Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5; 1st in AFC North)

Quarterbacks

Ben Roethlisberger – It wasn’t too long ago that the Steelers had one of the best receiving corps in the league. Then WR Martavis Bryant was suspended for the season, TE Ladarius Green couldn’t get on the field consistently in 2016, and WR Sammie Coates no-showed for the final three months of the season. By the end of the year, Big Ben could only consistently trust Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell in the passing game. The Steelers transitioned from a pass-heavy team in the first half of the year to a Bell-centric squad in the second half. With the Steelers leaning heavily on Bell, Big Ben didn’t attempt 37+ passes in his final six regular season games (Weeks 11-16) and in the first two playoff games before he attempted 47 passes in their blowout loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship. Roethlisberger attempted 37+ passes in six of his first eight games (Weeks 1-10) of 2016. Big Ben averaged 26.3 FPG (4th at the position) in Weeks 1-10 compared to just 18.0 (26th) in Weeks 11-16. For the year, he completed 328/509 passes (64.4%) for 3819 yards (7.5 YPA), 29 TDs, and 13 INTs in 14 games, while adding 16/14/1 rushing. He missed just one game in the middle of the season despite undergoing surgery to clean up a meniscus tear, and he sat out the season finale with the Steelers locked into the #3 seed. Big Ben averaged 22.7 FPG, ranking 7th at the position behind Kirk Cousins. For a 13-year veteran, Big Ben once again had baffling home/road splits in 2016, averaging 31.2 FPG at Heinz Field and 16.3 FPG on the road. He also averaged 8.6 YPA at home versus 7.01 YPA on the road. Roethlisberger left open the possibility of retirement after the season, but we don’t see him stepping away in his 35-year-old season even though he has taken lots of hits and endured plenty of injuries in his 13 seasons. Roethlisberger certainly wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen in recent years, but he definitely had one of his weakest groups of receivers in recent memory. Big Ben will be in the QB1 conversation for fantasy drafts next summer, but the statuses of Bryant and Green will likely determine if he’s a middle-round pick or a mid-to-late-round pick.

Fantasy questions to answer in 2017: Can Ben Roethlisberger get back to his old fantasy form if they beef up their receiving corps with the potential return of Martavis Bryant? Will the Steelers retain Landry Jones or will they look elsewhere for their backup QB?

Running Backs

Le’Veon Bell – The Steelers absolutely ran Bell into the ground from Week 11 on in six regular season games and two postseason contests, so we can’t say it was totally shocking that the wear and tear finally caught up to him the week of the AFC Championship. He missed practices before the title game and eventually left early with a groin injury after just 11 snaps. It’s essentially the third straight season that the Steelers haven’t had Bell in their final game. At least he’s not dealing with a major knee injury this time, and he should have a normal off-season heading into 2017. Bell finished with 261/1268/7 rushing (4.9 YPC) and 75/616/2 receiving on 94 targets (79.8% catch rate, 8.2 YPC) in just 12 games, missing the first three games to suspension and the season finale for rest. He averaged a whopping 26.5 FPG, finishing as the top RB ahead of David Johnson. Bell finished only 114 yards shy of 2000 scrimmage yards despite missing four games. Bell played on an unreal 96% of the snaps, saw a 16.3% target share, and had 44.56% of the team’s touches. Bell averaged an impressive .94 fantasy points per touch – the league average for the position was .70. Bell turned in the best fantasy game of 2016 with his 51.8 FP effort against the Bills, going off for 38/236/3 rushing and 4/62 receiving. He topped 20+ FP in nine of his 12 games, and his worst performance was a 13 FP performance against the Ravens in Week 9. Bell averaged a ridiculous 28.9 FPG on 220/1172/8 rushing and 34/259/1 receiving in his final six regular games and his first two postseason games. That means that Bell was averaging an absurd 31.8 touches per game in his final eight contests, a 509-touch pace for a 16-game span, which is simply unsustainable for an entire season. Bell is obviously one of the most dynamic weapons in the league, and the Steelers need to keep him heavily involved every week. Still, the Steelers need to figure out a way to get another RB a little more involved or Bell won’t make it through the entire 2017 season if they use him like they did at the end of 2016. Bell will be back with the Steelers in one form or another next season, most likely under the franchise tag. The great debate this summer will be which of the big three RBs – Bell, David Johnson, and Ezekiel Elliott – should go #1 overall in fantasy drafts.

DeAngelo Williams – Williams has been everything the Steelers could’ve asked for the last two years as Le’Veon Bell’s handcuff at the position. He showed in the first three games of the season and in the AFC Championship that’s he still got a little gas left in the tank, even as the oldest RB in the league – he’ll turn 34 in April. Williams did miss seven games in 2016 because of arthroscopic surgery to his knee, but he still posted 298/1250/15 rushing but in his two seasons with the Steelers. With Bell suspended for the first three games of the season, DeAngelo ranked 2nd at the position with 22.2 FPG, posting 66/258/2 rushing and 14/89/1 receiving. He finished the year with 98/343/4 rushing (3.5 YPC) and 18/118/2 receiving on 27 targets (66.7% catch rate, 6.6 YPR) in seven games. He averaged 11.1 FPG, tying with Ryan Mathews for 29th at the position. Williams saw 15.38% of the team’s touches and played on 46% of the snaps, including 86.7% in the first three weeks with Bell out of the lineup. Williams averaged an impressive .37 fantasy points per snap – the league average for the position was .24 – and he also averaged .86 fantasy points per touch – the league average for the position was .70. The Steelers will likely be interested in bringing Williams back on a reasonable, one-year deal to serve as the backup to Bell. Still, the Steelers also need to start looking for a long-term option in the middle rounds of the draft in case Bell leaves after the 2017 season. The Steelers did sign Karlos Williams to a reserve/future contract, but he’s been a mess with drugs and his weight since rookie season in 2015. DeAngelo knows this is the last time he’s going to get paid and he could look for one last payday, so the ball is in his court if he wants to stay or go for 2017.

Fantasy questions to answer in 2017: Will the Steelers indeed use their franchise tag Le’Veon Bell and will he be the #1 overall fantasy pick? Will the Steelers run Bell into the ground again next season or will they ease his workload some? Can the Steelers keep DeAngelo Williams around for one more season? Will the Steelers draft a RB in the middle rounds to groom for the 2018 season and beyond?

Wide Receivers

Brown's season had perhaps a few too many lulls that owners would have liked, but he ended up showing why he's one of the best--if not the best--receivers in the game.Antonio BrownBusiness was Booming for Brown owners who took him with the #1 overall fantasy pick last summer. AB actually had his worst fantasy season since 2013, but it was still the best performance at the position in 2016. He averaged 20.5 FPG, a full 1.3 FPG ahead of Jordy Nelson for the top spot. Brown had his famous 5/50 receiving streak snapped last season after 35 games, and he didn’t attain that level of consistency this year, falling under 5 catches four times and under 50 yards twice. He also fell below 10 FP in three games, but he still had quite a few monster performances, hitting 20+ FP seven times. He finished the year with 106/1284/12 receiving on 154 targets (68.8% catch rate, 12.1 YPC) in 15 games, sitting out Week 17 with the Steelers locked into the #3 seed. He played 96% of the snaps, saw 26.0% target share, and had 14.06% of the team’s touches. Brown averaged an impressive 2.05 fantasy points per target – the league average for the position was 1.93. The Steelers transitioned from a pass-heavy team in the first half of the year to a Bell-centric squad in the second half. With the Steelers leaning heavily on Bell, Ben Roethlisberger didn’t attempt 37+ passes in his final six regular season games (Weeks 11-16), after doing it in six of his first eight games (Weeks 1-10). The change in philosophy did hurt Brown some, with all four of his 100-yard games coming in Weeks 1-10, but AB still averaged a healthy 18.7 FPG (4th) in Weeks 11-16. Brown’s Facebook Live fiasco after their Divisional Round win and Mike Tomlin’s subsequent reaction should serve notice that his me-first antics need to be curbed, but Brown would need a total meltdown before the Steelers would consider moving on from their superstar. Brown is unlikely to be the consensus #1 fantasy pick like he was last year with the big three at RB (David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, and Bell), but AB should still be the top WR off the board unless he gets into some more shenanigans this off-season.

