I would love to write something clever to start this piece, but how many ways can a person say how excited they are that football is back?
With that, let’s get bold.
Arizona Cardinals – David Johnson will be an RB1, but don’t expect record-breaking return on that top-3 pick.
In 2016 David Johnson handled 373 touches for 2,118 total yards and 20 total touchdowns. Let me repeat that. In 2016 David Johnson handled 373 touches for 2,118 total yards and 20 total touchdowns. That was a season for the ages, and to expect another one like it with quarterback instability, a new coach, and an offensive line with questions is setting yourselves up for big time disappointment.
Atlanta Falcons – Tevin Coleman will outperform Devonta Freeman.
If you couldn’t see this coming since the day they drafted Coleman I don’t know what to tell you. While Freeman’s carries have declined since 2015 (265, 227, 196), Coleman’s usage has increased during the same time period (87, 118, 156). He’s already a top-23 back as it stands, and both the Falcons and Coleman have already talked about more work in 2018. Don’t be surprised when you get a potential top-15 running back in the fifth or sixth round of your drafts.
Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco will finish as a top-12 Quarterback in Fantasy Football.
It would seem that I’ve lost my mind but understand when I say that this might be the most balance group of weapons Joe Flacco has had in quite some time. Finally having an answer at every skill position and depth to go along with it will benefit Flacco in a way that I believe a lot of people are overlooking. Expect a year closer to his 2010 or 2014 with fewer interceptions to push him into the low-end QB1 discussion.
Buffalo Bills – Charles Clay will be the highest ranked fantasy performer in 2018.
There isn’t a whole lot to speak of in Buffalo. And while it would be easy to scream Lesean McCoy, between his legal issues and the fact that every team will attempt to take him away look for the “safety blanket” Tight End as the only viable option to consider in 2018 for the Bills.
Carolina Panthers – D.J. Moore will lead the team in receiving yards (1,000) and receiving touchdowns (7).
A rookie receiver hasn’t had a 1,000 yard season since 2016. There, I said it for you. I’m also telling you that Moore isn’t your typical rookie receiver. While everyone was comparing Moore to Carolina legend Steve Smith, I was quietly watching an Odell Beckham, Jr. lookalike work his magic in College Park Maryland (with BAD Quarterback play, mind you). If Cam dragged a 1,000 yard season out of Kelvin Benjamin you’re going to convince me that Moore can’t average 75 yards a contest? With his yards after catch ability? Good luck.
Chicago Bears – Allen Robinson will be third receiver to own behind Trey Burton and Anthony Miller.
Allen Robinson will make $28 million dollars the next two years to play football. That’s the literal explanation of what he’s getting paid to do. He will not give you a 2015 season like he had in Jacksonville. Mostly because Nagy’s offense isn’t built for Robinson’s skill set. It’s much more conducive to what Anthony Miller and Trey Burton will be doing: Slants, space, mismatches over the middle, occasional deep ball. Also don’t forget it took 302 targets in two years for Robinson to sniff the reputation he has of a WR1.
Cincinnati Bengals – Tyler Eifert will be a top-7 Tight End in 2018 (650 yards, 9 touchdowns).
Is he built like a game of Jenga? Absolutely. But something has to give, right? I’m accounting for four fewer touchdowns and slightly more yardage than Eifert’s last healthy season in 2015. On a team with few red zone options Eifert will be a boon.
Cleveland Browns – Jarvis Landry isn’t a WR1.
Congratulations are in order for Jarvis Landry. I’m always on board for players getting paid. Now for reality: If Jarvis Landry is anything other than your WR2 then you’re going to regret that roster decision. It takes volume for Landry to achieve the production he has and if you think he’s going to get anywhere near the 152.7 targets he’s averaged since 2015 then you’re in need of a reality check.
Dallas Cowboys – There won’t be a single pass catcher worth owning for Dallas in 2018.
