I started a column of fantasy football predictions at the beginning of the season a few years ago for the Austin American-Statesman. The predictions column and my regular column have moved here, so keep an eye out for more fantasy football content as the season progresses.
Last season I was right on 11 of 21 predictions for the '21 fantasy season.
I'm shooting for at least one better than .500 this season.
Here they are:
1. Derrick Henry will miss out on being a top-3 running back in half-ppr leagues.
He played less than half the season last year and fell just shy of a 1,000- yard campaign while scoring 11 times. Two years ago he eclipsed 2,000 yards and should be very productive coming back from injury. The problem is he's nearly a nonfactor in the passing game and if Malik Willis takes over at some point for Ryan Tannehill, like I think he will, Willis could steal some rushing yardage and short TDs from Henry.
2. Austin Ekeler will finish ahead of Christian McCaffrey in fantasy production.
Ekeler has been lights out as the main backfield option for the Chargers. The smaller than typical back even carried the ball over 200 times last season. If Los Angeles wants to continue to strive forward, they'll continue to keep Ekeler as one of the best red zone options in the league
3. Joe Burrow will be a QB1 but outside the top 8.
Burrow had a great sophomore season, throwing for over 4,600 yards and 34 touchdowns. One problem is he threw 14 interceptions and often exceeded expectations last year. He finished last season right at QB8, but I think he has a slight regression and plays closer to his true value.
4. Allen Lazard will prove to be a decent flex in half-ppr leagues, finishing as the best pass catcher for the Packers.
Davante Adams is no longer in Green Bay and Lazard isn't going to cost a lot. Still, he has Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback and that makes him valuable. He's gained at least 450 yards in each of the last three seasons and caught a career high 8 TDs last year. Factor in Adams' absence and Lazard should be at least as good as the WR25.
5. After being dethroned last season as the TE1, Travis Kelce will reclaim his status.
Mark Andrews took the top spot as the best fantasy tight end last season, but there were special circumstances. Due to the injury to Lamar Jackson, Andrews had more receiving opportunities. Add the fact that Tyreek Hill is no longer in Kansas City, Kelce could add to his streak of six seasons gaining 1,000 yards while scoring at least six touchdowns.
6. Michael Pittman will catch passes for 1,200 yards and eight scores.
Pittman led the Colts with 1,082 yards and six touchdowns last season with a really bad quarterback at the helm. Matt Ryan now calls the signals for the Colts and is a significant upgrade over Carson Wentz despite his age. Pittman's production will have him finishing just outside WR1 status.
7. Antonio Gibson will remain the Commanders top scoring back and finish as at least an RB2.
With the unfortunate news that Brian Robinson was the victim of gun violence during an apparent robbery, it looks like Gibson will hold on to his featured spot. Robinson had been looking like the new starter before the attack that leaves his availability up in the air.
8. Dameon Pierce will break 1,000 yards from scrimmage and score at least six touchdowns.
The rookie for the Texans has looked great in preseason and Marlon Mack just got cut. Pierce, though on a subpar team, provides great value as he's getting drafted in the eighth round of most fantasy leagues.
9. Marquise Brown won't be a top-24 wide receiver.
He'll be outside WR2 territory, even though he's going to be the top target to start the season for the Cardinals. Once DeAndre Hopkins returns, however, Brown will fall off. His career year last season was due to circumstance.
10. Lamar Jackson will bounce back with a QB4 or better finish.
Jackson only played in 12 games last year and accounted for 18 touchdowns. Hopefully he stays healthy this season and continues to display his rushing prowess. He’s rushed for at least 750 yards in three straight seasons. If Rashod Bateman steps up on the outside, that will add another good target for Jackson, in addition to Mark Andrews.
11. Jerry Jeudy will lead the Broncos receivers in fantasy points.
Courtland Sutton is getting drafted higher than Jeudy in most leagues, but Jeudy seems to be getting overlooked. He’s a great route runner and was a huge talent coming out of Alabama. With Russell Wilson at the helm now, Jeudy could have a true breakout year.