Martavis Bryant – The NFL suspended Bryant last March for a minimum of one season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy with six failed drug tests. The 25-year-old WR ended up spending his lost season training and working as an assistant high school football coach out in Nevada. He will soon apply for reinstatement and is eyeing a potential return to the Steelers in March. The Steelers really struggled at times in the red zone, and they could’ve really used Bryant’s huge frame (6’4”, 211 pounds) down by the goal line in 2016 – he has 14 receiving TDs in 21 games. The Steelers never had a WR step up as the #2 WR across from Antonio Brown in 2016, but Bryant has certainly shown he’s capable of being a difference-maker when he’s been on the field. He’s also one more misstep from being out of football for potentially good and is coming off a completely lost season away from competition. Bryant will be one of the more interesting players to keep an eye on next summer in fantasy drafts because of his boom-or-bust potential.

Eli Rogers – The Steelers receivers behind Antonio Brown certainly underwhelmed for the most part in 2016, but Rogers ended up emerging as the second-most reliable WR in what was essentially his rookie season – he missed all of 2015 because of a foot surgery. He ended the season on a nice little run from Weeks 15-17, posting 15/220/1 receiving and averaging 14.5 FPG (20th at the position). Rogers finished the year with 48/594/3 receiving on 66 targets (72.7% catch rate, 12.4 YPC) in 13 games. Rogers missed two games with a turf toe injury, and he missed another game for unspecified disciplinary reasons. He went for 12+ FP six times, but he also hit 6 FP or less six times. Rogers averaged 9.7 FPG, ranking 59th at the position behind Travis Benjamin. He played on 63% of the snaps and had a 11.3% target share, behind only Brown at the position. When called upon by Ben Roethlisberger, Rogers proved to be a dependable slot receiver, but he’s certainly not a special player. Still, the Steelers have bigger issues at TE and at outside WR, so we’d expect Rogers to be back in his same role next season. He’ll be a fringe fantasy option in PPR formats next season, and the Steelers would ideally like to use him less if they improve their receiving corps.

Sammie Coates – Coates teased and tantalized the fantasy world with his performance through the first five weeks of the season. He posted 19/421/2 receiving and averaged 14.7 FPG (22nd at the position) in Weeks 1-5, grabbing at least one 40-yard reception in every game and averaging preposterous 22.2 YPC. Coates was a one-trick pony, but it was one hell of a trick (tracking the deep ball). He showed some traits similar to Martavis Bryant, but he broke and lacerated a couple fingers in Week 5 and his confidence was subsequently broken when he returned after surgery. Coates had just 2 catches for 14 yards the rest of the regular season. He looked like a broken player in the AFC Championship when he slowed down and gator-armed a perfect throw from Ben Roethlisberger on what should’ve been a huge gain on the opening drive. He finished the season with 21/435/2 receiving on 49 targets (42.9% catch rate, 20.7), averaging 5.6 FPG in 14 games. He played on 33% of the snaps and had an 8.0% target share. Coates had major issues with drops coming out of Auburn, and he will need to spend the off-season regaining his confidence and improving his hands. With Bryant trending toward returning in 2017, Coates is now off the fantasy radar until he shows consistency as a vertical threat. Coates’ steep regression after Week 5 will also likely force the Steelers to use a relatively high pick – potentially a Day Two choice – on a WR.

Markus Wheaton – Wheaton’s time with the Steelers ended with a real thud, playing in just 3 games and posting 4/51/1 receiving. He suffered a shoulder injury in the preseason and after trying to play through the issue in Weeks 3-5, the Steelers eventually placed him on the IR in November with a torn labrum. He underwent surgery to repair his shoulder and was looking at a three-month recovery, so he should be ready for an off-season program. The big question is what team will take a look at him after he disappointed the last couple years in a prominent role in a good passing game. We’re guessing that he’ll have to settle for a one-year, prove-it deal.

Fantasy questions to answer in 2017: Will Antonio Brown be the top WR off the board in fantasy drafts once again? Can Martavis Bryant stay clean and on the right track to give the Steelers a major upgrade at WR? Will Eli Rogers stick as their slot receiver next season? Is Sammie Coates a lost cause or can he regain the form he showed at the beginning of 2016?

Tight Ends

Ladarius Green – The Steelers thought they had their TE of the future last off-season when they uncharacteristically dipped their toes into the deep end of the free agency pool to sign Green to a four-year, $20 million deal. Instead, the Steelers got an injury mess. Green missed the first nine games of the season recovering from off-season ankle injury and also potentially concussion symptoms suffered in 2015 with the Chargers. He then missed the final two regular season games and three postseason games because of a concussion he suffered in Week 15. He finished with 18/304/1 receiving on 34 targets (52.9% catch rate, 16.9 YPC), averaging 9.1 FPG and playing just 33% of the snaps in his six games. The Steelers were using him a sub-package player in his first couple games of the season, especially down inside the red zone – he had 5 RZ targets – but Green started to play more as a full-time option before his concussion in Week 15. The Steelers really needed a vertical element in their offense with Martavis Bryant suspended for the year and Sammie Coates vanishing after Week 5, and Green was starting to bring some downfield speed down the seams before his injury. Green said at the end of the season that he won’t retire, putting the Steelers in a tough spot. The Steelers could recoup a little more than $10.4 million in cap space over the next three years by cutting him. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the Steelers cut their losses with Green because it’s clear he can’t stay healthy for extended periods of time. On the other hand, the Steelers got nothing from their receivers behind Antonio Brown this season, and Bryant is far from a guarantee for 2017, so they could use whatever they can get from Green when he’s healthy.

Jesse James – James ended up being the starting TE after all, like we thought after Heath Miller retired early last off-season. Of course, it took concussion and an ankle issues to free-agent signee Ladarius Green for James to get the starting role. He finished with 39/338/3 receiving on 60 targets (65.0% catch rate, 8.7 YPC), averaging 5.7 FPG in 16 games. He played on 79% of the snaps and had a 10.2% target share, but he reached 10+ FP in just three games in 2016. He did have a nice two-game run in the postseason, posting 5/83 against the Chiefs in the Divisional Round and 5/48 against the Pats in AFC Championship. He showed little ability after the catch, but his huge frame (6’7”, 261 pounds) did help to see a healthy 12 red-zone targets this season. James was only 22 years old last season, and was learning on the fly in his second season, so there’s definitely room for progress. The Steelers will have a tough decision to make on Green this off-season, and James could have the chance to be the starter if they release him. Even if they do keep Green around, James should be ready to play based on Green’s inability to stay on the field.

