Fantasy Football 2016: Skill-Position Rankings, Team Names and More Draft Info

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistAugust 24, 2016

Seattle Seahawks' Thomas Rawls (34) jumps after scoring a touchdown as Pittsburgh Steelers' Mike Mitchell lies in the end zone in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

Draft day is coming, and fantasy football players must prepare accordingly.

Roughly two weeks remain before the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos kick off the 2016 NFL season on September 8. In a perfect world, gamers can keep studying for a draft scheduled after September 1, when the preseason concludes.

There are injuries to beware and playing-time battles to monitor. Extra research time always helps, especially for those of us who also have baseball leagues (or actual responsibilities) to manage. As anyone who snagged Kelvin Benjamin or Jordy Nelson early last August can attest to, there's no reason to rush.

Of course, it's usually difficult to find an agreeable time for all parties. Some people have no choice but to draft this week. Let's help those brave souls cram with rankings and other fantasy advice.



Running Back Rankings
1Todd GurleyLA
2David JohnsonARI
3Adrian PetersonMIN
4Lamar MillerHOU
5Ezekiel ElliottDAL
6Le'Veon BellPIT
7Mark IngramNO
8Devonta FreemanATL
9Jamaal CharlesKC
10LeSean McCoyBUF
11Doug MartinTB
12C.J. AndersonDEN
13Eddie LacyGB
14Carlos HydeSF
15Matt ForteNYJ
16Thomas RawlsSEA
17Latavius MurrayOAK
18Jonathan StewartCAR
19Jeremy HillCIN
20Ryan MathewsPHI
21DeMarco MurrayTEN
22Frank GoreIND
23Jeremy LangfordCHI
24Rashad JenningsNYG
25Melvin GordonSD
26Matt JonesWAS
27Danny WoodheadSD
28Chris IvoryJAC
29Arian FosterMIA
30Giovani BernardCIN
Author's Rankings
Wide Receiver Rankings
1Antonio BrownPIT
2Julio JonesATL
3Odell Beckham Jr.NYG
4A.J. GreenCIN
5DeAndre HopkinsHOU
6Dez BryantDAL
7Allen RobinsonJAC
8Jordy NelsonGB
9Brandon MarshallNYJ
10Brandin CooksNO
11Demaryius ThomasDEN
12Alshon JefferyCHI
13Keenan AllenSD
14Mike EvansTB
15Randall CobbGB
16Sammy WatkinsBUF
17Amari CooperOAK
18T.Y. HiltonIND
19Eric DeckerNYJ
20Doug BaldwinSEA
21Jeremy MaclinKC
22Julian EdelmanNE
23Jarvis LandryMIA
24Golden TateDET
25Donte MoncriefIND
26John BrownARI
27Kelvin BenjaminCAR
28Jordan MatthewsPHI
29Michael FloydARI
30DeVante ParkerMIA
Author's Rankings
Tight End Rankings
1Rob GronkowskiNE
2Jordan ReedWAS
3Greg OlsenCAR
4Travis KelceKC
5Delanie WalkerTEN
6Coby FleenerNO
7Gary BarnidgeCLE
8Tyler EifertCIN
9Zach ErtzPHI
10Antonio GatesSD
11Julius ThomasJAC
12Zach MillerCHI
13Dwayne AllenIND
14Martellus BennettNE
15Jimmy GrahamSEA
16Eric EbronDET
17Jason WittenDAL
18Clive WalfordOAK
19Jordan CameronMIA
20Vance McDonaldSF
Author's Rankings


Team Names

This isn't the first time writing about this topic, but it's your team. Come up with our own darn name. 

How clever is an idea thousands of other people use? What if someone else in your league finds the same list of kooky team names? 

Instead of running through the same suggestions, here are some tips on what to avoid. Stay away from Deflategate innuendos. Those weren't funny last year, so they're especially tiresome now.

Also, never use the actual name of a sports team. It's only acceptable to name your team the Cleveland Browns if your entire team is comprised of Browns players. And if that's the case, buckle up for a long season, buddy.

Frequently Used Team Names
Turn Down for WattPassword is Taco
Prestige WorldwideChalupa Batman
Mr. Rodgers NeighborhoodDallas Cowboys (Writer's Note: Seriously?)

