Pre-season player rankings will only take you so far.
We all know the projections that fantasy sites, blogs and magazines create will end up being wrong. There are, and will always be, players that break out. And, on the flip side, whether it’s due to injury or poor play, there will always be players that flop.
The fact is, pre-season player lists factor in both risk and reward. The reason many believe getting a quarterback early is a fine idea is because it’s a “safe” thing to do. There is little risk. But, at the same time, when you consider the value of the position, there’s not a massive reward in getting Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Drew Brees in the first round.
If we were to throw rankings and average draft positions out the window and focus strictly on particular research and gut feelings, we’d probably draft a little differently. That’s what this list is about: bold predictions that just feel right.
The items below aren’t necessarily facts I’d use to make a draft decision. They’re just outcomes that wouldn’t surprise me.
50 Bold Predictions
1. Antonio Brown will be a top-10 fantasy receiver.
Reason: He was easily Roethlisberger’s favorite target the second half of last year, and Mike Wallace actually helps his value.
2. And teammate Mike Wallace won’t even crack the top-25 at the position.
Reason: He played a poor second half, and defenses have to keep his speed honest. The holdout doesn’t help.
3. Peyton Hillis will finish with more fantasy points than Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew and Michael Turner.
Reason: Hillis is in store for 200-plus carries this season with goal-line work. The other three guys listed all have question marks.
4. Jamaal Charles will too.
Reason: This one is just to show that I believe both Kansas City Chiefs’ running backs will be solid this year.
5. Steven Jackson will play in at least 15 games.
Reason: I get that he hasn’t been hurt that often over the last few years, but he has over 2,100 career carries. I still believe in him, though.
6. Ahmad Bradshaw will as well, finishing as a top-10 fantasy back.
Reason: He’s going to get goal-line looks, and he’s only a couple years removed from a very stellar season. The Brandon Jacobs departure helps him tremendously. Number one question is health.
7. Aaron Hernandez will finish as a better fantasy tight end than his teammate, Rob Gronkowski.
Reason: He’s going to be used in a ton of different looks. He’s a more versatile player.
8. Willis McGahee will be a better fantasy back than Frank Gore and Ryan Mathews.
Reason: McGahee is solid. If he stays healthy, he’s going to get plenty of touches. Frank Gore will be lost in a San Francisco running back-by-committee system, and I never like Ryan Mathews health.
9. And Frank Gore won’t crack the top-30 at the position.
Reason: As I mentioned above, I believe there’s a reason the 49ers drafted LaMichael James, got Brandon Jacobs and have a talented Kendall Hunter.
10. Darrius Heyward-Bey will finish as a top-20 receiver.
Reason: He was Carson Palmer’s go-to guy towards the end of last year, and I see it carrying over into 2012.
11. So will Titus Young and Torrey Smith.
Reason: Second-year receivers typically do well, and both of these players have talent. Titus Young is in a pass-heavy offense, and Torrey Smith is “the guy” in Baltimore.
12. Kendall Wright will be the highest ranked rookie wideout.
Reason: Opportunity. If Kenny Britt struggles to get back on the field, Locker and Wright may hook up for a considerable amount of touchdowns this year.
13. No Detroit running back will finish as a top-30 running back.
Reason: It’s a committee system on a pass-first team. I don’t like it at all.
14. Andrew Luck will be a better fantasy quarterback than Matt Schaub, Ben Roethlisberger and Robert Griffin III.
Reason: Luck has shown that he has the skills of a veteran. Schaub and Roethlisberger are both overrated as fantasy quarterbacks, and I think RGIII’s running ability is being overblown because of Cam Newton’s success.
15. The Bills D/ST will be a top-5 fantasy defense.
Reason: Their schedule to begin the season is easy, and there’s always a dark horse defense that steps up. Why not the Bills when they’re not playing the Patriots?
16. Matthew Stafford will be the second best fantasy quarterback.
Reason: He’ll more than likely attempt the most passes, and he has the best receiver in the game. It’s that simple.
17. Tom Brady will be the best.
Reason: Bringing in Lloyd this off-season took this offense over the edge. Brady will compete for 50 touchdowns.
18. Eric Decker will finish at least 10 wide receiver ranks higher than Demaryius Thomas.
Reason: Peyton Manning loves players that can run solid routes, and that’s Decker. We’ve already seen what they’ve done in the pre-season.
19. Jonathan Dwyer will finish with the most fantasy points of any Steeler running back.
Reason: He’s the most talented on the team.
20. Lance Moore will score double-digit touchdowns.
Reason: He gets a lot of red zone looks, and with the departure of Robert Meachem, he should see even more.
