Week 1: Super Sleepers
If you play in large leagues or are forced to dig deep for fantasy roster spots this season, then this weekly article is for you. I am playing in several leagues this season where player depth will be instrumental in winning my fantasy match-ups each week. My one league is comprised of eighteen teams. The auction draft in this league had to be approached very strategically and my weekly line-ups will feature some guys that might not even be considered in smaller formats.
My draft yielded the following: Jay Cutler QB, Dez Bryant WR, Tavon Austin WR, Doug Martin RB, Jamaal Charles RB, Julius Thomas TE, Cordarrelle Patterson WR, Christine Michael RB, Knile Davis RB, Mike Gillislee RB, Mike Goodson RB, Terrelle Pryor QB, Matt Prater K and Dallas Def plus two defensive players NaVorro Bowman LB and Morgan Burnett S.
The first few weeks of the fantasy season will undoubtedly have their usual surprises, with some top picks showing little production and some unknowns having big games. This week I have two second string running backs who could come out of the gate swinging, three wide outs who should impress, one tight end steal from the draft and a newly minted starting quarterback.
Terrelle Pryor has been named the starting QB in Oakland. You might say, so what? I cannot blame you if you feel this way as Oakland has been named the worst team in the league on several occasions this off and preseason. However, if you are in a deep league where QBs are at a premium and your roster must focus on playing a normally second string passer to make ends meet, Pryor might be your guy. He is a playmaker who has the ability to run the ball as well as pass, making him more appealing than other options. Pryor's off-season work to improve his accuracy makes me feel a bit more comfortable with him on my roster to accompany Jay Cutler, who has the tendency to miss some playing time or have poor performances. Pryor's passing ability is definitely of question. Oakland's lackluster team means that playing from behind might become the norm; if it does, Pryor will be passing the ball and making plays using his speed. In Week 1 vs. Indy, most experts are strongly supporting the Indy defense as a fantasy no-brainer. That's fair, but that doesn't mean the former Ohio State star can't help steal a win for you with his legs.
Roy Helu's preseason reminded owners why they loved back in 2011. In his last outing, he produced nearly 5.5 yards per carry vs. Buffalo, showing no signs of the injury woes that rocked his 2012. Should Alfred Morris should falter in any way, the Redskins have a legitimate option ready for his close-up. In PPR leagues, Washington's third down back could be a Flex play when bye weeks approach. In larger formats, he might be a plug and play option depending upon the match-up. Those forward-thinking owners who stashed Helu on their benches now could be loving life in the coming weeks. At the very least Helu will get touches and show his worth when he does. Look for him to have some immediate fantasy impact this week vs. Philadelphia on Monday night.
I don't know about all fantasy owners, but I really like Christine Michael. He is listed as the No. 3 RB on the depth chart behind Robert Turbin, but appears to be slated as Marshawn Lynch's handcuff. If you did not consider this guy in your draft, that was a mistake. Michael has the ability to be as productive as any other fantasy stud running back, despite his lack of NFL experience. His speed and power will earn him accolades and move him up the fantasy charts for next season for sure. Michael had off the field issues at Texas A&M, leading to suspensions. Concerning, sure, but let's root for maturity to kick in. In Week 1 look for Michael to get his touches and make them count. I think he will see more carries than anticipated and finish Week 1 with 40-50 yards rushing with a few added receptions. He has the potential to break a long run and put up substantially greater numbers. Even if he's as quiet as a mouse in the opener, I boldly expect him to roar at points this season.
As I stated back in June, following an expert mock draft, "Alshon Jeffery has the potential to have a breakout season this year and that is why I picked him up. There has to be another option to Brandon Marshall and Jeffery will be that target."
Jay Cutler is poised to have a solid season this year with a strong supporting cast. Marshall is still nursing his hip and fantasy owners have been concerned, as average drafting position and auction values of Marshall have fallen. Jeffery should be able to step up his game and make an impact in Chicago's wide receiver sets.
The one drawback might be Martellus Bennett, as the big TE will be a factor and could steal wide out targets and red zone looks. If I were to bet on Jeffery this week against Cincinnati, I would say he sees 8-10 targets with 6-7 receptions for 65-75 yards. Jeffery might even find the end zone as coverage options could allow him to get open in the red zone.
Rueben Randle is a wideout that has repeatedly received positive reviews this preseason. With Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz missing time, Randle received first team reps and showed Kevin Gilbride his worth. Randle earned playing time in first and second down schemes and is poised for a breakout season. If you start 2-3 wideouts and a flex, Randle might be worth a look this week vs. Dallas - if Cruz is limited or out. He is definitely a guy to keep on your radar in dynasty leagues and a trade option if he is not stashed on your bench.