Fantasy football season is upon us once again! This time of year is probably most guys' favorite - the summer is coming to an end, which means less heat and more football. For me, the fall is absolutely the best season. Summer may have out-ranked the fall back in high school and college, but now that I am a working stiff, fall wins out. There is nothing better than a 60 degree, sunny fall weekend day where you can throw on jeans (maybe a hoodie at night) and watch college/NFL football. Not to mention fall brings pumpkin spiced everything - coffee, beer, donuts, ice cream - you name it. LOVE the pumpkin spice flavor (except Starbucks - awful).
Anyway, instead of discussing one of my fantasy football leagues this year (I am in 6 - 5 NFL and 1 college), I am going to go through all 32 NFL teams and give a bold prediction or two related to fantasy football. I'm not going to bore you with predictions like "Aaron Rodgers will be the best fantasy QB", because, well, that's boring. Instead, I'll try to identify some players I like more than most, or players who are I think are being overvalued in drafts. Basically, I am copying/combining ESPN fantasy expert Matthew Berry's "Love/Hate" and "You Heard Me!" columns. Normally, I'd worry about the guys in my leagues reading this and stealing my picks in our upcoming drafts. However, my friends are a$$holes and don't read my blog. So no worries there. Teams in alphabetical order:
Arizona Cardinals: Not a lot to like on the Cardinals in terms of fantasy (or real life for that matter) other than WR Larry Fitzgerald. However, I think 2nd year RB Ryan Williams will recover nicely from the knee injury that ruined his 2011 rookie season and he will be the Cardinals top fantasy RB, over always-injured Beanie Wells.
Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are getting all the preseason love as breakout players this year, and probably rightfully so. I like both, and would be happy with Matt Ryan as my starting QB in a 10-team league and think Julio Jones will push for top 10 WR status. However, my prediction is that he does not overtake WR Roddy White as the Falcons top fantasy WR. White is being undervalued a bit in drafts this year, mainly because of Jones. I'd still take White as a top 5 WR, in the mid-late 2nd round.
Baltimore Ravens: WR Torrey Smith will be a top 20 fantasy WR. Flacco has a massive arm, and Smith is ready to haul in some bombs this year. This prediction would have looked even better before Smith went 8-103 in last night's preseason game. I liked him this much even before that.
Buffalo Bills: I still love Fred Jackson and think he's a solid RB2 in fantasy this year. People forget that he was a top 5 fantasy RB in terms of points scored last year before he got hurt. However, I think this is the year CJ Spiller breaks out. The Bills will use him a lot as a slot WR, which will allow both Jackson and Spiller to have big years. I think Spiller is a great flex option, possibly even RB2 territory by the end of the season.
Carolina Panthers: Man, what a year Cam Newton had in 2011! And as a rookie. Logic says he will only improve as he matures into a big-time NFL QB. Screw logic. I say Newton regresses this year, and finishes outside the top 10 QBs. 14 rushing TDs just ain't happening again, sorry.
Chicago Bears: Everyone is on the Brandon Marshall hype-train this year, as he is once again paried with the QB who helped Marshall rack up multiple 100-catch seasons in Denver (Cutler). I do think Marshall will be a top 10 WR, but that's not bold. Instead, I'll predict Matt Forte as a top 3 RB, and say he finishes with more points than LeSean McCoy and Arian Foster. Right now Forte's being drafted in the early 2nd. I'd take him as high as 7th overall.
Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green finishes 2012 as the #2 WR in fantasy, behind only Calvin Johnson.
Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson battles knee/injury problems all year, ending the season outside the top 20 RBs in fantasy. But, in 2013, he will be a bargain in drafts, as I think he'll eventually be a perennial first round pick. He's got the skills.
Dallas Cowboys: Man, the Cowboys seems to have awesome fantasy stars every year pre-draft, only to see those guys bust in the regular season. This year will be no different, as Dez Bryant and Miles Austin will finish in the 20-30 range for WRs, and Tony Romo will barely squeeze inside the top 10 QBs. The only guy who will produce is DeMarco Murray, who will finish as a top 10 RB. He has top 5 upside.
Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning returns to glory and finishes as a top 5 fantasy QB. He may struggle the first 2-3 weeks, but, if healthy, he's too good not to rebound strong.
