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Brynn Anderson/Associated Press
It can be a bit overwhelming to sit down on a Sunday with 13 NFL games on the schedule.
You’re trying to track your fantasy team, your bets and how your own team is doing. It’s exhausting, especially if you also want to keep an eye on the best young players in the league. Maybe you loved following them in college or hoped your team would draft them. But for now, they’re on the periphery of your viewing experience.
I’m here to help.
After getting caught up on the Week 1 action and talking to scouting sources around the league, we put together a list of the 10 best performances from first- or second-year players.
And yes, that might be a bit reactionary, but Miami Dolphins players are already asking for trades and Cleveland Browns fans are already cutting eye holes in their paper bags.
Here we go.
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Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press
Scout’s Take: “Surprise, surprise. That guy is really f—king good.”
Sometimes it’s that simple.
Bosa was that good with one sack and a bunch of disruption caused in his first NFL game. The San Francisco 49ers were able to get a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers thanks to him and the defensive line consistently frustrating quarterback Jameis Winston, which might be the team’s modus operandi all season.
Bosa’s power, quickness and smart technique make him a special talent coming off the corner of the 49ers defense. That’s why he was the no-brainer No. 2 pick in the 2019 NFL draft.
With Arik Armstead and Dee Ford also notching sacks and other playmakers like Kwon Alexander and Richard Sherman attacking the Tampa offense, the 49ers proved they can win when the offense isn’t elite. Bosa is already a huge part of that.
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Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press
Scout’s Take: “They got defenses so worried about Lamar [Jackson] that safeties are getting sucked up into the box. Then they hit you with the speed over the top; it’s a beautiful thing.”
Marquise Brown was the first receiver drafted in 2019 thanks to his elite speed and yards-after-catch ability. That was on display in his debut Sunday as he crushed the Miami Dolphins defense to the tune of 147 yards and two touchdowns on just four catches.
Moving forward, Brown could be schemed against better than what we saw from Miami. Someone will have the sense to press him and bracket over the top with a coverage safety. But until the right matchup at cornerback can do that, he will remain one of the NFL’s most promising speed threats at receiver.
As far as debuts go, it’s hard to top an 80 percent catch rate (four of five targets) and two scores.
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Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images
Scout’s Take: “This game was a lot closer than it should have been…credit the Bengals…but Flowers was a bright spot for Seattle. Maybe the only one.”
Flowers popped off the screen for the Seattle Seahawks despite a career day for Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.
His 10 tackles and one fumble recovery were among the biggest plays for a Seattle defense that seemed caught off guard by Dalton’s 418 passing yards on a day without A.J. Green and with Joe Mixon leaving early after he suffered a sprained ankle.
Flowers is in a great position to carve out a massive role in the Seattle secondary as the Legion of Boom is recreated. More days like the one he had in Week 1 will not only lead to a concrete role for him, but they will also earn him increased recognition.
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Ron Jenkins/Associated Press
Scout’s Take: “Probably the biggest surprise of the whole week was Gallup. Dude went O-F-F and has Dak [Prescott] looking like a real franchise quarterback.”
The Dallas Cowboys offense was flying on Sunday afternoon with new coordinator Kellen Moore at the controls. Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb and Jason Witten all got their touches, but it was the play of second-year receiver Michael Gallup that turned my head.
Gallup displayed excellent body control, focus and soft hands while making plays over the middle of the field and stretching the defense. His seven catches for 158 yards led all Dallas receivers even on a day that saw Cooper turn heads with six receptions for 106 yards and a score.
If Dak Prescott has the weapons that were on display for Dallas in the opener—and yes, we must note the New York Giants defense isn’t much to write home about—the Cowboys will make plenty of noise in the NFC East.
As Gallup emerges as the No. 2 receiver, he’s a budding star to watch.
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Ralph Freso/Getty Images
Scout’s Take: “Hockenson did exactly what we all thought he’d do. He’s George Kittle all over again, but as a top-10 pick.”
The best debut ever for a tight end now belongs to the Detroit Lions’ T.J. Hockenson. With 131 yards on the day—coming on six catches and with a touchdown added—he was unstoppable in a game that shockingly ended in a tie after the Lions squandered a 17-point lead.
Don’t let the fourth-quarter heroics of Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback Kyler Murray overshadow the fact that Hockenson was a rockstar for the Lions. Not only was he the team’s go-to target in the passing game, but he also functioned as such at a position that rarely experiences early success in the NFL.
The Lions’ run game didn’t get going quite as expected, and that’s one area in which Hockenson can likely help moving forward. But the early returns were exceptional for the former Iowa Hawkeye.
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Abbie Parr/Getty Images
Scout’s Take: “I thought Hubbard played really well. He’s powerful, quick, smart with his hands…kind of a poor man’s Frank Clark.”
Hubbard was electric as the Cincinnati Bengals nearly pulled off the biggest upset of Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks.
His two sacks of Russell Wilson kept the Bengals’ hopes alive and showed that after a rookie season where he played fewer than 50 percent of defensive snaps, he’s ready to become the star defensive end the team expected after it selected him out of Ohio State in the third round of the 2018 draft.
Taking down Wilson isn’t an easy task, no matter how embattled his offensive line has been in the past. Hubbard getting him twice should be something fans both in and out of Cincinnati make note of.
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Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Scout’s Take: “If Lamar is throwing like this…that division is in trouble because [the Ravens] already had a great defense and good run game.”
“Not bad for a running back” is how Jackson put it to reporters after the game. Not bad, indeed.
Going 17-of-20 for 324 yards and five touchdowns is a great way to silence the critics and doubters. Jackson torched an overmatched Miami Dolphins defense, but perhaps most surprising was that he did so with his arm and not his legs.
After being almost equal parts runner and thrower in 2018, Jackson spent the offseason working more on his mechanics and accuracy.
That showed on Sunday, and not just on the stat sheet as Jackson’s improved accuracy on outside routes was notable. That’s a route with which he routinely struggled both at Louisville and during his rookie season, but Week 1 showcased his growing touch, timing and placement.
That’s great news for the Baltimore Ravens, who sit atop the AFC North after Week 1. It’s terrible news for the rest of the division.
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Perry Knotts/Associated Press
Scout’s Take: “I loved this kid at Washington State, and you see why now. He doesn’t know how to be afraid. Nothing is too big for him. Hell, he might take [Nick] Foles’ job for good.”
