Our fantasy experts predict the numbers for 2011

The NFL can be unpredictable, but part of the fun of playing fantasy football is making prognostications on player performances for the upcoming season. With that said, NFL.com's Dave Dameshek, NFL.com senior editor Craig Ellenport, associate editor Adam Rank and I broke out our respective crystal balls in this fantasy version of "Over/Under." Each member of our experts panel will answer 10 statistical-based questions about some of the top players in fantasy football, and explain the basis of their predictions. Some of the results might surprise you.

Michael Vick -- over/under 34 total TDs

Ellenport: Under -- For starters, Vick's overall history at the NFL level suggests there's a decent chance he won't stay healthy long enough to post that many touchdowns. Secondly, let's think back to how good LeSean McCoy looked in the second half of last season. No doubt, McCoy's success out of the backfield had plenty to do with teams paying so much attention to his quarterback -- but that's the point: As long as Vick is healthy and productive, he will share more of the offensive spotlight with McCoy, who could very well have a breakout season himself.

Dameshek: Under -- That's a lot of visits to the end zone for someone who's bound to make at least one visit to the trainer's table. Vick's aggressive style of play makes him more vulnerable to injuries, which was the case last year when he missed time with injured ribs. It's going to be hard for him to find the end zone so often when he's sitting on the sidelines waiting to heal up. I also find it hard to believe that Vick will be able to find the same level of ridiculous success he found in 2010. That's asking a lot for any fantasy player.

Fabiano: Under -- Vick would have scored 40 total touchdowns over a full season based on his 2010 totals, but I just don't see him being that good again. Sure, his skills as a passer and runner make him one of the most lethal weapons in the entire NFL. But Vick's style of play makes him more vulnerable to injuries, and very few players ever duplicate a career year. Vick has everything going for him -- his skill set, a pass-laden offense, talent around him and a very favorable schedule -- I just think people need to temper their expectations.

Rank: Over -- I don't believe that Vick is going to necessarily take a step back from a statistical perspective this season. I see him being a lot like former 49ers great and Hall of Famer Steve Young, who followed a breakout year in 1992 with more yards and touchdowns the following season. I see Vick getting more comfortable in the offense of coach Andy Reid and having another big season. With that said, I believe he'll do better than 34 total touchdowns and could be in line for the best season of his career -- even better than 2010.

Tony Romo -- over/under 4,000 passing yards

Ellenport: Over -- Let's face it, 4,000 yards is really not that big a deal anymore, is it? Especially when you're a strong-armed quarterback playing for a coach who loves to throw the ball. And even though Jason Garrett had been the offensive coordinator in Dallas, he didn't take over the Cowboys' reins until after Romo got hurt last season. Cowboys signal-callers combined to throw for just over 4,000 yards passing as a team in 2010, which is a very telling statistic. A healthy Romo should easily top that sort of production in 2011.

Dameshek: Over -- this is a classic case of fantasy over reality here. Most quarterbacks in pass-heavy offenses toss for over four grand these days, and with the weapons Romo's got, he'll get there for sure. Take a look at the numbers he produced last year before he was flattened by Giants LB Michael Boley -- at one point, he was on pace to throw for over 5,000 yards, so throwing for 4,000 yards should be a walk in the park. Just don't pick Romo if you're in a postseason fantasy league. We all know how he performs at that time of the year.

Fabiano: Over -- I think this one is an absolute no-brainer. As long as Romo stays healthy, he's a virtual guarantee to hit the 4,000-yard passing mark in 2011. In fact, Romo has averaged 4,347 yards through the air in his two full seasons as the Cowboys' starter. Furthermore, he was on pace to finish with better than 5,000 yards based on the numbers in his five games in 2010. With a ton of weapons at his disposal and one of the easiest schedules among quarterbacks in the league, I think Romo could turn into an absolute steal in the middle rounds.

