Never-Too-Early 2016 Rankings

By John Paulsen (Senior Editor), last updated Mar 10, 2016

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John was named the Most Accurate Fantasy Football Expert by FantasyPros for the 2010 and 2014 seasons, finished as runner-up in 2011 and 4th in both 2012 and 2015 for a total of five Top 5 seasons in the last six years. Cumulatively, John was the most accurate expert from 2010-15 while also winning the 2011 Fantasy Sports Trade Association award for the most accurate draft rankings. 

Follow John on Twitter: @4for4_John.

Below you'll find my first stab at 2016 rankings for each position. I don't like to publish rankings prior to free agency and the draft, but I know that early mocks/drafts have already started up and 4for4 subscribers may be wondering where I stand on certain players heading into the offseason.

The rankings are based on a standard scoring system and the headers are pretty self-explanatory save for "DIFF" which is simiply the difference between my ranking and the current positiional ranking per Fantasy Football Calculator ADP. A positive number means that I'm relatively high on the player while a negative number means -- you guessed it -- that I'm relatively low on the player.

Below each set of rankings you'll find some discussion about a few players that jump out as particularly good or bad values heading into the spring.

Early 2016 QB Rankings (Standard Scoring)
# Player Pos Team G 2015 FP 2015 PPG DIFF
1 Cam Newton QB CAR 16 389.1 24.3 0
2 Aaron Rodgers QB GB 16 293.2 18.3 0
3 Russell Wilson QB SEA 16 336.4 21.0 3
4 Andrew Luck QB IND 7 128.8 18.4 0
5 Tom Brady QB NE 16 343.7 21.5 -2
6 Ben Roethlisberger QB PIT 12 212.2 17.7 -1
7 Drew Brees QB NO 15 304.2 20.3 1
8 Carson Palmer QB ARI 16 309.2 19.3 1
9 Blake Bortles QB JAX 16 314.1 19.6 -2
10 Philip Rivers QB SD 16 282.5 17.7 3
11 Tyrod Taylor QB BUF 14 268.6 19.2 8
12 Andy Dalton QB CIN 13 244.1 18.8 -2
13 Eli Manning QB NYG 16 289.5 18.1 1
14 Tony Romo QB DAL 4 40.7 10.2 1
15 Kirk Cousins QB FA 16 289.4 18.1 -3
16 Jameis Winston QB TB 16 273.1 17.1 4
17 Derek Carr QB OAK 16 271.3 17.0 -6
18 Marcus Mariota QB TEN 12 206.0 17.2 -1
19 Matthew Stafford QB DET 16 289.8 18.1 -1
20 Alex Smith QB KC 16 267.2 16.7 6
21 Ryan Tannehill QB MIA 16 257.4 16.1 3
22 Ryan Fitzpatrick QB FA 16 285.2 17.8 -1
23 Joe Flacco QB BAL 10 159.9 16.0 2
24 Matt Ryan QB ATL 16 231.9 14.5 -8
25 Jay Cutler QB CHI 15 224.5 15.0 2
26 Brock Osweiler QB FA 8 118.8 14.8 -4
27 Teddy Bridgewater QB MIN 16 198.4 12.4 2

Once again, the quarterback position looks very deep heading into the 2016 season. There are a few standouts at the top of the rankings and then there's a big plateau of passers who averaged between 17 and 19 points per game in 2015. 

It appears that I'm particularly high on Tyrod Taylor, who had the 7th-highest PPG at his position (if we remove Geno Smith from the equation, which is usually a good rule). Taylor missed a couple of games which serves to depress his season-long numbers. He looks like a great value in the 10th/11th round as the 19th QB off the board in early mock drafts. He's also the 19th passer off the board in early MFL10s at MyFantasyLeague. The main concern with Taylor is that the Bills haven't fully committed to him as their franchise quarterback, which is perplexing given how much promise he has shown. From a production standpoint, there's a lot to like. He only threw for an average of 217 yards per game, but he had a 20-to-6 TD-to-INT ratio and his yards per attempt (7.99) was 5th in the league. However, what really makes him a fantasy producer is his ability in the running game. On average, he rushed 7.4 times per game for 41 yards and 0.29 rush TD. Assuming that he has a favorable offseason, owners looking for 2014 Russell Wilson or 2015 Carson Palmer should consider targeting Taylor in the later rounds.