Fantasy questions to answer in 2017: What will the Steelers do with Ladarius Green this off-season? Can Green manage to stay healthy for an extended period of time? If they do move on from Green, will the Steelers give Jesse James a shot as the starter or do they look for help this off-season?
Key Free Agents: RB Le’Veon Bell, RB DeAngelo Williams, WR Markus Wheaton, QB Landry Jones, ILB Lawrence Timmons, OLB James Harrison, K Chris Boswell (ERFA), WR Cobi Hamilton (ERFA), TE Xavier Grimble (ERFA), DE Ricardo Mathews, CB Ross Cockrell (RFA), RB Fitz Toussaint (ERFA), OLB Jarvis Jones, SS Shamarko Thomas, OLB Anthony Chickillo (ERFA), FS Jordan Dangerfield (ERFA), C Cody Wallace, TE David Johnson, FB Roosevelt Nix (ERFA), OT Chris Hubbard (RFA), QB Bruce Gradkowski

 

Baltimore Ravens (8-8; 2nd in AFC North)

Quarterbacks

Joe Flacco – The Ravens wanted Flacco to carry the offense, and he wasn’t up to the task for most of the year. OCs Marc Trestman and then Marty Mornhinweg abandoned the run nearly every week, despite Flacco struggling to make throws downfield. They ran the ball a franchise-record low 367 times, as the team was more content with their short passing game. The Ravens threw the ball more than any team in the NFL but ranked 17th in the NFL in total yards per game. Flacco completed 436/672 passes (64.9%) for 4317 yards (6.4 YPA), 20 TDs, and 15 INTs, and he added 21/58/2 rushing in in 16 games. He averaged 19.7 FPG, ranking 20th at the position behind Andy Dalton. Flacco averaged a miserable .47 fantasy points per pass attempt – the league average was .53. He threw for multiple TDs just five times, and he hit 20+ FP only five times. Flacco simply checked it down too many times, and he didn’t seem completely comfortable in the pocket until late in the season. Of course, he was coming off a season-ending ACL injury in 2015, and it took a long time to knock off the rust. He did play better in the second half of the year, averaging 22.5 FPG in Weeks 10-16, which ranked 7th at the position. Based on the playcalling alone, more was expected from Flacco in 2016, but maybe expectations should’ve been kept in check since he was coming off a major knee injury. He should be much healthier and ready to go for 2017 with a full off-season to prepare for the season. He’ll still be just a streaming QB option unless they make a big splash in free agency and/or Breshad Perriman makes a huge leap in his third season.

Fantasy questions to answer in 2017: Will the Ravens once again lean heavily on Joe Flacco’s arm or will they seek more offensive balance? Can Flacco carry over some second-half momentum to next season?

Running Backs

We had hoped Dixon would take over primary duties, but it looks like the Ravens are more fond of using him as a change-of-pace guy.Kenneth Dixon – Dixon sprained his MCL in the third preseason game, and the injury really derailed the first half of his season. He missed the first four games, and it really took until Week 10 for him to make an impact and to get back into game shape. Dixon hit double-digit FPs in five of his last eight games, averaging 11.8 FPG in that stretch. He had plenty of ups and downs as a rookie, but he saw more snaps, carries and yards than Terrance West in four of their last six games. Dixon finished with 88/382/2 rushing (4.3 YPC) and 30/162/1 receiving on 41 targets (73.2% catch rate, 5.4 YPR) in 12 games. He averaged 8.5 FPG, ranking 47th at the position behind Rob Kelley. He played 31% of the snaps and saw 15.39% of the team’s touches. Dixon averaged an impressive .87 fantasy points per touch – the league average for the position was .70. The Ravens finished 28th with 91.4 rushing yards per game, and they ran the ball a franchise-record low 367 times. West and Dixon played well, but the Ravens weren't committed to the run and turned more to their short passing game. Dixon is a capable receiver but was a liability as a pass blocker, which is why Kyle Juszczyk played so much in passing situations. We like Dixon’s skillset and think he can work as an every-down back, but HC John Harbaugh made it pretty clear that they are looking for another back this off-season. "We need another back. We have not run the football well enough or enough, really, for the last two years. That has to change." Dixon would be a solid RB2 if they gave him the chance to be the lead back next season, but it sounds like the Ravens would prefer to use him as a change-of-pace option in 2017.

Terrance West – West has had a strange first three seasons, and he was miscast as the Ravens’ lead runner for much of the season. He did have a couple fantasy moments, especially early in the year in Weeks 4-6 when he posted 55/295/3 rushing for 18.8 FPG. He hit double-digit FPs in all three games, but he hit double-digits just three other times the rest of the season. It became clear by the end of the season that rookie Kenneth Dixon was their best option at RB, with Dixon seeing more snaps, carries and yards than West in four of their last six games. West finished with 193/774/5 rushing (4.0 YPC) and 34/236/1 receiving on 45 targets (75.6% catch rate, 6.9 YPR) in 16 games last season. He averaged 10.7 FPG, ranking him 34th at the position behind Rashad Jennings. West played 39% of the snaps and saw 30.0% of the team’s touches. The Ravens finished 28th with 91.4 rushing yards per game, and they ran the ball a franchise-record low 367 times. West and Dixon played well at times, but the Ravens weren't committed to the run and turned more to their short passing game. West is just a downhill runner with minimal skills, and he tried bouncing too many runs outside but didn't have the speed. West will be back as a restricted free agent, but his potential role is very much up in the air. HC John Harbaugh made it pretty clear that they are looking for another back this off-season. "We need another back. We have not run the football well enough or enough, really, for the last two years. That has to change." West will likely be fighting for a role and a roster spot next training camp.

Fantasy questions to answer in 2017: Will the Ravens give Kenneth Dixon a chance to be the lead back or will they add a top back through the draft or free agency? What will West’s role be in the offense if they add another RB?

Wide Receivers

Breshad Perriman – Perriman’s career is off to a slow start, but at least he got it off the ground in his second season. He missed his entire rookie season with a torn PCL, and he partially tore his ACL in June during the off-season, needing arthroscopic surgery to repair the tear. Perriman returned for the final preseason game and he played in all 16 games, which is a great sign after a shaky first 14 months as a Raven. He finished with 33/499/3 receiving on 66 targets (50.0% catch rate, 15.1 FPG), averaging 6.3 FPG in 16 games. He played 43% of the snaps and had a 9.9% target share. Perriman averaged just 1.58 fantasy points per target – the league average for the position was 1.93. He reached 4+ catches just once, but it did come in the final game when they were taking a longer look at him with their playoff hopes eliminated. We were big fans of Perriman coming out of UCF because he had the size (6’2”, 215 pounds) and speed of your prototypical outside WR, and he certainly flashed his playmaking ability at times in 2016. Joe Flacco didn’t take advantage of Perriman nearly enough in 2016 because he was too busy checking passes down to the likes of Dennis Pitta. Still, Perriman is theoretically a great fit with Flacco for the future since he has a huge arm and he’s been an aggressive downfield thrower in the past. The Ravens eased him behind Mike Wallace and Steve Smith this season, but Perriman is going to get every chance to become the top wide receiver next season with Smith out of the mix. HC John Harbaugh said after the season, "I sure hope Breshad Perriman becomes a true #1. To me, there are signs that's possible, but he's got a lot of work to do." Flacco threw way too many short passes in 2016, and with a full off-season to examine what went wrong, we think the Ravens will come out next season attacking downfield with Perriman and Wallace. Perriman is likely going to be a very popular breakout candidate next season, and for good reason because he’s uber-talented and stepping into a bigger role.

