I love bold predictions. There is something freeing about taking a big swing for the fences and hoping everything breaks the right way. Done right, bold predictions should inherently have a low success rate; Geno Smith as a top-5 QB was a bold prediction. Jalen Hurts finishing top-5 was not. These are gut calls that also need a lot of luck to pay off. Every year, I make five bold predictions and then recap them the next season. So how did 2021 go? Here are my shots:
|D.J. Moore will finish as a top-3 WR||WR25|
|Darnell Mooney will finish as a WR1||WR76|
|Nyheim Hines will finish as a top-20 RB||RB70|
|Derek Carr will finish as a top-5 QB||QB16|
|Cole Kmet will finish as a top-5 TE||TE8|
Yeah…everything went pretty poorly if I’m being honest. Let’s dig a little deeper and see why. For D.J. Moore, there just wasn’t a stable QB presence: Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, P.J. Walker, and Jacob Eason were collectively terrible. The result was Moore having his worst season since his rookie year. Darnell Mooney sustained an injury, but never had a chance at WR1 status because the Bears’ passing attack was dysfunctional.
Nyheim Hines saw career lows in targets and receptions–his only true path to success. Derek Carr had his worst season since 2017. My only saving grace was Cole Kmet, who was 1.6 ppg short of hitting his mark. Remarkably, he did it in that aforementioned terrible Bears passing attack. Here are some takeaways:
- I overrated the Bears–my favorite team. I put too much faith in Chicago and it cost me twice. The offense was slow to start and it sunk the passing game.
- Don’t trust QBs who could be elite. I tried to bet on Derek Carr based on a new elite weapon and a seemingly elite division of passing attacks (he HAS to throw, right?).
- I bet on D. J. Moore despite a terrible assortment of passers working with him.
- Keep being bold! For all that went wrong, I was definitely bold, and that’s the goal.
Okay, time to move past 2022 and dive into 2023. What bold things await?
D.J. Moore (WR23) and Cole Kmet (TE15) will both finish 8+ spots above ADP
The fantasy community does NOT believe in the Chicago Bears. I get it. Chicago has not earned the benefit of the doubt after last year’s debacle. Here are some offensive stats from the 2022 season:
|Pass Attempts||Completions||Pass yds||Pass TD||Points|
|2022||22/ game||13/ game||130.5/ game||19||19.2/ game|
This passing attack wasn’t just bad, it was the worst we’ve seen in at least the last ten years. I didn’t look back any further because the point has already been made: the 2022 Bears were epically bad at throwing the ball. This year’s prediction hinges on Justin Fields taking a major step forward along with Luke Getsy continuing to develop as an OC. Why should you believe it?
First, we could bring up the Bears’ terrible weapons. Here is Chicago’s list of receiving-yard leaders from last season: Cole Kmet, Darnell Mooney, Equanimeous St. Brown, Dante Pettis, and Chase Claypool. Don’t forget that Mooney missed five games and Claypool started only three. This year, Chicago adds Dl J. Moore, Darnell Mooney is healthy, Chase Claypool hopefully bothered to learn the offense, and Cole Kmet is still only 24. There is plenty of juice here if the quarterback can play. So why will Fields take a step forward?
Last year, the Bears’ offense struggled early. The first six games–including the primetime mess in Washington–were basically incompetent. Luke Getsy found his stride after that, and Chicago was the best offense in the league for a 4-week span. That basically hasn’t happened in my 38 years on Earth. On top of this, there is simple regression: it is hard for a team to stay epically bad or good at anything. Even just by dumb luck, Chicago is likely to pass better. Throughout the preseason, it is clear how far and away DJ Moore is from every other receiver on this roster. As for Cole Kmet, he is still only 24 and he finished as TE8 last season. I believe that Justin Fields is at least good enough to support one receiver and one tight end. Have faith in Moore and Kmet to beat their ADPs.
Khalil Herbert (RB34) will finish the season as a top-12 RB
I know, I know. I overcommitted to the Bears last season, and now I’m doing it again. Some things just can’t be helped, and my homerism is one of them. Still, I don’t understand how the world is so low on Khalil Herbert. Here are his stats through two seasons:
Herbert saw increases in carries, yards, efficiency, and touchdowns despite playing in four fewer games. Yards per carry is not the most important stat, but averaging 5.7 is still impressive no matter who you are. By all accounts, Herbert was excellent. He had the top yards per carry of any back in the league. Oh, and David Montgomery is gone. Chicago was loyal to Montgomery as the lead back, despite many preferring Herbert, which blocked Herbert from doing more.
Everyone clamored for Herbert to get the workload so he could finally be unleashed. Now that it’s happened, no one is interested. Sure, Chicago brought in some other options. D’Onta Foreman looks like the biggest threat. There is also chatter about rookie Roschon Johnson. I don’t see Herbert losing the RB1 role to either guy; Chicago was loyal to Montgomery and I think we will see the same loyalty to Herbert. His only weakness is his pass protection, but I’m still willing to bet he gets the lead role. If he does, RB33 is a steal and RB12 is possible for the lead dog in last year’s top rushing attack.
