We may be one game into the NFL season, and most fantasy drafts have already taken place, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still have some crazy predictions. For people who read Matthew Berry of ESPN, this will be somewhat similar to his “You Heard Me” column in these are predictions unlikely to come true, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it did. I am also not going to put together a prediction for each team, but have 10 crazy predictions that I could see happening, and if you end up with these guys on your team (either via trade or free agency) you can get real value.
1) The best Allen in Jacksonville will be Hurns: Allen Robinson has been pegged as a sleeper in Jacksonville this year, but I am left underwhelmed and think Allen Hurns could be the one that breaks out instead. In 2014, Hurns caught a higher percentage of his targets for more yards per catch. Robinson may have been a second round draft pick while Hurns went undrafted in 2014, and Cecil Shorts may be gone, but Hurns has been the better receiver in games that count. Robinson also missed the second half of the year, meaning he was on pace for a bigger year than Hurns, but it also means quarterback Blake Bortles has significantly more reps with Hurns. Robinson is owned in 90+ percent of leagues, while Hurns is owned in just about 4% (my ownership stats will all be based on ESPN), so even if Hurns keeps it close to Robinson, he will provide a massive value this season.
2) The number two wide receiver in Atlanta will be Leonard Hankerson: Roddy White will turn 34 this year and has become less and less reliable in fantasy. We have seen guys like Harry Douglas and Devin Hester have success with Matt Ryan at QB, and Hankerson is a better receiver than either of those guys. Hankerson is just 26, but has battled injuries for much of his career since being selected in the third round in 2011. His entire career thus far has been in Washington, who has not had an elite passing quarterback since the 90’s. At some point this year the Falcons will want Hankerson to take the torch as the number two target behind Julio Jones, and don’t be surprised if it is sooner than later.
3) The top fantasy QB in the AFC East will be Ryan Tannehill: Tom Brady is back and looks to be in the clear in terms of suspension for the season, and while many people expect Brady to give a finger to the NFL and have a massive season, I think expectations should be tempered. Meanwhile, the fish down in South Beach have are much improved and have a ton of targets for Tannehill. Jarvis Landry showed signs of being a potentially excellent receiver, and rookie DeVante Parker could be a future #1 pass catcher. They also have a guy who can really stretch the field in Kenny Stills, while Greg Jennings might be the best #4 receiver in the league. Add a solid running game with Lamar Miller and Jay Ajayi coming in fresh after he returns following week 8 and new TE Jordan Cameron is one of the most physically gifted tight ends in football when healthy. Tannehill is also much more athletic than he is given credit for, so he will get a few rushing touchdowns this year to go with a breakout season in the air.
4) Tyrod Taylor is a top 12 QB: Ever since his days at Virginia Tech, I have loved Taylor. He has been hidden behind Joe Flacco in Baltimore, but he regularly shined in the pre-season. Now he gets the nod as the starting QB with a Buffalo Bills offense loaded with playmakers. His rushing ability will really help his fantasy stats, but his arm is underrated. With Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin, Robert Woods, and Charles Clay as options down the field, if the defense focuses in on newly acquired LeSean McCoy, there will be plenty of big plays available down the field. McCoy is also excellent in the screen game, which will help inflate Taylor’s value. Get him now in your fantasy league because he will be one of the most popular pickups following his week one matchup against the Colts.
5) John Brown will be a top 10 wide receiver: Maybe I just watched too much of the Cardinals last season given I live in Arizona, but John Brown is really good. He can play in the slot, he can stretch the defense, and the top two receivers are either old or injury prone. Larry Fitzgerald is no longer the number one receiver in Arizona and Michael Floyd can’t handle a Carson Palmer fastball (sent a bone through the skin in training camp), so that makes Brown the number one to open the year. When Carson Palmer was healthy, nobody had more targets than John Brown, and he had a solid year with terrible QB play when Palmer was hurt.
6) Doug Martin will be a top 15 running back: Top 15 might not be crazy bold prediction, but I couldn’t quite go top 10 with him, although it is possible. The Muscle Hamster had a rough year last year, but he has been an elite running back in the league, and it wasn’t all that long ago. The Bucs have a rookie QB who will take advantage of very large receivers, but there is nothing that can help a young QB than a quality run game. Look for the Bucs to run often to help take some of the load off Jameis Winston, and the Bucs schedule isn’t exactly filled with dominant defenses (especially given four games are against the Falcons and Saints). Martin was regularly going in the 5th or 6th rounds of drafts, but could easily provide the return of a second or third rounder.
7) Danny Woodhead will be the best Charger RB in PPR scoring: Melvin Gordon may have been a first round running back in the 2015 draft, but he didn’t exactly look great in the preseason. Woodhead is as reliable as they come, and is sneaky good down at the goal line for such a small back. He will likely be the third down back all season for the Chargers, and will get at least a couple series all to himself each game. The AFC West has some explosive offenses, meaning the Chargers will be in shootouts, which will keep Woodhead on the field more than many are projecting. I am not saying Gordon won’t be good, but with the help of PPR scoring, Woodhead will be the better running back.
8) 2015 will be Michael Crabtree’s best season: The Oakland Raiders have not had a 1,000 yard receiver since Randy Moss, but this year they just might have two. Rookie Amari Cooper is the best pass catcher the Raiders have had since Moss, and Michael Crabtree just might be the second best since then. Derek Carr looks to be the real deal at QB and could flirt with 4,000 yards passing. All those yards have to go to someone in addition to Cooper, and it won’t be Rod Streater or Mychal Rivera. Crabtree’s best season was in 2012 when he caught 85 balls for 1,105 yards and 9 touchdowns. I don’t see the 85 grabs being eclipsed, but 1,100 yards is definitely possible, and 12 touchdowns is within reach. The Raiders don’t totally such this year, and there will be fantasy value coming out of the bay, don’t be surprised if Crabtree is a big part of that.
9) The Cleveland Browns will be a top 5 D/ST: Ok, this might be a little tough, but top 10 just doesn’t seem like enough of a limb to be out on. The Browns spent a pick in each of the first four rounds this past year on defensive help, along with a first in each of the previous two years. They struggled against the run last year, but Danny Shelton should really help with that. Joe Haden might be the best corner in football, and Justin Gilbert is immensely talented, he just really struggled last year. If he takes a step forward this year, the secondary could be excellent and the front seven is getting better. This also takes into account special teams, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Travis Benjamin returns a few kicks to the house this year. (Side note: The Oakland Raiders could be sneaky good too.)
10) Maxx Williams will be a top 15 TE: Steve Smith Sr. is 36 years old, rookie Breshad Perriman is banged up, Torrie Smith is now in San Francisco, Kamar Aiken is listed as a starting wide receiver. All those factors means somebody else needs to step up in the passing game, so why not the Minnesota tight end selected in the second round? Williams was widely ranked as the 25th-30th best tight end heading into drafts, and he may look like those rankings were accurate at the start of the season, but he will have some huge games. He will become a favorite check down option for Joe Flacco before too long, and in the Red Zone, his 6’4” 250 lbs. frame will be a favorite target over the 5’9” Steve Smith or field stretching Perriman. The touchdowns and check downs will allow Williams to dink and dunk his way into a top 15 tight end, and an every week fantasy starter in the second half of the year.