For many, the countless late nights filled with who to draft have been going on for months. Trying to decide who deserves the honor of being on your fantasy team for the next 5 months takes a lot of hard work and strategy. Even with all the projections, analysis, and rankings available for you it is still easy to feel lost when it comes to who to draft. Here I will break down who I believe will be the best fantasy player or “fantasy stud” for each NFL team in order to make your draft day a little less stressful.

NFC EAST

DALLAS COWBOYS

Key Player: Ezekiel Elliott. With the 4th pick in this years draft the Dallas Cowboys selected the Running Back from The Ohio State University. Even if you do not agree with Elliott’s fashion style (I support the crop top look), you should do your best to look past your differences and add him to your roster. Although it may be too early to go out and name him the number one player on the board, especially with Alfred Morris now in Dallas, it would be reasonable to say he is in the Top 10. We saw what that offensive line can do for an RB’s career (Demarco Murray) and with a healthy Romo and Bryant, Elliott couldn’t have asked for a better situation. Even with him never playing a snap of NFL Football, taking the Dallas Running Back with the first pick is not as crazy as it may seem.

Other Notable Players: Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Alfred Morris

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Key Player: Ryan Matthews. No offense to Eagles fans, but Philadelphia looks like a team to stay away from this year. Even with the speedy offense of Chip Kelly and former rushing champ Demarco Murray, the Eagles offense was widely disappointing in 2015. In 2016 things do not look much better. With no clear starter at Quarterback and a group of inexperienced receivers, Philly does not look like an offensive juggernaut many once hoped they could be. Matthews is the best and safest pick on the Eagles because of his touches. With around 20 touches a game the former Charger has the potential to be a solid contributor for your team. Although Darren Sproles will be the main pass catcher out of the backfield, Matthews will get a majority of the carries making him a RB2 or Flex in most standard leagues.

Other Notable Players: Jordan Matthews, Darren Sproles, Josh Huff

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Key Player: Jordan Reed. The best TE of 2015 that no one talked about. After sitting out a few weeks at the beginning of the season, the Tight End from Florida dominated in the second half. To put it in perspective, From weeks 9-17 Reed actually finished with 69.7 more points than Rob Gronkowski in standard leagues. He seems to have a strong connection with Quarterback Kirk Cousins and his dominant frame makes him hard to cover or take down after the catch. With a bunch of question marks at RB, the Redskins look to have a pass first offense which will only make Reed’s stock rise. Besides Gronk, there is no Tight End I would rather have on my time.

Other Notable Players: Kirk Cousins, Desean Jackson, Josh Doctson, Pierre Garcon

NEW YORK GIANTS

Key Player: Odell Beckham Jr. Who else could it be? Ever since that incredible catch he made on Sunday Night Football, OBJ has risen to superstardom. What’s even more impressive than that catch was Odell’s ability to improve on his outstanding Rookie season. In his Sophomore year, the Giants receiver did anything but slump as he put up big number in catches, yards, and touchdowns. With his prime years just beginning, OBJ looks ready to to have another career year and could possibly end the season as the best player in all of fantasy. Whether you love or hate the flashy, aggressive, and emotional way Odell plays, not drafting him would be a tragedy. Beckham is a bonafide Fantasy Stud.

Other Key Players: Eli Manning, Rashad Jennings, Sterling Shepard, Victor Cruz

NFC NORTH

CHICAGO BEARS

Key Player: Kevin White. If asked to pick a receiver on the Bears who is destined to have a nice fantasy season, Alshon Jeffery would be the obvious choice. You can’t argue with the decision as Jeffery as he has been a consistent player for Chicago ever since they drafted him from South Carolina in 2012. However I believe that in 2016 a different receiver will shine in the Midway. White did not play one snap for the Bears in 2015 after being drafted earlier that year due to a season ending injury early in the preseason. Now with his first season about to begin, the former West Virginia player looks healthy and QB Jay Cutler has liked what he’s seen from him up to this point. With a QB who likes to air it out and another star receiver lined up parallel to him, White has the potential to to be the next rookie to breakout, and I think that makes him a worthy pick in your draft.

Other Notable Players: Jeremy Langford, Alshon Jeffery, Zach Miller, Jordan Howard

DETROIT LIONS

Key Player: Theo Riddick. With no Megatron this year in Detroit, fantasy players everywhere are forced to take a step back and wonder what other Lions are relevant in Fantasy Football. Anyone on the team worth a pick can only be classified as a risk. The Lions have no players that are no doubt studs going into the season. The player I feel the most comfortable with picking is RB Theo Riddick. Especially in PPR leagues Roddick could be a solid contributor because of his pass catching ability. Riddick finished 2015 with 80 receptions and about 700 receiving yards. Now with no Calvin Johnson, he could see an uptick in those numbers making him a reasonable play in the FLEX.

Other Notable Players: Matthew Stafford, Ameer Abdullah, Golden Tate

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Key Player: Aaron Rodgers. This was a tough choice because many expect the Packers to be a dominant offense this year. Even with a “down year” for Rodgers last year the former MVP is still one of the best QB’s in the league. With a depleted group of inexperienced receivers who dropped way too many balls last year, he still threw for almost 4,000 yards and 31 TDs. Now with his favorite weapon in Jordy Nelson back along with a more experienced and healthy group of receivers, Rodgers looks to be back on track to put up MVP numbers. Not to mention no one throws a better deep ball than him, and we all know how crucial that is when it comes to fantasy points.

