By Michael Winn
Stud: John Brown, wide receiver
John Brown is a young No. 2 wide receiver in one of the older offenses in the league with Carson Palmer at quarterback (37) and Larry Fitzgerald (33) as the No. 1 receiver. Brown had 696 receiving yards and five touchdowns as a rookie in 2015. Not bad stats for a rookie. Then he followed it up with a 1,003-yard and seven-touchdown second season. Brown had only 517 yards and two touchdowns last season, so expect him to have a bounce-back season and be the focal point of this aging offense.
Dud: Chris Johnson, running back
Chris Johnson has not had more than 1,000 yards in his past three seasons. It’s safe to say that his prime days are over. I don’t see Johnson getting close to 500 yards this season because he is behind one of the best backs in the NFL in David Johnson. David Johnson is a workhorse and shouldn’t give up much time to Johnson this season. Stay away from Johnson this year as he won’t see the field often.
Los Angeles Rams
Stud: Todd Gurley, running back
Todd Gurley followed an impressive rookie season with an 885-yard, six-touchdown season last year. Gurley and the Rams were in a down year with a rookie quarterback under center last season. The Rams recently acquired wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who should open up the passing game and therefore make the Rams’ offense more unpredictable. Look for defenses to not stack the box against the Rams, which will open up more holes for Gurley to run through and rack up stats.
Dud: Tavon Austin, wide receiver
Tavon Austin has never been a top fantasy option, and I do not see him turning that around in 2017. With quarterback Jared Goff still learning in his second year as Austin’s quarterback, I wouldn’t expect a big difference in stats from 2016 to 2017. The Rams acquisition of Watkins will hurt Austin’s chances to see more targets. Austin will get a lot of his targets from short passes and not many down-the-field chances. Expect Austin to be another 500-yard receiver with a minimal amount of touchdowns.
San Francisco 49ers
Stud: Pierre Garcon, wide receiver
Moving from a team with a top quarterback to a team with an undecided quarterback is never good for a receiver, but Pierre Garcon should be able to make it work. Garcon has been a consistently good receiver in the league as he has had three to six touchdowns in his past eight seasons. Garcon also had more than 600 receiving yards in those seasons. The 49ers new coach is former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who led the Atlanta Falcons to a Super Bowl run last season. Shanahan is an offensive genius who will use Garcon to stretch the field and use his big-play potential to its potential.
Dud: Brian Hoyer, quarterback
Brian Hoyer split time with two quarterbacks in Chicago last year and none of them had an impressive season. All of these quarterbacks had just more than 1,000 yards passing and single-digit touchdowns. Hoyer is still competing with Matt Barkley, who he competed with last year in Chicago. Even with Shanahan as the coach, Hoyer will not have the dynamic receivers Matt Ryan had that made him successful in Shanahan’s offense. Do not look for Hoyer to have that much success.
Stud: Doug Baldwin, wide receiver
One of Russell Wilson’s most reliable targets is back and primed for another big season. Doug Baldwin made some ridiculous one-handed catches, which was a minor thing he did that made him special last year. Baldwin had 94 receptions for 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns last year, so while he may not have had double-digit touchdowns, he did have the yards and receptions. Baldwin may not be the best in standard leagues, but in PPR leagues, he is an easy No. 1 receiver option.
Dud: Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, running back
Splitting time is never fun for two running backs who could be the sole starter on many teams. Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls will compete against each other and share time on the field, which will take away from their fantasy upside. Usually one player may get more goal line touches than the other, but both of these guys can handle that duty. It’s really just a toss up. Lacy and Rawls both had injuries over the past couple of seasons, so maybe one will be the featured back while the other is hurt, but don’t count on it. These backs are good if one of your starting running backs are on a bye.