnson if he wasn’t barring any suspension by the NFL. If you take the risk on Bell at 5, you must look to grab DeAngelo Williams early as the handcuff.
#6. Todd Gurley – RB/L.A. Rams
(1,106 Rush Yards/10 Rush TDs) (21 Rec/188 Rec Yards)
Todd Gurley will be the new L.A. Rams’ feature presentation this season. The team is looking to rebuild and will be relying on rookie quarterback Jared Goff. The Rams would rather rely on Gurley’s legs instead of Goff’s arm. Gurley proved that he was a tough and legitimate NFL running back in his rookie campaign, posting over 1,100 yards rushing. The Rams have the 3rd toughest schedule this year and will battle the Seahawks twice. Gurley doesn’t split many carries, which differentiates him from most NFL running backs. The running back situation for fantasy football is vital and needs to be addressed. Get a featured back before they’re gone!
#7. Jamaal Charles – RB/Kansas City
(364 Rush Yards/4 Rush TDs) (21 Rec/177 Rec Yards/1 Rec TD)
We only got a taste of Jamaal Charles last year before he suffered a season-ending ACL injury to his right knee. Charles underwent surgery to repair his ACL early last season, and is expected to fully recover. JC from KC is an electrifying running back that can break open a huge touchdown scamper from anywhere on the field. The Chiefs were 6th in the NFL for rushing with 128 yards/game. JC was a top 5 pick in everyone’s mock draft last year, and I think he will remind us that he is one of elite backs in the NFL in 2016.
#8. Dez Bryant – WR/Dallas
(31 Rec/401 Yards/3 TDs)
This dude was my biggest bust last year. I had him as early as 4th overall and it came back to haunt me with the debacle of the Dallas Cowboys. However, I feel like last year was a complete anomaly for the Cowboys. I had them picked to win the NFC East, but they were dismantled and plagued by injuries the entire season. Now the band is back together, and they added some fresh legs to run behind that elite offensive line. Dez will reap the benefits of a great ground attack and I feel that we will see #88 return to form and dominate NFL defensive backs. Oh! You thought we were going to see a show with Norman and OBJ? Wait until we see this matchup unfold. Dez is a freak of nature and a nightmare for defensive backs.
#9. DeAndre Hopkins – WR/Houston
(111 Rec/1,521 Yards/11 TDs)
Nuk! I admit Nuk could be higher, but he needs some help around him. Don’t get me wrong – he can still blow up a defensive secondary, but it takes two to tango. New Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler made some plays last year in Denver, but lets stay some what reserved. Both Nuk and Brock will immediately benefit from each other. Hopkins is getting an upgrade at QB, and Osweiler is getting an upgrade at wide receiver. The Texans are 19th in strength of schedule. The good news is that Nuk is the best offensive weapon, and the Texans picked up Lamar Miller in the off-season.
#10. Adrian Peterson – RB/Minnesota
(1,485 Rush Yards/11 Rush TDs) (30 Rec/222 Rec Yards)
“All Day” showed the NFL that he was still one of the elite running backs in the league. AP finished just under 1,500 yards after being suspended for a season. The problem here is the Vikings inconsistent offense. If the Vikings get down early, they can’t get back into the game because they have a weak passing attack. Peterson will get his touches. He is still the feature running back for Minnesota. However, AP will rely on the play from his quarterback, Teddy B. The threat is real! We’ve all seen Peterson break huge runs and have 100 yards by halftime. We’re just used to seeing it more frequently. Minnesota had an outstanding ground attack last year, averaging 133 yards per game.
#11. Rob Gronkowski – TE/New England
(72 Rec/1,176 Yards/11 TDs)
No Brady, no problem! I never thought I’d see another tight end like Bravaro, but here he is. It doesn’t matter who is throwing the ball to Gronk in for the Patriots, Gronk will elevate his game. I know Tom is still the man, but do you think he’d be putting up elite numbers without Gronk? I don’t even think Gronk feels pain. When he doesn’t play, Its probably because Bill won’t let him. New England was 2nd in the NFL last season in passing yards, averaging 287 yards per game. Gronk won’t have T-Money for the first four games due to suspension, but Garoppolo will still have Gronk listed as the #1 target. Gronk was targeted 120 times last year. In a league where tight ends are a premium because only a few are a featured part of the offense, take Gronk at 11. Hopefully T-Money drops to you in the 6th rd.
#12. Ezekiel Elliott – RB/Dallas
(4th Overall Draft Pick – 2016/Ohio State)
Allow me to introduce you to the 2016 NFL Rookie of the Year. With arguably the best offensive line in the NFL, Elliott will compliment the Dallas Cowboys well-balanced offensive attack. Dallas averaged 118 yards per game on the ground last year. Ya’ll remember who was in their backfield? An injury-prone running back, who at times looked like he found the fountain of youth. McFadden is not an elite running back. My point is that you can put anyone behind this dominating Cowboys’ O-Line, and they’ll potentially lead the NFL in rushing. Its always a risk taking rookies, regardless of which round they’re drafted in. The key is to not let them fall to someone else. Make no mistake about it, Elliott is a 1st rd pick. I had him at #7 yesterday, but accusations of him allegedly harming his girlfriend has caused me to fade a bit. This is situation that needs to stay monitored.
That will complete the 1st rd of our mock draft. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @TheWagnerWire as we will be rolling out Round 2 next week along with our Sleepers. You can hit me up @atwagner3181 also. Click on these Maximum Fantasy Sport banners and sign up for their Commissioner Leagues to see if you have what it takes to beat me. Until then . . . enjoy!