Best, worst scenarios for top 30 players in SI's fantasy rankings
Every fantasy player, from the first one selected in your draft to the last, has a range of possible outcomes this season. Fantasy owners want to believe their players will reach their full potential, but you have to consider everything that could go wrong when you’re making your cheat sheets. Even the very best players in the league have a worst-case scenario that could realistically come to fruition. Below are the best- and worst-case scenarios for the top 30 players in our rankings.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers
Best case: The Green Bay offense leads the league in points, lifting everyone with a key role to fantasy stardom. With the reported loss of Jordy Nelson, Lacy now takes advantage of an increased role in the passing game to once again surpass 1,500 total yards, all while scoring 15 touchdowns and cementing his status as a top-five fantasy player for the next few seasons.
Worst case: The Packers’ offense may be elite, but Aaron Rodgers hogs the spotlight. The game’s best quarterback throws even more inside the red zone than usual, and that prevents Lacy from getting to double-digit touchdowns. He also doesn’t have as large of a role in the passing game as he did last year, knocking him out of the top five at the running back position.
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers
Best case: What suspension? Bell returns to the Steelers lineup in Week 3 and immediately proceeds to show why he’s the best fantasy player going in the NFL. Despite missing two games, he leads all running backs in receptions, gets north of 2,000 yards from scrimmage for the second straight year, and sets a new career high with at least 12 touchdowns.
Worst case: It takes Bell a few weeks to get going after his suspension, and his owners end up feeling like he missed four games, not two. He's still a top-five back on a per-game basis, but the Steelers lean a bit more on DeAngelo Williams than they did any of Bell’s backups in 2014, and that keeps his touches down, as well.
Jamaal Charles, RB,Chiefs
Best case: Charles has logged a lot of miles over the last three years, but he proves that he’s still the best fantasy back in the league. Andy Reid gives him more than 206 carries this season, and he rides that to another 1,500-yard performance, all while remaining one of the most dangerous receiving weapons out of the backfield. He leads all running backs in fantasy points.
Worst case: The wear and tear of the last three seasons finally catches up to Charles. While he doesn’t go bust, he does miss a handful of games due to injury, and generally cedes more touches to Knile Davis than ever before. He’s not a top-five back on a per-game basis, instead putting up numbers on a low-end RB1 level.
Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys
Best case: Bryant continues to find the end zone with ruthless efficiency, scoring 15 more times this year. He also notches 100 catches for the first time in his career, and sets a career high by surpassing 1,400 receiving yards. The wide receiver field is crowded at the top, but after this season, no one doubts that the league’s best receiver is in Dallas.
Worst case: The touchdown volatility that plagues so many receivers finally catches up to Bryant, and he scores fewer than 10 touchdowns for the first time since 2011. He may still be a WR1 without all the touchdowns, but he is not equal to the likes of Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks
Best case: Fantasy’s safest asset, he’s like a U.S. Treasury bill, Lynch churns out yet another season with at least 1,400 total yards and 12 touchdowns. He has hit each of those marks the last four years. Why would he fall short this season? On top of that, the Seattle offense enjoys its best year and Lynch runs for more than 1,500 yards for the second time in his career.
Worst case: Seattle has its eye on a third consecutive trip to the Super Bowl, and the team knows it needs Lynch healthy in January to do that. After giving Lynch nearly 1,200 regular season carries the last four years, the Seahawks pull back on the throttle to ensure he’s in one piece for the playoff run. Jimmy Graham also steals away some of his short-yardage touchdowns. Lynch remains a solid RB1.
Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers
Best case: It’s hard for any player to follow up on a 129-catch, 1,698-yard, 13-touchdown season, but Brown isn’t just any player. Thanks to the high-powered passing attack in Pittsburgh, Brown indeed matches last season’s numbers, leading all receivers in receptions, yards and touchdowns. Not only is he the top receiver, he’s fantasy’s No. 1 overall player.
Worst case: Brown finds it impossible to come anywhere near the numbers he posted in his magical 2014 campaign. He still amasses a WR1 season, but he falls back down into the eight-touchdown neighborhood, which was his career high before last year. Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton each steal away more looks than they did in 2014.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
Best case: Peterson proves that he remains the best pure running back in the NFL. He returns immediately to form, leads the league in rushing, and pushes the 2,000-yard mark. Thanks to an improved Minnesota offense with Teddy Bridgewater at the helm, Peterson also hits pay dirt at least 12 times. He’s fantasy’s top overall player.