Rank: Over -- Well, Martellus Bennett might want to have an open competition at quarterback, but Romo is going to be the starter with veteran Jon Kitna continuing to serve as his backup. He's going to throw for 4,000 yards, and he's going to do it with relative ease in an offense that is going to throw the football a ton under the watch of Garrett. But I have news for all of you Cowboys fans who also happen to be fantasy owners -- as good as Romo will be each week in the stat sheets, the Cowboys are not going to win the Super Bowl this season.

Tim Tebow -- over/under 12 starts

Ellenport: Under -- This is a tricky question to answer, because it depends completely on whether or not the Broncos deal Kyle Orton during the offseason. If they do, then only an injury would prevent Tebow from starting most if not all 16 regular-season games. And despite his running style, he should be more rugged than the likes of Vick. That said, I don't see the Broncos dealing Orton, at least not this season. And the bottom line is that Orton is a more efficient and productive quarterback. I don't see him losing his starting job to Tebow.

Dameshek: Over -- Along with undoing all that former coach Josh McDaniels did to screw up this franchise, coach John Fox's main agenda this season will be determining if Tebow can be the cornerstone of the Broncos for the next decade. That means getting the Jockey poster boy a lot of snaps under center. Of course, this will all be moot if the team decides to trade Orton during the offseason. But for right now, I think Tebow gets the majority of the starts for Fox. That's going to make him a nice potential sleeper in most fantasy leagues.

Fabiano: Under -- My oh my, how quickly things can change. During the lockout, reports out of Denver suggested the Tebow was the favorite to start for new coach John Fox. But when the Broncos failed to trade Kyle Orton, well, that thought process seemed to go up in smoke. Orton is now the favorite to start, not Tebow, so it looks like the Broncos would have to either fall out of the playoff race or Orton would need to get hurt, for Tebow to play. As a result, starting 12 games doesn't look like it's in the cards at this point.

Rank: Under -- Of course, this clearly goes to the over if Orton is traded. The Broncos should stick with the same program they had last season, starting Orton and then working Tebow into the mix. Sure, Tebow put up great numbers in his three starts at the end of last season. But the NFL is about winning, not stuffing the stat sheets. Whether or not Tebow can be a winning quarterback at the pro level remains to be seen. Orton, who is underrated, as proven that he can win games. Coach John Fox is going to want Orton's leadership as well.

Chris Johnson -- over/under 14 total TDs

Ellenport: Under -- Johnson has averaged just under 13 total touchdowns in his three NFL seasons, and that includes the 2009 campaign that was a season for the ages. The problem from a fantasy standpoint is that while Johnson is an effective receiver out of the backfield, he doesn't get thrown to near the goal line (only four career touchdown receptions). This isn't a bad reflection of Johnson's overall fantasy value, because chances are he's going to have a great season -- maybe even better than 2010 -- but 14 total touchdowns might be out of reach.

Dameshek: Under -- Don't get me wrong, I think Johnson will come back from what a lot of people considered a sub-par 2010. However, that's a lot of touchdowns to score for a mediocre team that could have a rookie quarterback in Jake Locker under center. Also keep in mind that as good as he has been, CJ2K doesn't even averaged 14 total touchdowns a year for his career. Do I think that Johnson is worth a first-round pick in fantasy leagues? Absolutely. But I just don't see him scoring that many touchdowns in an offense with a ton of question marks.

Fabiano: Over -- Have you seen Johnson's schedule this season? He faces the Texans (2), Jaguars (2), Colts (2), Broncos and Bills among his easier opponents, making him one of the more attractive running backs in fantasy football based on both his own statistical potential and his slate of games. Even in what some people called a "down year" in 2010, CJ2K still put up 12 total scores in an offense that lacked firepower. I see him producing at least 14 end-zone visits this season, especially if the Titans upgrade themselves at the quarterback position.

