Top 10 bold fantasy football predictions for 2016
Jun 14, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) throws a pass during minicamp workouts at Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
When it comes to Fantasy Football, this upcoming season promises to deliver even more surprises and feats of amazement. Here are the top 10 bold predictions heading into 2016.
The world of football is unpredictable, you’ve got 32 teams with each team having 53 guys on the roster, anything can happen. Last season, that was very much the case in the NFL, especially in the realms of fantasy football.
Related Story: Top 10 fantasy football sleepers for 2016
Did anyone expect quarterback Cam Newton to lead the league and dominate in fantasy football? Plus, where the heck did Blake Bortles come from down there in Jacksonville?
Bortles had the third highest fantasy football average points per week by a quarterback last season. Or perhaps Tony Romo getting injured again, well okay, maybe that isn’t so bold.
For instance, the combination of Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless on ESPN’s First Take, literally get paid to be as bold and crazy as possible. So perhaps without going off the absolute deep end, let’s break down some of the possible bold predictions that could happen in 2016.
Next: 10. An old dog learns a new trick
Dec 19, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) on the field before the game against the New York Jets at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
10. Jason Witten becomes the best fantasy football tight end
When you think of the tight end position in fantasy football, often the names that immediately come to mind are Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham (less so now being in Seattle, but still). It’s a young man’s game, but that won’t be the case in 2016.
Jason Witten who is known for his toughness and his intestinal fortitude is going to dominate with Romo back under center. Although Witten isn’t known for his touchdown prowess, he’s had six or less receiving touchdowns in 10 of his 13 seasons.
Romo will find Witten for more scores than he’s ever had, more receptions than he’s ever had, and for more yards than he ever has. If that holds through, Witten will post a crazy final fantasy football total of 111+ receptions, 1,146+ yards and 10+ scores.
It’s not often that a player can surpass his career totals in season number 14, but there hasn’t been a Pro Football Hall of Fame kind of player like Witten in the NFL for a long time. Look for this Cowboys’ offense to be one of the most potent in football in 2016.
Next: 9. The triplets will have a revival
Jun 14, 2016; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) throws during minicamp at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
9. The Dallas Cowboys’ triplets will win every major fantasy category
We spoke of Witten in the last slide, but the triplets of Romo, Dez Bryant, and newly acquired Ezekiel Elliott will dominate in 2016. So much so that Romo will lead the league in passing, Bryant will lead the league in receiving and Elliott will lead the league in rushing.
Romo and Bryant dealt with the injury bug last season, which kept them contained from a statistical standpoint. While their running game was handed to often-injured and often-ridiculed Darren McFadden, he had a respectable season behind the legendary Cowboys’ offensive line.
Now with everyone healthy and the talent that the Cowboys have on offense, it may not be so bold. To get an idea on the barometer these players would be reaching, let’s take a look at the leaders numbers last season.
For Bryant he’d need 1,872 yards receiving, for Romo he’d need 4,871 yards passing and finally for Elliott he’d need 1,486 yards rushing. It would be an incredible metric and most people don’t think Romo can stay healthy, but if he can this team is dangerous.
Next: 8. No Megatron equals a mega drop-off
8. Matthew Stafford won’t finish in the top-15 of quarterbacks
Matthew Stafford, since being drafted first overall in the 2009 NFL Draft has been spoiled rotten. So often in his career, Stafford was able to close his eyes and throw a ball up in triple coverage and watch it turn into a SportsCenter top-10 play.
Why was he able to do this? Well a certain 6’5 230+ pound plus behemoth was on the receiving end of these lame duck passes.
Calvin Johnson Jr. throughout his career has possessed the unique ability to come down with circus catches on poorly thrown balls. Now that he has officially decided to hang up his cleats, Stafford won’t be able to get away with those throws.
Which means we’re in line to see a stat line similar to that earlier in Stafford’s career. One in which his interceptions eclipse his touchdowns, so despite the fact the Detroit Lions will be whipping the pigskin around, the final tally won’t be pretty. 3,500+ yards is inevitable with the amount of attempts, but look for 23 touchdowns to go along with 25+ interceptions in 2016.
Next: 7. Batman and Robin will come alive in Gotham
Oct 19, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (13) celebrates his second quarter touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
7. The New York Giants top two receivers will break fantasy records
Everyone knows that Odell Beckham Jr. is a rising star in this league, but new second round pick Sterling Shepard has to prove himself. In their first year together with quarterback Eli Manning at the helm, they will be one of the most dangerous combinations in all of football.
Beckham Jr had 96 receptions for over 1,400 yards and 13 scores, he’ll eclipse those in 2016. His new partner in crime, Shepard, will also post similar numbers. The combination of their stats will surpass 3,000 yards receiving, 200+ receptions and over 30 touchdowns combined.
Which would be one of the best combined total stat lines in a single season between two receivers in NFL history. With Ben McAdoo taking over at the head coaching spot, the offense will again be at a premium for the Giants.
With their atrocious defense, the Giants will need to keep slinging it to stay in games in 2016. Which is good news for fantasy owners of OBJ and Shepard for the upcoming fantasy season.
Next: 6. The most underrated player in all of fantasy football
Nov 23, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Chris Hogan (15) reacts after not getting a pass interference call against the New England Patriots during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
6. Chris Hogan will surprise many with his new team
Taking a look at the annual top 10 wide receiver rankings, a lot of players are overrated and underrated. But perhaps the most underrated player in all of fantasy football is that of wide receiver Chris Hogan.
The former Buffalo Bill was stolen away in the restricted free agency battle and is ranked as the 56th best receiver on the ESPN big board. While his career as a whole is a bit underwhelming (87 receptions, 959 yards and six touchdowns) circumstances have to be considered.
