With training camp less than two weeks away, the 2016 NFL season seems to be right around the corner. For die-hard fans and football fanatics, it can’t get here soon enough. With that said, it is also only a few weeks away from another football highlight – your 2016 Fantasy Draft!
Not every football fan plays fantasy football, but there are enough of us out there to start considering the second draft of the NFL – your fantasy draft. When considering who to take in this year’s draft, I have to balance my team allegiance with my desire to win. Because my two favorite teams are the New Orleans Saints and the Arizona Cardinals, I have a pretty good shot at doing both – winning and rooting. However, some positions are not a position of strength for either team. So who am I looking at that might help me to another winning campaign?
Quarterback – Both Drew Brees and Carson Palmer had terrific seasons last year and since you don’t get points for wins, Brees had a little better statistical totals. Brees had 4870 yards and 32 TDs vs 11 INTs. Palmer had 4671 yards with 35 TDs and 11 INTS. Palmer’s passer rating was slightly higher, but you can live with either of these as your fantasy QB.
Running Back – There are some good choices here. David Johnson of the Cardinals is generally seen as a Pro-Bowl caliber back that scored high in fantasy points once Chris Johnson went down with an injury. Over the last five games of the season, Johnson had 442 rushing yards, 216 receiving yards, and five touchdowns with a 6.5 yd/rush average. He scored 13 touchdowns on the season as a rookie and showed great return and pass-catching ability.
Both Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington return from injury but Johnson should still get 60% of the carries with his ability to play on all downs. Either of them could make a good choice if you have room on your roster, as both have had big games and Johnson had 800+ yards in 11 games to go with 3 TDs.
As for the Saints backfield, Mark Ingram went from 53 catches in four seasons to 50 catches in just 12 games last year. That kept him on the field for a higher percentage of plays in 2015. He also had 769 yards rushing and 6 TDs before being injured. He has had a hard time staying healthy so keep that in mind when you are drafting.
Wide Receiver – The choices here are also fairly broad with an old pro like Larry Fitzgerald vs. the young studs like Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead and John Brown. Fitz had 1200+ yards last year, scored 9 TDs and almost 7 catches per game. Brown passed the 1,000 yard mark in his second season in the NFL and added 7 TDs.
On the Saints side of the ball, Brandin Cooks finished with 1,138 yards and 9 TDs in his sophomore campaign and had four games of 100+ yards. Snead finished his rookie season with 984 yds and 3 TDs, but he split time with Marques Colston and should see a fair amount of action this year in Sean Payton’s high-flying offense.
If you are looking to take a flyer on a rookie you might check out Michael Thomas, the Saints rookie out of Ohio State. His big body and athleticism makes him a great red-zone target and he should get a lot of opportunities in his first season if he can win Brees’ trust.
Tight End – If new Saints TE Coby Fleener has the same success as last year’s #1 tight end, he will be a great fantasy play. The Cards don’t utilize their tight ends in the passing game quite as often and they have been TE by committee the past few years. I can’t see drafting a Cards TE at all. They may show something as the season progresses but you shouldn’t waste a draft pick on them.
Kickers – The Saints Kai Forbath was not spectacular last season and Chandler Catanzaro was a bit more consistent – going 27 of 28 under 50 yards. However, Catanzaro is only 2 of 5 from 50+. He did hit 91.4% on his PAT’s with the new distance so that is a plus. Neither of these players look to be worth using a draft pick, since both will probably be available as free agents after the draft.
Special Teams/Defense – There is no comparison here! The Saints are at the bottom of the NFL in almost every defensive category and their special teams weren’t very special! The Cardinals had one of the best defenses in the league and had 36 sacks, 22 forced fumbles and 19 interceptions. With Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu they had 4 pick-6 scores. Last year’s outstanding rookie, David Johnson, had a kick-off return for a TD. They added Chandler Jones in the offseason to add to their pass rush and also took a flyer on Robert Nkemdiche to bolster an already powerful defense.
Not only are the Cards a better choice than the Saints, they are one of the best choices in any fantasy league!
So if you are looking to pick some of your favorites in your fantasy draft, there are certainly some available for Saints and Cardinals fans. I am definitely going after players I can root for while still giving me a shot at another fantasy championship!