This article is part of our East Coast Offense series.
ECO -- Year 16
East Coast Offense is back for its 16th year unfortunately. I say unfortunately because I'm trying to retire it, as it requires me to come up with new material every week. Beating the Book, Staff Picks and Survivor have an easy structure around the weekly slate of games, but this column requires a modicum of effort. And don't get me started on creating the Sporcle quizzes, which maybe 50 people even take. I added that wrinkle a few years ago because I thought it was cool, but now I have to figure out some random theme and input all the clues and answers. Guessing the lines was a clever, labor-saving way to write Beating the Book without having to actually think, so I'll give myself credit for that. But you'd be surprised how hard it is to come up with material every week that isn't Captain Obvious or so dull you wouldn't read it yourself. Of course it could be worse — I might be breaking rocks on a prison chain gang someday, longing for the days when my job's only challenge was the opening paragraph of this column. Who knows what the future holds? Frankly, I'm surprised civilization hasn't collapsed yet and we're even having this discussion at all.
Week 1 Sporcle Quiz
Apropos of nothing, can you name the 14 running backs who caught more than 40 passes last year?
Guessing The Lines
|Game||My Line||Actual Line||ML-AL||O/U||Actual O/U||MO-AO|
|Cowboys at Buccaneers||8.5||8||0.5||54||52||2|
|Steelers at Bills||7.5||6.5||1||48||49||-1|
|Jets at Panthers||3.5||5||-1.5||45||45||0|
|Jaguars at Texans||-3||-3||0||46||44.5||1.5|
|Cardinals at Titans||5.5||3||2.5||51||52||-1|
|Chargers at Football Team||3||-1||4||43||44.5||-1.5|
|Eagles at Falcons||3||3.5||-0.5||47||48||-1|
|Seahawks at Colts||-1.5||-2.5||1||48||49.5||-1.5|
|Vikings at Bengals||-1.5||-3||1.5||44||48||-4|
|49ers at Lions||-7||-7.5||0.5||47||45.5||1.5|
|Browns at Chiefs||6||6||0||54||53||1|
|Dolphins at Patriots||6||3||3||42||43.5||-1.5|
|Broncos at Giants||1||-2.5||3.5||41||42||-1|
|Packers at Saints||-3.5||-3.5||0||51||50||1|
|Bears at Rams||8||7.5||0.5||42||45||-3|
|Ravens at Raiders||-4.5||-4.5||0||49||51||-2|
I'm not too far off on most of these, but was surprised the Team was getting a point at home against the Chargers, and I like the Chargers this year. Other than that, and my homer Giants pick, the only other line of three or more is the Patriots hosting the Dolphins. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind in Beating the Book.
20 Non-Obvious Predictions for 2021
1. Rob Gronkowski (ADP TE15) will be a top-10 PPR tight end
The GOAT is only five months older than Travis Kelce, completely healthy, integrated into the offense and still playing with Tom Brady. The last time we saw him play, he caught two touchdowns in the Super Bowl win over the Chiefs.
2. Justin Herbert (QB8) will be a top-three QB
Herbert reminds me of Dan Marino the way he effortlessly and accurately slings the ball down the field, except that he's also mobile -- five rushing TDs in 15 games last year -- and his highest snap-count running back (Austin Ekeler) is essentially a wide receiver. And Herbert thrived as a rookie while playing behind one of the league's worst offensive lines. The team has since drafted Rashawn Slater with the 13th pick, signed Pro Bowl center Corey Linsley and gets right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who missed six games, back. It also upgraded its head coach.
3. Jonathan Taylor will finish top three in yards from scrimmage
As I wrote earlier this summer:
Taylor is on a team with bad quarterbacks that's had some injuries to the offensive line. He has to contend with a former 1,000-yard rusher (Marlon Mack) and a third-down back (Nyheim Hines) in his own backfield. But that's mostly noise. The signal is a second-year back at 5-10, 226 who runs a 4.39 40, can catch passes and dominated in last year's second half. Don't overthink it.
4. Either DK Metcalf or A.J. Brown will lead the NFL in receiving touchdowns
I won't pick between them because they're both such physical freaks, but only Davante Adams should be projected for more touchdowns, and he'll almost certainly face a tougher schedule (his was among the easiest in the league last year.)
5. Diontae Johnson (WR18) will finish top-10 in targets and catches
He had 90 targets and 57 catches over the last eight games, and he caught 11 passes in the team's Wild Card loss to the Browns. Najee Harris will take away some of the short stuff, but Johnson is arguably the quickest receiver in the league, and the Steelers will get him the ball.
