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    Prophet Guest

    Projections for 2006 season.

    by Mike Harmon,

    [size=18px]Passing yard projections: Green's first [/size]

    1. Trent Green, Kansas City Chiefs
    Regardless of the amount of ink used to write about the Kansas City backfield duo of Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson, Trent Green's stability as the leader of the Chiefs offense cannot be denied. Green has topped 4,000 passing yards in three consecutive seasons. The Chiefs continue to rely on tight end Tony Gonzalez, but have a solid veteran receiver in Eddie Kennison and a fast rising speed receiver in Samie Parker.
    2005 Stats: 2nd in NFL with 4,014 yards
    2006 Projections: 4,232 yards

    2. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts
    Expectations were sky-high for Manning last year after his pinball-like 2004 season. He responded with another tremendous season of 3,747 passing yards and 28 touchdowns, but it wasn't enough for some. The Colts' remarkable run to clinching their playoff berth early that allowed Manning to sit out virtually all of the final two games of the year cost him a shot at his seventh consecutive 4,000-yard season. The loss of Edgerrin James to Arizona off-season portends to big things for Manning and the passing game this year. The running back combination of Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes will no doubt shoulder their share of the load, but the offense continues to make its mark on the right arm of Manning and his talented trio of receivers.
    2005 Stats: 7th in NFL with 3,747 yards
    2006 Projections: 4,177 yards

    3. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
    Brady has ranked among the top 10 passing yardage leaders in four consecutive seasons. Some question his status as a top fantasy option, but his ability to distribute the ball (61.9 percent completion percentage) makes him a perennial leader in this category. Brady has topped 3,600 passing yards in four straight seasons. The Patriots added several new receivers to work alongside Deion Branch (currently a contract issue to watch) and Troy Brown. Most notably, New England selected Chad Jackson in this year's draft.
    2005 Stats: 1st in NFL with 4,110 yards
    2006 Projections: 4,076 yards

    4. Drew Bledsoe, Dallas Cowboys
    With the addition of Terrell Owens, Drew Bledsoe will likely see more single coverage downfield on Terry Glenn. (Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

    The Cowboys made perhaps the biggest splash this off-season by bringing Terrell Owens in from Philadelphia. With Owens onboard and Terry Glenn and Jason Witten returning in the receiving corps, Bledsoe expects to be among the league's top passers once again. Bledsoe posted his best average yardage per pass play total since 1999 in New England at 7.3 yards. He'll enjoy throwing the short and intermediate routes to Owens and watching him make plays. Meanwhile, Terry Glenn will be lining up teams' second defensive backs in single coverage. I like those odds.
    2005 Stats: 8th in NFL with 3,639 yards
    2006 Projections: 3,825 yards

    5. Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks
    It was a charmed year for the Seahawks in 2005, until the Super Bowl anyway. Hasselbeck and the offense rolled to ridiculous point totals and controlled the action every Sunday. The Seahawks did so despite having lead receiver Darrell Jackson in the lineup for only six games. He'll return to lead the receiving corps, followed by emerging star Jerramy Stevens, possession receiver Bobby Engram and off-season acquisition and former 1,000-yard receiver Nate Burleson. Seattle remains among the NFC's top teams heading into 2006, and Hasselbeck continues to grow as a leader. His 65.5 percent completion rate marked a new career high.
    2005 Stats: 10th in NFL with 3,459 yards
    2006 Projections: 3,801 yards

    6. Jake Delhomme, Carolina Panthers
    The Panthers welcomed back Steve Smith from injury and watched him and Delhomme become one of the top quarterback-receiver tandems in the game. Delhomme completed a career-best 60.2 percent of his passes and 7.9 yards per attempt. He will welcome the addition of longtime NFL star Keyshawn Johnson, whose presence will help to boost his completion percentage even higher. Additionally, the Panthers will look to work the short passing game even more to keep starting tailback DeShaun Foster on the field.
    2005 Stats: 11th in NFL with 3,421 yards
    2006 Projections: 3,776 yards

    7. Eli Manning, New York Giants
    The best is yet to come for Manning and the Giants offense. He grew leaps and bounds in the second half of the 2006 season. Though Manning still overshoots his receivers on occasion, he projects to be among the league leaders in all passing categories for years to come. Manning completed only 52.8 percent of his attempts last season, so there's most certainly room for improvement in that capacity. To reach his full potential, the Giants will need a full season of health from Jeremy Shockey and consistent efforts from Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer. I expect 2006 to be a better year on the field for Manning, but more so in efficiency than in raw numbers.
    2005 Stats: 5th in NFL with 3,762 yards
    2006 Projections: 3,739 yards

    8. Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers
    The future Hall of Famer struggled last season with a makeshift supporting cast in 2005. Favre completed 61.3 percent of his passes last season, which was actually only .2 percent lower than his career mark. But more of those passes off the mark found the arms of defenders (career-high 29 interceptions). The Packers have re-tooled the receiving corps for 2006 with the departure of Javon Walker. Dependable receiver Donald Driver returns to man the No. 1 slot, and the Packers are hoping that one of a group of receivers emerges as a top complement. Oft-injured Robert Ferguson is the favored player for the role with former threats Marc Boerigter and Rod Gardner in contention for a third receiver role alongside rookie Greg Jennings.
    2005 Stats: 3rd in NFL with 3,881 yards
    2006 Projections: 3,715 yards

    9. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals
    Carson Palmer, recovering from knee injuries, is expected to be ready by the season opener. (Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)

    According to all reports, Palmer will be ready to roll with the first team as early as Week 1 of the preseason. The knee injury limits his activity in mini-camp, but the team expects him to be ready six weeks from now in training camp. Palmer will certainly return to a stocked lineup with one of the best receiving duos of Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh and a running back to keep the chains moving in Rudi Johnson. The big question for Palmer, other than the knee of course, will be who lines up at third receiver. Chris Henry showed great promise as a rookie, but there's still some potential for disciplinary action. The Bengals also have Kelley Washington and former Packers receiver Antonio Chatman on the roster to compete for reps at the No. 3 slot. Assuming that he's healthy, all signs point to Palmer returning to post numbers alongside the game's elite.
    2005 Stats: 4th in NFL with 3,836 yards
    2006 Projections: 3,694 yards

