Who will lead the NFL in passing touchdowns? Drew Brees? Aaron Rodgers? Andrew Luck? Or Eli Manning -- a quarterback who's never topped the category, but who has recorded the most interceptions in the league on three separate occasions?
With the 2016 NFL season tantalizingly close to kicking off, I thought I'd run through nine key statistical categories and attempt to pick the player who will lead each by the time Week 17 draws to a close. Unlike when I did this exercise last year, I don't see a ton of movement atop many of these categories. Below, you'll find the predicted leader for each category, along with their predicted final total, previous season's ranking and other players considered.
Passing yards: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Will finish with: 5,010 passing yards.
2015 rank: No. 1, with 4,870.
Brees is 37 and entering a contract season. I think he's a prideful guy who would like to play several more years and run up some records. I spent some time with him in Chicago during this year's draft week, and he looked like he was in the best shape of his life. I don't think I've seen him more excited about a season. Receiver Brandin Cooks has a ton of run-after-the-catch ability and should continue to come into his own in Year 3. New tight end Coby Fleener will help, while receiver Willie Snead is a real sleeper. Brees is just 458 yards away from passing Dan Marino for third on the all-time list, and he'll easily get there when he notches his fifth -- fifth! -- 5,000-yard season.
Passing TDs: Eli Manning, New York Giants
Will finish with: 40 passing touchdowns.
2015 rank: No. 2 (t), with 35.
New head coach Ben McAdoo's offense is made for Manning, and I think the quarterback will only be better in his third year in the former coordinator's system. Odell Beckham Jr. is a matchup nightmare with tremendous athletic ability. Victor Cruz should be back, while the Giants added a very good rookie receiver in Sterling Shepard. Plus, left tackle Ereck Flowers will be in his second pro season, while running back Shane Vereen (11 receiving touchdowns, including four in 2015) should be a factor. Manning is more athletic than most people envision him being. Coming off a season in which he notched a career-high 35 touchdown tosses, the 35-year-old quarterback is in peak form.
Rushing yards: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Will finish with: 1,625 rushing yards.
2015 rank: No. 1, with 1,485.
I think Peterson is out to prove something at 31; he would like nothing better than to become the only two-time member of the 2K club and break Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record (2,105). Even if he falls short, he should become the first repeat rushing leader since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2007. Minnesota coordinator Norv Turner loves to run the ball, as does line coach Tony Sparano, whose unit should get a big boost from the additions of Andre Smith and Alex Boone, plus the return to health of John Sullivan. Rookie receiver Laquon Treadwell, meanwhile, should help open things up for Peterson a bit -- and he's a great run blocker, whose presence should lead to additional long gains for Peterson this season.
Rushing TDs: Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals
Will finish with: 14 rushing touchdowns.
2015 rank: No. 1 (t), with 11.
When we built the perfect running back a few weeks ago, we harvested Hill's power-running ability, because he's a big, strong goal-line weapon with a lot of skills. He's not just a straight-line guy who puts his head down and churns his legs; he has a lot of good movement. If tight end Tyler Eifert gets healthy (and stays healthy), of course, that could cut into Hill's red-zone chances somewhat. But I still like him to be a force in this category.
Receiving yards: Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
Will finish with: 2,001 receiving yards.
2015 rank: No. 1, with 1,871.
Like Steelers dynamo Antonio Brown, Jones had nine games of 100-plus receiving yards in 2015. Jones has a good quarterback throwing him the ball in Matt Ryan and a knack for turning mid-to-short-range catches into long gains -- only this season, Jones will have the benefit of working with an honest-to-God No. 2 in Mohamed Sanu, who should help take some defensive coverage away from him. In this age of premier receivers, Jones flies under the radar a bit in Atlanta, but I think he has a good shot of becoming the first receiver to break the 2,000-yard mark.
Receiving TDs: Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
Will finish with: 15 receiving touchdowns.
2015 rank: No. 1 (t), with 14.
I've liked Robinson, who started getting some love last season, since he entered the NFL in 2014. He has great hands and great size, and I think he and Jags QB Blake Bortles work well together. As a guy who can break off his fair share of long runs (eight catches of 40-plus yards, including six last season), Robinson is a threat to score from anywhere on the field, while his frame makes him an excellent red-zone asset. Adding running back Chris Ivory might cut into Robinson's scoring opportunities a bit, but I think he'll see the end zone plenty as he solidifies himself as a perennial Pro Bowler.
Sacks: Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders
Will finish with: 19 sacks.
2015 rank: No. 2, with 15.
Mack has great quickness and ability to rush the passer. He's a competitor who never gives up; he always keeps after his quarry. Even if he's momentarily run out of the play or turned around, he finds a way to zero in on the quarterback. He didn't rack up many sacks as rookie -- when he was used mostly as a linebacker -- but he really came on strong last season, especially from Week 12 to Week 15, when he notched 10 sacks. Mack was unblockable by the end of his second pro campaign. His position coach, Jethro Franklin, is a great teacher, and the Raidersreally focus on the pass rush, spending about twice as much time on it as everyone else does.
Interceptions: Marcus Peters, Kansas City Chiefs
Will finish with: 8.
2015 rank: No. 1 (t), with 8.
When the ball is thrown his way and he has a chance to make a play on it, Peters doesn't drop it -- he boasts very good hands. He's also a very strong runner. I like Peters' chances of becoming the first player since Everson Walls in the early '80s to lead the NFL in picks in both his rookie year and Year 2 of his career.
Tackles: Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys
Will finish with: 146.
2015 rank: No. 6 (t), with 128.
Lee is a tackling machine. He is very athletic and is all over the place -- in pursuit and at the point of attack. Staying healthy has been a challenge for Lee, who has yet to play a 16-game season, but if he can avoid the trainer's table, he has the skill to lead the way in this category. Lee is also an off-the-charts worker who is very competitive, able to be on the field for all three downs. He's very smart and has a sense of where the play is going.