God Bless America! Football season is upon us! Week 1 of the regular season starts Thursday night! The anticipation of football has almost destroyed us. Preseason has been the worst kind of tease, now it is time for football that matters.
When I sit down to decide which ’10 Names You Should Know’ I’m not looking for weekly fantasy studs. I look for players who aren’t household names in the fantasy world, but may be either one-hit wonders or possibly just beginning to make their mark in the NFL. I’m looking at players who possibly surprised us with a performance the previous week or should surprise us this week. I don’t like to be surprised, so I’m here to get you familiar with players you may not be aware of week-to-week that could produce.
Because this is Week 1 and we only have the preseason to work with, I have broken today’s list down into two different groups of players. The first group is players that may surprise in Week 1 with a breakout performance. The second group is players that will likely disappoint in Week 1. Let’s dive in!
5 Names to Know that May Surprise in Week 1
1) Markus Wheaton, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers face the New England Patriots in the opening game of the season. Here is what you should think about. The Steelers defense has been below average this preseason and showed massive issues that won’t be solved before Week 1. Patriots coach Bill Belichick is possibly the greatest game planner the NFL has ever seen. He will see the Steelers’ tape from the preseason and be prepared to continue to find gaps in the defense. This means the Steelers offense will need to put up points. The Patriots have struggled in the secondary, especially over the top this preseason without having Darrelle Revis or Brandon Browner at corner. What we need to think about is Martavis Bryant being out the first four games of the season. This leaves Wheaton as the No. 2 wide receiver on the depth chart. Look for Wheaton to beat the Patriots’ secondary early and often with his deep play ability.
2) Shane Vereen, RB, New York Giants – Victor Cruz is likely out for Week 1 or will be very limited. The Dallas Cowboys will double Odell Beckham Jr. all night trying to stop him from making highlight reel plays to beat them. Last season, offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo noticed this team needed a pass-catching specialist out of the backfield, so they went out and grabbed Vereen. Eli Manning will look often to his check-down option when he sees safety help on Beckham Jr. and a pass rush heading his way. Vereen could be in store for many targets against Dallas.
3) Eddie Royal, WR, Chicago Bears – The Green Bay Packers still have Aaron Rodgers, which means no matter who the wide receivers are, they are going to put up points. The question is if the Bears will be able to keep up. What I do know is that the Bears will enter the season without their No. 7 overall selection Kevin White to pair with Alshon Jeffery. This leaves Eddie Royal as the No. 2 target on the Bears receiving corps. Throughout the the preseason, the Packers struggled to keep quick-twitch receivers in check, which is Royal’s skill set. Coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase are solid coaches and will see that on the game film. Royal could be the one who Jay Cutler targets often during the game when they are trying to put points on the board to keep up with the Packers.
4) Brandon Coleman, WR, New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees is still the quarterback in New Orleans even though Kenny Stills and Jimmy Graham are gone. Brandin Cooks will see the most looks and Marques Colston will still see some targets, but they need a playmaker. Coleman is a player who can stretch the field and keep the Saints’ passing game explosive. Brees will look to spread the ball around to keep the defense honest from just covering the middle of the field and to make a statement that this offense is still elite in the NFL. Coleman should see plenty of looks. In Week 3 of the preseason, the Oakland Raiders were able to get open in the Cardinals’ secondary, but Derek Carr was inaccurate that night and missed many opportunities. Brees is no Carr and will make the most of those opportunities.
5) Oakland Raiders D/ST – They face the Cincinnati Bengals Week 1 and you would figure that it would be same the same old bad Raiders defense. Coach Jack Del Rio may have created a monster with his front seven. He may be on the verge of unleashing a great pass-rush that is led by second-year man Khalil Mack. They got after Carson Palmer the entire first half of their preseason game, not letting him have a moment to breath. They made it very difficult to pass the ball effectively while constantly collapsing the pocket constantly on Palmer. The question is if the Cardinals offensive line is in trouble, but that is not my point. If they can get that same pressure on Andy Dalton, who struggles to make plays under pressure, they could cause some turnovers. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers accomplished that when they played the Bengals in the preseason. The Raiders defense should be able to give Andy Dalton and the Bengals fits Week 1.