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Jacob Adler's Bold Predictions for 2015

Going team-by-team, Jacob Adler offers predictions for C.J. Anderson, Antonio Brown, Julius Thomas, and more.

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Arizona Cardinals: No running back finishes in the top 24 at the position

While everyone is worried over whether Andre Ellington or David Johnson will garner the lion’s share of the carries, I’m sitting here saying I’m not interested. It doesn’t matter who gets more carries, since the other along with Chris Johnson will still tote the ball. While the Cardinals’ line hasn’t been great in recent years, starters Bobby Massie and Mike Iupati will be out the first few weeks, at least.

Atlanta Falcons: No wide receiver other than Julio Jones finishes in the top 30 at the position

I am one of the opinion Julio Jones is in for a monster season. I am also of the opinion there isn’t much room for Roddy White, Justin Hardy, and Leonard Hankerson be helpful in fantasy. White looks to be the only other receiver that has a reasonable chance of WR2 status.

Baltimore Ravens: Kamar Aiken finishes with the most fantasy points of any Ravents wide receiver

I prefer Aiken to Marlon Brown easily, and with rookie Breshad Perriman still yet to resume practice because of a sprained PCL, there’s definitely an opportunity here. I think Steve Smith Sr. has a solid season ahead of him, but he could tail off again, as he did in 2014.

Buffalo Bills: Tyrod Taylor is a top-12 quarterback, based on fantasy points per game (FPPG) in weeks where he starts and finishes the game

As you might have guessed, I’m not sure Taylor completes a full NFL campaign as Buffalo’s starter. Running quarterbacks carry an additional risk of injury if they are not careful enough, and Taylor’s collegiate completion percentage of 57.2% should give you pause as well. However, his athleticism and rushing ability should give him the edge in fantasy scoring over pocket passers.

Carolina Panthers: Jonathan Stewart is a top-12 running back

At first glance, only the Texans, Seahawks, and maybe the Redskins seem like tough defensive matchups for Stewart, who will receive the lion’s share of the carries. From Week 13 onward last season, he compiled at least 70 yards on the ground in all seven games (including playoffs) with the exception of the Panthers’ Week 17 rout of the Falcons. Using Rotoviz’s Sim Score App for the last five weeks of the season as a sample, his non-PPR ceiling projection is 14.2 FPPG, which would have been seventh-best in 2014. If he gets just a few more goal-line carries, he can be a huge value this season.

Chicago Bears: Matt Forte is not a top-15 running back in standard (or top-10 in PPR)

With no Marc Trestman, Forte is extremely unlikely to surpass the 100-catch mark again. 60 seems like a reasonable number, but will that be enough to outweigh his decline in rushing skills. Per Pro Football Focus, he managed many fewer breakaway runs and numberFire’s Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics showed a slight decline in skills. He’s purely a volume play at this stage in his career.

Cincinnati Bengals: Jeremy Hill is not a top-10 running back

As someone who drafted and stashed Hill last season, I was hoping he would have a big sophomore season. But with a schedule that includes the Ravens twice, Chiefs, Seahawks, Bills, Browns twice, Texans, Cardinals, and Rams, it’s tough for me to say that even with more volume, he will sustain better-than-expected fantasy success. We don’t know if all of these teams will actually have strong run defenses at the time of matchup, but most of these teams will be tough rushing matchups. I’ll play Hill in DFS in Week 1 and not again until Week 8 against the Steelers.

Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel will make at least eight starts and will be fantasy-relevant

Okay, I didn’t have much to work with here. Josh McCown is not somebody who the Browns will hesitate benching if things don’t go his way, and Manziel is their best chance to win. He’s a surefire second QB in 2QB leagues when he starts, and could flash that top-12 QB upside we thought he had last year.

