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After a long, dark offseason, fantasy football is almost back again.
In less than a week, the Detroit Lions will visit Arrowhead Stadium to take on the Kansas City Chiefs—and when that game begins, so will another fantasy campaign.
For the most part, teams have already been drafted. IDP managers know who they will be taking into battle. What they don't know is how those players will fare in the season to come. Will early picks like Cleveland Browns edge-rusher Myles Garrett meet expectations or fall flat? Will late-round dart-throws like Buffalo Bills linebacker Tyrel Dodson be league-winning value picks or waive wire fodder by Week 5?
Some things are more likely than not in IDP leagues each year. But there's one thing that's certain in IDP leagues—nothing is certain. IDP stalwarts like Fred Warner of the San Francisco 49ers can come up short. Every year, surprise stars like Carolina Panthers linebacker Frankie Luvu in 2022 come from nowhere to post big numbers.
However, while IDP leagues may be short on certainties, that didn't stop Footballguys' John Norton and Gary Davenport from coming together to offer some predictions for the season to come. Given their considerable skills and experience, every one of these predictions is guaranteed to be 100 percent accurate.
Unless, of course, they are completely wrong.
Read the tea leaves and offer a bold prediction on the defensive line for the 2023 season.
Guru: I predict that the Jets Jermaine Johnson will total 50+ combined tackles, at least a dozen sacks, and finish in the top ten. New York runs a high-pressure, attacking scheme that is highly conducive to production from its pass rushers. Carl Lawson can't stay healthy and is not all that impressive when he is. Last year's first-round pick, Johnson, is listed behind Lawson on the depth chart but is in line to start, while a back injury has Lawson uncertain to be ready for the start of the season. With one less player in the rotation and an opportunity to start, I also predict that Lawson will not start another game ahead of Johnson, ever.
Godfather: Za'Darius Smith of the Cleveland Browns will post a career-high in tackles, tally a dozen-plus sacks, and join batterymate Myles Garrett as a top-12 fantasy option along the defensive line. Frankly, this might not really be that bold a prediction—in each of his past three healthy seasons, Smith has tallied double-digit sacks and recorded at least 45 total tackles. But now the 30-year-old is playing opposite arguably the best edge-rusher in the NFL in Jim Schwartz's "Wide Nine" scheme—a defense that plays well to Smith's strengths. Cleveland's revamped defensive line could do some real damage in 2023—and Smith should be one of the main beneficiaries of the new team and scheme.
Peer into your crystal ball and offer a bold prediction at linebacker for the 2023 campaign.
Guru: I predict Zach Cunningham will reach 90 solo tackles and still be the second-best IDP linebacker on his own team behind Nakobe Dean. Cunningham is a tackling machine, but he doesn't make many splash plays. I think Dean will post good tackle totals and make a strong contribution in the big play columns as well.
Godfather: That we're talking up Cunningham rather makes me wonder what year this is. But in the interest of continuing along this vein, I'll make my prediction about the linebacker that Cunningham ostensibly replaced in the City of Brotherly Love—Kyzir White will surpass the career-high 144 total tackles he posted in 2021 with the Los Angeles Chargers and finish the season as a top-12 fantasy linebacker.
White posted 110 total tackles last year as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles on the way to a WR39 finish. But that was playing with T.J. Edwards for one of the NFL's best defenses. The year before, however, he was LB11. This season, White will be the No. 1 off-ball linebacker for an Arizona Cardinals team that might be the worst in the league. There is going to be no shortage of tackle opportunities for White in 2023, given how putrid the Arizona offense looks. The Cardinals defense is going to be out there a LOT—and White is going to pile up stops as a result.
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