After months of endless research and careful deliberations, finally your fantasy team is set. Just stare at it. Isn’t pretty? It looks just like you wanted it to look. All is right in the world so let’s enjoy this moment and take a deep breath. All of those hours scouring ADP lists, frantically joining mock drafts and overreacting to any training camp news or preseason performances have paid off. But this is just the beginning my friends. All we did was get ourselves to the starting line, but with any luck, we are starting from the pole position. We will soon begin to look for ways to tinker with our rosters, working the waiver wire, exploring trade options and looking for that extra edge of information that will lead us to our ultimate prize; the league championship. That extra edge will come to you weekly in the form of “10 Names You Should Know.”
To kick off the year, let’s check out the 10 Names You Should Know heading into Week 1 –
Joique Bell, RB, Lions – Bell might be one of the most underrated players in the league. Joique was a pleasant surprise for the Lions last year and appears to be picking up where he left off. He has run with more vision and passion than last year’s starter Mikel Leshoure and even with the addition of Reggie Bush, Joique will be heavily involved in the offense. Bell looks to be way more than just the handcuff for Reggie Bush and the way the vet from Wayne State has been playing it’s hard to envision Mikel Leshoure from even seeing the field. Bell has the power and vision to be the goal line/short yardage back which would propel his fantasy value even higher.
Kenny Stills, WR, Saints – Stills will fall under the “own anybody you can in a high octane offense” rule. Joe Morgan’s ACL tear opened the door for the No. 3 job in New Orleans and rookie Kenny Stills grabbed the opportunity and hasn’t let go. Stills was already on the dynasty radar, but has now found himself as a low risk/high upside pick in redrafts. As the 4th option in the Saints offense, Stills will struggle for week to week production but he has the ability to get over the top and reel in Drew Brees’ bombs making him a player that can make the difference in your week with just a catch or two. For those Colston owners it might be a good idea to keep an eye on Stills if you have an open roster spot. Stills has a bright future and could be a bright spot in a Saints offense that loves to spread the ball around.
La’Rod Stephens-Howling, RB, Steelers – I know you’re not excited about the prospects of owning a Steelers’ scatback but there are more questions than answers right now in the Pittsburgh backfield. All we really know is that Le’Veon Bell will be the starter once he is deemed healthy. Recent reports indicate Bell’s absence won’t be as long as previously feared but what do the Steelers do until then? They released Jonathan Dwyer at final cuts and the land rush to grab the uninspiring Isaac Redman quickly followed. But Stephens-Howling has played sneakily well this pre-season as Roethlisberger’s third down protection back and perhaps even more surprising he showed well in his two 20-plus carry games last year. Assuming he’s over his reported minor MCL sprain, Stephens-Howling may surprise a few people to start the season. Todd Haley specifically sought him out in free agency and he didn’t do that to leave him on the bench.
Julius Thomas, TE, Broncos – Remember when everybody was really excited about Jason Tamme in the new Peyton Manning led Broncos offense? Unfortunately for those folks, Tamme failed to surpass his part time stats from 2010 while with the Colts. Now enter Julius Thomas. The 25-year-old raw but talented tight end was named the starter and is someone to keep an eye on. The 6′-5” former basketball player looked to have Peyton’s eye in the preseason, reeling in four catches in Week 2 and Week 3. There is no shortage of mouths to feed in the Broncos offense with higher profile fantasy targets such as Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker garnering a majority of the attention, but if Julius Thomas can find his niche, Manning is one of the best at exploiting it. This is a high octane offense, so grab a piece of it if you can.
Brandon Gibson, WR, Dolphins – Gibson had less than a stellar start to this off-season in Miami, but a string of recent injuries have paved a golden path for a chance at fantasy relevance. Gibson has gone from the cusp of being a free agent mistake to becoming a player to be counted on in a span of a few weeks following the ACL injuries of Armon Binns and Dustin Keller. Can Ryan Tannehill support the fantasy value of his big ticket addition Mike Wallace, his favorite receiver Brian Hartline and now Brandon Gibson ? Most likely not on a consistent basis, but Gibson will be targeted in the ‘move the chains’ role that the team was depending on Keller for. It might be boring, but sometimes boring can turn into fantasy points.