10 Bold Fantasy Football Predictions For 2016
I love playing fantasy sports. I love getting ready for the drafts. I love the draft, and I love the trading and bidding on the waiver wire during the year. I play in really deep leagues. Starting lineups that consist of 2QB, 3RB, 5WR, TE, 2D, 2K. I really enjoy identifying those backup running backs that may hit and the bench wide receivers that could step into prominent roles.
But this isn’t that. I realize I’m in the minority playing that many guys and drafting 30+ rounds! But winning is as much about avoiding disasters (injuries are impossible to predict) and nailing those mid-round and late-round picks that become next year’s high-round picks. It doesn’t mean drafting those guys high this year, but maybe taking them a little higher to ensure you get them. It’s a bit of a leap of faith.
You have to trust trends, patterns, and your own eyes watching games last year while ignoring some magazine’s or website’s cheat sheet. Your draft-mates might chuckle, but it’s you that will have the last laugh. These are my bold fantasy football predictions for 2016!
1. Colts WR Donte Moncrief finishes as a top 10 WR
Andre Johnson and Coby Fleener (161 targets total) are gone and Andrew Luck is back. Moncrief is a big physical receiver that should serve as a possession guy for Luck with Dorsett and Hilton stretching the field leading to more targets and catches. But he’s also fast and runs well after the catch. You might already like him, but I like him more. I could see a 85-1200-10 season that places him among the league’s best receivers. I’m taking him over TY Hilton and in the 4th round repeatedly.
2. Bears RB Jeremy Langford finishes as a top 10 RB
There is a lot of fear about committees and yards per carry and dropped passes here. Take advantage. Consider in the 3 games Matt Forte missed last year, Langford ran for 51-170-3 and caught 13-196-1. He played one bad defense (SD) and two very good ones (STL, DEN).
Langford has game-breaking speed and was excellent in short-yardage converting 6 carries inside the 5-yard line into 5 touchdowns. He’s competing with an old Jaquizz Rodgers, a rookie from Indiana in Jordan Howard, and a plodding Ka’Deem Carey. I’m not worried. John Fox wants to run the football. Langford may not be Matt Forte in his prime, but projecting 1300 total yards and 10 touchdowns isn’t as far-fetched as you think.
3. Saints TE Coby Fleener finishes as the #1 TE
In a PPR format, old, washed-up Ben Watson finished as the #8 TE, 2 points out of the top 6 last year in New Orleans.
Jimmy Graham finished 2-1-1-2 in the four years previous working with Drew Brees.
Fleener was #6 two seasons ago with Andrew Luck in a 2-TE system.
The Saints play predominantly in 1-TE sets and don’t have a receiver (other than #4 WR Brandon Coleman) over 6’2″.
Gronk will miss Tom Brady for 4 games. How many games will Jordan Reed miss this season with injuries?
Yes, I’d take Gronk first, but Fleener might have a 85-1000-10 season in him to take the top spot.
4. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson finishes as the #1 QB
21-1. That was the TD-INT ratio for Russell Wilson in the final 6 weeks of the regular season. No Lynch. No Rawls. No problem. Pete Carroll handed the ball to his QB who averaged 284 yards passing the rest of the way. With Beastmode retired, make no mistake, this is Wilson’s team now.
The Seahawks have been a dominant run team, but that hasn’t stopped Wilson from finishing as the QB5, QB8, and QB5 the last 3 seasons. Not to mention Wilson has averaged well over 600 yards rushing per season during that time period.
He doesn’t get the goal-line work Cam Newton does or the volume Brady or Brees do, but you should know taking him as the 5th, 6th, or 7th quarterback in your draft that you may end up with the top guy.
5. Eagles RB Ryan Mathews finishes as a top 10 RB
Doug Pederson coached in Kansas City. Jamal Charles and even Spencer Ware were consistently fed the ball on the goal-line and produced. Mathews accounted for 63% of the Eagles carries inside the 10 yard line last year and was a success, converting 50% of them into scores.
He’s always been a strong runner, just injury-prone it seems. He averaged a whopping 5.1 yards per carry a year ago, and managed 20 catches while sharing the field with pass-catching backs DeMarco Murray and Darren Sproles. That number should rise considering Pederson’s use of Charles in the passing game in KC and the absence of Murray.
I’d predict his carries at least double, meaning a 1000 yard season, plus another 300 yards in the passing game and redzone work that adds up to 10 TD.
6. Steelers WR Sammie Coates finishes as a top 25 WR
The Steelers were 3rd in the NFL in passing yards last season. Martavis Bryant has been suspended for the season. Bryant finished 33rd in PPR formats in scoring last year and he missed 5 games during the season. More than ever teams will direct their attention to Antonio Brown and attempt to make guys like Markus Wheaton and Coates prove it. Coates is explosive and having a great camp and should easily over-take the slower, average Wheaton giving himself every opportunity to be a year 2 breakout candidate. It might surprise you, but a stat line of 60-900-8 would get him into the top 25 most likely and you probably can’t draft him as your 5th or 6th WR.
7. Ravens QB Joe Flacco finishes as a top 10 QB
Before he went down with an ACL injury, Flacco was on pace for a career high in yards, and that was without most of the offensive weapons he’ll have around him this year.
It’s easy to forget, but Flacco finished the 2014 season as the QB11. With another year of experience in Marc Trestman’s offense, and guys like Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman, and Justin Forsett returning, plus the addition of TE Ben Watson and deep threat Mike Wallace, I see Flacco as a guy that may not even get drafted in a standard 1-QB league that could finish in the top ten.
8. Jets RB Matt Forte finishes outside the top 30 RB
Last year represented a major drop-off for Matt Forte, but catching over 100 balls was never going to be easily attainable again. He still finished 7th in PPR scoring, but had just 44 catches in an offense that loves throwing the ball to the back.
He goes to NY and enters into what promises to be an odd time-share situation. Bilal Powell, the Jets receiving back remains, and he caught 47 passes last year. So, it’s highly likely that Forte may look at another major drop in receptions as they share that role in NY.
Considering that, and factoring in his lack of success in the redzone (30 carries, 4 TD), and throwing in his age, now 30 years old, I think you’re looking at a major disappointment if you’re counting on him to start for you. I’ll throw in Khiry Robinson is a nice sleeper, and potential goal-line TD vulture lurking behind Forte and Powell.
9. Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham finishes as a top 5 TE
Tight end has present very few reliable options on a year to year basis. Gonzalez, Gates, Gronk, Olsen, and certainly Graham are examples of that in recent years. Many others have emerged to finish among the top guys on an annual basis.
Jimmy Graham fell out of that club last year. The change of scenery from New Orleans to Seattle was worse than most predicted and then a devastating injury late in the season was the cherry on top of a bust sundae.
But as it often does in fantasy, a bad year by a good player means a discount price the following year. What’s changed? Well, first of all Graham finished as TE19 in just 11 games and was just 10 points out of TE13. Not horrible. Secondly, after seeing just over 5 targets per game in the first 5 games, he averaged almost 8 targets per game in the next 6. Finally, factoring in what I said about Russell Wilson previous, and losing redzone beast Marshawn Lynch, Graham becomes a sneaky great pick to resume his status as one of the game’s best.
10. Lions RB Ameer Abdullah finishes as a top 15 RB
People love drafting rookies. But if they aren’t any good, we tend to push them aside and dismiss them in year two. Melvin Gordon could be a sneaky pick too in San Diego, but I’m a bigger fan of the opportunity for Abdullah in Detroit.
No team ran the ball less than the Lions in 2015. Those things tend to normalize, which means more opportunities for Abdullah. Joique Bell is gone and so are his 600 total yards and 4 TD. Bell also caught 22 passes, most of those chances should be passed to Abdullah, who had 25 a year ago and catches the ball well. He did average a solid 4.2 a carry, and has big-play potential.
After 143 carries a year ago, I think he’ll flirt with 200 this season, and catch 40 balls. Total that up, and as a floor you’re looking at 1100 total yards, and if he can handle the goal-line work over Zach Zenner and Stevan Ridley, then 8 TD is a very real possibility.