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2016 Fantasy Football Positional Rankings: May Edition

As another unpredictable NFL off-season starts to wind down, I provide positional rankings for the most dynamic fantasy football stars in 2016.

Cam Newton is Robert Kohnfelder's clear-cut top fantasy QB heading into 2016
Cam Newton is Robert Kohnfelder's clear-cut top fantasy QB heading into 2016
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

What's up guys?  Is it just me, or does the upcoming fantasy football season already feel extraordinarily unpredictable?  In today's pass-happy NFL, Wide Receivers and Tight Ends undoubtedly have more draft value than ever before.  Add in the usual dose of injuries and depth chart dilemmas and the result is perhaps the most chaotic fantasy preparation to date.  Nevertheless, fantasy owners must hit the books early and often if they want to ace their league's draft.  Understand that plenty of outlooks will change leading up to the regular season, but with training camps opening in roughly two months, it's time to examine this year's fantasy landscape.

*These positional rankings are intended for standard scoring leagues, but are certainly applicable to .5 PPR as well.  Full point PPR may need to adjust player values accordingly.*

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Quarterbacks

Ranking Player Bye
1 Cam Newton (CAR) 7
2 Aaron Rodgers (GB 4
3 Russell Wilson (SEA) 5
4 Andrew Luck (IND) 10
5 Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) 8
6 Tom Brady (NE) 9
7 Drew Brees (NO) 5
8 Eli Manning (NYG) 8
9 Blake Bortles (JAC) 5
10 Derek Carr (OAK) 10
11 Carson Palmer (ARI) 9
12 Tony Romo (DAL) 7
13 Ryan Tannehill (MIA) 8
14 Kirk Cousins (WAS) 9
15 Jameis Winston (TB) 6
16 Philip Rivers (SD) 11
17 Tyrod Taylor (BUF) 10
18 Matt Ryan (ATL) 11
19 Andy Dalton (CIN) 9
20 Joe Flacco (BAL) 8
21 Colin Kaepernick (SF) 8
22 Marcus Mariota (TEN) 13
23 Brock Osweiler (HOU) 9
24 Jay Cutler (CHI) 9
25 Robert Griffin III (CLE) 13
26 Matthew Stafford (DET) 11

Top 10 Analysis: Although it will definitely be tough to replicate his spectacular 2015 campaign, Cam Newton has every trait you want to see in an NFL Quarterback: Size, speed, arm strength, accuracy... the list goes on.  Undeniably in his prime, "Super Cam" just turned 27 this May and has a massive target in Kelvin Benjamin set to return this season.  Finishing outside of the top 5 in his position last year, Aaron Rodgers was considered a fantasy disappointment by many.  With Jordy Nelson coming back from injury plus the addition of Jared Cook, there's a good chance Rodgers returns to stardom in 2016.  Russell Wilson is coming off his best NFL season yet, passing for over 4,000 yards and 34 TDs.  He's proven to be durable and reliable in all facets of the game, making him one of the safest fantasy signal callers.  Colts QB Andrew Luck had his 2015 season ravaged by injury, but he has all the tools to return to elite production this year.  He's a superb bounce-back candidate with QB1 overall upside.  Ben Roethlisberger missed 4 games due to injury in a rollercoaster 2015 season.  His outlook is slightly less appealing without Martavis Bryant, but with AB and newly acquired Ladarius Green to throw to, he still has enough weapons to finish as a top 5 Quarterback if he stays upright.

New England's iconic QB Tom Brady is currently set to serve a 4-game suspension this season for his role in deflategate, but I'm ranking him based on his per-game outlook.  His methodical attacking offense should be in full force whenever he's on the field.  Entering his age-37 season, Drew Brees remains one of the most consistent QBs in fantasy football.  Bringing in Coby Fleener and drafting OSU WR Michael Thomas to pair with the electric Brandin Cooks bodes well for Brees' 2016 value.  Former OC Ben McAdoo has greatly enhanced Eli Manning's fantasy numbers in the last 2 seasons, and now he's the Giants new Head Coach.  With the otherworldly-talented ODB sure to draw less double teams after drafting Sterling Shepard, Peyton's brother may be in line for a fantastic statistical campaign.  Jags QB Blake Bortles was a pleasant surprise last year, finishing as a top 5 fantasy player in the position.  Many of his touchdowns came in garbage time, but with the Jaguars looking like a competitive all-around team, plus his weapons on offense (A-Rob, Hurns, and Julius Thomas), I think Bortles can perform like a weekly QB1 in 2016.  Also entering his third year in the NFL, Derek Carr outperformed expectations during his sophomore season for the Raiders.  His cannon arm and sure-handed group of wideouts led by Crabtree and Cooper make him a borderline top 10 QB in the fantasy world.