Minshew was good on Sunday after he was pressed into duty when Foles left the game with an injury that would later be diagnosed as a broken clavicle. Foles is now out for an extended time, and Minshew has a big opportunity to make his statement.
Facing a Kansas City Chiefs defense that had its ears pinned back with a comfortable lead, Minshew was a crisp 22-of-25 for 275 yards and two touchdowns. That’s enough to provide belief he can carry the torch as the starting quarterback until Foles returns…and maybe longer.
Minshew’s perfect 13-of-13 start is the record for a debut performance in the NFL’s last 40 years. That’s a great first line on his professional resume.
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Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Scout’s Take: “Losing Eric Weddle could have crippled the defense, but Rapp really played well when asked to step up.”
One of the biggest surprises of the 2019 draft came when Washington’s Taylor Rapp fell to the end of Round 2 before the Los Angeles Rams wisely drafted him to fill a future starting role at safety. The future started on Sunday when veteran Eric Weddle went down with an injury.
The Rams, facing a speedy Carolina Panthers offense, needed Rapp to not only try stopping Christian McCaffrey in his numerous roles but also to keep tabs on tight end Greg Olsen. He had a few miscues, but his seven tackles and ability to step into a spot for which he wasn’t prepared deserve a ton of praise.
Rapp’s status as a second-rounder means the Rams had plans for him to eventually become a starter. Until Weddle, who has entered the concussion protocol, is back healthy, he’ll be asked to fill one of the most important roles in Wade Phillips’ defense.
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Roger Steinman/Associated Press
Scout’s Take: “LVE is just so poised and smart…plus really athletic. It’s like watching a young, healthy Luke Kuechly again.”
No one would blame you if you forgot Dallas Cowboys standout linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was only starting his second year in the NFL. Not after he became one of the league’s best at his position during his standout 2018 season.
Paired with Jaylon Smith, Vander Esch is everything a team could want at linebacker. He showed that again in the Cowboys’ opening-day beatdown of the New York Giants. Asked to take away the inside running lanes for Saquon Barkley and otherwise frustrate Eli Manning, he answered with 10 tackles, 0.5 sacks and one forced fumble.
That’s a pretty solid day for a player who is quickly outplaying the expectations.
NHL.com identifies forwards worth targeting in fantasy hockey leagues that count face-off wins and/or percentage for the 2019-20 season. For more dream coverage, check outNHL.com/ Fantasyand subscribe for totally free to theNHL Fantasy on Icepodcast.
NOTES: Face-off portion rankings from last season are minimum 500 efforts; rank from other years have been noted as essential. … These gamers, in addition to their upside in other offending categories, have actually carried out well in face-off performance and/or volume. … Gamers are listed in order of rank for leagues that count face-offs.
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT
1,826 attempts, 5th in NHL (1,012 wins); 55.4 percent (career: 51.8)
Note: Because 2009-10, he is 2nd in NHL in face-off attempts (14,959) and 3rd in face-off wins (7,881)
Aleksander Barkov, C, FLA
1,939 attempts, 2nd in NHL (1,041 wins); 53.7 percent (profession: 50.5)
Note: 2nd straight season ranking top 5 in face-off attempts (fifth in 2017-18)
Leon Draisaitl, C/LW, EDM
1,340 face-off efforts (677 wins); 50.5 percent (profession: 50.5)
Note: Took 422 more face-offs than Edmonton Oilers linemateConnor McDavid(918; 46.6 percent last season)
John Tavares, C, TOR
1,528 efforts (832 wins); 54.5 percent (career: 51.6)
Note: Next closest player on Toronto Maple Leafs in face-off efforts last season wasAuston Matthews(911)
Patrice Bergeron, C, BOS
1,389 efforts (786 wins); 56.6 percent, ninth in NHL (career: 57.1)
Note: Leads active players in face-off wins (8,867) and percentage (584) considering that 2008-09(minimum 5,000 efforts)
Tyler Seguin, C, DAL
1,255 efforts (676 wins); 53.9 percent (career: 52.1)
Note: Ranks 13 th in NHL because 2014-15 in win percentage (540; minimum 3,500 attempts)
Claude Giroux, C/LW/RW, PHI
1,164 efforts (674 wins); 57.9 percent, 4th in NHL (profession: 54.9)
Note: 4th amongst active gamers in win percentage at 57.1 considering that 2014-15(minimum 5,000 attempts)
Sebastian Aho, C, VEHICLE
1,204 efforts (585 wins); 48.6 percent (career: 48.2)
Note: Transferred to center full-time last season and ended up being Carolina Hurricanes’ face-off leader after attempting only 172 in 2017-18 and 35 as rookie in 2016-17
Mark Scheifele, C, WPG
1,736 attempts, seventh in NHL (803 wins); 46.3 percent (career: 45.2)
Note: Has actually attempted at least 1,100 face-offs in each of past five seasons
Ryan O’Reilly, C, STL
1,910 attempts, 3rd in NHL (1,086 wins, led NHL); 56.9 percent, 8th in NHL (profession: 55.3)
Note: Led NHL in attempts (2,124) in 2017-18 and ranks 5th in win portion (551) since getting in League in 2009-10
Nicklas Backstrom, C, WSH
1,439 attempts (700 wins); 48.6 percent (career: 50.4)
Note: Has led Washington Capitals in face-offs with at least 1,300 attempts in each of previous six seasons
Jonathan Toews, C, CHI
1,880 efforts, 4th in NHL (1,059 wins); 56.3 percent, 10 th in NHL (profession: 56.9)
Note: Has actually finished in top 10 in win portion in nine of past 10 seasons (led NHL in 2011-12, 2015-16)
Sean Monahan, C, CGY
888 efforts (454 wins); 51.1 percent (career: 50.0)
Note: Supposedly played through thumb injury last season, which may have triggered his dip in efforts compared to 2017-18(1,407)
Mika Zibanejad, C, NYR
1,673 attempts, eighth in NHL (831 wins); 49.7 percent (career: 49.8)
Note: Next closest gamer in attempts on New york city Rangers last season wasKevin Hayes(768; now with Philadelphia Flyers)
Gabriel Landeskog, LW, COL
694 attempts (361 wins); 52.0 percent (career: 50.5)
Note: Led pure left wings in face-off attempts and wins last season. It’s worth noting how important it can be in dream to have a LW-only player master face-offs.
