Predicting NFL Stat Leaders for Every Category in 2013

Wes StueveContributor IIIJune 18, 2013

Predicting NFL Stat Leaders for Every Category in 2013

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    Predictions are difficult. All the previous evidence can lead in one direction but then be entirely wrong. So, predicting stat leaders in 2013 may be an exercise in futility, but it's still an interesting one.

    There are many ways to look at this. First of all, it is crucial to see who did well last year. It's far from a given that statistical leaders from 2012 will repeat in 2013, but it is certainly a possibility. Few players who weren't near the top last year will be No. 1 this year.

    Most important, though, is ability and situation. Calvin Johnson is clearly a phenomenal talent, so he should be a consideration for every receiving statistic. Megatron's ability is more important than the fact that he led in many stats a year ago.

    It's easy to analyze hindsight, but looking to the future proves much more troublesome. Which players will prove to be the best of the best in 2013?

Passing Yards

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    Drew Brees led the NFL in passing yards each of the past two seasons. It would be unwise to predict anyone other than him to lead the NFL this year. 

    Three times in his career, Brees has thrown for over 5,000 yards, and he holds the all-time record for most yards in a single season. Sure, there are players capable of taking away his title, but is it smart to expect that?

    Given Brees' track record and the return of Sean Payton, no, it would not be. 

Passing Touchdowns

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    Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback on the planet.

    That sounds overly dramatic or too simple, but it's true. No one is better at playing quarterback than Aaron Rodgers. He is continually among the league's leaders in every quarterback statistic and dominates like few ever have.

    So why shouldn't he lead the NFL in touchdowns? Rodgers has never done it before—he came in second the past two years—but he could at any time.

    Green Bay's run game should take a step forward in 2013, but that won't limit Rodgers' own opportunities to score.

    The Packers will still be relying on him to get into the end zone.

Passer Rating

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    Unlike with touchdowns, Aaron Rodgers has led the NFL in passer rating the past two years. There is plenty of reason to think he will do it again.

    The Packers lost Greg Jennings, sure, but Randall Cobb seems poised to take a big step forward, and Jordy Nelson remains a formidable option. Rodgers won't be hurting for weapons.

    More important, of course, is Rodgers' own ability. He picks up yards, throws touchdown and rarely forces turnovers. All these traits make him passer rating's ideal match. 

    Did I mention that Rodgers has the best single-season passing rating ever?

Rushing Yards

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    A year ago, this guy was eight yards away from breaking the single-season rushing record. Oh, and that was in his first year back from a torn ACL.

    A year later, Adrian Peterson should be looking at another historic season. The 28-year-old is still plenty young, and his improved health will make him all the more dominant. 

    The Minnesota offense could also be better equipped for a huge season from Peterson. The additions of Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson along with the hopeful progression of Christian Ponder should mean that defenses can't focus quite as much on stopping the run game.

    Even if that doesn't turn out as planned, though, Peterson should be racking up the yards as he again carries the Vikings offense. 

Yards Per Carry

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    Jamaal Charles has the highest yards per attempt ever for a running back, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. In 2012, fresh of a torn ACL, Charles had a "down" year, averaging just 5.3 yards a pop.

    Healthier than ever, Charles is in prime condition to dominate. The Chiefs offensive line is stronger after using the No. 1 overall draft pick on Eric Fisher, and Charles should have plenty of room to run.

    Kansas City also has a better quarterback in Alex Smith. The improved play here should give Charles more room to run, even if he doesn't have quite as many opportunities. 

Receptions

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    How can it not be Calvin Johnson?

    Yeah, there are some spectacular wide receivers in the NFL, but Johnson is on another level entirely. His 2012 season was perhaps the best year for a wideout ever. His 122 catches weren't even close to his best statistic.

    Those 122 receptions were still enough to lead the NFL, of course. 

    One could argue that defenses will be more tuned in on Johnson this year, but that isn't really possible. NFL teams already knew they had to double-team him, and it didn't work. They can't possibly pay more attention to him.

    Which leaves this stat wide open for Johnson to reclaim. 

Receiving Yards

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    Yeah, big surprise, I know. But picking anyone else would be ludicrous. 

    In 2012, Calvin Johnson had 366 more receiving yards than anyone else. He shattered the all-time single-season record, besting Jerry Rice by over 100 yards. 

    So, remind me, why shouldn't this be Johnson? It's a boring pick, an expected pick, but it is the right one. He is clearly the NFL's best and most productive wide receiver, and no one else comes particularly close. 

    It's possible that someone will beat Megatron here, but there is no reason to predict that a specific player beats him. 

Receiving Touchdowns

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    Yeah, him again.

    In 2012, Calvin Johnson's touchdown numbers were down. He scored just five touchdowns after scoring 16 the year before and 12 the year before that.

    It's fair to expect Johnson to regress back to the mean and break double-digit scores again in 2013. Save a single statistical abnormality, there is no reason to expect he won't. His skill set and previous statistics both suggest he will. 

    If he were healthy, Rob Gronkowski might be the answer here. However, Gronkowski's 2013 is uncertain as he recovers from back surgery and remains a wild card. 

Tackles

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    This is probably the most difficult category to predict with any accuracy. Over the past five years, no player has led the NFL in tackles twice. There isn't repetition here.

    Last year, Luke Kuechly led the NFL in tackles, picking up 164. This year, Jon Beason will hopefully be back taking away some of those stops.

    So why not a fellow 2012 draftee in Bobby Wagner? Wagner had 140 tackles in 2012, and he should be able to pick up more after a year's development.

    Wagner is fast, athletic and explosive. He makes plays behind the line of scrimmage, in coverage and downfield. There is nothing he can't do, and he could be ready to break out in a big, big way.

Sacks

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    Three pass-rushers from the 2011 draft led the NFL in sacks last year. J.J. Watt had 20.5, Aldon Smith had 19.5 and Von Miller had 18.5. Miller is the pick here.

    There isn't a more explosive or fluid pass-rusher than Miller. He doesn't play quite the same role Smith and Watt do—Miller plays outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme—but he is more dynamic.

    In 2013, with Elvis Dumervil now a Baltimore Raven, the Broncos will be relying on Miller's pass rush more than ever, and he may have more chances to attack the quarterback. 

    If he does, Miller is the easy pick here, as he continually amazes when rushing. 

Interceptions

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    In 2012, Richard Sherman had both the second-most interceptions and the second-most pass deflections.

    These two numbers bode well for Sherman continuing to pick off passes.

    Pass deflections can tell if a player is getting lucky with his interceptions. Because Sherman had so many deflections, he clearly wasn't. He was making good plays on the ball and putting himself in position to pick off passes. 

    Of players who had nearly as many interceptions as Sherman did, he had far more pass deflections. No one else was as dominant in both areas.

    Last year, Sherman solidified himself as an elite cornerback. Look for him to add to his reputation with another outstanding season, one in which he leads the NFL in interceptions.