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20 shocking fantasy football predictions for 2017


The Red Wedding episode of "Game of Thrones." The failure of Todd Gurley for fantasy owners (at least this one) last season. The ending of the movie "The Sixth Sense." The results of Super Bowl LI after the Atlanta Falcons took a 28-3 lead. That scene in "House of Cards," Season Five, when Claire Underwood (and not Frank) talked to the viewers. The re-emergence of Matt Ryan last year.

"What are things that were shocking, Alex?"

Odd things always seem to happen in our world, whether it's politics, entertainment or sports, so sometimes you have to think at least somewhat outside the box (and sometimes far out of it) when you're in the business of predicting the future. With that said, here are 20 potential scenarios that would not shock me if they came true during the course of the 2017 fantasy football campaign.

It wouldn't shock me if ... Jay Ajayi leads the league in rushing yards: Ajayi averaged 84.8 rushing yards a game last season, and that includes a three-game stretch (Weeks 2-4) where he saw 18 carries. He was also a yards-after-contact machine, and his projected volume is massive.

It wouldn't shock me if ... Matt Ryan records 75-100 fewer fantasy points: Ryan was one of the best quarterbacks in fantasy football a season ago, but I doubt he'll duplicate his impressive totals under new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Remember, it's often hard to repeat a "magical" fantasy season.

It wouldn't shock me if ... Sammy Watkins finishes as a top-10 wideout: Watkins is one of the most talented young wideouts in the NFL, he's entering a contract year and there isn't much competition for targets on the Bills. Injuries are a concern, of course, but Watkins should have his best year.

It wouldn't shock me if ... Mike Gillislee finishes with 10-plus touchdowns: The Patriots like to run the football in the red- and green-zones and Gillislee is the most likely of all their backs to fill the LeGarrette Blount role from a season ago. Double-digit touchdowns are well within reach.

It wouldn't shock me if ... Bilal Powell leads running backs in catches: Powell was targeted four or fewer times in 10 of his 16 games last season, and he still finished with 58 catches. Projected as a top offensive option on this "Suck for Sam (Darnold)" roster, Powell has massive PPR potential.

It wouldn't shock me if ... Joe Mixon leads rookie runners in fantasy points: I have Leonard Fournette ranked as the top fantasy rookie overall, but Mixon has moved up into the top 20 at his position. I know Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard remain in the mix, but I'm sold on Mixon's upside.

It wouldn't shock me if ... Four rookies finish among the top-20 runners: Those four rookies are Fournette, Mixon, Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook. Of course, we're very likely to see another Jordan Howard scenario too, so watch out for Kareem Hunt, Samaje Perine and Jamaal Williams.

It wouldn't shock me if ... No rookie wide receivers finish among the top 30: Don't look for a Michael Thomas this season, folks. Corey Davis and Mike Williams find themselves in crowded pass attacks, and I'm not buying into Zay Jones, John Ross or Curtis Samuel as consistent point scorers.

It wouldn't shock me if ... Carlos Hyde puts up over 1,200 rushing yards: I predicted 1,000 yards from Hyde last season and missed by 12 yards because he was absent in three games. I'm seeing a lot of fantasy analysts shun him now, but not me. I'd still take Hyde in the fourth round.

It wouldn't shock me if ... Marcus Mariota finishes as a top-five quarterback: Mariota might have more upside than any young quarterback in the league. In an offense that now fields rookie Corey Davis and touchdown-machine Eric Decker, Mariota could be this season's Matt Ryan.

It wouldn't shock me if ... Marshawn Lynch finishes with 200 fantasy points: Beast Mode might be 31 and coming off a "retirement" season, but I believe he can rush for 1,200 yards and 10-12 touchdowns in Oakland. With around 200 receiving yards mixed in, Lynch will hit the 200-point mark.

It wouldn't shock me if ... Jameis Winston finishes as a top-10 fantasy quarterback: Winston has a ton of weapons in the pass attack, including Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, so his arrow is pointing upward. I'm expecting him to have his best fantasy campaign.

It wouldn't shock me if ... Stefon Diggs finishes as a top-10 wide receiver: Diggs, entering his third NFL season, recorded 903 yards with three touchdowns in 13 games in 2016. His upside to produce much bigger things is apparent though, and I think he'll do it in 2017. Don't pass on him.

It wouldn't shock me if ... Isaiah Crowell finishes as a top-10 running back: Crowell was 14th in points among backs last season, and he could be even better in 2017. That's due to the additions of Kevin Zeitler and JC Tretter to an offensive line that could be one of the NFL's best.

It wouldn't shock me if ... Terrelle Pryor finishes with 1,300-plus yards: Pryor recorded 1,007 yards a season ago on a Cleveland team that had five quarterbacks throw passes. None of them were Brian Sipe, either. Now in Washington's offense, Pryor's potential is pretty darn evident.

It wouldn't shock me if ... Andy Dalton finishes as a top-10 fantasy quarterback: Dalton has a lot of weapons that include A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, John Ross, Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd, but no one is talking about him in fantasy land. He could turn into a tremendous draft bargain.

It wouldn't shock me if ... Martavis Bryant finishes with double-digit touchdowns: People might forget, because Bryant was suspended last season, but this kid has scored 15 touchdowns in his first 21 NFL contests. A huge playmaker, I like Bryant to make some noise in fantasy land.

It wouldn't shock me if ... DeShaun Watson finishes as a top-15 quarterback: When you can run the football like Watson, you have an asset that most fantasy fans should drool over at the quarterback position. He just has to beat Tom Savage for the top spot on the depth chart in camp.

It wouldn't shock me if ... Alshon Jeffery fails to post 1,000 receiving yards: Jeffery hasn't had even 900 yards in two straight seasons, so how would this be a shocking situation? Well, he's projected as a borderline No. 1 or 2 fantasy wideout in a plenty of rankings. I see loads of risk.

It wouldn't shock me if ... Eddie Lacy fails to finish with 700 rushing yards: Lacy is expected to lead Seattle's backfield, but do you think Thomas Rawls is going to disappear altogether? And how about C.J. Prosise? This has all the look of a backfield committee headache, so owners beware.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!