Matt Duchene, C, NSH
1,222 attempts (676 wins); 55.3 percent (career: 53.1)
Note: Led NHL in face-off win portion with Colorado Avalanche in 2016-17(626)
Dylan Larkin, C, DET
1,587 attempts, 10 th in NHL (865 wins); 54.5 percent (career: 51.2)
Note: Has actually tried at least 1,300 face-offs in each of past 2 seasons after taking 432 in 2016-17 and 100 as novice in 2015-16
Tomas Hertl, C/LW, SJS
1,183 efforts (609 wins); 51.5 percent (career: 51.8)
Note: Has actually won a minimum of 50.8 percent of face-offs in 5 of his 6 NHL seasons
Sean Couturier, C, PHI
1,323 attempts (755 wins); 57.1 percent, connected for 6th in NHL (career: 50.6)
Note: Tied for 8th in face-off win percentage (552) over past three seasons (min. 3,000 efforts)
Joe Pavelski, C/RW, DAL
989 attempts (526 wins); 53.2 percent (profession: 54.9)
Note: Ranks 6th in face-off win percentage (552 percent) because 2007-08(minimum 10,000 efforts)
Anze Kopitar, C, LAK
1,819 attempts, 6th in NHL (1,002 wins); 55.1 percent (profession: 52.0)
Note: Has won at least 52.6 percent of face-offs in each of past seven seasons
Bo Horvat, C, VAN
2,018 efforts, led NHL (1,083 wins, second); 53.7 percent (profession: 52.2)
Note: Took 1,260 more face-offs than next Canucks gamer last season (Jay Beagle, 758)
Vincent Trocheck, C, FLA
961 attempts (498 wins); 51.8 percent (career: 51.0)
Note: Restricted to 55 video games last season since of injury; took 1,577 face-offs in 82 video games in 2017-18
Roope Hintz, C/LW, DAL
400 efforts (217 wins); 54.3 percent
Note: Was fifth amongst left wings in face-off attempts in spite of only playing 58 video games as novice
Ryan Johansen, C, NSH
1,461 attempts (782 wins); 53.5 percent (profession: 53.1)
Note: Tried 1,461 face-offs in 2017-18 and 1,472 in 2016-17
David Krejci, C, BOS
1,095 attempts (530 wins); 48.4 percent (profession: 50.8)
Note: Win portion dipped last season, however he had won a minimum of 50.1 percent in 9 of previous 10 seasons
Pierre-Luc Dubois, C, CBJ
1,047 attempts (455 wins); 43.5 percent (profession: 43.6)
Note: Has actually attempted at least 1,000 face-offs in each of his very first 2 NHL seasons
Eric Staal, C, MINUTES
1,257 attempts (642 wins); 51.1 percent (career: 48.1)
Note: Has actually tried a minimum of 1,100 face-offs in each of past 3 seasons and won a minimum of 51 percent in 7 of previous 8
Colin White, C/RW, OTT
799 efforts (379 wins); 47.4 percent (profession: 46.1)
Note: Ranked 4th amongst Ottawa Senators in face-off attempts as novice, and Duchene (859; Nashville Predators) andZack Smith(820; Chicago Blackhawks) are now with new groups.
Tyler Johnson, LW/RW, TBL
473 efforts (230 wins); 48.6 percent (profession: 49.6)
Note: Face-off attempts dipped (719 in 2017-18) but still ranked fifth amongst pure wings.
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RANKINGS:Leading 250|F|C|LW|RW|D|G|Power ranks
FORECASTS:Forward points|Defenseman points|Goalie/team wins
NOTES: Players are listed in order of newest NHL.com rank, however some may be worth reaching for earlier based upon position deficiency and/or other patterns. … Gamers might be up to a later pick or round in any scenario, and, in those cases, ought to be focused on ahead of the players noted for any specific choice. … These tips are for standard snake draft formats.
1: Kucherov, Ovechkin, McDavid
2: Kucherov, Ovechkin, McDavid
3: Kucherov, Ovechkin, McDavid
4: MacKinnon, P. Kane
5: MacKinnon, P. Kane
6: Marchand, Vasilevskiy, Draisaitl
7: Vasilevskiy, Draisaitl, Pastrnak
8: Draisaitl, Pastrnak, Crosby
9: Pastrnak, Crosby, Matthews
10: Crosby, Matthews, E. Karlsson
11: Matthews, E. Karlsson, Burns
12: E. Karlsson, Burns, Bishop
13: Burns, Bishop, Barkov
14: Bishop, Barkov, Marner
15: Barkov, Marner, Rantanen
16: Marner, Rantanen, Gaudreau
17: Rantanen, Gaudreau, Bobrovsky
18: Gaudreau, Bobrovsky, Panarin
19: Bobrovsky, Panarin, Seguin
20: Panarin, Seguin, Tavares
21: Seguin, Tavares, Hall
22: Tavares, Hall, Fleury
23: Hall, Fleury, Hedman
24: Fleury, Hedman, Stamkos
25 Hedman, Stamkos, Andersen
26 Stamkos, Andersen, Giroux
27 Andersen, Giroux, Bergeron
28 Giroux, Bergeron, Carlson
29 Bergeron, Carlson, Wheeler
30 Carlson, Wheeler, Pettersson
31 Wheeler, Pettersson, Point
32 Pettersson, Point, Malkin
33 Point, Malkin, Subban
34 Malkin, Subban, Josi
35 Subban, Josi, Tarasenko
36 Josi, Tarasenko, Scheifele
37 Tarasenko, Scheifele, Rask
38 Scheifele, Rask, Aho
39 Rask, Aho, Laine
40 Aho, Laine, DeBrincat
41 Laine, DeBrincat, Guentzel
42 DeBrincat, Guentzel, M. Tkachuk
43 Guentzel, M. Tkachuk, Landeskog
44 M. Tkachuk, Landeskog, Rinne
45 Landeskog, Rinne, Klingberg
46 Rinne, Klingberg, Price
47 Klingberg, Rate, Eichel
48 Rate, Eichel, Barrie
49 Eichel, Barrie, Letang
50 Barrie, Letang, Holtby
51 Letang, Holtby, Kuznetsov
52 Holtby, Kuznetsov, Rielly
53 Kuznetsov, Rielly, Binnington
54 Rielly, Binnington, Stone
55 Binnington, Stone, Radulov
56 Stone, Radulov, Huberdeau
57 Radulov, Huberdeau, Forsberg
58 Huberdeau, Forsberg, Kessel
59 Forsberg, Kessel, Backstrom
60 Kessel, Backstrom, S. Jones
61 Backstrom, S. Jones, Monahan
62 S. Jones, Monahan, Zibanejad
63 Monahan, Zibanejad, Benn
64 Zibanejad, Benn, Gibson
65 Benn, Gibson, Murray
66 Gibson, Murray, Boeser
67 Murray, Boeser, Giordano
68 Boeser, Giordano, Krug
69 Giordano, Krug, Hertl
70 Krug, Hertl, Pacioretty
71 Hertl, Pacioretty, Meier
72 Pacioretty, Meier, Marchessault
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NHL.com identifies implications of the 2019-20 schedule, including back-to-back sets, number of games on lighter days, fantasy playoff/championship week schedules, bye weeks and home/road splits. For more fantasy coverage, visitNHL.com/Fantasyand subscribe for free to theNHL Fantasy on Icepodcast.