21. So will Pierre Garcon.
Reason: You can already see his relationship with RGIII developing. Watch out.
22. Tony Romo won’t crack the top-10 at the quarterback position.
Reason: That offensive line scares me. A lot.
23. Neither will Phillip Rivers.
Reason: I think the competition is tough for a quarterback to reach the top-10, and Rivers lost a great weapon in Vincent Jackson.
24. Donald Brown won’t be the best fantasy running back on his own team.
Reason: They’re going to go with a running back-by-committee system in Indianapolis, and Brown won’t be the one getting goal-line touches.
25. Beanie Wells won’t either.
Reason: Ryan Williams is much, much more talented.
26. Stevan Ridley will post double-digit touchdowns.
Reason: I believe he’ll be a more talented BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Maybe not in the red zone, but he’ll get his opportunities in that offense.
27. Reggie Bush won’t crack the top-25 at running back.
Reason: The Dolphins have a lot of young talent at the running back position. Bush is good in PPR leagues, but not in standard ones.
28. Brandon Lafell will finish the season with more fantasy points than Anquan Boldin, Denarius Moore and Santonio Holmes.
Reason: He’s now officially got the number two role, and the other players listed just aren’t dependable anymore.
29. Chris Johnson will finish as a top-3 fantasy running back.
Reason: I wrote about it here. If he’s motivated, which it looks like he is, he can do anything. The line is the only question mark.
30. Darren McFadden will finish as the top one.
Reason: If he plays 16 games, he can easily be the top running back. He’s proven before that he has the ability to post monster numbers.
31. Jordy Nelson will be a better fantasy receiver than teammate Greg Jennings.
Reason: He’s had a great camp, and Jennings will still take away that number-one corner.
32. Malcom Floyd will not be a top-40 wide receiver.
Reason: He can never stay on the field.
33. Greg Olsen will be a top-6 tight end.
Reason: He’s now all alone in Carolina as the top tight end. Cam Newton will target him often.
34. Jeremy Maclin will outscore DeSean Jackson by over 30 fantasy points.
Reason: Maclin is a better all-around receiver, and Jackson has issues between the ears.
35. Dwayne Bowe won’t score more than 5 touchdowns.
Reason: I love the Chiefs running game, but not so much the passing game.
36. Teammate Jonathan Baldwin will.
Reason: His size and vertical leaping ability make him a great red zone target.
37. Michael Vick will not be a top-12 quarterback.
Reason: He’s in and out of games with injury, and he’s had an awful off-season.
38. And it won’t be because of injury.
Reason: I see a regression in his game.
39. No Jet will finish in the top-20 of any positional category.
Reason: The only one that can really get close is Shonn Greene, but I don’t like his chances.
40. Russell Wilson will be a top-10 fantasy quarterback.
Reason: I’m buying into the hype because he’s a good decision-maker. He can run the ball and has underrated weapons around him.
41. He’ll also finish with more fantasy points than Andrew Luck and Tony Romo.
Reason: I’ve mentioned why I don’t like Romo, but I see Wilson’s running ability trumping the athletically underrated Andrew Luck
42. DeMarco Murray will finish as a top-5 back with double-digit touchdowns.
Reason: He’s looked great, even with a porous offensive line.
43. Arian Foster won’t.
Reason: Don’t underestimate the talent of Ben Tate.
44. Mark Ingram will be a better fantasy play than teammate Darren Sproles.
Reason: Ingram is a talented back that can work well in that system. In PPR, I’m still taking Sproles to be better, of course.
45. Cedric Benson will rush for 1,200 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Reason: If he stays as the starting back, he’ll get around 20 touches per game against defenses playing the pass.
46. Jacquizz Rodgers will catch 60 passes and have over 1,200 total yards.
Reason: I could see him having a Sproles-like role in a new Atlanta offense. Michael Turner is losing speed quickly.
47. Kendall Hunter will emerge as the best 49ers fantasy running back.
Reason: Gore is aging, and Hunter looks to be the most ready back in that system.
48. Robert Turbin will be the best fantasy rookie running back.
Reason: Marshawn Lynch has been an up-and-down player throughout his career. Pete Carroll seems to love Turbin, as well.
49. And fellow rookie back Trent Richardson won’t crack the top-25 at the position.
Reason: He’s probably going to be a committee system through September due to his knee injury, and the Browns schedule is tough.
50. Jerome Simpson will finish as a top-30 fantasy receiver.
Reason: Simpson has a lot of talent, but just never could bring it together in Cincinnati. A fresh start is exactly what he needs.