Finding value in your fantasy football draft this year could be the difference between missing the playoffs and cashing a check. With so much at stake, we took a look at five guys who should be rising on your draft boards while they slip down others.
Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh Steelers WR
Assuming he meets the terms of his conditional reinstatement to the NFL, Martavis Bryant will rightly resume his place as an elite WR in this league. In just 21 career games he’s tallied over 1,300 yards and 15 total touchdowns. Forget the fact that he plays alongside two fantasy monsters (Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell). When Bryant is on the field, he is a number one option. ESPN currently has him slotted as the 32nd WR in their preseason fantasy rankings, which has to be due to concerns about his ability to stay on the field.
Terrelle Pryor Sr., Washington Redskins WR
Pryor is coming off a 1,000-yard season in Cleveland while catching passes from Cody Kessler, Josh Mccown, and Robert Griffin III. Now Pryor moves to a better system in Washington, with a quarterback in Kirk Cousins who loves to push the ball down the field. Pryor should assume the X receiver role that was voided by Desean Jackson. Jackson found himself in a lot of 1-on-1 coverage last year thanks to the emergence of Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder. Jackson was in home run hitter paradise thanks to his speed, something Pryor does deceptively well. Coach Jay Gruden has even admitted that Cousins struggled with underthrowing Pryor in mini-camp last month due to his surprising speed. With no safety help and smaller corners struggling to keep pace with the 6-foot-4 former quarterback, the numbers will only get better for Pryor.
Mike Gillislee, New England Patriots RB
The New England Patriots lost their attitude on the ground when they lost LeGarrette Blount. Somehow they will have to make up the 18 touchdowns he provided last year, mostly in goal line situations. They will also need somebody to become their short yardage thumper and closer late in games. Dion Lewis and James White are excellent backs but are best utilized in the passing game. Gilislee has the size (5-foot-11, 215), and the skill to do both for the Pats. With only 110 total touches in Buffalo last year, he racked up nine touchdowns and 627 yards from scrimmage. That’s almost 10 percent of his touches resulting in touchdowns. That is value.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans QB
In the case of Mariota, I get the sense people just don’t know what they’re watching. Although he’s been good in his first two years (26 touchdowns, nine interceptions last year), Mariota has been hindered by the Titans system and their skill position play. Titans coach Mike Mularkey has been insistent on rolling him out of the pocket from tight sets when really his strength has lied on his pocket presence. Coming out of Oregon, Mariota seemed best as a mobile quarterback, but his intermediate accuracy (66.7 percent when throwing 11-15 yards down the field in 2016) and footwork have been a pleasant surprise. The Titans also started to invest in some weapons, starting with Demarco Murray last year (1,287 rush yards) and receiver Corey Davis with the fifth
overall pick in this year’s draft. As the Titans finally start to tailor the system around Mariota’s strengths, I see a breakout year for a guy who could be the 13th to 16th QB taken in your draft.
O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE
The Buccaneers have just about everything you want on offense: A quarterback with a big arm in Jameis Winston, a legitimate possession receiver in Mike Evans, and a quality every down back in Doug Martin. O.J. Howard is the last piece to this puzzle. Finally, a big, athletic target that can run the seam for Winston and take some pressure off of Evans. If you recall, Winston owned the middle of the field at Florida State but has struggled with accuracy issues since being drafted. Getting him in more play action, three-step and hit situations might settle his feet down and limit the turnovers in 2017. With fantasy owners dying for an option at tight end other than Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, or Travis Kelce, Howard could be a great option to add some points late in your draft.