    10. Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles
    The Eagles watched the season unravel because of injuries and in-fighting during the 2005 season, and nothing caused a bigger issue than the sports hernia injury sustained by McNabb. He returns to the field in 2006 with a young receiving corps and without the huge weapon in Owens. He had thrown for more than 3,200 yards in three of four seasons as the starting quarterback in Philadelphia before the arrival of Owens. McNabb will continue to utilize Brian Westbrook as a receiver out of the backfield and will count on tight end L.J. Smith and second-year receiver Reggie Brown to fill the void left by Owens.
    2005 Stats: 18th in NFL with 2,507 yards
    2006 Projections: 3,613 yards

    11. Marc Bulger, St. Louis Rams
    Bulger's ill-fated tackling attempt against the Colts stands as one of the big moments of 2005. He finished the year with 2,297 yards and 14 scores in eight games. The St. Louis offense figures to run differently under Scott Linehan. Running back Steven Jackson will become a larger factor in the play-calling with the departure of Mike Martz, but don't think that the passing game will be ground down. After all, Gus Frerotte nearly reached 3,000 yards in Miami in 2005. I'm expecting a dip from his career-high mark of 3,964 yards, but that his career 65 percent completion rate keeps him among the league leaders.
    2005 Stats: 23rd in NFL with 2,297 yards
    2006 Projections: 3,584 yards

    12. Daunte Culpepper, Miami Dolphins
    The storybook season of 2004 was followed by a Stephen King-like horror tale in 2005 for Culpepper. He appeared in only seven games before sustaining a season-ending knee injury. Culpepper also threw one more interception in those seven games than he had in the full 2003 and '04 seasons. He moves to Miami this season and is moving and throwing well, according to all reports from Dolphins mini-camp. Nick Saban will rely heavily on Ronnie Brown and the ground game, but the loss of Ricky Williams to suspension swings the play-calling pendulum back to Culpepper's arm. He will certainly have capable targets in the passing game with Chris Chambers looking to build on a huge 2005 season, reliable No. 2 Marty Booker, tight end Randy McMichael and rookie Derek Hagan.
    2005 Stats: 32nd in NFL with 1,564 yards
    2006 Projections: 3,537 yards

    13. Jake Plummer, Denver Broncos
    Jake Plummer isn't ready to relinquish control of Denver's offense to Jay Cutler yet. (Donald Miralle / Getty Images)

    The heat is on in Denver for Plummer after the team selected Jay Cutler in April's draft. Plummer has responded well to the challenge early, earning praise from coach Mike Shanahan following the most recent mini-camp. He has averaged 3,728 yards over the last two seasons with a marked drop this past season of 45 yards per game. The addition of Javon Walker to run opposite veteran Rod Smith should put Plummer in a position to post solid numbers in 2006.
    2005 Stats: 12th in NFL with 3,366 yards
    2006 Projections: 3,379 yards

    14. Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals
    Warner has two of the game's best young weapons in receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. He averaged 271.3 yards per game for Arizona last season in 10 games played. The obvious issue related to Warner and the heights he can reach statistically concerns his health. In each of the last four seasons, he's missed time because of injuries. While Warner won't reach the heights of his MVP days in St. Louis (two seasons over 4,300 passing yards), he remains a fantasy contender with these receivers in tow, particularly with the addition of Edgerrin James to keep defenses honest.
    2005 Stats: 17th in NFL with 2,713 yards
    2006 Projections: 3,316 yards

    15. David Carr, Houston Texans
    The Texans worked to build the skill positions this off-season. Andre Johnson and Domanick Davis will retain their roles in the offense, but will find additional support from off-season additions Eric Moulds and Jeb Putzier. There are still questions surrounding the ability of the offensive line to protect Carr, but Kubiak is convinced that the installation of his offensive scheme will serve to elevate Carr's game.
    2005 Stats: 19th in NFL with 2,488 yards
    2006 Projections: 3,184 yards
    In the next edition of this series, I'll post my top 15 projections for passing touchdowns. The usual suspects of Manning, Brady and McNabb will be presented, but we'll see if we can't spark some debate down the list.

    [size=18px]Passing TD projections: Palmer's second [/size]

    1. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis: Fantasy owners who expected Manning to repeat his '04 storybook performance were left sorely disappointed with his 28 touchdown tosses last year. Of course, the bigger issue for owners was the fact he essentially sat out the final two games due to the Colts' phenomenal run to start the year. I anticipate the loss of Edgerrin James will serve to boost his tosses this year. The defense will be stout once again, but I expect the Colts to get back to rolling up points and keeping the machine well-oiled and heading into another playoff run. Manning isn't racing back to 48 touchdowns this year, but look for a run back into the mid-30s.
    2005 Stats: Second in the NFL with 28 touchdown passes
    2006 Projection: 36 TDs

    2. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati: Palmer led the NFL in touchdown passes last year with 32. He was shut out of the end zone only once in the 15 games he finished. In fact, he threw fewer than two touchdown passes only three times. Talk about consistency! The Bengals core group of skill position players returns for 2006. Rudi Johnson will keep the chains moving to put Palmer in advantageous situations, and Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh rank as one of the top receiving duos in the game. The only question in this group concerns the No. 3 receiver role. Chris Henry filled it admirably as a rookie last season, but his legal issues continue to hang over the team. Several receivers are on the roster to fill the void should any disciplinary action be taken by the league, while the Bengals fully expect Palmer to be healed from his knee injury and ready to take every snap from Week 1.
    2005 Stats: First in the NFL with 32 TDs
    2006 Projection: 31 TDs

