Very Very Very Very Bold Predictions from the Underworld

by Neil Dutton, September 10, 2020

Listeners to the Mind of Mansion shows on Rotounderworld Radio will be familiar with the ending to the show. Matt Kelley will seek not just a bold prediction from his guest, but a very, very, very, very, very bold prediction. We are usually talking face-on-fire, blisteringly hot takes here. Usually, the guest is able to live up to the expectation.

With this in mind, the writers here at PlayerProfiler were tasked to do something similar. To delve deep within their footballing souls and come up with a take of their own for the season ahead. One so unbelievably bold and scorching that readers could shotgun a bottle of Chipotle Hot Sauce and be cooler than the take they had just read. I believe the writers have met this challenge exceptionally well.

I hope you enjoy taking onboard the information contained below. Especially if you are a Detroit Lions fan OR a fantasy manager with D’Andre Swift on a lot of your rosters. If our takes are to be believed, then he could be in for a MONSTER year.

Ikey Azar – Adam Thielen Will Be a Top Five WR

Stefon Diggs has been traded, making Adam Thielen‘s largest target competition a second-year tight end (Irv Smith), a running back (Dalvin Cook), and a rookie wide receiver (Justin Jefferson). The Vikings were one of the five teams to throw the ball less than 500 times last year. On average, those teams increased that number by 53 the following year. To top it off, the Vikings return just two of eleven defensive starters from 2019 and even lost free agent signing Michael Pierce, who opted out of the season. In a shortened offseason, the defense will have less time to gel and rookie wide receivers will have a harder time building rapport, leaving Thielen in an absolute smash spot in 2020.

After two seasons averaging 148 targets for 102 catches, 1,324 yards and 6.5 touchdowns, Thielen pulled his hamstring in Week 7 last year and basically lost the rest of his season. The Vikings put all their chips in on Thielen this offseason. Fantasy gamers should do the same.

Matt Dunleavy – Will Fuller Will Be Healthy in 2020 and Outscore DeAndre Hopkins

His ADP has been rising this summer, but a perceived “injury prone” designation still spooks many off of Will Fuller. While it’s totally warranted to be weary of a player with such a decorated injury history, passing on Billy Five (editors note: great name) forgoes major upside in 2020. Bill O’Brien’s misguided move to ship out DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona leaves an inundation of Vacant Targets in Houston. Fuller is now two years removed from his ACL tear. Players are not usually their full selves in year one post-tear. It’s also common to see another lower body injury occur, which is exactly what happened early in 2019.

Fuller has the burner speed, the trust of the coaches and continuity with one of the game’s best deep ball passers. Deshaun Watson’s 42.0-percent (No. 8 among qualified quarterbacks) Deep Ball Completion Percentage coupled with Fuller’s 4.32 (99th-percentile) speed is a deadly combination for the league’s secondaries. Last season, his 5.6-percent Burn Rate was higher than premier alpha speedsters Tyreek Hill, Julio Jones and Amari Cooper.

A fully healthy Fuller, commanding a 25-percent-plus Target Share on a Texans team with a depleted defense has a scary ceiling. Get in on the over for all of his player props, Vegas is undervaluing the Philly native.

Chris Buonagura – James White Will Finish as a Top 12 PPR RB

Patriots coaches will surely study Cam Newton and what he did well from his Carolina Panthers tape. James White will be the primary beneficiary of the RPO, while Newton vultures TDs from the early-down running backs and not the receiving back.

Opt-outs among the defense, not to mention the inevitable turnover from one year to the next, mean that the defense is gutted. More overall offense will be needed for the Patriots to remain among the contenders.

Tyler Strong – Todd Gurley is a Top 8 RB

Scared money doesn’t make money. Even a hobbled Todd Gurley can capitalize on an offense rife with red zone opportunities. Especially one with a recently revamped offensive line and a top 5 passing offense.

With the lack of competition behind him, Gurley will be getting all the work he can handle. His resume as a pass-catcher will boost his floor.

