Five fantasy predictions for 2018: Expect the unexpected this season

New York Jets receiver Quincy Enunwa is going undrafted in most fantasy leagues, but has the potential to deliver meaningful numbers. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
New York Jets receiver Quincy Enunwa is going undrafted in most fantasy leagues, but has the potential to deliver meaningful numbers. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Before we get into some bold predictions, I need to say goodbye to Yahoo readers. It’s been a pleasure navigating the challenging fantasy landscape here for a decade. I love the people I’ve worked with here and have great respect for my fellow Yahoo scribes, old and new. You can still follow me on Twitter @michaelsalfino and read me at my new fantasy home at The Athletic.

Let’s hit up all the key fantasy positions (QB, RB, WR and TE) and work our way from bold to boldest on the predictions front.

5. Fantasy’s top player is in Arizona

Johnson (third overall pick) will be the No. 1 player in fantasy, again. I get the criticism: bad team, shaky quarterback. Vegas has the Cardinals at 5.5 wins and usually I run away from a running back on this kind of team. But note that there is crazy juice on the over (you have to bet $200 on the over to win $100).

Arizona won eight games last year. The defense is still extremely good and forced an absurd 16 turnovers this preseason. Even if the Cardinals aren’t a winning team, they are not have the running game taken off the table by getting blown out of games early. And if they’re losing games late, Johnson is also their best receiver (yes, I’m including Larry Fitzgerald) and one of the best receiving backs in history, with his air yards in 2016 blowing every other back ever recorded out of the water.

Sam Bradford could be perfect for Johnson since he likes to work the ball underneath. If he gets hurt, I think rookie Josh Rosen could be near-average. I don’t understand why more people aren’t taking Johnson first overall. He’s a clear bell-cow on a team with a good defense and who is also a receiving threat unlike any other back in history.

4. Big Ben is far from finished

Ben Roethlisberger is a top-five QB. If there was any question about his dedication, there is none now with $30 million a year staring him in the face. He’s playing downhill anyway with one of the best receivers in history, one of the greatest sophomore wideouts ever adjusting for age, a back who can haul in 80 passes easy and a rookie WR in James Washington who has fantasy hearts a flutter.

I know we worry about Road Ben but he had a 7.8 road YPA last year, which was 10th best (and better than Carson Wentz). And he was second-best in fantasy points per game at home. But this is just math. If you like Le’Veon Bell’s receiving and Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster and anything playable from Washington, you have to figure Roethlisberger is at least a top 10 QB. I’m going one small step further.

3. With a little Luck, Colts offer TE steal

Jack Doyle is a top 10 tight end. Let’s give him 66-750-8. I get that everyone is worried about Eric Ebron but Ebron is really a slot receiver. He’s not taking snaps away from a real tight end like Doyle. NumberFire, which does a great job, is about where I am on the catches and yards but much lighter on the touchdowns. When he was last healthy, Luck targeted 21.5 % of his passes to tight ends. And he threw an average of 15 touchdowns per year to receivers in his last (almost) full seasons of 2014 and 2016. In 2014, TWO of Luck’s tight ends had eight TD catches.

2. 49ers have one of fantasy’s top Zero RBs

Alfred Morris (going undrafted in the majority of leagues) is a top Zero RB, compiling 700 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. Throw in 12 catches for 80 yards and we’re talking RB30. Brian Baldinger, who I have great respect for, predicts Morris will be the 49ers starting running back. And general manager John Lynch supported the notion that Morris will be much more heavily involved than projected, citing his record-breaking success for Kyle Shanahan with Washington. Morris also averaged 0.7 yards more per carry last year than Ezekiel Elliott. He’s not some stiff even in his age 30 season.

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1. Overlooked Jets WR thrives behind Darnold

Quincy Enunwa (going undrafted in most leagues) is a top 25 WR. People forget he was WR45 in 2016 when he came out of nowhere. Now he’s with a quarterback in rookie Sam Darnold who likes to work the middle of the field and where he gets to operate between the hashes. Enunwa is also a 4.4, 40 guy with great size (6-foot-2, 225 pounds) and who will be on the field near the goal line because he’s perhaps the best blocking receiver in football.

Enunwa’s neck injury that sidelined him last year is not career threatening and is fully healed. He plays so hard and his blocking exposes him to higher-than-average injury risk. But in 16 games, expect 65-975-7 as he’ll function like a Shannon Sharpe-like tight end/H-back in Mike Shanahan-disciple Jeremy Bates’s old-school Denver offense.

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