Free-agent recommendations refer to 12-team league formats, unless specifically stated. FAAB $ amounts are based on $100 budgets.
Priority Free Agent
Matthew Stafford, Lions
Last year’s disastrous offense, injury-ravaged personnel, and Stafford’s own back ailment are in the past. A new system, albeit one that prefers to run, gives the veteran a balanced approach. Under the Jim Bob Cooter offense, everyone knew what was coming. Stafford has weapons, even if his protection is questionable, but the arm is as lively as ever. He belongs in all league formats and should have a much higher ownership percentage. Check your wire if a proven backup or fringe starter is a need.
Andy Dalton, Bengals
Keep in mind, even though Dalton is a priority addition, some owners are still trying to replace Andrew Luck or simply want to upgrade their backup situation (like if you drafted Derek Carr before the AB release). Dalton will have ups and downs, but it is clear this new offense suits his skill set, and the Bengals offer plenty of weapons — even without A.J. Green. If Joe Mixon’s ankle injury limits or costs him time, look for more action from Dalton. He even could work as a one-week play against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2.
1-week Plug & Play/Grab & Stash
Marcus Mariota, Titans
Been here before? It sure feels that way. The fifth-year veteran is in a make-or-break year, and Tennessee has a rather creative offensive system under new OC Arthur Smith. There’s not a lot of long-range hopefulness in adding Mariota, giving his injury history and major limitations as a passer. Week 2 will be a good barometer for Mariota’s lineup potential: Indy, a division rival, gave up more than 300 yards and a trio of scores to Philip Rivers in Week 1, suggesting the Hawaii product is a fringe starter.
Gardner Minshew, Jaguars
When is the last time you saw a rookie enter in his first NFL action and complete 88 percent of his throws? It hasn’t happened before Minshew’s 22-for-25 performance. He travels to Houston for a matchup against a Texans defense that was a joke last year. Houston plays the New Orleans Saints in the first game of the Week 1 Monday Night Football doubleheader. It’s fair to assume Drew Brees drops bombs on a defense that clearly didn’t upgrade (read as: regressed) in the offseason. Regardless of whether Minshew deserves a start in Week 2, the rookie earned a roster spot and consideration vs. weak matchups. It will be at least Week 11 before we see Nick Foles again, and if Minshew continues to play well, does the journeyman have a job when he returns? This offense has weapons, and Minshew showed the game isn’t too big for him through poised play. Take a chance.
Priority Free Agent
Malcolm Brown, Rams
This program feels like a rerun … In 2018, Todd Gurley was seldom used down the stretch, and C.J. Anderson looked like a world-beater. In 2019’s preseason, rookie Darrell Henderson seemed out of his league, aside for a handful of catches. The Rams let CJA walk in the offseason, and Brown re-emerged as the primary backup. He rushed for a pair of scores in the opener and should be a threat to Gurley’s fantasy worth all year. While it was Gurley’s show late in the game when the game was on the line, Brown figures to be a weekly play in all fantasy formats. He won’t be cheap, and serious owners (especially of Gurley) will spend the farm on him.
Priority add/Injury Replacement
Raheem Mostert, 49ers
The severity of Tevin Coleman’s ankle sprain isn’t yet know, but he is expected to miss games, per Ian Rapoport. The duo of Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert will shoulder the load in the Bay Area. San Fran’s zone-blocking scheme and talented offensive line make average talent look better, but Mostert flashed enough last year to earn the benefit of the doubt. Coleman owners should target him as a direct replacement, and other gamers will want to make him a priority add.
Giovani Bernard, Bengals
The precise nature of Joe Mixon’s ankle injury hasn’t been revealed yet, so this recommendation could go either way. He is currently listed as day-to-day. Bernard would be the “next man up” for the bulk of the carries. He may share time with newcomer Samaje Perine and/or rookie Trayveon Williams (foot), provided Williams is healthy enough to play. Bernard is a great fit for Zac Taylor’s system. Mixon has a chance to play in Week 2. Monitor this one closely, and don’t invest too much in Gio.