I also think Philip Rivers will bounce back with the return of Keenan Allen and OC Ken Whisenhunt. Rivers was the QB5 under Whiz back in 2013.

Early 2016 RB Rankings (Standard Scoring)
# Player Pos Team G 2015 FP (std) 2015 PPG DIFF
1 Todd Gurley RB STL 13 187.6 14.4 1
2 David Johnson RB ARI 16 173.8 10.9 1
3 Adrian Peterson RB MIN 16 230.7 14.4 1
4 Devonta Freeman RB ATL 15 243.9 16.3 1
5 LeVeon Bell RB PIT 6 87.2 14.5 -4
6 Jamaal Charles RB KC 5 80.1 16.0 0
7 Mark Ingram RB NO 12 151.4 12.6 1
8 Lamar Miller RB FA 16 184.9 11.6 5
9 Thomas Rawls RB SEA 13 118.6 9.1 9
10 Doug Martin RB FA 16 199.3 12.5 -3
11 C.J. Anderson RB DEN 15 116.3 7.8 12
12 Jeremy Langford RB CHI 16 123.6 7.7 -2
13 LeSean McCoy RB BUF 12 144.7 12.1 -4
14 Eddie Lacy RB GB 15 120.6 8.0 -3
15 T.J. Yeldon RB JAX 12 119.9 10.0 1
16 Matt Forte RB FA 13 168.7 13.0 -4
17 Carlos Hyde RB SF 7 70.3 10.0 0
18 Jonathan Stewart RB CAR 13 146.8 11.3 -3
19 Danny Woodhead RB SD 16 163.1 10.2 13
20 Latavius Murray RB OAK 16 161.8 10.1 -6
21 Dion Lewis RB NE 7 84.2 12.0 0
22 Arian Foster RB HOU 4 55.0 13.8 -3
23 Jeremy Hill RB CIN 16 153.3 9.6 -1
24 DeMarco Murray RB PHI 15 140.1 9.3 -4
25 Frank Gore RB IND 16 159.4 10.0 8
26 Chris Ivory RB FA 15 172.7 11.5 -2
27 Giovani Bernard RB CIN 16 132.2 8.3 7
28 Darren McFadden RB DAL 16 153.7 9.6 -3
29 Charles Sims RB TB 16 129.0 8.1 20
30 Karlos Williams RB BUF 11 113.3 10.3 -1
31 Melvin Gordon RB SD 14 75.3 5.4 -4
32 Matt Jones RB WAS 13 95.4 7.3 -4
33 Ameer Abdullah RB DET 16 92.1 5.8 -2
34 Justin Forsett RB BAL 10 91.4 9.1 -8
35 Rashad Jennings RB NYG 16 135.9 8.5 4
36 Ryan Mathews RB PHI 13 104.5 8.0 6
37 Duke Johnson RB CLE 16 103.3 6.5 0
38 Bilal Powell RB FA 11 88.1 8.0 0
39 Jay Ajayi RB MIA 9 33.7 3.7 -9
40 DeAngelo Williams RB PIT 16 191.4 12.0 -4
41 Isaiah Crowell RB CLE 16 118.8 7.4 5
42 David Cobb RB TEN 7 20.4 2.9 1
43 Javorius Allen RB BAL 16 100.9 6.3 -8
44 Cameron Artis-Payne RB CAR 7 30.1 4.3 3
45 Tevin Coleman RB ATL 12 40.6 3.4 0
46 Shane Vereen RB NYG 16 99.5 6.2 -
47 Theo Riddick RB DET 16 99.0 6.2 9
48 Alfred Morris RB FA 16 86.6 5.4 -4
49 Jerick McKinnon RB MIN 16 62.4 3.9 1
50 Andre Ellington RB ARI 10 59.7 6.0 15