Eric Lindberg – Joshua Kelley Will Finish the Season as a Top 24 RB

There is no indication the Chargers believe Austin Ekeler is an every-down, workhorse back. From Weeks 5-17 of the 2019 season, Ekeler saw double-digit carries just once. This isn’t to say he won’t once again be an effective fantasy scorer, but rather that there will be room for two running backs to thrive in the offense. Enter Joshua Kelley, a 22-year-old rookie who handled 454 carries in two seasons at UCLA.

Joshua Kelley Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile w/ College Stats

Kelley is more than capable of handling early-down work for the Chargers in an offense with nearly 200 Vacated Varries. Melvin Gordon finished last season as a back-end RB2 despite playing in just 12 games and averaging a shoddy 3.7 (No. 51) True Yards per Carry on 162 (No. 27) carries. I have no doubt that Kelley is capable of matching Gordon’s 2019 production, while still making room for Ekeler to make noise in the passing game.

Neil Dutton – Miles Sanders Leads All NFC East RBs in Yards From Scrimmage

In a division home to both Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott, by the end of the 2020 season, Miles Sanders will have earned himself a home among the pantheon of NFL running backs. Building on his 48.4-percent (No. 29) Opportunity Share as a rookie, Sanders will establish himself as a true bellcow in the Philadelphia Eagles offense.

Sanders will continue to command targets after seeing 63 (No. 13) last year. What’s more, he will demonstrate an ability to remain efficient in the face of huge volume. Sanders averaged 5.8 (No. 7) Yards per Touch in 2019. While he won’t hit those exact heights, he will once more be among the top performers in this metric.

Taylor Williams – Detroit Has Top 12 Scorers Across Four Positions

A healthy Matthew Stafford slings it all year like in early 2019, propelling Kenny Golladay to a WR1 finish. Along the way, T.J. Hockenson has a second-year breakout and D’Andre Swift quickly secures a bell-cow role on a potent offense.

Akash Bhatia – Russell Wilson finishes as THE QB1

Consistently top 5 in Fantasy Points per Dropback, Russell Wilson‘s public campaign to start throwing more succeeds in convincing Pete Carroll to call plays more optimally in the first half.

With Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny recovering from serious injuries this offseason, the passing volume will be there, and Wilson will enjoy an offseason of continuity throwing to dynamic weapons such as Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf. Add in the recent addition of Josh Gordon, and/or the potential for Antonio Brown to be brought in. The time to buy Wilson is now.

Aaron Stewart – Brandon Aiyuk Outscores Deebo Samuel in Fantasy Points Per Game

A more explosive and dangerous version of Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk will solidify himself as San Francisco’s No. 1 wide receiver. This while Samuel recovers from his Jones fracture. When he does return, it will be as a secondary WR option to Aiyuk.

Jimmy Garoppolo is now nearly two years removed from ACL surgery, and the 49ers should expect to see a regression in their +4.13 (No. 4) Game Script mark from last year. He and his 55.6-percent (No. 1) Deep Ball Completion Percentage will look to connect on big fantasy plays with his deep threat and future new favorite wide receiver.

Bonus hot take: by this time next season, Aiyuk and Samuel will have swapped places in the dynasty rankings; Aiyuk will be top-40 and Deebo will by outside the top-80. Deebo is nice, but Aiyuk is king.

Sean McClure – Michael Gallup is the top PPR WR in Dallas

Michael Gallup led the 2019 Cowboys with a 21.7-percent (No. 30) Target Share and 13.3 (No. 28) yards of Average Target Distance. He was also only 0.2 points behind Amari Cooper in Fantasy Points per Game.

Coming into his third year, and with a little TD luck, he has a chance to take over as the top option in Dallas, besting out two first-round picks in Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. Lamb is still my favorite long-term, but this should be Gallup’s year.

Ron Stewart – D’Andre Swift Outscores All Rookie RBs in Fantasy Points Per Game

D’Andre Swift has the opportunity to outscore both Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jonathan Taylor in year one. Kerryon Johnson provides little competition and Swift has an elite pedigree.

