The game of fantasy football is very, very unpredictable.
Every single year something crazy happens. No-name players emerge into fantasy gods, forcing fantasy owners to rush to the waiver wire to grab them. Star players go down with injuries, crushing the souls of owners everywhere. Stud players manage to stay healthy, but are surprisingly ineffective, resulting in the word “bust” being tossed around quite a bit. It’s that very uncertainty that allows us all to create our own crazy, bold predictions for each upcoming season. And with the start of the 2013 season just one week away, I figured now would be as good a time as any to get them rolling.
Terrelle Pryor will finish as a top-20 quarterback
Sheesh. About a week or so ago, I would have never, ever thought I’d be saying this. Sure, the Raiders are a strong contender this season … to be the worst team in all of football, that is. However, barring a total collapse in the team’s final preseason game, Pryor will likely enter Week 1 as the starting quarterback. No, the team isn’t any good, but Pryor has what every fantasy owner magically gravitates towards; Dual threat ability. At 6’4″, 233 pounds, Pryor has the ability to run all over the football field, and considering how poor the Raiders receiving corp is, he may have to run a lot. Many people don’t realize that during the final week of the 2012 season, Pryor tossed two touchdowns, threw for 150 yards and rushed for a score as well. That performance resulted in a very strong 22 fantasy points. The receivers aren’t very good, but they do have some potential in guys like Rod Streater, Marcel Reece and Denarius Moore, who’s scored 12 touchdowns over the last two seasons. I wouldn’t draft Pryor as a top-20 guy, but he’ll likely put up a ton of garbage time points, which are anything but garbage in fantasy.
EJ Manuel will do the same
Okay, perhaps this is a bit of a homer pick, but as long as he is healthy, Manuel will also finish as a top-20 fantasy signal caller. Like Pryor, Manuel is also a strong runner, and at 6’4″, 237 pounds, he is built in that Cam Newton mold. Coming into Buffalo, Manuel was pretty raw, but has really progressed during preseason games and camp. Unfortunately, it looks like a long shot that the Bills rookie (knee) will start Week 1 against the Patriots, but he’ll likely be under center from then on. Based off of pass defenses from last season, Manuel will have the 9th most favorable schedule among fantasy quarterbacks this season, which can’t hurt. The Bills added a ton of weapons during the offseason, drafting one of the fastest guys in the league in Marquise Goodwin, as well as a sound number two option in Robert Woods. He’ll run the ball a ton, implement some read option with C.J. Spiller and quietly has some solid weapons in the passing game.
Kenjon Barner is the best fantasy back in Carolina
The Panthers running back situation is always a mess, so it’s very difficult to ever pick just one guy to be productive. However, with Jonathan Stewart landing on the PUP list and sidelined until at least Week 6, Barner will have an opportunity to immediately play on at least third downs. He is a 5’9″, 190-pound burner with 4.4 speed, and with DeAngelo Williams (whom I like) at that dreaded age of 30, perhaps Barner is just a few big plays away from making an impact in fantasy land. If Williams struggles, the team won’t shy away from plugging in the much better pass-catcher in Barner. Carolina stated that they want to run the ball more this season, and while he won’t make a dent in the touchdown department, Barner will be fantasy relevant in one way or another this season.
Mike Wallace won’t finish inside the top-30 among receivers
Boom or bust is pretty much the best way to describe Wallace. One week, he will catch a few deep touchdowns and easily win you your matchup. The next? He completely disappears. The move to Miami has some Wallace fans excited. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Tannehill is a strong deep-ball passer, posting a 37 percent completion percentage of balls traveling 20 yards or more, which was good for 8th best in football. However, despite what people think, the move from Ben Roethlisberger to Tannehill is still a downgrade in my eyes, and Wallace is just too inconsistent for my liking. In 2012, Wallace had four games in which he caught just two passes or less, and finished the year with seven games with five fantasy points or fewer. The receiver position is deep this year, and other, more consistent guys will emerge.
Shane Vereen will catch more passes than Torrey Smith
Sure, with the departure of Anquan Boldin and the injury to Dennis Pitta, Smith will be asked to be the focal point of that passing offense. However, I believe that Ray Rice will be more of the beneficiary in the passing game than Smith. Vereen, meanwhile, is already being lined up all over the field, the Patriots will maintain that aggressive offensive approach, oh, and their quarterback is much better than Baltimore’s. Smith is most definitely a special talent, but in his first two seasons, his career high in receptions is 50. Until I see him as more than a downfield threat, I think Vereen will catch more balls. Last year, Danny Woodhead caught just nine fewer passes than Smith, and that was with all of the weapons actually present in New England. Fast forward to 2013 and Vereen will get more volume, and is also the more talented player between he and Woodhead.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.