Fantasy Football Playoff Review: Le'Veon Bell safe, Matt Ryan on rise
Le'Veon Bell is hopefully safe going into 2017, and Matt Ryan's stock is on the rise. Jamey Eisenberg breaks down all the championship game action and spins it forward for next year.
Selfishly, I'm glad the Pittsburgh Steelers lost in the AFC Championship Game. And that has nothing to do with the New England Patriots or any hard feelings for Pittsburgh.
It's all about Le'Veon Bell and his health.
In the Fantasy world we live in, the less wear and tear on Bell is better for us, and he was limited to just 11 snaps against New England because of an injured groin. He might have aggravated the injury further if the Steelers advanced to Super Bowl LI or suffered another injury, which would have been a disaster.
Bell heads into 2017 as the potential No. 1 overall pick in all leagues. Despite missing three games this season because of a suspension and not playing in Week 17 to rest, he still finished as the No. 5 Fantasy running back in standard leagues with 261 carries for 1,268 yards and seven touchdowns and 75 catches for 616 yards and two touchdowns.
But his workload was becoming a concern. He was on pace for 348 carries during the regular season and 448 total touches. He added an additional 65 carries and four catches in the playoffs, so the Steelers really leaned on him as a workhorse.
Now, that's great for us because it makes him a Fantasy stud. But we also want to preserve him for as long as possible, especially heading into 2017 when he will hopefully avoid another suspension and be 100 percent healthy.
He's a free agent this offseason, but the Steelers plan to give him the franchise tag if they can't agree on a long-term deal. That's a good thing because we want Bell to remain in Pittsburgh. And we also want him to stay healthy, which he will now that his season is over.
Let's look at some other players from the championship round of the NFL playoffs who helped or hurt their Fantasy value heading into the offseason.
Atlanta Falcons 44, Green Bay Packers 21
The Falcons advanced to Super Bowl LI with a dominant performance against the Packers. And Matt Ryan and Julio Jones led the way, along with help from Devonta Freeman , Tevin Coleman and Mohamed Sanu .
It was a great Fantasy season in Atlanta, and we'll see what happens on offense in 2017 after offensive Kyle Shanahan eventually becomes the new head coach in San Francisco. We hope his loss is not a tremendous negative.
For Ryan, who will likely be the NFL MVP, it was another outstanding game against Green Bay with 392 passing yards and four touchdowns and 23 rushing yards and a touchdown. He now has 730 passing yards and eight total touchdowns in playoff games against the Seahawks and Packers.
In the regular season, Ryan was the No. 2 Fantasy quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers , and he will be a top-five quarterback entering 2017. Rodgers is my No. 1 quarterback now, but after him is a toss-up with Andrew Luck , Tom Brady , Drew Brees and Ryan. With the right offensive coordinator, Ryan could easily be No. 2.
His stats were again boosted by Jones, who had nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 12 targets against Green Bay. His playoff stats are also solid with 15 catches for 247 yards and three touchdowns on 20 targets, and he finished the regular season as the No. 6 Fantasy receiver in standard leagues with 83 catches for 1,409 yards and six touchdowns on 129 targets.
Jones will be one of the Top 3 receivers drafted in 2017 with Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham , and I would select him in the first seven overall picks in the majority of leagues. Fantasy owners might be concerned about his lingering foot issues, but he played through a toe injury Sunday and was once again a beast.
Atlanta's backfield was again productive against the Packers, and Freeman and Coleman scored in the same game for the second game in a row. Freeman had 14 carries for 42 yards and four catches for 42 yards and a touchdown, and Coleman had 11 carries for 29 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 35 yards.
I made the case for Freeman as the No. 4 overall running back in last week's playoff review since he now has consecutive years with 1,500 total yards, 13 total touchdowns and at least 50 catches, and he's worth drafting in the first round. And Coleman is a borderline starter in all leagues worth drafting in Round 6. He was the No. 18 running back in standard leagues and has 10 games with double digits in Fantasy points, including the playoffs, despite missing three games with a hamstring injury.
Sanu, like his teammates, played well for the second game in a row. He had five catches for 52 yards and a touchdown on seven targets against Green Bay, and his playoff stats so far are nine catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 12 targets.
Sanu had a good season with 59 catches, 643 yards and four touchdowns, but he was outscored by Taylor Gabriel , who had 35 catches, 579 yards and six touchdowns but only two catches for 24 yards on three targets against the Packers. Sanu and Gabriel are just late-round fliers in 2017.
The Packers eight-game win streak ended, but Rodgers still had a standout performance with 287 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception and four carries for 46 yards. He just couldn't overcome the Falcons offense and better-than-expected defense in the NFC Championship Game.
There's not much else to say about Rodgers, who was the No. 1 quarterback in 2016 and should be the No. 1 guy heading into next season. He should be drafted toward the end of Round 2 in the majority of leagues.