Worst case: The year off hurts Peterson more than anyone anticipated. While he remains an effective running back, there’s something about him that just isn’t the same. The 30-year-old also begins to show signs of age, and gives up carries to both Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata. He’s no more than an RB2.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos
Best case: The fears over Peyton Manning’s health are unfounded, and that means Thomas does in 2015 exactly what he has done in his first three seasons with the future Hall of Famer at the helm. He catches at least 90 passes for a minimum of 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns, finishing the year as the top-ranked fantasy receiver.
Worst case: Manning’s health indeed is an issue, and that brings down everyone in the Denver passing game. The team runs the ball more than it has in the past three years, and Thomas falls short of double-digit touchdowns for the first time in four seasons. He still posts WR1 numbers, but he’s behind the likes of A.J. Green and Alshon Jeffery.
Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals
Best case: Last year was just the beginning of what will be a great career. Hill takes advantage of being the starter from Week 1, and ends up leading the league in rushing while scoring 12-plus touchdowns. Next year at this time, there’s support for him as the No. 1 overall pick in fantasy leagues.
Worst case: Giovani Bernard has a larger role in the offense than expected. With A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones fully healthy, the Bengals throw a lot more than they did last season. Hill puts together a fine sophomore year, but it doesn’t come anywhere near the heights expected, and he falls down to RB2 status.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants
Best case: Last year, Beckham averaged 108.75 yards and one touchdown per game. He achieves the exact same feats this year, ending the season with 1,740 yards and 16 scores and a few more highlight-reel grabs. Not only is he the consensus No. 1 receiver heading into the 2016 season, he’s a potential No. 1 overall pick.
Worst case: Beckham doesn’t sneak up on teams the way he did last year. He falls off of last year’s pace, and a healthy Victor Cruz siphons off a ton of targets that were going Beckham’s way last year. Beckham may be a WR1, but he’s not in the mold of Bryant, Brown or Thomas. He barely stays in the top 10 at the position.
Matt Forte, RB, Bears
Best case: Forte shows that it wasn’t just Marc Trestman’s offense that made him a fantasy star these last two seasons. While he doesn’t catch nearly as many passes under John Fox and Adam Gase, he gets more than 300 carries for the first time in his career, and again pushes the 2,000-total-yard mark. The Bears’ focus on him in the red zone leads him to his first ever season with 10 rushing touchdowns.
Worst case: The worst thing that happened to Forte, from a fantasy perspective, was Trestman’s firing. Forte doesn’t come anywhere near the 368 touches he got last season, and remains south of four yards per carry. The Bears offense implodes, taking down everyone on the inside. Forte finishes the season outside the top-15 backs.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions
Best case: Health was the only thing that held Johnson back last year. On a per-game basis, he was the No. 10 wide receiver, and that includes the three games he hobbled around while playing through his an ankle injury. He stays fully healthy for 16 games this year, and once again becomes a dominant force for the Lions and his fantasy owners.
Worst case: Injury troubles have become a way of life for Johnson, and that doesn’t change this year. He misses significant time due to injury, and improbably falls out of the WR1 class. Given his average draft position, he ends up being one of the biggest busts, in terms of relative value, in 2015.
Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
Best case: Jones avoids the injury bug and finally realizes the full potential he has had since entering the NFL in 2011. Jones leads all receivers in both yards and touchdowns, and finishes the season as the top dog at the position. He reaches the 1,500-yard mark for the second straight year, but obliterates his previous career high of 10 scores.
Worst case: Jones deals with injuries for the third consecutive season, and that prevents him from getting back in the top five at wide receiver. The Falcons also, for whatever reason, continue to ignore him in the red zone. He falls short of double-digit touchdowns for the fourth time in five years.
C.J. Anderson, RB, Broncos
Best case: Anderson was one of the best fantasy backs from the moment he took over the starting gig in Denver. Now that he has that honor at the start of the year, he does it for 16 games. Anderson ends up leading the league in touchdowns and is a top-three back.
Worst case: Anderson’s late-season production was driven partially by the Broncos being forced to rein in Peyton Manning. That doesn’t prove necessary this year, as Manning his himself for the entire season. Anderson still holds onto the starting job, but Montee Ball carves himself out a decent role in the offense. Anderson finishes no better than mid-level RB2.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots
Best case: Gronk follows up on last year’s season with another dominant performance at the tight end position. He finishes head and shoulders ahead of the pack again, giving his owners a huge leg up at tight end. Just like 2014, Gronkowski puts up a season that would make him a WR1 if he played that position.