The first name that jumps out is C.J. Anderson, who is going a full 12 spots later than I'd take him at this point in the offseason. He wasn’t fully healthy heading into the season and struggled at the onset, averaging just 2.69 YPC on 11.4 rushing attempts through the first six weeks of the season. He turned it around in a big way after the Week 7 bye, however, racking up an average of 64.5 yards on 11.6 carries (5.57 YPC) and 0.58 TD over his final 12 games, including the playoffs. Those are mid-level RB1 numbers in standard formats and low-end RB1 numbers in PPR. Moreover, the Broncos committed to Anderson down the stretch, feeding him 15.6 carries over the final five games. In that span, he averaged 13.7 fantasy points in standard (and 15.9 FP in PPR). Those averages would have been good enough to finish #3 in both formats. Even though he finished strong, playoff numbers don’t count for fantasy, so the fact remains that Anderson burned his owners in 2015. As a result, his ADP is likely to remain depressed heading into 2016 fantasy drafts. But Ronnie Hillman is unlikely to return after a poor finish (while Anderson is a restricted free agent and easier for the Broncos to retain), so the Denver backfield is one to monitor in the offseason. If Anderson returns as the clear RB1, he’s going to be a fantastic value in the 4th round and a solid value in the 3rd.

Danny Woodhead is also going ponderously low given his 2015 production. Woodhead finished 12th in standard formats and 3rd in PPR in 2015. He’ll have a new offensive coordinator, the aforementioned Ken Whisenhunt, who returns to the Chargers after coordinating the offense back in 2013. In that season, Woodhead averaged 9.3 FP (standard) and 13.8 FP (PPR) in 18 games, including the postseason. Those are solid RB2 (standard) and RB1 (PPR) numbers, respectively. Worries about the potential emergence of Melvin Gordon will depress Woodhead’s ADP, which is currently residing in the 7th round of early standard drafts. (Keep in mind that Ryan Mathews saw 285 carries in 2013 and Woody still got his.) He’s a fantastic target for owners who want to wait on value at the RB position.

Charles Sims also looks like a great value at his current ADP, which currently resides in the early 12th round at FFC. His MFL10 ADP (79th pick, 32nd RB off the board) seems much more sensible, but those are PPR drafts where he holds extra value. Sims quietly finished as the #22 RB in standard formats and #17 in PPR leagues, catching at least three passes in 10 of 16 games. He also averaged 4.94 YPC on 107 carries, so he showed the ability to be effective as a runner as well. GM Jason Licht went so far as to say that the team views Sims as a capable three-down back, so if Doug Martin moves on, Sims’ value would skyrocket this offseason. Even if Martin returns, Sims should provide decent RB2 production in both formats.

