The Talented Mr. Roto: You heard me
Though the Giants are double-digit underdogs to an undefeated team, they will win the Super Bowl. Derek Anderson, currently behind Charlie Frye on the Browns' depth chart, will become the starter for the Browns instead of Brady Quinn and will end up a top-10 fantasy quarterback. Earnest Graham and Ryan Grant, buried deep on their respective teams' depth charts, will become the starting running backs for their teams and combine for 18 touchdowns and more than 2,000 yards.
Had I written the above paragraph a year ago, you'd have called me well, a lot of the names people used when I ranked Billy Wagner in the 200s for my second-half baseball rankings. (For what it's worth, Wagner has only five saves in the second half and probably will miss the rest of the year.) And yet, as crazy as the above paragraph would have sounded a year ago, all of it would have turned out to be true.
You are hard-core, or you are not hard-core. The world is divided into two types of people. You're gutsy or conservative. You're brave or scared. You push all your chips to the middle or you fold. Call it what you will, but either way you cut it, you're one of two types of people.
Sure, it's a bit of a simplistic view, but I am nothing if not simplistic, especially when it suits the needs of a column. I did a version of this for baseball, and I'm doing it again.
You heard me.
As in, I say at least five other players will score more fantasy points this year than the most consistent player in fantasy the past three years, LaDainian Tomlinson. You heard me.
Some call it bold predictions. Some call it outrageous statements. Some don't call it anything at all, because talking out loud to a column is weird. Whatever it is, they're proclamations I believe in. So what do you do with these?
It all depends on the way you play. I'm the type who constantly goes for it. I don't care what others say or think. I've fallen flat on my face many times and will do so again in the future, but generally speaking, it has served me very well, both in fantasy sports and in life. I play to win. And winning isn't being happy with third, it's being angry about it. If I don't win, I don't care if I finish fourth or dead last. As the saying goes, no one remembers second place.
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So to win, you'll have to draft well, make smart pickups and trades and get lucky with your team's health. You'll also have to take some leaps of faith.
This doesn't mean you make stupid moves, OK? You need to play smart, and I make a lot suggestions on how to prepare yourself to do that in my Draft Day Manifesto. One of them is that I generally don't like rookie quarterbacks or wide receivers. But when you are in the middle and late rounds, you need to go with upside.
When we did our fantasy football draft special on "SportsCenter", a lot of people (including me) gave Merril Hoge grief for taking Rashard Mendenhall in the fifth round. I hated the pick because of value; Hoge could have gotten Mendenhall a few rounds later, easy. But Hoge believes in him (and knows a thing or two about Steelers running backs), so who are we to argue? If Mendenhall gets double-digit touchdowns, then his pick was a great one.
The idea is not that I nail every prediction. The idea is simply that it helps you draft. For example, in the preseason, I predicted 40 home runs for Rick Ankiel. Barring a major miracle, he'll fall short. But he currently has 24 and is on pace for 31, and for a guy who was going in the 18th round of drafts, he's a very nice return on the investment. I also said Joe Borowski would keep his job and reach 40 saves. Borowski is out of baseball and had only six saves this season. Yeesh. Hey, if you swing for the fences, sometimes you'll strike out. Or maybe you'll hit a double. It doesn't mean it wasn't worth trying.
All of which is to say, go safe in the first four rounds. Then bring it. Loud, proud and unapologetically. As I said in the baseball version, if you lead a fantasy sports life of quiet desperation, this is not the article for you (and frankly, I'm not the analyst for you). But I have some fantasy cojones. Do you?
