Free agent forecast: Week 1

Free agent forecast: Week 1

Roster Management

Free agent forecast: Week 1

 

Free Agent Auction
Bid (FAAB) Scale
$ $0 – $5
$$ $6 – $15
$$$ $16 – $25
$$$$ $26 – $40
$$$$$ $41+
Based on $100 cap,
12-team league.

Quarterbacks

1 Week Plug & Play/Grab & Stash

Carson Wentz, Eagles
Wentz is expected to improve on a rookie season where he threw for 3,782 yards, 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The Eagles added Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in the offseason to upgrade what was the worst receiving corps in the NFL. The Redskins allowed 274 yards and 1.4 touchdowns per game to quarterbacks last season. Wentz is a high-end QB2 to have on your bench to start the year and a top streaming option in Week 1 if you need him.
Availability: Owned in ~ 50% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Wentz is streaming option for Week 1 and a QB2 to start the year.

1 Week Plug & Play

Carson Palmer, Cardinals
Palmer is only owned in half of leagues right now but he has a strong matchup to kick of the season for owners in need of a quarterback. The Lions allowed the fifth most fantasy points to quarterbacks last season, giving up an average of 258 yards and 1.9 touchdowns per game. Tom Brady ripped the Lions first-team defense in the third preseason game. Larry Fitzgerald should abuse a Detroit secondary that allowed the most fantasy points to slot receivers in 2016. Palmer is in a good spot to start the year with a strong performance.
Availability: Owned in ~ 50% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Palmer is a low-end QB1 for Week 1.

On the Radar: Sam Bradford (15%), Jay Cutler (25%), Brian Hoyer (10%)

Running Backs

Rock Star Free Agent

Theo Riddick, Lions
There’s been a lot of love for Ameer Abdullah this summer but don’t forget about Riddick. Even if Abdullah is healthy, Riddick is still going to have a role in Detroit’s offense as a pass-catching back. Over the last two years, Riddick ranks second in targets (163), first in receptions (133), second in receiving yards (1,068) and first in receiving touchdowns (8) among running backs. Those numbers would be even better but Riddick missed six games last season. The Cardinals were nasty against the run last year, allowing just 70 yards per game. In the past, when the Lions haven’t been able to run the ball early, they’ve gotten their running backs involved in the passing game. This is the type of game where Riddick should be involved heavily as a receiver. He’s on the Flex radar for Week 1. Riddick is being undervalued overall for the season.
Availability: Owned in ~ 60% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Riddick will be a productive Flex play most weeks in PPR formats.

1 Week Plug & Play/Grab & Stash

Darren Sproles, Eagles
Sproles didn’t play in the preseason but the 34-year-old is locked into his role as the Eagles pass-catching back again this year. LeGarrette Blount struggled in the preseason, so there’s a strong possibility that Sproles leads the Eagles backfield in touches early in the year. The Redskins allowed the fourth most fantasy points to running backs in 2016. Washington defense not only gave up 109 yards on the ground but 4.6 receptions per game. Sproles should be added in most PPR leagues. He’s a weekly Flex play, starting in Week 1 versus the Redskins.
Availability: Owned in ~ 60% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Sproles is a weekly Flex play in PPR formats.

Jacquizz Rodgers, Buccaneers
It’s a bit surprising that Rodgers is only owned in 60 percent of fantasy leagues. Doug Martin is suspended for the first three games of the season. He’s almost certain to regain the starting job once he returns but Rodgers is a nice three-game rental. He’ll face the Bears, Vikings and Giants while Martin sits. Those aren’t the softest rush defenses but Rodgers is in line for 20+ touches a game. In the five games Rodgers was healthy last season, he averaged 21 carries a game filling in for Martin. If you’re weak at running back and Rodgers is still available, grab him off the waiver wire.
Availability: Owned in ~ 60% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Rodgers will be an RB2/Flex play during the three games with Martin out.

Grab & Stash

Dion Lewis, Patriots
You can put any Patriots running back on the list. They’re all going to play and each will have a certain amount of fantasy value. James White (60% owned) is going to catch the most passes, while Rex Burkhead (50% owned) and Mike Gillislee (80% owned) could be in line for the most overall touches. Let’s discuss Lewis though because he’s owned in the fewest number of leagues. Remember a couple of things about Lewis. First, he was never really healthy last year. He started the season on the PUP list with a knee injury and didn’t had the explosion that makes him so successful. Second, Bill Belichick is a big fan of Lewis. That’s kind of important. No one outside of Belichick himself knows how the Patriots backfield is going to look from week to week. Heck, he may not even know at this point. However, if there’s one Patriots running back that’s under-owned, it’s Lewis.
Availability: Owned in ~ 15% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Lewis is a bench hold that could turn into a weekly starter.

