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Players to pick or pass on in your 2017 fantasy football draft

Your success this fantasy season likely will be determined by whether you're smart (or lucky) enough on draft day to grab that player on the brink of exploding production, that rookie who has fallen into just the right situation or that veteran poised to flourish in new surroundings. Conversely, woe to those who spend a first-round pick on a player with inflated value because of a freakishly great (and unrepeatable) 2016.

Fear not. ESPN fantasy football experts Mike Clay, Field Yates, Eric Karabell, Matt Bowen and Ken Daube are here to help you steer clear of the flops and pounce on the sleepers and breakouts in 2017. We asked each of them to tackle a different area and give us a list of players to pick or pass on come draft day.


Overvalued players

Players whose fantasy production might not measure up to their ADP

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

Ryan is terrific, but last season's 9.26 YPA (yards per attempt) was the highest we've seen since Kurt Warner's historic 9.88 back in 2000. Ryan's numbers were inflated by his receivers dropping only 10 balls while generating 6.2 yards after catch. Expect a return to earth following what was a career year at age 31.

Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars

Bortles has finished as a top-10 fantasy quarterback each of the past two seasons despite major efficiency woes. Jacksonville's defense is much improved and the team selected workhorse Leonard Fournette with the fourth pick in April's draft. This will mean more running, and thus a big dip in pass attempts for Bortles.

Latavius Murray, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Murray's 12 TDs and third-best TD-per-rush ratio last season was a product of 16 carries inside opponents' 5-yard line, the league's fifth most. He might still handle goal-line duties in Minnesota, but rookie Dalvin Cook is ticketed for a big role.

Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons

One of the many benefactors of Atlanta's historic offensive season, Coleman found pay dirt on 11 of his 149 touches last year. Coleman's scoring rate is far from sustainable, especially when you consider that he registered only three carries inside the opponent's 5, and zero end-zone targets.

Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

Hill has scored at least nine touchdowns during each of his first three seasons in the league. Expect that streak to end in 2017 after the team upgraded to Joe Mixon via the draft. Hill is an inefficient runner and won't see nearly as many touches.

Kenny Stills, WR, Miami Dolphins

During the past decade, 70 players posted a season in which they scored on 15 percent of receptions. Sixty-five of them (93 percent) scored fewer TDs the next season, with an average dip of 6.1 scores. Stills, the Fins' third-most targeted receiver last season, won't sustain anything close to his 19.1 percent rate (47 catches, nine TDs) in 2017.

Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

Hill is ticketed for more targets this season, but consider that he found the end zone on nine of his 83 offensive touches and another three as a returner last year. That's an unsustainable rate for anyone, let alone a 185-pounder who is rarely used near the goal line.

Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers

Adams entered 2016 with four touchdowns on 88 career receptions, but he went on to score on 12 of his 75 catches. Over the past decade, there have been eight seasons in which a Packers WR scored nine-plus touchdowns. All seven who played the next year scored less often.

Tyrell Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

Williams surprised with a top-20 fantasy campaign last season, but he's due for a big dip in volume with Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin healthy, Hunter Henry in for a bigger role and seventh overall pick Mike Williams added to the fold.

Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

Kelce's 223 fantasy points last season were the fewest by a top-scoring TE over the past decade. Stifled by Alex Smith's dink-and-dunk offense, Kelce's 6.71 air yards per target was the second lowest among 1,000-yard pass-catchers. Furthermore, his four touchdowns last season won't be enough for him to keep up with healthy versions of Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Reed in '17.

-- Mike Clay


Old faces, new places

Players who could see an uptick in fantasy production with a change of scenery this season

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

Inking a one-year deal with the Eagles, Jeffery is back in prove-it mode after a disappointing '16 season. He averaged just more than 68 receiving yards in the nine games he played, but expect much more volume this year. Philly will look to be more balanced this year with LeGarrette Blount in the mix, but the Eagles threw it 609 times in 2016, sixth most in the NFL, while Chicago ranked 22nd.

Brandin Cooks, WR, New England Patriots

There are a lot of mouths to feed in New England, but Cooks just polished off two seasons north of 1,100 yards for 17 total touchdowns in New Orleans. He's also a unique vertical threat, something Tom Brady hasn't had in a decade. Over the past two seasons, Cooks ranks ninth on receptions that traveled over 15 yards in the air, sixth in receiving yards on such throws and tied for first on TDs on such throws.

