2013 Fantasy Award Staff Predictions
By Jake Ciely
Most Valuable Player
Jake Ciely – Calvin Johnson: Adrian Peterson would need to repeat his amazing 2012 campaign to grab the title again, and I’m not confident that happens. You can argue the same for Johnson, as he broke records, but he also scored just five times. We all know that was a fluke, and Johnson single-handedly won leagues even without the TDs. When they come this year, look out.
Nick Radacanu – Rob Gronkowski: If you had told people that you got Gronk in the fifth round a year ago, they would've called you a liar. This year, Gronk's draft season ADP may win his owners quite a few leagues.
Jeff Brubach – Calvin Johnson: The man can't be stopped and will correct his fluky touchdown total from last year, turning in another monster season.
Charles Murphy – Calvin Johnson: I guess the easy answer here would be Adrian Peterson, but after only finding the end zone five times last year, it's scary to think what Calvin Johnson could do this year. I know the usual answer is a running back, but this is one wide receiver that could push your team over the top, as he becomes the 2013 fantasy MVP.
Rob Pallazola – Aaron Rodgers: The Packers are a very pass heavy offense, and that isn’t going to change this season. I believe Aaron Rogers will have to throw his team into the postseason, and will become this year’s fantasy MVP in the process.
Anthony Olivetti – Jimmy Graham: Easy decision here, Graham will be the MVP of every league under any scoring format. He is to tight ends what Calvin Johnson is to wide receivers. Graham is in a league of his own, and if he's on your roster, you'll have a positional advantage week in and week out. I love Rob Gronkowski, don't get me wrong, but even once he's healthy and back on the field, he doesn't hold a candle to Jimmy Graham. The guy is a monster.
John Kerwin – Trent Richardson: He is a workhorse, three-down back who will display burst and explosiveness unseen last season. Will be a lock for 50-plus receptions, increase in rush yards and the entirety of goal line work. TRich will be an all-around monster this season. (Honorable mention to C.J. Spiller)
Rookie of the Year
Jake Ciely – Eddie Lacy: Rookie receivers have a tough time making big-time impacts, so running backs almost win by default. I like Montee Ball, but not as much with the mess that is the Broncos backfield. Gio Bernard is explosive, but BenJarvus Green-Ellis is still around. That leaves Lacy, who is talented and in a great situation. If the Packers can make undrafted backs like Ryan Grant fantasy values, think what Lacy can do, as he is the most talented option they’ve had in years.
Nick Radacanu – Eddie Lacy: I probably would have said Le’Veon Bell two weeks ago, but Lacy moves to the front of the line with Bell's recent injury. While I'm still a tad skeptical due to the fact that the Packers only run the ball about twice a year, Lacy looks like the best of the bunch among a relatively weak rookie class fantasy-wise.
Jeff Brubach – Giovani Bernard: Bernard will send BenJarvus Green-Ellis to the bench early and produce RB2 numbers as a three down back, barely edging out Eddie Lacy for the spot of top rookie.
Charles Murphy – Giovani Bernard: I believe strongly that the Giovani Bernard-BenJarvus Green-Ellis situation for the Bengals is very similar to the Doug Martin-LeGarrette Blount situation of last year. Bernard might not reach the tremendous upside that Martin did last season, but by Week 4, he will be a solid fantasy contributor and the most valuable rookie in this year's class.
Rob Pallazola – Le'Veon Bell: He may be starting the season with an injury, but giving the other running backs on the Steelers bench, he'll take the starting job on his return. Rookie wide receivers are generally unreliable, and of the other rookie running backs, Bell has the best situation as an every-down back.
Anthony Olivetti – Gio Bernard: BenJarvus Green-Ellis will start the season as the lead back in Cincinnati, but Bernard will run away with the job sooner than you think. Even if the Law Firm somehow hangs on to his job, Bernard will be a high-end flex option on a weekly basis, as the team has already shown that they're willing to give him the ball on the goal line. I expect him to emerge as the top back in this year's rookie class.
John Kerwin – Eddie Lacy: Thoroughly contemplated Giovanni Bernard here, but the injury to DuJuan Harris has left a three-down workload for Lacy’s taking. A mediocre Cedric Benson was fantasy relevant in this high-potency offense prior to his injury last season. Lacy won't see many stacked boxes with Aaron Rodgers at QB, and there will be plenty of goal line opportunity in the GB offense.