Ezekiel Elliott is a running back so he doesn’t count. You can talk to me about Beasley, or Allen Turns, or Michael Gallup, or Terrence Williams but I can’t promise I won’t be thinking about tacos the whole time.
Denver Broncos – Courtland Sutton will be the number one receiver in Denver by the end of the season.
Back in February I was hearing comparisons for Sutton to Julio Jones. While I’m not calling anyone Julio Jones, trust me when I say that he’ll be the guy for this Broncos receiving corps come November.
Detroit Lions – Kerryon Johnson will challenge for Offensive Rookie of the Year (900 yards rushing, 300 yards receiving, 6 total touchdowns).
Someone want to tell me how Rashaad Penny went before this guy? At Auburn he was a “Do-it-All” running back in the toughest defensive conference in college football. During the preseason he continued to show those skills. Blount will steal some touchdowns but there’s no denying who should be the primary back in Detroit.
Green Bay Packers – Geronimo Allison will be the WR2 in Green Bay (850 yards, 4 touchdowns).
Another name my co-host and I disagreed on. No, Allison didn’t get cut (really, Dave?), and I’m banking on him to not only produce FLEX value, but if Cobb so much as catches the sniffles we will be looking at the WR2 going forward in Green Bay.
Houston Texans – Jordan Akins will see top-12 production in year one.
I’m telling you now so you aren’t surprised in December when he becomes Deshaun Watson’s second favorite target.
Indianapolis Colts – Jordan Wilkins totals 1,500 yards from scrimmage.
This is a hill I’m prepared to die on, this season. Wilkins has all the tools needed to rush for 1,000 yards and catch 40-50 passes for 500 yards.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Fournette takes a big step back in 2018.
It kind of hurts me to say this, but expecting Fournette to take a step forward when the offense needs to evolve is a big mistake. Contract extension aside, Blake Bortles isn’t consistent enough to keep defenses honest, and that, along with the desire to get Corey Grant and T.J. Yeldon more involved will make for a trying sophomore campaign for Fournette.
Kansas City Chiefs – Sammy Watkins shows who he is. Not a WR1.
When youth, injury, and career year mix it makes for a cocktail most teams can’t resist. I’ve already mentioned Allen Robinson (25, ACL injury in 2017, career year in 2015) and the contract he received. Another who fits the bill (no pun intended) is Watkins. 2015 was a breakout year for him as well, with injuries marring 2016. He’s now in Kansas City, as inefficient (55.4% career catch rate) as ever. Wanna know the career catch rates of true WR1’s? 66.2% (Antonio Brown), 62.8% (Odell Beckham, Jr.), and 63.2% (Julio Jones). And in case you’re wondering, the other pass catchers in the Chiefs offense Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill have career catch rates of 71.5% and 72.3%. But, yay! Touchdowns! If you’re drafting Watkins to be your WR1 you should stop doing that.
Los Angeles Chargers – Austin Ekeler becomes ‘West Coast’ Tevin Coleman and cuts into Melvin Gordon’s production significantly.
For a little over a year I’ve been stashing one player on just about every roster because I think he’s bound to get the opportunity he deserves soon enough. Austin Ekeler is that player, and he’s making a case he could be the West Coast version of Tevin Coleman. Without saying too much about the current starter in Carson, California (yep, still weird) I’ll say this about Ekeler: 15 total touches a game should be in the game script every week for him. When they are, you’ll have a top-25 performer.
Los Angeles Rams – Cooper Kupp leads the Rams in receiving yards (1,100) and touchdowns (8).
20 red zone targets as a rookie. 66.0% catch rate as a rookie. 869 yards and five touchdowns. As. A. Rookie. Second year in Sean McVay’s offense should pretty much lock him in as a Pro Bowl receiver…whatever that means.
Miami Dolphins – Mike Gesicki pulls an Evan Engram and posts TE1 numbers year one.
The Dolphins have given every indication they will use him like a starter, and being that this is an Adam Gase offense expect a solid first season from Gesicki of 700+ yards and 5-7 touchdowns.
Minnesota Vikings – Kirk Cousins finishes outside of the top-10 Quarterbacks in Fantasy.
My co-host on the podcast and I have gone back and forth on this, but I truly believe we’ve seen what Kirk Cousins is. New team, new offense, new personnel is going to put Cousins outside of the top-10 at his position despite the new weapons and assumption it will translate to immediate success.
New England Patriots – Cordarelle Patterson is a FLEX option by week 5.
Here’s a name you haven’t thought about for a bit. The suspension of Edelman and uncertainty behind Chris Hogan I expect Patterson to carve out a nice role the first four weeks and maintain it even after Edelman returns. Keep his name in mind, particularly in PPR leagues where a 1,000 total yard season isn’t out of the question.
New Orleans Saints – The Saints D/ST becomes an elite, must start unit.
Marshon Lattimore. Cameron Jordan. Marcus Williams. The Saints have built a unit that is no longer a streaming option. Besides the Rams, Vikings, and Jaguars I expect the Saints to be ranked in the top 6-8 in fantasy D/ST scoring this season.
New York Giants – Saquon Barkley finishes with less than 1,500 yards from scrimmage.
Too many options, too bad an offensive line. It won’t be because of talent he won’t reach 1,500 total yards. It’s simple math.
New York Jets – Quincy Enunwa will reintroduce himself as a fantasy asset.
Before getting hurt he was one of my favorite sleepers. Darnold will need reliable receivers that move the chains and that makes Enunwa the best bet to lead this team in targets, receptions, and touchdowns.
Oakland Raiders – Amari Cooper will have the most inefficient WR1 season in the history of WR1 seasons.
Alshon Jeffery might even ask how he pulled it off. 2015 Amari Cooper might be proud. Jon Gruden will probably bask in his genius.
Philadelphia Eagles – Josh Adams. Remember that name.
Jay Ajayi is the guy you’ll draft. Corey Clement is the guy you want to break out. Darren Sproles is the one that won’t go away. But Josh Adams is probably the most complete back on the roster and don’t be surprised when he emerges mid-season.
Pittsburgh Steelers – JuJu Smith-Schuster is the WR2 who will look like a WR1.
This is mostly because of Le’Veon Bell playing keep away with his talents (rightfully so) but JuJu was already headed for a big year. It gets bigger the longer Bell stays away. Dare I say the Steelers might have the only receiving duo you could technically start in both the WR1 and WR2 spots.
San Francisco 49ers – Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t a top-15 Quarterback.
Jimmy GQ. Jimmy GOATroppolo. Jimmy Montana. Jimmy G’sus. All are nicknames I like better than him actually finishing in the top-15 among his position. Love the long-term prospects of him, but everyone has a learning curve. Jimmy’s ‘Sandman’ is coming.
Seattle Seahawks – The Seattle Seahawks still have a top-10 D/ST.
Excuse me if this isn’t bold, but now that Earl Thomas is back why are we acting like Seattle’s defense still isn’t a top-10 unit? Also, how good was that “Legion of Boom” that Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Martellus Bennett, and Cliff Avril are now gone and the talent is still enough to keep them in games?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Peyton Barber doesn’t give up the starting running back job. At all.
Peyton Barber is done being disrespected. Ronald Jones is but a casualty of his #RevengeSZN. I do hope he doesn’t take it personally.
Tennessee Titans – Taywan Taylor becomes the best receiver on the Titans’ roster.
I love three things about receivers: great route running, speed, and an ability to get yards after the catch. Taylor has all three and a coordinator who likes to use guys like him (Matt LaFleur). Corey Davis is cool, but Taywan will be your man every week.
Washington Redskins – Adrian Peterson (sadly) will be a top-25 running back.
Wanna know how to stunt a good Quarterback and keep them from doing what they need to do? Add an alpha running back past his prime who will command the offense go through him even though that’s not the way the game is anymore. Through all that he’ll slog his way to a top-25 performance and Washington will be worse for it.