Two top-10 players at their positions fall far from that space. A stud quarterback not reaching anywhere close to his normal level for the first time ever. A tight end out of nowhere to inside the top 12. Two receivers -- one young and one old -- finishing well above their ADP. These are the bold predictions I'm making as NFL minicamps ramp up -- and each with the backing in my rankings to put my money where my mouth is.

Suspension or not, Deshaun Watson will finish outside the top 10 in Fantasy points per game

We haven't seen Deshaun Watson play a game of competitive football since Jan. 3, 2021. When we see him next, everything about his situation will have changed, and nothing about his past performances should be taken for granted.

As things stand now, his receiving corps in Cleveland is the worst he's had -- ever. After Amari Cooper, Watson has the likes of Donovan Peoples-Jones, Anthony Schwartz and tight end David Njoku as the next-best pass-catchers. Even his 2020 squad with Will Fuller as his No. 1 receiver at least had some quality depth.

He'll need those receivers because odds are the Browns didn't line up Brink's trucks full of dough just to have his body take on excessive hits as a runner. Watson averaged 5-6 rush attempts per game depending on the year and carried a good rushing average with it, but the Browns figure to ask him to tone that down.

This is also a team with a play caller who has always been true to the run. Kevin Stefanski has never had a pass-run ratio over 54% ...

  • 2021 CLE: 54% pass
  • 2020 CLE: 52% pass
  • 2019 MIN: 51% pass
  • 2018 MIN (3 games): 52% pass

... and Watson's pass-run ratio has been above 54% in each of his last three seasons.

  • 2020 HOU: 63.4%
  • 2019 HOU: 57.3%
  • 2018 HOU: 54.6%

I'm not naïve enough to think the Browns won't change their philosophies to fit with Watson, but it's going to be a give-and-take, not an all-out heaping of pass attempts on Watson's plate. Not while those Browns running backs are healthy, anyway.

To be successful, Watson will have to navigate a weaker passing game that won't lean pass-heavy with a franchise that has habitually struggled to have explosive passers. Watson averaged over 300 yards per game in the last season we saw him and under 261 yards per game in his other seasons. No Browns quarterback ever has averaged even 270 pass yards per game in a season, and only four starters have topped 250 pass yards per game. Remember, rushing doesn't figure to be as large of a part of Watson's game as it was.

Oh, and he'll have to do all this with the third-worst projected schedule for quarterbacks. He's not living easy in the AFC South anymore.

With the deck seemingly stacked against Watson, I'm not comfortable drafting him within the first 10 rounds on Draft Day. I'd be even less excited to take him at all if he's forced to serve a suspension of eight games or more.

James Conner will finish as a low-end No. 2 Fantasy RB

I couldn't commit to Conner falling completely out of the top-24 range, but he won't come anywhere close to his 2021 numbers. Not that anyone should be surprised -- he wound up as RB9 in PPR per-game average on the strength of 18 total touchdowns.

It's easy to simply say he won't score 18 touchdowns again. The fear is that he won't even score nine. And that's a problem considering Conner was ranked outside of the top 20 among rushers with at least 100 carries in yards per carry (3.72, 42nd), average yards before contact (0.91, 46th), average yards after contact (2.81, 28th) and rush rate of five-plus yards (29.7%, 43rd).

It's hard to envision the 27-year-old improving his efficiency when his own history suggests it won't happen. After Conner's fantastic 2018 season (13 touchdowns, 1,470 total yards), his rushing average dropped by half a yard, his receiving average tumbled by 1.6 yards and his rushing touchdown rate plummeted from one every 18 carries to one every 29 carries. He still managed to finish as RB16 that year in PPR, but it was at 13.9 points. Most notably of all, Conner missed six games with injuries.

The uphill battle you'll fight with Conner will come down to whether or not he can stay healthy, and whether or not he can keep scoring at the one-every-13.2 touches clip he had last year. All that said, Conner does have early-season appeal, so I wouldn't be opposed to taking him if he fell to late Round 3, then selling high on him before Halloween.

Diontae Johnson will not finish as a top-20 WR in any format

Diontae Johnson has always been a volume king. Expect the volume to get turned down.

Ben Roethlisberger's last two seasons weren't very pretty, but the coaching staff was willing to let him chuck the ball as much as he wanted, resulting in back-to-back seasons with a pass rate north of 63%. His favorite receiver was easily Johnson, who averaged 9.6 targets per game in 2020 and 10.5 in 2021.

The move from Roethlisberger to Mitchell Trubisky/Kenny Pickett should empower the Steelers coaching staff to change gears and do more of what they think is best. That might mean running more as well as dispersing the ball more evenly among their pass-catchers. There's no real worry about deep-ball strength or accuracy from last year to this year, but there is a question of pass velocity and accuracy on short throws from Trubisky or Pickett compared to Roethlisberger. That'll matter to all of the Steelers receivers,  but especially Johnson. 

