Bold Predictions are always fun because they allow us to use our imaginations a tad more than usual. Unfortunately, this close to the season we have a lot of vague outlooks on receiving or rushing rooms out of the way which makes for more obvious calls.
Nevertheless, the best was done to keep the content spicy as there are some narratives or collective player takes that live in everyone’s head until proven otherwise. The NFL season is set to start and so is the journey of the opinions everyone’s had on this upcoming year. Whether they are true or false is the fun unknown (fun-known?).
My bold predictions below were done in the best of faith but if you feel they are out of left-field and completely deranged, take it up on Twitter @RotoSurgeon.
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Kyler Murray finishes as a top-3 fantasy QB
It is safe to say that Kyler has his best array of weapons ever in the NFL, even with DeAndre Hopkins suspended for the first 6 games.
- Marquise Brown is a familiar face for Kyler from college and a significant upgrade over Christian Kirk as not only a field stretcher but as a whole WR.
- Rondale Moore enters year two in the NFL with necessary experience under his belt after playing just 4 total games the two years prior in college.
- Zach Ertz and James Conner present proven safety blankets
The second-half demise narrative is mostly overblown as Kyler played through an ankle injury throughout that part of 2020 and lost Nuk in the second half of 2021. Even in the 2 games Nuk was active for in that stretch, he was mostly a decoy.
Kyler was QB1 by a wide margin (3PPG) in the first 10 weeks of 2020 and QB5 in the first 10 weeks of 2021. He’s an elite fantasy option and should finish closer to QB1 than folks expect this season.
Drake London does not finish as a top-40 WR
Do not fade good players due to their situation in dynasty but in redraft, we cannot ignore what might be the pressures of a league-worst offense. Marcus Mariota at QB is a massive red flag and Kyle Pitts can be the presumed first read for the offense.
London is also coming off of a concerning string of injuries including a fractured ankle towards the end of his junior season at USC last year along with a knee injury that cut his preseason short.
Rashod Bateman finishes as a top-20 WR
Bateman is a premier WR prospect who had the start of his rookie season derailed by hernia surgery just before preseason. After a stint on IR, Bateman returned and put up a 19% target share in under 70% of the offense’s snaps per game while averaging a great 8.8 yards per target.
At Minnesota, Bateman was profiled as an alpha WR who could command a team’s lead in targets and create big plays regularly. While that has not come to fruition yet, the trade of Marquise Brown displays the trust and comfort Baltimore has in Bateman
Zack Moss out-scores James Cook
Zack Moss does not possess the explosion James Cook does in the open field but he is bigger and has the necessary skills of a good 3rd-down back with his savvy pass-protection and good hands. The Bills are in a position to win now and cannot afford growing pains on the field if Cook cannot hold up against the rush when tasked.
If Moss plays the 3rd downs and two-minute drills full-time, he should be expected to out-score Cook as Devin Singletary is the early-down back for this offense given his semi-breakout last year and the flashes since his rookie year.
DJ Moore doubles his seasonal TD average (4)
Baker Mayfield is not the QB that was promised after his first-overall selection in 2018 however, he is a capable talent who carries a career 4.8% TD rate. Since 2019, Moore’s QBs have had a combined TD rate by season of:
2019 – 2.7%
2020 – 2.9%
2021 – 2.3%
Assuming Carolina is not one of the run-heaviest offenses in the league, Moore should see a similar number of targets as recent years and convert more of them for TDs (fair given that Mayfield is an upgrade and Rhule’s offenses have not sunk that low these last two seasons).
David Montgomery is traded midseason and Khalil Herbert takes over as RB1
Rumor has it that Chicago’s new offense is a better fit for Khalil Herbert’s running style rather than David Montgomery’s. How true this may be is in question but given that Montgomery is in his final year under contract and Herbert performed as well, if not better just last season, it is fair to believe Herbert is preferred as RB1.
