LT is the #1 back. That was easy. Peyton is the top QB. Duh. Gates is the best TE. Really? Chicago D is the #1 fantasy D. Wow. Anyone can write an article predicting this. But, what if you had a crystal ball, and could see that by the season’s end, these guys were NOT at the top of each position? Who would be there?
Let me clarify. I believe that the above predictions are accurate. If not the best at each prediction, they are certainly the safest bets at each slot. But, IF someone were to upset the incumbent top performers at these and other positions, who might they be? Let’s take a look at some not-so-far-fetched upset predictions:
Peyton Manning. Oh wait, that’s too easy. Anybody knows that. But what if it isn’t last season’s Super Bowl MVP? What about
Carson Palmer? Too easy. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with that, as any magazine writer would probably predict the same. What about
Drew Brees? Too many rookie overachievers waiting for a sophomore slump on offense. Try
Matt Leinart. I originally thought about
Alex Smith, another young quarterback poised for a big year with added talent at WR and a TE with huge potential on his team. Then, I decided that Leinart, who is two years younger in the NFL but actually one year older than Smith, had a better chance. He’s got more chemistry time with his wide-outs (who are far more talented), a better line, and a worse defense (meaning he’ll be throwing more in the 4th quarter). Both quarterbacks have good running backs to take the heat off but, unlike Edge, Gore figures to be
the main offensive weapon in San Fran. I think that even I would be a sleeper pick at quarterback in Arizona with the offense they are building, and I’d be willing to bet that Matt Leinart is at least slightly better than me. That’s why I’ve chosen him to have the most upside of all of the magazines’ top-half ranked quarterbacks.
Travis Henry. We all know about the Bronco’s tradition of putting pretty much
anyone in the backfield, and getting a winner. We all know that Henry can perform, even in the direst of circumstances. Put these together with the fact that they are a running team with a young, relatively unproven quarterback and a set of receivers that, while good enough to keep teams from stacking eight in the box, are not good enough to take over a game. In addition, the Bronco’s defense should be good enough this year to keep the Broncos from needing to pass a lot in the fourth quarter, and Travis should stand alone as the feature back. Although not a traditional pass catcher, Henry could be in for a monster rushing year. That’s a given. What is sometimes overlooked, is that LT is NOT the only stud on his team. Gates is a beast, and Rivers is good enough now not to rely on LT all the time. Plus, Michael Turner (possibly the best backup in the NFL) figures to take more carries this year. Henry will be the focus in Denver, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he put up 2,000 plus all-purpose yards, and 16-18 TDs. Now, LT is typically better than that, but if he slows down even just a little, we could have a new champ. If anyone is going to do it this year, don’t be shocked if it is Henry.
I’m not sure if Harrison, Smith, T.O., Holt, or Johnson will be the top WR in fantasy football this year. Maybe it will be another guy like Wayne or Fitzgerald. However, if someone told me that it wouldn’t be any of these guys, I would have to guess that it would be
Andre’ Johnson. We don’t know really how Schaub plays at the quarterback position, as we’ve only seen him occasionally. Does he spread the ball around a lot, like Tom Brady? Or, does he lock in on a favorite target, like Delhomme does with
Steve Smith? He didn’t have a chance to find a quality target in Atlanta, so who knows. What we do know, however, is that it would be difficult to imagine Matt Schaub being worse than David Carr, and Johnson had over 100 catches with him chucking the rock last year. Houston’s running game should be somewhat better than last year with Green providing stability if nothing else. However, Houston’s other wide-outs are decent enough, and
Owen Daniels, the TE should cause teams to look, but it is doubtful they will have anyone to take double coverage away from Johnson. That being said, Johnson drew the same coverage last year, and was great. Overall, the Texans offense should be improved, and so goes their top offensive threat. How do you improve on a 103 catch, 1147 yard, 5 TD year? By going 116, 1347, and 12. Pretty good year, huh?
Top TE- This one was the toughest, only because I compare Gates to Manning at each player’s respective position, only the drop-off is much greater from #1 TE to #2 TE than it is from #1 QB to #2 QB. However, I have a shocker here for you. I took Gates in round 3 of my draft, because I’m sure he will have the best year of any tight end, but if I knew right now that he wasn’t going to accomplish this distinction, I’d have to predict that the man who would do so would be…well, that depends. If
Antonio Gates gets hurt, I like his backup to take top honors. He looks and sounds good. If that doesn’t happen, I’ve debated on two players.
Kellen Winslow is up there. He had a great season last year, managing 92 catches. However, this year, being a Browns fan, I expect the QB situation to be somewhat more settled by opening day, and whomever the #1 guy there will have plenty of more time to find WRs this year, and will not have to rely on the TE as much. Couple that with what Winslow said of himself, that some days, he can’t even imagine practicing due to his knee that hurts all the time, especially when he cuts, and I believe you have the making for a letdown year. He may start off well, but I predict a drop-off in production by mid-season. This takes us to
David Martin. Who?
Bubba Franks’ backup in Green Bay. He’s now the top dog in Miami, who typically got good production out of
Randy McMichael, and now has the arm that made
Tony Gonzalez famous throwing to him in Trent Green. Also, the Dolphins plan on using Martin in an Antonio Gates-like fashion, and believe that David is an upgrade in speed and hands over Randy McMichael.
Adam Vinatieri is a no-brainer here…with a slightly depleted offensive line on a great Colts’ offense, I can’t imagine a greater situation for one of the league’s greatest kickers. However, if Adam doesn’t take the cake here, I’m betting on
Joe Nedney of the ‘Niners. He’s the same age as Vinatieri, and attempted seven more field goals last year. He only attempted nine fewer extra points, too. In addition to these numbers, he hit his last 11 field goal attempts, and San Fran figures to be much improved on offense this year, meaning that those numbers should rise. Also, Adam is 0 for 4 on 50+ yard field goals over the last 3 seasons, while Joe is 3 for 5. Doesn’t sound too far fetched now, does it?
Chicago? Baltimore? New England? San Diego? No. If not Chicago or Baltimore, it must be Denver. They’ve added pass rushers and playmakers, but most notably, they’ve added Dre’ Bly. This is huge, because they already had arguably the top corner in the league in Champ Bailey. Having two top notch corners is huge. The team doesn’t have to worry about the pass because these guys are going to make it really tough, and they can keep linebackers and safeties in to watch the run. They also added a solid pass rusher in the first round, and a top defensive coach in the off season. Plus, their offense should be improved this year, and be able to keep this squad more fresh than last year. They lack a true stud or leader at LB, but one could easily develop. Look out!
Look, I’m not saying that these guys are locks to be fantasy gods. I’m just predicting that, value-wise, given the circumstances, these men have a fair shot of being next year’s Drew Brees, Frank Gore, Marques Colston, Kellen Winslow, New England Patriots defense, and Robbie Gould. If not, they should still provide enough fantasy value to make your early-picking arch nemesis angry that you got similar talent as they, rounds later than they did. Good luck.