Early 2016 WR Rankings (Standard Scoring)
# Player Pos Team G 2015 FP (std) 2015 PPG DIFF
1 Antonio Brown WR PIT 16 242.2 15.1 0
2 Odell Beckham WR NYG 15 223.3 14.9 0
3 Julio Jones WR ATL 16 233.1 14.6 0
4 Allen Robinson WR JAX 16 224.0 14.0 1
5 DeAndre Hopkins WR HOU 16 218.1 13.6 -1
6 Brandon Marshall WR NYJ 16 230.2 14.4 3
7 Dez Bryant WR DAL 9 58.1 6.5 -1
8 A.J. Green WR CIN 16 187.7 11.7 0
9 Alshon Jeffery WR FA 9 104.7 11.6 2
10 Sammy Watkins WR BUF 13 158.8 12.2 0
11 Julian Edelman WR NE 9 111.5 12.4 2
12 Keenan Allen WR SD 8 94.5 11.8 5
13 Jordy Nelson WR GB 0 - - -6
14 Eric Decker WR NYJ 15 172.7 11.5 15
15 Demaryius Thomas WR DEN 16 162.4 10.2 -1
16 Martavis Bryant WR PIT 11 120.2 10.9 3
17 Mike Evans WR TB 15 136.8 9.1 -5
18 Brandin Cooks WR NO 16 169.6 10.6 6
19 Amari Cooper WR OAK 16 140.7 8.8 -4
20 Jarvis Landry WR MIA 16 157.4 9.8 0
21 T.Y. Hilton WR IND 16 142.4 8.9 0
22 Larry Fitzgerald WR ARI 16 171.5 10.7 6
23 Josh Gordon WR CLE 0 - - -5
24 Allen Hurns WR JAX 15 161.0 10.7 2
25 Jeremy Maclin WR KC 15 155.9 10.4 5
26 Emmanuel Sanders WR DEN 15 148.4 9.9 -1
27 Randall Cobb WR GB 16 123.9 7.7 -5
28 Golden Tate WR DET 16 119.4 7.5 4
29 Doug Baldwin WR SEA 16 190.9 11.9 -2
30 John Brown WR ARI 15 142.5 9.5 5
31 Kelvin Benjamin WR CAR 0 - - -15
32 Michael Crabtree WR OAK 16 146.2 9.1 7
33 Michael Floyd WR ARI 15 120.9 8.1 -2
34 Jordan Matthews WR PHI 16 145.7 9.1 -1
35 DeVante Parker WR MIA 15 67.4 4.5 6
36 Tyler Lockett WR SEA 16 102.4 6.4 1
37 Donte Moncrief WR IND 16 109.3 6.8 1
38 Willie Snead WR NO 15 114.4 7.6 9
39 Steve L Smith WR BAL 7 85.0 12.1 1
40 DeSean Jackson WR WAS 10 74.8 7.5 -6
41 Kevin White WR CHI 0 - - -5
42 Dorial Green-Beckham WR TEN 16 78.9 4.9 0
43 Stefon Diggs WR MIN 13 97.3 7.5 1
44 Tavon Austin WR STL 16 140.7 8.8 -1
45 Vincent Jackson WR TB 10 72.3 7.2 4
46 Marvin Jones WR FA 16 108.9 6.8 9
47 Ted Ginn WR CAR 15 139.9 9.3 -1
48 Rishard Matthews WR FA 11 90.6 8.2 19
49 Travis Benjamin WR FA 16 123.8 7.7 -1
50 Kamar Aiken WR BAL 16 122.4 7.7 7
51 Stevie Johnson WR SD 10 67.7 6.8 14
52 Breshad Perriman WR BAL 0 - - -7
53 Anquan Boldin WR FA 14 100.9 7.2 8
54 Pierre Garcon WR WAS 16 113.7 7.1 6
55 Kendall Wright WR TEN 10 60.5 6.1 7
56 Markus Wheaton WR PIT 16 104.9 6.6 -3
57 Jeff Janis WR GB 16 7.9 0.5 2
58 Devin Funchess WR CAR 16 75.3 4.7 -7
59 Nelson Agholor WR PHI 13 32.3 2.5 -7
60 Jermaine Kearse WR FA 16 98.5 6.2 -

Why is Eric Decker the 29th WR off the board after finishing the season WR10? Assuming Ryan Fitzpatrick is back, not much will change for the Jets and Decker was one of the most consistent fantasy receivers last season, posting 80-plus yards and/or a touchdown in each of his 15 games played.

I'm low on Kelvin Benjamin at this point, but he will rise in my rankings if he has a good, healthy offseason. He finished WR16 as a rookie, but I'm not sure he'll be able to reproduce that production since the Carolina passing game has grown more diverse in his absence. (Remember, Benjamin was 6th in targets in 2014, so he was inefficient from a production standpoint.) Ted Ginn has earned a role and Corey Brown played very well down the stretch.

Willie Snead owned the #39 PPG in standard formats, but since Marques Colston is likely gone, there's a chance that his role expands in 2016. Snead averaged 72 yards on 7.6 targets per game over his final five games.