Mike Wallace – Wallace had his first 1000-yard season since he was back in Pittsburgh back in 2011, but his season still felt somewhat underwhelming. The move to Baltimore definitely revitalized his career, but it still felt like Joe Flacco underutilized Wallace’s vertical speed. Flacco didn’t take advantage of Wallace nearly enough in 2016 because he was too busy checking passes down to the likes of Dennis Pitta, which was very uncharacteristic for the big-armed QB. Wallace is theoretically a great fit with Flacco for the future since he has a huge arm and he’s been an aggressive downfield thrower in the past. He finished with 72/1017/4 receiving on 117 targets (61.5% catch rate, 14.1 YPC) in 16 games. He averaged 12.6 FPG, tying for 30th at the position with Tyreek Hill. He played on 77% of the snaps, saw an 18.0% target share, and had 9.51% of the team’s touches. Wallace came out scorching hot with 3 TDs in his first two games, but he had 1 score in his final 14 games. He’s been a boom-or-bust fantasy option in the past, but he was more of consistent option this season, scoring between 8-14 FPs in nine games and having 3+ catches in 15 games. He also had 50+ receiving yards in 10 straight games from Weeks 5-15. Wallace represents the second-biggest cap savings ($5.75 million) on the team if they would release him, but they’ll need to keep him around with Steve Smith retiring and Kamar Aiken potentially leaving in free agency. Flacco threw way too many short passes in 2016, and with a full off-season to examine what went wrong, we think the Ravens will come out next season attacking downfield with Wallace and Perriman. Wallace isn’t going to be a sexy fantasy pick as WR3/4 next summer, but he does have a little more upside than usual if the Ravens are more aggressive throwing downfield.

Kamar Aiken – Aiken turned in an incredibly disappointing 2016 season after he led the Ravens in receptions (75), yards (944) and touchdown catches (5) the year before. The Ravens decided to roll with Steve Smith and Mike Wallace as their top WRs, with Aiken and Breshad Perriman mixing in behind them. Aiken finished with 29/328/1 receiving on 50 targets (58.0% catch rate, 11.3 YPC), averaging just 4.2 FPG in 16 games. He played 52% of the snaps and had a 7.8% target share. Aiken averaged a measly 1.36 fantasy points per target – the league average for the position was 1.93. Aiken is fully expected to test free agency this off-season, even with a starting spot opening up with Steve Smith retiring. At the end of the season Aiken said, “I’m a starter in this league, and I feel like I can make a lot of plays, and I make plays when they come my way.” Aiken might be hard pressed to find much of a market for his services, so he very well could return as a possession receiver out of the slot next season.

Chris Moore – Moore went in the early 4th round of last year’s draft, 107th overall, but he never really got the shot to make an impact as a vertical threat with Joe Flacco busy checking it down every chance he could. Moore had almost no role late in the year, catching just one pass after Week 7, although he did have three carries and started to work as a kick returner in the second half of the year. He finished with 7/46/0 receiving on 16 targets (43.8% catch rate, 6.6 YPC), playing on 16% of the snaps in his 15 games. The Ravens already have vertical threats in Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman, so Moore doesn’t have the clearest path to relevance, but at least Steve Smith is now out of the mix.

Steve Smith – Smith’s brilliant career came to an end in 2016, even if Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti is still holding out hope that Smith will change his mind this off-season. Senior sent his retirement papers into the league office at the conclusion of the season. He ends his 16-year career with 1031/14731/81 receiving, ranking him seventh in all-time receiving yards and as the Panthers all-time receiving leader. Smith finished 2016 with 70/799/5 receiving on 101 targets (69.3% catch rate, 11.4 YPC) in 14 games. Smith averaged 13.0 FPG, ranking him 27th at the position behind Cameron Meredith. He played 73% of the snaps, had a 15.7% target share, and saw 9.25% of the team’s touches. Joe Flacco checked it down way too much in 2016, which helped Smith to have one last fantasy relevant season. Smith played at a really high level for nearly 15 years, and he’ll certainly be under serious consideration for the Hall of Fame.

Fantasy questions to answer in 2017: Will the talented Breshad Perriman get the chance for major playing time to give him a shot at a break-out campaign? Will Joe Flacco get the ball downfield more to his trio of speedsters Mike Wallace, Perriman, and Chris Moore? Can the Ravens convince Kamar Aiken to take over Steve Smith’s spot in the slot or is he going to look for a bigger role in free agency?

Tight Ends

Dennis Pitta – It’s tough to think of a less impressive 86-catch season than the one Pitta just had in 2016. Opponents to PPR scoring could very easily point to Pitta’s campaign as a reason to ban the scoring system. Pitta led the Ravens and all TEs in catches (86), but he still tied with Antonio Gates for 13th at the position with 10.7 FPG. He finished the year with 170.9 PPR points, meaning that a little more than half of his fantasy points came from his 86 catches. Needless to say, QB Joe Flacco checked it down way too much in 2016, which helped Pitta have some fantasy relevance. He finished with 86/729/2 receiving on 121 targets (71.1% catch rate, 8.5 YPC) in 16 games. Pitta played 71% of the snaps, had an 18.6% target share, and saw 11.36% of the team’s touches. He averaged a measly 1.42 fantasy points per target – the league average for the position was 1.75. He scored only 2 TDs despite seeing a solid 12 red-zone targets, and his scores came in the same game in Week 13. Overall, Pitta’s comeback to be the starter after a several injury-riddled seasons is a great one, but his multiple hip injuries clearly took a toll on his body, as he showed almost no juice after the catch. He’ll be 32 next season and Ben Watson will be back in the mix off his season-ending Achilles injury, so Pitta’s role should be decreased. The Ravens will likely approach him about reworking his contract. He’s due to count as a $7.7-million cap hit, and they’d save $5.5 million by cutting. The Ravens have some decisions to make a tight end, and Pitta certainly isn’t guaranteed to be a starter next season. If Pitta even sniffs 80+ catches again next season, something has gone totally wrong for Flacco and the Ravens.

Ben Watson – The Ravens gave the 36-year-old TE a two-year, $7 million deal last off-season, and they never got any return from their investment in 2016. He suffered a torn Achilles in the preseason, ending his season before it even got started. Watson was coming off a career year playing with Drew Brees in 2015, posting 74/825/6 receiving with the Saints. Dennis Pitta ended up becoming the top TE here, but he wasn’t exactly a dynamic option for this passing game. The Ravens will likely have a wide-open competition for TE playing time this summer, but we’re not exactly excited clamoring to draft any of these Raven TEs.

Maxx Williams – Williams has been a major disappointment since the Ravens took him 55th overall in the 2015 draft. The Ravens thought he could potentially be a matchup nightmare for defenders, but he’s turned out to be more of a tweener. He’s not quite big enough to work as an inline blocker, and he’s turned out to be an average athlete when working as a receiver. Maxx didn’t see a single target in 2016, and he played on just 18% of the snaps in his four games. A knee injury slowed him during the preseason, and he eventually landed on the IR in early October with a knee injury. We’ve learned over the years that tight end is one of the toughest positions for young players to pick up and to make an impact at. Still, we haven’t even seen many flashes of Williams’ potential in two years, and the organization has thought very little of him by burying him on the depth chart and by signing Ben Watson last off-season. Williams is going to need a great off-season and preseason to have any hope of breaking out in 2017, but he still has time to come into his own as he’ll turn just 23 in April.