    Adding reliable Keyshawn Johnson with top receiver Steve Smith will give Jake Delhomme more chances to throw touchdowns. (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images)

    3. Jake Delhomme, Carolina: The Panthers bid farewell to power back Stephen Davis this off-season, meaning more emphasis will be placed on Delhomme's arm. John Fox cannot go through the season with oft-injured DeShaun Foster carrying too heavy a load. As such, they'll utilize him as a receiver out of the backfield where he'll be less likely to absorb too heavy a pounding. Carolina added sure-handed Keyshawn Johnson as the No. 2 option behind Steve Smith, ensuring more sustained drives and red-zone opportunities.
    2005 Stats: Tied for fourth in the NFL with 24 TDs
    2006 Projection: 29 TDs

    4. Tom Brady, New England: Despite the reputation of not being a "fantasy" quarterback, Brady consistently ranks as one of the top fantasy performers at the position. He has ranked in the Top 10 in passing touchdowns in four consecutive seasons with an obvious No. 1 receiver. He effectively utilizes all weapons at his disposal, finding receivers such as Deion Branch and the departed David Givens as often as his tight ends and linebacker Mike Vrabel. The current issue regarding Branch's contract is somewhat disconcerting, but it's expected to be resolved long before the start of camp. Even though the faces in the receiving corps have changed with the additions of Reche Caldwell and rookie Chad Jackson, the system rolls on. The system works.
    2005 Stats: Third in the NFL with 26 TDs
    2006 Projection: 27 TDs

    5. Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle: Hasselbeck and the Seattle offense lived right in 2005, leading the NFL in scoring at a robust 28.2 points per game. He completed a career-high 65.5 percent of his passing attempts and tossed 24 touchdowns while playing without Darrell Jackson for 10 games. Hasselbeck now has finished in the Top 10 in passing touchdowns in three consecutive seasons, including two top five appearances. The growth of Jerramy Stevens in the tight end position will cushion the loss of red-zone monster Joe Jurevicius to Cleveland, and the addition of Nate Burleson (1,000 yards and nine scores in 2004) provides depth at the position alongside Jackson and Bobby Engram.
    2005 Stats: Tied for fourth in the NFL with 24 TDs
    2006 Projection: 26 TDs

    6. Drew Bledsoe, Dallas: Bledsoe enjoyed a fine season in his first year under Bill Parcells in Dallas. Their reunion resulted in Bledsoe's seventh appearance in the NFL's Top 10 in touchdown passes in his 13-year career. Bledsoe received a huge boost to his receiving corps with the addition of the much-maligned Terrell Owens. Owens' addition opens the field for tight ends Jason Witten and Anthony Fasano, and will put Terry Glenn in advantageous one-on-one situations. I look for Bledsoe and the Cowboys to produce points this year and for this to be a honeymoon season with Owens, much like that enjoyed by Philadelphia in 2004.
    2005 Stats: Tied for eighth in the NFL with 23 TDs
    2006 Projection: 26 TDs

    7. Eli Manning, New York Giants: In just his second NFL season, Eli pushed toward the top of the league's touchdown producers for the Giants. Manning tied for fourth in the NFL with 24 touchdown tosses, effectively utilizing receivers Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer as well as tight end Jeremy Shockey. He'll no doubt be more comfortable in his second season as a full-time starter, and I suspect his completion percentage and overall efficiency will rise. However, the presence of Brandon Jacobs means some touchdown opportunities will be lost.
    2005 Stats: Tied for fourth in the NFL with 24 TDs
    2006 Projection: 25 TDs

    8. Trent Green, Kansas City: Injuries on the offensive line forced Tony Gonzalez to stay in as a blocker for much of the '05 season. As such, while the touchdown total for Larry Johnson (and Priest Holmes before his injury) soared, Green tossed his fewest touchdown passes since 2001. The return to health of the offensive line, bolstered by Willie Roaf holding off retirement and the signing of Kyle Turley (assuming he's 80 percent of his past self), will push Green back to the game's top tier. Gonzalez will undoubtedly greatly surpass his two-touchdown total of 2005, and the duo of Eddie Kennison and speedster Samie Parker give Green two solid downfield options.
    2005 Stats: Tied for 14th in the NFL with 17 TDs
    2006 Projection: 23 TDs

    Marc Bulger battled injuries last year, but he should return to throw a solid number of touchdowns in the Rams' new system. (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

    9. Marc Bulger, St. Louis: The Rams expect to feature the running game of Steven Jackson more prominently in Scott Linehan's offense. However, that doesn't mean Bulger won't exercise his right arm with regularity. He ranked inside the top 15 in two straight seasons before last year's injury-shortened campaign. The receiving corps returns intact, led by the consistent play of Torry Holt. I suspect that while Bulger's attempts will fall from years past in the Mike Martz shootout days, the insertion of a viable threat at tight end in Joe Klopfenstein to complement those receivers will result in successful red-zone possessions.
    2005 Stats: Tied for 20th in the NFL with 14 TDs
    2006 Projection: 22 TDs

    10. Brett Favre, Green Bay: You knew he couldn't go out like that. Not with that quickly assembled cast. Not with the mountain of interceptions. The future Hall of Fame quarterback returns for at least one more go-around with the Packers in 2006. Green Bay returns all of its injured running backs but will need to contend with the loss of Javon Walker. Donald Driver and Robert Ferguson return as the top options for Favre, and Greg Jennings was added in the draft to provide depth. It won't be Favre at his finest, but the touchdowns will continue to pile up because he'll take the field every week. He's ranked in the Top 10 in passing touchdowns in 14 consecutive seasons.
    2005 Stats: Tied for 10th in the NFL with 20 TDs
    2006 Projection: 22 TDs

