Fantasy Football 2012: More predictions, some bold

All day I’ve been thinking about writing a predictions column. As I opened Chinstrap Ninjas, I saw that fellow ninja sensei jzak beat me to the punch.

He got to the Doug Martin prediction before I did, but for the most part, a lot of my predictions are different from his. I even have one that is a counterattack to one of his.

Before I begin, I have to say that I haven’t had much time to read articles or do much research. But I have had the opportunity to listen to a lot of podcasts walking to and from work and while doing menial chores at work and at home. They have provided me with a unique breadth of knowledge this year, providing many ideas that made me believe and many that made me turn up my nose.

In previous years, all of my teams looked virtually the same. I believe — we won’t know until the final scores are posted in January — that I consumed too much knowledge and then picked only players which I also had spent a lot of time researching. This year, I have many different players throughout my non-keeper leagues. I got done with a draft on Saturday and wondered who drafted my team. Same thing happened Thursday when I hopped on a public ESPN draft.

I’m thinking so differently that I’m not terribly confident about these predictions, but they are some things I think I think for fantasy football 2012:

1. Doug Martin will be the offensive rookie of the year. Yeah, I know jzak already handled this, but I’m going to say my own piece. Martin’s not going to lose goal-line carries to LeGarrette Blount. He has good hands and will play all three downs. Tampa Bay’s offense, while not as great as the promise it showed in 2010, will be better than it was in 2011.

2. Greg Olsen will lead the Carolina Panthers in receptions. Steve Smith will lead in yards and touchdowns, but Olsen will be a PPR machine.

3. There are only two running back handcuffs worth owning in 2012: Rashad Jennings and Ben Tate. Otherwise, I picked somebody else’s backup because I’d rather own the backup than the starter.

4. Speaking of picking other people’s backups: Jacquizz Rodgers leads Atlanta running backs in fantasy points in 2012, especially in PPR leagues.

5. Maurice Jones-Drew announced his return. Dude’s one of the best in the game. He’s not coming in out of shape like cocky Chris Johnson did last year. MJD will be ready to play for the Jaguars and his fantasy owners. He’s instantly the No. 3 fantasy running back now in my opinion. Almost a decade ago, Emmitt Smith held out and even missed two games. The Cowboys went 0-2. When he returned Smith led the league in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage AND led the Cowboys to a championship. Jacksonville isn’t going to sniff a championship, but plenty of fantasy owners who took a chance on MJD as an RB2 as his draft stock slipped will be hoisting trophies.

6. This year I tried to spend early and mid-draft picks on players I think have the talent and opportunity to finish top-5 at their respective positions. That led to me drafting the following players when I thought they had fallen too far because of injury and/or age concerns: Ben Roethlisberger, Reggie Wayne, Wes Welker, Miles Austin, Steven Jackson, Frank Gore, Fred Jackson. Don’t be shocked if two of them finish as top-5 players at their positions in 2012.

7. Even though everything I read and heard told me that Roy Helu and Vick Ballard were the best runners in Washington and Indianapolis respectively, I avoided both of those backfields as though they were Cleveland Browns locker room staph infections.

8. Speaking of infamous Cleveland staph infections, what about Braylon Edwards as a sleeper? He’s never had a real quarterback, right? He’s only 29. Sure he’s not as exciting as he was after that 1,300-yard, 16-TD season in 2007. However, he did have a 1,300-yard, 16-TD season. How many other WRs in the NFL can say that? How many can say they did it with Derek Anderson as their quarterback? His only real receiving competition in Seattle is Sidney Rice, who might as well have a medical record tattooed to his forehead at this point.

9. I didn’t draft him in any league, but I have a feeling Cedric Benson is going to be the best running back in Green Bay this year.

10. Jimmy Graham leads all tight ends in receptions. Rob Gronkowski leads in touchdowns. Aaron Hernandez leads TEs in yards and total fantasy points.

11. I didn’t want to buy into the post-Cam Newton rookie quarterback hype, but, ninjas, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are going to be stars in the NFL. Both could be superstars.

12. For the record, I drafted Brock Osweiler on a couple deep dynasty teams. Osweiler is raw, but with John Elway and Peyton Manning mentoring him he’s worth the risk. At least Elway thinks he’s worth rostering for a while. That’s enough for me.

13. Face-Palm Pick of the Year: Cam Newton. I love Newton, but his passing numbers in the second half of 2012 weren’t spectacular and I just don’t see him repeating any of the numbers he posted last season. When he gets more weapons he’ll be the top fantasy QB in the NFL and it might not be close.

14. Face-Palm Pick of the Year, Part II: Marshawn Lynch. Yes, Lynch finished 2011 on a tear and is a runner worthy of the beast mode nickname. He also was investigated for a DUI in July and his Legal Issues subhead on wikipedia is longer than any season recap of his career. Back spasms last year. Back spasms this preseason. I can only imagine the self-medication that’s going on. I didn’t consider picking Lynch in any draft.

15. I wouldn’t start David Wilson on Wednesday, but after the Giants play the Cowboys I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes at least a flex option for the rest of the season. He finishes as the best fantasy RB in New York who isn’t masquerading as a quarterback.

16. Middle linebacker is deep, but Stephen Tulloch and Sean Lee are significantly better than their preseason rankings. One of the two or both will finish top five at the position.

17. Kickers are boring. The top player only outscores the worst starter by less than a point per game each year. Whatever. I’m going to throw one out here anyway. Shayne Graham is kicking for the nuclear-powered Houston Texans offense. Graham has an 85.7% career field goal percentage and set a Bengals record with a 91.7 % rate in 2007. If those 2009 playoff ghosts are history, Graham could lead kickers in fantasy points. And he’s probably still available on your waiver wire.

18. I’m more worried about Adrian Peterson than Ryan Mathews this year. I would draft Mathews first and think he’ll finish with more fantasy points. And I don’t like Mathews.

19. I would still start Adrian Peterson at 50% before I started Toby Gerhart at any percent.

20. Are you on Team Ryan Williams or Team Beanie Wells? Either way you’ll get 670 yards rushing and 5 TDs when they close the book on 2012. God help you if you have both.

21. I really like Kevin Smith. I’ve liked him since his rookie season. He’s the best running back in Detroit. But there’s something churning in my gut that says Mikel Leshoure will be the Detroit running back everyone will want to own in 2013.

22. If Brandon Marshall doesn’t lead the NFL in receptions the Bears did it wrong.

23. Other than Ray Rice, Torrey Smith is the only fantasy commodity I care about in Baltimore. But I didn’t come close to drafting him. I’m not ready to pay top-20 WR dollars for a second-year receiver in Rice’s offense with Joe Flacco as his quarterback. Replace one of those factors and I won’t be so ready to compare him to Steve Smith (NYG, et. al.), Mike Williams (TB) or Nate Burleson (MIN).

24. Jerome Simpson has to serve a 3-game suspension to start the season. He’ll probably end up in trouble again at some point this season. In between troubles, Simpson will lead the Vikings in fantasy points at WR and win some games for fantasy owners. If he avoids that second bout of trouble, he finishes the season as the best WR draft value.

25. Brent Celek and Jared Cook are the tight ends mostly likely to Gronk (get drafted in the 13th round and return top-5 TE numbers) in 2012. But I want to start the Coby Fleener for 2013 campaign right now.

Again, be sure to read jzak’s bold predictions post and make your own bold predictions in the comments there.

In the comments here, post who you think will be the top fantasy scorer in 2012 and who you think will win the Super Bowl. Good luck, have fun.

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