No doubt your shiny new fantasy team is destined for a championship, but to get there takes even more work. By no means will the first week ensure anything about your team but understand that it is the most important week of the season. No one actually knows for certain what will happen, regardless of a summer full of hype and bravado. But the results will either propel your team upward in the standings or immediately ruin your dream about an undefeated season. Most importantly, this can be the initial step towards your league trophy if you pay attention and upgrade your team using this first look into the 2014 NFL season.
Who do I start? – Every fantasy owner ponders that question and in week one the answer could contain more “if-then” statements than enrolling for healthcare. Don’t make it harder than it is. Always start your studs in week one. If is far too early to get cute playing the schedule and you drafted these guys first because they were the best available. Just start your starters and never over-think week one.
Evaluate your Results –Realize that on average, one of your players just had their best game of the year and that week one is often the highest scoring all year. Just because Colin Kaepernick lights up the Cowboys on Sunday doesn’t mean he’ll blow up when he plays the Seahawks.
Many of your starters may have not immediately met your lofty expectations. You need to pay attention to underperformers to be sure but never let one week change your opinion of any starter. Consider why it was that the player did not do well. Played a top defense? Had a rough start by entire offense? Still learning new playbook? You cannot truly be comfortable with a player’s expectations until after the first three or even four weeks. Constantly re-evaluate your starters.
Churn your Roster – This is one instance where the goal is to be a hoarder. While you do not want to release a highly drafted player right before he finally shows up, no doubt you were nearly throwing darts in the final rounds of your draft. Always consider the bottom portion of your roster as fluid and always look to upgrade even if it only means denying everyone else a good player. You never know when your starters will be injured. You need the best plug-in possible to cover bye weeks. There is no week that will hold as much free agent promise as after this one.
Beware of the Fluke – Each year there will be at least one or two wide receivers that turn in a surprisingly great game. Week one of 2013 sent fantasy owners running to the waiver wire to grab Leonard Hankerson (5-80-2), Danny Amendola (10-104) and Jerome Simpson (7-140). In 2012, it was all about Stephen Hill (5-89-2) and Lance Moore (6-120-1). Always ask yourself if it is just a one week surprise or is the performance actually the start of something new.
Review the Box Scores – Obviously the hottest free agents are the undrafted players who scored the most. But there’s far more to learn and use once the NFL cranks out the initial set of stats for the year. Check out how these backfields distribute their workload to determine if “back-up” running backs have more value than was expected.
Arizona Cardinals – Jonathan Dwyer may show up often to help out the under-sized Andre Ellington. He could take away touchdowns but will it be enough to merit his own fantasy attention?
Dallas Cowboys– Lance Dunbar is a coach favorite and new OC Scott Linehan likes committees. DeMarcus Murray always misses at least two games each season as well.
Denver Broncos – Montee Ball takes over for Knowshon Moreno but is it Ronnie Hillman or C.J. Anderson who replaces Ball? And will either play enough to merit fantasy attention?
Houston Texans – Arian Foster is no longer durable and the rookie Alfred Blue was outplayed by Jonathan Grimes for the #2 role. Does that mean anything without a Foster injury now that a new offense is installed?
New England Patriots – The Pats love using unknown backs. Does that mean James White has a role? Granted any rotation may change weekly, but the injury-prone Shane Vereen makes this backfield always interesting.
New Orleans Saints – Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson will all share but will one of them get enough to merit a start in a larger league? One Saints back usually does.
New York Giants – Rashad Jennings is the new starter but will rookie Andre Williams also garner fantasy relevance? Jennings has never been a primary back for an entire season.
San Francisco 49ers– The rookie Carlos Hyde backs-up Frank Gore but the 49ers want to keep Gore fresh for January. That could mean more work for Hyde earlier in the year.
Washington Redskins – Alfred Morris is one of the rare backs who have nearly no role as a receiver. Roy Helu caught 49 passes as a 2011 rookie and Gruden’s 2013 Bengals offense had 60 receptions by running backs. The new offense may bring Helu to life.
Check out the targets and receptions for wide receivers in new situations to see if their usage is higher than expected and therefore potentially valuable to own and start.
Carolina Panthers– The rookie Kelvin Benjamin gets thrown into the fire but Jerricho Cotchery is the veteran there in an offense that is completely remaking the receiver corps.
Cincinnati Bengals– Marvin Jones misses at least the first month due to injury and Mohammed Sanu has been very impressive in all facets of his game. Not being A.J. Green usually pays off in Cincy.
Cleveland Browns– Losing Josh Gordon is a major letdown but Andrew Hawkins, Charles Johnson or Miles Austin will take up the slack. Given the likely need to throw, one of these may end up a surprise.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Another team likely to throw a lot in the second half, the Jaguars know that Cecil Shorts is never more than temporarily healthy. That means the rookies Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns may get plenty of chances to leave your waiver wire.
Oakland Raiders – James Jones is the new guy but Rod Streater and Andre Holmes also could benefit from a change in quarterbacks this year.
St. Louis Rams – Already down a starting quarterback, many leagues shied away from Kenny Britt, Chris Givens or Brian Quick and yet all three garnered praise this summer. The whole offense seems a bit unknown with Sam Bradford suddenly gone.
Search the box scores for free agent gems that can upgrade your roster and some of the above names are sure to end up as topics around the water cooler next week. Better still – a player or two will pop up that absolutely no one could see coming. Just 15 more weeks until the league championship!