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Running Backs

Ranking Player Bye
1 Todd Gurley (LA) 8
2 Adrian Peterson (MIN) 6
3 Le'Veon Bell (PIT) 8
4 David Johnson (ARI) 9
5 Doug Martin (TB) 6
6 Lamar Miller (HOU) 9
7 Devonta Freeman (ATL) 11
8 Eddie Lacy (GB) 4
9 C.J. Anderson (DEN) 11
10 Carlos Hyde (SF) 8
11 Ezekiel Elliot (DAL) 7
12 Thomas Rawls (SEA) 5
13 Mark Ingram (NO) 5
14 Jamaal Charles (KC) 5
15 LeSean McCoy (BUF) 10
16 Jeremy Langford (CHI) 9
17 Matt Forte (NYJ) 11
18 Jay Ajayi (MIA) 8
19 Jeremy Hill (CIN) 9
20 Matt Jones (WAS) 9
21 Melvin Gordon (SD) 11
22 Latavius Murray (OAK) 10
23 Ryan Mathews (PHI) 4
24 Ameer Abdullah (DET) 10
25 Frank Gore (IND) 10
26 Jonathan Stewart (CAR) 7
27 DeMarco Murray (TEN) 13
28 T.J. Yeldon (JAC) 5
29 Giovani Bernard (CIN) 9
30 Dion Lewis (NE) 9
31 Rashad Jennings (NYG) 5
32 Justin Forsett (BAL) 13
33 Darren McFadden (DAL) 7
34 Chris Ivory (JAC) 5
35 Duke Johnson Jr. (CLE) 13
36 Derrick Henry (TEN) 13
37 Danny Woodhead (SD) 11
38 Karlos Williams (BUF) 10
39 Isaiah Crowell (CLE) 13
40 Tevin Coleman (ATL) 11

Top 10 Analysis: Another year removed from knee surgery, LA's sophomore sensation Todd Gurley is poised to handle a heavy load once again in 2016.  Even in a Rams offense that oozes mediocrity, Gurley is a young stud for the foreseeable future.  After taking a year off from football due to off-the-field issues, Adrian Peterson returned in 2015 with his best season since 2012 and a rushing title to prove it.  I think "Purple Jesus" will remain the centerpiece of Minnesota's offense, which will result in arguably the safest RB in fantasy history putting up typically dominant numbers.  The only thing holding back Le'Veon Bell, the NFL's most dynamic all-around runner, from the top RB slot in fake football is a serious knee injury that occurred in Week 9 last season.  He's already emphatically dunking basketballs and has scoffed at the idea of a less explosive version of himself returning to the field this season, so he could easily slide up to my #1 spot if his rehab continues without any setbacks.  Coming out of Northern Iowa, David Johnson carried little to no hype into the NFL, but the rookie proceeded to shred defenses in limited action during his 2015 campaign (1000+ yards from scimmage and 13 total TDs).  Now earning a "bell cow" role to go along with endless praise from Bruce Arians, Johnson's upside is soaring.  Bucs RB Doug Martin was targeted by multiple franchises in free agency, but decided to stay put in Tampa Bay on a 5-year deal.  After racking up 1400+ rushing yards in 2015, Martin will look to hit the ground running in a young offense that is on the rise.

As one of the most durable and efficient RBs in the league, Lamar Miller has been criminally underutilized in South Beach for years.  Bill O'Brien's backfield in Houston was a tremendous spot for the explosive ex-Hurricane to land, and I legitimately think he is a dark horse for the RB1 overall spot in fantasy football.  Seemingly headed for a committee with rookie running mate Tevin Coleman, Falcons jitterbug Devonta Freeman was viewed as a late round flier in drafts last summer.  To everyone's surprise, all Freeman did was go on to finish as the leading fantasy RB.  He was only average down the stretch, and Coleman remains in the picture, but this is clearly his job to lose entering 2016.  Another Packer disappointment from last year was Bama product Eddie Lacy.  But rest easy, as the man formerly known as "Fat Eddie" has shed a bunch of weight this offseason.  His role in a typically-potent Green Bay offense puts him firmly in my low-end RB1 discussion.  C.J. Anderson is back in Mile-High City after Elway's Broncos matched the Dolphins offer sheet to the restricted free agent a few months back.  Although he had an inconsistent 2015 season, the Broncos clearly view him as the starting RB.  Keep an eye on rookie Devontae Booker, but this is currently Anderson's backfield on a team that certainly doesn't envision Mark Sanchez leading them through the air.  Ex-Buckeye Carlos Hyde is said to be fully recovered from foot surgery and has dropped 10 pounds this offseason for his new high-paced offensive scheme.  San Fransisco's offense is a major question mark that lacks many viable receiving weapons or even a clear-cut starting QB, but Hyde is locked and loaded as Chip Kelly's workhorse, making him a borderline RB1 with intriguing upside.

