Bold fantasy football predictions (cont.)
Why is this bold?
Richardson was drafted because he is a man-child, one capable of carrying the Browns' offense as a feature back -- rushing and receiving. Cleveland also figures to have a run-heavy scheme, if only because the receiving corps has so many warts and question marks. Richardson, sight unseen, has been going in Round 1 in many leagues, so obviously many people see him as more stud than dud. The masses cannot be wrong, right?
Why is this going to happen?
Richardson was drafted after having a knee surgery in January and not performing at the annual Scouting Combine in Indianapolis after the Super Bowl in February. Then, Richardson's knee balked right after starting contact early in camp and going into real contact in preseason games. He needed another surgical procedure that knocks him out of debuting before Week 1 of the regular season. His knee just isn't right apparently. That is a bad body part for a RB to have questions about.
Even if he gets healthy, Richardson will be rushing for one of the sketchiest offenses in football. He could get a ton of carries, but yards and touchdowns just never are easy to come by in modern-day Cleveland. Remember Peyton Hillis and company a year ago?
What should we do about it?
Whether you pick Richardson in Round 1 or 2, you are going to have to do it without seeing him carry a football against live NFL competition. That should really worry you. Instead, pick backs you have seen play well, like: Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and even the Bills' Fred Jackson.
6. MJD will be outscored by a RB on his own team -- Rashad Jennings is already slated to open the season as the Jags' starter amid Maurice Jones-Drew's holdout. And when MJD does come back, he will have to re-earn his job. Chris Johnson was 2011's cautionary tale on RB holdouts in fantasy. Avoid MJD.
7. Jacob Tamme will finish top-five at TE -- Peyton Manning's best friend is his tight end. No, really, Tamme has hung out and watched video in Manning's dorm room late nights in camp, sharing the popcorn. Tamme is going to be targeted more than all tight ends other than Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski.
8. Joe Flacco will rise to fantasy stardom -- There was talk Ravens fans wanted to run Flacco out of town. That is balderdash, and merely a function of him not having a long-term contract extension yet. Flacco isn't getting pushed out of town. He will be pushed to the elite of the QB position as the Ravens open up the offense and allow him to reach 4,000 yards and 30 TDs. He is also going to become a very rich man.
9. Cam Newton will perform like fantasy backup QB -- This is a pass-happy league and there are a number of QBs, likely even 12, who will throw for more yards and touchdowns than the second-year beast. Remember how Vick's rushing TDs disappeared suddenly a year ago? If you take away Newton's record rushing scores, he is more of a fantasy backup QB, particularly if you see the likes of Manning, Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger re-emerging and Flacco and Cutler taking a step forward.
10. Adrian Peterson will return to the elite -- A.P. should be on the PUP list right now. Instead, he is in the Vikings' huddle, running reps with the first team in practice -- with coaches shouting: "If you touch Peterson, we'll cut you." Peterson's quick return from ACL surgery is a bit inhuman. He will perform like he is otherworldly, to the tune of 1,100 yards and 12 TDs.
11. Big Ben will get his clocked cleaned -- Roethlisberger has long taken a lot of hits and that was when the Steelers had a running game. Now they plan to pass more with an offensive line that makes the Bears' porous unit look safer to stand behind. Big Ben won't play 16 games this season, and that is ignoring the fact he never had surgery on his partially torn rotator cuff (right/throwing arm).Check out our QB health report.
12. Peyton Manning will play 16 games -- He is coming off career-threatening, maybe even life-threatening, neck surgery. His shoulder was too weak to throw passes a year ago; yet, Manning looks healthy enough to throw for 4,000 yards and 25 TDs, even for a run-oriented coach in John Fox.
13. Darren Sproles will be the second-best RB ... on his own team -- Sproles was a miracle late-round pick, maybe even a waiver claim a year ago in Brees' record-breaking passing offense. Sproles will never be mistaken for an every-down back, or capable of taking a lot of punishment. Also, a healthier Ingram trumps Sproles in fantasy production.
14. Isaiah Pead will be the top rookie RB -- The rookie RBs you expect to star usually never do. Instead, the top rookie RB comes out of seemingly nowhere. Well, Pead is backing up a 29-year-old Steven Jackson with a lot of wear on the tire. Pead was also called the next Chris Johnson by a guy who should know: Jeff Fisher, who used to coach CJ2K. Consider Pead a very important late-round pick on draft day.
15. Andre Johnson goes bust -- Johnson is learning life after 30 is a lot tougher than even imagined. He just cannot stay healthy, and after an injury-plagued year, he is having an injury-plagued camp. His legs again, and apparently he hasn't taken enough care of them. Avoid him and go with healthier WR options that have a more elite QB and a pass-heavy scheme.
Not all of these bold predictions will come to fruition. But all of Al Davis' outside-the-box moves didn't work out either. Without them, though, the game would just be a bit too vanilla. These predictions will definitely spice things up, even if only with all the hate mail this writer just assured himself.
Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com. You find him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really).
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