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Fantasty Football 2012: Predicting Stats for Last Year's Top 20 Producers

Projected Top Producer for 2012: Aaron Rodgers
Projected Top Producer for 2012: Aaron RodgersJonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Professor BushCorrespondent IIIJuly 14, 2012

Who will be the top fantasy football producers this season? Well, first of all, that depends on what scoring system your league uses. Does your league penalize a quarterback for throwing an interception and more for a Pick Six?  Does your league give points per pass reception? Does your league count return yardage? These are key issues which might make the rankings you see from various sources to be of limited value to you.

So the Professor of Fantasy Sports will give you something better than rankings. I will provide predictions on actual performance data for the top players. This way you can plug them into your own league scoring system and determine the appropriate rankings to use for your draft.  My predictions will include the top-20 fantasy-point producers from the Yahoo! league I ran last year. So maybe these will help you in the first two rounds of a ten-team draft.

Note that these players are listed in order of last year's  production. The comment in the last column summarizes the changes from last year: down one or two notches, about the same, or up one notch. If you are interested in knowing why there are more downs than ups, it is due to "regression to the mean." (Have some fun and grab a statistics book for more detail on that topic.)

Player Pass Pass INT Rush Rush Receive Receive Receive Return Return  Change
  Yards TDs   Yards TDs  No. Yards   TDs  Yards   TDs  
Brees  4600  39  14   75              Down 2
Rodgers  4500  45   8  200   2             Same
Brady  5000  35  12  100   2             Same
Stafford  4900  39  12    75   1             Up 1
Newton  4100   25  14   500   9             Down 1
E. Manning   4000  23  14                  Down 2
 Rice       1200    10    70   700    3         Same
 C. Johnson             100    1500   15       Same
 Ryan  4000   28   12   50   1             Same
 Romo  3350   25  10    50  1              Down 2
 Welker             95   1400    8       Down 1
 McCoy  5    1    1170  15   43    385    2       Down 1
 Sproles         500   3   75    700    6   1200    1   Same
 Gronkowski             100  1500   15       Up 1
 Rivers  4200  25    16                 Same
 Nelson             70  1300  12       Same
 Cruz             85  1350  12       Up 1
 Harvin        200  1   90  1000   7   400   1   Same
 Foster                       Same
 J. Graham         50   1   85   1100    8       Same


Here are the major changes I see from last year among this elite group of fantasy producers.

Drew Brees. With all the drama surrounding the New Orleans Saints, it is difficult to see how Brees can replicate last year's numbers, so I have reduced them by 15 percent across the board. This will leave Aaron Rodgers as the top producer.

Cam Newton. With a year's worth of experience under his belt, we can expect the 17 interceptions to be reduced. But, I also believe that defenses will design schemes to contain his running, just as they managed to do with Mike Vick and other running quarterbacks. With that in mind, I have cut back both the rushing yardage and rushing touchdowns substantially from last year.

Matt Stafford. As with Newton, I think Stafford will be able to cut down on his interceptions, and therefore pass Tom Brady on the quarterback ranking this year.

Tony Romo and Eli Manning.  At times last year, the Philadelphia Eagles defense was atrocious and quarterbacks in the NFC East were the benefactors.  The Eagles have made some moves to shore up their defense, so I think both Romo and Manning might have a little more trouble in those two division games.  In addition, it is reasonable to think that the division patsy, the Washington Redskins, might be a little better with the arrival of Robert Griffin III.  Furthermore, I think they will each miss a few games this year, so I've reduced the numbers for Romo and Manning by 20 percent from last year.

LeSean McCoy.  There were times last year, due to injuries, that McCoy was the entire Eagles offense. In addition, he is not really that large of a running back to sustain all that action. So I'm looking for the Eagles to diversify their offense a little more this year, which will result in McCoy's numbers dropping off a little, let's say 10 percent across the board.

Rob Gronkowski. I don't see a new breed of linebackers or strong safeties emerging to slow him down. I predict that he will replace Wes Welker as the Patriots' leading receiver. I think it is a safe bet that Gronk will end up with 100 catches and 1500 yards.

Arian Foster. Given his injuries this year and the emergence of Ben Tate, I think that the Texans will reduce his workload a little this year. Like McCoy, I see a modest reduction in his production per game from last year. But since he missed three games last year, I see his total production for the year staying about the same as last year.

Victor Cruz.  For all the yardage and receptions last year, Cruz only had nine touchdowns. I see that improving a little this year, since the Giants' WR corps is a little thinner this year. This will make him a little more valuable than Gordy Nelson this year and start getting into the Welker range.

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