The 2015-16 NFL season officially kicks off tonight and this weekend, which means hopeful fantasy owners get to see if the team they drafted is good enough to bring home that elusive league championship when the final whistle blows.
With that said, you all need to remember that the draft is just one part of the fantasy season. Rosters can't be treated as a "set it and forget it" endeavor. The waiver wire, and possibly the trade lines, are also vital avenues that will make or break a fantasy team no matter the league size.
For the Jaguars, the name you need to know and love is T.J. Yeldon. I pumped the Jaguars rookie all preseason as a sleeper RB who you should target via the draft, or trade. The Jaguars have a good young WR corps with Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, and Marqise Lee, and while Denard Robinson is a good scat-back option, Yeldon will provide that presence in the backfield that will keep defenses honest. Barring injury, he should yield owners RB2 returns all season long, with RB1 numbers mixed in. Go get him while his price is still low!
Eli Manning – Giants: If Victor Cruz can be what he once was, or close to it, Eli Manning has one of the best 1-2-3 punches at WR in the NFL this season. Add in Shane Vereen coming out of the backfield and Larry Donnell at TE, and you have the makings of a QB1 in fantasy football all season long. Playing the Cowboys doesn't hurt when you take into account their lack of confidence in their own backfield, and propensity to throw to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.
Ryan Tannehill – Dolphins: With a 98.4 percent ownership on NFL.com, and 95 percent on Yahoo, it is clear people are no longer wondering if Tannehill is a QB worth owning. However, his 41 percent starting number on Yahoo and 72.9 percent on NFL.com (10-team leagues vs. Yahoo's 12-team standard) tells me people view him as a QB2 rather than a true starter. If you drafted guys like Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, or Cam Newton as your starter, with Tannehill as your backup, I'd give some serious consideration to swapping them for Week 1 as the Dolphins face a Redskins defense that is anything but scary on either side of the ball.
Frank Gore – Colts: The Bills have a tough defense, which makes people wonder if Gore is worth playing right out of the gate this season. My answer is yes. Andrew Luck is arguably the best QB in the NFL, and Gore is a workhorse that will pull the Colts wagon barring injury. I am looking for Gore's receptions and red zone touches to spike this season, and have no problems sticking him in my starting lineup week in and week out.
Chris Ivory – Jets: The Jets brought in Brandon Marshall to be the big WR threat so Eric Decker can go back to being the possession receiver he really is. That is a good thing for Ivory as now teams can no longer stack eight men in the box and leave the secondary to play man coverage. The Jets face the Browns in Week 1, and while the Browns defense is solid, their team is nothing short of a mess. I'm looking for Ivory to flirt with RB1 numbers this week, and finish the season as a high-end RB2.
Devante Adams – Packers: With Jordy Nelson done for the season (ACL), the Packers will look to Adams to fill his spot in the offense. Add to that the lack of playmakers in the Bears secondary and you have a recipe for a great WR2 option you probably got at the end of the eighth round. With the news surrounding the Packers signing James Jones, and Adams being held without a catch in their last preseason game, now might not be a bad time to send a feeler out and see what his trade value is.
Allen Robinson – Jaguars: We all know the Jaguars get no love outside of Jacksonville, but that can also be a good thing to savvy fantasy owners. Robinson is No. 1 on the depth chart, and my bet is the presence of Yeldon in the backfield will open up the passing game and allow Blake Bortles to make a leap forward this year. I already traded for Robinson in a few leagues and suggest you do the same, especially in PPR formats.
Tyler Eifert – Bengals: Eifert is easily atop my TE sleepers list this season, and nobody from the big box websites seems to even know who he is. Tight end is an all-or-nothing position in fantasy football, so whenever you can find a hidden gem you have to pounce on it. Eifert looks to be the #2 option in the passing game behind A.J. Green, and should have a huge role in the red zone. I'm playing Eifert as a TE1 this week against a weak Raiders defense.
New York Jets defense: With all the problems the Jets have on the offensive side of the ball, their defense is one that I really like this season. The Browns have as many problems on offense as any team in the NFL, and I am looking for the Jets to finish Week 1 as a top-5 fantasy defense despite being owned in just 38 percent of Yahoo leagues, and 19.2 percent of NFL.com leagues.
