I want to pick up an Eagles tight end. Which one should it be?
For a position that’s starting to dominate the NFL, it’s amazing how weak the tight end position is for fantasy. Beyond Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and the other usual suspects, most fantasy teams are going to scour the Waiver Wire for upside guys. That’s because so many teams are using multiple tight end sets, and the Eagles will now be doing the same thing, under Chip Kelly. If I’m focusing on one player to add, however, I’m keeping an eye on
How can I expect
I love Bryce Brown. Watching him on film, it’s clear he has every tool needed to be not just a strong rotational back in the NFL, but a potential feature back. He has a lot of issues to clean up as well, but it’s still important to remember that he hasn’t really played football full-time since high school. If the Eagles run the ball as much as I think they will (and that would be a lot), Brown could have consistent flex potential with upside.
What are the expectations for
I’m going to make a prediction: if DeSean Jackson stays healthy this year, he’s going to set a new career-high in catches. His current best is 63 in his fantastic 2009 season, but I think he beats it. I think Chip Kelly understands that Jackson is at his best when he has the football in his hands. So I expect to see a lot of those patented bubble screens go Jackson’s way, where he can put the defense on its heels. That doesn’t mean that Kelly will take away the deep throws that defenses still must respect, but Jackson is so much better to the Eagles as a player with the ball in his hands than he is as a glorified decoy, as he’s too often been in recent seasons. Expect a lot of scheme changes to get him free of defenders.
Who will be the top Waiver Wire pickups after Week 1?
A good way to win in fantasy football is to be ahead of the Waiver Wire curve. If you’re playing the Wire aggressively, you’re not going to bat 1.000 and you might not even bat .300, but if you hit on one stud before he breaks out you could be in the driver’s seat in your league. Now, predicting breakouts before we’ve seen any of these teams on tape is even more difficult than it usually is, so we have to look for a good combination of talent and opportunity.
Let’s start with the two teams who played in the Super Bowl last season – Baltimore and San Francisco. Conspicuously, both teams are missing a No. 2 WR. The Ravens traded Anquan Boldin to the 49ers, who had designs of making Boldin that No. 2 ... until Michael Crabtree went down. The Ravens never really bothered to make a push for someone to play opposite Torrey Smith, and now they’re hurting more because of the injury to tight end Dennis Pitta. Fortunately for both the Ravens and the 49ers, some talented rookies stepped up in the preseason. Keep your eyes on Baltimore’s Marlon Brown, a physical 6-foot-5 receiver who suffered a torn ACL in college last season and San Francisco’s Quinton Patton, who started to turn some heads over the last couple weeks of the preseason. There’s perfect opportunity here, and they’re playing with quarterbacks who have obviously had success in the NFL. It’s a great recipe for Waiver Wire success.
Tell me about Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton
I absolutely love Hilton’s upside and he showed why during the preseason, but the Colts continued to rotate him in with three-receiver sets, letting Darrius Heyward-Bey get the work on the outside opposite Reggie Wayne in two-receiver sets. It’s a potential strategic advantage for the Colts to avoid tipping their hand with Hilton, but it could also be that they don’t want to overwork him. And if they use as many two-tight end sets as we expect, Hilton could be spending a lot of time on the sidelines. Despite this, I absolutely love him as an upside play this week against a Raider team that has just about zero pass rush. He’s a better player than Heyward-Bey; it’s just all about opportunity with Hilton.
Key injuries to watch
Colts running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) – Recovering from offseason foot surgery, Bradshaw didn’t play during the preseason. But if healthy, he gives the Colts more than Vick Ballard will. I’m anxious to see how he looks in Week 1.
Buccaneers left guard Carl Nicks (foot infection) – Nicks contracted the nasty MRSA infection that has also affected kicker Lawrence Tynes. We still love Doug Martin, but the sledding could be tougher for him against the Jets’ talented defensive line without the big road-grader paving the way.
Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore (broken wrist) – Gilmore’s going to miss at least the first month of the season, and that includes Week 1 against Tom Brady and company. Abandon ship!
QB: Tony Romo, Cowboys - The Giants secondary is still a mess, and their pass rush is in question. Also, Dez Bryant put together a dominant preseason.
RB: Stevan Ridley, Patriots - Ridley had a ton of success against the Bills last season, and the Patriots should have no problem putting up points in this game, allowing him to run it out in the second half.
WR: Antonio Brown, Steelers - The Titans lack a strong pass rush, and Ben Roethlisberger should be able to stay on his feet long enough for Brown to get open and make plays.
TE: Jordan Cameron, Browns - With wide receiver Josh Gordon suspended for the first two games of the season, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Cameron lead the Browns in targets.
QB: Josh Freeman, Buccaneers - He’s been a good fantasy quarterback as recently as the first half of last season, but he regressed in the second half and didn’t look much better this preseason. Expect Rex Ryan to scheme some confusing blitzes for Freeman.
RB: Chris Ivory, Jets - I’m still not convinced Ivory can handle a full workload. He was injured all preseason, and the Bucs had the best run defense in football last season.
WR: Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers - The Jets lost Darrelle Revis, but Antonio Cromartie really stepped up in his absence last season. Are you noticing a trend? This Bucs/Jets game will be ugly.
TE: Jermaine Gresham, Bengals - Before long, Tyler Eifert will be the top option at this position for Cincy. It might start Week 1.
Fantasy MVP: It’s too easy to say Adrian Peterson, so let’s go with Jimmy Graham, New Orleans. He’s a player who puts up No. 1 wide receiver numbers playing a position at which I feel good about only six or so guys as a regular starter. Graham is a monster advantage, and he’ll prove it this year.
Fantasy Bust of the Year: Arian Foster, Houston. This pains me to say it because Foster’s been so awesome. His rate stats were down last year. He was clearly overworked, and he was injured all summer. I still think Foster has a good couple years in him, but I’d rather jump off the bandwagon a year too early than a year too late. The Texans have already said they’re going to work in Ben Tate more, cutting into Foster’s precious touches.
IDP of the Year: Luke Kuechly, Carolina. This guy might already be the best linebacker in football, and he’s a legit IDP stud.
Fantasy Rookie of the Year: Eddie Lacy, Green Bay. Lacy gives Green Bay their best back since Ahman Green, and fantasy players a great No. 2 running back.
IDP Rookie of the Year: Alec Ogletree, Rams. A playmaker who should be playing weakside, a typically awesome fantasy spot.
Joe Dolan is the managing editor of FantasyGuru.com and a host for SiriusXM Radio. A former writer for PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Joe still contributes to the site with on-camera segments and written columns. He can be heard hosting “SiriusXM Fantasy Football Gameday” every NFL Sunday from 1-7 PM on Sirius 210, XM 87.