By Jack Sitt
Here are some bold predictions for the upcoming Fantasy Football season:
1. Prediction — Dez Bryant finishes with the most fantasy points among receivers.
Reasoning: Dez Bryant’s performance in the second half of last season was dazzling. He broke out and finally matured. If you took his averages over the second half of last season, and expanded it to a full 16 game season, his numbers would be 1758 yards and 20 touchdowns. This would be 295 fantasy points, 81 points ahead of 2nd place Calvin Johnson. I understand that the touchdowns might not be as high, but I expect him to put up those types of numbers this season. Call it an aberration if you want, but he is not going to be any more guard-able this season, and Romo is not going to throw to him any less. Dez is just getting started.
2. Tony Romo, currently ranked as the 12th best fantasy quarterback, finishes as a top 7 fantasy quarterback.
Reasoning: This one should be obvious by now because Romo finished as the 8th best fantasy quarterback last year, but for some reason he dropped 4 sports in the rankings. Regardless, I think we will see a improved Tony Romo mainly because of the emergence of Dez Bryant. The last time Romo had a receiver who was playing this well was 2007 (when he had Terrell Owens), and he threw for 36 touchdowns that year. Combine the emergence of Dez with options like Austin and Witten, and I think we’re in for a nice year for Romo.
3. Darrius Heyward-Bey, currently ranked as the 60th best receiver by ESPN, finishes as a top 25 fantasy receiver.
Reasoning: Are we really going to deem the former 7th overall pick as a bust because he didn’t blossom with JaMarcus Russell, Jason Campbell and Carson Palmer as his quarterbacks? Receivers who have had bad quarterbacks have never had a fair shot to produce, regardless of the talent that they have had. Just look at Reggie Wayne with Curtis Painter or Randy Moss with Andrew Walter. This year will be a different set of circumstances for Heyward-Bey as he is playing for a promising quarterback in Andrew Luck; this change should help improve his production dramatically. Heyward-Bey is extremely talented, he’s having a great camp, and he will start for an offense that is going to throw a ton. A lot to like here.
4. Danny Amendola, currently ranked as the 17th best receiver by ESPN, finishes as a top 7 fantasy receiver.
Reasoning: He is a bigger/faster version of Welker who still has the ability to run those routes underneath that became a staple of the Patriots offense. Lets play a numbers game: if Amendola receives the same amount of targets that Welker saw last year, and catches 70 percent of them while averaging 12 yards a catch that would equate to 122 catches and 1462 yards. There’s huge upside here.
5. Russell Wilson, currently ranked as the 10th best quarterback by ESPN, will finish as a top 6 fantasy quarterback.
Reasoning: It was clear from the start of the season that based on Wilsons athletic ability and demeanor that he would break out if he received the necessary leeway in the Seattle offense; so when exploded in the second half of the season and averaged 22 points per game, it came as no surprise. With one more year under Wilson belt, and an aging Marshan Lynch, I expect that leeway to carry over into this season resulting in a monster year for Wilson.
6. Michael Vick, currently ranked as the 15th best quarterback by ESPN, will finish as a top 10 fantasy quarterback.
Reasoning: The Eagles were awful last year. The team went 4-12 and basically gave up on Andy Reid in the middle of the season. As a result, Michael Vick took an enormous amount of hits and the offense was stagnant. Yet, despite all the adversity, Vick still averaged 15.5 fantasy points per game. He is still a dynamic fantasy player and I expect him to explode this year while playing in an offense that is perfectly apt for his skills. In Chip Kelly’s offense, the ball will leave his hands quickly, greatly increasing his chance of staying healthy. Additionally, it does not hurt that they drafted Lane Johnson with the 4th overall pick to help in pass protection.
7. Montee Ball, currently ranked as the 24th running back by ESPN, will finish as a top 15 fantasy back.
Reasoning: Ball has garnered 73 touchdowns over the last 3 years. Anyone who watched him play for Wisconsin knows he is a machine. I think he is a younger version of Ray Rice. Furthermore, Ball could not have landed in a better situation. Willis McGahee got injured in week 11; if you combine his points through the first 10 games with Moreno’s points over the final 6 games, you would get 183 points. This would be the 12th best running back. Yes, you heard that correctly, Mcgahee, who is now unemployed, and Moreno, who is now a third string running back would have combined for the 12th most points among running backs. Playing for Peyton Manning is that beneficial; he knows when to check in and out of runs based on what the defense is playing. I am going out on a limb here because Hillman was named the starter, but I am confident that Ball is the better talent and will take over early in the season.
8. Lesean McCoy, currently ranked as the 8th best fantasy running back, finishes as a top 3 fantasy back.
Reasoning: I am all in on this Chip Kelly offense. Recent running backs at Oregon have been LaMichael James, Legarrette Blount, Kenjon Barner. The creative up-tempo offense will get McCoy the ball in space where he excels. McCoy can shake and bake better than any back in the league when he has space. People are disappointed by last years down season, but the entire Eagles offense was a mess; the blame should not be put on McCoy. I think the McCoy we will see this year will be closer to the 1300 yard 17 touchdown McCoy we saw 2 years ago. Additionally, people forget that he is only 25 years old; one year older than Alfred Morris and one year younger than C.J Spiller.
9. Vernon Davis, currently ranked as the 5th best tight end, finishes as a top 2 tight end.
Reasoning: He never quite developed the chemistry with Kaepernick last season, but now they have had an offseason to work together and the reports have been great. Furthermore, we know that Kaepernick will play well this season, but he doesn’t have many receivers to pass to. If he is going to make a star out of someone, why not Davis?
10. Prediction — Kenny Stills, currently ranked as the 82nd best receiver by ESPN, finishes with the most fantasy points among rookie receivers.
Reasoning: He ran a 4.38 in the 40 yard dash, and plays for a quarterback who loves to throw deep. He will have plenty of opportunities because Henderson and Meachem are gone, and Colston and Moore are injury prone. He’s having an impressive preseason and is an early favorite of Drew Brees. I like the upside.
Bonus — Arizona defense, currently ranked as the 15th best defense, finishes as top 5 defense. Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, need I say more?