Grab & Stash
Jalen Richard, Raiders
This one is somewhat speculative based on the release of Antonio Brown. Oakland will throw to the backs more than Jon Gruden intended prior to the fiasco. Rookie Josh Jacobs will be asked to do more, which should lead to an increase in Richard’s spell work. His value peaks in PPR scoring.
Priority Free Agent
Marquise Brown, Ravens
What a start to his career! It’s even more impressive when considering how much of the offseason he missed while recovering from foot surgery. Baltimore’s desire to hit big plays is apparent, and its play-action passing proved lethal. Brown belongs on all rosters, even if he will be a boom-or-bust play most weeks. Be sure teams will not ignore him; he’ll see shaded coverage going forward. Now, keeping up with Brown’s speed is another story. With Arizona on deck, expect another monster showing from the rook.
John Ross III, Bengals
The former first-round pick flashed several times last year in the red zone, which was unexpected given his profile. We saw more of his vertical game, suggesting Marvin Lewis’ regime wasn’t utilizing him properly. Zac Taylor’s creativity will put Ross in excellent situations and take advantage of his 4.3 speed. The Bengals will be without A.J. Green for the foreseeable future, making Ross a weekly play in traditional formats. Him going for a line of 7-158-2 will require a big spend on the wire. Early in the season, gamers are looser with their FAAB, and it will show after his explosive Week 1 effort.
D.J. Chark, Jaguars
The athletic Chark caught a 35-yard touchdown on the play in which Nick Foles (clavicle) was injured. Forty-two of the second-year receiver’s 146 yards came from the veteran passer. Rookie Gardner Minshew connected with him for two balls, including a 69-yarder. Chark’s big-play ability was on full display. Players of his profile tend to be streaky and difficult to play in fantasy, but we’ve been hearing his praises much of the summer. The Jaguars are not nearly as tough on defense as many seem to believe, and there will be plenty of chances for the LSU product to see more than the four targets he garnered in the opener. He played 71% of the offensive plays and offers a presence in the red zone at 6-foot-4. More big things to come…
Mecole Hardman, Chiefs
Hardman was a draft darling early in the process when it was uncertain how the NFL would handle Tyreek Hill’s off-the-field situation. Once the latter was exonerated, the rookie effectively fell off of the fantasy radar. Owners who drafted him and keep him on the roster through Week 1 will be rewarded. The rest of the world is looking at a waiver claim that probably will cost more than he is capable of returning in fantasy points. There’s no clear timetable on Hill’s separated sternoclavicular joint (where the collarbone meets the sternum), but it has been a two-month recovery for other players. Brace for the long haul, just to be safe. In such a prolific offense, the rookie will see chances to make his mark. Treat him as a flex consideration for now. The FAAB recommendation is conservative as someone is bound to double or even triple that number if Hill misses a few months.
Terry McLaurin, Redskins
The Ohio State rookie landed five of his seven targets from Case Keenum, going for 125 yards and a score. While Keenum played like a star against a porous secondary, we’ve seen him turn into a pumpkin more than once. The Redskins are bound to turn to Dwayne Haskins at some point (look at that schedule … 0-5 is in the cards). The eventual move to Haskins isn’t necessarily bad, since he and McLaurin worked together in college. Roster McLaurin from a team desperately looking for a receiver to stand out — the volume will be there, and he’s obviously capable of hitting the home run. It is entirely reasonable to believe he finishes as Washington’s top fantasy producer.
Jamison Crowder, Jets
Owned in 70 percent of leagues polled, Crowder’s rate may not increase much due to his one-dimensional role as a PPR asset. He landed a Week 1-best 14 balls but for only 99 yards — strong day in reception-rewarding leagues and just a blip in standard scoring. Look for much more of this going forward. Be cautious about his injury history, and some weeks Le’Veon Bell may be the one landing most of the short-area looks. Nevertheless, Crowder’s involvement makes him worth adding in all PPR setups. Check the wire in the even he slipped through the cracks in your draft.