Last year, Gianni Jaccoma and Cody Kestigan of Thrillist documented the 30 most frequently used team names in public ESPN.com leagues. Seven of the inclusions are of the embarrassingly lazy "Team [Last Name]" variety. Others prove that more 12-year-olds than ever play fantasy football.

Some of the popular, inoffensive choices are printed above as examples of things not to use. Show some creativity. It's one thing to ask for drafting advice, but you're capable of constructing two or three words on your own.

Also, The League got stale before mercifully ending last year. There are plenty of other shows ripe with references. If it makes you smile or chuckle, who cares if it's too obscure for your competitors?


Hyped Preseason Risers

Robert Griffin III, QB, Cleveland Browns

Robert Griffin III hoists a career 63.9 completion percentage, 7.62 yards per pass attempt and 40 rushing yards per game. He's 26 years old. 

Per FantasyPros' average draft position (ADP) data, he's the No. 27 quarterback off the board behind Baltimore's Joe Flacco. In many standard leagues, that means he'll go undrafted, but the Browns quarterback is trying to bolster his stock.

In Week 2's preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons, Griffin went 6-for-8 with 96 yards and two touchdowns, including a 50-yard strike to Terrelle Pryor. He also added 36 yards on the ground.

These numbers don't count, but it's noteworthy as the former Washington star cements his starting spot. Don't expect a top-10 quarterback—or even one who will stay healthy for 16 games—but he's preferable to Goff, Alex Smith, Joe Flacco and Jay Cutler as a last-ditch flier.


Christine Michael, RB, Seattle Seahawks

Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

Fantasy players and pundits have touted Christine Michael for three years. Once envisioned as the heir apparent to Marshawn Lynch before getting jettisoned to the Dallas Cowboys, he is once again drawing considerable buzz.

Reclaimed by the Seattle Seahawks late last season, he ran for 262 yards in 60 carries over four games, including the playoffs. A returning Thomas Rawls figured to take the spot after a dominant 2015, but everyone won't stop raving about Michael.

Per ESPN.com's Sheil Kapadia, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll framed Rawls and Michael as a "one-two punch that we’re excited about." He went on to discuss the latter's improvements during training camp.

He really has made it clear to us that he’s serious about the work. He’s serious about the consistency. He’s taken great pride in the way he’s brought it day in and day out all throughout the offseason and into camp and all of that. And he’s an explosive, dynamic athlete. So we’re just going to keep going with him.

Michael has shown everyone what Carroll saw by registering 99 yards in 17 preseason carries. Along with his teammates and coaches, he impressed Bleacher Report's Doug Farrar and ESPN.com's Bill Barnwell:

Doug Farrar @BR_DougFarrar

Christine Michael has a different gear out here. It's very obvious. He's accelerating profusely.

Bill Barnwell @billbarnwell

Am I a true 12 now that I am officially falling for Christine Michael

At the least, anyone pegging Rawls as a top-tier running back should worry. Although he could provide first-round value with regular touches, that workload is far from guaranteed. Despite the rave reviews, Michael remains a bench flier and handcuff who will likely rise up draft boards.


Tajae Sharpe, WR, Tennessee Titans

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

Last week, the Tennessee Titans surprisingly sent Dorial Green-Beckham to the Philadelphia Eagles. Surely they wouldn't move last year's second-round pick unless they liked someone else more as a starting wide receiver.

Tajae Sharpe has quickly emerged as that guy. The fifth-round rookie, listed as Tennessee's No. 2 wideout behind Rishard Matthews on the official depth chart, caught six passes for 68 yards in Tennessee's second preseason game against Carolina. 

Per Jim Wyatt of the team's website, Titans head coach Mike Mularkey noted an immediate rapport between Sharpe and second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota.

“There’s a big trust level,” Mularkey said. “What you’re seeing is what he basically does in practices. He’s made some big catches that we haven’t had here in a while.

The UMass receiver will hope to follow the unheralded breakout path of fellow Minutemen alum Victor Cruz. Even in what figures to be a run-heavy offense behind DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, he's a starter with refined route-running abilities.

He offers a nice late-round blend of volume and upside, particularly in points-per-reception leagues. Don't get blinded too much by the incoming hype, but grab him with a late bench spot if nobody else reaches for him.


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