Folks, Kevin Payne is on hiatus this week while taking the family to “visit the Mouse in Orlando,” so rather than leave this space blank -- and on the heels of last week’s “Payne’s Peculiar Predictions” -- here are some more 2012 fantasy football hunches for you to consider, courtesy of some of Kevin’s RotoWire colleagues.
Erik Siegrist (Cowboys Beat Writer):
Dallas has the top defense, and top fantasy defense, in the league: If there's one thing the Cowboys did right this offseason, it was address their weaknesses on defense and they now have talent, youth and depth all over the field. A revamped and reloaded secondary led by first round pick Morris Claiborne and free agent Brandon Carr, plus a strong LB corps led by Sean Lee, will buy the pass rush precious extra seconds which is all DeMarcus Ware and a host of young beasts-in-training will need to bring down opposing QBs in droves. Not only does Ware (already the only guy in history with two top-10 all-time sack seasons) break Michael Strahan's record, but the team as a whole tops the 1984 Bears’ team record of 72. All that pressure also leads to a top-5 finish in turnovers and an incredibly stingy 13.6 points per game allowed.
Jason Zudycki (Bears Beat Writer):
Julio Jones will finish as fantasy's No. 1 WR: You know the same Julio Jones who finished with 393 yards and six touchdowns over the final four weeks of the season, likely winning you some leagues. Sure, Roddy White is still around, but even he has even been quoted as saying he’ll see less targets in favor of Jones. New Falcons’ play caller Dirk Koetter plans to employ a more pass-first and no-huddle approach centered around the second-year pro. Throw in the fact Jones has been shredding his first full offseason and training camp and the arrow is pointing nowhere but up. Anyone who saw the Falcons’ first preseason game (six catches, 109 yards and a touchdown in one quarter) will certainly agree that the upside is massive here.
George Kurtz (Dolphins Beat Writer):
Ryan Tannehill starts for Miami from Day 1. Meanwhile, Lamar Miller, not Daniel Thomas, would take over the team’s starting RB role if Reggie Bush gets hurt. Outside of Davone Bess, no Miami wideout catches more than 50 balls…
Justin Fielkow (Saints Beat Writer):
While he is being drafted in many leagues as a low end WR1 after last season's breakout performance, don't be shocked if Victor Cruz fails to deliver on his ADP. Last year, Cruz finished second in the league with 603 yards after the catch. Further, only one of his touchdowns came from inside 20 yards, as he caught touchdowns of 99, 74, 84, 72, 68, 28, 25, and 24 yards. Those numbers will be tough to duplicate, particularly with defenses focusing on him more in the wake of Mario Manningham's departure. And if you still don't believe last year was a fluke, it must be noted that Eli Manning's 92.9 passer rating was well above the 81.9 rating he averaged over the previous six years and the 4,933 passing yards were more than 900 yards more than his previous career high. Sometimes the numbers don't lie.
Erick Schutte (Rams Beat Writer):
This may be stretching it, but I have a hunch that if Chris Givens can tighten up his route running and technique, he could move right into a starting role by mid-season because of his speed. Nobody else on the Rams’ WR depth chart has what he has in that area and the team is desperate to stretch the field because it will free up Danny Amendola underneath and keep clubs from jamming eight in the box to shut down Steven Jackson.
Herb Ilk (Packers Beat Writer):
Cedric Benson will have the most fantasy points of any Green Bay running back this year. James Starks can’t seem to stay healthy and neither Alex Green or Brandon Saine aren't big enough for coach Mike McCarthy to use them full time. Benson will almost certainly get goal line carries, many of which used to go to John Kuhn, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him lead the team in total carries as well. Green Bay running backs don’t put up a ton of fantasy points, so I'm not expecting him to be a top RB overall, but will be the most productive of the Green Bay running backs.
Justin Mertes-Mistretta (RotoWire Assistant Editor):
I’m willing to bet that Peyton Hillis, not Jamaal Charles, will be the Chiefs running back to own in 2012. Though he is nearly a year removed from his ACL injury, there is no guarantee that Charles, who relies on quickness and his ability to make cuts, will return to pre-injury form out of the gate. At the very least, Hillis, an already proven pass-catcher, will be the Chiefs’ top goal-line option in a backfield time-share. If Charles were to go down or struggle early on, Hillis has the potential to be a top-five fantasy back, a la 2010. Many owners will shy away from Hillis after his disappointing 2011 campaign, so you can grab him in the sixth round of most drafts. That’s four rounds later than Charles.
Andrew Laird (Panthers/Broncos Beat Writer):
Chris Johnson has quickly become my favorite player heading into this season. He has shown his trademark explosiveness in recent preseason games and now that he’s a year removed from his contract issues, he seems poised to return to his top form. When was the last time a top running back got paid and then produced that year? That’s why I'm down on MJD, Ray Rice and Matt Forte. They got their money and now they can sit back and enjoy it. Johnson? He's beyond that and ready to tear up the NFL again. Arian Foster’s injury history would worry me over a full season, which leaves Johnson and LeSean McCoy to battle for the top running back spot. This time around, I'm taking Johnson.
Mike Doria (Patriots Beat Writer):
Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and Kenny Britt will all be eased back in out of the gate. That they are all bouncing back from injuries is no secret, but I am not at all comfortable with how high I have been seeing them drafted of late. I am only touching any of them if they drop like a rock. Conversely, early-season opportunities – and in turn fantasy value – exist for the likes of Peyton Hillis, Toby Gerhart and Kendall Wright and their more reasonable ADPs.
Tim Schuler (Bills Beat Writer):
I think both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Scott Chandler could be sneaky good QB2 and TE2, respectively. See RotoWire’s notes feed for more details. I also like Josh Freeman for a solid bounce-back QB. Also, Ahmad Bradshaw seems way undervalued all over the place compared to higher-ranked guys that are either in a straight timeshare or heck, haven't even won the job yet.