Football is back! And with it comes the joy of overseeing one’s own virtual team. The most dedicated and passionate managers find zeal in exploring the concepts and happenings occurring under the radar. While some weeks your roster may allow for snoozing on sleepers, it’s always beneficial to keep tabs on emerging trends and players. This weekly column is for those who understand the satisfaction of digging deep.
All of the listed players are rostered in under 60 percent of Yahoo leagues (at time of writing) and/or are a significant value in our daily fantasy game.
They’re not the obvious picks, and they’re not without their risks … but that’s what makes them so intriguing. Let’s get to Week 1!
Tyrod Taylor, QB, Los Angeles Chargers (8% rostered — $25)
The stink of being bumped by Baker during his tenure with the Browns continues to follow Taylor around like Eeyore’s rain cloud. That single event, however, discounts a number of the positives that came before. Taylor found fantasy relevance from 2015-2017 as the Bills starting QB, never finishing outside of the top 19 players at the position (QB16 in 2015, QB13 in 2016, QB19 in 2017). Much of his production came via his legs, as he averaged 525 rushing yards per season in Buffalo. For reference, only three QBs (Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, and Josh Allen) cleared 500 rushing yards last year … and they were all top-seven FF plays.
Unlike the talent-poor days in Buffalo, Taylor’s surrounding cast has drastically improved in Los Angeles. While contested-catch artist Mike Williams remains a game-time decision for Sunday, Tyrod still has Austin Ekeler (85.2% catch rate, RB5), Keenan Allen (91.2 receiving grade, WR4), and Hunter Henry (132.3 passer rating when targeted) at his disposal. Those three figure to put up points on Sunday against the Bengals’ already-banged up secondary. Plus, if Burrow & Co are as fire as #footballtwitter expects, then Tyrod will have to answer with his arm and his legs.
2020 may be a bridge year for the vet, but Week 1 projects to be a bright spot.
Carlos Hyde, RB, Seattle Seahawks (21% rostered — $12)
To be clear, I stan Chris Carson. But in a hyper run-friendly offense (third-most rushing attempts in 2019, second-most in 2018) both of these backs can eat. Given that Carson is coming off a season-ending hip injury and after missing nine practices due to family matters, it makes sense that he’d be eased into action. Noting that Hyde was added as insurance for Rashaad Penny — who is beginning the year on the PUP (knee) — it’s entirely possible that Hyde could see between 10 and 15 touches come Sunday (Penny averaged 10 touches per contest when both he and Carson were on the field in 2019). On the heels of a resurgent effort in Houston in which he rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored 6 TDs (7 goal-line carries), Hyde could surprise again, especially facing a Falcons defense that allowed the sixth-most runs over 20 yards last year.
James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (30% rostered - $10)
The NFL is undoubtedly a “next man up” league and Robinson is that next man in the Jaguars’ rapidly thinning backfield. Undrafted out of Illinois State, Robinson is a no-nonsense power back with excellent vision, balance, and tackle-breaking ability. He also graded out as one of the best pass-blockers in the class, which has obviously helped him climb his way to the top of Jacksonville’s depth chart.
With Leonard Fournette out the door, Ryquell Armstead on the COVID-19 list, and Devine Ozigbo nursing a sore hamstring, Robinson figures to work as the Jags’ RB1 in Week 1. He’ll take the lead on short-yardage situations while Chris Thompson rotates in on passing downs, making Robinson a top-35 FF play heading into Sunday’s action.
DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (51% rostered - $20)
It’s been a minute since DJax was the lid-lifter we remember … or has it? After all, he opened Week 1 of last season by converting 8 of 10 looks for 154 yards and 2 scores. His opponent was the Washington Football Team, which just so happens to be the squad he’ll face this Sunday.
Despite entering his age-33 season, reports out of training camp strongly suggest that Jackson’s still got “it,” noting the penchant with which he regularly flew past CB Darius Slay during practice. Even if the veteran pass-catcher has lost a step, he remains Philly’s most experienced and healthy wide receiver in Week 1, as both Alshon Jeffery (foot) and rookie Jalen Reagor (shoulder) are expected to be sidelined for the season opener. He’s a top-30 fantasy play this weekend, which is something that might not happen again in 2020.
Kendrick Bourne, WR, San Francisco 49ers (5% rostered - $12)
I’ll leave the Bourne Identity puns to the DudeBros on Twitter, but fantasy fans are experiencing some real amnesia when it comes to KB’s history. Added to the 49ers as an UDFA in 2017, the Eastern Washington product has forced his way onto the roster and played a full season in consecutive efforts. Third in WR snaps (behind Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders) last year, Bourne proved effective in scoring situations. The 6-foot-1 and 203-pound perimeter receiver closed out 2019 second in receiving scores (behind George Kittle), converting six red-zone looks into 5 TDs. This Sunday he’ll take on a Cardinals defense that gifted him two of those five scores a year ago. He’ll also draw plenty of looks as Samuel (foot) and rookie Brandon Aiyuk (hamstring) are unlikely to suit up for the season opener.
Dig deep with Liz on social @LizLoza_FF