2016 Fantasy Football: Top 10 Safest Players

by Alex Hamrick
Week 2 Fantasy Football Players to Drop

Those of you that have read my Top-10 riskiest players article know my stance on playing it safe versus taking risks. In summary, I believe that it is a good strategy to have a balance between taking risks and playing it safe.

However, when faced with a difficult decision and uncertainty, it is smarter to go the safer route. Some decisions you will come across on draft day cause a dilemma between choosing safe reliability or risky upside. It’s like choosing whether to sit on the couch all Sunday and watch the games or to go on a date with Hope Solo instead.

Having a safe, reliable, and consistent player on your fantasy team that you can count on week in and week out is key to fantasy success. Knowing how to identify these players once the first three rounds are finished can be challenging and can cause draft day stress if you aren’t prepared. Luckily you are reading this article. Here I will list the top 10 safest picks you can find after the third round, ensuring that you will be prepared to anchor your team with strong consistent players before going all Evel Knievel on sleepers and high-risk players.

Top 10 Safest Players

1. Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers (ADP 31)

Top 10 Safest Players

Photo Credit: Eric Neltzel

People that play Fantasy Football tend to have a shorter attention span than Dory (am I targeting the wrong audience with that one?). But seriously, people seem to only remember what happened at the end of a particular football season.

So, it is not surprising that Keenan Allen is being drafted so late this year, being that he missed the entire second half of the 2015 season with a lacerated kidney. If you look at what Allen did before the injury, you would see the consistency he provides. In the games Allen played last year he averaged 11.9 standard fantasy points, putting him at WR7.

But, real quick, lets ignore his Week 2 performance where he got -0.40 points in what was an all around terrible offensive showing by the Chargers. Without that game he averaged 13.5 fantasy points, making him the fifth best wide receiver.

Target heavy

Allen had an enormous 12 targets per game, which puts him in company with DeAndre Hopkins. Allen averaged 101.3 YPG (yards per game), 8.5 receptions per game, and had four touchdowns in those eight games. With those numbers you are looking at a player with a floor of 10 standard fantasy points. That is the definition of reliability.

Not to mention that these numbers over a full season transcend into 1450 yards, 176 targets, and 136 receptions (tied with Antonio Brown and Julio Jones for most receptions). That not only makes him a consistent fantasy asset but one with elite potential. Allen commanded a very high target share for the Chargers at 25.6% and an even more impressive 34% for wide receivers and tight ends on the Chargers in 2015. Allen has all the factors that make for a safe fantasy pick. Feel confident in drafting and relying on Keenan Allen.

2. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos (ADP 32)

Since 2012 Thomas has not finished worse than WR13, which was last year. In that four-year span he has also finished as the WR2 twice, and the WR5 once. He has averaged, over those four years, 12.78 standard fantasy points. He has accomplished this even with an outlier year in 2015 where he had very inefficient quarterback play from Peyton Manning’s corpse and Brock Osweiler.

With that terrible quarterback situation last year Thomas was still able to put up 10.2 fantasy points, showing that he can be a fantasy asset regardless of who is throwing him the ball. And let’s be honest, as bad as Mark Sanchez is, he could be better than what the Broncos had at quarterback last year. Thomas is an immense talent and garners a very large amount of targets, fourth most in 2015, which allows him the opportunity to put up consistent numbers each week.

With where Thomas is being drafted this year, look to capitalize on him as your WR2 and be content with a very safe wide receiver to count on each week.

3. Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers (ADP 39)

Top 10 Safest Players

Credit: Elvis Kennedy

I know, you all are probably wondering, "what the heck?" Why Randall Cobb after a disappointing 2015 season? Well, first of all, the Packers offense as a whole was disappointing last season. Now back to full health, odds are the Packers resume their offensive form.

It was only TWO seasons ago that Cobb finished as the fifth best wide receiver. He was top 10 in receptions, 11th in yards, and top five in touchdowns, averaging 12.6 standard fantasy points. Even in the season before that (2013), in the games Cobb played, he averaged over 12.5 fantasy points.

That is reliable fantasy output. With Jordy Nelson being back, freeing up the middle of the field for Cobb to operate and be at his best, Eddie Lacy poised to have a major impact on the running game, therefore loosening up defenses, and let’s not forget, arguably the league’s best quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, throwing the ball, Cobb makes for one of the safest picks you can make at the wide receiver position.

With a price right around the fifth round, feel comfortable in selecting Cobb as an every week starter in one of your wide receiver slots.

4. Latavius Murray, RB, Oakland Raiders (ADP 41)

Okay, by no means is Murray a “cool” or “flashy” pick. As a matter of fact, picking Murray is about as “cool” as listening to Nickelback while driving around in your Prius with the windows rolled down. However, “flashy” he may not be, Murray is actually one of the more reliable running backs. In 2015 Murray finished in the top 10 at the running back position for total fantasy points, top six for rushing yards, and top three for rush attempts.

He averaged just over 10 standard fantasy points and over 80 total yards per game, making for a very safe floor. Even more intriguing about Murray is not only his safe attribute, but also his potential upside. Opportunity is what makes a safe and reliable player, and as seen from his amount of carries, Murray has plenty of it. In fact, Murray accounted for 80% of Oakland’s backfield rushing attempts, more than any other player for their respective team.

This shows that Oakland relies heavily on one person, Murray, to carry the load out of the backfield. With this dependency, workload, and an improving offense, Murray should see an uptick in yards, touchdowns, and efficiency, making for one of this year’s safest picks at a discounted value in the fifth round or later.

5. Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers (ADP 44)

Top 10 Safest Players

Credit: Parker Anderson

Since 2012 Olsen has finished in the top 10 at the tight end position in fantasy points and total receiving yards. Here are his standings over those years- (2012, TE6) (2013, TE8) (2014, TE4) (2015, TE4). In the last two years he has finished second in receiving yards for tight ends, only behind Gronkowski.

This ability to rack up yards, not just touchdowns, as Cam Newton’s preferred target is what makes Olsen such a safe pick at a very shallow tight end position. Olsen is one of the few tight ends that if he doesn't score a touchdown, he can still put up respectable numbers.

Olsen led the Panthers in targets in 2015 with a 25% target share, which is an unbelievable accomplishment for a tight end. Olsen is one of the safest picks you can make at the tight end position. Feel confident in selecting him.

6. Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins (ADP 48)

Last year Landry was 6th in targets out of all wide receivers, 4th in receptions, and 12th in receiving yards. He averaged over 10 standard fantasy points, 72 YPG, and had 28.7% of the target share for the Dolphins. That is by all means a safe floor, especially for someone being drafted near the sixth round.

Adam Gase is now the Head Coach in South Beach. Since becoming an offensive coordinator in 2013, Gase has produced a top 10 receiver in two of those years (Demaryius Thomas, WR2, 2013) (Demaryius Thomas, WR2, 2014) and what would have been another top 10 receiver in Alshon Jeffery (2015) if he had played in all 16 games. There is no doubt that Landry will get an abundance of targets and yards, but what prevents Landry from being Elite is his touchdown totals. Only four in 2015.

Primary wide receivers in Gase’s offenses have had 11 or more touchdowns in every season but one, with Jeffrey being the one exception in 2015 with only nine games played. Landry is not just a safe pick, but look for more upside from the star receiver in Miami as his touchdown totals drastically increase this season.

7. Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions (ADP 51)

Golden Tate is a great value in this year’s draft. He is the number one receiving option for a Detroit team that has been in the top five in pass attempts two of the last three years. Tate was top five in receptions in 2014 and top 10 in 2015. Now with Calvin Johnson gone, Tate is poised for an even bigger role as the lead receiver in the Motor City.

In fact, in the three games without Calvin Johnson in 2014 Tate had 41 targets, a 34.8% target share, 349 yards, and two touchdowns. This equates to a whopping 13.6 targets per game, 116.3 yards per game, and 15.6 standard fantasy points. These are not only the numbers of a consistent and reliable receiver but of a top 10 fantasy option. Now thrust into the lead role for a high volume passing team, look for Tate to put up very good and consistent numbers.

8. Eric Decker, WR, New York Jets (ADP 52)

Three of the last four seasons, Decker has finished as a top 10 fantasy wide receiver in standard scoring leagues. Part of his ADP value is attributed to predicted touchdown regression, the uncertainty of the quarterback situation, and being a second option in the passing game. Well, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets inked out a contract, yet Decker’s ADP seems to have remained unaffected.

I mean this is the same quarterback that helped Decker finish in the top 10 just a year ago. Secondly, Decker has always been the second option, whether it was when he was behind Demaryius Thomas in Denver or now behind Brandon Marshall with the Jets, Decker seems to thrive when the focus is on someone else and he can capitalize on open space. In fact, before Marshall was with the Jets in 2014, this was the one of those four seasons, mentioned above, that Decker finished outside the top 10 at WR28…and he was the primary wide receiver in the offense.

Last season, Decker scored less than 10 standard fantasy points on only four occasions. Of those occasions he scored more than eight points. Easily making him an every week starter. Going as late as the sixth round, finding such a reliable asset is as rare as finding a Charizard while you are out playing Pokémon Go. Capitalize on Decker’s value in your draft.

9. Frank Gore, RB, Indianapolis Colts (ADP 75)

Top 10 Safest Players

Credit: Angie Six

Since his rookie season, one thousand years ago, Gore hasn’t finished outside the top-20 at the running back position. In his 11 seasons, Gore has rushed for over 1,000 yards all but three times; his rookie season, 2010 when he missed four games, and last season in which he fell short by 33 yards.

Gore continues to produce year in and year out. What held him back last year was the predetermined “pitch count” Head coach Chuck Pagano enforced upon Frank Gore. Though Gore might not see his heaviest of workloads this season, Offensive Coordinator, Rob Chudzinski, has said that there will be no “pitch count” for Gore this year and that his workload will be based on “feel” and game flow each week.

Gore should be afforded a heavier workload with seemingly limited competition in the backfield. Finally, Gore is a player that stays on the field. I mean he hasn’t missed a game since Dinosaurs walked the earth. Going later than the eighth round, Gore is one of the better/safer picks you can make at the running back position.

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10. Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals (ADP 80)

Bernard has one of the safest floors you can find in the later rounds. In 2015 Bernard averaged 45.6 rushing yards per game and 30 receiving yards per game for a fantasy floor of 7.56 standard fantasy points.

His ability to run the ball as well as catch the ball makes him an excellent playmaker and fantasy option. Bernard is also only one Jeremy Hill Injury (which seems like a possibility after Hill injured his hand in their preseason opener) or benching away from becoming an every week RB1. With a safe floor and the potential for upside, Bernard is one of the most reliable and consistent players available.

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