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Wide Receivers

Ranking Player Bye
1 Antonio Brown (PIT) 8
2 Odell Beckham Jr. (NYG) 8
3 Julio Jones (ATL) 11
4 Dez Bryant (DAL) 7
5 DeAndre Hopkins (HOU) 9
6 A.J. Green (CIN) 9
7 Alshon Jeffery (CHI) 9
8 Allen Robinson (JAC) 5
9 Mike Evans (TB) 6
10 Keenan Allen (SD) 11
11 Sammy Watkins (BUF) 10
12 Brandon Marshall (NYJ) 11
13 Jordy Nelson (GB) 4
14 T.Y. Hilton (IND) 10
15 Amari Cooper (OAK) 10
16 Demaryius Thomas (DEN) 11
17 Brandin Cooks (NO) 5
18 John Brown (ARI) 9
19 Randall Cobb (GB) 4
20 Jeremy Maclin (KC) 5
21 Kelvin Benjamin (CAR) 7
22 Allen Hurns (JAC) 5
23 Julian Edelman (NE) 9
24 Jarvis Landry (MIA) 8
25 Doug Baldwin (SEA) 5
26 Corey Coleman (CLE) 13
27 Emmanuel Sanders (DEN) 11
28 Michael Floyd (ARI) 9
29 Eric Decker (NYJ) 11
30 Golden Tate (DET) 11
31 Larry Fitzgerald (ARI) 9
32 Jordan Matthews (PHI) 4
33 Donte Moncrief (IND) 10
34 Dorial Green-Beckham (TEN) 13
35 DeVante Parker (MIA) 8
36 Michael Crabtree (OAK) 10
37 DeSean Jackson (WAS) 9
38 Marvin Jones (DET) 11
39 Travis Benjamin (SD) 11
40 Laquon Treadwell (MIN) 6

Top 10 Analysis: NFL.com's Fantasy Player of the Year Award went to the unstoppable Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  The most dependable WR in the NFL over the past 3 seasons, AB will look to pick up where he left off after he accumulated 136 grabs for over 1800 receiving yards in 2015.  Perhaps the league's most electrifying playmaker on offense is superstar Odell Beckham Jr. He has every athletic attribute you could ask for in a team's top wideout, and he has the ability to single-handedly win you multiple fantasy football matchups.  Rounding out my first tier of fantasy WRs is Julio Jones, another impressive athletic specimen.  Fresh off the second-best receiving season in NFL history (136 grabs for 1871 yards), I'm having a hard time seeing a healthy Julio finish worse than a top 5 fantasy WR in 2016.  In an injury-riddled 2015 campaign of his own, Dez Bryant was also forced to deal with Tony Romo's extended absence.  As expected, that didn't exactly pan out the way Dez and his fantasy owners would have liked.  Regardless, he's got bounce-back potential written all over him.  DeAndre Hopkins was one of the steadiest players in the entire NFL last season, and now his offense has drastically improved all around him.  Even if Osweiler delivers a below-average introductory season for the Texans, "Nuk" has proven that he can still do great things with poor QB play.

Bengals wideout A.J. Green is quietly one of the most consistent studs in the league.  He has cleared 1000 yards in each of his 5 seasons as a pro, while snatching double digit touchdowns in 3 of the last 4 years.  Alshon Jeffery missed 7 games in 2015, but was a dominant pass-catcher with sticky hands while on the field, averaging 90 yards per contest.  If Alshon stays healthy and Kevin White can even partially live up to last year's hype on the other side of the field, we're looking at a fantasy WR with scary upside.  Down in Jacksonville, an elite wideout by the name of Allen Robinson emerged last season with a clean 80-1400-14 stat line.  With other mouths that need to be fed, "A-Rob" might not match his TD total, but the catches and yards should be there once again.  A gargantuan talent, Buccaneers WR Mike Evans struggled with drops (15 of them) last season while only catching 3 touchdowns.  If the 22-year old improves his catching by any amount this off-season, I look for his yardage (1206) as well as TD total to increase, making him a low-end WR1 with tantalizing upside.  Keenan Allen was on pace for a mouth-watering 134-1450-8 receiving line before lacerating his kidney mid-game during Week 8.  Philip Rivers peppering Allen with targets in his upcoming contract year seems like a pretty safe bet for 2016.

