Pro Football Focus is home to the world’s most high-tech fantasy football projections machine that is able to project an entire season in the span of mere seconds. Okay, that’s a lie. There’s no machine. It’s actually me. In a room. Alone. For a month.
You read that right. We don’t have any fancy projections machine. Instead, the first batch of numbers in PFF’s 2018 fantasy football projections and every subsequent update is produced by yours truly. To establish these numbers, we use several objective data points and sprinkle in some subjective knowledge of team tendencies, player usage, and other elements of the game.
Of course, this first batch of numbers will change after the draft later this month, but we can still get an overall sense of what to expect from each team this season. So let’s take a look at some of the interesting numbers from this first batch of projections.
The top of the list goes as you might expect with Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady holding the first two spots. Brady projects out to lead the league in passing yards with 4,412. That will be quite a feat in his age-41 season, but Brady showed no signs of slowing down last season and topped the league with 4,577 yards. Rodgers only projects out ninth in passing yards, but is one of just three signal-callers to project with more than 30 touchdown passes — the other two are Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.
Last year, we saw big-time breakouts from Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson. The duo come in at Nos. 5 and 6, respectively, in terms of fantasy scoring. Wentz has the edge in terms of passing yards at 4,136 to 3,781 for Watson. But we expect Watson to continue to add fantasy value with his legs and have him with 313 rushing yards, fourth at the position.
There’s going to be a lot of fantasy attention paid to Patrick Mahomes and Jimmy Garoppolo this season. Mahomes has the edge out of the gate, thanks in part to higher expected rushing numbers. We have Garoppolo just cracking the 4,000-yard mark with 22 touchdown passes. Those numbers are certainly conservative, but they could also increase if the 49ers add some talent at wide receiver in the draft. Mahomes is a huge wild card this season, and we also conservatively projected him at 3,972 yards and 23 passing touchdowns.
This first batch of numbers suggests a regression could be in store for Todd Gurley, but don’t get too carried away. This is only a minor correction in his touchdown efficiency. Gurley scored 13 times as a runner last season and six as a receiver. Our numbers have him with 10 rushing scores and 1.5 receiving touchdowns. Gurley is still an elite option, but the numbers suggest he isn’t the clear-cut No. 1 pick, with Le’Veon Bell and Alvin Kamara projecting with more PPR points than Gurley.
Ezekiel Elliott nearly topped 1,000 yards last season despite missing six games due to suspension. He comes in as our best bet the lead the league in rushing yards (1,376) and touchdowns (10.5). While Elliott is all but guaranteed to go in the first round of fantasy drafts this year, he’s going somewhat overlooked in fantasy drafts. In Elliott, you can likely get an elite option who has a legitimate chance of leading the position in fantasy points in the middle of the first round.
Like Garoppolo, a lot of fantasy eyes are on Jerick McKinnon in San Francisco. Our numbers are pretty happy with McKinnon, projecting him with 840 yards and 3.5 scores on the ground to go along with 64 catches for 446 yards and three scores. That’s a big number for McKinnon as a receiver, but keep in mind that Carlos Hyde ranked fifth among running backs with 83 targets last season. So McKinnon should see heavy usage as a receiver, which is an area he’s more than proficient, as he’s coming off 51 catches last season.
There aren’t any surprises at the top of the wide receiver projections, though our numbers suggest the fantasy masses may be undervaluing Julio Jones. It’s understandable after he managed just three receiving scores last season. But don’t forget that he saw a massive 16 end-zone targets. If that usage in the red zone continues, his touchdown total is all but guarantee to go up. Our numbers have that total shooting up to eight receiving scores this season.
With Jordy Nelson out of the mix, Davante Adams is now the undisputed No. 1 wide receiver in Green Bay. Since 2007, the Packers have had at least one fantasy WR1 on their roster in 8-of-11 seasons. The odds are certainly in Adams’ favor this year, and our numbers love him. He’s projected with the third-highest touchdown total (10) to go along with 94 catches for 1,207.
Allen Robinson isn’t likely to recapture the magic that propelled him to 1,400 yards and 14 scores in 2015, but he’s in a good position to produce in Chicago. Our numbers position him as a WR2 with 72 catches for 1,058 yards and 7.6 scores. However, the projections aren’t as kind to fellow 2018 free agent Sammy Watkins. We do have Watkins topping 100 targets, but his projection of 57 catches for 884 yards and 5.6 scores puts Watkins back with the WR4s.
At this point, we have to assume that Rob Gronkowski will play in 2018 and will be on the Patriots. Of course, anything can happen in the NFL, but Gronk projects out as the clear top option. As you might expect, Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce are also among the top names at the position. However, one name really stands out in the top five: Hunter Henry. The numbers absolutely love the third-year tight end, projecting him with 62 catches for 799 yards and eight scores. Henry is one of the biggest breakout candidates of 2018.
So those are some of the numbers that stood out after this first batch was produced, but go and take a look at our projections for yourself. Don’t forget that you can also check our full IDP projections along with our projections for team defense, kicker, and even returners.