There are few things as a Fantasy Football analyst that are more fun than bold predictions. You get to live on the outer bounds of possibility, unchained to things like projections and accountability. No one expects you to be right, but you can get some serious victory laps in when you are. Take last year for example.
Almost exactly one year ago today I wrote theDak Prescott would break Peyton Manning's single-season yardage record, D'Andre Swift would finish as a top-five back in PPR, and Mark Andrews would finish the year as TE1 overall. That was good for one-and-a-half victory laps (Swift was top-five before his injury) and absolutely no one remembered the Prescott prediction. Beautiful.of this column. In it, I said
All jokes aside, a 33% hit rate on bold predictions is probably about as good as you can expect. These are outlier situations that very well could happen, but you shouldn't be drafting as if the predictions below are your expectation. Just enjoy the profit if they hit. Also, I added two more this year for a total of five. More bold predictions equal more victory lap opportunities.
Let's have some fun...
Jalen Hurts will finish the year as QB1
If you've followed me at all this offseason, you knew this one was coming. In fact, I wrote about it the night of the Lamar Jackson and the addition of Brown should improve his passing numbers enough to make him a top-five Fantasy quarterback with the upside to be No. 1 overall.. Hurts has as much rushing upside as anyone not named
The most obvious cases to cite when trying to figure out how much Brown could help Hurts as a passer are Josh Allen and Kyler Murray. When I do that, people often scoff because Hurts isn't near as proficient a passer as those two. Well...
Jalen Hurts pre-AJ Brown— Heath Cummings (@heathcummingssr) June 1, 2022
59% CMP 7.3 Y/A 6.2 ANY/A 3.8% TD 2.2% INT
84.7 passer rating
Josh Allen pre-Diggs
56% CMP 6.6 Y/A 5.2 ANY/A 3.8% TD 2.7% INT
78.2 passer rating
Kyler Murray pre-Hopkins
64% CMP 6.6 Y/A 5.6 ANY/A 3.7% TD 2.2% INT
87.4 passer rating
For reference, the year after Allen acquired Diggs he threw for 1,500 more yards and 17 more touchdowns than he had the year before. His passer rating improved to 107.2. Murray's jump wasn't quite as big, but he did throw for 250 more yards and six more touchdowns. Even Murray's smaller leap was equivalent to an extra 3.75 Fantasy points per game. That type of boost would have made Hurts QB3 last year, behind only Allen and Brady.
While Hurts as QB1 may sound like the boldest of my predictions this season, it's actually the one I feel the best about. At the very least, he's going to smash his current ADP of QB9.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Ronald Jones will both finish as top-24 RBs per
Two of the most maligned running backs in Fantasy Football on the same team and both beating ADP? How is that even possible? Well, let's start with the Chiefs' running back production last year. They ran for 1,393 yards and 12 touchdowns. They caught 87 passes for 793 yards and five touchdowns. If Jones and Edwards-Helaire split that evenly and both played 17 games, that would have put them both around RB30 (11.8 PPR FP/G) last year.
How will that improve? For one thing, I expect better efficiency as Edwards-Helaire fills his more natural role as a pass catcher and Jones thrives in short yardage and between the tackles. I currently have Edwards-Helairefor a career-high 64 catches with Jones leading the team in rushing and scoring nine touchdowns.
The loss of Tyreek Hill factors in here as well. Hill has run for 219 yards and two touchdowns over the past two seasons and was used in a variety of creative ways inside the 5-yard line. While some of those touches will likely go to Mecole Hardman, I would expect the running backs to see an uptick in red zone touches as well.
The way this one goes wrong is if either back has a smaller role than I expect or gets hurt. But that would only boost the healthy back. That possibility presents a great profit opportunity for either back, especially since Edwards-Helaire has a Round 6 ADP and Jones is available in the double-digit rounds.
Brandin Cooks will have a career year and finish as a top-12 WR
First and foremost, whether you believe this or not, Cooks should be on your Draft Day radar because he's a screaming value available in Round 6 or later in most drafts. This despite the fact that he just posted his sixth season with at least 1,000 yards receiving and set a career high in targets (134) and catches (90). Now, as to why he's going to be even better.