RB trades are not the most common given replacement value across the NFL, but Montgomery is somewhat proven as a legitimate talent who can carry a massive workload weekly. If a competitive team’s early-down back goes down by the trade deadline, a move is in the cards.
Joe Mixon sees a career-high in targets
Last year, the Bengals were much more run-heavy than they would like with the weapons and QB at hand. Joe Burrow had just torn his ACL the season prior and to protect him from taking more hits than necessary, Cincinnati had a 56% pass and 44% rush split while also playing at the third-slowest pace.
While Mixon’s rush total should dip this year, he is still going to be present on nearly every early down as the Bengals spread themselves out wide more often to operate a QB-friendly offense. Mixon’s target share typically sits between 8-10% but he is a talented receiver and did see a career-high 12.5% in 2018.
My expectation is that with the Bengals passing more often and playing faster, he sees something closer to 70 targets this season and cracking into the upper echelon of fantasy RBs.
Kareem Hunt does not get traded and keeps Nick Chubb capped for fantasy
The Cleveland Browns are in a curious spot this season. They are in limbo with Jacoby Brissett for the next 11 games as Deshaun Watson’s suspension takes place. Cleveland has a plethora of talented pieces on both sides of the ball and seeks to “win now” but hold a temporary anchor at QB.
They will continue to run a ground-heavy approach to mitigate the damage done at QB and that will put an extreme toll on Nick Chubb if he were to be the primary guy. Kareem Hunt’s versatility is an added plus and he has proven throughout his career to be capable of handling large workloads. Despite Hunt’s trade request due to a contract negotiation stalemate and his history prior to joining Cleveland, he does not hold much power.
While the Browns did tender and sign D’Ernest Johnson, their newfound depth with Jerome Ford’s hot preseason could afford them an avenue to trade him instead of Hunt. Leaving Hunt on the roster all year is an issue for Nick Chubb’s fantasy managers.
Ezekiel Elliott outscored by Tony Pollard in second-half
The Dallas Cowboys offense is a mess. Their offensive line is in shambles after losing Conner Williams and La’el Collins in the offseason and Tyron Smith just two weeks ago to another injury. Things have gotten so bad on that front they signed a decrepit Jason Peters and are praying 1st Round OL Tyler Smith can hold things down at Guard.
While both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard would have to play behind this line, Elliott is the one more reliant on the players around him to succeed. We have already seen the cracks in his armor the past few seasons despite not missing much time but RBs do not age gracefully in the slightest.
Jerry Jones came out and said that the team “goes as Zeke goes” but that will be seen as old news when they’re below .500 in the league’s worst division midseason. The Cowboys lack offensive weaponry after trading Amari Cooper and losing Michael Gallup to an ACL…CeeDee Lamb, and Dalton Schultz can only do so much. Pollard is a significantly more explosive back and while he can’t carry the same workload as Elliott, his versatility allows the team a different avenue of operating the offense. Sooner than later, the Elliott cause will seem futile.
Courtland Sutton finishes as a fantasy WR1
Reports out of Denver’s camp suggest that Sutton is Russell Wilson’s favorite target by “a wide margin”. Sutton in 2019 (his 2nd season) displayed the makings of an alpha fantasy receiver by cracking a 25% target share and performing efficiently on an extremely poor team led by a QB carousel of Joe Flacco, Drew Lock, and Brandon Allen (each started at least 3 games).
While Sutton was merely a WR2 in fantasy that season, we saw what we needed to see out of a breakout WR. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in the first game of 2020 and struggled throughout 2021. To some, the 2021 struggles are unforgivable but to those who understand the 18-month recovery mark for ACL tears, it is merely a season worth a mulligan.
With a massive QB upgrade and body at full strength, we can expect Sutton to lead what should be a top-10 offense in targets, receiving yards, and receiving TD.
