Free Agent Forecast: Week 1

Free Agent Forecast: Week 1

Fantasy football roster management tips, strategy and advice

Free Agent Forecast: Week 1


Rockstar Rock Star Free Agent
Injury Injury Replacement
Grab & Stash Grab & Stash
1 Week Plug & Play 1 Week Plug & Play
Dumpster Dive Dumpster Dive
Free Agent Auction
Bid (FAAB) Scale
$ $0 – $5
$$ $6 – $15
$$$ $16 – $25
$$$$ $26 – $40
$$$$$ $41+
Based on $100 cap,
12-team league.

Given the diverse scoring systems and sizes of fantasy leagues, producing a weekly list of free agents that satisfies the masses can be challenging. For the most part, the column will hone in on players who are available in at least 35% of all fantasy leagues. If you play in a small league (8 teams), chances are there may be better players to pick up than you see listed here. If you play in a large league (16 teams), the majority of the players highlighted may already be on a squad; however, expect to find hidden gems, as well.


Jameis Winston, Buccaneers
Rock StarWinston is still available in quite a few leagues despite coming off a strong rookie season where he threw for 4,042 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also added six rushing scores. Winston is in his second season under Dirk Koetter, so he’ll improve on his rookie numbers. He’ll be owned in over 90 percent of leagues soon. If Winston is still available in your league, don’t wait. Grab him now.
Availability: Owned in ~ 62% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Winston is a QB1 this season.

Matt Ryan, Falcons
1 Week Plug & PlayRyan has gone from a mid-round pick to not even being drafted in over half of fantasy leagues. The reason for Ryan’s fantasy downfall is his maddening inconsistency. Despite having a Top 3 receiver in Julio Jones, Ryan was hit or miss in every game last season. He scored 18+ points 10 times. He scored 14 or fewer points seven times. Ryan’s inconstancy showed up in his two games versus the Buccaneers as well. In the first meeting he put up 25 fantasy points. In the second meeting Ryan scored just 14. Tampa Bay’s defense is expected to be improved this year but the Buccaneers allowed the 11th most fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2015. Most owners aren’t scrambling for a starting quarterback in Week 1. With Jones, Devonta Freeman and now Mohamed Sanu at his disposal, Ryan has the weapons to exploit a plus matchup for those looking to upgrade at quarterback early in the season.
Availability: Owned in ~ 40% of leagues.
Forecast: Ryan is a low-end QB1 option for Week 1.

Marcus Mariota, Titans
Grab & StashMariota is an interesting quarterback heading into the season. He has all the tools to be a fantasy stud. The only question is if personnel and play calling will limit his ceiling. The Titans brought in free agent Rishard Matthews and rookie Tajae Sharpe had an impressive preseason. The duo will team with tight end Delanie Walker to give Mariota more weapons in the passing game. On the flip side, DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry should form one of the most productive running back tandems in the NFL this season, so the Titans will rely heavily on the ground game. One positive with Mariota is he’s so accurate he doesn’t need a high volume of pass attempts to be productive. Mariota has a tough Week 1 matchup against a strong Vikings defense but he enters the year as one of the top QB2 options with the chance to emerge as a weekly QB1.
Availability: Owned in ~ 50% of leagues.
Forecast: Mariota is a low-end QB1/high-end QB2 with upside.

On the Radar: Brock Osweiler (25%), Dak Prescott (50%), Ryan Tannehill (25%)

Running Backs

Spencer Ware, Chiefs
Rock StarWare was severely under-drafted all summer. With Jamaal Charles recovering from ACL surgery, Ware wasn’t even being drafted in many 12-team leagues until late August. While his ownership is now steadily rising, he’s still available in half of fantasy leagues. Andy Reid said it will be a stretch for Charles to play in Week 1. Ware will start until Charles is healthy and see a majority of the carries. Even when Charles regains his starting job Ware will have a role, especially in short-yardage and goal line situations. Ware is a good bet to reach double-digit touchdowns this season. He should be owned in a majority of fantasy leagues at this point.
Availability: Owned in ~ 50% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Ware is an RB2 if Charles is out and a Flex option while Charles plays and is eased back into the offense.

Christine Michael, Seahawks
Rock StarOwners have been burned by Michael in the past but 2016 feels different. Michael emerged late last season and Pete Carroll has said repeatedly the light came on for Michael. Thomas Rawls suffered a serious ankle injury back in December. He’s recovered now but Carroll stated both Rawls and Michael will see carries. Rawls is owned in 99 percent of fantasy leagues. Michael is owned in half. That doesn’t make sense. Pick up Michael now before there’s a mad dash to add him early in the year.
Availability: Owned in ~ 50% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Michael is a Flex option in deeper leagues to start the year.

James White, Patriots
Rock StarIt’s mind-boggling that White is still owned in fewer than half of fantasy leagues. Dion Lewis is out for at least the first six games of the season. There’s no guarantee we’ll even see Lewis in 2016 after he had a second procedure on his knee. White did catch 40 balls and score six touchdowns last season. Keep in mind that White barely played before Dion Lewis got hurt. In Weeks 13-17, White averaged 5.6 receptions per game and scored four times. As long as Lewis is out, White will have a big role in New England’s offense. He should be heavily owned in PPR leagues. One other note: Undrafted rookie D.J. Foster made the Patriots final roster. If White gets injured, Foster will make a big fantasy impact. Foster was an excellent receiver at Arizona State. He had 184 receptions his last three college seasons. Foster is a perfect fit as the Pats pass catching back if White goes down.
Availability: Owned in ~ 40% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: White is an RB2/Flex Play in PPR formats.

Rob Kelley, Redskins
1 Week Plug & PlayGrab & StashMatt Jones is questionable for Week 1 with a shoulder injury. If he doesn’t play, Kelley will get the start and handle a majority of the carries. He has a tough matchup against the Steelers but Kelley did look good in the preseason rushing for 198 yards on 38 carries. That comes out to a 5.21 yards per carry average. Jones never had a stranglehold on the starting job and after Kelley’s strong preseason it looks like the Redskins could be headed towards a committee approach this season. Chris Thompson is also in the mix as the third-down back. The Redskins are going to throw the ball a lot this year but Kelley has shown enough promise to be rostered in more than just 5 percent of 12-team leagues.
Availability: Owned in ~ 5% of leagues.
Forecast: Kelley is a Flex Play for Week 1 and possibly beyond if he continues to play well.

Shaun Draughn, 49ers
Dumpster DiveCarlos Hyde is the 49ers unquestioned lead back but Draughn will also carve out a productive role as a pass catcher. 49ers offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins compared Draughn to Theo Riddick. Riddick caught 80 balls last year in Detroit. There’s a good chance San Francisco will be trailing in a majority of games this season. If that’s the case, Draughn will get plenty of garbage-time receptions. Hyde has had trouble staying healthy. He’s missed 11 games in his first two years and Draughn has been named his backup. Draughn is flying under the radar but he’s going to be heavily involved in the 49ers offenses this season.
Availability: Owned in ~ 7% of leagues.
Forecast: Draughn has some Flex appeal in PPR formats and he would be an RB2 if Hyde got hurt.

On the Radar: Chris Johnson (25%), Chris Thompson (5%), Terrance West (10%)

Wide Receivers

Markus Wheaton, Steelers
Rock StarAntonio Brown can’t catch every pass…can he? With Martavis Bryant suspended for the season and Heath Miller retired, Brown is going to have a monster season. We know that. If there’s one other receiver to target in Pittsburgh, it’s Wheaton. Wheaton is an example of opportunity trumping talent. Wheaton has had chances in the past but drops and mental mistakes have hurt him. This year though the Steelers may have no choice but to trust him. Sammie Coates doesn’t look ready and Darrius Heyward-Bey is, well, Darrius Heyward-Bey. Eli Rogers has shown potential but he’s more of a slot receiver. Wheaton will have opportunities to make plays on the outside opposite Brown. He’s worth a spot on your bench early in the year.
Availability: Owned in ~ 68% of leagues.
Forecast: Wheaton is a WR4/5 early in the year with the potential to become a WR3 in Steelers.