Rank: Over -- Johnson's rushing numbers took a bit of a hit last year, but that wasn't at all surprising coming off a season in which he rushed for more than 2,000 yards and broke Marshall Faulk's record for scrimmage yards in a season. However, his touchdown totals were still good even if he didn't score as many fantasy points compared to 2009. And let's cut to the chase here: The Titans are not going to be relying on whoever is playing quarterback for them this season, so Johnson will see a ton of opportunities and have a monster year.

Arian Foster -- over/under 1,300 rushing yards

Ellenport: Over -- I'll say it here first -- Foster is not a one-year wonder. He'll remain a force to reckon with, both on the field and in fantasy circles. And if the Texans defense can finally show some improvement under new coordinator Wade Phillips, then Foster will get more chances to carry the rock and put up strong yardage totals. Sure, Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson will dominate in the passing game, but that didn't stop Foster last season. I see him rushing for better than 1,300 yards and making a huge fantasy impact again.

Dameshek: Under -- Before he got hurt in the preseason, Ben Tate was set to be the Texans' main man heading into 2010. He went down, Foster stepped in and put up huge numbers. But Tate will be back in the mix this season, and I don't see Texans coach Gary Kubiak giving Foster the same number of carries again. In fact, I'll predict that Tate will cut into Foster's total rushing attempts by at least 20 percent. That's a significant decrease in opportunities, which in turn is going to mean a season with fewer rushing yards -- and fewer than 1,300.

Fabiano: Under -- As much as I was a fan of Foster during the 2010 preseason, even I couldn't believe his statistical output. With that said, I find it hard to see him duplicating the 1,616 rushing yards he recorded. In fact, I don't even think he'll hit the 1,300-yard mark. That's not to say that Foster will be a complete bust -- because he won't -- but it's very difficult for a player to match what was a career season. Foster will also have to contend with the return of Tate, who could steal some touches and opportunities to produce in 2011.

Rank: Under -- Sorry guys, but I still don't trust Kubiak. Remember, he's a Mike Shanahan disciple, and we all know the kind of headaches Shanahan's running backs caused fantasy owners in his final seasons with the Broncos. The Texans have said that they will not have a back committee with Tate back in the mix, but that's now. What actually happens during the regular season, though, is a different story. Foster should still have good numbers across the board, with 1,200 rushing yards a reasonable goal. But 1,300-plus will be tough to reach.

Darren McFadden -- over/under 12 starts

Ellenport: Over -- With an improved offensive line to make life a little easier on him and Hue Jackson taking over as the new head coach for the Silver & Black, McFadden could be primed for a huge season. Sure, his proneness to injuries is a cause for concern and could make him slide a bit on draft day. But McFadden's statistical upside is ridiculous, and he proved that last season. Michael Bush is a terrific insurance policy and a great fantasy handcuff, but McFadden is the main man. He'll stay healthy and put up big numbers for fantasy owners.

Dameshek: Over -- Yeah, why not? It's bound to happen sometime ... right? Right? If you look at what McFadden did last season, he's going to be tough to pass on in the first round of most drafts. When he was on the field, he basically ripped apart the opponent and put up major numbers for fantasy owners. He also did start in 13 games last season, so it's not like he's not capable of getting there -- those he did only start a combined 12 games from 2008-2009. If he can stay on the field, McFadden should be a very nice fantasy option.

Fabiano: Over -- I'm going to take a leap of faith and predict that McFadden will start 14 games for the Raiders -- that's something he's failed to do in each of his three previous NFL seasons. The explosive runner out of Arkansas has the skills to post enormous numbers, which was evident in 2010 when he totaled 47 receptions, 1,664 scrimmage yards and 10 touchdowns. Had he played a full 16 games, McFadden would have finished with the second-most fantasy points among running backs behind Foster. There is risk, but I think McFadden is a first-round lock.

Rank: Over -- I'm not sure if you want to push "all-in" after one breakout season for McFadden, but his potential is huge. He proved what he can do last year, finishing in the top six in fantasy points among running backs despite the fact that he missed three games. Sure, I can see Bush taking some carries here or there, but McFadden is going to see enough carries to be considered a virtual bell cow for Hue Jackson. It's impossible to predict if or when a player will get hurt, but hopefully his injury-plagued years are now behind him.

