The following are players not named Rodgers, Peterson, Bryant, Gronkowski, Seattle D/ST, Gostkowski, etc. that I think will have big weeks based on matchups. The standard league projections are based on ESPN standard scoring.
QB: Ryan Tannehill – Miami Dolphins (@ Washington)
If I had to highlight one aspect of the Miami Dolphins where I’d say they drastically improved this offseason, it’s definitely in their receiving core. The additions of Greg Jennings, Kenny Stills, and rookie DeVante Parker at wide receiver, along with the addition of Jordan Cameron at tight end, have all of the fixings for the Dolphins to have an elite level passing game.
This week, Tannehill faces off against a Washington defense that was near the worst statistically against quarterbacks in fantasy football in 2014. That bodes well for Tannehill, coming off of a season in which he threw for over 4,000 yards with 27 touchdowns. This game is an opportunity for Tannehill and the Dolphins to open their season with a bang and silence some doubters, and I fully expect them to do just that.
Standard league projection: 320 passing yards, 3 passing TDs, 1 INT, 1 2-point conversion (24 points)
RB: Ryan Mathews – Philadelphia Eagles (@ Atlanta)
Sometimes it can be hard to put your faith in a backup running back, especially when the backup running back in question is playing second fiddle to one of 2014’s MVP candidates. That’s exactly the case here, as Ryan Mathews will be doing the cleanup work for DeMarco Murray in Philly. Despite being the backup, Mathews is bound to get some touches out of the backfield this season.
One major thing we’ve learned about Chip Kelly’s offensive mindset is that there isn’t another coach who values the logic of “the more the merrier” more than Kelly. The Eagles have become known for their hurry-up offense where the ultimate goal is to keep running plays. Even if Murray is truly the go-to back, Mathews will have plenty of opportunities to rake in some major points. With the over-under for points for this game currently sitting at 55, you’ve got to like the odds that Mathews accounts for a chunk of the contribution.
Standard league projection: 80 rushing yards, 30 receiving yards, 1 rushing TD (17 points)
WR: Stevie Johnson – San Diego Chargers (vs. Detroit)
At one point in his career, Stevie Johnson was making a case for himself to be entered into the conversation of the league’s rising stars. Between 2010 and 2012, Johnson hauled in 23 touchdowns, including one season with 10. In the two seasons since combined, he’s only brought in six. The biggest difference for Johnson in those highly successful seasons was that he was on the field. He played in all 16 games for the Bills in those seasons, and has failed to do so every other year in his career.
Given the fact his new quarterback in Philip Rivers and considering that Rivers will be without his favorite target, Antonio Gates, Johnson could be in a position to compensate. If Johnson can keep himself on the field and attract the attention of Phillip Rivers, he’ll be on pace for a sleeper week and season.
Standard league projection: 60 receiving yards, 1 TD (12 points)
TE: Tyler Eifert – Cincinnati Bengals (@ Oakland)
The Raiders’ defense – those three words really shouldn’t intimidate you if you’re trying to establish an offensive aerial attack – finished in the bottom third of the league’s defenses against tight ends last season.
Last season, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green demonstrated that they were more than capable of stretching out any defense in the NFL, and that came without the help of Eifert, who spent all of 2014 on Injured Reserve. In 2015, if Dalton and the offense make Eifert’s involvement a priority, it will benefit fantasy owners with any offensive Bengal. Look for Week 1 in Oakland to be an introduction.
Standard league projection: 70 receiving yards, 1 TD (13 points)
D/ST: Carolina Panthers (@ Jacksonville)
Let’s play a game – if you can name more than half of the offensive starters for the Jaguars without the internet…no wait…If you can, I don’t want to know. The Jaguars are filled with players on offense that just make you go, “meh…”
The Panthers added Charles “Peanut” Tillman this offseason, a welcome departure from the Bears for Packers fans. With Charles Johnson and Luke Kuechly leading the front seven, sacks are imminent for this defense with the stout coverage the secondary will provide.
Standard league projection: 15 points
K: Mason Crosby – Green Bay Packers (@Chicago)
When head coach Mike McCarthy comes out claiming the Packers are going to…for lack of a better synopsis…handle their business in Chicago, you have to think the offense is going to come out super charged. That’s going to leave the door open for Crosby to end some drives with either extra points or some chip shots. Either way, points are points.
I know Packer Nation is terrified of what’s going to happen to the offense with no Jordy Nelson, but if Aaron Rodgers’ tenure as the head of the offense in Green Bay has proven anything, it’s that Rodgers can turn almost any weapons into serious weapons. The return of James Jones will give the Pack a familiar, comfortable target to balance out the loss of Jordy. All of this only benefits the guy who will cap off most drives, Mason Crosby.
Standard league projection: 15 points