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Tight Ends

Ranking Player Bye
1 Rob Gronkowski (NE) 9
2 Jordan Reed (WAS) 9
3 Greg Olsen (CAR) 7
4 Travis Kelce (KC) 5
5 Tyler Eifert (CIN) 9
6 Gary Barnidge (CLE) 13
7 Ladarius Green (PIT) 8
8 Julius Thomas (JAC) 5
9 Zach Ertz (PHI) 4
10 Delanie Walker (TEN) 13
11 Coby Fleener (NO) 5
12 Austin Sefarian-Jenkins (TB) 6
13 Eric Ebron (DET) 10
14 Antonio Gates (SD) 11
15 Jason Witten (DAL) 7
16 Martellus Bennett (NE) 9
17 Jimmy Graham (SEA) 5
18 Dwayne Allen (IND) 10
19 Jared Cook (GB) 4
20 Clive Walford (OAK) 10

Top 10 Analysis: The NFL's premier party animal, Rob Gronkowski, has only missed 1 game in each of the last two seasons.  Averaging 1150 yards and 11.5 touchdowns during that 2-year span, Madden's new cover boy is in a league of his own when it comes to the Tight End position.  While health hasn't always been on his side, Redskins TE Jordan Reed is one of the best athletes at the position.  If - and its a big if - Reed can stay on the field for the entire season, I believe he will almost surely finish as a top 3 TE option in fantasy.  Greg Olsen is coming off back-to-back 1000-yard seasons with Cam Newton at the helm.  He is one of the few fantasy players at his position who you can simply put in your lineup and not worry about all season, except for the bye week, of course...  Chiefs TE Travis Kelce essentially matched his rookie stats last year after being hyped during the off-season.  He's a physical presence that can dominate in both blocking and pass-catching, but fantasy owners would like to see him get more red zone looks and take the next step this season.  Tyler Eifert made up for his mediocre 615 receiving yards last season by snagging 13 TDs, serving as a red zone maven.  The touchdowns will be hard to improve upon, but with Sanu and Jones departing Cincy via free agency, Eifert's yardage should rise in 2016.

Not many Tight Ends break out in their age-30 season, but that's exactly what Gary Barnidge did.  After never eclipsing 250 receiving yards or 2 TDs in his first 6 seasons, Barnidge racked up over 1000 yards to go along with 9 TDs.  He should be a focal point in a Cleveland offense that is talent-deprived, making him a safe TE1.  Finally stepping out of Antonio Gates' footsteps, Ladarius Green finds himself in a magnificent position for production.  The Steelers' lethal passing attack supplied over 500 yards to an aging Heath Miller last season, so I look for the athletic ex-Charger to step in right away and be a low-end TE1 with upside for more.  Julius Thomas disappointed in his first year as a Jaguar, but in a position with such little depth, he's on the TE1 borderline for 2016.  There are a lot of mouths to feed in Jacksonville, but he is a big-bodied red zone threat with an ascending QB.  Zach Ertz of the Eagles got paid like a stud TE earlier this off-season, and he'll be looking to put together a breakout campaign in 2016.  He averaged 112.5 yards per game over the last month of 2015, so owners can only hope he picks up where he left off.  Shockingly, Delanie Walker finished last season as a top 5 Tight End, but things won't be so easy this season.  He'll still be a safety blanket for Mariota, but there should be a lot of pass-catchers battling for targets in Tennessee.

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I'll be publishing updated positional rankings on a monthly basis, so be sure to check back often.  I'm also writing divisional outlooks for the 2016 fantasy season, which you can find below.  As always, answer the poll & drop any comments or questions below.

Thanks for reading!

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  • 2016 Fantasy Football Outlooks: NFC East Edition
  • 2016 Fantasy Football Outlooks: NFC West Edition
  • 2016 Fantasy Football Outlooks: NFC South Edition
  • 2016 Fantasy Football Outlooks: NFC North Edition
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