    11. Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia: McNabb and the Eagles will be glad to put the injuries and distractions of 2005 behind them and get back to the business at hand. Terrell Owens has taken his act to Dallas, meaning receivers Reggie Brown, Todd Pinkston, Jabar Gaffney and tight end L.J. Smith will need to elevate their games to complement running back Brian Westbrook. Lest we forget, McNabb ranked in the Top 10 in passing touchdowns on two occasions prior to the acquisition of Owens in 2004. While I don't expect a huge run-up back to the honeymoon days with T.O., the efficiency of Andy Reid's offense and a defense that should create some short-field opportunities will push McNabb back into the top 15 in this category.
    2005 Stats: Tied for 16th in the NFL with 16 TDs
    2006 Projection: 21 TDs

    12. Kurt Warner, Arizona: Warner might be the ultimate risk-reward performer this season. The two-time league MVP fronts an All-Star cast in Arizona this season. He had two of the game's best receivers last season in Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, and the off-season addition of Edgerrin James will allow the Cardinals to sustain drives, keep defenses honest and boost his red-zone opportunities. Of course, he's missed his fair share of time because of injuries the last several years, but if he can stay upright, the opportunities are huge.
    2005 Stats: 25th in the NFL with 11 TDs
    2006 Projection: 21 TDs

    13. Daunte Culpepper, Miami: Culpepper would love to forget the '05 season entirely. It started miserably with interceptions and ended with a severe knee injury. Of course, there was also the scuttlebutt regarding that boat issue. He'll look to reclaim his place among the league's top signal callers in his new digs in Miami. He has a talented core of skill position players onboard, including top receiver Chris Chambers. "Chambers and toss" doesn't have the same ring to it as the Minnesota offense with Randy Moss did, but the results will be the same. Culpepper's on track in his rehabilitation and fully expects to be under center when Miami visits Pittsburgh in the season opener. Aside from the knee, he'll need to contend with Saban's love of the running game and the tough defenses of the AFC East.
    2005 Stats: Tied for 35th in the NFL with six TDs
    2006 Projection: 20 TDs

    14. Mark Brunell, Washington: Brunell produced a career-high 23 touchdown passes in 2005 despite having only one top shelf receiver and being shut out in five games. However, he worked brilliantly from the efforts of Clinton Portis and effectively utilized his tight ends and fullback Mike Sellers, throwing two or more touchdown passes in eight separate games last year. The Redskins upgraded the receiving corps this off-season with the additions of Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle El.
    2005 Stats: Tied for eighth in the NFL with 23 TDs
    2006 Projection: 20 TDs

    15. Michael Vick, Atlanta: The question remains as to when and if Vick will ascend to the ranks of the great NFL quarterbacks. I believe he took a big step this off-season with his frequent workouts with receivers Roddy White and Michael Jenkins. We all know about the highlight reel runs and his ability to elude would-be tacklers. For years, he's relied heavily on the abilities of tight end Alge Crumpler and the potent running game. Jim Mora will no doubt continue to emphasize the running game, but this is the year Vick takes a huge leap forward.
    2005 Stats: Tied for 18th with 15 TDs
    2006 Projection: 19 TDs

    [size=18px]Rushing yard projections: Tiki gaining ground [/size]

    1. Larry Johnson, Kansas City
    Priest Holmes has lost much of the last two seasons to injury and will return in a limited role in 2006, if he returns at all. New coach Herman Edwards declared Johnson his starter, and he still holds a grudge from his sporadic use during Dick Vermeil's tenure. He's itching to run toward the 2,000-yard mark after his monstrous 2005 campaign, despite only being the starter for half of the season. He expects to carry a heavy workload, but a healthy offensive line could swing more action to the passing game. Can he stay healthy enough over the course of the season to average 125 yards per game to reach the magical 2,000-yard mark? I predict he'll fall short, but it'll be a fun ride and will be enough to lead the NFL.
    2005 Stats: Third in NFL with 1,750 rushing yards
    2006 Projection: 1,883 yards

    2. Tiki Barber, New York Giants
    The Giants offense promises to be one of the top producing units this year as Eli Manning fully settles into the starting quarterback role in his second season as a starter. Of course, it all starts with the production of Barber in the backfield. He's ranked among the league's Top 10 rushers in three of the last five seasons and has dramatically cut down on his fumbles the last two years. As such, his productivity has soared, as has the confidence of the coaching staff to continually put the ball in his hands. The evolution of Manning will keep the chains moving and make for a huge year for Barber.
    2005 Stats: Second in NFL with 1,860 rushing yards
    2006 Projection: 1,731 yards

    3. Shaun Alexander, Seattle
    The Seahawks offense under Mike Holmgren chews up yardage and piles up points on an annual basis. Alexander has been the beneficiary of great play-calling and one of the best offensive lines in the game. Of course, he's no slouch, either! Alexander has ranked in the Top 10 in four of the last five seasons and figures to reach the upper echelon once again. The loss of Steve Hutchinson on the offensive line may pose an issue, but the combination of the Seahawks' schedule and other skill position personnel will thrust him toward the top of the heap once again.
    2005 Stats: Led NFL with 1,880 rushing yards
    2006 Projection: 1,627 yards

    4. Clinton Portis, Washington
    Fantasy owners were down on Portis after he failed to pile up touchdowns behind an injured offensive line in 2004. Nobody could complain about his productivity in the rushing yardage category, though. He chewed up huge yardage in the Denver scheme, as expected, before joining the power game for Joe Gibbs in Washington. He's ranked in the top five in yardage in three of his four NFL seasons and ranked eighth the other season. Jon Jansen and the rest of the offensive line are back to work Gibbs' scheme once again, and the Redskins added help in the wide receiving corps that will help to stretch the field and give Portis ample running room. Whichever of his multiple personalities shows up on game day, they all produce.
    2005 Stats: Fourth in NFL with 1,516 rushing yards
    2006 Projection: 1,584 yards

