We all know the drudgery of the NFL offseason when there isn’t too much in the news and we’re all getting that itch for football to start up again so we can prove to our leagues that last year was, or was not, a fluke. Well, training camp is only a few days away with the Saints kicking off the season on July 20, 2016. This is typically when some writers put out bold predictions, but don’t you hate reading “bold” predictions and thinking, that’s not really a bold prediction? Like when someone says the best wide receiver from last year will break records that he narrowly missed last season. Or when a receiver won’t finish as the top fantasy wideout on his team during his age-33 NFL season? Or when 7 running backs drafted in the first two rounds of 12-team mock drafts won’t finish in the top 20 at their position even though that’s almost exactly what happened last year?
Those predictions don’t get us excited, so we’ve put together a few real bold predictions that you can get excited about. Next to each football player’s name and current team, we have included their Average Draft Position (ADP). The ADP listed in the article were based on 371 mock drafts that took place over the last day from FantasyPros free mock draft simulator.
1. RBs Adrian Peterson, Eddie Lacy, CJ Anderson, ADP is RB3, RB10, RB14 respectively
CJ Anderson and Eddie Lacy will finish as top 10 running backs in 2016 while Adrian Peterson will not. As the bell cow running back in 2014 (week 12 to the divisional playoff), CJ Anderson averaged 22.5 rushing attempts for 104 rushing yards per game. In addition, CJA had over 350 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns on the year. Last season, CJA started off slow and averaged 5.5 yards per carry from the bye week on (12 games) with an average of 4.7ypc for the whole season. The Broncos resigned Hillman, but he averaged a mere 3.4ypc after the bye week and only 1.6ypc over the last three playoff games. With future Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning now retired, the free agent acquisitions of LT Russell Okung and RT Donald Stephenson, and the 2016 draft selection of FB Andy Janovich out of Nebraska, Coach Gary Kubiak will continue to run the ball in Denver.
Eddie Lacy averaged 1,500 total yards per season before last year. He finished 2013 and 2014 as RB #6 before ballooning to Cheeseburger Eddie and finishing 2015 as RB #25. With the assistance of P90x, Lacy has easily dropped 20 pounds and can now slide back up 20 spots to finish as a top ten running back in 2016. Adrian Peterson has passed his age-30 season, exceeded the 2,500 career touch threshold, and is coming off another 350+ touch season – all negative signs for an NFL running back. Don’t be surprised if he doesn’t finish 2016 as a top ten running back.
2. QB Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons, ADP is QB22 @ 201 overall
Julio Jones, not Antonio Brown, will break two major wide receiver records with 11+ touchdowns for the first time in his career: Most yards in a season (1,964) and most receptions in a season (143), thus making Matt Ryan a top 10 fantasy quarterback. Jones had 1,871 receiving yards and 136 receptions last year with Matt Ryan throwing for the third highest number of completions (407) among quarterbacks. The Falcons have added Mohamed Sanu to the receiving depth chart, but we all know Mohamed Sanu isn’t the next Megatron as he has only reached 500 yards or 5 touchdowns in one season with the Bengals. 2016 will be Julio Jones’ best fantasy season yet.
3. RB Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns, ADP is RB39 @ 100 overall
Isaiah Crowell plows past 1,200 total yards in 2016 after finishing 2015 with only 888 total yards. With his current ADP at RB39, Crowell is the last NFL starting running back off the board. RB39 in standard scoring leagues last season was Alfred Blue who only scored 96 fantasy points for the season. If Crowell can reach 1,200 total yards and 8 touchdowns, the amount of TDs he had in 2014, that would give him 168 fantasy points; placing him at running back #10 in 2015. With the Brown’s new head coach Hue Jackson, this could be a real possibility. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer has also recently suggested that Crowell will have a large role in the running game this year. If the Crow is affected by his recent social media post, look into NY Giants running back Rashad Jennings. Jennings has a current ADP of RB36 and averaged 19.75 carries for 108 rushing yards, 22.25 receiving yards, and 0.5 touchdowns per game over his final four games of 2015 to finish as a top 20 running back in standard scoring leagues.
4. Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants
The former 10-6 Seahawks wont make the playoffs in 2016, while the former 6-10 Giants will make the 2016 NFL playoffs. For the Seahawks, speechless Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch hung up his cleats with an iconic tweet. Replacement RB Thomas Rawls was phenomenal last season, but is currently injured and may not be ready to start next season. Now, combine all of that with the uncertainty of Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett’s future production. Baldwin had 1,069 yards and 14 touchdowns, which was 200 more yards and 9 more touchdowns than ever before. Lockett scored a touchdown at a higher rate (11.7%) per reception than the average of the top five receivers last year (10.6%). I’ll let you decide whether last season was a fluke.
This season, the Giants should get back a healthy former top five fantasy wide receiver Victor Cruz, new second-round rookie WR Sterling Shepard, and lets just say a middle-of-the-road backfield from Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, and rookie RB Paul Perkins out of UCLA to contribute to the remarkable Odell Beckham Jr. It’s unlikely for the Redskins to win the NFC East in back-to-back seasons, so let’s just say there’s a chance that Eli Manning could make his third Super Bowl appearance.