Amon-Ra St. Brown leads the team in targets by at least 20
Amon-Ra St. Brown’s late-season performance in Detroit last year was no fluke. While some may disregard his numbers due to the absence of T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift, the fact that ARSB not only earned the targets he did but maximized them speaks volumes about his talent.
Yes, he may be a slot receiver and limited in terms of where he can play but his ability to play should not be in question. He had all the signs of a stud future fantasy receiver since high school where he ranked 11th in the nation then in USC where he broke out as a true freshman, earning more targets than last year’s fantasy breakout Michael Pittman Jr.
ARSB is the most talented receiving option in Detroit this season (Jameson Williams is unlikely to make a major impact until 2023) and will carry over the domination from the 2nd-half of last season as the lead option of this passing offense.
Green Bay Packers
Sammy Watkins leads the team in receiving
Sammy Watkins’ career has been more so derailed by injury and mental health struggles rather than a lack of talent. He displayed as recently as 2020 (2019 season) a stretch of dominance in the playoffs as he helped the Chiefs towards a Super Bowl victory.
Not to say Watkins will be back in his WR1 glory days or even a must-start in fantasy, but he is the only Packers WR to crack a 17% target share over the past 3 seasons and seems set to start outside for this offense. Watkins has played with the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson over the past few seasons and failed to become fantasy relevant outside of an occasional Week 1 performance but he is merely 29 and as far as we know, fully healthy. With Rodgers at QB and no one truly ahead of him in the target totem pole, this could be his time to shine again.
Brevin Jordan breaks out as 3rd option in Houston’s offense
This is not the boldest call but given how far gone the Dameon Pierce train has gone, there is not much left to hype there. Brevin Jordan is a talented TE who flashed in the 2nd-half of 2021.
Yes, he is listed as TE2 behind Pharoah Brown but that (and starting in general) is an afterthought given the limited set of weapons in Houston and how much 12-personnel we should expect them to run. Also, Brown missed all of the preseason with a soft tissue injury and has not done much at all throughout his 5-year NFL career.
Jordan was highly touted coming into college but fell to the 5th Round of the NFL Draft after a mediocre combine despite good production at the University of Miami. He’s not the *best* bet but his opportunity should present itself and Houston will be as inclined as any team to figure out what they have in their young talent.
Jonathan Taylor scores 20+ TD again. Fears of regression overblown
Jonathan Taylor is entering his third NFL season as the best running back in football. He plays in an offense that receives a significant QB upgrade from Carson Wentz to the ever-stable Matt Ryan and will have his offensive line fully healthy this season. Braden Smith, Quenton Nelson, and Ryan Kelly missed a combined 12 games last season and were hobbled throughout chunks of the ones they did play.
Some claim that Taylor peaked in 2021 but he might just be getting started. The offense is built around him and after touching the ball 372 times, he is set to repeat this sort of volume. Taylor is in the mold of the Adrian Petersons and Emmitt Smiths in stature and athleticism, there is no reason aside from injury given his profile to believe 2021 was his peak.
Trevor Lawrence breaks out with 30+ total TD (passing+rushing)
Lawrence had his first taste of true failure maybe ever in 2021. Jacksonville was obviously discombobulated and everything went wrong. The team lost the only explosive weapons they had in Travis Etienne and D.J. Chark very early and dealt with top-down disorder. While some modicum of the blame can be placed on Lawrence’s rookie shoulders, the heavy majority goes to Urban Meyer for failing this team.
Lawrence, despite this mess, still flashed with his arm strength, ability to squeeze balls in tight windows, and his plus-athleticism which resulted in solid rushing numbers. Now, the Jaguars have an improved receiving room after multiple offseason additions and a relatively healthy Travis Etienne. Lawrence is a prodigy in every sense of the word and now has a sensible, Super Bowl-winning coach at the helm. Hard to see him not succeed sans multiple injuries around the offense.