    5. LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego
    Opposing defenses figure to tighten the screws, or at least make the attempt, with the insertion of Philip Rivers into the starting lineup. Defenses employed the same strategy when Drew Brees assumed the role and they failed to shut him down. Tomlinson has ranked in the top six in the rushing yardage category in five consecutive seasons. The Chargers should still be able to move the ball with a solid offensive line in the high-flying AFC West. The bigger issue for me concerns Tomlinson's durability late in the season. He was forced to the sidelines late last year and watched Michael Turner run wild. I fully expect him to rank among the league leaders once again, although he may have to work a bit harder with Rivers under center.
    2005 Stats: Sixth in NFL with 1,462 rushing yards
    2006 Projection: 1,487 yards

    6. Rudi Johnson, Cincinnati
    Rudi took the reins in Cincinnati following the departure of Corey Dillon and never looked back. He's finished in the top 10 in rushing yardage in two consecutive seasons and appears primed for a third straight in the talented Cincinnati offense. He gains the tough yards and keeps the chains moving, just as Edgerrin James did for years in Indianapolis. The passing game with Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson may garner the headlines and highlight reels, but Johnson makes this offense click.
    2005 Stats: Seventh in NFL with 1,458 rushing yards
    2006 Projection: 1,471 yards

    Willis McGahee struggled in a poor Bills offense last year, but should rebound with a coaching turnover in Buffalo. (Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)

    7. Willis McGahee, Buffalo
    The 2005 year was difficult for McGahee and the Buffalo offense. He shouldered a heavy workload for the second straight season, ranking in the Top 10 in rushing attempts. Last season, he made his first appearance in the Top 10 in rushing yardage. New coach Dick Jauron predicates his offense on a strong running game. He worked the run hard in his last heading coaching stop in Chicago and figures to do the same here with Kelly Holcomb, J.P. Losman and Craig Nall vying for the starting quarterback role. McGahee came into minicamp leaner and anxious to put last season's struggles behind him. Former Jauron favorite Anthony Thomas will factor into the game in some capacity, but make no mistake about it, this is McGahee's team.
    2005 Stats: 10th in NFL with 1,247 rushing yards
    2006 Projection: 1,399 yards

    8. Reuben Droughns, Cleveland
    Despite his best efforts, Droughns fell victim to a sputtering Cleveland offense in 2005 with a meager two touchdown runs. He ranked 11th in the league with 1,232 rushing yards with little assistance from the passing attack. His strong year in Cleveland followed his huge 2004 campaign in the Denver system, proving backs can excel outside Mike Shanahan's schemes. This year, the Browns will run with second-year player Charlie Frye under center and former 49er Ken Dorsey as his backup, assuming he's healthy. The receiving corps will be more formidable with the acquisition of Joe Jurevicius, the return of Kellen Winslow, Jr. and, eventually, second-year receiver Braylon Edwards. Droughns ran well without help from the passing game in 2005. Any up-tick in their performance will boost his value as well.
    2005 Stats: 11th in NFL with 1,232 rushing yards
    2006 Projection: 1,354 yards

    9. Edgerrin James, Arizona
    The Cardinals quickly moved to upgrade their running game after last season's failures by J.J. Arrington and Marcel Shipp. They went straight for the top available player in James, who owns four appearances in the Top 10 in the rushing yardage category. James leaves the comfort of the Indianapolis offense for another explosive passing attack in Arizona. However, the blocking schemes and personnel do not match that of his former team and could make replication of his 2005 brilliance difficult. I expect him to rank among the top rushers in the game, but suspect we'll see a dip from his past achievements.
    2005 Stats: Fifth in NFL with 1,506 rushing yards
    2006 Projection: 1,318 yards

    10. Ronnie Brown, Miami
    Nick Saban loves his power running game. With Ricky Williams on suspension, Saban will have no choice but to lean heavily on his second-year back. Brown was impressive in the running game and as a receiver out of the backfield. The Dolphins upgraded the passing game this off-season with the acquisition of Daunte Culpepper from the Vikings. The passing game should help to stretch the field and create running lanes for Brown.
    2005 Stats: 20th in NFL with 907 rushing yards
    2006 Projection: 1,266 yards

    11. Willie Parker, Pittsburgh
    Parker captivated the nation with his scintillating 75-yard touchdown run in Super Bowl XL. Casual football fans who turned in got to see the combination of speed and power he displayed for fantasy owners all season. He took advantage of his ascent to the starting role after injuries befell Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley by rushing for 1,202 yards. The Steelers will utilize him as the top tailback option this fall with Staley and Verron Haynes backing him up. Bill Cowher always focuses on establishing the running game, so he'll undoubtedly pile up touches.
    2005 Stats: 12th in NFL with 1,202 rushing yards
    2006 Projection: 1,241 yards

    Steven Jackson was misused in St. Louis last season, but the new staff promises to give him more looks. (Elsa / Getty Images)

    12. Steven Jackson, St. Louis
    The "greatest show on turf" has been grounded, or at least relocated to Detroit with the departure of Mike Martz. The introduction of Scott Linehan as head coach portends to a shift in offensive philosophy to feature his power running back. Jackson is poised to be one of this year's breakout stars, as all of the skilled players in the passing game return to the fold. He rushed for 1,046 yards last year despite being virtually forgotten about by Martz on a number of occasions.
    2005 Stats: 14th in NFL with 1,046 rushing yards
    2006 Projection: 1,227 yards

    13. Carnell Williams, Tampa Bay
    Jon Gruden famously declared he was going to run his rookie back last season until he couldn't run anymore. After racking up 88 carries in his first three games, however, Williams was slowed by injury and missed two games. That injury couldn't park the Cadillac for long. He still racked up 290 rushing attempts despite missing those games. Gruden will undoubtedly turn to his second-year back heavily again this year with Chris Simms under center.
    2005 Stats: 13th in NFL with 1,178 rushing yards
    2006 Projection: 1,215 yards