Dallas Cowboys: No running back surpasses 1,000 rushing yards

Whether it’s Darren McFadden, Joseph Randle, or somebody else, I don’t see a player currently on the roster that is talented and durable enough to be a bellcow on a team that has already said it wants to employ a committee. I will say this is probably the cheapest the Dallas running backs have been, so if you’re convinced of who the guy will be, you can take a shot at a lower cost.

Denver Broncos: C.J. Anderson is the top running back in both standard and PPR

My second-ranked player behind only Le’Veon Bell, I wrote up Anderson last year as the Denver back you wanted to watch and am still a believer. According to numberFire’s Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics, Anderson was the second-most efficient runner (per Rush NEP per play) behind only Jamaal Charles, and the second-most efficient receiving back (per Reception NEP per target) behind Eddie Lacy. With Gary Kubiak now coaching the Broncos, Anderson will likely see more volume as the team seeks a more balanced approach. Ronnie Hillman is not a concern here.

Detroit Lions: Matt Stafford finishes as a top-eight quarterback

While the Lions have to play both the AFC and NFC West, they have pretty much a cakewalk of a schedule otherwise. While Stafford was considered largely dependent on the health of Calvin Johnson prior to last season, there was a negligible difference in FPPG when Johnson sat and Golden Tate served as the top target, according to the Game Splits App. Stafford is being written off because quarterback is deep, but he has two talented receivers and a high-volume passing offense.

Green Bay Packers: Richard Rodgers is a top-12 tight end

With Jordy Nelson out, there are more targets to go around, and Rodgers figures to be the starting tight end. He’s a backup or second tight end easy, and top-12 status is well within reach.

Houston Texans: Arian Foster is a top-12 running back

No, I’m not hedging with FPPG or "if he stays healthy". When Foster is healthy, he’s healthy. Last season, he missed three games, had two more with fewer than 10 carries, and still was RB5 in non-PPR leagues.

Indianapolis Colts: Dan Herron will be the most valuable running back on the team

I figure there are two ways to look at this. If Frank Gore gets hurt or shows sign of slowing, Herron will take over as the receiving back and take a few more carries. He could just also come in on third downs, but this is not as likely given Gore’s receiving abilities as well as the presence of Josh Robinson. This is a prediction with a low chance of fulfillment, but with a lot of value added if it happens.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Clay Harbor will have more fantasy points than Julius Thomas

I wasn’t a believer in Thomas before the news he needed to undergo surgery and miss the start of the season, but now I’m not sure he’ll be totally healthy at any point this season. I don’t expect big things from Harbor but he will be a reliable safety option for Blake Bortles.

Kansas City Chiefs: Jeremy Maclin will record 10 or more touchdown receptions

While I don’t know if Alex Smith will continue to sling the ball as he has this preseason, Maclin will get his share of targets and is adept with the ball in his hands. He is likely to end up as a low-ceiling WR2.

Miami Dolphins: Greg Jennings finishes inside the top 36 wide receivers

This is less about Jennings being a surprise and more about him being a thorn in the side of Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, and Jordan Cameron. Jennings will likely siphon off enough targets to limit the true upside of the Dolphins receiving core, and will only be started in deep fantasy leagues.

Minnesota Vikings: Mike Wallace finishes inside the top 24 wide receivers

Last year, Wallace had 862 receiving yards and 10 scores while finishing as a low-end WR2, but is getting no respect this year. As surprised as I am by this, I think Wallace will outscore teammate Charles Johnson, although both deserve fantasy consideration.

New England Patriots: Jonas Gray takes the starting running back job at some point and is a top-12 running back over the time period that he starts

I believe in Jonas Gray, but I also believe in LeGarrette Blount as long as the latter has a job in New England. Gray’s 200-yard game displayed his big-play ability, and I think he would excel in the starting role if given a chance.

New Orleans Saints: Benjamin Watson finishes with twice as many fantasy points as Josh Hill in PPR leagues

I believed the Josh Hill narrative in the spring, but Watson is still the hands-down starter and Hill’s exact role is still unknown to the fantasy community. Hill is an upside play with a low chance of panning out.

