By Julian Martinez
Quarterback: Brady is angry and Mariotta is excellent
This off-season has had its fair amount of headlines for the wrong reasons, with Tom Brady and the reigning Super Bowl Champions New England Patriots, but that didn’t seem to faze them in the NFL opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Brady was able to find Rob Gronkowski not once, not twice, but three times in the end zone, seeming to brush off all the scrutiny he faced from the league and Commissioner Roger Goodell with each throw. As we progress through the season, owners will have no problem putting Brady in their lineups as he just may return to the elite tier of the position.
Marcus Mariotta was the second overall pick in the 2015 draft. He was passed on only by one team, the Tampa Bay Bucs and their coach Lovie Smith. The concern with Mariotta coming into the draft was that he was more a product of the Oregon Duck system, but throughout all of training camp the Titans coaching staff was impressed with what they saw from the 21-year old.
This past Sunday Mariotta showed why he was such a camp sensation by outdoing the number one overall pick Jameis Winston and the same Tampa team that passed on him. His first pass attempt went to touchdown, the first of four he would have on the day. In fact, Mariotta threw more touchdown passes than incompletes and in most fantasy leagues put up more than 20 points.
Moving forward, Mariotta is a decent bench stash, a solid QB2 play, and given the right matchup an outstanding dirt-cheap player in daily leagues.
Running back: You can run or you can Hyde
The story of week one at this point has to be San Francisco 49er running back Carlos Hyde. The 49ers had one of the most painful offseasons in recent league history as several key players retired or left the Bay Area to pursue different endeavors, including the all-time San Francisco leader in rushing yards, Frank Gore.
Hyde was able to quickly fill Gore’s shoes, and punished the Viking defense to the tune of 26 carries for 168 yards and two touchdowns. It could be just a big week one for Hyde, but he was able to average over five yards per carry in the preseason and with Reggie Bush leaving the game early with a calf injury, Hyde may be able to take over as a bell cow, every down back.
Hyde will definitely be mid-tier RB1 but on the off chance you are still not convinced, then this is the perfect time to sell high on the second year running back.
Moving from a running back who had low expectations coming into the season and onto one who was talked about a great deal, Ameer Abdullah proved that his great preseason was more than a mere mirage. Abdullah came into the game listed third on the Detroit Lion depth chart, but his explosiveness in this game will probably propel him past the likes of Theo Riddick and the unexciting Joique Bell.
He left Sunday’s contest with 50 yards on seven carries and four receptions for 44 yards. Regardless of where he stands on the depth chart, Abdullah is a solid flex player and should even be considered a low end RB2 in point-per-reception formats.
If you are looking for a sleeper to get you by, take a chance on Arizona’s David Johnson. Andre Ellington may miss some playing time in coming weeks and Chris Johnson is no longer a dependable option. Meanwhile in Arizona’s week one game against the Saints, Johnson took a 55-yard pass from Carson Palmer to the house, and if he can continue to make explosive plays like that, then he can fill the void left by Ellington in the Cardinals’ backfield.
Wide Receiver: Dez is out, now what?
Losing the advantage that Dez Bryant brings to your lineup is certainly going to put a damper on your final line in the majority of your matchups, but there are some players who might lessen the blow. The first instinct most owners might have is to look who will be the new primary target for Tony Romo in the Dallas passing attack, but it is conceivable that Romo will spread the ball out more.
Cole Beasly may see a increase in target and the same can be said for Terrance Williams and Jason Witten, but it won’t be more than they are used to. In fact, Dallas might change its plan of attack to feature their run game more and utilize their powerful offensive line.
So taking our eyes out of Dallas and onto greener pastures, let’s consider Donte Moncrief. The Indianapolis wide out saw 11 targets in the Colts game against Buffalo, and even though this was in a game where Andrew Luck threw the ball more than usual, stud wide receiver T.Y. Hilton suffered an injury.
The severity of Hilton’s knee injury remains to be seen but if he does miss a game or two, then that pushed Moncrief into the Indianapolis starting lineup. It only boosted his value that Andre Johnson would assume most of the opposing teams’ coverage.
If Moncrief is not an option available to you, then perhaps the New Orleans Saints’ Brandon Coleman may do. Coleman caught a touchdown against Arizona on Sunday and was said to be one of Drew Brees’ favorite targets during training camp. He may sit behind Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston, but Brees has proved that he can spread the ball around and make the players around him better.
Tight End: Big men making big plays
Week one can be summarized by outstanding performances on the tight end position, to the point there’s almost too many to talk about. Rob Gronkowski set the stage with his big Thursday night but then some new interesting names burst onto the scene. Travis Kelce, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tyler Eifert, and even Ladarius Green were brilliant contributors over the weekend.
Kelce came into this season with breakout potential written all over him and he rewarded all the owners that put their faith in him with an outstanding day. He got the wind knocked out of him in Kansas City’s victory over the Houston Texans, but his supporters let out a sigh of relief when they saw his final stat line sat at six receptions for 106 yards, two big touchdowns, and one of the most creative touchdown celebrations in recent history.
Eifert will not play the Raiders every week but without Jermaine Gresham to hold him back anymore, he is definitely the second option for Andy Dalton behind A.J. Green. Eifert saw nine targets in the game.
Seferian-Jenkins is a big target, standing 6 feet 6 inches and over 250 pounds. That’s why it can be easy to see why rookie quarterback Jameis Winston would try and find him on the field. Sure Seferian-Jenkins’ big day can be partly due to Mike Evans missing this week with a hamstring injury, or the credit can be given to the garbage time 41-yard touchdown he received with the game well out of hand for his Buccaneers.
But with his ownership sitting at a feeble 24.1 percent in ESPN leagues, he is definitely worth the space on your bench.
Green’s value may drop dramatically when Antonio Gates returns from suspension, but while Gates is gone take advantage. Green is a great athlete and his ownership is barely at 6.7 percent. There is the chance that Green takes the opportunity given to him by Gates’ absence and runs with it. In week one against the Lions, Green scored a touchdown to go long with 74 yards.
DST and Kickers: A few quick notes
The San Francisco 49ers defense showed no ill effects after the losses of names such as Chris Borland, Patrick Willis, and Aldon Smith. The return of Navarro Bowman and Glen Dorsey may reawaken the San Francisco defense. The 49ers held the Vikings to seven points on Monday Night and sacked quarterback Teddy Bridgewater five times.
There are plenty of new kickers in the National Football League this year, but perhaps the only two names that might be worth checking the waiver wire for are Broncos kicker Brandon McManus or Saints kicker Zach Hocker. Both are in offense-driven teams and for what it is worth, both went 4/4 in their attempts Sunday.