    14. Julius Jones, Dallas
    Jones taunts you with his explosiveness. Unfortunately, the third-year back out of Notre Dame has battled injuries for two straight seasons and missed 11 games. He has the goods to be one of the game's top backs, if only he can stay on the field. Bill Parcells wants to run the offense through him, and the addition of Terrell Owens will most certainly spread the field to create running room. This will be his best, and perhaps last, shot to become an upper tier back for Parcells in Dallas. Another injury or string of sub-par performances will open the door for backup Marion Barber.
    2005 Stats: 17th in NFL with 993 rushing yards
    2006 Projection: 1,179 yards

    15. Domanick Davis, Houston
    Davis narrowly missed his third consecutive 1,000-yard season for the Texans last season despite continued issues in the Houston offense. He anxiously awaited April's draft to find out the intentions of team management and received his answer when the team selected Mario Williams instead of Reggie Bush with the No. 1 pick. New coach Gary Kubiak will seek to build a system akin to that of his Denver success and Davis' versatility as a runner and receiver out of the backfield will be key. Of course, durability remains a concern with his past knee issues. I expect him to miss one or two games, but for the offense to be more productive under Kubiak with the additions of Eric Moulds and Jeb Putzier to aid David Carr and the passing game.
    2005 Stats: 18th in NFL with 976 rushing yards
    2006 Projection: 1,157 yards

    [size=18px]Rushing TD projections: Tomlinson fifth [/size]

    1. Larry Johnson, Kansas City Chiefs
    After (im)patiently waiting in the wings behind Priest Holmes, Johnson finally got his chance to shine when Holmes was lost for the year with a neck injury. Behind an injured offensive line that forced Tony Gonzalez to stay in and block, Johnson still rumbled for 1,750 rushing yards and a remarkable 20 touchdowns. New coach Herman Edwards has declared Johnson his workhorse for 2006, and it appears that Holmes will return in a limited role, if at all. The Chiefs offensive line returns intact and added veteran Kyle Turley for insurance. Johnson stated that his personal goal for 2006 is to crack the 2,000-yard mark. I suspect that he'll be dancing in the end zone with great frequency during that journey.
    2005 Stats: Second in NFL with 20 rushing touchdowns
    2006 Projection: 23 rushing touchdowns

    2. Shaun Alexander, Seattle Seahawks
    The Seahawks offense was virtually unstoppable last season, averaging a monstrous 28.3 points per game to lead the NFL. Seattle is primed to be among the league's best once again led by Matt Hasselbeck and the legs of Alexander. Alexander has scored at least 16 total touchdowns in five consecutive seasons. The main question concerning the Seahawks offense this year is the loss of lineman Steve Hutchinson to the Vikings. Even with Hutchinson's loss, the team has the schedule and the offensive scheme to put Alexander toward the top of the heap again in 2006.
    2005 Stats: First in NFL with 27 rushing touchdowns
    2006 Projection: 21 rushing touchdowns

    3. Clinton Portis, Washington Redskins
    Portis returned to the good graces of fantasy owners last season after a subpar 2004 campaign, at least in the touchdown department. The Washington offense fed off their strong defense and the efficiency of quarterback Mark Brunell. Washington upgraded its offense this off-season with the acquisitions of Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle El. Their additions will allow Brunell to stretch the field and create even more running space for Portis. Even with an upgrade of talent at wideout, Joe Gibbs always returns to the power running game. While one can't ignore the contributions of Chris Cooley and Mike Sellers last season, the duplication of their efforts, particularly those of Sellers, cannot be counted on. I suspect that several of those opportunities go back toward Portis this season.
    2005 Stats: Ninth in NFL with 11 rushing touchdowns
    2006 Projection: 15 rushing touchdowns

    4. Tiki Barber, New York Giants
    Tiki Barber fumbled only once last season, and should improve on his 2005 touchdown total of nine. (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images)

    Despite the presence of rookie power back Brandon Jacobs and the emergence of quarterback Eli Manning, Barber still managed to hit paydirt nine times in 2005. The balance of the Giants offense allowed Barber to tally a career-high 357 rushing attempts and his ability to hold onto the ball made him a top option for Tom Coughlin around the goal line. Barber fumbled only once all season despite handling the ball 411 times! He'll be featured once again in one of the game's top offenses in 2006. I'm looking for him to reach a new career-high in rushing touchdowns with 14 this season.
    2005 Stats: Tied for 10th in NFL with 9 rushing touchdowns
    2006 Projection: 14 rushing touchdowns

    5. LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers
    Tomlinson perennially ranks among the league leaders in touchdowns despite the fact that defenses typically put eight in a box against him. He'll face another huge test this season with the loss of Drew Brees to New Orleans. That move portends to a larger workload for Tomlinson in 2006. Most notably, it's expected that Tomlinson's role in the passing game increases once again with Philip Rivers as it did when Brees took the reins several years ago. There is obviously a large question regarding the potency of the Chargers offense under a first-year starter. In the high-scoring AFC West, I expect Tomlinson to achieve stats akin to his past contributions. However, I would be remiss if I failed to note Tomlinson's struggles to stay healthy down the stretch in each of the last several seasons. Tomlinson will no doubt rank among the top backs in the game when the season ends, but fantasy owners should prepare for some anxious moments leading into game-time in at least a handful of weeks.
    2005 Stats: Third in NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns
    2006 Projection: 14 rushing touchdowns

    6. Rudi Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals
    Johnson has become one of the most consistent performers in the game. Since assuming the starting role in Cincinnati, Johnson has rumbled to 12 touchdown runs in back-to-back seasons. The passing attack with Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson may have nabbed the headlines in 2005, but it was the running game powered by Rudi Johnson that kept the chains moving. The Bengals will undoubtedly rely heavily on Johnson in the early part of the year as Palmer recovers from his knee injury. Additionally, backup Chris Perry is recovering slowly from his own injury concerns. As such, Johnson will lose less reps to Perry early on. Palmer's recovery is one of the biggest storylines of the year, but it's the mountain of off-field issues affecting the Bengals that have taken center stage. Coach Marvin Lewis has the talent in Cincinnati to make the Bengals a contender again this year, but he'll need to keep his locker room intact.
    2005 Stats: Tied for fifth in NFL with 12 rushing touchdowns
    2006 Projection: 13 rushing touchdowns

