Fantasy is a speculative game. Predict the future, and you look like a genius. Don't, and you're painfully human. Gazing into the crystal ball, here's our view a six-pack of intriguing over/unders for 2016. Wednesday's theme: Post-Breakout Stars.
Doug Baldwin, who was crowned king of consistency Weeks 12-16 after scoring 11 touchdowns over five games, final WR rank this fall WR 20.5 (In other words, will he be a top-20 WR?).
Liz – UNDER. Coming off of a patellar tear, Jimmy Graham is unlikely to play football in 2016 (or ever), cementing Baldwin as Russell Wilson’s go-to option in the passing game. After all, not only is Baldwin in a contract year, but he’s also been the team’s most productive receiver for two seasons running. And with obvious question marks in Seattle’s backfield, Dougie Doug is the team’s most known and trusted quantity. I don’t foresee another 1,000+ yard and 11 TD season, but could totally fathom a 72-950-9 campaign.
Brad – OVER. What Baldwin accomplished from Weeks 12-16 was nothing short of stunning, but that level of production is entirely unsustainable. The 'Hawks' RB heavy draft is an indicator they want to return to their power run-game, ball-control roots. Michael Crabtree was the 20th-best WR last year with an 85-922-9 line. Baldwin will come close to that output, but expect him to finish in the WR23-26 range.
Scott – UNDER. I believe in the chemistry between Baldwin and Wilson, and here's the key point: Baldwin can regress significantly from last year's haul and still give us WR2 numbers. Wilson's throwing a gaggle of touchdowns to someone; who else is going to collect them?
Weekly Garbage Time All-Star Blake Bortles, who found the end-zone with arm/legs 37 total times last year, total touchdowns in the follow-up 32.5.
Brandon – OVER. Sure, Jacksonville's defense will improve after the investments it has made to upgrade it, but we are talking about a unit that allowed the second-most points per game (28) in the league. Rome wasn't built in a day, and a top 10 defense isn't built in an offseason. I expect Bortles to still have to throw it plenty. And Bortles, who has legitimate stud-level talent, has excellent weapons to work with, including a much improved running game that should help afford a few more red zone opportunities for the offense earlier in games. The improvements on offense, and that includes Bortles, who should only be expected to take another step forward in his third NFL season, should offset the loss of some garbage-time opportunities because of an improved defense.
Liz – UNDER. After significantly upgrading their defense and adding goal line gobbler Chris Ivory to the rushing attack, the Jaguars are shaping up to be a very different team in 2016. Bortles is bound for a regression, with a reduction in passing attempts and rushing stats
Scott – UNDER. I dare the rushing game to be that lousy again. I dare the defense to be that abysmal again.
Devonta Freeman, who ranked No. 1 in fantasy points per game among RBs with at least seven starts thanks to a vigorous workload, average touches per game this season 18.5?
Brad – UNDER. Freeman slowed significantly from Week 9 on averaging 3.1 yards per carry while finishing No. 41 in tackles avoided per attempt. The coaching staff understands he's not built for a 20 touch per game workload. With that in mind and given Kyle Shanahan's infatuation with Tevin Coleman, roughly 13-15 touches per game should be expected this fall for Freeman. You're sacrificing a kidney at his 13.0 ADP (RB6).
Dalton – UNDER. Banking on any running back to get 300 touches really isn't very safe, and I expect Tevin Coleman to be more involved this season. Still, I'm not as down on Freeman as many are, as it shouldn't be overlooked he saw 97 targets last year, and while he slowed in the second half, we are still talking about a back who totaled 1,634 yards with 14 touchdowns over 15 games.
Andy – UNDER. And perhaps way under. Freeman didn't really do anything special, outside his four-game binge in the first-half. His tape never matched the numbers and he finished the season with a 4.0 YPC average. There's really no reason Tevin Coleman, if healthy, can't share the Atlanta backfield workload.
Dion Lewis, who was on pace for a PPR-salivating 82 receptions before a torn ACL derailed his season last November, catches this year for the Pats 74.5.
Andy – UNDER, although I'm still plenty interested in Lewis in any scoring format. This is a big ask for a player who had ACL surgery in November. It seems reasonable for him to open the season on a snap count, assuming he's ready for Week 1.
Dalton – UNDER. I've ranked Lewis as a top-20 fantasy back entering this year, but last season's 36 receptions were a career high, so this would take quite the leap (and a newfound ability to stay healthy over a full 16 game season). He's also coming off ACL surgery.
Scott – UNDER. It's just too big an ask for a player with such a limited resume, coming off a major injury. The Patriots aren't the type of team to throw a silly amount of volume at any running back.
Waiver wire sensation Gary Barnidge, who came out of nowhere to crack the TE top-5 posting a 79-1043-9 line last year, receiving yards this fall 999.5.
Andy – Nope. Nuh-uh. UNDER. Barnidge was a wonderful story last season, the classic eighth-year breakout. But it's not reasonable to forecast 1000 receiving yards for any tight end, and certainly not for a guy tied to a low-yield offense with new coaches and a new QB. In a typical year, only one or two NFL tight ends reach the 1000-yard plateau.
Dalton – UNDER. Just four tight ends reached 1,000 receiving yards last season, albeit one was Barnidge. Still, the small number illustrates how rare the feat is, and while I think Barnidge can once again be a top-five fantasy tight end in 2016, the far safer bet is the under here.
Brandon – UNDER. This bar is just set too high. I'm still bullish on Barnidge, but we've only seen 11 1,000-yard campaigns from a tight end in the past six seasons. I think Barnidge is a TE1 slam dunk, but no way would I wager that the stars will align for him again in such a way that he'll top 1K yards again in '16.
Short answer. On a scale of 1-10 with one being a grandiose politician and 10 being every skittish Jesse Eisenberg character where do you rank on David Johnson as a top-five overall pick?
Dalton – ONE. He totaled 1,038 yards with 12 touchdowns on just 161 touches as a rookie last season, getting 4.6 YPC and impressing as a receiver. Johnson sure looks like the real deal, and he only got better when given the opportunity to start. Arizona is loaded with offensive weapons, and he'll be the team's workhorse in 2016. There's no question he should be a top-five pick. The only question I have is whether he should be the No. 1 or No. 2 running back off the board.
Liz – ONE. Top-five? That’s easy. Heck, I’d say he’s a top-three prospect. Sure, his sample size is small, but under the tutelage of Bruce Arians his skill-set has blossomed from blazing perimeter runner to bodacious bellcow. His competition includes a fading 30-year-old and a fragile scatback. The youngster is going to get fed and his owners are going to gleefully fistbump their way to championship seasons.
Brad – ONE. When it comes to Johnson projections, my confidence level mirrors an overly caffeinated Donald Trump riding a bull in front of thousands of riled-up supporters. Dude is going to be YUGE in 2016. There's plenty to like about his situation -- minimal competition, healthy offense, top-10 run-blocking line. Throw in his three-down skill set, ability to gain substantial yards after contact and pass-catching contributions and he's a viable candidate for 1,500-plus total yards and 12-15 TDs.