Tis the season fantasy football fans! The time to draft your teams is now and we officially have 15 days until the 2016 NFL season kicks off. The title of this article says it all. I am here to offer my top 5 bold predictions for the 2016 Fantasy Football season. These are not predictions that are extremely likely to happen, rather predictions that are rather contrarian (a term for all the DFSers out there) and ones that I personally see as reasonable. Whether you agree with any of these predictions or you think I’m the dumbest person in the world, I hope this article at least sparks a bit of thought for this upcoming season.
Here are my bold predictions for the 2016 NFL season.
Lamar Miller will finish as the number one fantasy running back
This prediction is my favorite, and the one that I see as the most feasible. I’ve been aboard the Lamar Miller train for the past 3-4 years, and have yet to see my desired results due to the Dolphins’ stubbornness to give him the ball. To put it into perspective, over the last two seasons, Lamar Miller has played all 32 games and has received 410 carries (194 in 2014 and 216 in 2015). In those same two seasons, Le’Veon Bell has received only 7 less carries and played 10 less games. Miller has rushed for 1,972 yards and 16 touchdowns in that span, while Bell has rushed for 1,917 yards and 11 touchdowns. While obviously Le’Veon Bell surpasses Miller in the receiving category, it shouldn’t go unnoticed that Miller rushes at an extremely similar clip. When you have a back that has a career average of 4.6 yards per carry, what’s preventing you from giving him the ball? It beats me, but trust me, Bill O’Brien and George Godsey won’t let that happen. After Miller rushed behind the 28th ranked run-blocking offensive line and still managed to finish as the 6th best running back in fantasy terms, expect his numbers to skyrocket. Teams cannot stack the box against a team with DeAndre Hopkins, and if Miller can maintain the level of durability he’s shown in the past, I think it is extremely reasonable to think he can grab the title of #1 Fantasy running back.
Rob Gronkowski will not be this season’s number one tight end
Please, hear me out. This prediction may just be to annoy people (especially Pats fans) and it may be the fact that I love contradicting people, but this is another one that I see as somewhat feasible. There are three things that I am factoring into this prediction. First, is the fact that Tom Brady is suspended for the first four games of the season. We’ve seen this before and it didn’t have that large of an ill effect on Gronk, but this year is different. Teams are obviously going to double cover Gronk, but the thing that’s different about this season is the schedule the Pats have during Brady’s suspension. They face the Cardinals, Dolphins, Texans, and Bills. Three of those four teams were in the top half of the league when it came to defending tight ends and the health of the defenses has only improved. The second factor is the addition of Martellus Bennett. The Pats were notorious for running two TE sets during the times of Aaron Hernandez (pour one out for my man), and I see this year being quite similar. Bennett has never played for a quarterback close to the caliber of Brady and was able to put up respectable numbers two years ago under Jay Cutler (900+ yards, 6 TD). While Gronk will not only see double-coverage, he will likely see a slight reduction in targets. The final factor that I put into this prediction is the emergence of competition at the position (Primarily my favorite TE this season, Jordan Reed). While Travis Kelce and Greg Olsen have established themselves, the coming out parties of Jordan Reed and Gary Barnidge only hurt Gronk’s chance at a TE title. While Gary is highly unlikely to threaten him because of his QB situation, I see Jordan Reed as Gronk’s biggest competition with gunslinger QB Kirk Cousins. If Reed can stay healthy, I expect him to take the top spot. (Don’t sleep on Jimmy Graham either with the departure of Marshawn Lynch)
LeSean McCoy will flash back to 2013 and rush for 1,500 yards with 10 total TD
I’m a little bitter over LeSean McCoy. I had owned him in 2013 when he posted incredible numbers, and I also traded for him two years ago when he failed to live up to expectations. I wanted no part of him last season, but I’m the complete opposite this season. Last year produced mixed results for McCoy, but ultimately was a disappointment. He missed 4 games with various leg injuries and failed to rush for 1,000 yards for the first time since 2012. The emergence of rookie running back Karlos Williams also put a dent in his value. Guess what? That won’t be an issue this season. The Bills released Karlos Williams this last week following a weight gain and sluggish performance, leaving McCoy as the back to own in run-heavy Buffalo. While Tyrod Taylor will take some carries away (ugh), I don’t see McCoy running into any issues when it comes to competition for carries with another running back. Barring any health issues, I don’t see a single reason that McCoy can’t return to the dominance that he experienced in 2013. He’s an elite pass catcher out of the backfield (which will help Taylor immensely when under pressure) and he’s shown insane ability to fool defenders. Add on the lackluster passing attack of the Bills and you have all the makings for a top-tier running back.
Amari Cooper will finish as the #5 fantasy wide receiver this season
The talent is there, the young quarterback is there, the complimentary receivers are there, and the raw athleticism is there. Coming off of a 1,000+ yard, 6 TD season, I fully expect Amari Cooper to almost shatter those numbers, and all expectations this season. He hit a wall late in the season (and still put up 120 yards and two touchdowns on the Packers late in the season), but that’s expected out of rookies. The Raiders don’t have a matchup with an intimidating secondary until week 6 of the season (against the Chiefs) and then follow that game up against Jacksonville and Tampa Bay. The schedule is even set up for Cooper to explode. With Michael Crabtree on the field, teams are going to find it difficult to constant double cover Cooper, and with Derek Carr’s continuous improvements, I believe that Cooper will finish behind Antonio Brown, OBJ, Julio Jones, and DeAndre Hopkins as the 5th best wide receiver this season.
Devonta Freeman will struggle to match last years number and surrender a hefty amount of carries to Tevin Coleman
I’m not saying that he’s overrated, but the blunt of Freeman’s production came in a 3-4 week span last season. This reminds me too much of Doug Martin 3 seasons ago when he exploded for 2-3 weeks and got everyone hyped up, and then failed to live up to expectations the following season. Freeman only had 4 games last season in which he surpassed 100 rushing yards. In the remaining 11 games he played, he only topped 80 yards twice and was held under 50 yards in 6 of those games. He was a touchdown machine for a while last season, but you cannot depend on the touchdown in fantasy football. Because of his brief breakout last season, Tevin Coleman failed to see many carries, but like the heading of this section says, I expect a huge difference this season. Freeman failed to average more than 3.5 yards per carry in 8 of 15 games last season. That is absolutely atrocious. I expect him to have a somewhat long leash in the beginning of the season, but come weeks 4-5, I expect to see a shift in the Atlanta backfield, as Freeman really hasn’t proved himself as a truly dominant back in this league yet.