When one hears the term “fantasy,” I’d argue that most sports enthusiasts automatically link the term to “football.” Football is arguably the most popular sport in the world; the Super Bowl is such an extravaganza and an avenue for advertisers to pony up millions of dollars to make their products known throughout the world. The National Football League (NFL) generated $7.3 Billion in revenue in 2014 and is expected to exceed $13 Billion for the upcoming 2016 season. What comes in conjunction with the NFL’s success shouldn’t surprise you: Fantasy Football has also grown into a billion dollar business.
In the United States alone, 74.7 million Americans participated in fantasy football in 2015, spending $4.6 billion. Since the NFL is played in America (with the exception of a few games in London every season), it should come as no surprise that the most profits from the industry are generated from the U.S. Most people who play fantasy do it for various reasons: some like getting an old group of friends together once a year to draft a team in person while others like spending money to assemble a team of their favorite players across the league in order to win their league and the pot.
Daily fantasy has become very popular and controversial recently. It provides owners a chance to start over every week; each week one can assemble a team of whichever players they want under a set salary cap. The below list of players may be ones profiting their fantasy teams more so than their actual ones.
15 Brandon Marshall - Wide Receiver, New York Jets
Marshall is somewhat of a diva, which is not uncommon for most wide receivers in the NFL today. While he does have the talent to back it up, his attitude has gotten him into hot water. Even though he led the NFL in touchdown catches last season with 14, he seems to wear out his welcome in each city. He's been traded three times in five years.
His fantasy stock is high since he had low expectations going into the 2015 season and dominated, finishing as the # 3 wide receiver overall. Unfortunately, his fantasy success couldn't carry over to his actual team as the Jets missed the playoffs thanks to a loss to the Bills in week 17.
14 Jeremy Langford - Running Back, Chicago Bears
As a rookie in 2015, Langford had a pretty good season. He was drafted in the fourth round to back up starter Matt Forte, but he was pressed into duty when Forte went down with a knee injury. As a capable receiving back, Langford showed off his great hands with 10 catches for 179 yards and one touchdown as a starter in weeks 8-9. He boosted his fantasy owners' teams with 7 total touchdowns. The former Spartan appears to be a better fantasy running back as he's reliant on scoring for his fantasy owners. He averaged a putrid 3.63 yards per carry for the Bears. Thus, Chicago is hesitant to thrust him into the starting role.
13 Eric Decker - Wide Receiver, New York Jets
Another Jets Wide Receiver? I know he and Marshall both had excellent seasons last year with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing them the ball, but Decker has a case of the drops. In his defense, he has scored 11 touchdowns or more in three of the past four seasons. However, in three of four of those seasons he's dropped at least 8 passes. Decker also has a penchant of disappearing from games due to slight injuries.
Understandably so, fantasy owners had much trepidation when it came to the New York Jets Offense in 2015. Decker was drafted as the 38th Wide Receiver and finished 9th among all receivers.
12 Frank Gore - Running Back, Indianapolis Colts
Is it possible Gore is finally showing his age (33)? The Colts' lead back is considered old in Running Back Years, but he's still churning. He boosted his fantasy teams as a stable RB2. generating 1,234 yards from scrimmage and scoring 7 touchdowns in his first season as the Colts running back. He did have trouble leading the Colts to the playoffs without star QB Andrew Luck. Indianapolis finished 8-8 despite Gore's best effort to carry the team to the promised land. The former Miami Hurricane Star finished in the bottom-10 of the NFL in rushing yards per carry with 3.7. Perhaps the defenses stacked the box without Luck throwing the ball for most of the season; regardless, Gore was more valuable to his fantasy owners.
11 Kelvin Benjamin - Wide Receiver, Carolina Panthers
Whether he was ready or not, the former Florida State Seminole was thrust into a starting role as a rookie in 2014. It's safe to say that aside from Benjamin, the wide receivers surrounding Cam Newton are, umm, not very good. KB earned Newton's trust right away as the team's #1 wideout, but he tied for the league lead in drops with ten. To make matters worse, he only caught 50.3% of his targets. It may or may not be coincidental, but the Panthers made the Super Bowl in 2015 while Benjamin was out for the season with a torn ACL.
Statistically speaking, he had an impressive 2014 rookie season in the fantasy world. As the 37th wide receiver drafted on average, KB exceeded 1000 yards and scored 9 touchdowns.
10 Matthew Stafford - Quarterback, Detroit Lions
Stafford came into the NFL in 2009 as the number one pick overall with a ton of hype surrounding him. Great quarterbacks are true difference-makers and can make or break NFL Teams. Stafford has had his moments by leading the Lions to the playoffs twice, but he's 42-53 as a starter in his career. Not surprisingly, Detroit lost both of their playoff games under Stafford.
The former Georgia Bulldog carried fantasy teams in 2011 throwing 41 touchdowns and over 5,000 yards. While he hasn't replicated that monster fantasy season, Stafford threw for 32 touchdowns last year against only 13 interceptions. He had worse luck carrying the Lions, however, as they finished below .500.
9 Tyler Eifert - Tight End, Cincinnati Bengals
The former Notre Dame standout dominated the college ranks earning a spot on the First-team All-American Team along with the John Mackey award as the nation's most outstanding Tight End. Not surprisingly, he was drafted in the first round of the subsequent draft by the Bengals. Eifert had a decent rookie year, but the story of this young career so far has been his inability to shake the injury bug. Eifert dislocated his elbow in the first game of 2014 and missed the entire season. In 2015, Eifert shook multiple injuries off to lead all Tight Ends with 13 touchdowns. The 2016 season hasn't started yet, and Eifert is already undergoing ankle surgery. At least his fantasy owners have time to fill in for him while he's hurt.
8 Chris Ivory - Running Back, Jacksonville Jaguars
Chris Ivory possesses all the talent in the world. The former Tiffin standout bounces off of opponents like a bowling ball and barrels through defenders like a mack truck. Ivory has a difficult time staying on the field due to his lengthy injury history since college: concussions, torn meniscus, hamstring tears, sprained MCL, sprained/bruised shoulder, lisfranc fracture, pulled/tight hamstrings and fractured ribs.
When he's on the field, Ivory is one of the best running backs in the league. In his first full season for the Jets in 2015 as starter, Ivory went off for almost 1300 yards and 8 touchdowns, propelling Ivory into the top-10 running backs in fantasy.
7 Dez Bryant - Wide Receiver, Dallas Cowboys
I almost put Cam Newton here, but I had a tough time arguing the 2015 NFL MVP as an overrated athlete in reality. Instead we have a different controversial pick. Dez had quite the buzz coming out of Oklahoma State as a polarizing wide receiver. His reputation preceded his immense talent, causing Dez to fall to pick # 24 in the 2010 Draft. Thankfully he's kept his head on straight in Dallas since then and dominates when healthy, even leading the NFL in touchdown catches in 2016 with 16.
The main bugaboo separating his NFL success and fantasy football is his health. There's no argument he is a stud in fantasy football, but he has quite the lengthy injury history: fractured ankle in 2010, broken finger in 2012, fractured and re-fractured foot in 2015. The foot issues are extremely problematic since all wide receivers utilize their feet for jumping, running and cutting.
6 Jay Cutler - Quarterback, Chicago Bears
The gun-slinging Cutler has so much potential. He has tendencies to have those sort of 300-yard, 4 touchdown-pass games only to follow it up with a 125-yard, 4-interception stinker. Cutler has helped his fantasy owners in his career with 204 touchdown passes, but he's hurt the Bears by leading the league in interceptions twice. He's only been to the playoffs once in his ten season career and currently sports a 67-67 record as a starter. In fantasy football, Cutler is good for a top-15 QB finish yearly with a few week-winning performances sprinkled in.
5 Jeremy Hill - Running Back, Cincinnati Bengals
The rumbling back from LSU split time in his rookie season in 2014 with Gio Bernard and dominated both the NFL and Fantasy alike with 1,124 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns while starting only 8 games. Unfortunately he hit a sophomore slump in 2015 on the field where Hill didn't come close to replicating his 5.1 yards per attempt in 2014; rather, he averaged a paltry 3.56 yards per carry (third-worst in the NFL).
Fantasy owners didn't mind his fall back to Earth; Hill led the NFL in rushing touchdowns and threw in one receiving touchdown to boot. He finished as the 14th overall running back in fantasy, but his 49.6 rushing yards per game did the Bengals no favors.
4 Ted Ginn Jr - Wide Receiver, Carolina Panthers
As a result of the aforementioned Kelvin Benjamin's injury, Ted Ginn Jr. became the Panthers' number one wide receiver by default. The return specialist is not known for his hands. Ginn Jr. tied for second in the league in drops in 2015 with 10. To make matters worse, he only caught 45.8% of his targets. His 10.4% drop percentage was the absolute worst among all full-time wide receivers in the league. Completely unacceptable.
Shrewd fantasy owners picked Ginn up off of waivers and started him as a WR3 or Flex player even though he was very touchdown-dependent (10 TD's scored) on an offensive juggernaut.
3 Blake Bortles - Quarterback, Jacksonville Jaguars
Talk about a breakout season. Where did that come from? The sophomore QB from Central Florida blew up in 2015 for 35 touchdown passes and 4428 passing yards, good for second and seventh in the NFL, respectively. Bortles shattered all of his rookie statistics...including interceptions. That makes me a sad panda.
The Jaguars finished 5-11 and constantly were playing from behind. Bortles threw the ball an astonishing 606 times, 18 times to his opponents. Fantasy owners could care less as the former top-5 pick padded his stats game in and game out en route to a top-4 fantasy finish.
2 Tony Romo - Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
Deservedly or not, Tony Romo has developed a reputation as a choke artist of sorts. His teams have never been able to advance to the NFC Championship. While it's not entirely warranted, time is running out for Romo. The 35-year old's window seems to be closing shortly; he has only played a full season twice since 2010. Romo is a very good real-life quarterback. He's just much better suited to fantasy football. When on the field, he's up there with the best of them. Romo has become an injury-risk for the Cowboys, and his fantasy owners can draft a decent backup to assume the Dallas Quarterback's starting spot once the inevitable injury hits.
1 Mike Evans - Wide Receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This pains me since Evans is so damn good at times; he's shown so many flashes of brilliance in his young career. He was a touchdown machine at Texas A&M boxing out defenders and catching everything in sight. Evans asserted his dominance in his rookie season in 2014 with 12 touchdowns and even throwing in a 200-yard receiving game. He hit a sophomore wall in 2015, leading the league in drops with 11 and catching only 74 receptions on 148 targets (!). While his fantasy owners could have used more touchdowns, Evans fared pretty well with 1,206 receiving yards. If he rectifies his drop issue in season 3, then the 6'5" behemoth will be the top receiver in the league, both fantasy and reality.