What makes a good fantasy football analyst? Predicting the future? Let’s be honest, that’s impossible. A large component is merely entertainment. No one wants to read (or listen to) boring dry analysis, no matter how accurate or prophetic the fantasy football predictions are.
Of course, being “right” reasonably often is important, though that’s hard to quantify. First, an analyst must make specific fantasy football predictions. Then, those predictions must be purposefully revisited later. What’s that, little birdie? You think I should write neatly organized predictions that can be scrutinized later, presumably to my own painful demise? Great idea!
Now for the most part, there are two types of predictions in the fantasy football community. There are the mainstream predictions, ones that are shared by the majority of writers. These are pretty safe, because if they’re wrong (i.e. Andrew Luck last season) then the reaction is “well, we were ALL wrong.” Alternatively, there are “bold” predictions. These are safe, too, because if they’re wrong, the reaction is “well, they were meant to be bold, not necessary correct.”
My time capsule is meant to be the best of both worlds. I’m going to agree with some common opinions and I’ll disagree with others. They might not be emphatically bold, but at the end of the season I’ll revisit my fantasy football predictions and summarize what we’ve learned. (All predictions are assumed to be Points/Game because injuries are even harder to predict.) If I nail them all, I might throw a parade for myself, but more than likely I’ll be eating crow. I’m an unaccomplished writer, so what do I have to lose?!
2016 FANTASY FOOTBALL PREDICTIONS
Aaron Rodgers will not be a Top 5 QB
Rodgers has had some pretty incredible seasons in his career so far. His last five finishes have ranked 1, 2, 5, 2 and 17 (Points/Game rankings). Logic would dictate that Rodgers will bounce back with the help of Jordy Nelson and regain his elite status in fantasy football. He probably will. But, I also expect several other quarterbacks (with lower ADPs) to have great seasons. Guys like Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck and Drew Brees (a consistently underrated fantasy quarterback) will finish higher than Rodgers this season and you can get them a couple rounds later than Rodgers (current ADP is 20.7 – QB2 behind Newton). Tom Brady in particular can be had for a big discount thanks to his suspension, just cover his first four weeks with a late-round freebie like Tyrod Taylor or Matt Ryan.
Kelvin Benjamin will not be a Top 25 WR
Fantasy football drafters might target Kelvin Benjamin this summer with fond memories of his breakout rookie season: 73/1,008/9 (Rec/Yds/TD). By the end of 2016, those drafters will be filled with regret. Kelvin will hopefully bounce back from the ACL injury which ruined his sophomore season, but the best case would be for him to match his current ADP of WR17 on ESPN. There’s no way he exceeds that ADP. There are plenty of receivers with lower ADPs I’d rather draft: Hilton, Baldwin, Cobb, Decker and DeSean Jackson.
Jamaal Charles will finish inside the RB Top 5, Gurley and Freeman will not
As with Aaron Rodgers, I think Gurley and Freeman will both have very good seasons in 2016, they just aren’t worth their premium price tags. Gurley in particular took the league by storm from Week 4 on last year. But, the Rams offense will be bad. Goff will struggle at times and defenses will stack the box. Sure, there’s a substantial risk of Charles not being 100%, but his upside is undeniable. If I can’t get Peterson or David Johnson in the first round, I’m taking a WR (or two), then I’m picking up some underrated RBs that fall through the cracks. In rounds 2/3 I like Charles, Miller, Anderson and Forte (in that order). Also, as with Brady, take advantage of Bell’s suspension discount. If you get the opportunity to draft him in Round 2, do it!
Matt Forte will finish in the RB Top 10 for the fourth straight season
On that note, Forte is a great RB target in Round 3 or 4 and he could easily outperform his ADP of RB17. A change of scenery won’t stop Mr. Forte and his backup, Bilal Powell, won’t slow him down either. The Jets have re-signed Ryan Fitzpatrick – a halfway decent quarterback. Fitzpatrick, Marshall and Decker will provide enough of a passing threat to keep defenses honest and Forte will find some space to operate. If you’re aiming to go WR-WR in the first two rounds, Forte should be your prime target.
DeSean Jackson will crack into the WR Top 20
Despite being plagued by injuries last season, Jackson still managed a #27 PPG ranking. I’m anticipating a big season from Kirk Cousins (common among fantasy football predictions), and as long as DeSean stays healthy he could be one of the biggest beneficiaries. Cousins knows (so does everyone else) that a great season could result in a huuuuge contract next year. If DeSean can achieve 56/1,169/6 with Colt McCoy starting 4 games in 2014, a 65/1,200/7 stat line is well within reason for 2016. He is a steal at his current ADP, WR31.
Coby Fleener will shine for his new team
Ben Watson of all players doubled his career PPG average last season with the Saints, and finished as the #7 tight end. Isn’t that enough of an argument for Fleener?! Coby Fleener is a bonafide pass-catching tight end and will take full advantage of Drew Brees’ affection towards big targets. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one who has this expectation. Fleener is going at TE6 right now on ESPN. Still, he’s a great target in Round 6 or 7.
The Broncos will not be a Top 5 defense
When it comes to defenses, don’t pay for past performance. Since 2009, the only team to payoff as a high pick, a team that kicked ass two years in a row, was the Bears in 2012 (coming off an impressive 2011 season). It’s very rare for a defense to reign supreme in fantasy football. The Broncos, with all their free agency losses, are not the second coming of the Bears. Don’t take the bait.
Marvin Jones and Golden Tate will both be Top 30 WRs
…and Marvin Jones is cheaper, like A LOT cheaper. So, draft him and not Tate. Comparing their ADPs, Jones is WR39 and Tate is WR25. In terms of value, this is a no-brainer. Marvin Jones is the Detroit WR to own as long as your draft mates are still oblivious. Furthermore, as a graphical representation of this prediction, I present to you Exhibit A:
It’s way past time for this gap to close… pic.twitter.com/HaSZ3Xusnv
— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) August 10, 2016
The Jaguars will be the best sleeper D/ST in 2016
Excluding these 5 defenses with the highest ADPs – Seahawks, Panthers, Broncos, Cardinals and Bengals – I think the Jaguars have the best shot at impressing in 2016. They were a middle of the road defense last season, but added a lot of big pieces through the draft and free agency. Also, they seem to have a relatively soft schedule including the AFC West and NFC North. Finally, they’re cheap, going off the board as DST14.
The Patriots will have two TEs in the Top 10
It’s hard to make fantasy football predictions without talking Patriots. Bold prediction! Gronk as a Top 10 tight end! OK, maybe not bold. But, the quasi-bold aspect is that Martellus Bennett will also be in the Top 10. He’s coming off a rough season with the Bears, but there are a few factors that lead me to this prediction. He’s had success in the past. Also, the Patriots are lacking reliable pass catchers and have been known to feed more than one tight end. (Aaron Hernandez anyone?) At TE15, there’s almost zero risk involved with Bennett. So, take a chance!