Crockett Gillmore – Gillmore had the chance for more playing time when Ben Watson (Achilles) went down for the season in August, but Dennis Pitta ended up beating out Gillmore for the starting role. Gillmore then suffered a thigh injury in Week 7, and he never appeared in another game. The Ravens removed him from the injury report before Week 16, but they continued to roll with Pitta, Nick Boyle, and Darren Waller in the final two games. A back injury cut short his 2015 season, and he needed off-season shoulder surgery, so the injuries are piling up for him. Gillmore played on 48% of the snaps when he was on the field, working as the #2 TE behind Dennis Pitta. He finished with just 8/71/1 receiving on 14 targets (57.1% catch rate, 8.9 YPC) in 7 games. The TE depth chart is obviously crowded here, so it’s going to be difficult for Gillmore to navigate his way to the top next season.

Fantasy questions to answer in 2017: Who will emerge as the starting TE? What will Ben Watson have left in the tank coming off an Achilles injury at 36 years old? Will Maxx Williams ever emerge or is he going to go down as a bust as a former 2nd-round pick?
Key Free Agents: WR Kamar Aiken, RB Terrance West (RFA), FB Kyle Juszczyk, RT Ricky Wagner, QB Ryan Mallett, CB Jerraud Powers, SS Matt Elam, NT Brandon Williams, DE Lawrence Guy, OG Vlad Ducasse, CB Chris Lewis-Harris (RFA), WR Chris Matthews (RFA), WR Michael Campanaro (RFA), RB Keenan Reynolds (ERFA)

 

Cincinnati Bengals (6-9-1; 3rd in AFC North)

Quarterbacks

Andy Dalton – Dalton was put into some tough spots this year, starting back in the off-season when the team let two of their top WRs Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu walk in free agency. Throughout the season, he had to deal with major injuries to his top three receivers in A.J. Green (hamstring), Tyler Eifert (ankle/back), and Giovani Bernard (ACL). The Bengals O-line was also a bit shockingly shaky, with Dalton getting sacked a whopping 41 times – the most he’s been sacked since 2012 (46). Even with constant bodies around him, Dalton played well under pressure and extended plays. He completed 364/563 passes (64.7%) for 4206 yards (7.5 YPA), 18 TDs, and 8 INTs, and he added 46/184/4 rushing in 16 games. He averaged 20.5 FPG, ranking 19th at the position behind Russell Wilson. Dalton clearly didn’t have a great fantasy season because of a lack of TD passes, but he actually put together a second consecutive efficient passing season. According to Cincinnati.com, Dalton set career highs in YPA (7.5), completions (364), completion percentage (64.7), and interception percentage (1.4). He was one of just four QBs who averaged 7.5+ YPA with an interception rate of 1.4% or below. The others were Matt Ryan (9.3/1.3), Tom Brady (8.2/0.5) and Dak Prescott (8.0/0.9). He had just four games throwing for multiple TDs after doing it a whopping nine times in 13 chances. The Bengals had the season from hell in 2016, and Dalton was rarely even in the fantasy streaming conversation this season. He could easily get back to fantasy relevance next season with a healthy cast of receivers at his disposal, but he’ll likely be an end of the draft option off his sub-par fantasy season.

A.J. McCarron – McCarron appeared in one game but didn’t attempt a pass in 2016, although he played well in the preseason. His strong preseason came after he impressed in 2015 when he had to step into the starting lineup at the end of the season and in the playoffs for the injured Andy Dalton. He completed 66.4% of his passes, averaged 7.2 YPA, and had a 6 to 2 TD-to-INT ratio in the regular season last year. With so many teams in dire need of a QB, the Bengals could test the market to see what they could get for the 26-year-old McCarron as he enters the final year of his rookie deal. It’s likely a bit of a reach for the Bengals to get a Day Two pick for McCarron, so we’d guess that he’d be back in Cincinnati next season.

Fantasy questions to answer in 2017: With so many teams in need of a QB, would the Bengals consider trading A.J. McCarron before the final year of his rookie deal.

Running Backs

Giovani Bernard – The Bengals took a one-two punch to the gut in Week 11, losing Gio for the season to a torn ACL and also losing A.J. Green for the season to a hamstring injury. Bernard was once again working as the primary change-of-pace/passing back next to lead runner Jeremy Hill. Gio did hit double-digits in FP in five of his last six games before his injury after failing to hit that mark in three of his first four games. He finished with 91/337/2 rushing (3.7 YPC) and 39/336/1 receiving on 51 targets (76.5% catch rate, 8.6 YPR) in 10 games. He averaged 12.4 FPG, tying with Bilal Powell for 24th overall at the position. Gio played on 57% of the snaps, had 9.4% target share, and saw 17.24% of the touches. Bernard averaged an impressive .96 fantasy points per touch – the league average for the position was .70 – but he did finish under 4.0 YPC for the first time in his four-year career. The Bengals have had one of the best O-lines in the league the last few years, but the unit really struggled in 2016, which certainly didn’t Bernard and Hill. The Bengals could totally blow up this backfield by drafting another back because of Hill’s ineffectiveness the last two seasons. They could also give Bernard a chance to take on more lead runner snaps if they decide to run it back one more time with just Hill and Gio. Bernard just signed a four-year contract last summer, so he’s clearly in their plans for next season. He’ll once again be on the radar as a RB2 next season, and he has a little more upside than in year’s past if he gets the chance for more carries because Hill’s ineffectiveness.

Jeremy Hill – Hill’s play has declined the last two seasons after a promising finish to his rookie season in 2014. His final fantasy numbers really cover up just how ineffective he was for most of 2016. He also owes the Browns defense for making his final numbers look respectable. His only 100-yard rushing games came against the Browns, and he averaged just 2.98 YPC in 13 games when he didn’t play the lowly Browns. Hill finished with 222/839/9 rushing (3.8 YPC) and 21/174/0 receiving on 27 targets (77.8 catch rate, 8.3 YPR) in 15 games. He averaged 11.8 FPG, ranking 25th at the position just behind teammate Giovani Bernard. He played on 43% of the snaps and handled 32.23% of the touches for the Bengals this season. Hill averaged .40 fantasy points per snap – the league average for the position was .24. Hill did put up more consistent fantasy production when Gio went out of the lineup, averaging 15.5 FPG in Weeks 12-15, thanks in large part to 12 catches – 19% of his career catches (63 overall) came in that four-game stretch. However, a knee injury derailed him in Week 16 and forced him to miss the season finale. The Bengals have had one of the best O-lines in the league the last few years, but the unit really struggled in 2016, which certainly didn’t Hill and Bernard. The Bengals could totally blow up this backfield by drafting another back because of Hill’s ineffectiveness the last two seasons. They could also give Bernard a chance to take on more lead runner snaps if they decide to run it back one more time with just Hill and Gio. Either way, it looks like Hill is going to need the best off-season of his career if he hopes to see 200+ carries for the fourth straight year to start his career. Hill’s fantasy value is in total limbo heading into the off-season.