Jake Ciely – Cecil Shorts: Could go David Wilson with Andre Brown now hurt, but that’s too easy. Instead, I’ll go with the receiver I’ve been pimping so much that I might end up in cuffs. Shorts put together a terrific sophomore season with 979 yards and seven TDs in 14 games… with the same junk QB situation. Now, Justin Blackmon is out for the first four games, and Shorts in is the “heralded” third year. Expect Shorts to reach Top 15 status.
Nick Radacanu – Ahmad Bradshaw: I'll preface this with a BIG if, but IF Ahmad Bradshaw can stay healthy, he's poised to have a very big season. The Colts are committed to running the ball this year and Bradshaw could very well finish among the Top 15 running backs this year if he can stay upright.
Jeff Brubach – Rueben Randle: Between Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz missing time, Randle will break out and fulfill the hype surrounding him this offseason.
Charles Murphy – Lamar Miller: With the upside Lamar Miller brings to the Dolphins and lack of better options, like Daniel Thomas, Miller is poised for a breakout season. My only hesitation is head coach Joe Philbin's use of his running backs. If used properly, Miller could finish as a solid weekly fantasy stud.
Rob Pallazola – Brandon Myers: Last season, Martellus Bennett was one of Eli Manning's favorite goal line targets, and now that Bennett is in Chicago, that designation falls to Brandon Myers. Myers was one of the few bright spots in Oakland last season, but I see an increase in his touchdowns this season and ending the season as one of the Top Five tight ends.
Anthony Olivetti – Josh Gordon: Starting the season off with a two-game suspension has made Gordon a draft day bargain. Going off the board as the 34th WR (according to FantasyFootballCalculator's ADP Rankings), I have no problem seeing him finish the season as a Top 20 WR. With Gordon's playmaking ability and an improved offense, don't be surprised when he lights up the field this year.
John Kerwin – David Wilson: I know I'm being Captain Obvious here by picking Wilson, but with his explosive skill set and the injury to Andre Brown, the sky is the limit. Wilson will not only pickup work between the 20s, but he should be the main goal line option for the Giants this season as well.
LVP or Disappointment
Jake Ciely – Mark Ingram: I also (dis)like the draft cost of Eric Decker and James Jones. Both the Broncos and Packers have too many weapons to see those two put up consistent numbers. Back to Ingram, I liked his talent coming out of college and thought he could be a RB2 at the worst in New Orleans. However, the Saints haven’t used him properly, Darren Sproles is still a ball-chomping pass catcher and Pierre Thomas is still in the mix. I’ll take a flier on him as a RB4, but not as my flex or higher running back. Frank Gore also has my concern with the 49ers paying even more attention to keeping him healthy, given his running back age.
Nick Radacanu – Maurice Jones-Drew: Coming off a pretty major injury and getting up there in years (for a running back, at least), MJD was still being drafted in the second and third round as if nothing happened to him last year. He has the talent to return that type of value, but I just think there are too many red flags (one of them is named Blaine Gabbert) that keep me from completely buy into this situation.
Jeff Brubach – Maurice Jones-Drew: MJD will officially hit the "running back wall" this season. With a combination of nagging injuries and a poor Jacksonville offense, we will see the end of Jones-Drew's days as an RB1.
Charles Murphy – Alfred Morris: I don't understand the high draft stock of Morris. He was excellent last year due to his price tag of nothing, but this year his first round cost leaves little room for value, especially in PPR leagues as he only caught 11 passes in 2012.
Rob Pallazola – Mike Wallace: Moving from Pittsburgh to Miami is great for retirees, but for NFL players not so much. The Dolphins offense needed a boost and spent the money for one in Mike Wallace, but I don't think Ryan Tannehill is on the same page as Wallace. That alone will make Wallace this season’s most disappointing player.
Anthony Olivetti – Darren McFadden: The combination of an injury-riddled past and the worst all-around team in the NFL makes DMC fantasy football kryptonite. He hasn't played in more than 13 games during any of his five years in the league, and we have no reason to believe that he'll improve this season. Even if he does stay healthy, the Raiders are so awful that his ceiling is well below that of several backs being taken after him, and his floor is limitless.
John Kerwin – Le’Veon Bell: Easy choice after the foot injury that will sideline Bell for multiple weeks. However, I believe Bell was still being over-drafted before the injury just because of the opportunity more so than his talent. Bell will disappoint everyone that drafted him as their RB2/Flex option.
