By Anthony Stampone
Position by position Start’em, Sit’em, and Sleeper look at fantasy Hashtag Style
Tony Romo: While the focus since last season has been on the Cowboys dominate run game, due in large part to them having arguably the best offensive line in football, it allowed Romo to quietly have an outstanding year and look for it continue this year. With a running back by committee approach and facing the Giants starting two rookie Safeties on SNF, look for Romo to have a big game picking apart a weak and banged up Giants defense. Without a feature back to speak of expect to see Romo sling it around a little more than last season and look just fine doing it.
Ryan Tannehill: Tannehill has shown progression and improvement in each of his first three seasons in the NFL, expect that to only continue as the Dolphins have stockpiled a heavy arsenal of weapons for Tannehill entering his fourth season at the helm in Miami. The Dolphins open up against a Washington Redskins team that loaded with questions all over the field, and could be one of the worst teams in the NFL this season. Defensively the Redskins do have a decent front, which could slow the Miami running game, but it look for Tannehill to pick apart a Redskins secondary lead by the aging DeAngelo Hall and the heavily overrated Dashon Goldson.
Russell Wilson: Questions marks all over the offensive line have me apprehensive to expect Wilson to have another great fantasy season this year. Trading Max Unger for Jimmy Graham looked good at the surface but if what we saw in the preseason from the Seahawks O-Line doesn’t improve fast, his weapons which include his own feet won’t matter. Facing a ferociousand healthy D-line in the Rams to open the season will really test Wilson and his ability to make plans with this feet for rushing yards and to get out of the pocket and make throws down field. Look for the Rams to make Wilson’s opening day one to forget.
Cam Newton: Although last season Cam Newton was able to overcome a very questionable offensive line and what was thought to be a weak supporting cast to win the NFC South, don’t expect another repeat of these successes again this season. Newton is again playing behind a questionable line anchored by the recently well-traveled Michael Oher as his blind side protector and nothing but questions at the pass catching position with the exception of standout TE Greg Olsen, expect Cam to struggle to find consistency this season. Jacksonville seems like an easy win but this young up and coming team does feature a relentless defense that will look to get after Newton early and often.
Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford, and Carson Palmer
Eddie Lacy: With the loss of top receiving playmaker Jordy Nelson and playing a defense in transition with the Bears switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 base scheme, expect Lacy to have a big day. Lacy has been a rising star over the last two season and look for him to get even more touches and be even better this year. Lacy is a beast in the running game, and is a very reliable target in the passing game. With the Bears having to still worry about the likes of Randall Cobb and Davante Adams in the passing game expect Lacy to get his fair share of looks out of the backfield with favorable matchups against unproven cover LBs trying to match up against the stud out of Bama.
Adrian Peterson: After almost an entire season off from football, the best running back in the NFL over the last decade is back and may even be in the best shape of his career. Although he missed time due to legal issues, it game Peterson a chance to get completely healthy, something he hasn’t been for a long time. Peterson faces a 49ers defense that for the first time in a while faces a lot of questions on the defensive side of the ball. Yes, Navarro Bowman is back to anchor the middle of what was a vaunted front seven over the last few seasons, but I do not believe it will be enough to make up for the losses of Aldon Smith, Chris Borland, and Patrick Willis. Peterson should have a great game carving up a weak 49ers defense in his first game back in a year.
The Entire Dallas Backfield: Although the Cowboys do have the best offensive line in the NFL, the questions at RB are a cause for concern to start the season. Playing a “running back by committee” approach to at least start the season I would be leery to play any one of Dallas running backs a RB1 or RB2 in either a PPR or standard leagues. Last week the Cowboys added running back Christine Michael to an already overloaded and unproven backfield. Wait until later in the season to decide which Cowboys back you should play as we find out who is going to take this job on a more consistent basis.
Frank Gore: Entering the ladder part of his career, Gore is in a great offense to help him extend what has been a great career. However Gore and the Colts open the season against what may arguably be the best defense in the entire NFL. Yes, the Bills will be missing the defensive line center pin due to a suspension in Marcell Dareus, they still have three other proven studs upfront and a very serviceable fill in Corbin Bryant, who would probably be a starter on most other teams in the NFL, Gore will be given little room to work against this stout defensive front. Additionally, it should be noted that Gore is probably going to playing on a pitch count to help him remain healthy for what is being anticipated as a long season for the Colts as they look to get past last season’s successes and advance further in the AFC.
LeSean McCoy, Andre Ellington, Ameer Abdullah, and Jeremy Hill
Odell Beckham Jr: Expect OBJ to pick right up where he left off last season where he lead all WO’s in average yards per games played (remember he missed the first 4 games of last season). The Cowboys lost top corner Scandrick to a season ending knee injury, the Cowboys are going to have an even harder time than they already were going to have trying to cover the young phenome with the likes of Brandon Carr, potential draft bust Morris Claiborne, and rookie Byron Jones. Combine that with the fact that Victor Cruz is still not ready to start and take targets away from Beckham, he should have a big game.
