There are two ways to win games in fantasy football: take measures to score more points than your opponent or take measures to ensure that your opponent scores LESS points than you. Well, there’s not much to do for the latter. “League Winners” are players that are often found in the mid-to-late rounds of drafts—or on the Waiver Wire—that end up performing like early round picks. Pair these players with your actual early round picks, and suddenly you’re loaded at specific positions and have an undeniable leg up on your weekly opponents. Thus, here are the fantasy football league winners that will grant victory throughout 2017 by acquiring them now.
Fantasy Football League Winners – Class of 2017
Identifying League Winners: A Formula
In 2015, Devonta Freeman was a mid-round pick who finished as the number one overall running back in fantasy football. In that same year, David Johnson was picked up off of the waiver wire and ended the year on an absolute tear. He wound up on the rosters of 25% of all teams who won ESPN leagues.
Conversely, after a nightmarish start to the season, Jay Ajayi was cut in many leagues. His various frustrations included being a healthy scratch for a game! Yet, even without starting the whole season, Ajayi only went on to finish as a top 10 running back on the season. Identifying these types of players is a simple formula: Talent + Opportunity = League Winner.
Now, there is no point in identifying players that currently have the opportunity. Untalented players will never be league winners, even if they have the opportunity. Talented players that already have the proper opportunity (volume in carriesand targets) are all owned and coveted by their respective owners. These were the Le’Veon Bell’s, the Ezekiel Elliot’s, and the Odell Beckham Jr’s of the world.
Rather, the way to identify league winners if identifying extremely talented players who do not currently have the opportunity. Players who are, perhaps, a hamstring pull away from a full workload and top five overall positional value.
And now without further ado, your Potential League Winner class of 2017.
Derrick Henry is an absolute beast for the Tennessee Titans. No running back in the history of the NFL comparatively profiles to his video-game-like combination of size, strength, and speed. His college dominance has transitioned to the pro-level: with just 143 NFL carries, Henry has 661 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Add in another 137 Receiving Yards on just 13 catches and it’s easy to get excited about him.
Right now, Demarco Murray is the starter. He salvaged another potential poor stat line last week with a 75-yard Touchdown run, making this week the PERFECT time to go trade for Henry. Murray will be close to 30 years old at the end of the season and has not exactly been the picture of perfect health. Already dealing with a nagging hamstring injury, Murray playing 16 games may be a dream.
There is also a chance the Titan’s coaching staff simply realizes that Henry is a better running back than Murray at this point in their respective careers.
When Henry gets his chance, he will thrive. The Titans have potentially the best offensive line in the NFL and play in the most pitiful division in football. If Henry even received 20 carries a game, extrapolating these stats would yield a line of 1,479 yards with 13.42 touchdowns.
That would align Henry as a top three running back. And this would be Henry’s floor. Even in his monster year last year, Murray yielded some work to Henry. In the case of a Murray injury, Henry would receive close to 100% of the work. He would turn into a Bell/Gurley type of workhorse. This is the type of player that wins people leagues.
Joe Mixon was a second round pick because of terrible off the field issues. Talent alone—he is an early first-round pick. Mel Kiper coined him as the most talented running backs in this out-of-this-world class. Watch five plays of the Cincinnati Bengals, and Mixon makes you question whether your grandmother is on the field wearing Jeremy Hill’s jersey.
New offensive coordinator Bill Lazor clearly saw this and made the proper changes to get Hill off the field in favor of super-talent Mixon. Despite their porous offensive line, he will explode in the second half of the season. After seeing the field for 25% of the snaps in week two, he monopolized the running back snaps (with the exception of obvious passing downs) in week three. This trend should only continue. Rumors have been surfacing that Hill is on the trade block, which would only booster Mixon’s value even further.
Mixons’ schedule lightens up tremendously and he gets the Cleveland Browns this week; thus, Mixon needs to be acquired this week.
Welcome to the Devante Parker hype train.
A flashy standout at Louisville, Parker hasn’t necessarily been bad in his first two years, but it is safe to say he has not lived up to the hype so far. But it’s only been two years! What happened to the ever-so-popular third year wide receiver breakout narrative? Well, Parker is about to bring that narrative back into the forefront in a big way.
After the addition of smoking Jay Cutler, the fantasy football nation was enamored by Parker. After two years of catching slants from Ryan Tannehill he was suddenly paired with one of the most aggressive, deep ball passers in the NFL. The two appeared to click immediately throughout a flashy preseason.
However, with the week one game cancelled due to Irma and Cutler’s subsequent week two and three struggles, Parker has not really popped yet. Despite 80 yards in both games a meaningless touchdown at the end of week three, the public is not completely sold on Parker yet. The hype train has stopped for gas. So now is the last chance to go out and grab him before he begins to be valued as the top-15 receiver that he will prove to be.
Tevin Coleman was a college sensation, shattering Indiana Football records left and right. He has a 307 yard rushing game under his belt! Injuries severely limited his workload during his rookie year, but he still averaged an impressive 4.5 yards per carry. He dropped jaws in his sophomore season, scoring an astounding 11 TDs in just 13 games—all while taking a backseat to Devonta Freeman!
What about regression? Averaging nearly a touchdown a game on a roster with a healthy Freeman is nearly impossible to sustain. However, averaging nearly a touchdown a game on a roster without a healthy Freeman is at most Coleman’s floor or possible outcomes. He seriously has David Johnson upside should anything happen to Freeman.
Freeman was the number one running back in fantasy football in 2015—when he was the only healthy Atlanta Falcons running back and received all of the work. Two years later—in a Falcons offense that is infinitely more explosive than in 2015—Coleman’s ceiling is in outer space. And his floor in a world where Freeman plays 16 games is no worse than a low-end running back two or flex.
He can run, he can catch, and he can score. Coleman would be the starting running back on 70% of the team’s in today’s NFL. And, after a quiet first three weeks, now is the perfect time to go out and acquire him.