Rex Burkhead – Burkhead has flashed at times since he broke into the league in 2013, but he’s never really had the chance to play behind Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill. Burkhead finally got to show what he could do after Bernard tore his ACL and landed on the IR. He was a slippery runner between the tackles and an effective receiver out of the backfield – the team has tinkered with him as a slot receiver in the past. He finished with 74/344/2 rushing (4.6 YPC) and 17/145/0 receiving on 20 targets (85% catch rate, 8.5 YPR) in 16 games. When he took over Bernard’s spot in Week 12, he averaged 11.6 FPG (68/305/2 rushing, 15/121 receiving) and played 54.8% of the snaps. According to Cincinnati.com, Burkhead was one of just five RBs with 70+ rushing attempts and 15+ receptions who averaged at least 4.6 YPC and 8.5 YPR. The other four were Ezekiel Elliott, Jordan Howard, Devonta Freeman, and Duke Johnson. Burkhead averaged an impressive .33 fantasy points per snap – the league average for the position was .24. He also averaged .86 fantasy points per touch – the league average for the position was .70. Burkhead certainly isn’t a lead runner type, but the final six games of the year allowed him to showcase his skills as a role player out of the backfield. It might be hard for the Bengals to retain Burkhead with Bernard likely to return to his old role as the change-of-pace/receiving back. Burkhead proved he could/should have a bigger role somewhere, and we’re expecting some team to give him a chance as a change-of-pace back next to a big lead runner next season.

Fantasy questions to answer in 2017: Will the Bengals give Jeremy Hill once last chance to be the lead back or will they look elsewhere for help? Can Giovani Bernard get back to his old form off his knee injury and could they give him more lead back work? Will the Bengals be able to retain Burkhead or will another team pay up to use him as a change-of-pace back?

Wide Receivers

A.J. Green – Green simply dominated when he was on the field in 2016, which we expected with Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu moving to new teams in the off-season and with Tyler Eifert missing the first six weeks of the season. Unfortunately, a severe hamstring injury in Week 11 prematurely ended his season. It looked like he might return for Weeks 16-17, but the Bengals pulled the rip cord on his season and didn’t let him play in two meaningless games with the team out of playoff contention. A couple stats from Cincinnati.com on Green’s sensational start to the season. Green became the 12th receiver since the turn of the century to compile 960+ yards in the first nine games of a season. Only Julio Jones ranked ahead of him in receiving yards through the first nine games. And Green was also on pace to shatter the Bengals record for receiving yards in a season held by Chad Johnson (1,440). Green finished with 66/964/4 receiving on 100 targets (66.0% catch rate, 14.6 YPC) in 10 games. Green averaged 18.6 FPG, ranking just behind the likes of Odell Beckham and Mike Evans. He actually left at the very beginning of Week 11 with his hamstring injury, so he averaged 20.7 FPG in his nine full games, which would’ve been the best average at the position for the season. He played on 81% of the snaps when healthy and had a 18.4% target share despite missing the final seven weeks of the season. Green had an amazing four performances of 8+ catches and 120+ yards in nine tries. He felt ready to play in the final two weeks of the season, and he was upset when the Bengals decided to play it safe with their star WR. He left the team before their Week 16 game in Houston and he reportedly skipped meetings leading up to Week 17. After the season, he said that he had put the issue behind him, “I was upset that I couldn’t play, because I wanted to play, but doctors and coaches know what’s best for me. I sat down with the doc and coach Lewis and the best decision was not to play.” Green should be completely ready for their off-season program, and he’ll once again be one of the top options at WR behind the big three of Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Odell Beckham.

Tyler Boyd – The Bengals plugged Boyd into the lineup as their slot receiver from Day 1, which was a slight disappointment since we thought he could potentially play inside and outside. Boyd’s role didn’t even change when A.J. Green went down for the season in the second half of the year, as the Bengals just plugged fellow rookie Cody Core into the lineup on the outside. He did quickly become a favorite of Andy Dalton’s on third downs, leading all rookies with 22 third-down catches. According to Cincinnati.com, among rookies he finished behind only Sterling Shepard with 16 first-down catches in third- and fourth-down situations. Still, Boyd did little after the catch and had way too many inconsistent patches, finishing under 5 FP in a whopping seven games, which made him unusable for fantasy most of the time. He finished with 54/603/1 receiving on 81 targets (66.7% catch rate, 11.2 YCP) on 16 targets. He averaged just 7.9 FPG, ranking him behind the likes of Terrance Williams and Kendall Wright. Boyd played on 68% of the snaps and had a 15% target share, and he averaged just 1.58 fantasy points per target – the league average for the position was 1.93. It doesn’t look like the Bengals view Boyd as anything more than a slot receiver, which will cap his snaps and his fantasy value. It’s unlikely that he’ll ever be a fantasy stud since he’s locked in as a possession receiver at this point. He’s more of a complementary option behind Green and Tyler Eifert, so he offers very little upside right now as a fantasy bench option.

Brandon LaFell – LaFell didn’t have much of a market last off-season after a bad 2015 campaign with the Patriots. He went to Cincinnati on a one-year, prove-it deal after the Patriots cut him in the off-season, and he regained his 2014 form. He finished with 64/862/6 receiving on 107 targets (59.8% catch rate, 13.5 YPC) in 16 games. He averaged 11.6 FPG, ranking him 42nd at the position behind Randall Cobb. LaFell had arguably the best stretch of his career in the final five weeks of the season as the #1 WR with A.J. Green out of the lineup. LaFell posted 28/405/2 receiving on 43 targets in that span, ranking him 14th with 16.1 FPG. Rookie Tyler Boyd played mostly out of the slot and rookie Cody Core made some strides on the outside but is still a project, so we would guess that Bengals would be interested in keeping him around as the #2 outside WR. LaFell should have a slightly bigger market than he did last off-season, but the Bengals should be able to retain him for relatively cheap if they don’t think Core is ready for a bigger role.

Cody Core – Some draftniks last spring didn’t see much of a difference between Ole Miss teammates Laquon Treadwell and Core coming out of college. Of course, Treadwell went in the first round and Core went in the sixth round, and Core ended up having the much better rookie season. He was a regular healthy inactive in the first half of the year before seeing a major increase in playing time when A.J. Green (hamstring) went down for the year. Core took over in Green’s spot as an outside receiver in 2-WR sets with Brandon LaFell. He finished with 17/200/0 receiving on 27 targets (63.0% catch rate, 11.8 YPC) in 8 games, playing 50% of the snaps in his appearances. Core has intriguing size (6’3”, 210 pounds) and good speed (4.47), although he rarely got to show off his jets as a rookie. He could be forced into a bigger role next season if they let LaFell walk this off-season, but he’s still a major project and the Bengals will likely try to keep LaFell around to give Core another year or two of seasoning.

Fantasy questions to answer in 2017: Will A.J. Green be the top WR taken in fantasy drafts after the big three wideouts?  Will Tyler Boyd ever be more than a possession, slot receiver? Will the Bengals look to keep Brandon LaFell around or will they give Cody Core a shot at a bigger role on the outside?