Terrelle Pryor Sr., WR, Washington Redskins

What a leap Pryor made last season, as he became a bona fide threat to opposing defenses. He has the speed to burn, something we saw in Cleveland. However, poor quarterback play meant yards missed for Pryor (13.9 air yards per target, 10th in the NFL). The Browns ranked 26th in deep-completion percentage (15-plus yards in the air) in '16 and threw off-target 42.9 percent of the time. Washington was second.

Pierre Garcon, WR, San Francisco 49ers

I'm bullish on Garcon this year, as he reunites with coach Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. He played one full season under Shanahan earlier in his career, leading the NFL with 113 catches and surpassing 1,300 receiving yards. He was just outside the top 10 in wide receiver scoring that season and has remained reliable since. He's one of just four receivers with at least 68 catches in each of the past four seasons.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers managed a grand total of zero passing plays over 50 yards in '16. Enter Jackson, the field-flipping speedster who led the NFL in yards per catch last season and had four receptions over 50 yards by himself. Despite the lack of explosive plays in Tampa Bay, Jameis Winston still ranked in the top five in average depth of targets in each of his first two seasons, so expect Jackson will stay busy down the field.

Eddie Lacy, RB, Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks want to get back to what catalyzed their offense in the past: running with power effectively. Lacy mixes power and elusiveness well for a man of his stature, ranking second out of 44 backs with at least 350 carries since the start of 2013 in yards per carry after contact (behind former Hawks RB Marshawn Lynch). Thomas Rawls factors into the mix, too, but Lacy looks set to do some heavy lifting in Seattle.

Danny Woodhead, RB, Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens paid good money to sign Woodhead, and he could step into a starting role right away while Kenneth Dixon serves a four-game suspension. It's worth noting that Ravens backs caught 118 passes in a pass-heavy offense last year. Despite missing more than 42 percent of the regular-season games since the start of 2013, Woodhead ranks eighth in catches from RBs and his 13 receiving TDs tied for a NFL best.

Eric Decker, WR, Tennessee Titans

Decker to the Titans makes sense on a lot of levels, especially considering his red zone production. Tossing away his three-game 2016 season, Decker scored a touchdown on 62 percent of his red zone targets from 2012 to 2015, nearly 15 percent better than the league average of 47.9 percent. Meanwhile, QB Marcus Mariota is a certified marksman in the red area. He has thrown 33 TDs and zero interceptions there in his two pro seasons.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Baltimore Ravens

All things being equal, Baltimore would love to see a more balanced approach offensively. If the inconsistent running game continues, volume should be in Maclin's favor after Baltimore led the league in passing attempts in consecutive seasons. Maclin's average 2016 campaign should be viewed as an outlier. In 2010-2015, he averaged 4.99 catches per game. That's 80-catch territory if he stays fully healthy.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

Blount isn't likely to replicate his 18-rushing-touchdown season from last year -- he's the only player to do it in the 2010s -- but he has also been a consistent touchdown producer over his career. Since entering the league in 2010, he has 49 rushing scores in total, fifth most in the NFL in that stretch. A finisher back who should lead Philly in rushes and goal-line opportunities, Blount still has top-20-RB upside this season.

-- Field Yates


Bounce-back candidates

Underperformers in 2016 who could see a return to form this year

Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

A top-three fantasy QB in 2015, injuries and poor line play (pressured on an NFL-high 36.5 percent of dropbacks) led to Wilson finishing out of the top 10 for the first time last season. He still managed the seventh-best yards per pass attempt and 21 TDs. The line remains shaky, but a healthy Wilson will run more often and effectively. He averaged just 3.6 yards on 72 rushes last season, down from 5.4 on 103 carries in '15.

Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

He has been doubted before and will be again, but the balky shoulder is fixed and he remains a preeminent runner and his own goal line option. Forget about another 35 touchdown passes, but Newton can crash the top-five QB party. His 10.03 air yards per attempt trailed only Jameis Winston last year, and the Panthers just drafted OSU wideout Curtis Samuel and his 4.31-second wheels, so expect more big plays in Carolina.

Adrian Peterson, RB, New Orleans Saints

The future Hall of Famer is now 32 and coming off yet another knee surgery, and let's not forget that Mark Ingram is still in New Orleans (5.09 yards per carry last season). However, let's also not forget that AP is just one year removed from rushing for 1,485 yards and 11 scores (Ingram has never even sniffed those numbers), and he will have plenty to contribute to a dynamic Saints offense. Peterson is far from done.

Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

Make no mistake -- Gurley was pretty bad in '16. His 4.83 yards per carry fell to 3.18, and his TD count was just six. But consider that no back with Gurley's workload ran in less space, as he averaged just 1.59 yards before first contact. Then realize that the Rams had a league-low 34 drives that made it into the red zone, helping keep Gurley off the scoreboard. A new coaching regime will help him return to top-10 numbers.

Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Despite a three-game suspension to open the year, Martin is poised to bounce back from a disappointing campaign. Like Gurley, he saw very little space, averaging just 1.15 yards before running into contact, the lowest in the league. Expect some improvement toward the league mean of 2.56. One year removed from a 1,400-yard season, a healthy Martin will have an opportunity in an offense that isn't afraid to run.

Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

Few wide receivers can match the volume of receptions, but major injuries derailed his past two seasons. Allen is hardly a sure thing, but if he can stay healthy, PPR owners could have a top-10 guy. Over the past two seasons, only Antonio Brown and Julio Jones averaged more catches per game than Allen's 8.1.

Allen Robinson, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

From a top-15 pick to 25th in PPR wide receiver scoring, Robinson was healthy and actually saw more targets in 2016 than 2015, but his QB just couldn't find him downfield -- he caught less than half of his targets. With a heavy workload and a hefty 13.3 air yards per target, Robinson should again be a 1,000-yard and double-digit touchdown receiver.

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans

Brock Osweiler is gone, but the Texans still don't have the QB position solidified. Still, Hopkins recorded seasons of 1,210 and 1,521 yards in 2014 and 2015, respectively, and his touchdown total plummeted from 11 to four last season. Expect Nuk to return to elite status in '17.

John Brown, WR, Arizona Cardinals

He won't be Carson Palmer's top target, but Brown's down '16 season was impacted by unusual health issues, and he is still very much a deep threat. Since 2015, Brown is third in air yards per target (14.3) and ninth in yards per catch (14.6) among players with at least 100 receptions.

Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals

Eifert struggles to stay healthy and doesn't really pile on the receptions -- he had more than three catches in just three of his eight games last season -- but the touchdowns! He has 18 scores in 21 games since 2015. He's a boom-or-bust option who has shown his obvious upside.

-- Eric Karabell


Sleepers to watch

These players could exceed their 2017 average draft position and provide value for those who take a chance on them.

Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last season, Winston tossed 28 TDs and produced over 4,000 yards passing for the second straight season. With the additions of speedster DeSean Jackson and the freakish talent of rookie tight end O.J. Howard, the Tampa offense is loaded and ready for Winston to produce QB1 numbers in '17.

Jack Doyle, TE, Indianapolis Colts

Colts QB Andrew Luck ranked sixth in total targets to the tight end position last season (137 attempts). That's great news for Doyle after the Colts let Dwayne Allen walk in free agency. Doyle has a high fantasy ceiling as a TE1 after producing 59 receptions, 584 yards and five touchdowns with a 78.7 percent catch rate in 2016.

DeVante Parker, WR, Miami Dolphins

With Jay Cutler now under center for the Dolphins, look for Parker's production to jump this season. After catching only four touchdowns in '16, Parker could quickly develop into Cutler's top red zone option. Parker has the frame (6-foot-3, 212 pounds) and ball skills to create matchups in scoring position, and he should benefit greatly when Cutler wants to showcase that big arm on 50/50 throws down the field.

Martellus Bennett, TE, Green Bay Packers

Bennett is an immediate upgrade in Green Bay and a true fit for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' quick passing game. He's slippery after the catch (averaged 7.50 YAC in '16), and his big body will lead to targets on middle-of-the-field throws. Bennett has TE1 ability with Rodgers running the show.

Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings

Good size, clean route running and the game speed to get on top of the secondary, Thielen (69 receptions, 967 yards, 5 touchdowns in '16) provides really good value as a late-round pick in the Vikings' West Coast offense. Think upside for a receiver who finished 74th overall in PPR scoring last season (195.20 points).

Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

With the lower-body strength to power the ball inside and the ability to make defenders miss in the open field, Hunt could quickly challenge veteran running back Spencer Ware for touches in Kansas City during the regular season. And given his versatility as a receiver out of the backfield (41 receptions last year at Toledo), Hunt is a solid fit for Andy Reid's West Coast system. Owners can get excellent value here on draft day with the rookie.

