I challenged each of our writers to go out on a limb to make a brave prognostication. Obviously, these predictions are only our writers' opinions, but I think they do a good job of backing up their claims:
Michael Turner will break down this season
Brian Murphy, Freelance Writer
The curse of 370. I am a believer that it will hit Turner this season.
On the good side, Turner is a young 27 years old with only 607 total carries in five seasons. But 376 of those carries came last year when the Falcons rode him to a playoff appearance. I hope it was worth it, because things are going to be different this season.
Excluding Turner, 22 running backs have accumulated 370 carries in a season in NFL history. Of those 22 backs, 13 experienced at least a 40 percent decline in rushing yardage the following season. That entire group averaged 18.4 touchdowns in its 370-carry year. The next season, that touchdown total average fell off to 9.7. Even worse, three of those 22 backs tore an ACL after rushing 370 times.
The only running backs that didn't experience that much of a drop off in either yards or touchdowns the following season were LaDainian Tomlinson in 2003, Walter Payton in 1985, and Eric Dickerson in 1984. So if you think Michael Turner is at the beginning of being one of the best rushers of all-time, then go ahead and select him with the first or second pick in your draft. But I believe that there are five running backs I would rather have than Turner right now (Peterson, Jones-Drew, Forte, Jackson, Tomlinson) and that he'll have a tough time being just a top-10 running back this season.
RB Jamal Charles, KC will break out this season:
70% chance he overtakes the starting job
50% chance he becomes a top 15-20 back
Jeb Gorham, FFToolbox Columnist
Jamaal Charles might be the pick-up you were looking for. Charles( who is currently ranked just within the top 60 running backs) is the obvious handcuff for Larry Johnson, but is a force in his own right. Johnson has been ailing the past few seasons with nagging injuries and age catching up with him. With the addition of a proven quarterback in Matt Cassel, Johnson and Charles will both find more running room. The question is which back will get the lion's share of the carries? My bet is on Charles. Johnson is listed in the top 25 running backs and I think Charles will be starting in Kansas City before mid-season (if not just after) and hit the list as a top 15-20 back by season's end. Last season in Week 9, Charles busted out for 106 yards rushing on 18 attempts and in Week 16, he topped 100 yards receiving. Charles is a weapon that Matt Cassel will rely upon as his role increases in both the rushing and passing games. Look for Charles to impress the coaching staff early and get the reps he needs to take the leading roster spot. Try to get Charles in later rounds before the owner with LJ picks him up as the handcuff.
Kyle Orton will be a top 10 fantasy quarterback and outscore Jay Cutler this season
Vin Sadicario, FFToolbox.com Columnist
The much maligned Kyle Orton will prove the naysayers wrong and be a top ten fantasy quarterback in 2009. Denver Broncos fans have already been booing Orton during recent scrimmages, but he will have them cheering by the time the season is over. Orton has never put up huge numbers, but has also never had the weapons he will have this season in Denver. The Denver offense will not take the major hit that people expect with Kyle Orton taking over for Jay Cutler. With Knowshown Moreno, Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, and Tony Scheffler surrounding Orton, he will not fail in Denver. Orton was able to throw 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions with Devin Hester, Rashied Davis, and Greg Olsen last season and should easily eclipse those numbers with a much improved cast around him. Not only will Kyle Orton be a top ten fantasy quarterback this season, but he will outscore the player he was traded for this off-season, Jay Cutler.
The Miami Dolphins will sign Michael Vick
Aaron Reynolds, Freelance Writer
I am not the only sportswriter or football fan who realizes that if Michael Vick did return to the NFL, the Miami Dolphins and their wildcat offense would be a good fit.
I'd be willing to bet that any offensive coordinator would absolutely salivate at the thought of having Vick, Chad Pennington, Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams and Ten Ginn Jr. on the field AT THE SAME TIME. That set of players would give the Dolphins offense two players capable of throwing the ball on each down and four players who could run the ball on each down.
The wildcat offense is designed to cause confusion on the defensive side of the ball. Who is going to throw? Who is going to run? With Vick on the field, the Dolphins' offense would be almost impossible to anticipate, and the Dolphins organization probably realizes that they are going to need a player like Vick to keep up with the New England Patriots in 2009.
In point per reception leagues, Adrian Peterson isn't worth a top 5 draft pick
Daniel Kalles, FFToolbox.com Columnist
I know it sounds crazy and it might be, but Adrian Peterson just might not be worth being drafted in the top 5 in a point per reception league. Even after rushing for 1760 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns in 2008, he wasn't the top scoring fantasy back. Even if he scored a few more touchdowns, he still wouldn't have been the best. The fact is that he only had 21 catches and that number doesn't seem like it will go up. The Vikings like to use Chester Taylor on 3rd downs and at the end of games when they are trailing.
To be a top fantasy pick in 'ppr' leagues you need to be able to catch the ball like Matt Forte (63 receptions) or MJD (62 receptions), or like fantasy studs of the past like Marshall Faulk, Priest Holmes or even LT. In no specific order you must consider Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Forte, and MJD as the top 4; the 5th spot is where it gets tricky. While it might be Peterson, it also really could be Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson, LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, or dare I say Randy Moss. Now all this is not to say that Peterson might not rush for 2,000 yards and score more then 20 touchdowns, I just don't see it. If I had a top 5 pick, I don't think he would be one of them... Let's check back on this after the season and see where Peterson ends up.
Donald Brown will be the top rookie in fantasy football this season
George Bissell, FFToolbox.com Columnist
Both Chris Wells and Knowshon Moreno will be the first rookie running backs off the board in fantasy drafts this fall, but they will both be outperformed by the third rookie off the board: former Connecticut star Donald Brown. Much like the third rookie running back taken in last year's fantasy drafts (Matt Forte), Donald Brown may not be the flashiest runner, but his physical between the tackles running style, ability to accelerate through the hole, and ability as a receiver out of the backfield make him a perfect fit for the Indianapolis Colts offense.
Indianapolis ranked 31st in the NFL in rushing in 2008, and the major reason was injuries sustained by former fantasy stud Joseph Addai. Addai struggled to rush for just 544 yards and 5 TD's in 2008 (both career lows). The Colts would like to split the carries between Addai and Brown as they had in the past with both Addai and Dominic Rhodes. What this means for fantasy owners is that Donald Brown will play a major role in the offense each and every week, and will be given the opportunity to make plays early in the season.
Given Joseph Addai's durability issues, if Brown starts the year strong and Addai gets hurt, then Brown could end up with the starting job for the remainder of the season. Fantasy owners believe that Joseph Addai will steal goal line touches right? Well then you would be surprised to hear that last season Dominic Rhodes received more goal line carries than Addai. Brown figures to fill the role Rhodes has vacated, which could lead to goal line touches right out of the gate.
Donald Brown has the talent, and is in the perfect system with Indianapolis; all he needs is the opportunity to win the starting job to become a fantasy stud. Remember what Joseph Addai did as a rookie in 2005 in a similar committee situation? Donald Brown is one Addai injury away from ascending to fantasy greatness, and will be the top rookie running back at the end of the 2009 fantasy season.