Michael Gallup, Cowboys
Tied for the second-most yards of the week at 158, Gallup has taken a step forward in his maturation process as a second-year pro. Inconsistency could be a concern, and some weeks Dallas will transition into a power-running script, which limits the overall passing game. He was drafted in most leagues, but it is worth taking a peek at the wire, just in case.
Injury Replacement/grab & stash
Parris Campbell, Colts
Even though he caught exactly one ball for a single yard in his NFL debut, Campbell is a worthwhile addition in deeper leagues. The Colts will be without wide receiver Devin Funchess (collarbone) for an undisclosed period of time, thrusting the rookie into the spotlight. He is likely to share reps early on with Deon Cain, but the two players have wildly different profiles. Campbell’s downfield ability will put him on the fantasy radar sooner than later.
1-Week Plug & Play
Diontae Johnson, Steelers
There’s some value in taking a flier on Johnson in Week 2. The Steelers will be hungry to show the drubbing by New England was a fluke, and it may result in an “all hands on deck” approach. Donte Moncrief is owned in nearly 90 percent of leagues, so as far as waivers go, the rookie could be worth a look. Moncrief landed just three of his 10 targets vs. the Pats, whereas Johnson nabbed three of five. This is a deep dive, considering he played only 36 percent of the snaps to Moncrief’s 90. The way Seattle was torched by Cincy through the air … Johnson is a fine gamble.
1-week plug & play/Grab & Stash
Danny Amendola, Lions
We’ve seen plenty of glimpses of the Week 1 version of Amendola throughout his career, but this time it could be different. Injuries are always a worry with him, so be careful to not invest too much. The Detroit defense still has much work to do, which lends to the idea the offense will be forced to pass more than designed. Amendola has taken over the slot job and is a PPR dynamo. Matthew Stafford loves the intermediate routes, and his offensive line will force him into shorter throws like it or not. He has borderline utility in Week 2 against the Los Angeles Chargers but is a better buy for the long haul.
Chris Conley, Jaguars
The former Kansas City Chief was on the field for 76 percent of Jacksonville’s snaps vs. his former employer in the opener. Conley paced the Jags in targets (seven) and receptions (six), logging 97 yards and a score. Two of his targets, including one reception for 21 yards, came from the injured Nick Foles. Rookie Gardner Minshew showed a connection with the possession threat. Conley has more worth in PPR setups, and he’s a lineup consideration vs. the Texans in Week 2.
Keelan Doss, Raiders
One of the stars of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” Doss was waived on cut day. He went to Jacksonville’s practice squad, where they agreed to pay him a rookie-minimum salary. Oakland came a knockin’ after the release of Antonio Brown, but Doss spurned their request. He chose a practice squad over an active roster until Oakland came back with a $300k signing bonus, and now all is well in the world. Doss, like Hunter Renfrow, will have a chance to replace the lost looks meant for AB. He’s an intriguing piece, and fantasy owners should take a flier on him in highly competitive or deep leagues.
Preston Williams, Dolphins
The rookie scored a short touchdown on his three-reception day. It is difficult to recommend anyone from this offense, but Williams could be a sneaky stash in cavernous formats. This week, New England comes to town. While Miami has done a fine job at home vs. the Pats in the past decade, this Dolphins team is in serious trouble. Williams could get lucky with a garbage-time TD. It’s best to watch him in reserve for now.
Rashard Higgins, Browns
So … if Cleveland’s defense is really going to be that bad, there will be a bunch of passing this year to just about anyone in one of those hideous jerseys. Baker Mayfield has a clear rapport with Higgins. The long-range outlook is not ideal, since Antonio Callaway will return in a month. The Week 2 meeting on Monday night vs. the New York Jets offers a reasonable opponent for taking a flier on Higgins as a standard-league flex.
Priority Free Agent
T.J. Hockenson, Lions
Anytime a player sets a single-game record in his debut, he’s worth a fantasy look. Hockenson was drafted in more than 80 percent of leagues polled, so this is just a reminder to check in case you’re in one of those few in which he wasn’t selected.
