With the season coming soon, it is time to look at some potential candidates for the major NFL statistical accolades. In each section, there will be a cold take option and a hot take option. The takes will be ranked from one to 18 on the legitimacy of the contender.
Patrick Mahomes (5,021 yards)
Mahomes finished second to Ben Roethlisberger with 5,097 yards in 2018. Despite an injury-shortened 2019, Mahomes managed to finish 10th in yards with an impressive 4,031. In 2020, the Chiefs will likely continue to rely on the passing game especially with the news that Damien Williams is opting out of the season. The Chiefs will be great yet again based on the arm of Mahomes.
Hot Take: Jared Goff (4,999)
Goff has been in the top 10 in passing yards for three straight seasons, including a third-place finish in 2019. In a nutshell, Goff is not too hot of a take. He led the NFL in pass attempts in 2019, and the Rams will likely lean into the passing game even more in 2020. However, Patrick Mahomes automatically turns any quarterback stat predictions into a hot take.
Patrick Mahomes (47)
Mahomes led the NFL in passing touchdowns in 2018 with a mammoth 50. In NFL history, only Tom Brady (50 in 2007) and Peyton Manning (55 in 2013) have gotten to the 50-touchdown mark. Mahomes may not reach 50 again, but he should flirt with it for much of the season. The AFC West will not have fun defending the MVP of Super Bowl 54.
Hot Take: Joe Burrow (36)
Burrow has never taken a snap in the NFL, and he will not have preseason games to warm up. For Burrow to lead the NFL in passing touchdowns, he would need a season where a number close to 30 or 35 leads the league. Since 2008, no player has led the NFL in passing touchdowns without getting to 34, so Burrow would almost certainly need to tack on nearly 25 percent to the current rookie passing touchdown record (27 by Baker Mayfield in 2018).
Derrick Henry (1,728)
Henry led the NFL with 1,540 rushing yards in 2019. Assuming the Titans do not wait until November to unleash Henry, he should lap the field in the major rushing stats. Henry will likely be in play for 325 carries, leaving him in a prime position for 1,600 or more yards.
Hot Take: Kenyan Drake (1,455)
Drake averaged 80 rushing yards per game with the Cardinals over eight games. With a full offseason in the system, Drake could push closer to 100 yards per game on around 20 carries per game. The Drake projection comes from some extrapolation, but Drake seemed to have turned a corner in Arizona.
Aaron Jones (17)
In 2019, Jones tied for the lead in rushing touchdowns, and I am repeating my prediction of him leading the NFL in 2020. He has doubled his touchdown production in each season, but that trend is almost certain to end in 2020 as he would need a record-shattering 32 rushing touchdowns. With game manager Aaron Rodgers at the helm, Jones will likely finish off many red zone drives.
Hot Take: Lamar Jackson (14)
Jackson has 12 career rushing touchdowns over two seasons, so predicting him to lead the NFL seems ambitious. The Ravens will likely tune down the number of designed runs for Jackson in 2020, but he will be a valuable weapon in the red zone both as a scrambler and as a designed runner. 67 percent of Jackson’s touchdowns have come within the 10-yard line, so there is potential for Jackson to exchange a few of his short passing touchdowns for short rushing touchdowns.
Michael Thomas (132)
Thomas has led the NFL in receptions in each of the last two seasons. In 2019, Thomas had an NFL-record 149 catches. He likely will not reach that number again (especially with a healthy Alvin Kamara and new teammate Emmanuel Sanders), but Thomas will be among the leaders in targets, and few can turn targets into catches like Thomas.
Hot Take: Cooper Kupp (118)
Kupp had 94 catches last season, the ninth-most in the NFL. Los Angeles has one fewer mouth to feed with Brandin Cooks out of town, and Kupp should capitalize on extra targets. Some of the extra targets will go to rookie Van Jefferson, but Kupp is a solid bet to pass 100 catches in 2020.
Kenny Golladay (1,612)
Golladay is on the COVID-19 list, so there is doubt as to how productive he will be in 2020. Golladay has surpassed 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons, and he has averaged an absurd 16.7 yards per catch. If Golladay gets closer to 100 catches, he could be a surprise leader for receiving yards.
Hot Take: A.J. Brown (1,499)
Brown is Golladay on steroids. In 2019, Brown got to 1,051 yards on just 52 catches, a 20.2 yards per catch clip. Out of the 748 receivers to have 1,000 yards in a season in NFL history, only 17 have had fewer than Brown’s 52 catches. Assuming Brown is closer to 100 catches, he will post a massive number of receiving yards.
Tyreek Hill (14)
Hill has 32 career receiving touchdowns in four seasons including a career-high of 12 in 2018. With good health, he could be in play for a dozen or more touchdowns in 2020. He caught 24 percent of Patrick Mahomes’s touchdowns in 2018, and he should be around that mark in 2020.
Hot Take: Hayden Hurst (13)
Hurst has three career touchdowns on 43 catches, so this is out there a bit. Hurst should occupy a red zone role in the Atlanta offense that will be pass-happy. Hurst will likely have more touchdowns than Austin Hooper had in 2019 (six), but Atlanta has to have someone to finish touchdown drives. My money is on Hurst.
T.J. Watt (20.5)
Watt has posted 27.5 sacks over the last two seasons, and he is the focal point of an excellent Pittsburgh defensive front. With the likes of Cameron Heyward and Bud Dupree taking blockers from Watt, Watt will get a fair share of one-on-one matchups which could lead to a J.J. Watt-esque sack total for the younger brother.
Hot Take: Josh Allen (17.0)
On the opposite side of the logic used with Watt, Allen is the only game-changer in Jacksonville’s pass rush. Allen will face many double-teams with the departure of Calais Campbell, but Allen should have plenty of opportunities. If Allen can post a couple of games with multiple sacks, he could slide into being the NFL’s sack leader.
Stephon Gilmore (7)
Gilmore led the NFL in interceptions and pass deflections in 2020, and this prediction stems from how active Gilmore is with the ball in the air. Likely the best cornerback in the NFL, Gilmore is a decent bet for a crapshoot like interceptions.
Hot Take: Carlton Davis (8)
Davis had 19 pass deflections and one interception in 14 games with the Buccaneers in 2019. If the Buccaneers are as good as many predict them to be, Davis will be on the field for many passing downs. Davis has some of the most active hands in the NFL, and he was good enough (but not too good) in coverage to warrant another 117-target season. With that many targets, Davis could get his hands on some interceptions.