12. AJ Dillon will keep Aaron Jones from RB1 status.
Jones has been great, gaining at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage and scoring at least 10 TDs in three straight years. But he’s starting to show some signs of wear. His yards per carry dropped from 5.5 in 2020 to 4.7 last year. And Dillon just plain looked like the better back at times last season. Expect the second-year rusher to really dent Jones’ production.
13. Dalton Schultz will repeat as a top-6 tight end.
The Cowboys will be without Amari Cooper now and Michael Gallup is going to join the season late. James Washington, a new addition, is also hurt. That means CeeDee Lamb and Schultz will likely be Dak Prescott’s top targets. Schultz ended up as the TE4 last season, finishing with over 800 yards and eight TDs. Even if his TD production falls back to earth he can still slip into the top six.
14. Trey Lance will be at least a QB8 but could be even better.
You don't trade first round picks for a player you won't invest time and effort into. Lance will get the full opportunity to be productive for the 49ers, though it would have been better had Jimmy Garoppolo moved on. He impressed in his two games last season, averaging 60 yards rushing per game, and I think he'll thrive this year. He has Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk to distribute the ball to. Most importantly, perhaps, he has Kyle Shanahan calling the plays.
15. Malik Willis will take over for Ryan Tannehill sooner rather than later, probably before Week 8.
Willis has looked outstanding running during his preseason action. He's been pretty good through the air as well. I'm thinking he ends up starting in Week 7 after the bye week. A strong running game can be even better if Willis starts taking snaps.
16. No Bills running back will finish as an RB2 or better.
Confidence is high in this prediction. With how valuable Josh Allen is as a runner and the fact the Bills love to air it out, the path to a very good running back fantasy season is rough. Singletary will have to share passing targets with rookie James Cook now. Neither will have 15-carry games regularly.
17. DK Metcalf won’t be better than a WR20.
If you took Metcalf in the fourth round, like his average draft position suggests, good luck. Having to play with Geno Smith, or Drew Lock, will hurt. But even when he was playing with Wilson last year, his yards per reception really fell off. Add in Pete Carroll's desire to pound the football and you've got a bad fantasy situation for Metcalf.
18. Tua Tagovailoa will break out and be a QB1.
The social media reaction and piling on of one wobbly pass does not paint a full picture of a player's fantasy profile. Tagovailoa has enough weapons to make waves, including speedsters Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. There are serviceable backs in the backfield, which should help take pressure off him. If he can add just a little rushing yardage to his typical season, he could be a fantasy league winner with how low he’s being drafted.
19. Ezekiel Elliott‘s downward trend will continue as he fails to achieve RB1 status for the first time in his career.
He's scored at least eight touchdowns in every season, but it took him all 17 games to gain 1,002 yards rushing. That's to say his per game fantasy production isn't great. With Tony Pollard still taking touches away, and a likely downgraded passing attack without Amari Cooper, this could be the year Zeke sees a real drop-off.
20. Kyle Pitts will lead the Falcons in fantasy production through the air.
Drake London will probably be the most productive wideout for Atlanta, but Pitts is special and should lead the team in receiving fantasy points. Only Mike Ditka has had a better rookie year as a tight end. Both eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving in their first year, but Ditka scored 12 TDs while Pitts had just one. Expect that to go up for Pitts.
21. DeAndre Swift won't rush for more than 650 yards, nor will he gain 500 yards receiving, as he finishes outside RB1 status.
There's hype over Swift and I'm not sure I buy it. Yes, he had a good start to last season, but I don't think he can sustain that type of production for a whole season especially on a bad team like the Lions. He finished as the RB20 in each of his first two seasons and I don't see him surpassing that by that much.
22. Javonte Williams will take the lion's share of touches and lead in production out of the backfield.
Melvin Gordon is still on the team, but Williams will take over as the main back for Denver. With Wilson calling signals, things should open up even more for the second-year rusher. He caught 43 passes last year as well and should finish as a mid-RB2.