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Jonathan Bales | Archive | Email | Twitter
Staff Writer

13 (Very) Bold Fantasy Football Predictions for 2012

Jonathan Bales is the founder of and writes for the New York Times and Dallas Cowboys. He’s the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.

Every year, I make a list of “outrageous” fantasy football predictions. They’re often pretty accurate. Let’s get right into my predictions for 2012. . .


Fitzpatrick was averaging 280 passing yards and three touchdowns per game through the first three games in 2011. He broke ribs early in the season, however, and wasnít the same player down the stretch.

Nonetheless, Fitzpatrick threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 24 touchdowns. Heíll give you some points on the ground, and with Buffalo transitioning to a high-tempo offense in 2012, I like Fitzpatrickís chances of landing in the top 10 among all quarterbacks.

Even throwing out Schaubís injury history, he simply wonít pass the ball enough to be a legitimate fantasy option in 2012. There were signs of it last year, as Schaub was on pace for just 467 attempts before going down in Houstonís 10th game. If he throws 475 passes in 2012, he would need to average 8.42 yards-per-attempt to reach 4,000 yards. His career mark is 7.87.

Running Back

  • Ryan Mathews will be fourth in fantasy points among running backs, even if he misses two games.

Prior to his injury, I had Mathews rated fourth in standard scoring leagues. Following his injury, I still have him rated fourth. Thatís way higher than most, but donít forget you donít ďloseĒ every point Mathews would have scored in the seasonís first few weeks. Instead, youíll lose the difference between Mathews and a replacement player, which is probably just around 15 points or so.

  • Reggie Bush will finish in the top 11 running backs in PPR.

His rushing efficiency is likely to decline in 2012, but I can pretty much guarantee that Bush surpasses his 43 receptions from last season. With Ryan Tannehill named the starter and likely to check down quite a bit in his in rookie campaign, look for Bush to approach 60 receptions.

Am I the only one scared that Jackson is 31 years old? In the Billsí new offense, Spiller will see plenty of time on the field, even if Jackson is in the lineup as well. Plus, Jackson wonít come close to averaging the 5.5 yards-per-carry he totaled in 2011.

Wide Receiver

Perhaps this one isnít as bold as the others, but everything is lined up for Jones to dominate in 2012: a new offensive philosophy, a solid quarterback, a dramatic increase in targets. Oh yeah, heís pretty good too.

    Percy Harvin

    Harvin: The most underrated player in fantasy football.

  • Percy Harvin will be a top five wide receiver in all formats.

I think Harvin is the most underrated player in all of fantasy football. That may be the result of his rushing totals, which many owners either overlook or ignore. Those 300 or so rushing yards can bump Harvin into the top tier of receivers, even if he posts only 1,100 receiving yards and six touchdowns (my projections for him). His versatility also makes him one of the rare low-risk/high-reward mid-round picks.

I obviously have Cruz rated ahead of all of those players, but Iíll be shocked if this actually happens simply because I listed so much competition. You wonít see predictions this bold from anyone else, though.

DHBís receptions have increased from nine to 26 to 64 in his three NFL seasons. I expect another jump in 2012.

Holmesí ADP (10th round) in particular amazes me, because he has just one career 1,000-yard season in six years. Heís caught more than 55 passes just once, and heís unlikely to match his eight touchdowns from 2011. Heís a low-reward player getting drafted in an area where you should be maximizing upside.

Tight End

Statistically, tight end is the most consistent position in fantasy football, with 63 percent of fantasy points carrying over from year to year (and the rest regressing toward a league mean). That means youíre very likely to see the positionís top fantasy performers stay at the top in 2012.

I feel like Iím the only one on the Pettigrew bandwagon. Heís a legit No. 1 tight end in PPR formats, however, and his numbers will improve this season. Remember, Pettigrew averaged only 9.4 yards-per-reception in 2011. Most see that as a negative, but I see it as an opportunity for increased receiving yards this year. With Calvin Johnson opening things up outside, look for Pettigrew to at least repeat his 117 targets and 70.9 percent catch rate from last year.

Kellerís catch rate of 59.6 percent was the second-worst of any tight end in the NFL last year. Heíll see just as many targets, catching a minimum of 70 of themóno matter who is playing quarterback for the Jets.