Free-agent recommendations refer to 12-team league formats, unless specifically stated. FAAB $ amounts are based on $100 budgets.
PRIORITY FREE AGENT
Jacoby Brissett, Colts
Depending upon when you drafted, Brissett should be on the wire. He is no Andrew Luck, of course, so a one-for-one replacement isn’t going to happen. However, we are talking about a guy with enough experience to suggest he won’t be totally lost. The system is favorable for passing, and the Colts have a bunch of weapons. Brissett will be shielded by one of the best lines in football.
Forecast: Unless Brissett gets hurt or completely falls on his face, he’ll be the entrenched Colts starter all year and has QB2/matchup play sustainability.
Grab & Stash
Derek Carr, Raiders
Carr probably went undrafted. While he doesn’t necessarily deserve to be played in Week 1 vs. the Denver Broncos, look to stash him before a possibly good game makes him harder to land. He’s a great backup option for Luck owners.
Forecast: Carr is being overlooked in nearly all formats, despite a reasonable ownership rate. As long as the Raiders can keep him upright, the wholesale changes around him should lead to fringe starter stats.
Priority Free Agent
Carlos Hyde, Texans
Houston traded for Hyde after he fell out of favor in KC. This is his fifth team in about the last 12 minutes or so, which speaks volumes as to Hyde’s current ability to endear himself to a coaching staff. Nevertheless, any back with an opportunity for the majority of a team’s carries warrants a roster spot in fantasy as a priority addition.
Forecast: Duke Johnson should be the third-down back throughout the year, whereas Hyde has a chance to secure the early-down work and action around the stripe. He figures to be an inconsistent and underwhelming RB3.
Dare Ogunbowale, Buccaneers
An undrafted free agent in 2017, Ogunbowale bounced around the league a little bit before settling on Tampa Bay’s active roster. He is expected to serve as a third-down/change-of-pace back for the Bucs. PPR gamers should give him a look, especially considering how uninspiring Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber are ahead of Ogunbowale. Bruce Arians loves an offensive design that throws to RBs.
Forecast: Don’t be afraid to spend a few more bucks if you have a thin RB corps for one reason or another. Without much of a track record, it’s tough to recommend him wholeheartedly. Ogunbowale could stick around all year as an occasional PPR flex.
Tony Pollard, Cowboys
Pollard has looked the part in training camp and preseason action, replacing disgruntled starter Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys and Zeke’s camp are making progress on a deal, but many sticking points remain in the way. It seems like only a matter of time, so Pollard’s runway will be short. The trickiness here is how much to spend on a player who would have a huge role but probably for only a game or two, at best. He is widely owned — pretty much universally in leagues that drafted after Aug. 20 or so.
Forecast: Pollard’s role is fully dependent on what happens with Zeke. Should the star back sign later today or tomorrow, Pollard is mostly useless, sans being a handcuff for your team.
Devin Singletary, Bills
In the event your league drafted early in the summer, check your wire for Singletary. He was gaining steam from the beginning of the preseason right through the Aug. 31 release of LeSean McCoy, but there’s a slim chance he went undrafted in more casual setups.
Forecast: Singletary will share the workload with Frank Gore, and it wouldn’t shock anyone if the rookie outright ran away with the gig.
Frank Gore, Bills
The ageless Gore will see enough touches to matter in a shared backfield. Rookie Devin Singletary made Shady McCoy expendable, and Gore continues to grind away into his 100th NFL season.
Forecast: Gore is at the point where he could break down any given carry, although we’ve been saying that for how many years now?! Gore offers the occasional flex play in the right matchup scenario.
Ty Montgomery, Jets
He has looked pretty good this summer and fits the offense. Le’Veon Bell will be the workhorse, but what happens if the can’t leave the stable? It won’t be all Montgomery’s job in that event. His role will increase drastically, though, and gamers have a dual-threat back on the ready. In today’s NFL, where compartmentalization rules, true handcuffs are hard to come by. Montgomery’s flexibility gives him a leg up on the competition.
Forecast: Montgomery’s versatility means the offense won’t change much in he has to replace Lev Bell, and we could be looking at a weekly fantasy play, in that event. Stash him as long as you can justify it, since he rarely will be playable while Bell is healthy.
1-Week Plug & Play/Grab & Stash
D.J. Chark, Jaguars
Kansas City could force the Jaguars into a pass-heavy script this week, and the downfield weapon has upside in this situation. Nick Foles thrives in play-action passing, which would open up Chark’s speed to take advantage down the field. In the scenario where he plays well, Chark is worth hanging on to over the next week or so, because he did enjoy a strong summer.
Forecast: Look at him as a sneaky one-week play with upside for more. There is WR3 or flex appeal here in deeper setups.
Grab & Stash
Jakobi Meyers, Patriots
After a blistering preseason, Meyers made the team following the release veteran Demaryius Thomas. However, the latter has re-signed with the Pats. It greatly lessens Meyers’ appeal. For now, stash him in cavernous leagues. He simply was too good in the preseason to ignore.
Forecast: After the return of Thomas, it is difficult to envision Meyers contributing without a helping hand, such as an injury to DT or Phillip Dorsett. The other path to playing time is Josh Gordon fouling up again. Stash Meyers for the foreseeable future.
Demaryius Thomas, Patriots
The Patriots axed the veteran a week after he caught a pair of preseason touchdowns, only to return him to the roster a few days later. The veteran will compete for looks with Dorsett and Gordon. New England’s brass has an affinity for proven veterans, so this signing probably affects Dorsett the most. Thomas has a role to claim in the red zone after the retirement of Gronk.