Other Notable Players: Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Richard Rodgers, Jeff Janis

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Key Player: Adrian Peterson. This man cannot be stopped. Even at age 31, the veteran entering his 10th season in the NFL is still one of the top RBs in both fantasy and real football. The Vikings have a promising group of young players, but none compare to Adrain, “All Day” Peterson. He may not be as fast as he used to be but nonetheless AP is still a big bruising back who is in great shape. His touches and goalie action will once again make him a Top 5 Fantasy RB even if he is not rushing for 2,000 yards anymore.

Other Notable Players: Teddy Bridgewater, Stefon Diggs, Laquon Treadwell

NFC SOUTH

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Key Player: Cam Newton. I’ll keep this one short. No other QB is as dominant as a dual-threat than the reigning NFL MVP. His throwing has improved greatly over the years and his ability to tuck the ball and run allows him to put up more points than any other passer in the league. He also gets back his best target in receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who he did not have for his amazing 2015 season. Newton should be one of the first QB’s taken in all drafts, and not just because he is really good at dabbing.

Other Notable Players: Greg Olsen, Jonathan Stewart, Kelvin Benjamin, Ted Ginn Jr., Devin Funchess

ATLANTA FALCONS

Key Player: Julio Jones. In 2015 Jones was the entire Falcons offense. Even when teams titled covered the star receiver from Alabama, he still found a way to get open for big plays. Matt Ryan clearly loves Julio as his 136 receptions tied him with Antonio Brown. With no other receivers looking ready to steal his targets, look for Julio Jones to put up another monster year.

Other Notable Players: Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Mohamed Sanu

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Key Player: Drew Brees. The Saints and Brees are not the juggernaut offense that they used to be, but the former Super Bowl Champion is still someone who can be relevant in fantasy football. No one is better at consistently giving you 300 yards and a few touchdowns than Drew Brees, and in fantasy that is all you can ask for from a QB. Brees throws the ball more than any other passer in the league and with the Saints being expected to trail a lot of games this year, that number can only go up.

Other Notable Players: Mark Ingram, Brandin Cooks, Colby Fleener.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Key Player: Jameis Winston. This was a tough choice because the Bucs have a few players on this years team that could light up the fantasy world. Yet I believe this former Seminole has a pretty good chance to build off a decent rookie season. Winston was not amazing last year, but at times he showed flashes of why he was chosen as the first pick in the draft. With another offseason under his belt, in which he lost 20 pounds or so, Winston has the potential to go from stealing crabs to stealing points for your fantasy team. With the weapons he has around him I believe it would be wise to draft Winston over more veteran QB’s like Matt Ryan or Jay Cutler.

Other Notable Players: Doug Martin, Mike Evans, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Vincent Jackson

NFC WEST

ARIZONA CARDINALS

Key Player: David Johnson. During the Fantasy Playoffs last year no one was better than David Johnson. After entering his rookie season as just a kick returner, Johnson was forced into the starting role towards the end of the regular season. Not wasting anytime, he showed just how much of a threat out of the backfield he could be when given enough touches. His bruising running style paired with his ability to catch passes makes him a fantasy owners dream. Now with the starting job his, Johnson could easily be the top RB in fantasy this year.

Other Notable Players: Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Michael Floyd, Defense

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Key Player: Todd Gurley. Even after missing the first two weeks of the season, Gurley still came in and had an outstanding rookie season. After rushing for 146 yards against the Cardinals in Week 4, the former Georgia Bulldog showed us just how good he can be. If you have been following the HBO Series “Hard Knocks”, you already know that Gurley showed up to camp this year healthier, stronger and faster. If you already were not set on trying to get him on your team hopefully that will convince you. The Rams are back home in LA, and Todd Gurley will be making plenty of big plays on the big stage.

Other Notable Players: Tavon Austin

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Key Player: Carlos Hyde. Hyde started the 2015 season off strong with a 168 yard, 2 TD performance on Monday Night Football. Sadly, he could not continue his stellar play as he struggled in the following weeks and then missed most of the season with injuries. Now with Chip Kelley coming to town in 2016, many hope that this is the year Hyde breaks out. Kelley is known for his lighting quick offense which means Hyde, who has one the starting job, should be in line for plenty of touches. The only thing that can stop him from a strong season is himself. If he stays healthy I see him as a low RB1 or a very solid RB2 in most leagues.

Other Notable Player: Torrey Smith, Bruce Ellington, Vance McDonald

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Key Player: Russell Wilson. With no “Beast Mode” to put the team on his back this year, many question what Seattle’s identity on offense will be this year. I like Wilson to step up this year and put up some monster numbers. 2015 was a very good year for him as he finished with 4,000 yards and 34 TDs and I expect those numbers to goo up. Even if Wilson is not lighting it up with his arm, his rushing ability makes him a safe play at QB every week.

Other Notable Players: Thomas Rawls, Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham, Tyler Lockett

By Ryan Homler
rfhomler@optonline.net

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