Kansas City Chiefs
Mecole Hardman finishes as Chiefs fantasy WR2 ahead of Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Skyy Moore
While the Chiefs claim that they will have a “WR by Committee”, it is hard to believe they won’t use Mecole Hardman plenty despite his relatively disappointing career thus far. Hardman is a talented WR but was drafted to fill the niche “Tyreek Hill role” in Kansas City’s offense after Hill got himself into domestic trouble which threatened his future availability.
Not to say Hill and Hardman are 1-to-1 comps or anywhere close but we can fathom that in Hardman’s final year with the team after filling a complementary role for 3 seasons, they give him opportunities early and often to showcase why he should be a near every-down player.
In 4 career games with Mahomes sans Tyreek, Hardman accumulated 22 targets, 12 receptions, 246 receiving yards, and 2TD.
Las Vegas Raiders
Josh Jacobs sees workhorse load despite reports of timeshare
Josh Jacobs is the most talented player in this backfield and the team has no reason to care about his future (harsh but true). Jacobs’ fifth-year option was not picked up and the Raiders will be hard-pressed to find someone in this mish-mashed backfield to trust with their touches more. The timeshare rumors were likely overblown because even if this is a “split”, Jacobs will still lead the team by a significant margin of touches and total snaps. He remains the lead goal-line back and should get his fair share of targets on early downs as he has the past three seasons.
Los Angeles Chargers
Gerald Everett outscores Josh Palmer
While Josh Palmer is a talented receiver in his own right, the Chargers are hard-pressed to play him alongside incumbent starters Keenan Allen and Mike Williams given that they will lose any semblance of spacing on the field if done consistently. None of these receivers run faster than a 4.55!
Palmer can absolutely succeed with an injury to one of Williams or Allen but not while both are active. Meanwhile, Gerald Everett is set for a significant snap-share given how barren the Chargers’ TE room is after Donald Parham’s offseason soft tissue injury. Everett will be on the field a ton for an offense that threw the ball nearly 200 more times than his 2021 offense. Everett accrued a 15% target share last season and should post something similar that beats out Palmer.
Los Angeles Rams
Darrell Henderson out-scores Cam Akers
While Cam Akers did return towards the end of the 2021 season and play a significant snap-share throughout the Rams’ Super Bowl run, we are still unsure if he will ever return to pre-Achilles injury form. This specific injury is almost guaranteed to be the nail in a running back’s coffin due to the nature of the position and the fact that no RB has ever returned from it.
The sample is not the largest and the players in the pool oftentimes were towards the end of their respective careers but until we see a player return to form, I choose to stick with a belief that it is a career-ender.
Darrell Henderson to his credit will not only succeed because of someone else’s injury but the fact that he was RB14 in PPG until his own issues (much more minor) last season. Henderson is a skilled runner and receiver but has limitations in terms of workload. The Rams historically have preferred to lean on a lead RB rather than a committee and if forced to bet on one, the answer should be Henderson to score more by season’s end.
Tua Tagovailoa breaks out and throws 30TD
Weapons and protection do wonders for a QB. With Tyreek Hill, Chase Edmonds, Terron Armstead, and Conner Williams in town, the Miami Dolphins’ offense is looking a lot more interesting.
Yes, a QB needs baseline abilities to make use of these aspects of the team but we have seen that from Tagovialoa. He is notably mobile and one of the most accurate passers in the NFL (albeit, with a low aDOT). With the benefit of Mike McDaniel’s offense, Tua will not be tasked with forcing shots downfield. Instead, the offense will work towards his strength in the short-to-intermediate area where YAC will be king much like it was for the 49ers’ offense McDaniel comes from.
Tyreek and Jaylen Waddle will do most of the heavy lifting for this offense and Tua will reap the rewards for his coming breakout.