Swift was taken three slots behind CEH and six slots in front of Taylor in the NFL Draft. Yet he is going far later in seasonal leagues. Look for Swift to beat out Johnson and newly-signed Adrian Peterson in the first two weeks to gain a belcow role while Taylor is still sitting behind Marlon Mack.

Alex Johnson – DJ Moore is This Year’s Michael Thomas and Finishes as THE WR1

D.J. Moore broke out in 2019, his second NFL season, and it really came as no surprise. The indicators were all there. He was a first-round pick in 2018 out of Maryland, where he broke out at age 18 and with a 97th-percentile College Dominator Rating. If you look at his profile on PlayerProfiler.com, his athleticism is off the charts. 88th-percentile Speed Score, 73rd-percentile Agility Score, an 89th-percentile Catch Radius, and elite explosiveness with a 94th-percentile Burst Score.

D.J. Moore Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Moore showed flashes as a rookie, with three top-20 fantasy performances over the second half of the season, including a 157-yard performance against Detroit. He picked up where he left off in 2019, making the year two leap we expected and going from WR49 in Fantasy Points per Game to WR14. Moore was top-10 among wide receivers in targets, receptions, and receiving yards, holding a 24.3-percent (No. 17) Target Share even with both Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel topping 100 targets.

Not only is he a target hog, but Moore is among the elite in gaining yardage after the catch. He ranked No. 8 with 392 of his 1,175 receiving yards coming after the reception. Even with 33 fewer receptions in his rookie year, he still was number No. 13 in YAC. Again, not a surprise considering what he did at Maryland. He’s got fantastic hands too, showing that last season with a 55.6-percent (No. 6) Contested Catch Rate and a 2.2-percent (No. 94) Drop Rate.


Check out D.J. Moore’s 2020 Projection on PlayerProfiler’s “World Famous” Draft Kit:


 

Moore made history by becoming the 17th player to reach 1,100 receiving yards in a single season before his 23rd birthday. Only four other wide receivers (JuJu Smith-SchusterOdell Beckham, Josh Gordon, and Larry Fitzgerald) have ever had a season of at least 87 receptions and 1,175 receiving yards in their age 21-22 campaign. Let’s not forget, Moore did that despite some of the worst quarterback play in the league. Now he gets a QB upgrade with Teddy Bridgewater, one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL.

There may not be a QB-WR combo in the league that is a more perfect skillset match. Their strengths complement each other perfectly. Moore is a short/intermediate target hog and a YAC machine. Bridgewater is a low target depth, pinpoint accurate quarterback that gets the ball out quick and lets his guys get to work. In relief of Drew Brees for a stretch in 2019, Bridgewater’s 6.0 Pass Attempt Distance Per Attempt ranked dead last out of 35 qualified quarterbacks. Still, he finished with a 76.4-percent (No. 4) True Completion Percentage.

Moore and McCaffrey, who operate in the short and intermediate areas of the field, will dominate in this offense. Moore is the most likely receiver to be deployed in the slot, though he only had a 12.6-percent (No. 90) Slot Rate last year and 25.0-percent (No. 51) as a rookie. With more opportunities for free releases in the slot and in the middle of the field, Moore will skyrocket into the undeniable elite tier of wide receivers. He should have a Michael Thomas-like season in 2020.

Clint Hale – Chris Herndon is a Top 5 TE

In 2018, as a rookie fourth-round pick catching passes from fellow rookie Sam Darnold, Chris Herndon still managed to haul in 39 receptions. He finished top 10 among qualifying tight ends in both Yards per Reception and Yards per Target. Herndon’s impressive 2018 ranks as one of the top rookie tight end seasons of the past several years. Since 2014, the only tight ends to eclipse 500 yards as rookies are Herndon, George Kittle, Evan Engram, Mark Andrews, and Noah Fant.

