The fightin’ Alex Smiths will be barnstorming New England in less than two weeks. After seven months, one Le’Veon Bell single and countless Tom Brady avocado ice cream articles, football is almost here. I’ve tried to keep this simple. One-liners on my favorite 32 quarterbacks, 50 running backs, 60 receivers and 25 tight ends. I aimed for format agnostic, but hewed closer to PPR than standard. Maybe .5 PPR, if you insist. I just tried to rank people in the order I like them for the 2017 season, with “would I really draft this guy over that guy?” the guiding light. Enjoy, and be sure to check out the Rotoworld Draft Guide, with all the mocks, projections and premium fantasy football content your heart could ever desire.
Top 32 Quarterbacks
2. Drew Brees — Averaged 5,141 yards since 2011, which would be seventh all time for a single season.
3. Aaron Rodgers — Uncertain backfield means another 600-plus attempts likely in the offing for last year’s QB1.
4. Matt Ryan — 9.26 YPA last season was highest by any player since 2000. Regression probable, collapse unlikely.
5. Marcus Mariota — Time seems to be now for 23 year old with majorly improved supporting cast.
6. Kirk Cousins — The QB5 and QB9 the past two seasons, Cousins’ supporting cast has injury Qs, but also depth.
7. Andrew Luck — Posted 1:1 career year to major offseason shoulder surgery ratio last season. Doubtful for Week 1.
8. Cam Newton — Only two years removed from QB1 overall finish, Newton should find 2015-16 middle ground.
9. Russell Wilson — OL and run game still concerns. Wilson remained durable in 2016, but not indestructible.
10. Ben Roethlisberger — Home/road splits, top-heavy supporting cast and injury risk knock Ben down a notch.
11. Derek Carr — Hyped 2016 was just 17th by average fantasy points. Enough weapons to put it all together?
12. Andy Dalton — Surprisingly steady producer has more at his disposal than he did in 2016.
13. Jameis Winston — Could be vastly under-ranked, but Bucs quietly one of league’s most run-committed teams.
14. Dak Prescott — Wide range of potential outcomes with many factors (OL issues, Zeke ban) beyond his control.
15. Philip Rivers — Receiver corps banged up early this year. Three straight Game 9-16 fades.
16. Matthew Stafford — Will probably finish higher, but helming fantasy-hostile scheme.
17. Carson Palmer — Humpty Dumpty got put back together in second half of 2016. Receiver corps deep enough?
21. Carson Wentz — Improved WRs, but had only nine touchdowns over final 12 games last season.
22. Tyrod Taylor — Bills tanking the season. Deep threats Watkins and Goodwin are gone.
23. Alex Smith — Supposedly having great camp. Has to be perfect to hold off Mahomes.
24. Joe Flacco — Bulky back, shaky running game, potentially washed receiver corps, pathetic 6.42 YPA in 2016.
25. DeShone Kizer — Low floor — he was benched against Stanford — but “streamer lifehack of the year” ceiling.
27. Brian Hoyer — Will have a hot streak followed by cold streak twice as long.
29. Chad Henne — Has a few weapons, but career 58:63 TD:INT ratio through 1,954 attempts.
30. Deshaun Watson — Doesn’t have to be real-life good to score fantasy points, but not the Week 1 starter.
31. Mike Glennon — Would have to play at near-MVP level to hold off Trubisky. Awful receivers.
32. Josh McCown — Should have gone into coaching.
Top 50 Running Backs
2. Le’Veon Bell — Played 12 games in 2016 and finished fifth in rushing (1,268) and second in RB receiving (616).
4. Jay Ajayi — There have been 26 200-yard rushing performances this decade. Ajayi had three of them in 2016.
5. Devonta Freeman — 2015 RB1 finished as RB6 last season. 25 with a monster contract, Freeman is here to stay.
6. Melvin Gordon — Has two more major injuries (two) than 4.0 YPC seasons (zero). Mouthwatering role, though.
7. Jordan Howard — Sustained drives, consistently busted big plays in 19th-most prolific rookie rushing campaign.
8. Ezekiel Elliott — Possible Zeke plays all 16 games on appeal. We just don’t have enough information.
9. DeMarco Murray — Ideal setting, but wore down last season and has excellent backup champing at the bit.
10. Leonard Fournette — Workload-based rank for size/speed freak who averaged 5.5 YPC 3-of-3 SEC seasons.
11. Isaiah Crowell — Set up for more consistent success behind vastly-improved OL. Still only 24.
12. Todd Gurley — Frustration got the better of impatient Gurley in 2016. Rams at least now have scheme in place.
14. Lamar Miller — He was only post-hype sleeping? Texans changing QBs and missing left tackle in camp.
15. Joe Mixon — 6-foot-1 three-down back with 4.45 speed. High selection despite baggage speaks volumes.
17. Christian McCaffrey — Will catch as many passes as expected. Will receive more carries than expected.
18. Dalvin Cook — Practice and the preseason don’t count, but has resembled back he was on college film.
19. Doug Martin — Renewed and refreshed, Martin could be an RB1 upon Week 4 return.
21. Ty Montgomery — Will the Packers truly commit? If so, Montgomery has RB1 potential.
23. Paul Perkins — Having underwhelming summer, but his projected workload is that of an RB2.
24. Mike Gillislee — Could lead the league in touchdowns … could also fall down committee black hole.
25. Terrance West — West breaks tackles, a needed attribute behind Baltimore’s beat-up OL.
27. Ameer Abdullah — “Starter,” but won’t play third downs and isn’t guaranteed near the goal line.
28. Danny Woodhead — Three, 16 and two: 32-year-old Woodhead’s games played over past three seasons.
29. C.J. Anderson — Possesses high-end RB2 upside. Durability always the question.
30. Rob Kelley — Depends on broken tackles for yardage. Tough way to make a living.
31. Theo Riddick — Reception hog who’s averaged 3.45 yards on 164 career carries.
32. Duke Johnson — Johnson’s NFL average of 57 catches remains his over/under.
33. Jonathan Stewart — “Same role,” but on wrong side of 30 and has averaged 11 games over past five years.
34. LeGarrette Blount — Sluggish preseason, but drive-finishing role is not up for debate.
35. Adrian Peterson — Summer buzz, but what’s ultimately the upside? 385 carries since 2013.
37. Derrick Henry — Potential RB1 were DeMarco to go down or age out.
39. Darren Sproles — With Blount struggling and others failing to pop, Sproles could top last year’s 146 touches.
40. Kareem Hunt — Chiefs toying with the idea of making Hunt starter. High-upside RB4.
41. Thomas Rawls — Taking control of Seahawks’ backfield, but ankle has flared up.
42. Darren McFadden — Committee likely to emerge when/if Elliott suspension begins.
43. Giovani Bernard — One of the league’s best third-down backs on track in ACL recovery.
44. C.J. Prosise — Ticketed for Riddick duties, but Lacy/Rawls durability woes could have bigger role on deck.
45. Rex Burkhead — Fixing to steal the touch lead in crowded backfield?
46. Eddie Lacy — Summer tumbler, Lacy could be washing out of football. Wrong OL for a comeback.
47. Matt Forte — Hasn’t practiced this summer. Potential “surprise” release.
48. Robert Turbin — Bullet Bob could end up 2017’s vulture king.
49. Latavius Murray — Was replacement-level behind elite Raiders OL in 2016.
50. Marlon Mack — Ideal final-round freebie.
Top 60 Receivers
1. Antonio Brown — Has averaged 120/1,579/11 over past four seasons.
3. Julio Jones — Coming off another foot surgery, but has averaged 108 yards per game over past three seasons.
4. Mike Evans — Target regression coming, but 24-YO Evans was WR11 on 124 looks/15 games in 2014.
5. A.J. Green — Thanks to injury, Green has averaged “just” 1,100 yards since ’14. 80/1,200/10 16-game floor.
7. Jordy Nelson — Was a step slower last season, but two steps savvier. Does 85/1,200/8 in his sleep.
8. T.Y. Hilton — Has averaged 1,305 yards since becoming full-time starter in 2014.
9. Doug Baldwin — 18 touchdowns in past 22 games. WR10 and WR7 past two seasons.
10. Amari Cooper — Ran out of gas in 2016, but has fourth most receiving yards through two seasons (2,223).
11. Dez Bryant — With OL turnover and running back uncertainty, Cowboys’ pass volume will be on the rise.
12. DeAndre Hopkins — Even moderately improved QB play will have Hopkins back in WR1 convo.
13. Brandin Cooks — Target-rich Pats have redundant talents in slot/backfield, but Cooks stands alone in elite O.
14. Demaryius Thomas — If the screens are back — and Thomas expects them to be — Thomas will be, too.
15. Tyreek Hill — Has a different gear than anyone in NFL. Already separated himself from the Tavons of the world.
17. Keenan Allen — Whatever the reason, Allen has only 1,571 yards since 2013. No more excuses.
18. Terrelle Pryor — One of the most freakish athletes in American history is ready for his close up at receiver.
20. Larry Fitzgerald — I was fading, but Cards desperately need future HOFer. David Ortiz-esque all-out “last ride”?
22. Alshon Jeffery — Finished on 1,100-yard pace in 2016. There’s still a WR1 somewhere in there.
24. Martavis Bryant — Has 14 touchdowns in 21 NFL games. Risk self-evident.