Worst case: Injury concerns return for Gronk, and he fails to play 16 games for the third time in four years. On top of that, the Patriots’ offense loses some efficiency early in the year with Tom Brady suspended, and Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman eat into more of Gronkowski’s targets than they did last season. He’s outscored by Jimmy Graham and Travis Kelce, and is a huge value bust.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
Best case: There has never been a better time to be a quarterback in the NFL, and Rodgers is going to go down as one of the best in the history of the game. That makes his 2015 season a perfect storm. Rodgers throws for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns en route to his third MVP and second Super Bowl championship.
Worst case: The Packers under Mike McCarthy haven’t showed the same sort of ruthlessness we're used to seeing from the Brady-Belichick duo, or Peyton Manning, for that matter. Rodgers has a great season, but the Packers take it easy on their opponents in a number of blowouts, and that keeps his fantasy ceiling a bit lower than it could be.
A.J. Green, WR, Bengals
Best case: Green was banged up for the better part of last season, and still had 69 catches for 1,041 yards and six touchdowns. Now that he’s fully healthy again, he gets back to being a top-five fantasy receiver. He matches his output in 2013, when he hauled in 98 passes for 1,426 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Worst case: It’s not injuries, but a quietly crowded Cincinnati offense that holds Green back in 2015. Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert combined to play three drives last season. With both healthy, Green doesn’t get as large a share of the targets from Andy Dalton. In addition, the Bengals have a great backfield duo of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. Green ends the year as a back-end WR1.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Eagles
Best case: Murray shows the world that he doesn’t need the Cowboys’ offensive line to be a fantasy monster. He takes advantage of the great offensive environment in Philadelphia, and while he doesn’t match last year’s numbers, he still ends the year as a top-three back. No one doubts him heading into the 2016 season.
Worst case: Fantasy owners wish they gave more credence to the red flags waving violently around Murray. He deals with injuries yet again, and even when he’s on the field, he doesn’t dominate the touches out of the Philadelphia backfield the way he did in Dallas last year. Ryan Mathews vultures a number of touchdowns, while Murray is barely a top-20 back.
Andrew Luck, QB, Colts
Best case: Last year’s king of consistency defends that crown in 2015. Luck is a top-10 weekly quarterback in every single game this year, and posts a top-three finish at least six times. With Andre Johnson and Frank Gore now added to his stable of weapons, he has the best statistical season of his young career, and is again fantasy’s No. 1 quarterback.
Worst case: Few players benefitted from volume the way Luck did last season. Not only does he lose some of that volume, he’s not nearly as efficient as he was in 2014, and those two deficiencies conspire to knock him out of the top three at the quarterback position.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears
Best case: With Brandon Marshall out of town, Jeffery becomes the unquestioned prime target for Jay Cutler. He leads the league in targets, and sets career bests across the board. Heading into 2016, Jeffery’s age and role in the Chicago offense make him a top-five fantasy receiver.
Worst case: Everything falls apart in Chicago in year one under John Fox and Adam Gase, and this time Jeffery isn’t immune to the struggles. Cutler plays his way out of the city, bringing down the production of both Jeffery and Martellus Bennett. Everyone acknowledges it wasn’t Jeffery’s fault, but that won’t soothe his fantasy owners.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers
Best case: Gordon justifies the Chargers trading up to select him with the 15th overall pick in the draft while simultaneously reversing the trend of Wisconsin running backs failing in the NFL. He proves to be a capable three-down back for the Chargers, running for 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns while winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.
Worst case: Gordon struggles all season with San Diego’s pass protection schemes, and that forces the team to use Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver more than originally planned. He also finds that life isn’t quite as easy without the Wisconsin offensive line paving the way in front of him, a fate shared by previous Badger running backs like Montee Ball, Brian Calhoun, Michael Bennett and Anthony Davis.
Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins
Best case: Miller is the most underrated running back in the NFL heading into 2015. That’s no longer the case once the season is finished. Miller dominates the touches in Miami’s improved offense, racking up 1,500 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns. He helps lead the Dolphins to the top of the AFC East.
Worst case: Miller’s all-too-common detractors end up looking prescient. The inefficiency that plagued him in his first two seasons in the league returns. Joe Philbin again frustrates fantasy owners with his bizarre deployment of his backfield resources, giving more touches to Jay Ajayi and Damien Williams than anyone expects. Miller finishes the year no better than a low-end RB2.
Randall Cobb, WR, Packers
Best case: With Jordy Nelson out for the year, Cobb becomes the No. 1 target in Green Bay this season. He rides that status to a monster season, catching more than 100 passes for 1,400 yards and 12-plus touchdowns. Being Rodgers’ top target makes Cobb a top-five receiver.
