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Predicting NFL stats leaders for 2018

As the start of the regular NFL season gets closer, it is the perfect time to make some predictions. Right now, the players we’ll highlight are all healthy and looking to put up stats that rank them at the top of their position in 2018.

Which running back might lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns this year? Will a defender other than from Sacksonville record the most sacks this year?

We have put forth our best effort to predict which NFL players will lead in the following 20 stats categories in 2018.

Passing yards: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Prior to his injury in 2017, Rodgers recorded 4,428 passing yards in 2016. This marked the fourth-highest yards in the league that year. We predict that Rodgers ups this production, as he is armed with an excellent receiving group full of guys capable of making huge plays. This would include new tight end Jimmy Graham, who has the ability to rack up quite the substantial yardage himself. Furthermore, the Packers look to remain a pass-heavy offense without any clear-cut bell-cow type of running back to dominate.

Total quarterback yards: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

This is an easy call. Due to Wilson’s shoddy offensive line, this poor quarterback is always on the run as he looks to avoid getting hit. Making plays on his feet last year, Wilson racked up 586 rushing yards. And, he passed for 3,983 yards. More of the same should be the case again in 2018. The Seahawks could easily be playing from behind a lot, boasting a depleted defense that doesn’t look to do them any favors this year. Wilson should produce yards galore and make those who draft him in fantasy football very happy campers.

Passing touchdowns: Tom Brady, New England Patriots

While we do not pick Brady to lead in yards, he is our top choice for throwing the most touchdowns. As one of the most accurate passers in the league, Brady makes very few mistakes and works with a handfull of players capable of finding the end zone. From Rob Gronkowski to wide receivers Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan to the Patriots array of pass-catching running backs, the scoring possibilities through the air are endless for Tom Terrific.

Passes intercepted: Sam Darnold, New York Jets

We are going to pick on the rookie here who is working toward becoming the Jets starter come Week 1. While this young quarterback is attempting to score, the interceptions will surely occur. After all, turnovers were an issue for Darnold in college, as he threw 22 picks during his two years under center at USC. Now, Darnold works with a receiving corps that is not much to write home about. We could see this group allowing Darnold’s passes to land in enemy hands. If Darnold proves this prediction wrong, then more power to him.

Most-sacked quarterback: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton

As one of the taller and more physical quarterback threats in the league, Newton is a target for abuse. No defense wants to see him break out of the pocket and strike strong on a rushing play. With that said, Newton has been sacked an average of 36.6 times per season since he was drafted in 2011. This year sadly might not be any different for Newton, who’ll be working with an offensive line that continues to fails him. In the NFC South alone, Newton will have to deal with some pretty potent pass rushers twice per year.

Rushing yards: Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars

Provided Fournette stays healthy, he is dark horse candidate who could rack up the most rushing yards in 2018. Last season as a rookie, Fournette averaged 80 rushing yards per game, marking the sixth-highest total in the league. He stands to build on this number a lot considering the Jags are going to lean on him more than ever this year. A young and injury-prone receiving corps should force quarterback Blake Bortles to keep feeding Fournette. Plus, a dominating defense will keep the Jags ahead more often than not. When that happens, Fournette will be used to run down the clock.

Rushing touchdowns: Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams

Gurley led in this stat last year and he could easily do so once again in 2018. He made 13 rushing touchdowns look easy-breezy last season. He won’t be sharing a backfield like many other backs do in the league, for starters. Plus, the Rams produced the highest-scoring offense in the league last year and there is not much to suggest Gurley’s production is going to calm down. He could easily find the end zone once per game on the ground, even upping last year’s touchdown count.

Rushing attempts: Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers

Look for the Steelers to pound the stuffing out of Bell in what is very likely his last season playing for Pittsburgh. Bell received an average of 21.4 rushing attempts per contest last year and should easily be on pace for the same or more. He should remain quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s go-to hand-off guy in an offense that ran like a fine-tuned watch last year. And never mind that Bell has been a holdout. He did the same thing last summer and did not miss a beat.

Yards per carry: Alex Collins, Baltimore Ravens

Ravens running back Jarvorius Allen on Monday Night Football

Highly underrated, Collins averaged an impressive 4.6 yards per carry last year. This saw Collins best both the aforementioned Bell, Ezekiel Elliott and several other top-tier running backs in this stat. Who is to say that Collins won’t continue to build on this firm foundation? He looks to remain the Ravens No. 1 back and he has a good offensive line to work behind. Watch for the 23-year-old Collins to keep turning heads while he hopefully earns more recognition for his play.

