By Joseph Fazio
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Last season, Aaron Rodgers was second behind only Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson in overall fantasy points. Greatly improving his 2015 season stats last year, Rodgers is the front-runner for best quarterback this year. Rodgers had some of his best stats since the 2010 season, throwing for almost 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns last season. After adding former New England tight end Martellus Bennett to the squad, the Packers are looking to have one of the best receiving corps in the NFL this year. With the loss of James Starks, and Ty Montgomery not fully functional from his injury, Rodgers will most likely be throwing more passes, likely leading to more fantasy points this season.
Honorable Mention: Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Running backs: David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals and LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
After being a relatively unknown running back at the start of last season, David Johnson will be many fantasy league’s No. 1 pick this year. Johnson led the league in overall fantasy points last season, beating out Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers by almost 30 points. Johnson also led the league last year with 20 all-purpose touchdowns for running backs and had more than 2,000 all-purpose yards, as well. Now going into his third season out of Northern Iowa, Johnson will definitely be a top running back in the league.
For a Buffalo Bills team that is always living in the shadow of the New England Patriots in the AFC East, LeSean McCoy always seems to be that glimmer of hope. Last season, McCoy put up some of his best stats since 2011 when he was playing for the Eagles. McCoy ranked fourth in total fantasy points last season and is looking to greatly rise in rankings.
With Ezekiel Elliott suspended as of now and Le’Veon Bell’s health questionable, McCoy and Johnson will undoubtedly be two of the top running backs this season.
Honorable Mentions: DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans and Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
Wide Receivers: Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers and Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
In 2015, many fans were crushed to see Jordy Nelson go down in a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Nelson missed the season with a career-threatening right knee injury and many were skeptical about his health coming into last season. All of that skepticism was gone once he started playing again, as Nelson led all wide receivers with 14 touchdowns. He earned the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award at the end of the season. What does this mean for the upcoming season? Well, if Nelson is able to stay healthy, opposing defenses are going to be in trouble. Nelson will be at the top of draft boards in almost every league and is a star receiver for any team. Although he’s not the fastest or most vertical, Nelson greatly uses his strength to create space for his excellent catching abilities.
Although Rodgers has Nelson as his main man, Ben Roethlisberger has Antonio Brown. Last year was not Brown’s best season in the league, but he still led all wide receivers in fantasy points. Brown was fourth in the league in total reception yards and second behind Nelson for receiving touchdowns. Brown is projected to go early in the draft and can be seen as a first-overall pick for many leagues. Having over 1,000 reception yards puts him at the top of any league, and with the work he continues to put in year after year, Brown will continue to be one of the best receivers that the NFL has to offer.
Honorable Mentions: Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
Tight end: Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cameron Brate was a player many fantasy owners saw lying around on the waiver wire after their drafts last year. During the season, his draft stock skyrocketed from his outstanding work put in with the Buccaneers. Brate put up career numbers in almost every statistic, doubling his numbers in receptions, reception yards and touchdowns. In his fifth year out of Harvard, Brate was quietly leading all tight ends in touchdowns with eight at the end of the regular season. Brate and Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston created great on-field chemistry that is likely to spill over into this season. Brate finished eighth in total fantasy points for tight ends last season, and if the Brate-Winston connection continues, Brate’s draft stock will continue to rise.
Honorable Mention: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
Defense/Special Teams: Houston Texans
J.J Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus; these are just some of the returning players in Houston’s scary defense. Last season was not promising for the Texans with a Watt-less defense. The team still managed a league-best 4,821 yards allowed. Key players such as cornerback Johnathan Joseph and linebacker Brian Cushing also add to the depth Houston has on defense. Coming to the Houston Texans is former two-time All-SEC linebacker Zach Cunningham. He was a great steal for the Texans, drafted in the second round. Lining up with Cushing and Clowney, the Texans may have the best linebacker core in the NFL. With Watt reported as being as healthy as ever, opposing offenses need to look out for the Texans steamrolling over them this year.
Honorable Mention: Kansas City Chiefs