25. Kelvin Benjamin — Seeing as his 63/941/7 coming off ACL was “disappointing,” KB poised to provide value.
28. Michael Crabtree — Not fun to own, but 17 receiving TDs tied for sixth most over past two years.
30. DeVante Parker — “Faster Alshon” has averaged 15.1 yards on 82 NFL catches. Dolphins say time is now.
31. Julian Edelman — For the first time since 2012, Edelman isn’t the Pats’ best receiver.
35. Jeremy Maclin — Returning from a torn groin. Has 18 TDs over past two healthy seasons.
36. Eric Decker — 14 scores over past two seasons tied for 13th most despite missing 14 games. Vastly improved O.
38. Brandon Marshall — One last comeback? Big-bodied TD scorer exactly what G-Men needed opposite Odell.
39. Cameron Meredith — QB issues, and Bears insisting on targeting mediocre talents White, Wheaton and Wright.
40. Adam Thielen — 27th in the league in yardage last season.
41. DeSean Jackson — Hasn’t really lost a step, but in run-heavy offense with target-hog alpha WR1.
42. Donte Moncrief — Has 126 catches in three years. Looking like a role player, albeit a touchdown scorer.
43. Randall Cobb — Averaged 50 yards over past 29 games, 10.4 yards over past 139 catches.
44. Kenny Britt — Isn’t guaranteed to see better quarterback play than he did in 1,002-yard 2016.
45. Ted Ginn — His speed hasn’t aged. Teaming up with one of the best deep-ball throwers in NFL history.
47. Robby Anderson — Historically-bad QB situation, but forced into 110-plus targets.
48. Marvin Jones — Hot 2016 start skewed expectations, but can be a useful WR4.
50. Rishard Matthews — Last year’s WR11 by total points (seriously) has seen both his floor and ceiling cave in.
53. Tyler Lockett — Returning from catastrophic injury, but kind of player who can win week with 1-2 catches.
54. Jordan Matthews — On-paper role has improved, but toxic situation.
55. Corey Davis — Special talent, but has barely practiced for team with deep WR corps and win-now mentality.
56. Zay Jones — Ready or not, will receive heavy targets.
57. J.J. Nelson — 12/245/2 on 30 targets over final three games last season. The need is there.
58. Josh Doctson — Demonstrated zero ability to stay healthy, but has impressed when he’s managed to practice.
59. Cooper Kupp — Creates space and gets open. Rams not used to that.
60. Cole Beasley — Easily set new career highs in catches (75) and yards (833) last season. Cowboys need to pass more.
Top 25 Tight Ends
1. Rob Gronkowski — Averaged ridiculous 21.6 yards per catch when healthy in 2016.
2. Travis Kelce — Has finished as the TE1, TE8 and TE8 in standard leagues.
3. Greg Olsen — The TE4 with only three touchdowns last season. That number should double.
4. Jordan Reed — Reed’s typical injury risk heightened by the fact he’s already been fitted for an “orthotic” for his toe.
5. Jimmy Graham — Back to full health, Graham has posted at least 889 yards five of the past six seasons.
6. Tyler Eifert — Missed 15 games over past two seasons, but has 18 scores in 21 appearances.
7. Kyle Rudolph — Realized his upside in 2016, but healthy Diggs/more involved Thielen could prevent repeat.
9. Delanie Walker — TE5, TE5, TE8 and TE12 as Titan. More target competition, but also more passing attempts.
11. Hunter Henry — Henry’s eight 2016 scores second most for a rookie TE since 1980.
12. Eric Ebron — Slow progress has at least been steady. Needed in RZ, but has only seven TDs in 40 games.
13. Zach Ertz — Frustrating own nevertheless needed only 14 games for TE8 finish in 2016.
14. Austin Hooper — Massive with excellent movement skills, Hooper averaged robust 14.3 YPC as rookie.
16. Coby Fleener — Saints didn’t address TE, giving Fleener second chance after hugely-disappointing ‘16.
17. Jason Witten — Can’t get any slower. Floor remains 60 catches.
18. Antonio Gates — Yards per catch in danger of slipping below 10.0. TDs or bust.
19. Cameron Brate — Supposedly keeping pass-catching role. Eight TDs tied for TE lead in ‘16.
20. Jesse James — The year’s cheapest source of catch-and-fall TDs.
21. Jared Cook — Supposed bounce-back 2016 still only featured 377 yards.
22. Charles Clay — Knees always an issue, but targets available in Buffalo.
23. Evan Engram — The kind of skills that never translate for rookie TEs, but theoretical upside.
24. C.J. Fiedorowicz — In case of tight end emergency, break Fiedorowicz glass.
25. O.J. Howard — Supposedly limited to blocking duties, but has the overall skill-set to change that in a hurry.
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