Kirk Cousins flirts with 5000 passing yards and 40TD
Cousins is a beneficiary of the modern NFL seeping into Minnesota. While he may not be an elite QB, he has the passing acumen to get the job done and a set of skill players who make the job much easier than it should be. Kevin O’Connell comes from the Rams this offseason to implement more 11-personnel (3-WR) into the Vikings’ offense which is pretty standard across the league as a base offensive formation.
Former Vikings’ Head Coach Mike Zimmer was somewhat stuck in his ground-and-pound ways limiting what should have been an even better offense given the weapons at hand. Now, the Vikings get Irv Smith Jr. back from his meniscus tear, KJ Osborn in full-time snaps, and Adam Thielen feeling the best he has in years post-ankle surgery. Throw Justin Jefferson, arguably the best receiver in the league, on top and you have a recipe for plenty of production.
New England Patriots
Jakobi Meyers leads team in targets again, finishes as top-30 WR
Jakobi Meyers’ target share last year was among the best in the league (within 1% of Keenan Allen, Terry McLaurin, and Tyreek Hill). He is not the most explosive player or particularly good after the catch but he gets open and is trusted by his QB and coaching staff. Meyers’ target share has jumped in each season and should sit above 20% this year in what should be a pass-heavier offense for Mac Jones in Year 2.
Meyers efficiency dipped last season to 6.9 yards per target while his career rate sits at 7.9. If we assume he sees some regression in that aspect along with a slight jump from his career-high 2TD last year, a top-30 finish for PPR is in the cards and his ADP has been past Round 10 all offseason.
New Orleans Saints
Chris Olave leads team with 8+ receiving TD
The Saints not only traded for an extra first-round pick but also traded up to draft Chris Olave. They love what he does and were in need of help at WR given the question marks surrounding former fantasy WR1 overall Michael Thomas.
Thomas is still rehabbing from his injury and practicing but is not guaranteed to be 100% this season or at any point moving forward after missing the last year and a half to his ankle issues. Meanwhile, Olave is the sole deep threat among the starting WR corps and should play a heavy dose of snaps from the jump. With Jameis Winston (top-6 in aDOT last year) at the helm, there is no reason to believe a rookie Olave isn’t set up for success.
New York Giants
Saquon Barkley leads offense in targets
The Giants WR room is an absolute mess and their lead TE is rookie Daniel Bellinger. Saquon Barkley was among the team leaders in targets his first two seasons and now, multiple years removed from a torn ACL, he should be at full strength ready to repeat that fantasy dominance.
New York Jets
Corey Davis outscores Garrett Wilson
Wilson is listed as the Jets WR4 at the moment and while that should change sooner than later, Corey Davis is pretty much set as a starter given that he is their only true perimeter WR with size.
Davis will play nearly every snap weekly and not deal with any real rotation like Wilson. He was also still quite good until injury last season with 59 targets, 492 yards, and 4TD in 9 games.
Dallas Goedert finishes 2nd to AJ Brown in fantasy points among Philly pass-catchers
Goedert was TE6 in PPG after the Zach Ertz trade and averaged 11.6PPG while DeVonta Smith averaged 10.7. Goedert and Hurts seem to have a strong rapport after practicing together on second-string in 2020 and Goedert’s abilities with YAC allow him to do more with less than DeVonta who is not as strong after the catch. Both will be fighting for leftover targets after A.J. Brown gets his share and should end up with an even amount.
Najee Harris finishes outside top-10 RBs
Najee Harris had an incredible rookie season considering that he lead the entire league in touches (just ignore his efficiency). The team was forced to rely on him heavily given that Ben Roethlisberger was a walking corpse and they lost trusted starter JuJu Smith-Schuster early to a shoulder injury. However, he had one game with more than 7 targets (Week 4) and that was played without Diontae Johnson for all of it and JuJu for half of it. Harris saw 19 targets that game aka 20% of his season total.
Harris was RB8 in PPG last year and will find it tough to finish as high again behind a similarly poor offensive line with mediocre QB play once more. The Steelers played at the league’s 5th-highest pace last season and will not replicate that between Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett. Fewer plays mean fewer touches and touch volume is the only thing keeping Harris’s value afloat.