    7. Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams
    Mike Martz and the wide open passing game has left the building. Longtime star and fantasy hero Marshall Faulk may have played his last down in the NFL. The new offense in St. Louis figures to feature the power running game and Steven Jackson in 2006. Coach Scott Linehan is a believer in the value of the power back system, having employed it to perfection last season with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams in Miami. Jackson sometimes fell off the radar for Martz last season, as he topped 20 rushing attempts just three times in 15 games. Linehan will raise Jackson's profile in 2006 with increased opportunities to handle the ball and most certainly with carries around the goal line. He preaches execution and ball security, which means less forced throws in tight situations and more push on the offensive line for Jackson.
    2005 Stats: Tied for 17th with 6 rushing touchdowns
    2006 Projection: 12 rushing touchdowns

    8. Edgerrin James, Arizona Cardinals
    Edgerrin James should help alleviate the troubles that plagued Arizona's run game last season. (Jeff Topping / Getty Images)

    The Cardinals added the final piece of the skill position puzzle in securing running back Edgerrin James this off-season. Unfortunately, questions remain as to the offensive line's ability to free James up to terrorize defenses as he did in Indianapolis. Arizona running backs struggled mightily last season despite the best efforts of Kurt Warner and the passing game to spread the offense. But, it would be a mistake to equate James to last year's starters Marcel Shipp and J.J. Arrington. Barring an injury to any of the key performers, the Arizona offense should produce points this season and move the ball with great efficiency. Look for Dennis Green to use the power of James deep in the red zone.
    2005 Stats: Fourth in NFL with 13 rushing touchdowns
    2006 Projection: 11 rushing touchdowns

    9. Tatum Bell, Denver Broncos
    Bell narrowly missed the 1,000-yard mark despite playing backup to Mike Anderson last season and whet the appetites of fantasy owners with a three-touchdown performance in Week 17 against San Diego. The loss of Anderson to the Ravens elevates Ron Dayne into the inside-out role alongside the slashing Bell. The ability of Dayne to shoulder the load over the course of an entire season remains a question, which projects to a larger role for Bell over his 2005 efforts. Bell averaged 5.3 yards per carry and lost only one fumble last year, two factors served to gain coach Mike Shanahan's trust. Though carries will be shared in Denver once again, I'm still expecting Bell to emerge as the top option to keep Denver's running juggernaut rolling.
    2005 Stats: Tied for 14th with 8 rushing touchdowns
    2006 Projection: 11 rushing touchdowns

    10. Ronnie Brown, Miami Dolphins
    The Dolphins went to the split backfield once Ricky Williams returned from suspension in 2005 and worked Nick Saban's "I'll win by running the ball more than you" strategy to perfection. With Williams gone for 2006, Saban will lean heavily on second-year man Brown in his run-dominated attack. Of course, the acquisition of Daunte Culpepper this off-season is likely to shift the play-calling somewhat. I suspect that Brown pushes toward the 20-carry mark with more regularity this season and receives more red-zone opportunities with Culpepper at the helm. That assumes, of course, that we're seeing more of the 2004 Culpepper than his evil twin from 2005.
    2005 Stats: Tied for 28th in NFL with 4 rushing touchdowns
    2006 Projection: 9 rushing touchdowns

    11. Willis McGahee, Buffalo Bills
    The struggles of the Buffalo offense last season weighed heavily on fantasy owners last season as they watched McGahee struggle to five touchdown runs. However, McGahee did knock on the door on a number of other occasions, only to be turned back on several third-and-goal and fourth-and-goal efforts. Several inches of push on the offensive line in those plays would have elevated McGahee back among the game's top backs. The quarterback position remains unsettled heading into training camp, with veteran Kelly Holcomb holding a slight edge over J.P. Losman and Craig Nall. I expect the execution to be better than a season ago (could it be worse?) and for whomever lines up under center to keep more drives alive. New coach Dick Jauron preaches defense and ball control, which means that McGahee will undoubtedly turn in a heavy workload. The only concern for me here is the presence of former Jauron favorite Anthony Thomas. Thomas could swoop in and vulture some of McGahee's goal line efforts. As such, I didn't factor in a huge boost in output over 2005.
    2005 Stats: Tied for 22nd in NFL with 5 rushing touchdowns
    2006 Projection: 9 rushing touchdowns

    12. Carnell Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    Carnell Williams may lose the goal-line scores, but his future remains bright with a rebuilt offensive line. (Doug Benc / Getty Images)

    Jon Gruden contended that he was going to run Williams until he broke down, and those words nearly proved prophetic after Cadillac carried the ball 88 times through Week 3. He carried the ball 11 times in Week 4 before missing two games. Gruden then ran him less as the season wore on and relied more on the passing game and the explosive production of Joey Galloway. Williams will be the centerpiece of the offense this year with Chris Simms under center. Gruden will rely on Williams to set the tone and move the chains behind a rebuilt offensive line. I am somewhat concerned that he won't get the rewards of his dirty work and may cede some short-yardage work to fan favorite Mike Alstott. With that said, the future is very bright for this second-year star.
    2005 Stats: Tied for 17th with 6 rushing touchdowns
    2006 Projection: 9 rushing touchdowns

    13. Julius Jones, Dallas Cowboys
    Jones ranked among the biggest disappointments in 2005, watching backup Marion Barber rush to as many rushing touchdowns in limited work. He has certainly flashed the talent to be among the game's best backs, but injury concerns persist. Jones has missed 11 games in his first two years of action. Bill Parcells would like to establish the power ground game with Jones as the focus, but he'll need to show dedication and toughness to maintain the role. I believe he's in the perfect spot this season to elevate his game with the addition of Terrell Owens. The added attention on the passing game will free up running room and give Jones a chance to shine on the star in Big D.
    2005 Stats: Tied for 22nd in NFL with 5 rushing touchdowns
    2006 Projection: 9 rushing touchdowns