BACK-TO-BACK SETS OF GAMES
PHI, PIT: 17
CAR, CHI, CBJ, FLA, NJD: 16
DAL, LAK, TBL: 15
BUF, DET, MTL, OTT, TOR: 14
ARI, BOS, NYR: 13
ANA, COL, NSH, SJS, VAN, VGK, WSH: 12
MIN, NYI: 11
CGY, WPG: 10
EDM, STL: 9
NOTES: Clear starting goaliesSergei Bobrovsky(FLA) andMatt Murray(PIT) could either lose some starts to their backups or be overworked because their teams have so many back-to-back sets. The same risk applies to potential No. 1 goaliesCarter Hart(PHI) andPetr Mrazek(CAR). Some timeshare tandems (CHI, CBJ, NJD) have added fantasy appeal because their teams are among the leaders in back-to-back sets and their goalies can split starts as necessary. Meanwhile, clear startersJordan Binnington(STL) andConnor Hellebuyck(WPG) could have heavy workloads with more rest in between games because their teams don’t have nearly as many back-to-back sets.
FINAL FOUR WEEKS OF SEASON
NOTE: It’s important to maximize the amount of players you have during the fantasy playoffs (head-to-head leagues), which are typically over the final four weeks of the regular season.
—Most games in final four weeks of regular season: CAR, NYI, VAN (15 each); BUF, CGY, COL, DAL, FLA, LAK, NSH, NJD, NYR, PHI, PIT, WSH (14 each)
—Fewest games in final four weeks of regular season: MTL (11); ANA, CBJ, DET, STL, VGK (12 each).
NOTE: Every NHL team plays either six or seven games in the final two weeks of the regular season (not much fantasy impact).
—Most games in final week of regular season: DAL, NYI, NYR, WSH (four each); fewest: EDM (two)
NOTE: Knowing when each team will be on its bye week is also important in fantasy hockey since you may need to add or drop players to compete in your head-to-head matchup and/or reach minimum goalie appearances in some leagues.
— 17 teams have their bye week leading up to and including NHL All-Star weekend (Jan. 25-26); the other 14 teams have their bye week including and following the All-Star break.
Read:Bye weeks for each team in 2019-20
LIGHTER GAME DAYS
NOTE: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are typically the days with the most games each week, with Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday having fewer games.
—Most games on lighter days: ANA (46); EDM, WSH (42 each)
—Fewest games on lighter days: MTL, NSH (20 each); TBL, FLA (25 each); BOS (26)
— Most home games in first half of season: BOS, PIT, SJS (23 of first 41); fewest home games in first half of season: MIN (17), LAK (18)
— Longest homestands this season (nine games): FLA (Nov. 30 to Dec. 20); LAK (March 5 to 22)
— Longest road trip this season (eight games): VGK (Jan. 14 to Feb. 6)
— Best home teams last season: TBL (66 points); BOS (61); CGY (57); SJS (55)
— Best road teams last season: TBL (62 points); CBJ, TOR (52 each); NYI (51)
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Eric KarabellESPN Senior Citizen Writer
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Welcome to another dream football season. A staple of our protection throughout the years has actually been theFlex RankingsIn this weekly file, we integrate the very best of the running backs, pass receivers and tight ends– do not forget them– into one convenient list for PPR formats to assist in your decision-making.
Some leagues utilize various stats, and we get that, but ultimately this is just my list for what I would do in ESPN standard leagues. That is it. In addition, numerous days remain this week before Sunday and news is constantly an element that may affect these rankings. Regardless, take pleasure in and finest of luck not only in Week 1, however all season long.
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Adam Hunger/Associated Press
It is finally time.
The 2019 NFL season starts Thursday, and it can’t get here soon enough.
But before you settle into your couch with your fried chicken sandwich, fantasy roster and the mute button for the broadcasters you hate, dive into what a scout, an assistant coach and a team executive from each conference think will be some of the key storylines this season.
From the sound of things, this season could feature a dominant Le’Veon Bell, a resuscitated Raiders franchise, the end of Eli Manning’s career and an excellent Ben Roethlisberger.
First, some logistics. For this special edition of the 10-Point Stance, we asked an NFC scout about the AFC East and AFC North, an NFC assistant coach about the AFC South and an NFC team executive about the AFC West.
Then, we had an AFC scout break down the NFC East and NFC North, an AFC assistant coach examined the NFC South and an AFC team executive looked at the NFC West.
The thoughts below are direct from those we asked, with editing for grammar and curse words. (Scouts say “f–k” a lot.)
Here we go…
Duane Burleson/Associated Press
AFC East(NFC scout)
Bills:A lot of media think the Jets have the best chance to knock off the Patriots. It’s actually the Bills. That defense is extremely underrated. I also believe we’ll see [quarterback] Josh Allen take a huge step forward this year. Letting go of [running back] LeSean McCoy was the right move…nothing left.
Dolphins:Not kidding when I say this: I’m not sure [quarterbacks] Ryan Fitzpatrick or Josh [Rosen] will survive five or six games. It’s not just that they have a bad offensive line [after trading Laremy Tunsil to Houston], it’s that they have a pretty bad everything. One of the few openly tanking NFL teams that I’ve ever seen.
Patriots:We don’t talk about their defense much, but when we look back at the Patriots’ season, we’re gonna say, “This time, that defense won the Super Bowl for them, not Tom Brady.” That’s how good they will be. What will also help them is how more than half of their schedule is filled with mediocre to trashy QBs.