2. Leonard Pope will catch seven touchdowns.
3. Michael Turner will finish with fewer than 1,000 yards rushing and seven touchdowns.
4. Willis McGahee will play every game this year and finish as a top-10 fantasy running back.
5. Troy Smith will net 24 total touchdowns.
6. Marshawn Lynch will earn more than 1,700 total yards and score double-digit touchdowns.
7. Steve Smith will not reach 1,000 yards or eight touchdowns. He'll play in only 12 games.
8. Devin Hester will finish the year as a top-25 fantasy wide receiver and score a total of 10 touchdowns.
10. Brady Quinn will start for the Browns by Week 9.
11. Marion Barber will finish the year as a top-five fantasy running back.
12. Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson will break up. And Romo will have his best game of the season the week after. And then Joe Simpson will say something creepy about his daughter.
13. Tony Scheffler will finish the year as a top-5 fantasy tight end.
15. Even more people will realize that because its leagues are 100 percent free and offer free live scoring, fully customizable options (including keeper league and fractional scoring) and an auction draft room, ESPN is the place to host your Fantasy Football League. Sign up now! (As you know, I'm a company man.)
16. James Jones will have 800 yards and seven touchdowns.
17. I'll make good on my baseball prediction of dating a totally sane woman.
18. Matt Schaub will throw for 3,500 yards and 28 touchdowns.
19. Dallas Clark will finish the year as the No. 1 fantasy tight end. You heard me.
20. David Garrard will be a top-10 fantasy quarterback this season and throw no more than six interceptions all season.
21. Reggie Williams will catch double-digit touchdowns again.
22. I'll beat Nate Ravitz in a footrace and win more of the board bets. We'll have a listener dress up as a monkey and be our slave for a day. (I'm telling you, you have to listen to our daily Fantasy Focus Football podcast.)
23. Kolby Smith will end the year as the leading rusher for the Chiefs.
24. Ted Ginn Jr. will reach 1,000 yards and score seven touchdowns.
25. Adrian Peterson (the Viking) will play fewer than 13 games this year and finish outside of the top five of fantasy running backs.
26. The new "90210" show will be terrible. Yet I'll still watch every episode. Tori Spelling will end up showing up, eventually.
28. No Saints running back will have more than 600 yards rushing or 1,000 total yards.
29. Eli Manning will have another disappointing second half, play poorly at home and finish with no more than 25 touchdowns.
30. Amani Toomer will catch seven touchdowns. You heard me.
31. Thomas Jones will be a top-10 fantasy running back.
32. Jerricho Cotchery will be a top-20 wide receiver.
33. Brett Favre's consecutive game streak will end this season. And Brett will get involved in a scandal before he realizes the New York media is very different than the Green Bay media.
34. Brett Favre will retire at the end of the season and do a long, tearful farewell at various stadiums. There'll be magazine covers and retrospectives.
35. Brett Favre will suit up for the Buccaneers next season.
36. Darren McFadden will have more than 1,600 total yards and score double-digit touchdowns.
38. Donovan McNabb will play all 16 games.
39. Santonio Holmes will finish the year as a top-12 fantasy wide receiver.
41. At least eight other tight ends will have a better fantasy season than Antonio Gates. You heard me.
42. Michael Phelps will "date" Lindsay Lohan and find himself in a weird love triangle with Samantha Ronson. For no apparent reason, a picture of the three of them with Wilmer Valderrama, David Spade and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog will show up on TMZ.
43. Frank Gore won't be a top-15 fantasy player this year. Specifically, he won't get 1,300 total yards or double-digit touchdowns.
44. Ben Obomanu will reach 800 yards and six touchdowns.
45. Tampa Bay's defense will return to being a top-five fantasy defense.
49. There will be at least 100 comments on this article on ESPN Conversation (beta!). At least 10 of them are positive.
50. My Redskins will win the Super Bowl, and Jim Zorn will be named coach of the year. Hey, it's my list. Make your own.
Matthew Berry -- the Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's senior director of fantasy. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is an Emmy Award winner for his work on Fantasy Football Now. Its new season debuts Sunday, Sept. 7 at 11 a.m. ET on ESPN.com. He is a multiple award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, and his awards include a Writer of the Year award. He is also the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price.
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