Hogan entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Monmouth with the San Francisco 49ers back in 2011. He’s bounced around the league, but you might remember his stint back on HBO’s Hard Knocks, where he infamously was bestowed the nickname “7-11” because he always seemed to be open.
Now Hogan is viewed as a key cog in the Patriots’ passing game after signing a three-year, $12 million deal this offseason. He should also be considered a key cog in your fantasy football lineup, although it’s always hard to project New England players and getting stats. Hogan won’t get the love on fantasy draft boards and you should take advantage of his low stock. The bold prediction is that even though he’s ranked outside the top-50, he’ll finish within the top 25 in scoring for receivers.
Next: 5. Avoid the running back king from last season
Dec 20, 2015; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) carries the ball in the third quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field.The Atlanta Falcons won 23-17. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
5. Devonta Freeman will fall off the radar
Why should you avoid the running back that had the most fantasy points among his peers last season? Well Freeman did all of his damage in the first half of the 2015 season, coinciding with the Atlanta Falcons who started the season 6-0 before collapsing and missing the NFL Playoffs.
“From Weeks 9-17 last season, Tim Hightower (who hadn’t taken an NFL snap since 2011 prior to Week 9) and Ameer Abdullah (who didn’t play more than 42 percent of snaps in any of those games) were among the 27 NFL running backs who had more rushing yards than … Devonta Freeman.” via Matthew Berry ESPN Fantasy Guru
Freeman is a solid running back that you shouldn’t overdraft, because it will burn you. Freeman had 14 total touchdowns in 2015.
In 2014, he only had two touchdowns, sure, opportunities played a factor but that kind of touchdown differential was more so based on a mix of luck and good fortune than a surge in talent. Freeman finished 2015 as the best back in fantasy land, but won’t finish in the top 10 in 2016.
Next: 4. The script will be flipped on this offense
4. The 1,000 yard rusher number will double in 2016
In 2015, we witnessed one of the worst cumulative fantasy football seasons in history for the running back position. We only saw seven running backs break the 1,000 yard barrier and only two got more than 1,107 yards.
That number will double in 2016, we’ll see 14 1,000 yard rushers and the game of football getting back to its roots. The reason being, more running backs will be healthy (LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte to name a few), which opens up more opportunities.
Also new faces in new places should spark a few runners over the top (Lamar Miller and DeMarco Murray). Plus of course, the volume of talented rookies who enter the league every year, adding a fresh new crop of potential thousand yard rushers.
While the game may be transitioning to a passing league and for argument’s sake it may already be there. When the weather inevitably gets cold, the running backs thrive when it matters most.
Next: 3. A running back phenomenon
Jun 1, 2016; Oxnard, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) is pursued by linebacker Akeem Ayers (56) at organized team activities at the River Ridge Fields. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
3. Todd Gurley will break the 300 fantasy point barrier
In 2015, not one running back topped the 300 point fantasy barrier. In fact, not only did a running back not break 300 fantasy points, but no one was even close to that figure. The closest last season was Devonta Freeman who ended the season with 247 fantasy points according to The Huddle.
There is no doubt that Gurley will be the center of the Los Angeles Rams’ offense, which means he’ll have plenty of opportunities to score. Last year, Gurley was a rookie coming off a torn ACL, playing on an offensively challenged team. Opposing defenses knew that the only weapon that the Rams had was Gurley and he still finished the season with 1,108 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on only 229 carries in 13 games.
With a full offseason conditioning program and another year in a NFL offense, Gurley should dominate in 2016. LaDainian Tomlinson had one of the best fantasy seasons of all time back in 2006 when he scored 427.1 fantasy points thanks to 1,815 rushing yards, 508 receiving yards and a whopping 31 total touchdowns.
While Gurley doesn’t have the receiving prowess of the future Pro Football Hall of Famer in LT, he does have the speed to run away from defenders. While also possessing the power to pummel and batter oncoming tacklers.
Next: 2. It continues to be the year of the Jaguar
Jan 3, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) throws the ball against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
2. Blake Bortles will finish 2016 as a top-two fantasy QB
Speaking of players that broke through the 300 point fantasy barrier, the Jacksonville Jaguars current starting quarterback accomplished that feat last season. He scored 334.12 to be exact (in standard leagues), thanks to 4,428 passing yards, 35 touchdowns and he even managed to rush for 310 yards and two touchdowns.
The Jaguars had one of the best offseasons in recent memory in 2016, they added talent on both sides of the football through free agency. While in this year’s draft, they dominated by acquiring talented and versatile play-makers in Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack.
Bortles isn’t doing it on his own, at his disposal he has one of the most intriguing one-two combination in the league by way of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. The pair combined for over 140 receptions for over 2,400 yards and 24 touchdowns.
In 2016, Bortles will lead the Jaguars to an AFC South title (their first since the division realignment). While also becoming one of the game’s elite fantasy quarterbacks.
Next: 1. There will be a new leader in fantasy football land
1. Andrew Luck claims the fantasy football crown
While the Jaguars and Bortles will win the division in 2016, the Indianapolis Colts will have a bounce back season of their own. The Colts and Andrew Luck for that matter, had a forgettable 2015 season which resulted in the Colts missing the playoffs for only the third time since 1999.
Luck only played in seven games and had his worst statistical season as a pro. Luck’s terrible 2015 was a culmination of poor offensive line play, a regression in his mechanics/decision making and a tough schedule.
Fortunately, the Colts improved in many areas in this year’s draft and a conservative approach in free agency. Luck with his ability to pass and run, will rule the roost as the new fantasy king with Cam Newton playing third fiddle.
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Luck has as many weapons as any quarterback in football and he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder entering 2016. Running back Frank Gore should be a lot better, which will make defenses respect the run and thus giving Luck more time to find his open targets.