New York Giants: Larry Donnell catches fewer than five touchdown passes and is irrelevant in fantasy

Donnell was the early-season waiver wire star among tight ends, averaging 15.02 points in the first four games (using the Game Splits App, which uses 0.5 PPR). In the final 12 games, Donnell averaged 5.81 points. The difference? Odell Beckham Jr. emerged and became Eli Manning’s preferred goal-line target. Draft Donnell as a TE1 at your own risk.

New York Jets: Chris Ivory finishes as a top-15 running back

Plenty of others make this case, but Ivory was RB19 last year while carrying the ball 20+ times only twice. He figures to get more volume this season from game script (the Jets will probably win more games) and the departure of Chris Johnson. Any role in the receiving game is an added bonus

Oakland Raiders: Michael Crabtree outscores Amari Cooper in FPPG

I’m a fan of Cooper this year, but at his mid-round price tag I’m more inclined to go with Crabtree. Derek Carr is not, I repeat, not a quality NFL quarterback, but the targets will be there for Crabtree, who needed to get out of San Francisco.

Philadelphia Eagles: Sam Bradford plays in all 16 games

Read: I didn’t have any better ideas regarding skill players. It seems to be a given Bradford misses time, and I am in that opinion, but I do think there’s a non-zero chance he stays healthy.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Antonio Brown scores eight touchdowns or fewer

Brown was actually unlucky in getting tackled at the one-yard-line four times last season, but it’s possible he’ll see fewer targets over the course of the season, especially when Bell and Martavis Bryant return from suspension. Of course, this could blow up in my face, as Brown could become a target hog to an even greater degree.

San Diego Chargers: Steve Johnson and Keenan Allen both finish in the top 24 wide receivers

On second thought, this isn’t very bold. Allen is being drafted as a high-end WR2, and it looks like Johnson will see 100+ targets from Philip Rivers is is severely undervalued. All parts of the Chargers’ offense deserve consideration in leagues.

San Francisco 49ers: Vernon Davis catches 10 touchdowns

One of the most frustrating players to roster in fantasy because of his unpredictability, Davis caught 13 touchdown passes as recently as 2013, and has 850+ receiving yards three times since 2009. Don’t forget about him if you choose to wait on tight end.

St. Louis Rams: Tre Mason keeps the starting job over Todd Gurley if or when the latter returns

After taking over the starting role, Mason excelled against lesser defenses and struggled against better ones. This is more of a bet against Gurley, who is recovering from a torn ACL and is no guarantee to be himself upon returning. Adrian Peterson is the latest to do that, but he is a rare case. Mason is guaranteed a job for now, and could retain his role if he plays well enough early in the season.

Seattle Seahawks: Chris Matthews, that guy from the Super Bowl, leads the team’s wide receivers in touchdowns

Rookie Tyler Lockett is probably Matthews’ hardest competition, but his exact role is unknown after a strong preseason. Matthews has continued to work as a starter throughout the offseason process, and I’m unable to dismiss him after putting himself on the map in the Super Bowl.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Austin Seferian-Jenkins posts no more than two weeks inside the top 12 tight ends

He didn’t show much last year, and hasn’t in the preseason or offseason activities. I’m not interested until I see he can stack up with live NFL competition.

Tennessee Titans: Kendall Wright goes for 100 catches, 1,000 yards, and 10 touchdowns

I wrote about Wright’s prospects here, and think he will be Marcus Mariota’s favorite target this season. Dorial Green-Beckham and Delanie Walker (and maybe Justin Hunter) will demand targets as well, but the Titans will likely trail for much of games, so there will be plenty of passing to go around.

Washington Redskins: Darrel Young scores more touchdowns than Matt Jones

Young seems to be good for three of four touchdowns on goal-line plays, while I’m not sure Jones will get as many carries as some think he will. Alfred Morris has been a smooth runner at the goal line, so I expect most of the short-yardage touchdowns to continue to go his way.