Combined rushing and receiving yards: Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

Without a looming suspension hanging overhead like a dark cloud, Elliott is primed for a bounce-back year. He should pile up a ton of all-purpose yardage. Who else really is there to rely upon on offense in Dallas? On top of the bell-cow duties, look for Elliott to be heavily involved in the Cowboys passing game. He has averaged a 75 percent catch rate and he stands to be a safety net for Dak Prescott among a group of pass-catchers with much to prove.

Receiving yards: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

Speaking of catching passes, we expect Brown to dominate the league once again in this category. Brown makes the most of every reception and recorded a league-high 1,533 yards last season. A staple on offense and favorite target of Big Ben’s, Brown’s production does not appear destined to slow down. Over his past five seasons, AB has averaged a ridiculous 1,570 receiving yards per year. There is simply no betting against this four-time All-Pro until further notice.

Receiving touchdowns: DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans

While Brown is racking up yards, it is Hopkins who is a favorite to lead the NFL in receiving touchdowns. He has proven that it doesn’t matter who is throwing to him. Hopkins finds ways to score. Coming off of a 13-touchdown season in 2017, the sky should be the limit for Hopkins with the return of quarterback Deshaun Watson this year. This is the quarterback/wide receiving tandem to keep an eye on in 2018.

Receptions: Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints

All the talk around New Orleans last year revolved around running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. But, those paying to attention to Thomas know that he sneakily recorded 104 receptions last year, marking the third-most in the NFL. This number stands to increase without Ingram around for the first four games. It also worth noting that Thomas boasts a catch rate of 76.8 percent. Therefore, Thomas makes for our No. 1 choice in this stat, hands down.

Receiving targets: Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

We are stealing this stat from last year’s target leaders — Hopkins and Brown, and giving it to OBJ this season. The fifth-year receiver is healthy and ready to help a Giants offense that struggled tremendously without him last year. He is going to be a go-to player for quarterback Eli Manning, and stands to build on the 10.3 targets per game he averaged before his injury last season. Hungry for action, and ready to prove he deserves to be the next highest-paid receiver, Beckham could easily garner the most targets of any player in the league in 2018.

Interceptions: Kevin Byard, safety, Tennessee Titans

This year calls for an encore for Byard, who tied for a league-high eight picks last year. The reason for selecting Byard again is because of the quarterbacks he will face twice per year in the AFC South, just for starters. We are talking about the interception-prone trio of Blake Bortles, Deshaun Watson and Andrew Luck. Outside of them, Byard will square off against the likes of Ryan Tannehill, Carson Wentz, likely Josh Allen, Joe Flacco, Philip Rivers, Dak Prescott, Sam Darnold and Eli Manning. The interception possibilities are endless.

Passes defended: Marshon Lattimore, cornerback, New Orleans Saints

Lattimore earned major respect and Defensive Rookie of the Year honors after defending 23 passes last year, marking the fourth-most in the league. The young corner was a stud in coverage, allowing only a 45.3 passer rating as a rookie.  If Lattimore had not missed three games due to injury last year, he might have led the league in defended passes. This upcoming season provides Lattimore the opportunity to do just that.

Defensive touchdowns: Aqib Talib, cornerback, Los Angeles Rams

Quite the opposite of the young Lattimore, our pick to best his competition in defensive touchdowns scored this year goes to Talib. The 32-year-old corner found the end zone six times in his last four seasons playing with Denver. Surely he could create havoc and potentially snag a pick-six or two off of some of the more vulnerable offenses he faces this year. This would include the Seahawks, 49ers, Chiefs, Bears, Cardinals and his former Broncos. Why not?

Sacks: J.J. Watt, defensive end, Houston Texans

Watt once again leading the league in sacks would be truly awesome, as he’s returning from two seasons filled with injuries. The four-time All-Pro has managed this already twice in his career, both in 2012 and 2015, recording 20.5 sacks and 17.5 sacks, respectively. If Watt stays healthy — knock on wood — he could once again dominate in this stat. Opposing quarterbacks, you have been warned.

Combined tackles: Bobby Wagner, linebacker, Seattle Seahawks

Since Wagner is one of the very few names we still recognize on the Seahawks defense, he might just be the busiest linebacker in the league this year. He was ultra-productive last season recording 133 combined tackles, marking the fourth-most in the NFL. It is safe to say this number stands to increase while he is being heavily depended upon by his depleted defense.

Most points scored: Justin Tucker, kicker, Baltimore Ravens

Tucker was beat out by Rams kicker, Greg Zuerlein, in this stat last year by 17 points. With the Ravens offense looking much more promising this year, it could boost Tucker’s stock in points scored in 2018. He made every single one of his 39 PATs last year and missed only three field goals. With the Ravens hopefully operating better on offense, we should see Tucker’s PATs increase as well as his massive field goal attempts. Though, this does not deem Tucker worthy of being selected too early in fantasy football drafting.