Tajae Sharpe, Titans
Rock StarSharpe was sensational in the preseason. The fifth-round pick out of Massachusetts actually won the starting job in training camp, allowing the Titans to ship Dorial Green-Beckham to Philadelphia. Sharpe has been impressive, he has obvious chemistry with Mariota and he plays on a team desperate for playmakers at receiver. That’s a recipe for fantasy success. Preseason performance doesn’t always carry over to the regular season but Sharpe has certainly shown enough promise to be on fantasy rosters right now. Grab him if you need help at receiver.
Availability: Owned in ~ 30% of leagues.
Forecast: Sharpe is a WR4 to start the year.

Chris Hogan, Bills
1 Week Plug & PlayGrab & StashHogan is more of a stash early in the year but he’s shown good enough chemistry with Jimmy Garoppolo this preseason that owners can consider starting him in deeper leagues for Week 1. Hogan only caught 36 passes in Buffalo but he’s a much better fit in the Patriots offense.  He’s behind Gronk and Julian Edelman for targets but the good thing about Tom Brady when he returns from suspension is he doesn’t lock in on one receiver. Multiple players have fantasy relevance in New England’s passing game. Danny Amendola is average and always injured. Edelman is coming back from two foot surgeries since November. Hogan is projected to start in one of the NFL’s top passing offenses. He could be of this year’s biggest steals.
Availability: Owned in ~ 35% of leagues.
Forecast: Hogan is a sneaky Flex play in Week 1 and a sleeper WR in PPR leagues for the rest of the season.

Kamar Aiken, Ravens
Grab & StashThe Ravens are one of the biggest fantasy question marks heading into 2016. Their backfield is a mess, the tight end position is unsettled and we’re not quite sure how the receivers will shake out with Steve Smith returning from a torn Achilles’. One player being undervalued is Aiken. Playing on a terrible offense with multiple quarterbacks last season, Aiken caught 75 balls for 944 yards and five touchdowns. Aiken may not be an every-week starter in Baltimore’s offense but he has the ability to be a solid WR3/4 for owners this season.
Availability: Owned in ~ 40% of leagues.
Forecast: Aiken will be a WR3/4 most weeks in Baltimore’s offense.

Will Fuller, Texans
Grab & StashThe Texans have been searching for a No. 2 receiver to pair with DeAndre Hopkins and it looks like they finally find one. Fuller showed off his big-play ability this preseason. He should see plenty of single coverage playing opposite one of the NFL’s top receivers. The one issue with Fuller might be consistency. His fantasy value will largely be dependent on big plays as a rookie, which means some high-scoring fantasy weeks and some duds. That can be tricky in terms of knowing when to start Fuller. The Texans offense is loaded with talent though and Brock Osweiler is an upgrade at quarterback. Fuller is a player on the rise.
Availability: Owned in ~ 50% of leagues.
Forecast: Fuller is a boom or bust WR4.

Tyler Boyd, Bengals
Grab & StashThe Bengals lost Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in the offseason. Tight end Tyler Eifert is recovering from ankle surgery and won’t be back until October. Brandon LaFell is penciled in as a starter but he’s dealing with ligament damage in his hand. LaFell also only has one season of more than 49 receptions, despite playing with Cam Newton and Tom Brady. He’s an average receiver at best. Boyd has a great opportunity and he’s already shown he can make plays during the preseason. A smooth route-runner with great hands, it’s only a matter of time before Boyd emerges as the Bengals No. 2 receiver. He’s in a great situation to be one of this season’s most productive rookie receivers.
Availability: Owned in ~ 30% of leagues.
Forecast: Boyd is a WR4 who will become a WR3 once he’s in the starting lineup.

On the Radar: Phillip Dorsett (40%), Rishard Matthews (30%), Terrelle Pryor (18%), Kenny Stills (18%)

Tight Ends

Zach Miller, Bears
1 Week Plug & PlayGrab & StashMiller missed most of training camp with a concussion. He’s back now and while Miller isn’t a top tier tight end, he has the ability to produce TE1 numbers when healthy. Once Miller took over as the Bears starting tight end in mid-season last year, he posted four games with at least five receptions and scored five touchdowns. Miller isn’t Gronk or Jordan Reed but if you’re a little light at the tight end position, he’s someone you can use as a matchup play throughout the season.
Availability: Owned in ~ 60% of leagues.
Forecast: Miller is a low-end TE1.

Jared Cook, Packers
1 Week Plug & PlayGrab & StashWe won’t mention any names but Cook has dazzled some fantasy owners with his physical ability since entering the league in 2009 only to constantly disappoint. So are we going to buy into Cook again? Why not. The one argument for Cook is he’s played with some awful quarterbacks in his career. Aaron Rodgers isn’t awful. The argument against Cook is his numbers are pretty bad even when you factor in the poor quarterback play. He only has two seasons with 50+ receptions and those were 51 and 52. Cook has 16 touchdown catches in seven seasons. What was the point again? Oh, Cook is playing with Rodgers now and the Jaguars allowed the sixth most points to tight ends in 2015. Jacksonville’s defense should be better this year but that transformation won’t come overnight. Start Cook in Week 1 and cross your fingers.
Availability: Owned in ~ 45% of leagues.
Forecast: Cook is a TE1 for Week 1 and has a chance to be a weekly fantasy starter in Green Bay’s offense.

Cameron Brate, Buccaneers
Dumpster DiveSometimes owners just won’t give up on players. Austin Seferian-Jenkins is one of those players. Seferian-Jenkins has done very little in the NFL but fantasy owners will have him as a potential breakout player for the next decade. Seferian-Jenkins has one big game in the NFL and it came in a blowout loss. Just for the record, he isn’t even the starting tight end in Tampa Bay. That guy is Cameron Brate. As mentioned above, the Buccaneers offense is one on the rise, so Brate enters a good situation. He’s not as physically impressive as ASJ but he gets open and catches the ball. Sometimes that’s more valuable than being 6-9, always hurt and unproductive. Brate is emerging as one of Winston’s favorite targets. He’s a potential tight end steal this year.
Availability: Owned in ~ 2% of leagues.
Forecast: Brate is a TE2 that has a chance to become a TE1 during the season.

On the Radar: Eric Ebron (40%), Virgil Hill (7%), Jesse James (5%), Vance McDonald (5%)


Wil Lutz, Saints
1 Week Plug & PlayThe Saints/Raiders matchup is expected to be one of the highest scoring games in Week 1. The total is set at 51. Last year the Raiders allowed the second most fantasy points to kickers at close to 10 points per game. Lutz should get plenty of scoring opportunities if you’re looking to add a kicker for Week 1.
Availability: Owned in ~ 5% of leagues.
Forecast: Forbath is a Top 12 fantasy play for Week 1.

On the Radar: None

Defense/Specials Teams

Los Angeles Rams
1 Week Plug & PlayThe Rams defense struggled in the preseason but don’t read too much into it. Defenses aren’t game planning in the preseason. The Rams get a 49ers offense in Week 1 led by Blaine Gabbert and lacking playmakers. Seriously, who is Gabbert’s top target? Tight end Vance McDonald? That’s no way to go through life. Chip Kelly is a great offensive mind but on paper the 49ers offense looks like one of the NFL’s worst. The 49ers are weak at quarterback, offensive line and receiver. Other than that they’re in great shape. The Rams defense will dominate in Week 1.
Availability: Owned in ~ 45% of leagues.
Forecast: The Rams defense is a Top 10 play in Week 1.

On the Radar: Bills (35%), Buccaneers (10%)


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