Forecast: He’ll be an inconsistent flex play when the matchup is right. Roster him for depth.
Preston Williams, Dolphins
Williams replaces Kenny Stills in the starting lineup after the veteran was traded to the Houston Texans. A big-bodied possession guy with a little bit of wiggle, Williams could emerge from a cast of receivers dying for a player to stand out. The Dolphins are likely to throw a bunch this year, and both quarterbacks are of the gunslinger mentality at their cores. Williams isn’t a priority add in any sense, so keep an eye on him or make the move to stash him to preemptively in case he surprises.
Forecast: DeVante Parker is always injured, and slot WR Albert Wilson is coming off of hip surgery. Williams could contribute sooner than later, so give him a month or so before casting aside the youngster.
Cole Beasley, Bills
Depending upon when your league drafted, Beasley probably went unselected. He returned from a core muscle surgery to show a little chemistry with Josh Allen late in the preseason. The best-cast scenario is he becomes a weekly PPR weapon at a crazy discount price. Injuries are working against him in the long run, if his history repeats itself.
Forecast: Possible PPR hog in the short term. Long-range outlook is less appealing due to a lengthy battle with assorted injuries. WR3/flex in PPR when on the field.
Michael Crabtree/KeeSean Johnson
For now, Crabtree will be lurking in the background and waiting for either Johnson or another rookie in WR Andy Isabella to provide him an opportunity for a consistent role in an offense that will sling it all day. The veteran wideout has experience with this system in college and could provide adequate depth in deeper leagues. Johnson is currently running with the starters but is a rookie after all, so his grasp on the job can be considered tenuous. Both players are no better than bench targets, for now.
Availability: 75% (Crabtree); 70% (Johnson)
FAAB: $1-2 (Crabtree); $1-3 (Johnson)
Forecast: Both receivers will be inconsistent, at least early on. The entire Arizona passing system is still feeling its way out, and then there is the overall concern of whether it is even sustainable for 16 games against NFL-level competition.
Grab & Stash
Jack Doyle, Colts
It is easy to forget how well Doyle played in 2017 with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback since Eric Ebron and Andrew Luck were so dynamic a year ago. Doyle’s health will be of concern early on, so don’t look to play him until we see something from the veteran. Inexperienced QBs tend to rely on the tight end position, and there’s enough room in this system for both of these guys to stand out. Last year, when Doyle returned, he outsnapped Ebron by 84 plays, albeit largely as a blocker. Furthermore, Ebron is no stranger to injuries of his own.
Forecast: It really comes down to if Doyle is in football shape and whether Brissett develops any kind of chemistry with WR Devin Funchess. The former Panther receiver will be Doyle’s primary competition (outside of Ebron) for touches over the middle and in the red zone.
Chris Herndon, Jets
This one is mostly for gamers with a reserve setting that doesn’t take up a roster spot (IR/suspended list). Herndon is out for the first month and will return with little competition at his position. The most challenge he will find for looks comes from Jamison Crowder and Le’Veon Bell. The second-year tight end flashed enough as a rookie to warrant a roster spot, particularly in a season with such a top-heavy TE class in fantasy.
Forecast: It may take him a game or two to shake off the rust, but we’re looking at a possible TE1 some weeks. Herndon can stretch the field and is not a volume guy. He’s an ideal target in deep leagues that allow two TEs to be flexed.
Priority Free Agent
Matt Bryant, Falcons
The 44-year-old boot re-signed late in the offseason to assume the kicking chores for the Falcons after a host of players failed to take charge. While he still has the distance, Bryant played 13 games last year and is an injury concern at his age. Being in a high-scoring offense alone makes Bryant a fine fantasy option.
Forecast: Bryant is a PK1 with some risk. Look to the wire to add him immediately, because he won’t last.
Aldrick Rosas, Giants
Average and even lesser offenses tend to kick a lot of field goals. Rosas has a booming leg and made 32 of his 33 three-pointers a year ago. Name recognition goes a long way for casual leaguers drafting their kicker. Rosas isn’t exactly a household name outside of the Rosas household.
Forecast: Fourteen other kickers are owned more universally than Rosas, which is pretty crazy. Depending on your current kicking situation, add him before the season beings, should he have gone undrafted in your league.
Priority Free Agent
Seattle’s defense once reigned supreme in fantasy, and now a dozen other units have been drafted more frequently entering Week 1. The addition of Jadeveon Clowney and the healthy return of Ziggy Ansah will immediately upgrade the pass rush. Last year’s breakout defensive tackle, Jarran Reed, returns after a six-game suspension.
Forecast: Even if Seattle isn’t better than your current starting unit, this may be one of the few times I will recommend carrying a pair of defenses. In Week 1, the ‘Hawks could be one of the best plays against the visiting Cincinnati Bengals. Over the year, this is a mid-tier DT1.
Whether you are in the market for a Week 1 defense or a long-term buy, Cleveland fits the bill. The front seven is going to form one of the most dominant groups in the league, and there’s a great deal of talent throughout the secondary, too. Cleveland’s potent offense will allow the defense to take a breather, as well.
Forecast: It all begins with an expected pummeling of the Tennessee Titans in Cleveland. Don’t wait for this to happen before pouncing. The Browns are not only one of the best one-week plays but also offer a season-long defensive stalwart.