Worst case: Rodgers’ No. 1 receiver can only fall so far, so Cobb isn’t about to go bust this year. He does, however, regress in the touchdown department, scoring just eight times while Eddie Lacy and Davante Adams get more involved in the red zone action this year. Cobb remains a high-end WR2.
Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers
Best case: Evans starred as a rookie with Josh McCown and Mike Glennon throwing him the ball. Do you really think Jameis Winston will hold him back? At 6’5” with good speed, Evans can do it all as a receiver. He matches last year’s 12 touchdowns while amassing 1,200 yards. Next year, it’s him, and not Odell Beckham, who’s viewed as the best receiver from the 2014 draft class.
Worst case: A lot of Evans’s 2014 production was tied up in a three-game stretch in which he had 458 yards and five touchdowns. The big game eludes him this year, mainly due to Winston struggling as a rookie quarterback. Evans doesn’t go completely bust for his owners, but he ends the season as a low-end WR2.
Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle
Best case: Graham becomes the red-zone passing weapon Russell Wilson has needed his entire career, and pushes the Seattle offense to a level previously unattained. With no one to steal away red-zone targets, Graham scores at least 12 times and outperforms Rob Gronkowski, again claiming the title as the best fantasy tight end in the league.
Worst case: Even with Graham changing the outlook of the passing game, the Seahawks refuse abandon their roots as a run-first team. Graham is still the No. 1 target for Wilson, but the quarterback and Marshawn Lynch hog all the easy scores. Graham fails to reach 10 touchdowns for the third time in his career.
Justin Forsett, RB, Ravens
Best case: The journeyman back broke out in 2014. In 2015, he proves that it wasn’t just a fluke. Forsett gobbles up the lion’s share of the carries for the run-first Ravens and, thanks to Marc Trestman, leads all running backs in receptions. He racks up 1,600 total yards and scores at least 10 times.
Worst case: Forsett is still just a 5’8”, 195-pound back who will turn 30 in October. He hasn’t taken the same beating as most 30-year-old backs, but he still sees his efficiency regress this year. It took Forsett six years to catch on as a primary back in the league, and even last year he needed multiple injuries and suspensions to get on the field in a meaningful way. The Ravens turn more to Lorenzo Taliaferro this year.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills
Best case: McCoy takes advantage of being back in a heavy run environment, running for at least 1,300 yards for the third straight season. He gets more goal-line work with the Bills than he did with the Eagles, and that helps him push back up toward 10 touchdowns.
Worst case: McCoy is already dealing with an injury, and he’s unable to stay healthy all season. The Bills’ offense ends up being one of the worst in the league, significantly curbing McCoy’s fantasy value. He barely stays among the top-25 fantasy backs, and is a major bust at his ADP.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts
Best case: Hilton could be a WR1 in a lot of settings, but he remains quite happy playing football with Andrew Luck. The pair officially cements itself as one of the best in the league, with Hilton scoring 10 touchdowns for the first time in his career. He’s a strong WR1 and nearly breaks into the top five at the position.
Worst case: As is the case with the Green Bay receivers, Hilton’s floor can’t get too low, simply by virtue of his offense and quarterback. Still, there are a lot of mouths to feed in Indianapolis. The presence of Andre Johnson, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett keeps any one pass catcher from putting up huge numbers. Hilton finishes somewhere in the No. 18-20 neighborhood at wide receiver.
Mark Ingram, RB, Saints
Best case: All the talk about the Saints running the ball more than they have with Drew Brees under center is more than just lip service. Ingram stays healthy all season and turns a career high in carries into a 1,200-yard, 10-touchdown season. He finishes the year as a top-10 back, providing a great return on investment for his fantasy owners.
Worst case: This is still the Saints, and they’re still led by Brees and Sean Payton. Even at 36 years old, Brees puts the ball in the air at least 650 times for the sixth consecutive season. Ingram doesn’t give up too many carries, but the problem is that there just aren’t enough to make him a legitimate RB1. Ingram suffers from fantasy inconsistency, though he finishes the year as a top-20 back.
Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins
Best case: Morris is one of the most underappreciated fantasy performers in the league, but that won’t keep him down this year. He does his usual thing, totaling at least 1,200 yards from scrimmage, but this season better red-zone efficiency for Washington leads Morris to a 10-touchdown campaign.
Worst case: Morris’s rushing yardage declines for the third straight season, and he fails to reach 1,000 yards on the ground. Life doesn’t get any better in D.C. than it has been the last two seasons, and as Robert Griffin struggles yet again, he drags Morris out of the RB2 class.