Bold Predictions for 2016
By now you’ve read 20 of these articles, and they all seem equally outrageous. Most writers are trying to get a rise out of their readers and create buzz around unrealistic proclamations to generate clicks. But here is a list of 10 bold predictions that could actually come true.
1) Shaun Draughn will lead San Francisco running backs in fantasy points (PPR)
Carlos Hyde has statistically been one of the most inefficient running backs in the NFL since entering the league back in 2014. The fantasy community is excited about Hyde pairing up with Chip Kelly, but the excitement seems unwarranted. To start, the Niners ranked 30th in run-blocking per Pro Football Focus last season.
But Chip Kelly can fix that, right?
Not so fast.
The Eagles ranked 10th in the league in rushing yards during Chip’s inaugural season. That dropped to 15th in 2014 and dead last in 2015. Dead. Last. Offensive gimmicks have a very short shelf life in the NFL. Give defensive coordinators time to figure out an offense and they’ll get it done. Remember the wildcat?
I think Kelly’s shtick is up and therefore, will not save the 49ers. Expect San Fran (in the NFL’s strongest division defensively by the way) to struggle in 2016. That means a lot of time trailing and a lot of passing downs. Unfortunately for Carlos, he’s never been a pass catching back at the pro or college level. Shaun Draughn on the other hand was and is. In 6 games as the Niners starting running back, Draughn caught 25 of 32 targets, averaging 7.0 yards per reception last season. It should also be noted that he came into the starting role, because of the oft-injured Carlos Hyde, was injured again. All factors considered Draughn should see a ton of opportunity for the Niners this season.
2) Corey Coleman will have at least 1,300 receiving yardsMy love of Corey Coleman is well documented. He’s an athletic freak that was absolutely dominant at the college level. With Josh Gordon suspended and practically two years removed from the game, Corey has four games to establish himself as Robert Griffin’s go-to target. Aside from a hamstring injury that’s kept him sidelined for a few weeks out of precaution, all reports out of Cleveland indicate Coleman is a star in the making. He has Odell Beckham agility and explosiveness, with a cutthroat mentality. In the words of his former college coach, “Corey is a bad dude. He’ll rip your heart out and watch it stop beating.” It’s rare that rookies have the impact we saw in 2014, but if there’s a player capable of matching that kind of output in his first year, it’s Corey Coleman.
3) Michael Floyd will finish as a top-12 receiver
From Week 6 to Week 16 last season, Michael Floyd paced for 76 receptions, 1,296 yards, and 11 TDs. That translates to 270 PPR points over the course of a full season. Numbers that would have been good for a WR10 finish in 2015. Had he not dislocated three fingers in the preseason, a top-10 finish would be the expectation from Floyd this year. Pounce on him while you can. There’s a chance Floyd never touches his current ADP again (WR27).
4) David Johnson will score 20 TDs
David Johnson was limited for 11 weeks as a backup, then a workhorse for three games, before being eased into the playoffs with two sub-15 touch weeks to close the season. He had 12 touchdowns. If you subscribe to the advanced metrics philosophy of fantasy football, you should have seen this coming and you know this man is legit. Johnson boasts one of the best athletic profiles in the NFL, was an absolute workhorse in college and the target hog of all target hogs out of the backfield at Northern Iowa. He’s Bruce Arians’ pipe dream and the quintessential 3-down back. We haven’t seen a 20 touchdown season in five years, but David Johnson has the best chance to bring it back.
5) Allen Robinson will catch at least 14 TDs…again
Touchdowns are fluky. They don’t tell the whole story. I’m not as bullish on Doug Baldwin, because I know it’s unlikely he nabs 14 TDs again this year. Allen Robinson is a different story, though. He’s the optimal red zone threat. Don’t believe me? His No. 1 player comp on PlayerProfiler is Dez Bryant. The only guy people trust to score double digit TDs every year. He’s 6’2” 220-pounds with an exceptional catch radius. He also had one of the highest red zone and contested catch rates in the league last year. On top of all that, he’s one of the best route runners in football according to Matt Harmon and reports out of camp are he’s only getting better. All signs point to Robinson being the real deal. Blake Bortles will continue to rely on him inside the red zone.
6) Antonio Brown eclipses 2,000 yards
Is this even bold? Antonio Brown has the second and eighth best single season receiving outputs in NFL history and posted both marks in the last two seasons. In games in which Ben Roethlisberger played last year, Antonio Brown was on pace for 158 receptions, 2,132 receiving yards, 13 TDs and 450 fantasy points!! That is certifiably insane. The fact of the matter is, you can’t cover Antonio Brown. He’s the G.O.A.T. when it comes to route-running. If Big Ben plays a full season, expect Brown to shatter the receiving record.
7) DeAndre Washington will lead Oakland running backs in fantasy points (PPR)
Latavius Murray has good numbers. I can’t deny that. But if you dig deeper, you’ll see that he’s highly inefficient. Word out of Oakland is the Raiders are aware. Given the opportunity, fifth round rookie DeAndre Washington might have a chance to shine. It’s unlikely he’ll steal a ton of carries from Murray in early downs, but he should see a ton of third down work. If he delivers while Murray maintains his inefficiency, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Washington get an even bigger share of the workload. I was high on this guy months ago as a sleeper, but his standout preseason play is awakening the masses.
8) Phillip Dorsett will score 7 or more TDs
Phillip Dorsett almost seems like a forgotten man, thanks to a lackluster season as the sixth option in an Andrew Luck-less Colts offense. But with Coby Fleener and Andre Johnson gone, suddenly Dorsett finds himself as the third option in a high-volume passing offense. Dorsett is a guy with 4.33 speed, likely drawing limited defensive attention. In a lot of ways, I’m expecting Dorsett to have the same impact T.Y. Hilton did as a rookie, when he caught 50 of 90 targets for 861 yards and 7 TDs. With a ton of attention on Reggie Wayne, Hilton capitalized over the top with his speed (4.39) and connected with Luck on a lot of big touchdown plays. Dorsett is capable of doing the same. In fact, Hilton’s rookie season might be Dorsett’s floor.
9) Kelvin Benjamin will finish outside the top-40 wide receivers
When lack of athleticism meets inefficiency: The Kelvin Benjamin Story. I’m probably a little harder on Benjamin than I should be, but it’s hard to trust this guy. First off, he’s old. Ancient. Benjamin is entering his second season at the age of 25, coming off a significant knee injury. He’s also battling for targets with two young wide receivers that carry similar athletic profiles. Worst of all, he can’t expect to see one of the league’s top target shares, like he did as a rookie. Carolina discovered their identity last season without him. They are going to run. They are going to spread the ball around. And there is no way Kelvin Benjamin sees 146 targets again. Ranking 60th in fantasy points per target as a rookie that means bad news for Benjamin’s fantasy hopes.
10) Tyrod Taylor will finish as a top-5 quarterback
Tyrod Taylor looks effortless on a football field. He’s calm and never phased in the pocket. He’s elusive in space. And he’s pinpoint accurate, especially with the deep ball. The game just comes easy to him. He also led the NFL in rushing yards per game in 2015. Buffalo’s vanilla offense certainly curtailed Taylor’s numbers last season, but he still managed 19.7 fantasy points per game (seventh-best in the league). Had he not missed two games, he probably finishes in the top-10. I recently spoke to a former Ravens teammate of Tyrod’s about the rising QB. He told me it was obvious Taylor was better than Flacco; he just lacked the size. If Rex lets him loose, Tyrod has all the makings to be the breakout quarterback of 2016.