Bold Predictions Week: Our writers’ boldest fantasy calls

Catch up on the bold predictions offered by five of our writers this week. Which calls make sense? And which writers are crazy?

| 10 months ago
(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Bold Predictions Week: Our writers’ boldest fantasy calls

Most of fantasy football is just betting on what is most likely to happen. Yes, there is a theoretical world in which Benny Cunningham is the No. 1 running back in 2016, but drafting like that is a good way to have an unhappy season. Most of our advice, projection work, etc., is based on that conceit — find what is most probable.

Sometimes, though, you just want to go out on a limb.

All this week, several of our fantasy staff — Daniel Kelley, Brandon Marianne Lee, Tyler Loechner, Dan Schneier and Mike Tagliere — have been offering their boldest fantasy calls of the season. Each person also offered his or her single boldest call of the year — the one prediction that, if right, will have you coming back here in December to marvel at our collective genius. Of course, if it’s wrong, you might come back for mockery, but that’s what bold calls are for.

Each writer’s boldest prediction is below, along with the justifications the writers offered and a link back to their bold predictions piece from earlier in the week. Read. Marvel. Mock. Whatever you choose, really.

Daniel Kelley: Andy Dalton is a better fantasy quarterback than Ben Roethlisberger

This feels bold, right? It feels like something that requires a limb to stand on or something. Except for the fact that Dalton outperformed Roethlisberger as recently as last year. In the last four years, Dalton has put up more fantasy points than Roethlisberger three times; the one exception was 2013, when Dalton was missing A.J. Green for a big chunk of the year. Accounting for the games each guy has missed to injury, and Dalton has bested Roethlisberger on a per-game basis two of the last three years, with the Green injury year the only exception. And even then, accounting for injury pretends the two players are equally likely to miss games to injury, but Roethlisberger has played 12 years and missed at least one game to injury in nine of them, whereas last year was the first time in his career Dalton has missed time.

Roethlisberger sits at the helm of one of the league’s top collection of offensive weapons. He does that, though, without doing as much himself as you might expect. Antonio Brown has been the No. 1 wide receiver two years in a row, and the top Pittsburgh running back (Le’Veon Bell or DeAngelo Williams) has been top-four both years. Despite that, Roethlisberger finished only sixth in quarterback fantasy scoring in 2014, and his points per game would have had him 11th last year if he had played 16 games.

Dalton still has Green, even if his other receivers and tight ends are dropping like flies. Green is a quarterback-maker. Yes, by draft value, Dalton is a better investment than Roethlisberger. But for me, it’s not even draft value. At the same price, give me Andy Dalton in 2016. — Daniel Kelley

Brandon Marianne Lee: Antonio Gates will score eight touchdowns to best Tony Gonzalez’ record for most touchdowns by a tight end in NFL history.

Gates is already the San Diego franchise leader in career receptions (844), receiving yards (10,644) and touchdown catches (104). Gates ranks seventh all-time in touchdown receptions and third among tight ends in total receptions and receiving yards. Right now he’s seven touchdowns away from tying Tony Gonzalez’ record, eight away from beating it. I say he beats it. Philip Rivers wants Gates to beat it and I want a tight end that has a nice touchdown total in his head. Gates only played in 11 games last year, and he still was targeted 75 times. Even at 36 years old, he’s a volume play with an extremely high floor. He and Rivers have a strong rapport and they know they are running out of time. Gates is old. He’s not flashy, but he’s scored eight or more touchdowns in eight seasons. It’s meant to be. — Brandon Marianne Lee

Tyler Loechner: Derrick Henry finishes as a top-20 running back this season.

The Tennessee Titans backfield is a mess — what with Henry, DeMarco Murray, Dexter McCluster and even a few other players fighting for roster spots — and all signs point to this unit operating as a backfield-by-committee to start the season.

But Titans offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie has said that the time could ride the “hot hand.” “If we get to going in the game and some guy gets the hot hand and that’s what it takes to win the game then that is what we are going to do,” Robiskie said, according to the Titans official website.

As of this writing, Murray is the hot running back, as he’s fresh off a huge preseason Week 1 game in which he took one carry 71 yards to the house.

But Henry was no slouch in that game, as he gained 74 yards on just 10 carries and also scored. Henry also gained 4.20 average yards after contact, third among running backs who had at least 10 touches in preseason Week 1.

The lame prediction here would be to say that Murray will be the lead back in this backfield by committee. Although, he probably will be when the season begins.

But this article isn’t about lame predictions, so we’ll go bold and say that by Week 5, Henry will get the hot hand and will supplant Murray as the “top” back in this offense. He’d still split carries with Murray, of course, but as the primary option, he’d see enough touches to put up tail-end RB2 numbers. — Tyler Loechner

Dan Schneier: Devin Funchess outscores Kelvin Benjamin

According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Benjamin and Funchess are currently being drafted nine rounds and more than 100 picks apart from each other. Player X is still being drafted for his high-scoring rookie season that Pat Thorman already exposed as highly inefficient. This player has yet to flash in training camp and is reportedly “winded” after running a go route. Player Y scored a TD in his first preseason game and has been touted for his MVP-like training camp by just about every media source covering the Panthers. So you tell me why Player X is Benjamin and Player Y is Funchess.

Benjamin saw the fifth-most targets of any WR in 2014, but he graded out in the bottom half of the NFL in his overall grade. Funchess finished with the ninth-most targets per route run — ranking him among elite target hogs like DeAndre Hopkins, Jarvis Landry, Brandon Marshall and Keenan Allen. He also carried his own by logging the 18th-most fantasy points per opportunity. Looking back at their athletic profiles entering the draft, there’s not much that separates Benjamin from Funchess aside from his height. Out of all my entire bold predictions, this is the one I’m most confident in. — Dan Schneier

Mike Tagliere: Coby Fleener finishes as a top-five tight end, over Jordan Reed

As much as everyone wants to point to Fleener and say they don’t think he’s talented, his No. 6 finish in 2014 with Andrew Luck says that he doesn’t care about your thoughts. Targets mean everything to tight ends, much more than other positions, and Fleener is going to get a lot of them. Since 2008, when the Saints acquired Sean Payton, they have targeted their tight end an average of 149 times per year. Even removing Jimmy Graham’s production from the equation, they averaged 136 targets per year. After seeing 34-year-old Ben Watson garner 101 targets last year, you should be salivating at Fleener’s current late-sixth-round ADP. Fleener is another guy I’ve written about before during this offseason. — Mike Tagliere

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