Five Fantasy Predictions for 2009

Joe FortenbaughCorrespondent ISeptember 9, 2009

HOUSTON - AUGUST 31:  Quarterback Brett Favre #4 of the Minnesota Vikings leaves the field after leading the Vikings to a 17-10 win over the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on August 31, 2009 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Bold predictions and forecasts are a part of any preseason NFL discussion. With that in mind, today I present my five predictions for the upcoming fantasy season. I’m positive this is going to stir some debate, so you know where to find me if you don’t agree with what you’re about to read.

Just a reminder: The 2009 NFP Total Access Pass is launching this week. Rankings, projections, live chats, injury updates, start ‘em/sit ‘em breakdowns and much, much more. Click HERE to check it out!

Five Fantasy Predictions for 2009

1. Joe Flacco is going to be a hot waiver wire pickup

I’ve been acquiring Flacco as my QB2 in almost every fantasy draft I’ve had to this point. Why? For starters, most owners don’t even have him on their radar, meaning he can be had for an excellent price. In addition, the second-year quarterback out of Delaware is going to take the next step this season.

Flacco spent 2008 trying to do two things—avoid mistakes and give his defense good field position. His ability to function adequately in both of these areas helped the Ravens get to (and lose) the AFC championship game at Pittsburgh.

Expect offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to open up the offense more in 2009 and let Flacco take to the skies. He looked very impressive this preseason handling the blitz, moving around in the pocket and throwing the ball down the field. Baltimore hosts the lowly Chiefs in Week 1. For owners with quarterback issues entering the season, Flacco will be snagged off waivers very quickly.

2. Beanie Wells will not play 16 games

Look, I’m not saying the guy isn’t talented. I’m also not saying that he won’t be productive when he gets on the field this season for the Cardinals. All I’m doing is predicting that a guy with a history of injury problems will continue to suffer injuries.

Wells missed three games for Ohio State last year because of a right foot injury he suffered during the first week of the season against Youngstown State. He also got knocked out of the Fiesta Bowl against Texas at the end of the year with a concussion.

After getting drafted by the Cardinals in the first round, signing his contract and showing up for camp, Wells promptly sprained an ankle and missed the team’s first preseason game.

He’s a hard runner who doesn’t shy away from contact. He’s going to pound a few balls into the end zone this year for Arizona, but he won’t be playing in all 16 games.

3. Tomlinson, Hasselbeck and Ochocinco are going to make you pay for passing them up

All three players are getting older, coming back from injuries and falling down draft boards around the country. I’m sure many of you will disagree (especially on LT because that seems to be the trend this preseason), but you’re going to be kicking yourself for letting at least one of these guys get by you this past August.

I’m still not sure why everyone is so down on Tomlinson. The guy was a top-10 fantasy running back last season despite battling leg and groin injuries throughout the year. He’s now 100 percent healthy, plays on one of the league’s most explosive offenses and gets six games against the Broncos, Chiefs and Raiders.

Hasselbeck is being viewed as little more than a QB2 after appearing in only seven games last season. With newly acquired receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh lining up wide, emerging tight end John Carlson making plays over the middle and six games against the NFC West, Hass could crack the top 10 in scoring among fantasy QBs.

The Seahawks’ defense looks like it might struggle to slow down its opponents, meaning Hasselbeck and the offense will have to keep their foot on the gas for four quarters in 2009.

Ochocinco looks primed for a big season—as long as Carson Palmer can stay healthy. The wide receiver admitted he lacked focus and was in bad shape entering 2008. Combine that with a preseason shoulder injury and what you get is the statistical mess Esteban produced last year.

Remember, this guy is still looking for a long-term contract and came into camp in much better shape after spending part of the offseason boxing in an effort to get into better playing condition. The fact that he isn’t among the first 20 receivers drafted will make him a 2009 steal.

4. The Vikings will fold late and miss the playoffs

With the exception of running back Adrian Peterson, owners need to be very cautious about how dependent they become on players like Favre, Berrian, Harvin and Shiancoe.

Favre turns 40 years old in October and missed almost all of the preseason while he was debating whether to return to the NFL for a 19th season. The lack of physical conditioning is going to take its toll on the future Hall of Famer come November and December—right when the Vikings hit a very challenging stretch of games.

Minnesota’s final six contests will be a big test for Brad Childress’ bunch as the Vikes host the Bears, travel to Arizona, host Cincinnati and then hit the road to take on the Panthers and Bears before returning to the Metrodome to close out the season against the New York Giants.

Remember, Favre collapsed big time down the stretch last year for the Jets as he threw just two touchdown passes and nine interceptions while leading the Jets to a 1-4 record over their final five games.

With another year of wear and tear on his body, owners shouldn’t expect to see Favre or the Vikings in the postseason this year.

5. The Eagles defense will take a step back while the Saints defense will take a step forward

The 2009 season has not gotten off to a good start for the Philadelphia Eagles—and they haven’t even played a game yet. Last year’s No. 2-ranked fantasy defense lost longtime defense coordinator Jim Johnson to cancer and middle linebacker Stewart Bradley to a torn ACL.

What makes matters more difficult is that Philly is struggling to find Bradley’s replacement. Joe Mays was given every opportunity to win the job, yet he couldn’t produce on the field. While Omar Gaither may start the season in Bradley’s spot, the Eagles should expect opposing offenses to recognize this weakness and attack it on Sundays. I hate to say it, but the Birds are going to struggle this year.

Meanwhile, new Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is going to bring his aggressive style of defense to the Big Easy and turn around a unit that finished 2009 ranked 24th out of 32 in fantasy scoring.

The Saints looked very impressive defensively this preseason, giving up just 9.5 points per game against the Texans, Dolphins, Bengals and Raiders.

If New Orleans can get a quality pass rush from defensive ends Charles Grant and Will Smith, this unit will take a big step forward in 2009. Keep your eye on the waiver wire. The Saints will be a hot pickup.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh