With Jay Gruden now in Washington as their head coach you’ll want to see how his loss as the Bengals OC impacts the Bengals offense. The expectation is that the Bengals are going to run the ball much more this year. Giovanni Bernard isn’t a 300 carry back so that means rookie, Jeremy Hill should carry the ball ~200 times. But the key for me will be how many times Andy Dalton throws the ball and how that equates target wise for AJ Green.
Following Jay Gruden’s path I’ll be closely monitoring how often Roy Helu is used in week 1 and how that impacts Alfred “I don’t catch passes” Morris. I think Morris carries the ball less than 230 times this year and week 1 will help to add clarity to that situation.
Staying in Washington but moving to the WR side of things keep an eye on the number of targets that Pierre Garcon gets in week 1. Last year in this very article for week 1 I said to watch the number of targets that Garcon gets and that 9-10 would loudly announce he’d make a run at being a top-12 WR. He was targeted 11 times, finished as the #11 overall WR and logged 182 targets for the season. This year, with DeSean Jackson in town we could see Garcon lose upwards of 50 targets. Getting 8 or fewer targets will foreshadow Garcon falling from the WR1 ranks. At TE, Jordan Reed looks to be in for a monster year…that is if Robert Griffin III can start to resemble a competent NFL QB. When I was at training camp this year Reed was getting fed the ball a ton in the Red Zone.
TACKLES PER GAME
In IDP leagues keep an eye on the defensive scoring of assisted tackles in Arizona, Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Tampa Bay this week. Last year the official scorers in these stadiums were some of the stingiest in the league when it came to awarding assisted tackles. If scoring looks similar to the numbers in the chart below then upside for players in games at those stadiums will be limited this year.
Do you draft your QB early or late? Last year the top-4 QBs by ADP were Aaron Rodgers (15.74), Drew Brees (17.97), Peyton Manning (29.41) and Tom Brady (38.04). Last year, in week one, among QBs, they ranked 1st (Manning), 5th (Rodgers), 11th (Brees) and 19th (Brady). I’m pretty sure that you draft those guys to get a big weekly advantage and as it played out, only Manning delivered. If you haven’t read Dissecting QB Value In Fantasy Football from last year (it’s still relevant), you should. So, keep an eye on the QB position because last year in week 1, six of the top-12 scoring QBs were drafted as QB13 or later.
Watch the Chiefs offensive line and see if they’re going to be as bad as they look like they might be. If so Jamaal Charles will have an even harder time replicating last year’s numbers. Good OL or not, I think Charles still finishes as a RB1 but his upside will be limited some. Watch his carries closely and if he’s getting stuffed on a high enough percentage of his carries but is able to break off a couple of big plays and put up 20+ fantasy points you might want to look at selling him very high.
Calvin Johnson is the key fantasy player on the Lions but the two players you should be watching this week are Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. Bell ranked 3rd among RBs after week 1 last year and finished the season ranked 12th, and Bush ranked 8th. This year I’m looking for the two to swap places and expect to see Bell lead the Lions in rushes, RB touches and rushing TDs. Keep a close eye on the duo’s usage in week 1 and see if my expectation will turn into a reality.
Another RB situation to keep a close eye on is in Miami where one moment it sounds like Lamar Miller is the lead RB and then all of a sudden it’s Knowshon Moreno. I’m not going to be watching who starts, but rather who gets the important carries. By that I’m referring to goal line carries, short yardage carries and if by chance the Dolphins are close in score late in the game, which RB is on the field.
Lastly, keep an eye on the Jaguars, specifically their defense. I’m tagging the Jaguars as my surprise team of 2014 and I’m projecting them to go 7-9. I don’t expect them to beat the Eagles this week, but if they can keep Chip Kelly’s high-powered offense to 17 points or less it will go a long way to show that the Jaguars defense is going to be able to carry the team back to respectability this year.
If you are looking for an IDP sleeper then make sure you pay attention to who plays where at LB for the Cowboys. The expectation is that Bruce Carter lines up at SLB, with Rolando McClain at MLB and Justin Durant at WLB. If it shakes out that way and Durant is the guy on the field for three downs then he’ll be the guy to nab off of waivers if he’s available.
If you really want to see how a scheme works in providing value to a player then watch Alterraun Verner and see how the Tampa-2 that Lovie Smith will be running with the Buccaneers fits Verner so perfectly. Note that it’s the same defense that saw Ronde Barber post 97+ total tackles from 2003 thru 2006. Herm Edwards touched on the Tampa-2 and what it means for the Buccaneers IDPs in episode 2 of The BLITZED Podcast.