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As we gear up for the 2018 fantasy football season, members of the QB List staff are revealing their 10 bold predictions for the upcoming season (based on standard scoring). I may have 2-3 correct for my 2018 Pitcher List predictions – I mean, hey, a .300 batting average is a great success. Enjoy these entirely plausible predictions — take a walk with me.
1. Kirk Cousins is the #1 Quarterback
Kirk Cousins has been a stud the past three years and was deservedly paid by Minnesota. As a point of reference, Cousins’ top wide receivers last year were Paul Richardson (WR36) and Jamison Crowder (WR41) – what I’m getting at is that Cousins finished 6th overall with not much support. In Minnesota he his abound with talent throwing to Adam Theilen, Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph, and Dalvin Cook. The biggest concern is interceptions (Cousins threw 13 last season) as Minnesota has terrible front-5 (Case Keenum was the third-most pressured quarterback last season), but I think that with so many talented options Cousins will persevere and need not to hold onto the ball long.
2. Kareem Hunt Finishes Outside the Top-10 at Running Back
Kareem Hunt burst onto the scene last year running for 148 yards, receiving for 98 yards, and putting up 3 touchdowns in his debut game. It was the highest single-game performance of any player at any position last year (coming in at 40.6 points). Although Hunt had other high scoring games – those were offset by several poor performances (failing to break 10 fantasy points in 6 games). If we consider his 40 point game an outlier and remove it with his lowest scoring game, we end up with a fringe top-10 running back. Given the conservativeness of Andy Reid’s team, so too should expectations regarding Hunt’s ability to replicate his 2017 season.
3. The Detroit Lions Have 3 Wide Receivers in the Top-30 WR
The Detroit Lions had two wide receivers in the top-20 last season with Marvin Jones Jr. (5th) and Golden Tate (19th). Rookie Kenny Golladay finished 64th after missing 6 games with an injury. Golladay flashed brilliance at times and was able to stretch out large amounts of turf despite his 6’4″ frame. The Detroit Lions threw the ball the 10th most last season (35.6 per game) and Matt Stafford had the sixth highest completion percentage (65.7). Even if Detroit runs the ball more often with rookie Kerryon Johnson, the Lions will air the ball out enough (and Golladay is well positioned enough on the outside) to elevate three wide receivers into the top-30 in 2018.
4. Trey Burton Finishes as a Top-5 Tight End
Trey Burton is trending upward in this offseason having signed with Chicago after spending four years as the Philadelphia Phillies‘ third-string tight end behind Zack Ertz and Brent Celek. Burton will open the season as one of Mitch Trubisky‘s top targets and although he does not have a track record (only 63 career receptions on 91 targets) he did look great in the three games he filled in for Ertz last season, bringing in 11 catches on 15 targets for 128 yards and three touchdowns. Allen Robinson is Trubisky’s top target, but injury and inconsistency have made him an unreliable choice and although Anthony Miller‘s stock is on the rise, Burton’s veteran presence should lead to quite a few looks first.
5. If Case Keenum Doesn’t Turn into a Pumpkin, Royce Freeman wins Offensive Rookie of the Year
Case Keenum became the franchise quarterback for Denver in the off-season after putting up career numbers in Minnesota culminating in an NFC Championship appearance and a QBR second only to Carson Wentz. If Keenum can repeat his success and end the season as roughly the 15th best QB – opposing teams will be less likely to stack the box against Royce Freeman. Keenum will have Demaryius Thomas, Emmanual Sanders, and rookie Cortland Sutton to throw to and a middle of the road offensive line. A combination of a competent passing offense and front-five should do enough to give Freeman the breathing room to excel in his rookie season – a 1,100 yard, 8-10 touchdown season is within reach if he can wrest the starting role during the pre-season.
6. Evan Engram is Not a Top-10 Tight End
The New York Giants offense will look drastically different than in Evan Engram‘s rookie season. Although the sophomore tight end did exceedingly well for a rookie (64 catches on 115 targets), he did so as Eli Manning‘s only target after the team lost Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard to injuries. A healthy WR1 and WR2 and with the addition of Saquon Barkley as the teams featured back will take a substantial number of targets away. Without those additional targets, I can only see Engram’s value dropping in 2018 – he should maintain a red zone presence which will give him value, but not enough to make the top-10 at tight end.
7. Cameron Meredith is a Top-25 Wide Receiver
I was going to write about how Randall Cobb was going to be a Top-20 wide receiver then thought “no, Brennen, go bolder…” so here we are with Cameron Meredith. Meredith signed with the Saints in the off-season after Chicago assigning an original round tender. Meredith tore his ACL and lost all of 2017 after starting to break out in 2016 where he caught 66 of 97 passes for 888 yards and 4 touchdowns. Meredith was a top sleeper pick last year – so it may be unfair to place this prediction, but given his WR50+ ranking this year I thought it just. Meredith’s potential to line up as New Orleans’ WR2 on the outside is even better now with Brandon Coleman cut.
8. Allen Hurns is a Top-30 Wide Receiver
Combined, Dallas’ receiving core together is about worth one Antonio Brown in 2017 figures. Gone too is Jason Witten. Dallas is in a new age, a run-heavy age with Ezekiel Elliot leading the charge. Still, even if Dallas rushes Elliot 30 times per game, Dak Prescott needs to do something with the ball during the other 32 plays. Allen Hurns is going around WR50 (we have him at WR45), but given his spot as the team’s top back should get the volume to push him higher even if he is an underwhelming player.
9. Dion Lewis Finishes as the More Valuable Titans Running Back
Yes, Dion Lewis is coming from a championship caliber New England team where he rushed for 896 yards and had 214 receiving yards – but Tennesee is looking to compete this year and should benefit more from Lewis’ versatility than from Derrick Henry‘s brute force. The two should off-set one another enough to give the other a RB2/RB3 value. Ultimately Lewis’ ability to receive and rush (if healthy) should make him the better fantasy back – even if Henry performs better in real life.
10. The Detroit Lions D/ST will be a Top-6 D/ST
For fun and as ab it a homer bold prediction, the Detroit Lions will sustain their 2017 defensive success under new head coach Matt Patricia. Last year the Lions D/ST scored 7 touchdowns, caught 19 interceptions, and recovered 13 fumbles. The team is returning nearly their entire unit and is lead by superstars Darius Slay (lead the league in interceptions) and Glover Quin. If Ziggy Ansah and Kerry Hyder can stay healthy the Lions will have a pass rush that will keep the backfield fed. A lot could go wrong with this unit, but with great free agent signings between Devon Kennard and DeShawn Shead, I am optimistic Detroit will have a stout defense in 2018.