Fantasy football season has been over for almost a month now in most leagues, and many fantasy owners are left looking back on their season with pride, while others are left wondering where they went wrong. Every fantasy football season there are steals and busts that can make or break a team, and 2016 was no different. Fourth & Goal has broken down the biggest fantasy football steals of the 2016 season based on players’ average draft selection and their total fantasy points with regard to position.
10. Chicago Bears RB Jordan Howard: Total Points 189, Avg. Round 15
Chicago’s rookie running back out of Indiana was one of the biggest fantasy steals of the 2016 season. Howard finished with the ninth most fantasy points of all running backs in standard leagues and was on average a 15th-round pick. The Bears 6-foot, 222-pound running back leapfrogged Jeremy Langford as the team’s top running back, and just edged out Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi for the 10th spot on this list with 1,313 rushing yards, 298 receiving yards, and seven total touchdowns.
9. Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton: Total Points 176, Avg. Round 5
The Colts star wide receiver finished the 2016 season with the league’s fifth most fantasy points for any wide receiver, finishing above 16 wide receivers that were selected in front of him, including Falcons’ Julio Jones, Bengals’ A.J. Green, and Cowboys’ Dez Bryant. Hilton was on average a fifth-round pick in fantasy drafts this season, and was clearly one of the biggest steals of 2016 with career-highs in receptions (91) and receiving yards (1,448).
8. New Orleans Saints WR Michael Thomas: Total Points 157, Avg. Round 16
Saints head coach Sean Payton told fantasy football enthusiasts before the season that Thomas was worth selecting in fantasy drafts, and he sure was right. The Saints second-round pick out of Ohio State led the team in receptions (92) and receiving touchdowns (9), and finished only behind Brandin Cooks in receiving yards with 1,137 yards. Thomas finished ninth overall in fantasy points in standard leagues, and was one of the biggest steals of 2016, as he was a 16th-round selection in fantasy drafts on average.
7. Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott: Total Points 271, Avg. Round 15
While many saw Ezekiel Elliott’s explosive rookie year coming before the 2016 season began, most didn’t expect Prescott to finish with the sixth most fantasy points of any quarterback. The Cowboys fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State was on average a 15th-round selection in fantasy drafts, and quickly developed into a week-in and week-out starter for owners this season. Prescott completed 67.8 percent of his passes for 3,667 yards with 23 touchdowns to just four interceptions, and was a dual threat under center with 282 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the ground.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans: Total Points 200, Avg. Round 3
Many were expecting a big year from Evans in his third season with the Buccaneers, but few thought he would finish with the most fantasy points of any wide receiver. Evans finished the 2016 season tied with Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson for the most fantasy points of any wide receiver in standard leagues, but was selected a full round later than Green Bay’s dynamic receiver. Ten wide receivers were selected ahead of Evans on average, as he was an average third-round selection. Tampa Bay’s 6-foot-5, 231-pound wide receiver clearly deserved a spot on this list with 96 catches, 1,321 receiving yards, and 12 touchdowns.
5. Washington Redskins QB Kirk Cousins: Total Points 290, Avg. Round 14
Cousins proved himself a steal again in 2016, finishing with the sixth most fantasy points of any player this season. Only Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, David Johnson, and Andrew Luck finished with more fantasy points in standard leagues, but none were selected as low as Washington’s quarterback. Cousins was on average a 14th-round pick in fantasy drafts, and finished the 2016 season with the league’s third most passing yards (4,917). While Cousins isn’t a conventional dual threat quarterback, he added more fantasy value in 2016 with four rushing touchdowns on top of his 25 passing touchdowns.
4. Green Bay Packers WR Davante Adams: Total Points 166, Avg Round 16
Adams was one of the biggest breakout stars of 2016 both for fantasy owners and for the Packers. Green Bay’s third-year receiver finished seventh in fantasy points for wide receivers in standard leagues, and set career highs across the board with 75 receptions, 997 receiving yards, and 12 touchdowns. Adams went undrafted in many leagues and was on average a 16th-round selection for fantasy drafts with the intention of him being a bench player in most leagues. Adams was surely one of the biggest fantasy steals of 2016, and was arguably the biggest fantasy steal at the wide receiver position this season.
3. Tennessee Titans RB DeMarco Murray: Total Points 229, Avg. Round 7
It’s understandable why many fantasy football owners had concerns selecting Murray after a poor season with the Eagles, but from the outset Murray looked set for success in a new system in Tennessee. The Titans 6-foot-1, 220-pound running back was an average seventh-round selection in fantasy drafts with 20 running backs selected ahead of him. Murray finished with the fifth most fantasy points of any running back in standard leagues this season, and posted the third most rushing yards (1,287) in the NFL. The Titans dual threat running back also amassed 53 receptions for 377 yards and scored a combined 12 touchdowns on the year. Murray was clearly one of the biggest fantasy steals of the 2016 season, as only one running back comes in ahead of him on this list.
2. New England Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount: Total Points 218, Avg. Round 13
New England’s bulldozer running back recorded his first 1,000-yard plus rushing season since his rookie year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Blount was on average a 13th-round selection in fantasy drafts this season, but that didn’t stop him from scoring the most rushing touchdowns (18) of any player in the NFL. New England’s 6-foot, 250-pound running back finished with the sixth most fantasy points of running backs, one spot behind Murray, but was surely one of the biggest fantasy steals in 2016, as 40 running backs were selected higher than him on average in fantasy drafts.
1. Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan: Total Points 334, Avg. Round 15
Surprise-surprise Matt Ryan comes in at No. 1. It’s no shock that Atlanta’s franchise quarterback takes the top spot on this list, as he finished with the second most fantasy points of any player in 2016 only behind Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. While Green Bay’s franchise quarterback was on average the top quarterback selected in fantasy drafts this season, Ryan was a 15th-round selection on average with quarterbacks like Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, Tyrod Taylor, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger all selected before him. Ryan surely helped multiple fantasy owners reach a fantasy championship this season with 4,944 passing yards and 38 touchdowns. Atlanta’s franchise quarterback may have sealed the league’s MVP award with his play on his field this season, but at least from this perspective he’s already locked up the award for biggest fantasy steal of 2016.