The irony of making a bold prediction in 2020 is not lost on me, even for fantasy football. With the way most of this year has gone, I don't think anything would shock us at this point. I guess if something happened in a football game like it does in the first four minutes of "The Last Boy Scout" we'd be surprised. But if we had to pick a year for that to happen, we'd probably pick 2020, right?
So no, I'm not going to pick anything that bold.
And as I said last year, bold doesn't mean stupid. I discuss for example a WR2 to outproduce his WR1, but that doesn't mean I am going to pick him before the other. And I could be wrong. As my editor pointed out in preparation for this year's exercise, I predicted last year that Lamar Jackson would throw three times the amount of passing yards as he did previously. Ok, so it was only like 2.8 times. But if you had considered my prediction, you might have drafted Jackson last year and that probably worked out well.
Also, I am not going to make only five predictions like last year, but in the 2020 spirit of inclusion and equality, I will make a bold prediction for each and every NFL division.
Yeah, that's right, I'm politically correct like that. Although I will just settle for plain old correct on these!
2020 Fantasy Football Bold Predictions for Each NFL Division
AFC East: Patriots will suffer through their first non-winning season under Bill Belichick since his first in New England
Depending where you look, most of the books have the Patriots between 8.5 and 9 wins. That's too high. I have the Patriots losing four or five non-divisional games. With three likely losses against the Ravens, Chiefs, and 49ers alone, four or five total is not a stretch. A review of their seasons shows they often lose about four non-divisional games. However, the difference is they often make a mockery of their divisional foes. That ends this year. It's taken 20 years, but the rest of the division will finally be competitive.
The fantasy ramifications of this changing of the guard in the AFC East are that there will not be a single Patriot you feel good about owning, other than possibly Devin Asiasi. And that's only because he cost you next to nothing to acquire. There will not be a single Patriot RB that hits even 700 rushing yards or more than half a dozen TDs. Cam Newton won't total 30 touchdowns. One of the highest selected Patriots according to ADP is Julian Edelman and he won't even record 75 receptions, six touchdowns or 850 receiving yards. And after being one of the most valuable defenses last year, the Patriots D/ST will not even be one of the 12 best fantasy units this year.
You've been warned.
NFC East: The Redskins... ahem, Washington Football Team will have at least four sources of fantasy goodness this year
Everything must have balance. And as the Patriots come crashing down, some other team needs to rise up. Don't get me wrong, that burgundy and gold team will be bad this year. But not as bad you think. Terry McLaurin will be a stud and I don't think I need to expound on that. But with Derrius Guice and now Adrian Peterson out of the way, I think Antonio Gibson runs away with the job. He will be both the goal-line and third-down back. Even if Washington isn't a high-scoring machine, Gibson will see enough action to make him easily a top 25 fantasy option.
I also like Steven Sims to sneak in as a late-round pick. As I said, think don't think Washington is going to be even close to a juggernaut, but this offense is going to need to pass a lot and I think Sims will see double-digit targets much of the year. So who's the fourth? Steady yourelf for it...
The defense will actually be in the top half of the league from a fantasy perspective. The key here is fantasy perspective. The Washington Football Team is not going to be a ferocious D that holds teams to less than 17 points week in and week out. However, this D/ST is going to be a source of sacks, as well as turnovers. Landon Collins enters his second year captaining the secondary. And the front seven is more talented, partly because of this kid Chase Young Washington drafted who you probably heard a thing or two about. That should help free up Ryan Kerrigan, who might be one of the most dominant players on a lousy team. And I will call it all now — Sims takes one to the house as a returner. Washington had only one special teams touchdown last year. I think the team gets at least two this year. Throw in a little natural regression and the Washington D/ST should be decent this year.
AFC North: Miles Boykin is the Ravens WR you are going to wish you rostered, not Hollywood Brown
Boykin is going about 200 picks later than Brown, if he's drafted at all. Boykin will have far better value and dare I say I might even outproduce Brown outright. Some of this will depend on the health of both players. However, last year Brown played 563 snaps while Boykin was on the field for 425. Expect a far more equitable number this year. Now, let's do some quick math. With 100-plus more snaps, let's say Boykin gets 30 more targets and of those targets, he hauls in about two-thirds or 20 receptions. Should Boykin duplicate his yards per catch average of 15, that is easily 300-plus more receiving yards in 2020. That puts him closer to 750 yards in total. As the bigger target, I think Boykin also adds six or more touchdown grabs this year. He's not going to be a WR1, but you will wish you snagged him.
NFC North: Nick Foles will be Chicago's starting QB before Halloween
Oh wait, that's not bold, that's what the Bears should have done from the get-go. How about this instead?
NFC North: Nick Foles has his best statistical year yet, including more than 3K passing yards
This might not be a high bar to jump, but even when Foles played 13 games for Philadelphia he failed to eclipse that mark. However, Foles has the smarts to take what a defense gives him. Bears head coach Matt Nagy is not great in establishing the run, so I think Foles will have 30 to 40 attempts per game, which should be enough to get him to 300 yards in at least 10 games, putting him past the 3K mark.
AFC South: James Robinson will be the Jaguars' leading rusher this year
This is not the first time I've gone on record saying so. I'm not repeating the argument here but I stand behind it.
NFC South: Tom Brady will be home for the playoffs
You can't expect me to comment on Brady's former team and not say anything about his new one, can you? This is not so much an indictment of Brady. I just think the rest of the NFC South is that talented and the Buccaneers will be lucky to finish third in their division. New Orleans is a complete team and full of all kinds of fantasy goodies. I think Drew Brees can lead the Saints to at least one more NFC South crown. Atlanta also has its shares of fantasy goodness and will likely finish ahead of Tampa Bay. And I love Teddy Bridgewater in Carolina, but that defense will take a step back this year while Tampa's will likely take a step forward. Either way, Giselle is gonna have Tom home in January.
AFC West: Melvin Gordon outrushes Clyde Edwards-Helaire
One and one does not always equal two. For example, sometimes one and one is 11. But I don't think the Broncos brought Gordon in for $10 million to give him just 10 carries a game. That by itself does not mean much too me. And Edwards-Helaire is an incredible talent. Yet we've seen how Andy Reid loves to underutilize his RBs, regardless of how talented, as ball carriers. Those facts taken in tandem have me thinking this prediction is probably pretty close to the mark.
NFC West: Josh Gordon catches five touchdowns this year
Nope, Gordon is not dead yet and it wasn't that long ago that he was showing us just how electric he can be. We're at the point that just knowing Gordon might play multiple weeks in a row is a shock. I think Gordon knows though this is likely his last chance to prove he's a reliable NFL player. He's not suddenly going to blow by Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf on the depth chart, but Gordon can be a solid WR3. He will be hooking up with Russell Wilson, who does not play favorites, and will love Gordon's ability to separate.
(Top photo courtesy of buccaneers.com)