It was good to see Jordy Nelson play through his rib injury and post six catches for 67 yards and a touchdown on nine targets at Atlanta, and his tremendous comeback campaign from last year's torn ACL ended on a personal high note. He finished the regular season as the No. 1 Fantasy receiver with 97 catches for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns on 152 targets.
This is now two of the past three years where Nelson has been a top-three Fantasy receiver, and he should be in the conversation as a top-five receiver in 2017. I like him behind Brown, Beckham, Jones, A.J. Green and Mike Evans , but he can easily outperform all those guys if he stays healthy. He should be drafted toward the end of Round 1 or beginning of Round 2 in all leagues.
Davante Adams played through his ankle injury and finished with three catches for 16 yards and a touchdown on three targets, but he clearly wasn't healthy. Still, it was another touchdown for Adams, who had a great rebound year after he was awful in 2015.
Adams was the No. 7 Fantasy receiver in 2016 with 75 catches, 997 yards and 12 touchdowns on 121 targets. It will be hard for him to duplicate that performance, although he's entering a contract year , which could help his outlook. I'd gamble on Adams in Round 4 in 2017.
It's easy to see that Randall Cobb is the third option at best in this passing game. He played well against the Falcons with six catches for 82 yards on nine targets, but he was bad in the regular season with only three games with double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league. I'm only drafting Cobb with a late-round pick in most formats.
Jared Cook was a star in the playoffs after he had seven catches for 78 yards and a touchdown on 12 targets against Atlanta, and he had 13 catches for 181 yards and two touchdowns on 23 targets in his past two games. But he's a free agent this offseason, and where he ends up will determine his Fantasy value. If he's back with the Packers then he's worth drafting as a low-end starter, but he should only be drafted with a late-round pick.
We don't know what the Packers are going to do with their backfield in 2017 since Eddie Lacy is a free agent, and Ty Montgomery might not be the full-time starter. Montgomery could be the starter, but his season ended against the Falcons with a rib injury, which limited his production.
If Montgomery is the starter in 2017 he would be worth a mid-round pick in all leagues. He only had three games with double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league and one game with double digits in carries. But as the starter for the Packers he would have plenty of upside, so here's hoping he gets that job.
Patriots 36, Steelers 17
It was going to be hard for the Steelers to win this game based on how Ben Roethlisberger has played on the road. He's been bad, and that impacts his Fantasy value.
He played eight road games in 2016 and finished with three scoring at least 20 Fantasy points. Conversely, he had six home games and scored at least 20 Fantasy points in all of them.
Against New England, Roethlisberger had 314 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception. He finished 2016 as the No. 12 Fantasy quarterback despite his road failings, and I would draft him as a top-10 quarterback in 2017 with a mid-round pick.
Brown was bottled up against the Patriots with seven catches for 77 yards on nine targets, but that won't impact his Fantasy value in 2017. He will again be a top-three receiver, and I would draft him as early as No. 4 overall in all leagues.
We'll see what happens with Martavis Bryant and his suspension, and hopefully he's reinstated for Week 1. If that's the case, you should draft him as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver with a mid-round pick.
That would impact Eli Rogers , who had seven catches for 66 yards on 10 targets against New England. Rogers will be worth a late-round pick in all leagues in 2017.
We also hope Ladarius Green is healthy after he missed the postseason and most of the regular season with concussion symptoms. When healthy, Green will be a late-round flier in all leagues in 2017. He could be great for Fantasy owners, but he has to stay on the field.
Tom Brady continued his dominance against Mike Tomlin and the Steelers with 384 passing yards and three touchdowns, and we'll see how he finishes this year in Super Bowl LI. You know what to expect from Brady at this point, and he'll be a top-five quarterback in all leagues in 2017.
Having a healthy Rob Gronkowski (back) will help next year, but the New England receiving corps has remained stout even with him out. Against the Steelers, it was Julian Edelman (eight catches for 118 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets) and Chris Hogan (nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 12 targets) leading the way.
Edelman finished the regular season as the No. 22 Fantasy receiver in standard leagues, and he should again be a top-25 receiver in 2017. He's worth drafting in Round 6 in standard leagues and in Round 4 in PPR.
Hogan was a star against Pittsburgh, but he only had four games with double digits in Fantasy points in the regular season. He'll be a late-round flier in 2017, along with Malcolm Mitchell , who only had one catch for 5 yards against the Steelers.
We'll see if Martellus Bennett (five catches for 32 yards on five targets) is back in New England as a free agent. But his value is limited as long as Gronkowski is healthy.
The running backs will be fun to dissect in 2017 if LeGarrette Blount leaves as a free agent. He was the lead runner against the Steelers with 16 carries for 47 yards and a touchdown and one catch for 8 yards.
Dion Lewis only had six carries for 11 yards and two catches for 8 yards against Pittsburgh, but his value would skyrocket if Blount is gone and no one else of significance is added. It's something we'll look at closely after Super Bowl LI is over.
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