Jets:I know some people in the league aren’t [head coach] Adam Gase guys, but I am. One thing that he does well is he lets loose trusted guys on offense. That’s what will happen with [running back] Le’Veon Bell. If he stays healthy—big if, I know—he’s an MVP candidate. Gase will run him until his d–k falls off. (Writer’s note: If that happened, it would be a first in NFL history.)
AFC North(NFC scout)
Todd Olszewski/Getty Images
Ravens:[Quarterback] Lamar Jackson is one of the most impressive rookies I’ve ever seen. I see him more as Steve Young than Mike Vick. … The other guy I like on that team is [tight end Mark] Andrews. He’s more athletic and dangerous than people give him credit for.
Steelers:[Quarterback Ben] Roethlisberger will be the best we’ve seen in probably the last four or five years. He looks refreshed. He’ll be helped by a massively talented front seven on defense. They are better than people think.
Browns:The offense in the preseason has been surprisingly mediocre. The defense has been spectacular. It’s been the most surprising thing about the Browns. Last season, they didn’t generate a ton of sacks or turnovers. That will definitely change this year.
Bengals:This is probably [quarterback] Andy Dalton’s last season in Cincinnati. He’s been mostly ineffective. It’s not all his fault, but he’ll get the blame. [Dalton has one more season after this one on his deal.] You look at the roster, and it’s not that far ahead of the Dolphins.
AFC South(NFC assistant coach)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Titans:There were little things schematically the coaching staff did last year to give [quarterback] Marcus Mariota more time to throw. They also gave him easier routes to complete. He looked better last season but still struggles at times with throwing accurately deep. I don’t see that improving much, and as long as that’s a problem, that offense won’t do much.
Colts:They’re not as screwed as people think [without retired quarterback Andrew Luck]. I have tremendous respect for [head coach] Frank [Reich]. He’s extremely creative, and one of the best things he does is put his players in a position to succeed. You will see a drop-off from Luck to [Jacoby] Brissett, but it won’t be as steep as people think.
Texans:That team is all over the place and they need a front office, but getting [offensive tackle Laremy] Tunsil was really important. If [quarterback] Deshaun Watson gets protection, he’ll be very good. He at least has a chance now. He didn’t have that before.
Jaguars:They will get destroyed in their opener against Kansas City. But then they’ll rebound. This is one of the most intriguing teams in football to me. I don’t have a good feel for how they’re going to do. They are the only team like that for me. Things could go really well or really bad. If [Nick] Foles is the quarterback I think he is, then things will go really well.
AFC West(NFC team executive)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Raiders:They win 10 or 11 games and [head coach] Jon Gruden will be seen as a Coach of the Year candidate. He’ll have [quarterback Derek] Carr playing at a really high level. That running game [with Josh Jacobs] will shock people. He could get 1,000 yards easy this year.
Broncos:[Quarterback Joe] Flacco is an 8-8 or 9-7 quarterback. That’s about it. That’s where he’ll take the team. There’s little special about this team outside of Von Miller and a few other pieces. A lot of personnel people revere John Elway the player but don’t understand what John Elway the GM is doing.
Chargers:My Super Bowl favorite for the AFC. They have everything. [Quarterback] Philip Rivers is a proven veteran. Really good receivers. They improved their defense from last season—it’s fast and good. They still have a good running game despite not having [running back] Melvin Gordon III. If he’s not traded, he’ll only add to that roster. Their coach [Anthony Lynn] is also really underrated. They’re the most complete team in the conference.
Chiefs:My concern for the Chiefs is the health of [quarterback Patrick] Mahomes. It’s hard to overstate how he threw for 50 touchdowns, was exposed so many times to hits and pressures and didn’t get seriously hurt once. Some of it is scheme and how [head coach] Andy Reid protects him, but I still worry about him getting hit. If he again stays healthy, this is easily an 11-win team.
NFC East(AFC scout)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Giants:Eli [Manning] will get benched five or six games in. You can see the writing on the wall. He’s dramatically declined physically. That’s the big thing. You watch him and think,that can’t be the same guy.The Giants have to see this as well. It won’t be a question if [rookie] Daniel Jones is ready or not. The Giants may not have a choice but to play him.
Cowboys:[Quarterback] Dak Prescott will make a huge leap forward this year. I think he becomes a top-five or -six quarterback. Everything is there for him, and he’ll continue to connect with Amari Cooper. The biggest improvement I think you’ll see is with his accuracy. He’ll make a lot more precision throws.
Washington:[Quarterback] Case Keenum will be on a short leash. We all know how things work there. [Owner] Dan Snyder will be pushing for Dwayne Haskins to start, and he’ll get his wish. I think it’ll happen after two or three weeks, and it should. He’s a starter and better than Keenum.
Eagles:The deepest team in the NFL by far. The biggest story of the Eagles will be [quarterback] Carson Wentz, but what will get them into the playoffs and beyond is a talented defense. Most people don’t think of the Eagles as a great defense, but I think this year, they have one of the best in football.
NFC North(AFC scout)
Tony Avelar/Associated Press
Vikings:The problems with their offense in the preseason aren’t a fluke. It’s a trend. They have too much talent to badly falter, but don’t expect that offense to be better than average. I’d be a little worried about Kirk Cousins if I was that team.
Packers:I’ve heard nothing but good things coming out of there. The issue won’t be Aaron Rodgers [and if he can get along with head coach Matt LaFleur]. Rodgers will be Rodgers. The issue with the Packers is that defense. It’s still not good. They will have to rely on Rodgers as they always do.
Bears:Will be one of the most explosive teams on the both sides of the ball. You have Khalil Mack on one end and Tarik Cohen on the other. I think Cohen will have an even bigger impact than Mack.
Lions:They’re gonna win four games. An awful roster.
NFC South(AFC assistant coach)
Bill Feig/Associated Press
Buccaneers:One of the worst defenses in the NFL. That means more pressure will be put on [quarterback] Jameis Winston. He already has the problem of [trying] to do everything by himself, and he’s not capable of doing that. He’s not Mahomes. He’s not a savior. … They will also badly miss the deep threat [wide receiver] DeSean Jackson gave them.
Panthers:They are going to see more of what they saw last season where defenses crowd the line to stop [running back Christian] McCaffrey and they dare Cam Newton to throw it. I think Newton is more than capable of making those plays. The problem is the receiving group. Which one of those receivers can you bank on to make defenses consistently pay for attacking Cam and McCaffrey? I don’t see any. (Writer’s note: cough—Curtis Samuel—cough.)
