Ok, so some of these predictions may sound pretty crazy. I would likely need better than 1/1 odds to take a bet on any of them, yet I do think they are much more likely to happen than early draft positions and rankings indicate.
- Eli Manning will have a better fantasy season than Peyton Manning
Peyton is 39. In his final 4 regular season games last year he compiled 990 yards, 3 TDs and 6 INTs. It was reported that he played through a leg injury the final month of the season, but how well has it healed for this upcoming season? Again, he is 39. Red zone threat Julius Thomas is gone, Pro Bowl LT Ryan Clady is out for the season. The Broncos also hired a run heavy coach in Gary Kubiak, so they will certainly run more.
Younger brother Eli got better as the season went on last year. Not surprisingly, it coincides with the emergence of Odell Beckham Jr. In his last 6 games, Eli had 1,915 yards, 12 TDs and 3 INTs. With a full season of ODB, look for Eli to post career year fantasy-wise and out-pace his older brother.
- Latavius Murray will have a better fantasy season than DeMarco Murray
DeMarco Murray had 392 carries last year. He doesn’t have Dallas’ great offensive line or high-octane offense anymore as he was acquired by Philly in the off-season. The Eagles also got Ryan Mathews and still have passing-down specialist Darren Sproles. It is uncertain how this backfield situation will play out. Murray should get the majority of early-down carries but it could turn out to be somewhat of a committee approach. One thing’s for certain, his touches will go down drastically.
Latavius Murray should have a featured role in Oakland this year. New offensive coordinator of the Raiders Bill Musgrave said he is very impressed by Murray’s “tremendous size and speed.” Musgrave is known for great rushing offenses, as he led the Vikings offense in 2012 when Adrian Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards, and the Juguars offense in 2003 when Fred Taylor had 1,527 rushing yards. Indications are that Latavius Murray could have a big year, and end up being a consensus first round pick in next year’s fantasy drafts. In the battle of the Murrays, Latavius will come out on top this year.
- Andre Johnson will have a better fantasy season than DeAndre Hopkins
Last year was a bit of a changing-of-the-guard in Houston. Hopkins emerged as the leading receiver, compiling 1,210 yards and 6 TDs while Johnson had 936 yards and 3 TDs. Hopkins is only 22, and there is no questioning his ability. The questions comes with the QB situation on this run-heavy team. Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett are battling it out for the starting QB job in Houston. If either of them falter, we could see multiple different QBs starting games for the Texans this year, and that is never good the for receivers. Hopkins is the top WR in Houston, but he can’t be trusted with those quarterbacks.
Meanwhile, Andre Johnson signed in Indy, joining forces with Andrew Luck. Johnson has never had the chance to play with a superstar quarterback like Luck. At 33, Johnson is not young anymore, but that’s not too old for a WR. The man who he is replacing, Reggie Wayne, posted 106 receptions and 1,355 yards as a 33 year old with a rookie Andrew Luck a few seasons ago. Things are shaping up for Johnson to have a bounce-back year, and he could emerge as a leading red-zone threat for the Colts and post double-digit TDs.
- Pierre Garcon will have a better fantasy season than DeSean Jackson
Last year, DeSean Jackson posted 1,169 yards on 56 receptions with 6 touchdowns. This was in an offense where the coach told the quarterbacks to target Jackson even if he was covered. This year though, coach Jay Gruden wants to get Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed more involved in the passing game. Expect DeSean’s numbers to go down from last year.
Garcon only posted 68/752/3 last year, but in 2013 he posted 113/1,346/5. As I just mentioned, coach wants to get him more involved in the offense. With a more steady QB situation, expect his numbers to look more like 2013s than 2014s. Although Jackson should have a few big games with his big-play potential, expect Garcon to be much more consistent and post better overall numbers, especially in PPR.
- Josh Hill will have a better fantasy season than Jimmy Graham
Over the last several seasons, fantasy tight ends have gone Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, then a huge gap, then everyone else. But in a somewhat surprising move, Graham was traded to Seattle in the off-season. He’s going from one of the most pass heavy offenses to one of the least. Seattle was last, running passing plays 47.29% of the time in 2013, and second last with 48.56% in 2014. New Orleans was 6th and 5th in that span, with 62.78% and 62.92% respectively. Graham just wont get enough targets to keep him in that top tier of fantasy TEs.
Josh Hill step up. After Graham was traded, many expected New Orleans to select a TE in the draft. They did not. This shows how much confidence they have in Hill. He was efficient in a limited role last year, with 14 receptions on 20 targets, 176 yards and 5 tds. In the lead TE role, Hill could easily get more than 100 targets, including a big role in the red zone. 800+ yards and 10+ TDs is well within reach for Hill.