Tight Ends

He's played in less than half of his games in his career, and talent can only go so far when you're this injury-prone.Tyler Eifert – Eifert will spend yet another off-season rehabbing an injury, an all to often refrain for the talented TE through three season. A simple ankle injury in the 2015-16 Pro Bowl turned into off-season surgery months later, and he eventually four missed games because of the injury to start the year. He then suffered a back injury as he was ramping up to make his debut in Week 5, which delayed his season debut until Week 7. The back injury eventually ended his season after Week 15, so he missed eight games total in 2016. He underwent back surgery in late December in hopes of participate in most of the off-season program. We’re not exactly going to hold our breath waiting for his return after last summer’s debacle with his ankle issue. Eifert has now participated in a dreadful 46% of his potential games in three seasons (23 of 50) because of injuries to his head, neck, elbow, back, and ankle. Eifert was still quite effective when he was healthy enough to play, finishing with 29/394/5 receiving on 47 targets (61.7%, 13.6 YPC) in 8 games. He averaged 12.3 FPG, ranking him 7th at the position behind Delanie Walker. Eifert played on 78% of the snaps when in the lineup and had just a 8.8% target share despite missing time. Eifert averaged an impressive 2.09 fantasy points per target – the league average for the position was 1.75. Eifert continued to be a force in the red zone, and he has 18 TDs in 21 games the last two seasons. He ranks right up there with Rob Gronkowski as one of the most dangerous weapons down by the end zone, but unfortunately both players have a growing injury history that is derailing their careers. Eifert is clearly one of the top fantasy TEs when he’s on the field, but the fact that he’s played in less than half of his games in his career makes him a risky proposition in fantasy drafts next summer. If he can actually participate in some of the Bengals off-season program would ease some of the concerns about him for 2017.

C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Kroft – It looked like Kroft could be headed toward a big role to start the season with Tyler Eifert slowly recovering from his off-season ankle surgery, but Kroft sprained his knee in the preseason. He returned in time for the season opener, but Uzomah had overtaken him by that time and performed well. Uzomah played only five games as a rookie but opened the season as the starter and performed relatively well for his low expectations. He finished with 25/234/1 receiving on 38 targets (65.8% catch rate, 9.4 YPC) in 10 games, missing time with ankle and calf issues in the middle of the season. He played on 62% of the snaps in his appearances and he averaged a measly 1.43 fantasy points per target – the league average for the position was 1.75. Kroft finished with 10/92/0 receiving on 12 targets (83.3% catch rate, 9.2 YPC) in 14 games. He played 39% of the snaps in his appearances, and he missed the final two games of the season because of knee and ankle issues. Eifert underwent surgery on his back at the end of 2016, and he’s played in just 23 of 50 games in his career, so Uzomah and Kroft better be ready to play at some point in 2017.

Fantasy questions to answer in 2017: Can Tyler Eifert actually get healthy this off-season and stay on the field for a full 16-game season? Who will be the top backup for when Eifert eventually gets hurt next season?
Key Free Agents: WR Brandon LaFell, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, LT Andrew Whitworth, RG Kevin Zeitler, RB Rex Burkhead, DT Domata Peko, OT Eric Winston, RB Cedric Peerman, DE Margus Hunt, DE Wallace Gilberry, DT Brandon Thompson, K Randy Bullock

 

Cleveland Browns (1-15; 4th in AFC North)

Quarterbacks

Robert Griffin III – The Browns have a had a revolving door at QB since the franchise came back to Cleveland in 1999, and it certainly didn’t change in 2016 and it won’t be any different this off-season. The franchise has now had 27 different QBs since 1999, including six different players who took snaps at QB (RGIII, Josh McCown, Cody Kessler, Terrelle Pryor, Charlie Whitehurst, and Kevin Hogan). RGIII actually did improve as the season went along, but he didn’t improve enough to be considered the starter for 2017. He missed 11 games with a broken shoulder suffered at the end of the season opener, landing on the IR in Weeks 2-13. He ended up with five starts, two TD passes, two injuries – he also suffered a concussion – and one win. RGIII completed 87/147 passes (59.2%) for 886 yards (6.0 YPA), 2 TDs, and 3 INTs, and he added 31/190/2 rushing in 5 games. He averaged 17.1 FPG, tying him with Matt Barkley for 28th at the position. RGIII isn’t nearly as mobile as he once was when he broke into the league in 2012, and he remains highly inaccurate with poor field vision. The Browns can save $7.5 million by releasing RGIII, and we fully expect the Browns to move on from this experiment with a new QB in free agency or through the draft. Lord knows what team will take a look at RGIII this off-season, but we can’t imagine he’s starting anywhere in Week 1 next season.

Cody Kessler – Kessler was the best Browns QB last season, which isn’t exactly saying much. He certainly didn’t have a good season, but he likely did enough to earn himself a spot on this roster in 2017, which is better than most of the other 2016 Browns QBs can say. Kessler displayed below average arm strength, but he showed excellent accuracy and he threw well under pressure, which happened quite a bit playing behind a shaky Browns O-line. He completed 128/195 passes (65.6%) for 1380 yards (7.1 YPA), 6 TDs, and 2 INTs in 8 starts and 9 appearances. He suffered two concussions this season, which is certainly worrisome, but HC Hue Jackson seemed to be pretty pleased Kessler’s overall performance considering the rookie’s low expectations. Kessler showed the most promise out of the Browns QBs in 2016, and he has the potential to hang around the league as a career backup.

Fantasy questions to answer in 2017: It seems to be the big question every year for the Browns…who will be the starting QB? Will Cody Kessler win the backup job?

Running Backs

Isaiah Crowell – Crow certainly had a breakout campaign in his third season, but it wasn’t exactly the smoothest ride for his fantasy owners, going for more than 15+ FP in seven games and falling under 9 FP six times. And his season was also broken down into three distinct segments. He was great in his first four games from Weeks 1-4 (60/386/3 rushing), terrible in his middle eight games from Weeks 5-12 (84/211/2), and great against in his last four games from Weeks 14-17 (53/347/2). Crow certainly isn’t to blame for his rollercoaster season because it was tough to get consistent use with the Browns trailing the vast majority of the time. And obviously the terrible QB situation for the entire season didn’t help matters, although HC Hue Jackson did lean on Crow at times to bring stability to the offense. He couldn’t quite hit 1000 rushing yards for the first time, but he did show improved vision and decisiveness to go along with his elusiveness and tackle-breaking ability. He also improved quite a bit as a receiver in 2016, which was a pleasant surprise. He finished with 198/952/7 rushing (4.8 YPC) and 40/319/0 receiving on 53 targets (75.5% catch rate, 8.0 YPR) in 16 games. He averaged 13.1 FPG, ranking 24th at the position behind Matt Forte and Christine Michael. Crow played on 55% of the snaps, saw a 9.5% target share, and had a healthy 38.41% of the team’s touches. Crow averaged an impressive .88 fantasy points per touch – the league average for the position was .70. Duke Johnson has yet to show that he’s anything more than passing back, so Crow will get another crack at being their lead runner next season because they’ll surely bring him back as a restricted free agent. Crow has the potential to have a better campaign next year because the Browns simply can’t be any worse than they were in 2015. They should be much more competitive if the Browns improve on defense and if they can get better at QB, which would lead to more consistent work for Crow.

