The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

September 5, 2013

Daily Item fantasy football: 5 bold predictions for the 2013 NFL season

By John Zaktansky
The Daily Item

— Go bold or go home. That’s my message to a certain fantasy football website that “boldly” proclaims that the Patriots will finish ahead of the Jets by the end of the 2013 season.

Really? That’s like predicting someone will get wet when he goes swimming.

But those who really bring home the hardware in fantasy football leagues each year are those who become true visionaries.

They see the potential of an undrafted Arian Foster before he completely breaks onto the scene or can sense that the wide-eyed guy holding Drew Bledsoe’s clipboard years ago would become one of the most prolific quarterbacks of all time.

There are ample rankings and projections on the internet to provide a general sense of player value, but ultimately the best way to separate from the crowd is to trust your gut and take a few calculated risks that could blow up in a good way.

So, as you read my bold predictions below, you may find yourself shaking your head in disbelief. But each are based on my preseason research combined with a certain amount of gut reaction. Yes, they may seem crazy, but I’ll be crazy successful when a few of them pan out. You just watch!

1. Roy Helu is the most productive Redskins running back this season.

Yes, I saw Alfred Morris last year and he catapulted my personal dynasty league team to a championship after LeSean McCoy went down to injury. He was a first-round selection in many drafts this year.

However, I have my concerns. First, Morris is nearly a non-factor in the passing game. He allegedly worked on that this offseason, but his skill set is based on pure running. Helu, on the other hand, is a more complete player. He offers a nice check-down option out of the backfield and for a Redskins squad looking to better protect young phenom QB Robert Griffin III, Helu provides a nice security blanket.

Also, there has been much research on how a major increase in usage can affect a running back. Those who see a significant uptick in carries from one season to the next typically see some regression the following year. Morris is young enough to buck that trend, but it still provides another red flag when considering his outlook for 2013.

Lastly, while coach Mike Shanahan has shown the ability to stay loyal to certain backs over the years (Terrell Davis and Clinton Portis among them), he is more recently known to switch things up based on whoever has the hottest hand. Helu, over the past month, has shown a really hot hand.

With all that considered, I’m not basing my prediction on Helu totally taking over the top spot in the Redskins backfield. I think that up front, he’ll get enough carries supplementing Morris to be dangerous, especially in PPR formats. Just don’t be surprised if those stats add up in December weighing more heavily on Helu’s side.

2. David Wilson tops all running backs in PPR scoring leagues.

I wanted project him as a top-10 and then a top-5 back, but that just wasn’t bold enough. Yes, there are many backs who can easily take the torch this season … but in PPR, why not Wilson?

The injury to Andre Brown helps Wilson become an every-down back … something he will continue being all season if he can show over the next couple weeks that he can handle it.

The Giants have a very favorable schedule for runners, facing a dinged up Cowboys defense right out of the gates, the Eagles twice, the Chiefs, Chargers and Raiders, among others.

Eli Manning has good enough targets to stretch the field, giving the extremely elusive Wilson plenty of room to operate.

Yes, Wilson is unproven over the course of a full NFL season. But so was every other elite NFL back before they officially broke out.

3. Chris Givens and Golden Tate compete for best fantasy receiver status in the NFC-West.

This isn’t a knock on Larry Fitzgerald as much as it is an endorsement on Givens and Tate. For Givens, he has emerged as the main receiver in a collection of pass-catchers. Sam Bradford is due for a big jump this year and the Rams lost their perennial stud running back, meaning they’ll take to the air more than ever. Givens may have a few games where he struggles to produce elite numbers, but over the course of the season, his speed, overall talent and situation will help him accumulate plenty of stats.

For Tate, opportunity came knocking when Percy Harvin went down to injury. Sidney Rice is an enigma and Tate is playing for a new contract. Russell Wilson has been polishing his passing skills this offseason, and Tate is primed to take full advantage of that. Even when Percy eventually returns, I expect Tate to continue to see the lions’ share of action

4. Greg Olsen is a top-5 fantasy tight end this season.

From Week 10 on, only Jimmy Graham had more fantasy points at the position. Yes, that stat is spoiled some because elite guys like Rob Gronkowski were dinged up, but Olsen finds himself as the No. 2 target of a very capable young QB in Cam Newton who is expected to dial back his running game to focus more on passing.

While defenses focus on Steve Smith deep, Olsen will suck up plenty of receptions underneath, and add to his TD total to boot.

5. Steven Hauschka will finish the season as fantasy’s top scoring kicker.

Every year, there are kicking sleepers galore found on waiver wires, and while many people are quick to pick the kickers with the biggest leg or on teams with prolific high-scoring offenses, Hauschka is neither.

The secret recipe for a successful kicker, though, is more environment-based than anything else. He must be on a team committed to playing smash-mouth football, willing to grind out the clock and on an offense good enough to make it into the red zone regularly, but not so good that they turn every potential field goal situation into a PAT attempt.

The Seahawks fit that bill quite well. They’ll grind it out with Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson and company will get Hauschka into field goal range more often than not. Without a truly elite TE or WR, however, don’t expect them to punch in as many TDs as a Denver or New England will.