Saints:They made an already good offensive line better [by drafting offensive lineman Erik McCoy in the second round]. If you give [quarterback] Drew Brees more time, plus that receiving group, they’ll be really hard to stop.
Falcons:[Quarterback] Matt Ryan will be OK. [Receiver] Julio Jones will be great. The defense will be Swiss cheese. … 8-8.
NFC West(AFC team executive)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Seahawks:The Seahawks getting [defensive lineman] Jadeveon Clowney won’t just change what happens with them. It could change the course of the entire division. That’s how good I think he is, and a lot of people do. He will lift the game of every Seahawk.
49ers:That offensive line is a problem. It was a problem all during their preseason, and I’m guessing it will continue to be. If they don’t figure things out, that entire offense could dramatically slow down.
Rams:Someone who always seems to go under the radar is [quarterback] Jared Goff. He had a horrible Super Bowl [19-for-38 for 229 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception], but that doesn’t change that he’s still a good player. It’ll be Goff who makes that offense this year. Not [Todd] Gurley II or any other player.
Cardinals:[Quarterback] Kyler Murray is going to struggle, and not because of anything he does. There isn’t much talent there. They are rebuilding. It will take a while. It would be a miracle if they won more than four or five games.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.
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Mike ClayESPN Author
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By utilizing our play-by-play information, we’re now able to recognize where each NFL pass receiver and cornerback lines up on each play. By tracking matches in between the 2 positions, including prospective shadow situations, we can offer the best projections, rankings and dream recommendations every week.
What follows are the receivers with the very best and worst Week 1 matches, as well as the corresponding fantasy impact.
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Lions’ Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. vs. Cardinals’ Tramaine Brock and Chris Jones
Both Patrick Peterson (suspension) and Robert Alford (hurt reserve) are out, leaving Arizona to roll with reserves Brock and Jones on the outside and novice Byron Murphy in the slot. That’s …
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ARLINGTON, Va. —Sometimes work leaves you exhausted, but in a good way.
Tuesday was one of those days.
Before opening training camp Sept. 13, the Washington Capitals gave the media a small taste of what a typical day is like for their players by hosting a Media Fantasy Camp at MedStar Capitals Iceplex.
About 50 members participated in the event, which included a locker room meeting with coach Todd Reirden, a skills practice run by assistants Scott Arniel, Reid Cashman and Blaine Forsythe and a 30-minute scrimmage.
Having celebrated my 51st birthday this summer, I went into the day with two simple objectives: not to get injured and not to make a fool of myself. I believe I achieved both, but I marvel at my NHL.com colleague, William Douglas, who at age 61 still straps on the pads to play goal about once a week and was stellar in the scrimmage.
My ability in the sport was never worthy of writing about, except for maybe when I somehow scored two goals in the United States-Canada media game at the 1999 NHL All-Star Game at Tampa Bay. (I believe that was the lone time the U.S. won the now-defunct game).
Other than that, I played some recreation league hockey and would jump in an occasional pickup game into my late 30s, but I had less time and motivation for it after I reached 40. By the time the Capitals announced their initial plans for this fantasy camp in late July, I hadn’t skated in more than 10 years.
To shake off more than a decade of rust I went to two public skates and a Stick-N-Shoot session at MedStar Capitals Iceplex. I wouldn’t say skating is like riding a bike but getting back on the ice a few times helped Tuesday.
Here’s a rundown of how the day went.
Capitals locker room, 2 p.m.
Reirden welcomes the fantasy campers with a brief speech and outline of the day’s events. He also points out some of the newer features in the locker room, including cushioned seats in the stalls and a video screen above the doorway that will be used to show diagrams of the drills the team will run in practice that day.
We’ll be running some different drills during the fantasy camp, but the idea was to set it up almost like a game day, with a morning skate-type session followed by the game/scrimmage.
“It’s not quite as long of a layout,” Reirden said. “You get no pre-game nap, but eventually you’re going to play the game so we’re going to have some fun with it. For me, it was important to kind of give you a day in the life.”
After Reirden’s welcoming address, Capitals assistant/video coach Brett Leonhardt used a projection screen to demonstrate some of the ways they utilize video to help the players prepare for games and what the video staff does during games, including assisting Reirden with deciding whether to use his coach’s challenge on a potential offside or goalie interference play.
Head equipment manager Brock Myles followed with a quick briefing on the new Catapult fitness GPS system the players will wear during practices to keep track of their conditioning (heart rate, recovery time, etc.). Fortunately, none of us participating in the media fantasy camp had to wear these.
MedStar Capitals IcePlex, Capitals Rink, 2: 35 p.m.
After getting dressed, the campers hit the ice for drills. The rink is split into three sections where the participants will work on different sets of skills.
The group I was with began with shooting, followed by stickhandling and skating. Assisting with the drills were Capitals defensemenJonas Siegenthalerand Alexander Alexeyev, former Capitals forwards and current NBC Sports Washington analysts Craig Laughlin and Alan May, U.S. National Women’s Team forward Haley Skarupa (from Rockville, Maryland), Capitals director of community relations Peter Robinson and some of the MedStar Capitals Iceplex instructors.
The one-timer drill proved to be too complicated for some of us to follow. Some learned why it’s better to be near the back of the line for drills so you can watch others do them first (and sometimes mess up).
None of these drills made me feel better about my skillset, but simply handling the puck and shooting it a little probably helped me prepare for the scrimmage.
Game time, 3: 25 p.m.
The campers were separated into two teams for a Red-White scrimmage. Laughlin coached the White team. I was on the Red team, coached by May.
Although the score was not kept officially, May was counting each goal to make sure we — and Laughlin — knew we were leading. May also encouraged (jokingly, I think) aggressively slashing anyone in a white jersey who had a scoring chance.
My first shift couldn’t have gone better. I fed Tarik El-Bashir from The Athletic for a goal that increased our lead to 2-0. On my next shift, I scored on a backhand from in front.
After that, I tried to focus on staying back on defense a little to help Douglas, who made a few impressive old-school kick saves. Unfortunately, I was standing nearby when the White team finally beat him on a rebound to break up our shutout.
The level of play was not high, and some players were in better condition than others, but everyone was smiling. Unofficially, the Red team won 9-1, so maybe we were smiling a little more on our bench.