David Montgomery (RB28) will outscore Jahmyr Gibbs (RB14)
David Montgomery is known for basically one thing: running the ball straight forward and being hard to bring down while he does it. He isn’t the most explosive back and he isn’t the most hyped. He’s reliable, though, and that has earned him 200+ carries in each of his four seasons. I expect Detroit to make David Montgomery their lead ball carrier this season. I hear you saying, “well that was before they drafted Jahmyr Gibbs. They love him.” I don’t disagree; teams only draft a running back top-12 overall if they do, in fact, love him. They took Gibbs so early that the NFL world laughed that night.
So here’s a question: Didn’t they know–with some certainty–that they would get Gibbs? Wasn’t this the plan all along? Part of me thinks Detroit signed Gibbs and thought a Montgomery-Gibbs tandem sounded good. I believe that this will be more of a split than people are predicting. If it is a split, we are much too high on Gibbs. In fact, his chances of being an RB1 become slim.
Over the last five seasons, Detroit’s RB2 averaged 114 carries; only once did he break 120. It’s safe to say that Gibbs’ road to success will largely depend on reception volume. Gibbs looks like an excellent pass catcher so this shouldn’t be a worry, right? Well, David Montgomery is no slouch in this area. He averages 39 receptions per season. Still, Gibbs looks like the far and away more exciting talent. That has to win out, right?
I’ll be honest: I don’t trust Detroit as far as using running backs goes. I watched D’Andre Swift be routinely overrated based on his potential and the middling options behind him. Cue Jamaal Williams with his 1,000 yard, 17 touchdown season. I don’t trust Gibbs until I see him do it here. I also don’t trust him to get the red zone work over Montgomery. I can easily see a path to Montgomery finishing above Gibbs, and I probably won’t have any Gibbs shares this year at his price.
Aidan O’Connell will finish the season as the Raiders’ starter of the future
This prediction is not some stat deep dive or an in-depth college film review. I base it on two things I know: Aidan O’Connell looked excellent during the preseason and Jimmy G can’t stay healthy. Let’s start with the incumbent. Here are the major injuries that Jimmy Garoppolo has suffered during his career:
|2018||torn ACL||13 games|
|2020||high ankle sprain||2 games|
|2020||high ankle sprain||8 games|
|2021||torn thumb ligament||played through it|
|2022||broken foot||5 games|
I don’t wish injury on anyone. Hopefully, Jimmy G stays healthy and has the chance to play out the season if he is playing well. He has shown flashes at times and nearly won a Super Bowl. If he does miss time, however, Aidan will play. Not only that, but he has shown he can shine. He impressed me during Week 1 of the preseason and again during Week 2. He shows poise in the pocket and the ability to make accurate throws into tight windows.
O’Connell is obviously not perfect: he’s missed a pass or two and it cost him at least one long touchdown. Still, I would love to see more from the impressive rookie. If he gets a shot, I’m guessing he doesn’t give it back. Given Jimmy G’s history, there is a good chance O’Connell gets at least a two-game chance to show what the future could look like. I’m ready.
Aaron Rodgers (QB13) will finish as a top-3 QB
Aaron Rodgers is one of my top-five quarterbacks of all time, highlighted by his four MVP awards and his ridiculous TD-INT ratio. His prime has been a never-ending train of misery for Bears fans. The only solace has been his postseason failures. Rodgers’ career seemed like it was slowing down in 2020 when the team drafted Jordan Love. While Love has yet to take the reigns, he has turned out to be an excellent pick. The Packers drafting a new QB, instead of a desperately needed receiver, lit a fire under Rodgers’ butt. Here is a comparison of Rodgers’ previous career best in some of the major stats (min 8 games) and his 2020 season.
Rodgers jumped to career bests at age 37 in completion percentage, touchdowns, and success rate (the percentage of ‘successful’ passes as measured by down and yardage gained). The only numbers he didn’t beat came from his 2011 MVP season when he was 28. Rodgers came back the next season with another MVP as if to fully stick it to Jordan Love and anyone else who thought he was done.
Last season, Rodgers seemed a bit disinterested. He lost his top weapon when Davante Adams requested a trade to the Raiders. He had trouble connecting with his rookie receivers, especially when they struggled early. The result was an 8-9 finish and his highest INT total since 2008: his first season as a starter. As a result, Aaron Rodgers mulled over retirement before the Packers decided they finally had enough of his headaches and traded him to New York.
Call me crazy, but something tells me Aaron Rodgers is going to take that personally. Maybe he’s too old. Maybe last year was the inevitable age-related decline. It was, after all, his first full season without 4,000 passing yards since 2015. I don’t believe it. Rodgers knows that Brady played well until 45. Why can’t he hit 40? Rodgers knows that Packers fans have moved on. I think he takes that personally. Taking less money and showing up for voluntary camp was a way to stick the knife in Green Bay’s side. I predict one final F-you season from Aaron Rodgers before he says his final farewell to football.
(Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire)