Fantasy football predictions: Bet on Bridgewater?

Part of the job description of being a fantasy football analyst is you need to have a take on pretty much every offensive player in the league.

Allow me to let you in on a little secret: That’s pretty tough to do!

At the very least, while we might believe everything we say/write/project, not everything you espouse is held with the tightest grip.

However, every offseason, if you really love this grind, you’re going to land on a handful of takes you believe will happen with the utmost conviction.

After all my offseason work, these nine takes are mine.

1) People will wonder for years why Austin Ekeler wasn’t a top-10-ranked RB going into 2020

The Chargers offense has to be one of the most overanalyzed units I can remember in my time writing about football. An outfit stocked with quality players, no turnover at head coach or offensive coordinator, and is making what, at worst, might be a lateral move at quarterback is being wildly discounted.

No player more so than Austin Ekeler.

It’s difficult to imagine a scenario where Ekeler doesn’t push for 800 rushing and receiving yards in 2020. Do people really expect his passing game role to just evaporate? That’s wild.

Of course, rushing quarterbacks like Tyrod Taylor don’t dump it off to running backs as much as statue passers, but Ekeler isn’t some typical running back. This is a player who saw more slot snaps than all but four backs last year. A player who drew a target on 28 percent of those snaps. A player who lined up even more frequently as an outside wide receiver than he did in the slot. A player who has posted double-digit yards-per-catch figures in all three of his seasons, he is one of just three running backs to average over 10 yards per catch over the last three seasons (minimum 100 targets).

Honestly, he might be second only to Christian McCarrey in terms of receiving backs. Remember when so many sheep doubted whether the similarly built McCaffrey could handle a full workload? That was cute.

You don’t take the ball away from that player. You feature that player.

2) Terry McLaurin will clear 1,100 yards

If you’re familiar with my work, you know I’m bullish on Terry McLaurin’s talent and ability to become a super-star level receiver. Let’s just cast that aside for a moment. From a pure statistical angle, McLaurin is a good bet for this mark.

If you just take his rate stats from games with Dwayne Haskins starting, McLaurin averaged 4.2 catches and 65.9 yards per game, maintained a 63.8 percent catch rate, and posted 15.4 yards per catch. Over the course of a full season that would be 68 grabs for 1,053 yards. He maintained a 23 percent target share in those seven games with Haskins starting.

So all we’re asking for is a yardage increase of less than 50. Such an ask doesn’t even include the fact that we ought to be projecting a passing increase for Washington in 2020, considering their new offensive coordinator Scott Turner called passing plays at a 64.7 percent rate in neutral game scripts last year. It also doesn’t account for any potential improvement in Haskins, the type of development he showed as the year went on (even if some outright refuse to admit it). Nor does it account for McLaurin taking another leap forward, which feels like a lock, or garnering a target share north of 23 percent. The latter is also on the table given the state of Washington’s pass-catching corps.

Honestly, this isn’t bold at all.

3) Davante Adams leads the NFL in targets

My projections have Davante Adams leading the NFL with 166 targets in 2020. Adams trailed Michael Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins with a 29 percent share of the Packers’ targets in games he played last season. Once again, we aren’t asking for much from this star wide receiver. 

Thomas could see his target shares drop a bit after the Saints boosted their own receiver corps with the addition of Emmanuel Sanders, while Hopkins is changing teams. Adams, on the other hand, could see a 1-2 percent increase given the devastated state of the Packers’ wide receiver and tight end rooms. 

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