Dwayne Bowe -- over/under 10 TDs

Ellenport: Over -- There's no way Bowe can duplicate the numbers he posted in a career year, right? Maybe not, but that's fine. After scoring 15 touchdowns in 2010, that means he can see his scoring output decrease 33 percent and still end up with 10 trips to the end zone. Bowe had five games last season with at least two scores, including a three-touchdown game at Seattle. First-round draft pick Jonathan Baldwin could draw some of the passes Bowe is slated to receive, but I doubt he'll make a dent in Bowe's production as a rookie.

Dameshek: Under -- Why, do you ask, will Bowe see his touchdown totals drop in 2011? Three reasons: First, Dexter McCluster, Tony Moeaki and Jonathan Baldwin are going to be in the mix and taking targets from the veteran wideout. Sure, Bowe will still be Matt Cassel's favorite option in the passing game, but the Chiefs are going get to the next level by spreading the ball around to an offense suddenly loaded with weapons. So based on the fact that I see Bowe getting fewer opportunities this year, I just can't see him scoring double-digit touchdowns.

Fabiano: Under -- I tend to err on the side of caution with players coming off breakout seasons, and Bowe is no different. The LSU product is coming off his best year at the NFL level, posting 72 catches, 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns. But with former coordinator Charlie Weis out of the mix and the addition of Baldwin to an offense that is improving, I'd be surprised if Bowe scored double-digit touchdowns again. Also, keep in mind that even with his 15 scores in 2010, Bowe has still averaged 7.7 touchdowns in his career.

Rank: Push -- Which Bowe are we going to get next season? The guy who crushed the competition in the first 12 games, or the guy who had only one touchdown reception over the final five weeks? I'm guessing he'll be some place in the middle, and 10 touchdowns seems like a pretty reasonable figure. Even if he does reach the end zone five fewer times than he did during his breakout season of 2010, fantasy owners aren't going to laugh at that level of production. I still see Bowe as a No. 1 fantasy wideout with continued double-digit touchdown value.

Brandon Lloyd -- over/under 1,200 yards

Ellenport: Under -- Even if you believe Lloyd's surprising 2010 season was not really that much of a surprise, it will be hard for him to get near the 1,448 yards he amassed. No matter how the quarterback situation shakes out between Tebow and Orton, new coach John Fox prefers to run the football first. This is not the pass-happy offense of former coach Josh McDaniels, and that will hurt Lloyd. And if some of Denver's young wideouts contribute more than they did last year, Lloyd might be hard-pressed to reach 1,000 yards, let alone 1,200.

Dameshek: Under -- Even Jerry Rice wouldn't have gone for that many yards with Timmy Tebow throwing it to him all season! I think a big part of Lloyd's success was Kyle Orton, and it looks like he'll be a reserve or maybe even starting for another team this season. You should also keep in mind that with McDaniels gone, the Broncos will not be throwing the ball nearly as much. That's just another reason -- in the long line of reasons -- why Lloyd isn't going to hit the 1,200-yard mark, and why he might not even hit the 1,000-yard mark in 2011.

Fabiano: Under -- Lloyd came out of absolute nowhere last season to record 77 receptions, 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns, which helped him lead all wide receivers in fantasy points. That is going to be a very tough act to follow for two reasons. First and foremost, Lloyd isn't going to see the same number of opportunities to produce with McDaniels no longer calling the plays. I'd expect a more balanced offensive attack under Fox. Second, Lloyd had averaged a mere 338 yards in his previous seven NFL seasons. He has bust written all over him for 2011.