Alvin Kamara, Saints
The Saints are going to have a backfield by committee with Kamara, Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram. Kamara’s role is already defined though. He will be the Saints third-down/pass-catching back. Kamara is the most talented player at that position since Sproles left. Sproles averaged 77 receptions in three seasons with the Saints. Even Travaris Cadet caught 40 balls last year. Kamara is an excellent receiver and underrated runner. The rookie caught 74 passes and averaged 6.2 yards per carry in two seasons at Tennessee. He looked impressive in the preseason. Kamara will have immediate PPR flex appeal and if Peterson or Ingram go down, he’ll see even more touches. Kamara is a high-ceiling player on an explosive offense. Grab him if you have the roster room.
Availability: Owned in ~ 20% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Kamara will be a Flex option in larger PPR leagues.

Giovani Bernard, Bengals
Joe Mixon is a unique talent and it’s likely only a matter of time before he takes over as the Bengals lead back. That doesn’t mean Bernard doesn’t have fantasy value though. Bernard came back quicker than expected from a knee injury and he looks healthy. He’s still going to be a big part of the Bengals offense, especially as a receiver out of the backfield. Over the last four seasons, Bernard has caught 39, 49, 43 and 56 passes. He has six receiving touchdowns over that span. Mixon is the best Bengals running back to own but both Bernard and Jeremy Hill (40% owned) should be on more rosters right now.
Availability: Owned in ~ 30% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Bernard is a streaming option/bye-week filler in PPR formats.

On the Radar: Chris Carson (10%), Marlon Mack (10%), Latavius Murray (50%), Wendall Smallwood (10%), Shane Vereen (25%), DeAndre Washington (10%)

Wide Receivers

Rock Star Free Agent

Cooper Kupp, Rams
You probably aren’t jumping at the chance to own a rookie receiver whose fantasy value is tied to Jared Goff but Kupp may be the exception. Kupp looked to be Goff’s new best friend in the preseason. If you go back to his college days, Kupp is every quarterback’s best friend. Kupp finished his collegiate career with 428 receptions, 6,464 yards and 73 touchdowns. The Rams offense and Goff’s development are a concern but new coach Sean McVay is a rising star. Kupp is going to eat up receptions out of the slot this season. Don’t be surprised if Kupp catches 70 balls as a rookie.
Availability: Owned in ~ 30% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Kupp is a weekly WR3/4 in PPR leagues.

1 Week Plug & Play

Cole Beasley, Cowboys
Dak Prescott is coming off an amazing rookie season but he faces a tough Giants defense in the opener. The Giants have the best trio of cornerbacks in the NFL. New York forces quarterbacks to check down to secondary receivers. In two games against the Giants last year, Beasley caught 12 passes for 106 yards on 19 targets. The 12 targets Beasley saw in the first meeting versus the Giants were a season-high. Expect Beasley to once again be heavily involved in the Cowboys gameplan, as Prescott tries to get rid of the ball quickly to offset the Giants pass rush.
Availability: Owned in ~ 40% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Beasley is a WR3/Flex option against the Giants.

Grab & Stash

Corey Davis. Titans
Davis is loaded with talent but he’s a rookie that missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury. That means he likely won’t have a big role early in the year. However, if owners can stash Davis on their bench for a month or so, he should start to pay big dividends. In his final season at Western Michigan, Davis averaged 10.9 yards per target, caught 71 percent of his targets and scored 19 touchdowns. Davis has the size (6-3, 209 pounds) that the Titans lack in their offense. That big frame makes him a tough matchup in the red zone where Marcus Mariota is one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the NFL. Davis has WR3 upside once he gets acclimated to the offense.
Availability: Owned in ~ 60% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Davis will start the season as a WR4/5 bench stash but he could end up being a weekly WR3.

Paul Richardson, Seahawks
Richardson takes over the Seahawks No. 2 receiver job with Jermaine Kearse being shipped off to the Jets. Last season Richardson caught 21 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown. It’s a small sample size but Richardson averaged 8.0 yards per target and 22.7 yards per reception when lined up in the slot. Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham are locked in as Russell Wilson’s top two targets. Richardson will have a shot to become the third option in Seattle’s passing game. He probably won’t be an every-week starter but Richardson should feast on favorable matchups.
Availability: Owned in ~ 15% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Richardson is a WR4 who will be dependent on big plays early in the season.

Kendall Wright, Bears
With Cameron Meredith out for the season, the Bears have the weakest group of receivers outside of the Jets. The two players most likely to emerge in Meredith’s absence are Wright and Kevin White. White was the more popular pickup when Meredith went down but he’s struggled with injuries and to separate from defensive backs early in his NFL career. Wright played one season under Bears offense coordinator Dowell Loggains in Tennessee. That year he saw close to nine targets a game. Wright finished with 94 receptions and 1,079 yards on 140 targets in 2013 with Loggains calling plays. He’s a receiver to watch early in the year.
Availability: Owned in ~ 10% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Wright will have an opportunity to be a WR3/4 in PPR leagues.