1-Week Plug & Play/Grab & Stash
Vernon Davis, Redskins
This inclusion is fully dependent upon whether concussed starter Jordan Reed is ready to play. If so, scratch Davis from your plans. Otherwise, the matchup is pretty good. Dallas is strong on the outside, which tends to funnel quarterbacks to the middle of the field. The Cowboys yielded 11-116-1 to Evan Engram in Week 1. In the event Reed returns, take a gander at the wire. He’s available in 31 percent of leagues.
Priority Free Agent
Zane Gonzalez, Cardinals
As this offense finds its way, there will be hiccups, as we witnessed for three quarters vs. Detroit. Growing pains along the way typically result in ample attempts for three-pointers. Gonzalez has been hit and a lot of miss in his young career, but we also have seen moments of fantasy competency as well as adequate leg strength.
Dustin Hopkins, Redskins
A career 85.6 percent kicker, Hopkins is capable of nailing from at least 56 yards out. He was plenty accurate a year ago (89.7 percent) but didn’t receive enough looks to consistently matter in fantasy. The Redskins figure to be slightly stronger on offense this year. Hopkins is a safe option for gamers trying to avoid a bunch of misses or infrequent opportunities.
Matt Bryant, Falcons
The 44-year-old veteran didn’t get a chance to kick in Week 1. Atlanta went for two-point conversions after each touchdown, and Minnesota’s stifling defense prevented Bryant from being afforded a single distance attempt. Life will get a little easier in Week 2, with the Philadelphia Eagles heading to the A-T-L. Bryant belongs on nearly all rosters in conventional leagues.
1-Week Plug & Play/Priority addition
Joey Slye, Panthers
Slye, a rookie, replaced Graham Gano (IR), bashing all three extra points and a pair of his trio of three-pointers. His lone miss came from beyond 50 yards. Blessed with a boot, Slye is capable from nailing kicks from pretty well anywhere team team will ask of him. He’s also a keen play in Week 2 against a Tampa team that permitted four attempts (three made) from downtown and a pair of accurate PATs.
Priority Free Agent
New England Patriots
It’s fairly surprising the Pats are available in 41 percent of leagues polled, but playing the matchups has a great deal to do with it. Speaking of which, not only is this a good unit for the long run, but the Miami Dolphins are on the docket in Week 2. Need we say more….
priority addition/Grab & Stash
Green Bay Packers
A week after embarrassing a Chicago offense with much promise, Green Bay’s offseason retooling did wonders, it would appear. The year-over-year turnover in quality fantasy defenses is pretty high, so don’t be afraid to punt on an underperforming unit (Seattle, Cleveland, for example). While I rarely recommend carrying two defenses, this is probably one of those times where it is understandable with the Vikings coming to Lambeau. Green Bay is worth adding but is a risky play in Week 2.
1-Week Plug & Play/Grab & Stash
As mentioned, storing two defenses isn’t recommended. This is another case of where it could be worthwhile, although the brazen call is to play Tennessee vs. the Colts this week. Jacoby Brissett has been awfully safe with the football in his short NFL career, but mistakes can be made. Tennessee’s secondary is a ball-hawking lot. It’s a risky move, since anything can happen in a divisional matchup.
1-Week Plug & Play
New York Jets
Gregg Williams is arguably the best defensive mind in the game today, and his scheming alone can take a moderately talented unit a long way. Traveling to Cleveland in Week 2 will also tell a great deal about what to expect over the upcoming few weeks from the Jets. Play them with moderate confidence vs. Cleveland and then reassess. New England and Philly follow the Browns, so it’s likely you’ll be casting New York back to the wire.
Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Despite all of the optimism — mine included — prior to the season, Jameis Winston in a Bruce Arians offense doesn’t look like a good match. Winston is seemingly incapable of getting rid of the ball and not making boneheaded mistakes. Carolina isn’t exactly the most talented bunch, so don’t be totally surprised if this one is a dud. It’s just too good of a matchup to avoid for those in the market of playing one-week matchups. San Francisco looked like a devastating fantasy unit facing Winston.