I've listed ten bold predictions below that I think will happen during the 2011 NFL season. Some are more out there than others. I will try and update/add to this list over the next two weeks as more developments on happen on the IDP side of things.
I look forward to your comments.
1. David Hawthorne will be a top 5 fantasy linebacker - This really isn't that big of a stretch when you think about it. He put up 93 solo tackles, 23 assists, 3 sacks, and 3 INTs in the 12 games he started in replace of Lofa Tatupu in 2009. Hawthorne failed to live up to expectations in 2010 as we saw a drastic reduction in his tackle and big play numbers. However, this drop off was mainly due to Hawthorne being moved to the less productive weak side linebacker position and, more importantly, being taken out in nickel packages. With Lofa Tatupu being released, Hawthorne will be the every down middle linebacker for the Seahawks and have very little competition for tackles behind an underrated front four.
2. George Wilson will be a top 10 defensive back - This prediction is predicated solely on opportunity and historical trends. The strong safety position in Buffalo has been fantasy gold. Donte Whitner led all safeties in tackles from this position last year and others including Wilson himself have put up DB1 box score numbers when given the starting role in previous years. For the first time in several seasons, Wilson has the starting SS position to himself and should pick up where Whitner left off last year. Wilson isn't a household name, but he'll likely be one in IDP circles come this time next year.
3. Brian Robison will have 10+ sacks - Double digit sacks for a player who has never started before may seem as a bit of a stretch to some. However, Robinson has put up decent sack totals when you consider the limited amount of snaps he's had during his careers. He doesn't hold up very well against the run and will likely see many of his snaps in passing situations, but he will have the benefit of playing opposite Jared Allen and alongside two strong, veteran defensive tackles which should free him up for many isolated matchups.
4. Andre Carter will have DL2 value in New England - Carter was severely miscast in Washington's 3-4 defensive scheme last season. We saw the same drop in production when the 49ers switched him to outside linebacker back in 2005. He just doesn't have the skillset to play that particular position. New England has been using a lot of 4-3 looks so far in preseason with Carter at defensive end. Depending on his snap count, he could very well emerge back in the large second tier of defensive ends.
5. Jabaal Sheard will lead all rookie DLs in fantasy points scored - Of all rookie defensive linemen, Sheard is most likely to receive 70-75% of his team's snaps. Additionally, the Browns move to a 4-3 defensive scheme should help Sheard's box score numbers. He wasn't the most heralded end coming out of the draft, but for our purposes, he could very well wind up being the most productive rookie fantasy linemen if nothing else than by the relatively high amount of snaps he will receive.
6. Rey Maualuga will be a top 12 fantasy linebacker - There's no doubting Maualuga's talent. But he's done pretty much nothing statistically in his two years in the league. His measly box score numbers can be attributed to being stuck on the strong side as a two down linebacker, however. Now that he is the every down middle linebacker, expect a dramatic increase in fantasy points from Maualuga. He's been playing very well in preseason and is starting to emerge as the leader of the young Cincinnati defense. Come draft day, he won't be on the radar of owners who draft mainly on historical player stats. Take advantage of this fact and snap him up as your LB3 and enjoy LB1 value.
7. Nick Barnett will be a top 10 fantasy linebacker - The Bills signing of Nick Barnett went largely unnoticed during the preseason as this particular move seemed to get lost in the shuffle of all the other preseason activity. Even though Barnett isn't going to drastically improve the Bills defense, his presence in Buffalo is a very important one in fantasy terms. He's taking over a position that has some of the highest amount of tackle opportunity in the league. He's experienced in both 4-3 and 3-4 systems and should have no problem putting up solid LB1 numbers behind two strong defensive tackles.
8. Donald Butler will register more fantasy points than Stephen Tulloch this year - This prediction is a mixture of both my love for Donald Butler and me having serious doubts about Tulloch being an every down linebacker in Detroit. Exactly who the nickel linebackers are in Detroit has yet to be determined, but my gut is telling me Tulloch and Durant take turns rotating in and out of subpackages. This severely hurts Tulloch's value. Butler on the other hand has cemented himself as the every down WILB in San Diego and although he's had a somewhat shaky preseason, he's in a good spot to put up top 30 numbers.
9. Kam Chancellor will be a DB1 in tackle-heavy scoring systems - Kam who? That's how the majority of the public would respond to this statement. At 6'3", 230 pounds Chancellor is basically an extra linebacker that the Seahawks will bring up to the line of scrimmage to help in run support. He's played well in the Seahawks three preseason games and should have no problems racking up DB1 numbers in tackle-heavy leagues behind a suspect group of OLBs.
10. D'Qwell Jackson returns to LB1 status - When healthy, Jackson has put up LB1 type numbers. The problem is that Jackson has rarely been healthy over the last 3 seasons and consequently he's fallen off the map when it comes to the big name fantasy linebackers. I'm obviously assuming Jackson stays healthy this year. His past injuries were not chronic, reoccurring injuries but rather one-off, accidents which gives me some reassurance. Additionally, he seems to be adjusting well to the Browns new 4-3 defensive scheme.
Do you have any bold predictions for this season? If so, state them in the comments section of this article. I'd really like to get the opinions of some of my readers and get a good conversation going concerning this subject.
Thanks for reading!
Last Updated: August 28, 2011
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