Duke Johnson – Duke put up very similar numbers to his 2015 rookie season, but his campaign will go down as a minor disappointment because most expected him to make a bit of a jump in his second season. Heck, the Browns were trailing just about every week and Johnson couldn’t put up better receiving numbers this season. Like many skill players in this offense, he was really hurt by inconsistent QB play and the revolving door at the position. HC Hue Jackson did use him in the backfield and out wide, as he was utilized mostly as a receiver once again while Isaiah Crowell clearly worked as the lead back. Duke finished with 73/358/1 rushing (4.9 YPC) and 53/514/0 receiving on 74 targets (71.6% catch rate, 9.7 YPR) in 16 games. He averaged 9.1 FPG, tying him with Chris Ivory for 42nd at the position. Johnson played on 44% of the snaps, saw a 13.3% target share, and had 20.58 of the team’s touches. Duke averaged an impressive 1.16 fantasy points per touch – the league average for the position was .70. Duke was one of just five RBs with 70+ rushing attempts and 15+ receptions who averaged at least 4.6 YPC and 8.6 YPR. The other four were Ezekiel Elliott, Jordan Howard, Devonta Freeman, and Rex Burkhead. He now has just 1 rushing TD and 2 receiving TDs in his first two seasons, so he obviously hasn’t shown much of a knack for finding the end zone and it also doesn’t help that the Browns have trouble scoring to begin with. Johnson is a dynamic athlete, and Hue needs to get the ball in his hands more next season. Of course, more consistent QB play would make it much easier for Duke to make an impact, and the Browns should improve their QB situation this off-season. It looks like Crow will be the lead back once again, but Johnson should see more than 73 carries next season to go along with his potential in the passing game.

Fantasy questions to answer in 2017: Will the Browns have more stability at QB, so that Isaiah Crowell can see more consistent carries and Duke Johnson can see more consistent use in the passing game? Will the Browns lock up restricted free agent Crowell to long-term deal?

Wide Receivers

Even with all the QB chaos, Terrelle Pryor was a bright spot for this Browns team in the passing game and could be in for either a nice pay-raise or the franchise tag.Terrelle Pryor – Pryor was one of the more pleasant surprises of the 2016 season, even though he played for a dreadful 1-15 team. Pryor became the first former NFL QB to convert to WR and have a 1000-yard season since Marlin Briscoe did it all the way back in 1968, according to ESPN’s Pat McManamon. And he had his historic season with one of the worst QB situations in recent memory, playing with five different QBs and taking some snaps under center himself. At 27 years old, it was first full season as a WR after a hamstring injury robbed him of most of his 2015 campaign. He showed he could over the middle and he was a handful for CBs in contested pass situations because of his huge 6’4”, 223-pound frame. Oh yeah, and he can still fly as a downfield threat, so he was a threat at all levels of the field. Pryor finished with 77/1007/4 receiving on 140 targets (55.0% catch rate, 13.1 YPC) in 16 games. He averaged 13.4 FPG, ranking 22nd at the position behind Tyrell Williams. He played 87% of the snaps and saw a generous 25.2% target share. Pryor averaged just 1.51 fantasy points per target – the league average for the position was 1.93. Pryor was at his best when the halfway competent Cody Kessler was at QB in Weeks 3-11, when he averaged 16.5 FPG and posted 50/624/4 receiving in 9 games. He played through a torn ligament in his finger the last three weeks of the season and had surgery right after the season to repair the issue, so he should have a full off-season. The Browns have made retaining Pryor one of their top priorities this off-season, and the Browns would likely be able to offer him the most money considering their cap space. He has also said that he likes playing in Cleveland, and he grew up just a couple hours away in western Pennsylvania, so another team will have to knock his socks off to pry him away from the Browns. At the very least, the Browns could easily use their franchise tag on Pryor if they want to take a longer look at him.

Corey Coleman – The #15 overall pick had a difficult first season, but he certainly wasn’t totally to blame for his woes playing with the worst QBs in football. He also broke his hand in practice after his best game of the season in Week 2 (5/104/2 receiving), which ended up costing him 6 games and it snapped some early season momentum – his two best yardage games came in Weeks 1-2. His hand injury also allowed Terrelle Pryor to clearly become the #1 WR in the offense. Coleman ended up posting 33/413/3 receiving on 73 targets (45.2% catch rate, 12.5 YPC) in 10 games. Coleman averaged 9.3 FPG, tying him with Jeremy Kerley for 62nd at the position. He played 87% of the snaps when healthy, saw a 12.9% target share, and had 12.48 of the team’s touches. Coleman averaged a measly 1.30 fantasy points per target – the league average for the position was 1.93 – thanks in large part to his dreadful 45.2% catch rate, which wasn’t helped by his QB play. After the season, friends of Coleman may have been involved in a New Year’s Eve altercation, but the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that video obtained by the Cleveland Police shows that Coleman was not involved. Coleman never really got to show off his full potential as a rookie with their shaky QB situation. He did get to show off his elite speed a few times in 2016 but not nearly enough, and he’ll work to become a more complete WR in 2017. He’s a great guy to buy low on in Dynasty/Keeper formats, as he could potentially be the #1 WR here if Pryor slips away in free agency. He also could be a chic fantasy pick in the middle rounds next summer because of some break-out potential in what has to be a better situation next season.

Josh Gordon – Many fantasy owners wasted a pick on Gordon as he never made it back to the field when he first became eligible in Week 5. He went into rehab last fall after yet another violation of the league’s alcohol and drug policy. He’s indefinitely banned from the NFL until further notice, and HC Hue Jackson said that the Browns have moved on from Gordon. At this point, he’s probably a long shot to play in 2017, and it’s starting to look like he may never play in the league again.

Fantasy questions to answer in 2017: Can the Browns retain Terrelle Pryor after his breakout season? Can Pryor get even better at WR with more time to learn the position? Can Coleman put his difficult first season behind him with a better QB situation? Will Josh Gordon ever play again?

Tight Ends

Gary Barnidge – Like many skill players in this Browns offense, Barnidge suffered from dreadful quarterback play. He came out of nowhere to become a fantasy superstar in 2015, ranking 4th at the position with 14.8 FPG, but he came crashing back to earth in 2016. He finished with 55/612/2 receiving on 82 targets (67.1% catch rate, 11.1 YPC) in 16 games. Barnidge averaged just 8.0 FPG, tying him with Dwayne Allen for 24th at the position. He played on 94% of the snaps and saw a solid 14.6% target share. After tying for the league lead in red-zone targets (23) for the position last season, Barnidge saw just 5 red-zone targets this season. After scoring 9 TDs last season, rookie TE Seth DeValve actually scored as many TDs (2) as Barnidge. DeValve could make a push for more playing time with a good off-season, but Barnidge is still under contract for a reasonable price for the next two years. His play didn’t noticeably drop off when he was utilized in the offense, and he had his best stretch of play with most competent QB, Cody Kessler, in Week 3-7 when he averaged 11.7 FPG in five games (26/324/0 receiving). Barnidge could easily get back to fantasy relevance with some better QB play, even at 31 years old.

Fantasy questions to answer in 2017: Will Barnidge return to fantasy relevance with a little more stability at QB or will he go down as a one-year wonder?
Key Free Agents: WR Terrelle Pryor, RB Isaiah Crowell (RFA), WR Josh Gordon (RFA), RT Austin Pasztor, FS Jordan Poyer, CB Marcus Burley, RB George Atkinson (ERFA), RB Glenn Winston (RFA), DT Jamie Meder (ERFA), WR Mario Alford (ERFA), DE Stephen Paea, P Britton Colquitt,