After the final whistle we gathered for a group photo. Before leaving the ice I skated a few laps and wondered while I was circling the rink if this experience would reignite my interest in playing or if I’d resume my hockey retirement after I took off my skates.
I guess it will depend on how my 51-year-old body feels when I wake up Wednesday morning.
Photos courtesy of William Daski/Washington Capitals
NHL.com’s fantasy hockey top 50 best wing rankings are based on previous production and expectations for the 2019-20 season in basic leagues. For more fantasy coverage, check outNHL.com/ Fantasyand subscribe free of charge to theNHL Fantasy on Ice podcast
MORE DREAM COVERAGE:Top 250 ranks|Centers|LW|Mock draft|Cheat sheet
DREAM TOP 50 EXTREME RIGHT RANKINGS
Standard fantasy classifications include goals, helps, plus/minus, power-play points, shots on objective and strikes for skaters. Forward positions suggest Yahoo eligibility for 2019-20; a few of the below gamers have 2 positions of eligibility, but their main position is ideal wing. … Value has been quantified based on elements including previous production, projected line mixes, power-play use, injury history, sleeper upside, expected regression or bounce-back candidacy, age and contract status (existing unlimited and restricted free representatives listed below). Possible 2020 UFAs
and RFAsare likewise kept in mind. …INJshows gamer with injury issue( s) from the end of last season or this offseason.
1.Nikita Kucherov, TBL
2.Patrick Kane, CHI
3.David Pastrnak, BOS (INJ)
4.Mitchell Marner, TOR (RFA)
5.Mikko Rantanen, COL (RFA)
6.Blake Wheeler, WPG
7.Vladimir Tarasenko, STL (INJ)
8.Patrik Laine, LW/RW, WPG (RFA;INJ)
9.Mark Stone, VGK
10Alexander Radulov, DAL
11Phil Kessel, ARI
12Brock Boeser, VAN (RFA)
13Jakub Voracek, PHI
14Joe Pavelski, C/RW, DAL (INJ)
15Viktor Arvidsson, LW/RW, NSH
16Evgenii Dadonov, LW/RW, FLA *
17William Nylander, C/RW, TOR
18Tom Wilson, WSH
19Kaapo Kakko, NYR
20Elias Lindholm, C/RW, CGY
21Web Cam Atkinson, CBJ
22Brendan Gallagher, MTL
23Kyle Palmieri, NJD
24T.J. Oshie, WSH (INJ)
25Anthony Mantha, LW/RW, DET **
26Andrei Svechnikov, LW/RW, CAR
27Mats Zuccarello, MIN
28Reilly Smith, VGK
29Jordan Eberle, NYI
30Patric Hornqvist, PIT
31Dustin Brown, LAK
32Sam Reinhart, C/RW, BUF **
33David Perron, LW/RW, STL
34Kevin Labanc, LW/RW, SJS **
35Ondrej Kase, ANA (INJ)
36Ryan Donato, LW/RW, MIN
37Yanni Gourde, LW/RW, TBL
38Pavel Buchnevich, NYR
39Josh Anderson, CBJ **
40Jakob Silfverberg, ANA
41Vitali Kravtsov, NYR
42Travis Konecny, PHI (RFA)
43Tyler Johnson, LW/RW, TBL
44Kasperi Kapanen, TOR
45James Neal, LW/RW, EDM
46Wayne Simmonds, NJD
47Tyler Toffoli, LAK *
48Eeli Tolvanen, NSH
49Drake Batherson, C/RW, OTT
50Owen Tippett, FLA
Others to think about:Zack Kassian, EDM *;Alex Tuch, VGK;Robert Thomas, C/RW, STL (INJ);Josh Bailey, LW/RW, NYI;Dominik Kahun, LW/RW, PIT **
Listen:NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast
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Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press
We’re days away from Week 1 of the regular season, and some of you may be scrambling to replace that iffy player on your bench. Fortunately, the waiver wire offers plenty of options for consideration in the first slate of games.
Strategically, owners can approach acquisitions in two ways at this point of the season: adding players in favorable Week 1 matchups or picking up potential long-term contributors without much concern for their first opponents.
We’ll focus on players owned in fewer than 75 percent of Yahoo point-per-reception leagues as of 10 p.m. ET Monday and use a $100 free-agent acquisition budget, which means managers can use up to that amount in bids on successful pickups.
Typically, free-agent signings after roster cuts have minimal impact on fantasy outlooks, but one transaction deserves your attention. We’ll dive into two backfields that may shift in favor of players floating around on a quarter of Yahoo waiver wires along with other available short- and long-term assets.
Still can’t figure out your fantasy football lineup for the week? Check out Your Fantasy Fire Drill with Matt Camp, and he’ll solve your problems live. Submit your questions and tune in every Sunday at 11: 30 a.m. ET, only on the B/R app.
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Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
The Atlanta Falcons have two safeties coming off significant injuries, Keanu Neal (torn ACL) and Ricardo Allen (torn Achilles). Cornerback Isaiah Oliver will attempt to replace Robert Alford on the perimeter.
As the Falcons secondary takes shape, Kirk Cousins will have the perfect opportunity to strike with two wide receivers, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Both recorded more than 1,000 receiving yards last season.
Cousins will square off against the Falcons at home where he threw 13 touchdown passes and five interceptions with a 70 percent completion rate last year.
In 2018, the Falcons pass defense surrendered 33 touchdowns and ranked 27th in yards allowed. With two safeties knocking off the rust and a new full-time starter at cornerback, Cousins has a good matchup for Week 1.
Because of Cousins’ primary perimeter weapons and a healthy dual-threat talent in Dalvin Cook out of the backfield, he’s a potential keeper beyond opening week.
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Rick Osentoski/Associated Press
Staying in the NFC North, Matthew Stafford isn’t owned in 73 percent of leagues, but managers with low-tier options at quarterback should consider him an early streamer.
Stafford goes up against an Arizona Cardinals secondary without its starting cornerbacks. Patrick Peterson will serve a six-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Alford fractured his tibia in Week 2 of the preseason, and the team placed him on injured reserve Sunday.
Rookie Byron Murphy, second-year undrafted cover man Chris Jones and Tramaine Brock Sr. will handle starting responsibilities. The latter has opened five games with the first unit over the last two years—all with the Denver Broncos in 2018.
