The football season officially begins Thursday night. We hope and trust that you are done with your fantasy draft. If you happened to draft before Labor Day, you might have had injuries or news come up that requires you to make a move, even before the season starts.
Here are 10 names to consider among those outside the Top 20 at QB and TE, top 50 at RB and WR (using ownership data from CBS Sports fantasy leagues).
#1 TE Jesse James, PIT (19%) 24th most owned TE
Ladarius Green was supposed to be the starter replacing the retired Heath Miller after signing as a free agent from San Diego. Green’s on the PUP list, and it is James, the 22-year old 2nd year player from Penn State, who will be starting instead. Add in that the 2nd wide receiver spot opposite Antonio Brown is unsettled with Martavis Bryant suspended for the year, and there are some potential targets, particularly in the red zone for the 6’7″ player.
#2 WR Chris Hogan, NE (37%) 60th most owned WR
The frequently banged-up Danny Amendola has been battling a knee injury this preseason. Hogan is clearly in the mix to get lots of snaps, and the potential is there in the Patriots’ offense for him to have big weeks if any of the other targets are injured.
#3 TE Vance McDonald, SF (14%) 27th most owned TE
McDonald was the 15th-highest scoring tight end last year once Vernon Davis was traded. Bring in Chip Kelly and throw in Bruce Ellington being lost for the season, and there are plenty of chances for McDonald to match or surpass last year’s numbers.
#4 RB Kenneth Dixon, BAL (29%) 60th most owned RB
Why do I have Dixon here? This is a stash-and-pray situation, but I think there’s a decent chance it pays off in about 6 weeks. Dixon was impressive in the preseason, but then suffered an MCL injury in Week 3, and will likely miss the first month. The Ravens released (then re-signed Justin Forsett), and I don’t think the running game is exceptional with the three other backs. Dixon will have an opportunity to make an impact when he returns.
#5 TE Cameron Brate, TB (2%) 32nd most owned TE
Brate is a true unknown commodity. Then again, so was Gary Barnidge a year ago. Austin Sefarian-Jenkins is being drafted more frequently, but it is Brate who will start to open the season. Brate sat on the sidelines in Week 4 of the preseason, along with Jameis Winston, Doug Martin, Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. Meanwhile, Sefarian-Jenkins played into the 2nd half with the backups. The undrafted free agent out of Harvard is someone to monitor entering the year.
#6 WR Tyler Boyd, CIN (54%) 56th
The Bengals lost Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in free agency. Boyd is clearly the #3 receiver and could easily and very quickly be the #2 WR behind A.J. Green, with journeyman Brandon LaFell also in the mix. Add in that Tyler Eifert is opening the year on the PUP list, and Boyd could be a bigger part of this offense than people expect.
#7 RB Terrance West, BAL (54%) 51st most owned RB
If I were to pick a back amongst those in Baltimore to roll with early, it would be West. The Ravens releasing Forsett to re-sign him shows how much they will be leaning on the 31-year old, and West has been more impressive than Javorius Allen. I think West is the goal-line back and that’s probably your best flex option when playing with the Ravens backfield.
#8 QB Joe Flacco, BAL (54%) 23rd most owned QB
No, Flacco is not elite, but last year’s offense was a mess. The Ravens have improved the line, and at least this year you have a foursome of Steve Smith/Kamar Aiken/Mike Wallace/Breshad Perriman to find some plays (Aiken was it last year after Smith’s injuries). I think he outperforms his ADP and proves to be a solid QB2 and platoon option based on matchup.
#9 QB Jimmy Garoppolo, NE (9%) 32nd most owned QB
I understand why people wouldn’t want to roll with Garoppolo in the draft as they likely drafted a QB to start over him. But if things are bleak, Garoppolo is a better option on a four-week basis over many QBs on a roster. If you need a starter because of injury, he’s cheap and almost certainly available.
#10 Rob Kelley, WAS (15%) 68th
Kelley quietly made the Washington roster as an undrafted free agent rookie, beating out Keith Marshall (who was placed on IR). If Matt Jones isn’t 100%, then Kelley will be the goal line back you want, not Chris Thompson.