Chris Herndon 2018 Efficiency Metrics

Herndon deserves a mulligan for his 2019 season due to his injury and suspension. He enters 2020 as the clear No. 1 tight end in a Jets offense with 186 (No. 4) Vacated Targets and a mono-free QB. He’s set to smash in 2020 as Darnold’s favorite target with the upside to be a Top 5 tight end and fantasy league-winner, especially in tight end premium leagues.

Cody Carpentier – D.K. Metcalf Finishes Top 3 Among WRs

The best all-around QB in football is throwing him the ball, and everyone is buying Tyler Lockett over D.K. Metcalf? Give me the NFL’s next super freak. Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, and now D.K. Metcalf.

I was not a big fan of Metcalf out of college, but I have since changed my stance. A 99th-percentile 40-yard dash/Speed Score and 97th-percentile Burst Score allows Metcalf to defeat every cornerback he plays off the line of scrimmage.

Ray Ray Marz – James Robinson Finishes Top 12 in Fantasy Points per Game

In advance of Week 1, I’ve acquired James Robinson on nearly every redraft and dynasty team I have. I used $33 of my $100 budget to acquire him in #SFBX, and I absolutely believe he’s for real. Much has had to go right in order for him to be in the position he currently finds himself; the favorite to lead Jacksonville in carries for the foreseeable future. Leonard Fournette is gone, Ryquell Armstead is on the COVID list and Devine Ozigbo has landed on IR. Chris Thompson and Dare Ogunbowale can catch some passes, sure, but they don’t have Robinson’s league-winning profile. It doesn’t matter how bad the team projects to be when a player is set to inherit a role that produced 316.0 (No. 2) Weighted Opportunities just last year.

James Robinson Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile w/ College Stats

In order to make it in the NFL as an FCS Division I running back, a player better be an elite-level producer and/or athlete. Robinson is both. His senior campaign at Illinois State officially put him on the radar. He only caught 16 passes, but the team attempted just 268 across 15 games. His 48.7-percent College Dominator Rating, a 97th-percentile mark, is the best among all incoming rookie backs. He has elite burst and tremendous weight-adjusted agility. His 107.2 Athleticism Score is the best in this rookie class per the Data Analysis Tool, and No. 16 among all running backs in the entire database.

That fact that he stuck around the team for this long in an offseason where all UDFAs faced a steeper-than-usual uphill climb to make a roster should’ve been the warning flare in the sky for fantasy gamers. The time to acquire him in all formats is running out. Be on the right side of history.

Aaron Stewart (again) – Dak Prescott Finishes as THE QB1 in 2020

Among the top-10 fantasy producers at the QB position, only Matt Ryan had a lower TD Rate (4.3-percent) than Dak Prescott‘s 5.0-percent mark. Last season, Prescott ranked No. 3 in Fantasy Points per Game despite an abysmal 53.2-percent (No. 31) Red Zone Completion Percentage and 42 (No. 1) drops from his receivers. Out the door are Randall Cobb and Jason Witten. In their place are receiving upgrades in CeeDee Lamb and Blake Jarwin. Even without Travis Frederick, the Cowboys still have a strong O-line to help Prescott replicate his 48.7-percent (No. 2) Deep Ball Completion Percentage and 74.0-percent (No. 12) Clean Pocket Completion Percentage.

Top fantasy QBs also need to have rushing production. Prescott recorded 277 (No. 8) rushing yards last year, scoring three (No. 9) rushing TDs. These stats represent his rushing FLOOR. The carries and yards were the lowest in his four-year career. Frederick missed the 2018 season. Prescott’s rushing production that year: 305 (No. 9) rushing yards and six (No. 2) rushing TDs on a career-high 75 (No. 5) carries. His rushing TDs by season: 6, 6, 6, 3.

Prescott is set to have more than his 33 total TDs from last season AND finish as a better fantasy QB than Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes.

Matt Kelley – D’Andre Swift Outscores Miles Sanders in PPR Formats in 2020

Nothing to add here. And that’s the show.