5. WR Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ADP is WR11 @ 22 overall
Mike Evans will finish as a top 7 wide receiver. Evans finished his rookie season in 2014 with 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns. With the change to rookie QB Jameis Winston in 2015, Evans pushed the envelope to 1,208 receiving yards, but dropped to only 3 touchdowns. With some loosey goosey math, you can combine his 2014 touchdowns with the 2015 yards and he would have finished as the #7 WR behind DeAndre Hopkins in 2015.
6. RB Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs, ADP is RB6 @ 13 overall
From 2011-2015, Jamaal Charles averaged 15.8ppg in standard scoring leagues. This season, Charles will plummet from his pedestal even further than fantasy irrelevant Jimmy Graham of last year by finishing the season outside the top 20 at running back. In Charles’ absence last year, RB Spencer Ware averaged 5.6 yards per carry on 72 rushing attempts and Charcandrick West averaged 4.0 yards per carry on 160 rushing attempts. With the potential that Charles is not fully recovered from his second torn ACL by September, the Chiefs backfield is even more likely to become a running back by committee in 2016.
7. QB Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions, ADP is QB19 @ 167 overall
Matthew Stafford will finish as a top 10 fantasy quarterback. Last year, Coach Jim Bob Cooter took over the team in week 8 and the Lions had a bye in week 9. Then from week 10 on, Stafford had 19.8+ fantasy points per game, 20 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. Calvin Johnson is now retired (1,214 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2015), but Golden Tate managed to reach 1,300 receiving yards in 2014 while Megatron was injured. The Lions have also added Marvin Jones who has averaged over 750 receiving yards and 7 TDs over the last two seasons with the Bengals to help Stafford get back to throwing 5,000 yards in a season.
8. TE Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers, ADP is TE13 @ 123 overall
Antonio Gates has finished as a top 10 tight end in 10 seasons for standard scoring and ppr scoring leagues measured by season point total or points per game. Gates has accounted for 20% of Rivers' career passing yards and 28% of Rivers' career passing touchdowns. Despite being the oldest TE in the league at 36, Gates will finish as a top 10 tight end again in 2016, especially with TE Ladarius Green moving on the the Steelers and rookie TE Hunter Henry next up on the depth chart.
9. RB Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders, ADP is RB17 @ pick 43 overall
After quietly finishing as a top 10 RB in standard scoring leagues last year with 1,066 rushing yards in 16 games, Latavius Murray will finish top 3 in rushing yards for 2016. Pro Football Focus ranked the Raiders' offensive line #6 in the league at the end of last season (up 10 spots from 2014). In addition, the Raiders added offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele during free agency. Osemele allowed just two sacks over the last two years and ranked as the fifth best run-blocking guard by PFF. Latavius Murray is followed on the depth chart by rookie fifth round pick out of Texas Tech, DeAndre Washington and 31-year old veteran fullback Marcel Reece.
10. Jimmy Graham, CJ Spiller, Victor Cruz, ADP is 122, 218, and 220 overall respectively
When thinking back to some of the recent fantasy greats who still play in the league, a few came to mind: 2011 Victor Cruz, 2012 CJ Spiller, and 2013 Jimmy Graham.
Victor Cruz finished 2011 as the #4 WR with 205 fantasy points from 1,536 yards and 9 touchdowns, but hasn't played a snap since week 6 of 2014 due to a torn patella tendon. Week 6 of 2014 was OBJ's second game in the NFL and since replaced Cruz as a premier wide out. QB Eli Manning has thrown for more than 3,800 yards each of the last seven seasons and may be capable of sustaining two top 20 WRs like Peyton has done with WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.
CJ Spiller finished 2012 as RB #7 with 212 fantasy points on 1,700 total yards. Without an ability to stay on the field, the former round 1 NFL draft pick has slipped on depth charts and potentially ran out of gas. Spiller is third on the RB depth chart for the NO Saints behind Mark Ingram and 30-year old Tim Hightower. However, Ingram has only played 16 games in a season once during his NFL career and Hightower played in a combined 11 games over the last two seasons. CJ Spiller played in more games than both Ingram and Hightower during the 2015 NFL season.
Jimmy Graham finished 2013 as the #1 TE by more than 50 points over Vernon Davis (oh, Davis still plays too?). Graham suffered a torn patella tendon in late November after playing 11 games on his new team in Seattle this year. On a points per game basis, Graham was still fantasy relevant in most fantasy football leagues, but he wasn’t the same player as in past years.
Of these three players, the final bold prediction of this article is that Victor Cruz will come back to fantasy stardom and reach 1,000 receiving yards again in 2016. The NY Giants offense finished 6th in points per game and 7th in passing yards per game during the 2015 season. Their defense finished 30th in points per game allowed and dead last in the league for total yards per game allowed in 2015. The NY Giants will be throwing the ball all season long and someone has to be there to catch it.
Dr. B and Rome are FantasyPros Expert Analysts and members of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association who put together the Gridiron Gas Fantasy Football Podcast. You can find their rankings and podcast league information online at GridironGas.com or on twitter @GridironGas.
Copyright © 2016 Gridiron Gas. All rights reserved.