6. AJ Dillon will rush for 1,000 yards
The second-round pick should get plenty of work as Jamaal Williams is gone, and Aaron Jones has not been a massive workhorse. Jones got paid last year too, so the Packers could transition him into more of an Alvin Kamara role while Dillon does the dirty work. Dillon also managed 5.3 YPC last year, so he could get to 1,000 with just over 200 carries.
7. Alvin Kamara will outscore Christian McCaffrey in PPR
With Jameis Winston winning the job, and Michael Thomas out for at least six games, Kamara should see McCaffrey-like volume in the passing game, while running behind one of the league's top offensive lines. McCaffrey is a great player, but Kamara is the most efficient fantasy back in history.
8. Austin Ekeler will get fewer than 150 carries
Ekeler is a great receiver, but at 5-10, 200, he doesn't have the frame to hold up under a heavy workload, and if the Chargers try to give it to him, there's a good chance he'll get hurt. This might not seem bold, since 136 carries is his career high, but for the RB7, that's pretty light, and in fact his rushing yardage O/U was 825.5 on Draft Kings, meaning his implied total for carries is about 183.
9. One of the following second-yard receivers will finish in the top-15 PPR: Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards, Van Jefferson, Gabriel Davis, Michael Pittman, Denzel Mims, Marquez Callaway, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Laviska Shenault, Darnell Mooney, Jalen Reagor, Quintez Cephus or Quez Watkins. (I purposely left off top-30 PPR WR: Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Brandon Aiyuk, Tee Higgins and Chase Claypool.)
Second-year wideouts often pop, and enough of them should see opportunities for one to crack the top-15.
10. One of the following teams will make the playoffs: Giants, Eagles, Lions, Raiders, Texans, Jaguars and Jets. (Cut me some slack on this one Pianow.)
While each one is individually a big underdog, collectively, they are probably favorites.
11. The Giants will have a top-five defense in yards-per-play and a top-10 fantasy defense.
The Giants have one of the top 3-4 defensive linemen in Leonard Williams, emerging 2019 first-rounder Dexter Lawrence on the other side, shutdown corner James Bradberry now playing opposite free-agent signee and 2017 first-round pick Adoree' Jackson. Moreover, they drafted a top edge rusher Azeez Ojulari in the second round and get second round safety prospect Xavier McKinney at full strength after he missed most of 2020 with a foot injury.
12. Jarvis Landry (WR 45) catches more passes than Tyler Boyd (WR 32)
Landry and Boyd are similar players — slowish, reliable possession types who don't make a lot of big plays. But Boyd, who goes in Round 6, has two young stars with whom to contend for targets, while Landry, who goes in Round 9, has only the brittle Odell Beckham and a bunch of bit players.
13. Zach Ertz (TE 19) will outproduce Logan Thomas (TE7)
Ertz set the record for TE receptions in 2018 with 116, and he had 88 two years ago. He's bought back into the Eagles and is still only 30 years old, late prime for a tight end. Thomas is a 30-year old who came out of nowhere last year and has to adjust to a new quarterback. Thomas has a Gary Barnidge vibe to me.
14. Someone will catch 20 touchdowns this year
Between freaks like Metcalf, Brown and rookie Kyle Pitts, red-zone monsters like Davante Adams and the extra game, someone will crack 20 this year.
15. Kadarius Toney will be the most valuable Giants PPR receiver from Weeks 11-18
Kenny Golladay is already nursing a hamstring injury, Darius Slayton is a solid downfield guy, but nothing special, and Sterling Shepard is injury prone. The 20th overall pick in this year's draft, Toney is the team's fastest and quickest receiver, and its best option after the catch.
16. Sony Michel (RB 34) will have more PPR value than Darrell Henderson (RB27)
Henderson seems fragile to me, and the Rams actually traded for Michel rather than scooping up a free agent. Michel was a first-round pick and has shown flashes when his arthritic knees weren't bothering him.
17. Robert Woods (WR 13) will not catch more than five touchdowns this year
His career high in receiving touchdowns is only six, he rarely gets used near the goal line -- five targets inside the 10 over the last two years -- and both Cooper Kupp and Tyler Higbee are better bets to catch Matthew Stafford's TD passes.
18. Ryan Fitzpatrick will be replaced by Taylor Heinicke by Week 10
Fitzpatrick has played well the last couple years, but he'll turn 39 this fall, and even superstar quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Peyton Manning decline at that age. Heinicke looked good against the Bucs tough defense in their playoff loss, and he's more mobile too.
19. Nick Chubb (RB10) out-produces Derrick Henry (RB4) in PPR
Henry is a great back, but he's coming off 784 carries over the last two seasons (including the playoffs.) Chubb is nearly as good on a per-play basis, is two years younger and runs behind a better offensive line.
20. Some of these predictions will be wrong.
Hopefully, it's only No. 20.