Cooks played most of last year with a rookie quarterback, which helps explain why his efficiency suffered. His 11.5 yards per catch was his lowest since his rookie year and his 7.7 yards per target was a career-low. While the Texans didn't add anyone who I'd expect will dent Cooks' target share, I would expect Davis Mills to make at least some improvement in his second season, that's what most second-year quarterbacks do.
It's not fair to expect Cooks to match his career rate of 9.1 YPT, but what if he got halfway there? That's an extra 100 receiving yards. Now let's do the same with his touchdown rate. Pre-2021 Cooks had scored on 5.4% of his targets, last year he was a full point below that. So let's give him one more touchdown to bridge that gap. We just added one Fantasy point per game for Cooks, to move him from WR23 to WR14. How does he bridge the gap to WR12? Volume.
While Cooks did set a career-high in targets last year, there's reason to think that number goes up because the Texans were one of three teams in the NFL to run fewer than 60 plays last year. Outliers like that generally regress towards the mean. It's also true that Cooks averaged nine targets per game in the nine healthy games he played that Davis Mills started. His 17-game pace in those games was for 153 targets. That type of volume is exactly the type that would turn Cooks into a top-12 wide receiver even if he doesn't quite regress all the way back to his career efficiency.
Most importantly, so the point is not lost: Even if you don't believe any of the past three paragraphs, you should draft Brandin Cooks at his ADP.
Jahan Dotson will be the best WR on the Washington Commanders
Admittedly, this one was inspired by OTA reports that Dotson has been very impressive and is quickly forming a bond with Carson Wentz. Terry McLaurin, who is trying to work out a new contract, has not been present.
To be clear, I have McLaurin projected well ahead of Dotson right now and you shouldn't take OTA reports too seriously. But rapport does matter, and it's worth noting that Dotson is a much better prospect than McLaurin was when he came out three years ago.
Dotson has Round 1 draft capital as a 22-year-old who just caught 91 passes for 1,1182 yards and 12 touchdowns in his final year at Penn State. His 44.3% college dominator score ranks in the 90th percentile.
McLaurin turned 24 in September of his rookie year, earned a minuscule 8.6% target share in college, and only had 1,251 receiving yards in four seasons combined at Ohio State. He also fell to Washington in Round 3 of the draft.
McLaurin has done enough over three years in the NFL to earn the higher ADP at this point in the offseason. But Dotson is the much better value in redraft and he's a screaming value in rookie-only drafts, falling behind both Skyy Moore and Christian Watson in most. And if McLaurin's holdout lasts until training camp, or we get reports that Wentz and Dotson are having breakfast together, you might start seeing these receiver's ADPs converge.
Kyle Pitts will finish outside the top 8 TEs per-game again
This one scares me more than it should. Not because of the visceral response I expect, but because I'm afraid it might be right.
It just doesn't make any sense at all to me that those circumstances would lead to Pitts being drafted in Round 3 as the No. 3 tight end behind only Andrews and Travis Kelce. What's worse is that he's much closer to Kelce at No. 1 than he is to T.J. Hockenson at No. 6. And Hockenson outscored Pitts by a point and a half per game last year!
As the guy who writes the regression column each year, I should acknowledge at least some of the reasons. Pitts only scored one touchdown on 110 targets last year. That's absurd and won't happen again. His new quarterback Marcus Mariota has a career 4.3% touchdown rate.
If we give Pitts that 4.3% as a baseline, and round up, let's say we should expect five touchdowns from Pitts IN 2022. That would have bumped HIM up to 11.8 PPR FP/G last year, still a tick behind Hockenson at TE8. And that assumes he can continue averaging 9.3 yards per target despite a clear downgrade at quarterback.
Again, I don't have Pitts ranked as low as this bold prediction suggests. That's because he's an elite talent who just had one of the best rookie tight end seasons ever. But I absolutely believe his circumstances and ADP suggest he's more likely to bust again in 2022 than provide value in Round 3.