San Francisco 49ers
Brandon Aiyuk finishes with more receiving yards and touchdowns than Deebo Samuel
Aiyuk is not a better receiver than Deebo but he is a better deep threat and pairing with new QB1 Trey Lance. Aiyuk not only struggled last year but found himself in Kyle Shanahan’s fearsome doghouse. He is now freed while Deebo is paid after an extremely successful 2021 season.
With Lance’s abilities, or lack thereof, in the short-to-intermediate field it is feasible he struggles to target Deebo outside of designed throws and prefers to look deep for Aiyuk or tuck and run instead. Lance is still very raw and going through his progressions may be the biggest issue if he doesn’t easily see what he likes across the field.
Rashaad Penny rushes for 1000+ yards and 10+ TD
Rashaad Penny had a fully healthy offseason and is coming into 2022 as the starter for the Seattle Seahawks. While this may not sound as appealing as it would in past years with Russell Wilson, Penny is a former-first-round selection who displayed his pedigree in full force towards the end of last season.
Penny finished as RB5 in PPG from Weeks 13-18 and touched the ball 18.3 times per game. That is the definition of a workhorse load and no matter the offense, if he’s doing that weekly, Penny should be a must-start in fantasy.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Julio Jones outscores Chris Godwin
Julio Jones struggling on the Titans is less concerning than Chris Godwin returning less than 9 months from ACL surgery. Jones was a ghost all of last season but that Titans’ offense was a mess, especially after Derrick Henry’s injury. Nevertheless, he was still quite efficient finishing 2nd to AJ Brown with 1.90 YPRR and 9 yards-per-target (slighlt lower than career 9.7). Now, Jones moves on to an offense with Tom Brady rather than Ryan Tannehill at the helm.
On the other hand, Godwin is practicing without a knee brace but still wears a non-contact jersey just 4 days before the season opener. Coach Bowles even acknowledged that it could be weeks before Godwin’s return and even then, there is not guarantee he is close to 100%. While Jones’s hamstrings are a concern as well, as far as we know, they are healthy right now which is more than what could be said for Godwin’s knee.
Treylon Burks plays full-time snaps after September. Makes asthma and conditioning reports foolish
Treylon Burks has been playing football for years and producing on top of it all. While he may in fact have asthma, it is more than likely he and his team have that under control. Meanwhile, the reports of his “poor conditioning” were probably just Head Coach Mike Vrabel being a “hardo” and trying to keep a rookie in check.
Those of us outside the building don’t get much besides soundbites and clips. The negative ones that come out regarding high-profile players and rookies proliferate as we are so drawn to this drama. Burks is very likely fine and on the rookie-A.J. Brown trajectory of not playing more than 50% of the snaps until after the first month. Expect him to lead the team in receiving yards and touchdowns soon after.
Antonio Gibson sets career-highs in rushing and receiving yards
Antonio Gibson was never announced as the backup for the Washington Commanders’ offense but everyone assumed so given the hype around 3rd-round rookie Brian Robinson and vague answers regarding the RB room. Speculation from beat reporters spun the fantasy world like a top and got premature headlines but unfortunately, before any true answer was given, Robinson was wounded in a robbery and is now on Injured Reserve for at least the next 4 weeks.
Gibson is a talented back but is much better in space than between the tackles like a traditional runner (Robinson’s style). Gibson has the ability to score on a given play and now has the majority of this backfield to himself for at least the next month. While he should not crack 300 touches like in 2021, Gibson’s shins are no longer fractured and it should allow him to display the burst and acceleration that tantalized the fantasy world into making him a second-round pick last year.
With a receiving room made of limited/injured tight ends and an oft-injured Curtis Samuel, it is not hard to buy Gibson becoming more involved as a pass-catcher as well. He is set for a monster season.
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