Whether you like to refer to them as bold calls or hot takes, going out on the ledge for a for a player, team or event shouldn’t be done just for the sake of doing it. Sure, you want to let loose like Cersei under the Sept with wildfire, but bold calls should still have evidence based roots even though they are in the lower probability when hashing out a range of outcomes. In the spirit of discussing some of those lower end probabilities, here’s a bold call for every team in the league this season graded by the level of heat.
Allen Robinson Leads the League in Receiving Yardage
I wish I could be contrarian and support Robinson possibly catching more touchdowns in 2016, but like many have stated, seeing that type of volume near the goal line again hasn’t proven to be repeatable. But outside of being a dominant target near the paint, Robinson was also the league’s best splash play producer, catching 31 passes that gained 20 or more yards, most in the league. Catching nearly two passes per game of 20 or more yards, Robinson’s 17.5 yards per reception were the 12th highest by any receiver with 80 or more receptions in a season since 1970. This was all while Robinson caught just 53 percent of his passes. While the touchdowns will surely drop, his receptions and yardage that comes along with them still have room to blossom.
Frank Gore Rushes for 1,000 Yards
Considering that Gore had 967 yards on the ground last year, that doesn’t seem bold at first blush, but the last time that a back 33-years or older has rushed for 1,000 yards was John Riggins in 1984. In fact, the last running back 33 years plus to even rush for at least 900 yards in a season was Emmitt Smith back in 2004. The Colts brought virtually nothing in behind Gore to severely threaten his touches while he’s healthy and added Ryan Kelly to their offensive line, a player that popped on nearly every big run that Derrick Henry had last season at Alabama. The Colts trailed for 60 percent of their second half snaps last season resulting in the 10th fewest rushing plays run in the second half of games last season, something that should rise on some level with the return of Andrew Luck, giving Gore even more of an avenue to rushing touches.
Lamar Miller Will be the Highest Scoring Running Back
Miller is still in the prime of his career at 25-years old, heading to a team that paid him as a top player at his position and has shown they are committed to utilizing their backs in the offense which should see Miller blow past his career output in terms of usage he set last season with just 241 touches. With the volume spike and the fact that Miller has consistently improved in the receiving game steadily while in the NFL, catching more passes every year of his career, there’s a perfect cocktail in place for Miller to post a career season.
Denver Scores the Fewest Touchdowns in the NFL This Season
Not an extreme stretch since they were 6th in 2015, scoring fewer touchdowns than the Titans, Bears, Vikings and Buccaneers to name a few other lackluster offenses. Denver was 24th in pts per drive, 21st in yards per drive while being tied for the fourth most turnovers in the league. Because the Denver offense was so inefficient, they had a really hard time setting up cheap rushing scores. The average length of rushing score for the Broncos was 20.8 yards, the highest in the league as just five of their 13 rushing touchdowns came from the 10-yard and in. As bad as their quarterback play already was last year, there is actually room for it to get worse. Rookie Paxton Lynch will very likely end up finding the field sooner than later because of the quarterbacks that surround him on the depth chart. Mark Sanchez has thrown an interception in 20 of his past 27 appearances, Trevor Semien had just one full college season averaging over 7.0 adjusted yards per attempt.
Tavon Austin finishes Outside of the Top-40 Scoring Wide Receivers
Austin was the WR28 in PPR leagues last year and 32nd in points per game (8.8), but had nine weeks at WR40 or lower. He had more than seven targets in a game just once, more than four receptions just four times (with no games with more than six), and had more than 50 receiving yards just twice. Austin was also extremely fortuitous with his red zone touches, scoring all seven of his red zone touches. For a guy of his ilk, that’s not sustainable. With possible scoring regression and without a consistent receiving floor, you’re left banking on the rushing output from a wide receiver, something that is extremely fragile.
The Jets Will Lead the NFL in Pass Attempts in 2016
Last season the Jets ranked 16th in passing plays called (39.1 per game) and 15th in overall attempts, but trailed for just 40.7 percent of their offensive plays in 2015, which was the 12th fewest rate in the league. Despite that better than average rate of playing ahead on the scoreboard, the Jets still were one of the highest in paced teams, ranking 6th in plays per game (67.1). When they were trailing, they were more willing to sling it around the yard, throwing the ball 71.2 percent of the time (7th highest). The Jets went 6-2 last season versus the NFC East and AFC South while trading those matchups for the NFC West and AFC North as they play one of the hardest projected schedules in the league. If they maintain a similar pace and just trail for the league average rate of 46 percent of their snaps, they can gain close to two full games of passing volume, but if they fall into the bottom third range around 60 percent, we’re talking near another 150 pass calls for the season.
Stefon Diggs is a Top-36 Scoring Wide Receiver
Once he cracked the lineup in Week 4, Diggs had as many receptions (52) as Amari Cooper with just 60 fewer receiving yards (720) and one less touchdown (four). He opened up his career with five consecutive top-30 scoring games, showing us that he has a high ceiling in his repertoire and was a top-30 scorer in five of seven games in which he bested just five targets. The Minnesota offense itself may not be enough to vault Diggs there as he seen at least 20 percent of the tram targets in eight of his 13 games last season, but with rookie Laquon Treadwell expected to make a slower transition out of the gates playing behind Charles Johnson to start the season, Diggs has the opportunity to be focal point of the Minnesota passing game.
A.J. Green is the Highest Scoring Wide Receiver This Season
Green has finished 16th and 12th in points per game over the past two seasons. In 2014, Green battled multiple injuries all season long while last season was a true drop in usage as his targets per route fell to a low point in his career outside of his rookie season. With the departure of the Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones paired with the unknown status of Tyler Eifert and Brandon LaFell to start the season, Green should be littered with targets this season in the same context that we saw Julio Jones be targeted last season. While the Bengals will still likely be too good of a real team for Green to approach Jones’ 200 targets, Green getting close to the 164 and 178 targets that he had in 2012 and 2013 isn’t a far stretch. Green ranked third and 6th in points per game those seasons, but if he rolls over his career high efficiency from last season to some degree, he could vault up to the very top of the position.