Draft Value of the Year
Jake Ciely – Tony Romo and Darren Sproles: As Tony is about to reference, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 837 million times: Romo is underrated, as he is one of five QBs to finish in the Top 10 five of the last six years. Forget the NFL playoffs, Romo can win you fantasy leagues. As for Sproles, the man was a high-end RB2 and a RB1 in PPR leagues under Sean Payton. He still put up great numbers last year while missing time and his coach. The fact that Sproles is going in the fourth round (third at best) and will be a high-end RB2 at worst is great value. Of course, Wilson is the obvious answer again.
Nick Radacanu – David Wilson: This very easily could be Rob Gronkowski, but since I already used him, I'll throw Wilson's name into the mix, assuming he was drafted before Andre Brown got hurt. With Brown out of the picture, Wilson could very easily finish among the Top 10 running backs (and I saw him slipping into the fifth round just two weeks ago).
Jeff Brubach – Josh Gordon: He will produce big time wide receiver numbers from Week 3 on. Fantasy owners will forget the two-game suspension ever happened once Gordon is pumping out top-level numbers and returning great draft value.
Charles Murphy – Ryan Mathews: It's pretty obvious that I think Mathews has the most potential for value pick of the year. If healthy, you are looking at RB1/RB2 production from what was most likely your third or fourth running back.
Rob Pallazola – Tony Gonzalez: Gonzalez is a Top Five talent being drafted in the sixth round. I know people perceive tight end to be a deep position this season, but if you can grab one of the best players at his position in the sixth round or later, I say that is tremendous value.
Anthony Olivetti – Tony Romo: Going all the way back to 2007, Romo has been a Top 10 fantasy QB every year (with the exception of his injury shortened 2010 season). Romo is the picture of consistency, but he consistently is overlooked. He isn't going to finish as the top QB in any format, but there's no logical reason for him to be the 11th QB taken on draft day. With ample targets to throw to, he is an absolute steal at his current ADP.
John Kerwin – Andrew Luck: Luck’s talent is unquestioned, the opportunity is clear, but the ADP has yet to reflect his potential. He is a sneaky dual-threat option with a very high ceiling. The mistakes were abundant due to Luck basically carrying the Colts offense last season, but a guy with the football I.Q. of Luck will improve significantly with a year of experience under his belt. Expect a major breakout and the fact this may be the last season Luck isn't drafted as a Top Five QB option.
Jake Ciely – Cecil Shorts is a Top 15 WR… but I said that. David Wilson will be a RB1… to easy and eluded to already. Dwayne Bowe will finish as a WR1 in PPR leagues. He may lose yardage, but Alex Smith is accurate and will feed him plenty of passes… nom, nom, nom. I’ll throw you one more: no Cardinals running back will finish as a flex option or better.
Nick Radacanu – Torrey Smith turns into a Top 10 WR. Smith will see a lot of double-coverage with Anquan Boldin gone and Dennis Pitta out, but Joe Flacco has to throw to SOMEone. If Smith can take the next step during his third NFL season, he has the talent to give his owners a big year.
Jeff Brubach – Now a member of the Lions, Reggie Bush will finish the season as a top five PPR running back. As a member of the pass happy Detroit offense, Bush will finally have the type of season expected of him when he was drafted out of USC.
Charles Murphy – Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt finally ascends to fantasy greatness, finishing in the Top 20 for wide receivers in 2013
Rob Pallazola – DeAngelo Williams takes the reins in Carolina and ends up as a Top 10 running back. With Jonathan Stewart on the mend for six weeks, it's Williams role to lose, and I think he has just enough talent to make the best of the situation.
Anthony Olivetti – The Browns are a solid up-and-coming team, and with a good offensive line, as well as a slew of promising young skill position players around him, Brandon Weeden is poised to take a giant step forward in his sophomore season. He started hot this August before fizzling in the third game, but he still managed to complete 60 percent of his passes without an interception in the preseason. He still needs to work on being consistent from week to week, but the Browns have all the pieces to be successful and Weeden stands to benefit the most from it. Don't be surprised when he outperforms all the expert's projections this season.
John Kerwin – Reggie Bush will catch 85-plus passes this season and finish inside the Top 10 overall in receptions, including WRs. With the Lions pass-heavy offense and no legitimately consistent WR2 next to Calvin Johnson, Bush will easily see majority of targets behind Megatron. Bush is going to be a PPR golden boy this season.