Going skydiving. asking for a raise on the first day of a job. Predicting Marshawn Lynch to finish outside the top ten running backs in 2015. These are all examples of being bold. Whenever I write this article I know by the end of the season, I’ll look pretty stupid with some of these predictions. Last year I said that Brandin Cooks would finish as a top five WR (finished 12th), I said that Antonio Brown would finish outside the top five (finished first) and that Jeremy Hill would finish inside the top five (finished 14th). On the other end of the spectrum, I did predict Lamar Miller‘s top 5 finish, and that Allen Robinson and Doug Martin were sleepers. So while this article does pose some risk prediction wise, I can guarantee that at least on of these points will come true.
Rookie Michael Thomas finishes the season as a top 20 Wide Receiver:
After the Saints drafted Thomas with the 47th overall pick in April, it was clear he had the potential to make an impact immediately. Thomas dazzled scouts with his hands and ability after the catch at Ohio State. As a 6’3 212 lb WR, he is a much bigger target than other New Orleans WRs like Willie Snead (5’11) and Brandin Cooks (5’10). Due to his elite size and above average speed (4.54 40 yard dash) quarterback Drew Brees could look to him in the red zone. Brees threw for the least amount of red zone touchdowns over his past five years in 2015, most likely as a result of his top two receivers being under 6’0.
Thomas has also excelled during the preseason. He came down with multiple diving catches during practice and adjusted very well to a 23-yard pass against the Patriots. The Ohio State alum’s ADP among WRs on Fantasypros.com is 55.3, yet he is my 38th ranked WR. Thomas has great value, and drafting him would be very wise.
Lamar Miller ends the season as the top Running Back in standard scoring:
How many players have started every game over the past three years and also averaged over 4.5 YPC each year? One. Which running back is this? Lamar Miller.
Miller had the 15th and 18th most carries in the NFL in 2014 and 2015. Even with minimal rushing attempts, he finished as the 9th and 4th highest scoring RB in standard scoring leagues.
His situation in Houston this year is one of the best throughout the entire NFL. When Arian Foster started and finished a game in 2015, he averaged just under 19 carries a game. If Miller is on par in 2016 with his 4.81 YPC average over the past two years he would be on pace for 1,462 rushing yards with Foster’s workload.
Lamar Miller has also been a victim to a terrible offensive line in Miami. The Dolphins had the worst run blocking efficiency in 2015 according to Pro Football Focus. Houston’s line sharply contrasts Miami with the 11th overall ranking going into 2016.
The stars are aligning for a career year for Lamar Miller, and he will execute on this opportunity.
Rookie Devontae Booker finishes the year as a top 15 Running Back:
Coming out of college, Devontae Booker was my favorite back aside from Ezekiel Elliott. Booker reminds me of an Alfred Morris type back, but faster and agiler. The former Utah State athlete ran for 3,173 yards during his two-year college career.
He is currently behind CJ Anderson of the Broncos depth chart, but given Anderson’s spotty and inconsistent history, Booker will have opportunities to secure the starting job.
Broncos’ coach Gary Kubiak constantly produces productive seasons from his running backs. Throughout his time in Houston, he made Arian Foster, an undrafted free agent, into one of the best backs of the decade. In 2014 Justin Forsett thrived for the first time in his career under Kubiak.
Like Lamar Miller, Devontae Booker is a talented back in a favorable scheme and situation and has the chance to break out.
Amari Cooper will be a top 5 Wide Receiver:
In the past ten years, seven wide receivers have been selected with a top-five pick. In their rookie seasons, none of those players have recorded more yardage than Amari Cooper did.
Cooper had an up and down debut season, posting three games with over 15 points, but also five games with under five points. According to NFL.com’s Matt Harmon, he excelled when facing man coverage (success rate 7.7 % higher than average), while running go routes (10.9 % higher than average), and with comeback routes (9.9 % higher than average).
Many rookies struggle against press coverage in their rookie years but Cooper had an above average rate against the press. The only area where he did not achieve great success was with drops. The former Alabama star couldn’t reel in ten passes, which was the second worse amount in the NFL.
I expect Cooper to have vast improvements with his hands and against press coverage in 2016. He was on pace for over 1,300 yards, eight touchdowns, and 175.4 fantasy points. Had he finished the season with that amount, he would have ranked just behind AJ Green as the ninth overall WR.
If Derek Carr targets Cooper more often in the red zone, Cooper should be able to have a resurgence this year and finish as a top 5 fantasy commodity.