Cam Newton – Panthers: Cam I Am was dealt a bad hand to start the season when WR Kelvin Benjamin went down with a torn ACL in training camp. That leaves the Panthers featuring Corey Brown and Ted Ginn, with rookie Devin Funchess in the No. 3 spot. Funchess made some noise in the preseason, but rookie WRs are hard to count on both in fantasy and reality. Newton's main target is going to be TE Greg Olsen, which means Olsen is likely to be blanketed at all times.
Jay Cutler – Bears: With Cutler's No. 1 WR's health as clear as Mississippi mud, it's hard to imagine Cutler having a ton of success with a possibly less-than-100-percent Jeffery, Eddie Royal, and Martellus Bennett. I suspect the Bears game plan is to use Matt Forte as a check-down option early and often. Cutler is someone who I view as a low-end QB2 due to his rising interception numbers the past few seasons.
Giovani Bernard – Bengals: If you own Bernard, my hope is that you are in a PPR league because his value is in his receptions. Jeremy Hill is a legit top-5 RB in the NFL in my opinion. Which means Bernard gets pushed to No. 2 on the depth chart for touches in the backfield. The Raiders are… well… the Raiders. The game shouldn't be close and Bernard's playing time is directly linked to passing-down situations. In PPR leagues, Bernard is a RB3/Flex option, and should be sat in standard leagues.
Tevin Coleman – Falcons: The Falcons listed Coleman as their starting RB on their depth chart, which is good news for people who snagged him in at the end of the 11th round. The problem he has this weekend is the Eagles have one of the best front sevens in the NFL. Coleman is at best a flex option this weekend, and one that I would personally try to avoid if at all possible.
Larry Fitzgerald – Cardinals: At 32 years old, Fitzgerald has more name value than true fantasy value. He hasn't topped 1,000 yards receiving since 2011. Add in how high the Cardinals coaching staff is on WR John Brown, and you have all the makings for a disappointing fantasy season once again. Even if Brown were to go down, they still have Michael Floyd to take over the playmaking role ahead of Fitzgerald. The reality is Fitzgerald is little more than depth on fantasy benches at this stage of his career.
Devin Funchess – Panthers: When Benjamin went down, many were thinking that Funchess would step right into his role and become this year's sleeper WR. But, as I said with Newton, Funchess has failed to take control of a starting spot. The truth is Funchess is probably the most talented WR on the roster at this point, but not many rookies make enough of an impact to truly be worth playing in fantasy leagues. And given the Panthers' problems on offense, I wouldn't bet on Funchess being worth much until he separates himself from Ginn and Brown.
Josh Hill – Saints: There was a lot of hype in the offseason about Hill taking over the Jimmy Graham role for the Saints, but that's all it was. As we got into the preseason it became evident that Hill's role was to be that of a red zone threat that is either a boom-or-bust fantasy play. Hill isn't likely to see enough targets to make him worth playing even in the deepest formats, meaning the 40 percent of Yahoo fantasy players who own Hill are going to be frustrated.
Baltimore Ravens defense: The Ravens always have a strong defense worth owning in any fantasy format. With that said, opening the season against the Broncos won't do their fantasy owners any favors in Week 1. Peyton Manning is dangerous early in the season because he is as close to 100 percent healthy as you can get in the NFL, and the Ravens secondary isn't exactly one of the best in the NFL. The Ravens are well worth owning this season, just not starting to open the season.
Question of the Week
Q: Hey James,
I landed a lot of WRs, but none that are really considered top 10. Can you pick the top 4 you would start this week out of the following 7?
Keenan Allen, Amari Cooper, Marvin Jones, Andre Johnson, Vincent Jackson, Sammy Watkins
DeAndre Hopkins. (Ryan Ament)
A: My top 4, in this order, would be Hopkins, Johnson, Allen, then Cooper. Jones is more of a hold until he takes over Mohammed Sanu for the No. 2 WR spot. But even if/when he does, he's 3rd on the target chart behind Green and Tyler Eifert; Jackson is not only behind Mike Evans, but also has to deal with a rookie QB; Watkins is close to Cooper, but Cooper has a better QB than Watkins. Plus the Bills are going to be run-heavy and have a running QB.