By Nick Shook
Beacon Journal copy editor
Read full column on Ohio.com
Sunday is upon us. I’m hoping you read your morning paper with your coffee, well before the 1 p.m. kickoffs, or online with a second tab open with your fantasy football lineup, because I’m about to drop some knowledge.
Setting your lineup is vital to fantasy football, for obvious reasons. But that doesn’t mean we can see the future. We can, however, use statistics to project who will perform well.
There’s just one small problem with that. In Week 1, we don’t have much of a clue of how teams will perform, and games will play out. We can’t make a simple start against a bottom-feeder, because they’re all even at the start. Which means we’re pretty much blindly throwing darts this week.
This week, we’ll strictly work with matchups, which is my favorite way to play. Read and adjust accordingly.
Jarvis Landry, wide receiver, Miami Dolphins
All of the preseason buzz has been about Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Though I was admittedly not a fan of Tannehill coming out of Texas A&M, he’s since proved me wrong, and the Dolphins rewarded him with a new six-year contract worth as much as $96 million in the offseason. He’s not yet near the upper echelon of quarterbacks, but many expect this to be the season in which Tannehill completely breaks out as one of the league’s better passers. And he now has arguably the best receiving corps he’s had as a professional.
The Dolphins bolstered Tannehill’s targets by adding Kenny Stills, wily veteran Greg Jennings and tight end Jordan Cameron in free agency, and selecting wide receiver DeVante Parker in the first round of the 2015 draft. This takes the defensive focus off Landry at least a little, and with an established rapport (112 targets, 84 receptions, 758 yards, five touchdowns in 2014) that can only get better from here, Landry is a slot receiver who I’ll advise you to start in Week 1 and for many weeks to come.
The Dolphins play Washington to open the season. The Redskins haven’t had a great secondary in recent memory, ranked in the bottom third in allowing fantasy points to wide receivers in 2014, and it isn’t looking any better in 2015. Thirty-one-year-old DeAngelo Hall is the jewel, albeit a dusty, nicked-up jewel, in Washington’s secondary. Hall is also dealing with multiple injuries (groin, knee, toe) that flared up during camp, including one showcased in a spat with Houston Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins on HBO’s Hard Knocks. The second corner in that defensive backfield is Chris Culliver, who was the punchline of a running joke in a newsroom in which I worked in Southern California, back when Culliver was with the San Francisco 49ers.
Simply put, Washington’s secondary could use some help. It has a tough task ahead of it in Week 1, which makes Landry a good choice for all fantasy owners.
James Jones, wide receiver, Green Bay Packers
Jones had the best season of his career when he was in Green Bay, catching 14 touchdowns in 2012. Those numbers earned him a fat contract with the Oakland Raiders, where he underwhelmed, catching 73 passes for 666 yards and six touchdowns. The Raiders cut him loose at the end of training camp, and Jones quickly returned to the Packers.
Jones is familiar with the offense and with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. It should be a rather seamless transition, setting him up for some nice fantasy opportunities. Plus, with Randall Cobb making his way back from a shoulder injury, Jones is likely to see even more targets.
You could start either Jones or Davante Adams in this matchup. The Chicago Bears’ secondary is lacking, and with Rodgers slinging the ball all over the field, it bodes well for fantasy owners.
Peyton Manning, quarterback, Denver Broncos
Scoff at me and call this a no-brainer, if you must. But there has never been in a season in which Manning has been up against doubters more than 2015.
His startling finish to the 2014 season left many questioning his football mortality, and for good reason. But the last time Manning’s Broncos faced the Baltimore Ravens, he threw seven touchdown passes. Aging or not, Manning is still a good bet for big points.
Frank Gore, running back, Indianapolis Colts
This pains me, because I’m a huge supporter of Frank Gore. He’s been about as consistent an option in the backfield that there is for the past decade, topping 1,000 yards rushing in eight of his 10 seasons. He’s made the shift to Indianapolis, joining a wildly talented offense that includes receivers T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett and tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.
This means there are a lot of options to move the football. Gore doesn’t need 30 carries for the Colts to succeed. Add to that the fact that head coach Chuck Pagano is planning to keep Gore on a “pitch count,” and it equals limited looks for the running back to rack up yards and touchdowns.
Plus, the Buffalo Bills’ defensive front four is really good. And Marcel Dareus just received a big payday. Relegate Gore to the bench this week, but not forever.
Marques Colston, wide receiver, New Orleans Saints
The Arizona Cardinals’ defense is formidable. The Saints have plenty of viable options (running back Mark Ingram and wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who is poised for a big season) that will make Drew Brees a good pick at quarterback, but Colston isn’t near the top of his targets.
Patrick Peterson will likely be shadowing Colston all game, and seeing as he’s in the conversation for best cornerback in the league, he’ll limit Colston, if he doesn’t completely shut him down all afternoon. Place Colston in a nice, warm seat on the bench this week.
Keep an eye out on ohio.com for the waiver wire scoop in the middle of the week, once we can react from Week 1’s action. And don’t forget to send along questions, comments and concerns to me on Twitter @TheNickShook and firstname.lastname@example.org.