Detroit Lions: It's easy to say that Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson will be awesome again. I think Stafford finishes as the 3rd highest scoring QB and Megatron as the top WR. But I'll go one step further and say that WR Titus Young will be starter-worthy in standard fantasy leagues, meaning he'll be a top 20 option regularly each week by mid-season.
Green Bay Packers: Jordy Nelson cannot repeat his 2011 magic, as Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley take on bigger roles in the offense. Also, Cedric Benson finishes as a top 25 RB in fantasy points.
Houston Texans: The Texans finish with top 10 players at each offensive fantasy position - QB, RB, WR, TE - with Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels.
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck has a great year, but still finishes outside the top 12 QBs. However, Donald Brown finally emerges as a weekly starting fantasy RB, finishing 15th at the position in overall points.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew plays week 1 of the season and finishes as a top 6 fantasy RB, rewarding all those drafters ballsy enough to pick him in the first round.
Kansas City Chiefs: Plenty of carries to go around in KC, as both Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis finish as top 20 fantasy RBs; Charles at #8 and Hillis at #18.
Miami Dolphins: Awful offense for the Dolphins, but Daniel Thomas (2 great first names by the way) will be healthy and have a big bounce-back season, finishing as a top 25 fantasy RB. He's currently being drafted 45th at the RB position.
Minnesota Vikings: Percy Harvin finishes as a top 10 WR (again) but continues to be overlooked and regarded as an injury-prone flex option.
New England Patriots: Rob Gronkowski disappoints everyone who drafted him in the 2nd round by putting up good, but not great numbers (something like 70-900-8). He still finishes as a top 3 TE though.
New Orleans Saints: Mark Ingram, being completely overlooked in drafts, takes control of the Saints running game and ends up as a top 20 RB (currently being drafted 35th).
New York Giants: Victor Cruz comes back to earth, finishing outside the top 20 WRs. This guy had 5 TDs of more than 65 yards last year! That is simply not repeatable.
New York Jets: Another awful fantasy offense - probably real life too. But, similar to last year, Tim Tebow will take over as the starting QB halfway through the season and become starter-worthy in 12-team leagues thanks to his uncanny ability to score rushing TDs.
Oakland Raiders: Darren McFadden will finally stay healthy and finish as a top 5 fantasy RB. In fact, I'll say he finishes 2nd overall in fantasy points amongst running backs.
Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Vick will actually play 14 games and finish as the 4th highest scoring fantasy QB in 2012. And Jeremy Maclin will benefit most from that. Big year coming for him.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Heinz Field will blow up like in the Dark Knight Rises and Steelers football will cease to exist. I wish. Ok, how about Mike Wallace, who is being undervalued because of his holdout that is about to end, will finish the season as a top 5 WR.
San Diego Chargers: Antonio Gates, now healthy, will beat out Gronkowski and finish as the 2nd highest point scorer amongst TEs.
San Francisco 49ers: Someone will draft the 49ers Defense/Special Teams before the 10th round in my draft on Sunday, I will make fun of them, and they will finish outside of the top 10 scoring D/STs in fantasy. Oh, and Alex Smith will still suck.
Seattle Seahawks: Doug Baldwin will emerge as the Seahawks top scoring WR, finishing inside the top 30 point scorers for fantasy WRs. He's being drafted 71st at WR!
St. Louis Rams: No Rams WR will be starter-worthy in fantasy this season, but Steven Jackson will continue to produce top 15 fantasy numbers from the RB spot. Draft him as a super-safe RB2.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Rookie RB Doug Martin will split carries with LaGarette Blount all season long, holding him back from being a RB2 in fantasy. Both Martin and Blount will be flex-worthy though.
Tennessee Titans: TE Jared Cook will explode this season as Jake Locker's favorite target, and finish as a top 5 fantasy TE. Wait to draft your TE until the last few rounds, grab Cook and thank me later.
Washington Redskins: Mike Shannahan will name 5 different Redskins RBs as his "starter" this season, making none of them starter-worthy in fantasy. Also, Robert Griffin III will struggle much more than Cam Newton did as a rookie last year, leading to him being dropped in all non-keeper fantasy leagues.