Early 2016 TE Rankings (Standard Scoring)
# Player Pos Team G 2015 FP (std) 2015 PPG DIFF
1 Rob Gronkowski TE NE 15 183.6 12.2 0
2 Jordan Reed TE WAS 14 157.2 11.2 0
3 Greg Olsen TE CAR 16 150.4 9.4 0
4 Delanie Walker TE TEN 15 148.4 9.9 2
5 Tyler Eifert TE CIN 13 139.5 10.7 -1
6 Travis Kelce TE KC 16 113.5 7.1 -1
7 Zach Ertz TE PHI 15 95.3 6.4 3
8 Julius Thomas TE JAX 12 75.5 6.3 -1
9 Gary Barnidge TE CLE 16 158.3 9.9 3
10 Antonio Gates TE FA 11 93.0 8.5 -1
11 Jimmy Graham TE SEA 11 72.5 6.6 -3
12 Eric Ebron TE DET 14 83.7 6.0 3
13 Austin Seferian-Jenkins TE TB 7 57.8 8.3 -2
14 Coby Fleener TE FA 16 67.1 4.2 2
15 Ladarius Green TE FA 13 66.9 5.1 2
16 Zachary Miller TE CHI 15 73.9 4.9 -
17 Martellus Bennett TE CHI 11 61.9 5.6 -4
18 Richard Rodgers TE GB 16 100.1 6.3 4
19 Jordan Cameron TE MIA 16 56.6 3.5 2
20 Clive Walford TE OAK 16 50.9 3.2 3
21 Charles Clay TE BUF 13 70.8 5.4 -
22 Kyle Rudolph TE MIN 16 79.5 5.0 -3
23 Ben Watson TE FA 16 116.5 7.3 -
24 Jason Witten TE DAL 16 87.2 5.5 -6
25 Owen Daniels TE DEN 16 69.7 4.4 -
26 Crockett Gillmore TE BAL 10 65.2 6.5 -
27 Jesse James TE PIT 8 11.6 1.5 -
28 Will Tye TE FA 13 62.4 4.8 -
29 Dwayne Allen TE FA 13 17.0 1.3 -
30 Maxx Williams TE BAL 14 32.8 2.3 -
31 Vernon Davis TE FA 15 39.5 2.6 -
32 Vance McDonald TE SF 14 50.6 3.6 -
33 Jacob Tamme TE ATL 15 71.7 4.8 -
34 Josh Hill TE NO 16 24.0 1.5 -
35 Lance Kendricks TE STL 15 36.5 2.4 -
36 Dion Sims TE MIA 13 16.7 1.3 -
37 Virgil Green TE DEN 16 23.3 1.5 -
38 Blake Bell TE SF 14 18.6 1.3 -

Zach Ertz finished as the #10 TE in standard scoring, but was #6 after his Week 8 bye, averaging 6.4 catches for 73 yards and 0.25 TD (on 8.8 targets per game) in his final eight games. On the season, he racked up 75 catches for 853 yards and two scores. Given his size and catch radius, his touchdown rate should increase eventually. Playing time was the issue in his first two NFL seasons, but he played 72% of the snaps in 2015 and 79% in his last five games. He’ll be playing in a new offense for a new head coach, Doug Pederson, but Pederson has experience using a stud tight end given his time with Travis Kelce in Kansas City.

I'm really interested to see how the TE situation shakes out in both Indianapolis and San Diego. If the Colts do re-sign Coby Fleener while letting Dwayne Allen walk (both are free agents), Fleener will be one of my favorite sleepers heading into the 2016 season. In the 22 games that Fleener has played over the last three seasons with Allen sidelined, he has averaged 4.1 catches for 54 yards and 0.45 TD. Those averages would have been good enough to finish 7th in standard scoring and 6th in PPR in 2015. When only looking at seven such games in the last two seasons, Fleener has averaged 5.4 catches for 82 yards and 0.86 TD. It doesn't hurt that he hasn't missed a game in the last three years, either.

As for the Chargers, both Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green are free agents. If they both return, it will be a difficult situation to predict. But if the Chargers sign one and not the other, whoever they pick should produce TE1 numbers in Ken Whisenhunt's offense. If Green lands in a good situation as the clear starter, he should provide nice value in the later rounds. In four games that Gates missed in 2015, Green averaged 4.5 catches for 55 yards and 0.75 TD (on 6.8 targets per game). In the 13 career games where Green has seen at least five targets, he has averaged 7.5 fantasy points (standard), which would have translated to #7 TE numbers in 2015.

Zachary Miller was the #5 TE over the final nine weeks of the season, and that includes Week 17, which he missed due to injury. He averaged 3.9 catches for 51 yards and 0.63 TD (on 5.1 targets per game) in that span. In the four games that Martellus Bennett missed, Miller averaged 5.0-55-0.50 on 6.8 targets per game. Those are solid TE1 numbers in both standard and PPR formats. Miller is 31 years old and has had trouble staying healthy throughout his career, but he'll be a compelling pick in the later rounds if the Bears part ways with Bennett and re-sign Miller.

Filed Under: Preseason, 2016

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