Calvin Johnson: I know this seems like a no brainer pick but it still needs to be said. Yes, Johnson will command a significant amount of attention in the passing game as he always does, but with the ascension of Golden Tate a legitimate number two receiving threat, and Ameer Abdullah appearing to give the Lions a much needed boost to their running game that they haven’t had in quite some time, look for Johnson to have a big game against the Chargers.
Jeremy Maclin: While Maclin and Chiefs QB Alex Smith have flashed some potential chemistry in the preseason, the Chiefs open the season against the Texans and one heck of a wrecking crew on the defensive side of the ball. Much of Maclin’s success as a receiver is predicated on his ability to get open on routes that take time to develop, with JJ Watt and Clowney bearing down on the Chiefs passer, it is difficult to see Maclin having a big day this week.
Alshon Jeffery: After missing significant time due to a hamstring injury and not having Brandon Marshall on the other side of the field to pull some coverages away from Jeffery to help get him some favorable match ups, now is not the time to play Alshon. Until he can prove he is completely healthy, and Culter can show he isn’t the turnover machine he has been over the last few seasons under new OC Adam Gase, Jeffery should be at best a flex player on your fantasy team.
Potential Sleepers: Allen Robinson, Larry Fitzgerald, Marques Colston, and Terrance Williams
Greg Olsen: As Cam Newton’s only proven receiving option and Cam’s favorite safety blanket, look for Olsen to have another great fantasy year starting in week one. Olsen closed out the 2014 season with over 1,000 yards it is not farfetched to think he may have an even bigger year with so many questions surrounding the Panthers’ receiving group.
Travis Kelce: Expected to build on lasts seasons’ late success Kelce may develop into Alex Smith’s favorite target in the Red Zone and 3rd downs. Facing the Texans this week Smith is not expected to have much time in the pocket, short routes with favorable coverage options, Kelce could break out early in 2015 starting in week one.
Charles Clay: The Bills have made it no secret; the plan to run the ball early and often. Clay will have a big impact in the run game as he is an outstanding run blocker, but with having to face the Colts and offseason MVP favorite Andrew Luck, look for the Bills to play clock control with the Colts to keep the hands out of Luck’s dangerous passing hand. Clay will have his games this year where he will put up respectable fantasy numbers, just don’t count on it in week one.
Jordan Reed: After injuries decimated the Redskins’ depth chart at TE, the Redskins will again turn to Reed to lead them at the TE position. While you could have a lot worse options as a pass catching TE Reed won’t get a chance to see the ball much not because of his skills but because what has become a laughable circus at the QB position in DC. Kirk Cousins is not a NFL starting QB, and struggles mightily with accuracy is the starter in DC and 1st round pick, former rookie of year QB Griffin on the bench, the Redskins are looking to be a very inept offense that will struggle to move the ball on a consistent basis.
Kyle Rudolph, Eric Ebron, and Owen Daniels
Miami: With the addition of Suh an already impressive defense just got even better. Playing a mess of an offense in the Redskins should have the Dolphins D licking their chops and ready to pin their ears back and send wave after wave after wave of pass rushers after Kirk Cousins. Already sporting two great pass rushers the D line in Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon adding Suh in the middle is going to make for long days from many QB’s this season. Look for the Dolphins to keep the Redskins score low, rack up some sacks, and get a few turnovers, the Dolphins could score a ton of points as a unit this week.
New York Jets: The Jets’ offense isn’t going to scare anyone this season, but their defense should. With a completely retooled secondary getting back Antonio Cromartie and Darrell Revis and adding in Buster Skrein as a more than serviceable slot corner, the Jets will make passing against them a nightmare this season for most teams. The Jets already have an impressive and imposing front seven and now they have the secondary to back them up and give that front group more time to get after opposing teams QB’s even with the suspension of Sheldon Richardson.
San Diego: The Chargers struggled to find any semblance of a consistent pass rush last season and this year will seem to be much of the same. Match that with facing a potential juggernaut of a passing team that may have finally added some skill to the running game, this is not the week for the Chargers D with having to play the Lions.
New Orleans: Cutting last seasons’ best pass rusher and still facing issues in their secondary with a lingering injury still hanging around safety Byrd, the Saints will struggle as a unit again this season. Rob Ryan is on the chopping block if this defense isn’t vastly compared to last season and I just don’t see that happening especially to start the season against the Cardinals. Until Carson Palmer’s injury stopped the Cardinals in their tracks last season after a 6-0 start, Palmer appears to be back to 100% with a great group of playmakers to rely on. If the Saints win this game, it won’t be because what their D does.
Potential Sleepers: Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens, and Cincinnati Bengals