Playing against a new starter on one end and a veteran who served as a backup in recent seasons on the opposite side, Stafford should start the 2019 campaign with a big game. He’ll throw to Kenny Golladay, a 6’4″, 214-pound wideout coming off a 1,063-yard term, and Marvin Jones Jr., who’s healthy after battling a knee injury in 2018.
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Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
In 2018, Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t start the year on a strong note, throwing one touchdown pass and three interceptions while completing just 45 percent of his attempts against the Vikings.
Garoppolo should jump out to a better start in the upcoming season. He’s not facing a top-10 defense like Minnesota’s unit last year. The San Francisco 49ers signal-caller will take aim at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ relatively unproven group.
Vernon Hargreaves III is the most experienced among the Buccaneers’ starting defensive backs. Yet, he’s only suited up for 26 games because of shoulder and hamstring injuries over the last two seasons.
Opposite of Hargreaves, Carlton Davis has 12 starts on his resume. Rookie cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean will serve as backups. Darian Stewart is the only safety on the active roster with more than two years in the league.
Garoppolo will bounce back from an ACL tear in a matchup against inexperience backs learning on the job. As an offensive coordinator and head coach, Kyle Shanahan’s passing offenses have ranked top 10 in three of the last four years, so you may want to keep the 49ers quarterback on your roster.
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Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images
After his release from the Buffalo Bills, running back LeSean McCoy opted to sign with the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday, joining Damien Williams, rookie sixth-rounder Darwin Thompson, Darrel Williams and Tremon Smith—a cornerback converted to tailback.
Although Damien Williams goes into the season as the projected lead ball-carrier, he’s only started seven contests in five seasons. McCoy has experience in head coach Andy Reid’s offensive system dating back to their shared time with the Philadelphia Eagles from 2009 to ’12.
Thompson logged 98 yardsfrom scrimmage and a touchdown during the preseason. He could handle spot touches in a three-man rotation. Nonetheless, McCoy should see a fair number of opportunities to make an impact on the ground and in a pass-catching role.
Williams’ inexperience could lead to McCoy breaking out against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who ranked 19th against the run last year, and in games throughout the 2019 season. Managers should pick him up with a long-term outlook in mind.
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Bryan Bennett/Getty Images
McCoy’s departure creates an opportunity for Devin Singletary to have a solid rookie campaign in Buffalo. Based on the front office’s decision to release the former, we can surmise the coaching staff feels the latter could thrive in the backfield alongside Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon.
According to general manager Brandon Beane, the team has high hopes for Singletary’s future, but he’ll split touches, per Chris Brown of the team’s official website.
“We do see this being a running back by committee, whatever group that we kept,” Beane said. “We’re excited with where [Singletary is] heading, but he’ll have a lot to prove as a rookie this year.”
Now, let’s take a look at recent workload patterns for the veterans.
Gore logged 200 or more carries in 12 consecutive seasons, but that streak ended last year with the Miami Dolphins; he finished with 156 rush attempts. That’s probably the new norm for him at 36 years old. Yeldon hasn’t averaged more than nine carries per contest since his rookie season in 2015.
With the veteran running backs likely to take on limited workloads, expect Singletary to log a bulk of the touches in the near future. Fantasy managers should feel encouraged to acquire him after he registered 88 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown during the preseason. The rookie third-rounder should see 12 to 14 carries and a handful of targets in most weeks.
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Rey Del Rio/Getty Images
John Brown won’t provide a heavy volume of catches in the Bills offense. In five seasons, he’s finished with 50 receptions once, in 2015. In terms of fantasy usage, the 29-year-old projects as a decent streamer for select matchups.
Fantasy managers shouldn’t worry about Brown’s adjustment to a new team. In his first season with the Baltimore Ravens last year, he immediately built a rapport with quarterback Joe Flacco. He hauled in 34 passes for 601 yards and four touchdowns in the first nine weeks before Lamar Jackson took over the huddle.
Brown will line up across from a questionable New York Jets secondary. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson practiced with limitations August 27, recovering from a hamstring injury that’s sidelined him for about two weeks. Darryl Roberts, Gang Green’s No. 2 cover man, has 16 starts in three seasons.
Though quarterback Josh Allen has accuracy and ball-placement issues, he’ll have an opportunity to take shots downfield against the Jets secondary. Using his big arm, the Bills signal-caller should connect with Brown, who’s a deep-threat target averaging 15 yards per reception.
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Rick Scuteri/Associated Press
The Oakland Raiders may have a sleeper on offense. The front office allowed Jared Cook to walk in free agency, which opened a spot in the starting lineup. Darren Waller, a collegiate wide receiver converted to tight end, will have the opportunity to fill a pass-catching void in the aerial attack.
Throughout his career, Cook garnered praise for his ability as a pass-catcher more so than a blocker. Because of his wide receiver background, Waller may fit into the same mold. At Georgia Tech, he averaged 19 yards per catch; the 6’6″, 255-pounder could attack the seams and stretch the field for the Raiders while wideout Antonio Brown commands double coverage downfield.
Last year, Cook led the team in targets (101), but Brown’s presence and Waller’s learning curve as a tight end won’t allow him to see a similar number of looks from quarterback Derek Carr. Still, in the lead spot on the depth chart with solid hands, he’s an intriguing fantasy asset with long-term value.
In 2018, Waller suited up for four games with the Raiders, catching all six of his targets for 75 yards. Perhaps a full offseason with Carr will help him get off to a quick start against the Broncos defense under first-time head coach and defensive play-caller Vic Fangio.
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Detroit Lions cornerback Darius SlayRick Osentoski/Associated Press
The Lions should be licking their chops in Week 1. They’ll have the first regular-season look at rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, who struggled to evade blitzes in Week 2 of the preseason against the Raiders; he was sacked twice in that contest.
According to Football Outsiders, the Cardinals pass protection ranked 26th in 2018.
The front office acquired guard J.R. Sweezy, and A.Q. Shipley reclaimed his starting spot at center over Mason Cole. In March, Arizona acquired right tackle Marcus Gilbert in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s played just 12 games over the last two years because of hamstring and knee injuries as well as a four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substances policy.
Murray’s offensive line may need time to jell before it is able to shield him in the pocket. Furthermore, as a rookie, he’s more than likely to struggle against a defense that ranked 10th in yards allowed last year and added a solid pass-rusher in Trey Flowers.
Don’t keep the Lions defense around long term, but if you need a plug-in starting unit for Week 1, take advantage of Murray’s season debut behind a questionable five-man group.