Pierre Garcon, WR, San Francisco 49ers

Expect Garcon to be a PPR machine in Kyle Shanahan's system. Think route running skills and the toughness to make grabs in the short-to-intermediate passing game. This is a proven, reliable veteran (71.1 percent catch rate in '16) who will rack up targets and receptions for the 49ers after hauling in 79 passes for 1,041 yards receiving last season.

Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles set the table for Wentz during free agency by signing veteran wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. That's instant matchup ability and legit deep-ball speed for the second-year QB. I expect a major bump in production for Wentz in 2017 after he tossed only 16 touchdowns as a rookie.

C.J. Prosise, RB, Seattle Seahawks

The tape is limited on Prosise due to injuries, but the Seahawks running back has some value in PPR leagues given his route-running ability. In 2016, Prosise averaged 12.2 yards per catch and has the skill set to line up in multiple spots as a creative, movable piece in the Seahawks' game plan.

Cameron Meredith, WR, Chicago Bears

Even with an unproven group of quarterbacks in Chicago, Meredith has upside due to his size (6-foot-3, 207 pounds) and ability inside of the numbers. In 2016, Meredith ranked 94th overall in PPR scoring (179.48 points), and he rolls into the new season as the Bears' top target at wide receiver.

-- Matt Bowen


Breakout players

These players are poised to jump into the ranks of the elite and help you win your league in 2017.

Corey Coleman, WR, Cleveland Browns

Last season, the Browns threw 40 red zone passes to their wide receivers and tight ends. With Terrelle Pryor, Andrew Hawkins and Gary Barnidge gone, Coleman should fill this role, adding on to his downfield ability (13.6 air yards per target, 12th in NFL).

Hunter Henry, TE, Los Angeles Chargers

Last season, the Chargers made getting Antonio Gates the record for most touchdowns by a tight end a priority (he tied Tony Gonzalez with 111). This season, Henry will be their primary tight end, which likely results in 750 receiving yards and double-digit scores. After all, QB Philip Rivers was fifth last year in tight-end targets (146).

Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets

Powell outgained Matt Forte by 1.8 yards per carry, caught nearly twice as many balls and scored on 60 percent of his touches within 5 yards of the end zone. He has earned more touches and scoring opportunities, which makes Powell a clear starting fantasy running back.

Donnel Pumphrey, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

Pumphrey is unlikely to have a starting gig when camp breaks, but he has run sub-4.4 40-yard dashes and will play behind a top OL. At San Diego State last season, he led all FBS backs with 2,133 rushing yards and 59 runs of 10 or more yards (including 13 of 30 or more yards).

Willie Snead, WR, New Orleans Saints

Brandin Cooks has been moved to New England and Michael Thomas is fantastic, but Snead is poised for a huge season, too. Snead has averaged 70 catches for 940 yards during his first two seasons. As some of the 103 targets that went to Cooks last year will find their way to Snead, bank on a top-20 finish for this wide receiver.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans

Mariota finished as the 13th-highest-scoring quarterback last season despite operating without capable wide receivers. He won't have the same challenge this year, as the Titans drafted Corey Davis in the first round and signed Eric Decker as a free agent.

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

McCaffrey is not just a running back with good hands. He has a deep-route tree that will make it problematic for defenses to have the right defender on him. By using him on option routes, the Panthers will get McCaffrey into space, where his exceptional speed and elusiveness can do the rest.

Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

Neither Giovani Bernard nor Jeremy Hill averaged 4 yards per carry last season, which led to the Bengals investing a second-round pick in Mixon despite his troubled past. Mixon could easily post elite numbers if he secures an every-down role, but he will be usable even if he doesn't.

Donte Moncrief, WR, Indianapolis Colts

The potential for a Moncrief breakout relies upon Andrew Luck being 100 percent and Moncrief staying healthy, neither a sure bet. However, when Luck has been healthy, the Colts are a prolific offense in which a No. 2 wideout produces mightily.

Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

No quarterback in the NFL attempted more passes of 15 or more yards last season, but Winston's completion percentage of 39.3 ranked 21st. Adding DeSean Jackson, who was ninth in the league in receptions on those types of passes, results in a massive step forward.

-- Ken Daube