    14. Corey Dillon, New England Patriots
    The Patriots drafted the heir apparent to Dillon in Laurence Maroney this April, but the veteran back has made it clear that he expects to shoulder a heavy load for Bill Belichick and company this year. Dillon's recent injury history necessitated the move. He missed five games last year (including the famed dressed but did not play episode in Week 10), but still tied for fifth in the league with 12 rushing touchdowns. He showed great presence, patience and a nose for the painted grass last season. Dillon should receive ample opportunities again this season behind Tom Brady and the uber-efficient Patriots offense. Maroney will factor into the offense on some level, but it would take a significant drop-off in play or an injury to eclipse the incumbent Dillon.
    2005 Stats: Tied for 5th in NFL with 12 touchdowns
    2006 Projection: 8 rushing touchdowns

    15. LaMont Jordan, Oakland Raiders
    Jordan excelled in his first year as a feature back for Norv Turner and the Raiders last season. He finished the season with 342 touches despite missing the final two games. And therein lies the question for 2006. Can Jordan handle this type of workload again over the course of a full campaign? The insertion of Art Shell as the head coach portends to a heavier reliance on the running game and that means a big workload squarely on Jordan's shoulders. The Raiders have the talent in the passing game (Aaron Brooks, Randy Moss, Jerry Porter) to reduce some of his need to bail out the team out of the backfield, but those components were also in place in 2005. I also fear Zack Crockett returning to the vulture role in this offense to keep Jordan on the field.
    2005 Stats: Tied for 10th in NFL with 9 rushing touchdowns
    2006 Projection: 8 rushing touchdowns

  2. #2
    skum's Avatar
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    Re: Projections for 2006 season.

    Not much love for us either..


  3. #3
    Zeus's Avatar
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    Re: Projections for 2006 season.

    "skum" wrote:
    Not much love for us either..
    None that I could see.

    Which is FINE with me. When expectations are too high (see: last year!) then people get up for you and enjoy it when you crash.

    When expectations are low (see: 2005 Steelers, 2002 Buccaneers, 2001 Patriots, 2000 Ravens, 1999 Rams) it's easier to relax and play the game.


    Thanks to Josdin for the awesome sig!

  4. #4
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    Re: Projections for 2006 season.

    C-pep won't even be ready to play right away. He should have a pretty amazing 10 12 games to top 15 it.
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  5. #5
    Tharock's Avatar
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    Re: Projections for 2006 season.

    no love for aaron brooks or the our WR core and what with green there the damn guy is almoast about to retire LOL

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  6. #6
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    Re: Projections for 2006 season.

    i wouldn't be giving us much love either. i mean Brad Johnson will never be a top 15 QB in the leage again. he won't throw close to 4000 yards any time soon. Chester Taylor is unproven, and has aparantly bad work ethic, so why pick him over some players who have proven to be 1000 yard backs? i'm really not surprised by this at all.

  7. #7
    Bdubya is offline Star Spokesman
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    Re: Projections for 2006 season.

    "i_bleed_purple" wrote:
    i wouldn't be giving us much love either. i mean Brad Johnson will never be a top 15 QB in the leage again. he won't throw close to 4000 yards any time soon. Chester Taylor is unproven, and has aparantly bad work ethic, so why pick him over some players who have proven to be 1000 yard backs? i'm really not surprised by this at all.
    But look at the line he gets to run behind. I could be in the top half of the league in rushing if I played for the Vikings.
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  8. #8
    Tharock's Avatar
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    Re: Projections for 2006 season.

    "Bdubya" wrote:
    "i_bleed_purple" wrote:
    i wouldn't be giving us much love either. i mean Brad Johnson will never be a top 15 QB in the leage again. he won't throw close to 4000 yards any time soon. Chester Taylor is unproven, and has aparantly bad work ethic, so why pick him over some players who have proven to be 1000 yard backs? i'm really not surprised by this at all.
    But look at the line he gets to run behind. I could be in the top half of the league in rushing if I played for the Vikings.

    dont puit much into this hes going off of last seasons stats and brad just doesnt have the WR core to be on here. but chester with your O-line should get mentiond. look what they havew on lamont jordan a guy who had over 1600 yards and 11 tds at #15 and they dont even have aaron brooks on there.

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  9. #9
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    Re: Projections for 2006 season.

    "Bdubya" wrote:
    "i_bleed_purple" wrote:
    i wouldn't be giving us much love either. i mean Brad Johnson will never be a top 15 QB in the leage again. he won't throw close to 4000 yards any time soon. Chester Taylor is unproven, and has aparantly bad work ethic, so why pick him over some players who have proven to be 1000 yard backs? i'm really not surprised by this at all.
    But look at the line he gets to run behind. I could be in the top half of the league in rushing if I played for the Vikings.
    true, he COULD be a top 5 back behind that line, but can you honestly say that he WILL do better than great runningbacks like LT, Edge, Larry J, Tiki, Shuan Alexander, Portis or McGahee?? they are all proven backs who under normal circumstances should run for over 1300 yards.

    the only places i see him taking, is either Julius JOnes, or Ronnie Brown. but Ronnie brown had 907 yards and split time with Ricky Williams, so had he been a full time back he probably would have gotten over 1100 yards. and as long as JJones stays healthy he's a lock for 1000 yards.

    there are a lot of good backs there and I can not honestly say that Taylor WILL do good enough to be in the top 15. don't get me wrong, i think its very possible with the good line we've got and his talent.

  10. #10
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    Re: Projections for 2006 season.

    Prediction: The Vikings will surprise EVERYONE and make it deep into the playoffs! YEAH!!!!

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