Rank: Under -- Lloyd had a monster season in 2010 and finished as the top-scoring wide receiver in fantasy football. But it is hard to imagine that he's going to come out and duplicate those numbers again. The main reason that Lloyd is likely to see his numbers drop is the presence of Fox, who figures to run the football a lot more than McDaniels did last season. Lloyd could reach 1,000 yards for the second straight season (and the second time in his NFL career), but I think that's his statistical ceiling in a run-based offensive attack.

Hakeem Nicks -- over/under 14 starts

Ellenport: Under -- First off, let's get one thing straight: Even if Nicks comes close to starting 14 games, he will have a monster season. He could emerge as one of the NFL's most dangerous weapons. That said, he does have a pretty significant injury history. And the Giants have enough weapons to play it safe and let Nicks sit down a game or two if he's so much as questionable. So even without a significant injury, don't be surprised if Nicks ends up starting only 12-13 games. But don't sweat it, because that's enough for him to put up big numbers.

Dameshek: Over -- Nicks played in 14 games during his rookie season and 13 last season ... and I'm nothing if not an optimist, so I'll give him the over tag here. The Giants wide receiver is clearly one of the most talented players at his position, so it could be just a matter of time before we're talking about him among the elite wideouts in fantasy football. Hey, he did score more fantasy points than Andre Johnson a year ago. And I'll say it here right now -- I think he'll play in every single game for the G-Men this season! Unless he doesn't.

Fabiano: Push -- Nicks has definitely been a bit prone to injuries at the NFL level, but the toe ailment that cost him two games last year isn't expected to limit him during camp. The talented wideout from North Carolina finished seventh in fantasy points at his position in 2010, and I think he'll do better than that this season. In fact, I wouldn't be shocked if he was the top-scoring player at his position. If he can remain out of the trainer's room, which I think he will, Nicks should reach an elite level in fantasy leagues sooner than later.

Rank: Under -- File this in the "I'll believe it when I see it" category, because Nicks has not been able to play a full season in his first two years at the NFL level. Not that you should be overly worried about it, even though he does have a trend of getting hurt and missing a game or two throughout the course of a season. In fact, Nicks is a top-three receiver on my big board, following Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson. If Nicks does see action in 14 or more games, watch out. He could quickly push the two Johnsons for elite fantasy status.

Jermichael Finley -- over/under 800 receiving yards

Ellenport: Over -- Finley was poised to break out before getting injured last season, and you get the feeling that missing the Packers' Super Bowl run is going to motivate him to come back with a vengeance. In seven of Finley's last 10 starts dating back to 2009, he's had 70 or more receiving yards. Furthermore, superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers loved throwing to Finley before he got hurt and was ultimately lost of the season. I don't see any reason to think that will change, so look for Finley to finally reach his statistical potential.

Dameshek: Over -- This one seems obvious to me, but there are a lot of players for Rodgers to look for in the pass attack. Forget the fact that he got hurt last season, or that he's never started more than 10 games in a single season. None of that matters because we're talking about 2011, when the Packers will score every time they touch the football! Also, my computer calculator tells me that 800 yards of a full 16-game season means averaging just 50 yards per game. That sounds like a very reasonable expectation to me.

Fabiano: Over -- Finley's single-season career high in yardage as a pro is 676, which he recorded in 13 games (10 starts) in 2009. Before he was injured last season, he was on pace to put up close to 1,000 yards. With James Jones a free agent and Donald Driver on the downside of his career, I think Finley can easily hit the 800-yard mark in an explosive offense with a star quarterback like Rodgers under center. What that said, he does come with some risk -- Finley has missed 13 games over the last two years due to injuries. He's a risk-reward pick.

Rank: Under -- Finley is going to need to take some time to get started coming back from a serious knee injury, and the labor situation is going to put him behind just a little bit. The upshot is that the Packers figure to throw the ball seemingly at will, and Finley will be put in a position to succeed. He already has a terrific rapport with Rodgers, who will no doubt look to one of his favorite targets often when the Pack Attack takes to the air. In fact, I think Finley should be the best tight end in fantasy football by the end of the season.

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