Matt Forte – There’s a lot to keep an eye on here. First is the fact that the old offensive coordinator, Mark Trestman, is now running the show in Baltimore. That means that the new guy in town, Adam Gase, may not be so keen on focusing on getting the running back the ball out of the backfield. The next thing to keep tabs on is the sudden and violent downfall of the once powerful Bears’ receivers. Brandon Marshall was kicked out of town, Kevin White is out for likely the entire season, and Alshon Jeffery is fighting an injury that as each day passes becomes more and more concerning.
Finally, how will the unraveling of Jay Cutler impact the offense as a whole? With questions for literally every aspect of the offense, the box could be completely stacked against Forte, whose big-play numbers have decreased steadily over the last four years. Forte has to come out guns blazing in this divisional contest against the Pack to avoid an instantaneous drop in the rankings. If the Bears get down early and abandon the run, we could see the decline of Forte gain more momentum.
Chris Ivory – Ivory could very well be the next bellcow back in fantasy. He’s shown his worth with both the Saints and Jets as he’s earned a much larger role this season. However, the running back leash is always short in the NFL. There may not be a runner with more value on the line early in 2015 than Ivory has hanging in the balance. Hopefully the Jets defense keeps the game close and Ivory touches the ball over 20 times. A stumble or a fumble right out of the gate could open the door for Ridley upon his return and thus cut Ivory’s value before it can truly take off.
Thankfully, the Cleveland offense is sporting Dwayne Bowe and Duke Johnson as their top offensive weapons, the Jets should be smack dab in this game from start to finish. This is a best scenario start for Ivory who, presumably, should see somewhere around 20 touches against the Browns.
Every Redskins Positional Player – The announcement of Kurt Cousins as the starting quarterback for the 2015 season tells us a couple of things. For starters, head could Jay Gruden does not believe that RGIII can improve over time. It wasn’t a statement saying that Cousins would start until Griffin found his old form. It said, verbatim, that Cousins was the 2015 starting quarterback. Second, it tells us that any optimistic views we had on Redskins’ positional players has now shifted.
Could the offense return to a possession passing style, in which Pierre Garcon would return to his elite self? Does the offense sell the fake, making DeSean Jackson a more productive option? Or, does Cousins himself bring all the options down and allow defenses to stack the box against Alfred Morris? Every single starting option has value on the line as the first week of the season offers a glimpse into what could be the following 16 weeks.
Sadly for both the Redskins and owners who invested high-end draft picks, Miami looks to open the season making a statement. Cousins could very well be avoiding Suh on every single drop-back. Not an ideal way to kick off the year. The flip to that though is that if Cousins can produce against Miami, then he should, theoretically, be able to put numbers on anyone.
Cam Newton – Kelvin Benjamin being out for the year has knocked Newton out of a top-5 quarterback billing to outside the top ten. The numbers speak for themselves as Newton was wildly reliant upon Benjamin to make the big play downfield. Judging by the first couple of preseason games, Greg Olsen looks like he’ll be the the focal point on offense, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the production can suddenly be replaced.
Newton has to show that someone else can help shoulder the load. Whether it be Devin Funchess, Jerricho Cotchery, or Corey Brown (unlikely), Cam has to be able to show that he can make due without. If Newton suddenly turns to his legs for production, we could see him missing more time in 2015 than he did in 2014. Newton has to show some kind of passing chops in week one in order to avoid falling further back. Jacksonville did let up over 230 yards per game, seeing them finish as the 26th overall team in that category. So if he were to find some positive things to build off of, this is one of the better opportunities to do so.
Drew Brees – Does the loss of Jimmy Graham justify Drew Brees being knocked out of the top five quarterback positions? Many in the fantasy world would suggest just that. However, we need to remember just how adaptable Brees has proven to be over the years and just how creative Sean Payton is. Payton is the offensive McGyver in the sense that all he would need is Brees and pair of plyers and he would still find a way to get a 5,000-yard passing season.
People are so focused on the trade of Jimmy Graham that the addition of C.J. Spiller has gone to the wayside. Brees now has an elite underneath option in Spiller, an elite over the top option in Brandin Cooks, and an elite possession man in Marques Colston. That all sounds great in written words but we need to see it in action. If Brees comes out and sticks a hard face-plant we could see his ranking not only become justified but also result in a further decline. The big negative here in week one is that Arizona figures to be a top end defense in 2015. So any positives from Brees should be amplified accordingly.
Stevie Johnson – Talk out of Chargers’ camp says that Stevie J is set to revitalize his career. At the age of 29, this is likely his last opportunity to do so. Luckily for us in fantasy land, money just so happens to be an unbelievable production motivator. So far, Johnson has not only demonstrated his previous talent, reminiscent of his days in Buffalo, but he’s also played well with others. Johnson has embraced his role as Eddie Royal‘s replacement and as Keenan Allen‘s wing man. He has gotten along fantastically with Philip Rivers, which may be the most surprising thing of all as Rivers has historically been a tough pill to swallow.
Having a player like Johnson on your roster though, likely means you bought into the hype machine and took him in the WR3 draft territory. That means you have a player sitting either just in or just out of our starting roster. That also means though, that he’s occupying valuable roster room and you need to see something soon to avoid dropping him for an injury replacement. If Stevie J comes up short in the opener and injuries begin to mount around the league, the experiment of Johnson as a full-fledged fantasy option may be over sooner than supporters had expected. Playing opposite of Keenan Allen against the Lions defense without Suh eating up the middle bodes well for his Johnson on his comeback tour.