Dumpster Dive

Aldrick Robinson, 49ers
Pierre Garcon is clearly the 49ers No. 1 receiver and he’s going to see a ton of targets this year. There’s room in San Francisco’s offense for another receiver to emerge and have fantasy value. It could be Marquise Goodwin but he’s a former track star with 49 career receptions. Goodwin is far from a lock. Robinson comes over from Atlanta where he played under Kyle Shanahan, so he’s familiar with the offense. He’s going to be the 49ers primary slot receiver after the team released Jeremy Kerley. Robinson is only 5-10 and 187 pounds but he’s built like Taylor Gabriel. Gabriel is quicker, although Shanahan can move Robinson around to create mismatches like he did with Gabriel. Last year in our first column of the season we told you to watch out for Cameron Brate. This year keep an eye on Robinson.
Availability: Owned in ~ 5% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Robinson is a name to monitor early in the year. He could become the 49ers second most productive receiver.

On the Radar: Robbie Anderson (40%), Tyler Boyd (5%), Taylor Gabriel (40%), Kenny Golladay (30%), Zay Jones (50%), Jermaine Kearse (20%), J.J. Nelson (15%), Sterling Shepard (50%), Torrey Smith (15%), Kevin White (60%), Mike Williams (10%)

Tight Ends

1 Week Plug & Play/Grab & Stash

Cameron Brate, Buccaneers
Speaking of Brate, he’s still available in almost half of fantasy leagues if you need a tight end. The Buccaneers drafted O.J. Howard but Brate is still going to be a factor, especially in the red zone. Last year, Brate caught 57 balls for 660 yards and eight touchdowns. Brate’s season is being undervalued by fantasy owners. He finished ranked No. 9 in fantasy points per target (2.09) and No. 11 in fantasy points per game (11.4) among tight ends. He also ranked third with 11 red zone receptions. Brate may not be Gronk but he’s a solid fantasy tight end and will be in the starting tight end conversation most weeks.
Availability: Owned in ~ 60% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Brate will be a low-end TE1 throughout the season.

Evan Engram, Giants
Rookie tight ends not named Gronk almost never make a big fantasy impact. Engram could be the exception, mainly because he’s not a traditional tight end. He’s more of a hybrid tight end/receiver. The Giants are expected to move Engram all over and line him up in the slot. That makes Engram more appealing for fantasy purposes. Engram has an intriguing matchup in Week 1 for owners in need of a tight end. The Cowboys allowed the fifth most fantasy points to tight ends last season. The Dallas defense gave up an NFL-worst 7.5 receptions and 75.4 yards per game to the tight end position. Engram is worth a look if you’re not happy with your current tight end situation.
Availability: Owned in ~ 20% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Engram is a high-end TE2 with a chance to become a TE1.

On the Radar: Charles Clay (10%), Austin Hooper (40%), George Kittle (2%), Julius Thomas (50%)

Kickers

Rock Star Free Agent

Wil Lutz, Saints
Lutz posted seven Top 10 fantasy weeks last season. He’s helped by playing in the Saints high-powered offense. New Orleans ranked 12th in field goal attempts last year. Lutz should get some opportunities in Week 1 against the Vikings. Minnesota allowed the 11th most fantasy points to kickers in 2016; giving up almost eight points per game. Lutz is a Top 10 fantasy kicker heading into the season. Grab him if you’re in need of an upgrade and he’s still available.
Availability: Owned in ~ 60% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Lutz is a Top 10 kicker for Week 1 and the rest of the season.

On the Radar: None

Defense/Specials Teams

1 Week Plug & Play

Buffalo Bills
There’s good news and better news when considering the Bills defense for Week 1. The good news is the Jets allowed the most points to team defenses in 2016. The better news is New York’s offense is likely to be even worse this season. Josh McCown isn’t a terrible stop-gap quarterback but he’s working on a team with the worst receivers in the NFL. The Jets are relying on Robbie Anderson, rookie ArDarius Stewart and newly signed Jermaine Kearse to be their top three receivers. This should be an ugly game. Both the Bills and Jets defenses are strong plays in Week 1.
Availability: Owned in ~ 30% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: The Bills are a Top 12 defense for Week 1.

New York Jets
The Bills are a popular Week 1 streaming option but the Jets may be an even better play. Tyrod Taylor returned to practice Monday but he remains in the concussion protocol, while Jordan Matthews could miss the game with a chest injury. Even if Matthews plays he’s practiced all of 15 minutes with his new team. The Bills could be down to rookies Nathan Peterman at quarterback and Zay Jones at receiver to lead the passing game. Jones has talent, but that’s not a great recipe for success in Week 1. First team to 10 wins?
Availability: Owned in ~ 10% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: The Jets defense will be one of the top plays in Week 1 if Peterman starts.

Los Angeles Rams
The Colts are a mess right now. Andrew Luck is going to miss the opener, leaving Scott Tolzien as the Colts starting quarterback. The Rams had a strong defense last year and now bring in Wade Phillips as coordinator. Aaron Donald is still holding out and he would be a big loss should he not play. However, Luck is an even bigger loss for the Colts offense and the Rams do have depth along their defensive front. Start the Rams defense with confidence.
Availability: Owned in ~ 40% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: The Rams are a Top 12 defense for Week 1.

On the Radar: Atlanta Falcons (50%), Baltimore Ravens (50%), Buffalo Bills (30%), Philadelphia Eagles (30%)

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