It took all of one week for the injury bug to bite some of the NFL's most valuable players. The receiver position was hit especially hard, with Dez Bryant (foot), T.Y. Hilton (knee), and DeSean Jackson (hamstring) all set to miss time after suffering injuries last week. Add that to the usual Week 1 surprises, from disappointing no-shows to breakout performances, and the fantasy community is looking at an active week on the waiver wire. Below are the top players you’ll want to target this week.
Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals
Even though one-quarterback leagues are still the norm, it’s surprising that Dalton was so available heading into Week 1. That’s not going to be the case after what he did against the Raiders. Dalton’s numbers—269 yards and two touchdowns—would be enough to catch anyone’s eye. What’s more impressive is that he did it getting a subpar game from A.J. Green. The Bengals' offense is loaded, and Dalton is right at the center of it all. We know he’s going to have a stinker or two at some point, but his owners will be able to live with those games this season. With all the weapons around him in Cincinnati, the good is going to be way more frequent than the bad.
Fantasy Fact or Fiction is back for the 2015 season. A lot happens every week during the NFL season, and it’s hard to catch everything, especially when much of it can be anomalous. We’re here to remove that shroud of uncertainty, and shine a light on some of the most substantive developments from the previous week, determining which are for real, and which can be fairly dismissed.
With that, the first fact of the season concerns a certain back who rose to fantasy prominence over the last few years, but just might be better off with a new coaching staff this season.
The first Sunday of the 2015 NFL season is in the books, which means it’s time to for our favorite yearly PSA: No matter what happened this week, good or bad, do not overreact. It feels like everything that took place this week was huge because it represents 100% of the season right now. Ultimately, however, it will be 6.25% of a 16-game campaign. Allen Hurns had two touchdowns in Week 1 last year. Jake Locker threw for 266 yards and two scores en route to a top-10 quarterback week. Remember that before you blow your FAAB budget on Nick Foles this week.
But we’re not here only to remind you that, even in a 13-week fantasy regular season, there’s room for patience. Allow me to introduce one of our new weekly staples for this year: the Sunday Superlatives. Every week, this column will highlight five of the standout performances from the day’s games. Most will be good, some will be bad. All will have an eye on how you can apply what happened this Sunday to the Sundays to come for the rest of the season.
The season may not have started yet, but there are still gems available on the waiver wire. Things can change awfully fast in the fantasy game, and while you may have just had your draft one week or one day ago, you may not have made the same choices you did then knowing what you know now. You can rectify that already by turning to the waiver wire.
You’ll find our waiver recommendations every single Monday night and Tuesday morning throughout the season. All players who appear in the weekly waiver wire column will be available in at least 50% of fantasy leagues. In future weeks, when there’s reason to start burning FAAB dollars, every player will also have a recommended bid amount. Until then, you can still pick up players for free in most formats. Some of the most attractive players who are available in more than half of all leagues are below.
Just like the NFL is a copycat league (remember when everyone had a wildcat package?), so, too, is the fantasy football world. When a large group of fantasy owners finds a new strategy or tactic that works, many others ascribe to the same notion. Such is the case with the zero-RB strategy, which I first saw postulated by Michael Salfino of Yahoo and the Wall Street Journal a few seasons ago. Zero-RB strategy has gained traction over the last couple years, and for good reason. When the conditions for it are ripe and it is carried out correctly, it works.
What is Zero-RB?
Zero-RB is the strategy borne of the fantasy football player market shifting in the direction of wide receivers. As Isaac Newton could tell us if he were still alive today, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. When receivers started flying up draft boards, it had to come at the expense of another position. More often than not, that position was, and still is, running back. The emphasis on wide receivers, and equal declination in the importance of running backs, gave rise to the zero-RB movement.
The zero-RB strategy rests on the foundation of three ideas, some of which have a better track record than others.
Occurrences in this domain are beyond the reach of exact prediction because of the variety of factors in operation, not because of any lack of order in nature. - Albert Einstein, Noted football fan and sometime physicist
We can’t be sure Einstein was talking about the NFL of a bygone era when he said this, but it could have applied to the league then, and it definitely applies to it now. There are a variety of factors at play that makes it awfully hard to predict what will happen in any NFL season, but there still is an order in the league. If you can decipher that order, you’ll have a much better chance at making the right predictions and looking like a genius in December.
With that, here are some bold predictions for the 2015 NFL season.
Jeremy Hill Leads the League in Rushing
Hill initially became the Bengals’ starting running back by default when a hip injury forced Giovani Bernard to the sidelines in Week 9. He stayed there by proving he was already one of the best backs in the league. Hill ran for 154 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start. Two weeks later, he had the second 150-yard game of his rookie season. All told, Hill racked up 929 yards and six touchdowns on 172 carries in his nine starts. That per-game average comes out to 1,651 yards and 10 touchdowns, rounded down to the nearest whole number, when extrapolated over a 16-game season. If per-carry averages are more your thing, we can figure pretty safely that Hill will get 250 carries in a full season as the starter. Using that as our baseline, Hill’s nine-game run to end last season would translate into 1,350 yards and eight touchdowns. No matter your preferred metric, the numbers and your eyes should both say that Hill is in store for a monster season.
Chances are you’ll be delving into the daily fantasy pool at some point this season. Popularity of the games has taken off over the last year, evidenced by the ubiquity of their commercials during sports programming. There’s no way to guarantee success in such leagues, but there are a handful of strategies that can eliminate the guesswork from the equation.
All prices referenced are for Week 1 games on FanDuel.
It All Starts With Stars
Every daily fantasy lineup will be able to handle at least a pair of star players, defined here as anyone who costs $8,000 or more (33 such players in Week 1). There may be weeks where you go the full stars-and-scrubs route, and squeeze in four of those players, and there could be others where you find a balance that allows you the luxury of getting a third superstar on your roster, but you’ll be able to get a minimum of two into each lineup, regardless of format. When I’m filling out my lineups, typically the first players I select are the ones who will be the backbone of my team.