Any downturn in targets and catches for Johnson is very bad news because he has not been an efficient receiver. Among wideouts with at least 50 catches in 2021, Johnson ranked 15th in yards after the catch per reception (4.93), 20th in yards per route run (1.89), 32nd in end-zone targets (7), 38th in yards per reception (10.9), 41st in explosive play rate (12.1%) and 29th in catch rate (63.3%), which is wild considering his average depth of target was a short 8.52 yards. You'd think a receiver catching shorter throws would have a higher catch rate.

Last year, only four receivers in the top 20 in PPR per-game average had less than 7.5 targets per game. All four had at least eight touchdowns. Johnson posted a career-best eight touchdowns last year with Roethlisberger and can't be considered a cinch to match that number in 2022.

It points to a down year for Johnson, which is why I don't expect to get him in many leagues since I wouldn't be comfortable drafting him until Round 5 in full PPR and Round 6 in non-PPR.

Gabriel Davis will finish as a top-15 WR in any format

Davis is locked into an improved, unchallenged role in one of the league's pass-happiest offenses. Based on his final six games of the 2021 season, there's gargantuan upside.

It was Week 14 when the Bills coaching staff decided to give Davis more playing time. He rewarded them handsomely to end the season and into the playoffs, catching 26 of 45 targets for 449 yards and eight touchdowns. Obviously, that includes his 201-yard, four-score jaw-dropper at Kansas City, but even without that game, Davis averaged 7.0 targets per game with four scores in the other five contests, which isn't bad at all.

And it's that Chiefs playoff game that seemingly left a lasting impression on his coaches because they did nothing this offseason to bring in receivers to challenge Davis for his perimeter receiver spot. That means he should play a ton and at least see the same kind of target share he ended 2021 with.

There's also the Josh Allen factor: Obviously, the Bills continued to build around their quarterback this offseason, suggesting there's no way they'll suddenly become a passive, run-first offense. Naturally, that's good for all of his receivers, but it bears mentioning that Allen fired an end-zone target at Davis nine times in those final six games -- one every five targets overall.

If Allen is going to continue to sling it, and if he views Davis as one of his favorite end-zone targets, then there's double-digit scoring potential for the third-year, 23-year-old receiver.

Adam Thielen will finish as a top 20 Fantasy WR

Thielen was a beast through the first 12 weeks of the season, owning a 70% catch rate on 8.2 targets per game. He even averaged 17 PPR points per game with 15-plus in 7 of 11.

How'd he do it? Touchdowns -- he scored in 10 of 11 games.

Count me among the Fantasy managers who squirm at the idea of trusting a receiver primarily for his nose for the end zone. But when it comes to Thielen, the track record he's built with Kirk Cousins is more than good enough to count on.

Here's Thielen's target share from 10 yards or closer in games he's played in:

  • 2021: 27.6% (36.4% in Weeks 1 through 12)
  • 2020: 43.3%
  • 2019: 13.6% (42.9% in Weeks 1 through 7)
  • 2018: 27.6%

Cousins loves him some Thielen. The hunch is that new coach and play-caller Kevin O'Connell will love him some Thielen too. It's O'Connell who should further boost Thielen's potential since last year's Vikings offense ranked 30th in pass-run ratio inside of 10 yards (and 28th in 2020, and dead last in 2019). O'Connell was part of a Rams team that threw the ball the second-most of anyone inside of 10 yards in 2021.

I can buy into Thielen as a touchdown-needy receiver whose other numbers can help push him to solid weeks when he doesn't score and great weeks when he does score. He's on the cusp of being a pick in late Round 5 in full PPR.

Gerald Everett is the late-round TE to swipe

The best streaming tight end to begin your season with isn't in Cleveland or Denver. It's in L.A. with the Chargers.

An underachiever for his career, Everett did show signs of life after the Seahawks' bye week last season. In nine games he averaged 8.8 PPR points per. That's a start.

The larger reason to climb Everett is his quarterback. In Justin Herbert's 32 career games, a tight end has hit the 10-point PPR mark 17 times, a 53% hit rate. When you consider the average success rate for top-12 tight ends was 48.9%, this doesn't look so bad.

Everett's outlook is helped by a projected schedule that ranks second for tight ends both overall and in the first four weeks. He'll open the season against the Raiders, Chiefs, Jaguars and Texans. It wouldn't be surprising if he came through for 10-plus points in three of the four games, nor would it be surprising if he kept it up in the wild AFC West shootouts all year long.

It doesn't take much to be a top 12 Fantasy tight end. Last year it meant 9.5 Fantasy points per game. Everett wasn't far from that in the second half last year and should get over the hump this year with Herbert relying on him more than his past quarterbacks did. You can swipe him in Round 12 or later.