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Top 10 fantasy predictions
I predict that I will grow tired of talking about Brett Favre, Rex Ryan, the Green Bay Packers and the New York Jets before the final guns sound Monday night.
I know that it’s just the beginning of a long, winding road toward the Super Bowl in Dallas, but I just can’t wait for another set of storylines to emerge. The releases of T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Matt Leinart served as blips on the radar, but the blogosphere and radio world quickly turned back to this quartet.
I won’t avoid these situations altogether, but there are other stories swirling around my dome heading into Week 1.
Let’s get bold. Let’s make some predictions for 2010.
1. We’ll need to have the point of clarification regarding team affiliation when referring to “Mike Williams.”
The “Sit/Start” rapid-fire calls, Tweets and emails just got more complicated. In addition to the “Steve Smiths,” fantasy owners will start looking to a rookie in Tampa Bay and a reclaimed career in Seattle for third receiver love. Both players have enjoyed tremendous preseasons, and each will have ample opportunities to pile up numbers. Neither the Tampa Bay nor Seattle defenses rank highly (Seattle a bit of an unknown depending on health), leading one to believe that the offenses will need to get pass-happy to compete. That bodes well for both players as potential deep options.
There are many paths to fantasy stardom. Williams of Tampa Bay left Syracuse before ultimately getting drafted this April. Williams of Seattle obviously has had a long and well-documented path to a starting role.
2. I will rue not ranking Carson Palmer higher this preseason
I have been talking up Palmer all off-season, starting with the signing (ultimately ill-fated) of Antonio Bryant. The move showed that the Bengals were at least going to try to keep pressure on the AFC North. They later added Jermaine Gresham in April’s draft and scored a big win when Terrell Owens was still floating in no man’s land as camp opened.
Palmer’s in the second year back from surgery. The Cincinnati running game is strong with Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott, and the defense is potentially one of the best in the league (sackmaster Antwan Odom returns). I moved him marginally this preseason, but couldn’t make the leap over young QB darlings Joe Flacco and Kevin Kolb.
As with Palmer, I love the changes and additions made to the Detroit offense. Nate Burleson offers a complementary option to Calvin Johnson that hasn’t been there previously and we all know what Jim Schwartz is enamored with rookie tailback Jahvid Best. You add two pass-catching tight ends to the mix and have great potential for a breakthrough campaign for the sophomore quarterback.
You look around the NFC North and see a world of opportunity given the secondary concerns of each divisional foe. You can’t help but get excited about Stafford’s prospects.
4. Matt Forte will account for 1,600 total yards and 10 touchdowns, thereby making him a fantasy bargain in 2010
Fantasy owners harbored grudges during draft season following Forte’s smallish, injury-riddled sophomore campaign. Remember, he was a top-5 fantasy pick in 2009 and fell to the fourth round this summer. The offensive line is still a major concern, but lest we forget, Forte narrowly matched his receiving efforts of his rookie season in 2009. He’ll still play a major role in the passing game, and Mike Martz’s offense should create running room.
5. Malcom Floyd will emerge as a strong option for Philip Rivers, thereby reducing all leverage held by Vincent Jackson
Floyd established himself as a solid No. 2 option last season, finishing the year with three or more receptions in eight straight games. He’s a 6-foot-5 beast who creates problems downfield, and who should capably take over red zone targets in Jackson’s absence.
The NFLPA is working to shorten Jackson’s suspension with the hope of creating a better trading scenario. In the interim, Floyd will be lighting up defenses, starting this week in Kansas City.
6. LaDainian Tomlinson will experience more end zone love than Ryan Mathews
Tomlinson may not have the burst of young Mathews any longer, but his efforts in 2009 demonstrated that he still has the nose for the painted grass (12 touchdowns). Mathews will win out in yardage, without question, but the presence of potential vultures such as Mike Tolbert and Jacob Hester gives me pause.
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Jackson has averaged 335.2 touches per season in the past five years. Let’s make it an even half-dozen with rookie quarterback Sam Bradford under center. I like the potential play-making ability of Laurent Robinson, and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui raised some eyebrows in camp, but it’s going to take some time for the passing game to come together.
Owners have been scared off by the expected breakdown of Jackson’s body for years. It hasn’t happened yet, and the team has been keeping him rested and ready to get to work in Week 1 against the Cardinals. I anticipate that Jackson piles up another 300-touch season, thereby validating his first-round selection.
8. Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco will play well in the proverbial sandbox
I mentioned Palmer’s potential brilliance in a previous note. Therefore, it isn’t a stretch to say that Owens and Ochocinco will post big numbers, starting this week against the questionable New England secondary. I do have some concerns about later in the season when performance escalators kick in for Owens, but winning cures all ills.
9. Rex Grossman and Matt Leinart will play meaningful football this season
Fantasy owners who reached up into the early rounds to grab Matt Schaub obviously won’t like to see this. I still have him ranked in the second tier of quarterbacks and believe that he’ll put up some astounding numbers. However, I still have some reservations about the hits taken and the number of times he tucks the ball to run. Remember, last season marked the first season that Schaub participated in every game.
As for Grossman, you have to expect that Donovan McNabb will miss at least one or two games during the course of a season. McNabb has completed only one of his final five seasons in Philadelphia.
10. Brett Favre will survive the season unscathed
It’s a bold prediction. I know. Given the concerns about his ankle, mobility and the blitz-happy packages that he’s sure to face, many fantasy owners were reticent to place much trust in the veteran quarterback. I understand that Favre will face more heat from Julius Peppers, Ndamukong Suh and Kyle VandenBosch and the Green Bay front.
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