Fantasy football: Owners face early question marks
Now that most of us have completed our drafts, all we can do is wait for Thursday night’s opener. This is no time to let anticipation get the best of you.
As always seems to be the case, my social media accounts have been lit up with questions about various trade scenarios from owners who’ve apparently been staring at their rosters a little too hard and feel the need to do something, anything, to better position themselves for the season that just can’t get here fast enough.
I have one word for you: Relax!
Trust your draft preparation, don’t succumb to the knee-jerk trade offer and avoid impulsive free-agent moves. Instead, join me in pondering these 10 burning questions that should begin to be answered as 2017 Opening Weekend unfolds:
1. Just how healthy are Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor, Danny Woodhead, Odell Beckham, Jr., Demaryius Thomas, Jordan Matthews and other nicked-up players? It’s never a good sign to head into Week 1 already nursing an injury, but these guys have no choice. Their fates will affect not only their owners, but those banking on the players around them.
2. How many games will Zeke Elliott play? This may prove to be the most consequential question of the season. Those who gambled with a premium pick to select the Cowboys’ troubled superstar are rooting for a reduced suspension or successful legal injunction that will put Elliott on the field immediately. The rest of us just hope we face those owners while Zeke is sidelined.
3. Who will emerge from obscurity? Last season Dak Prescott, Jordan Howard, Jay Ajayi, Spencer Ware, Davante Adams, Tyrell Williams and Terrelle Pryor shocked the fantasy world with unexpected stellar performances. Which players will we be scrambling to acquire in the next few weeks? Hint: Do you have your starting RBs handcuffed?
4. How much rust do Marshawn Lynch and Martavis Bryant have on them? Beast Mode came out of retirement to be the battering ram the Raiders have been missing in their promising young offense. Bryant has been electrifying when on the field. Both return after a year out of the game, and owners like me are counting on them to reclaim their mojo immediately.
5. Will the young guns live up to the hype? The NFL is banking on Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Carson Wentz and Prescott becoming the next generation of elite passers, and all enter the season with inflated expectations. My prediction: Carr, Mariota and Prescott will dazzle while Winston and Wentz fizzle.
6. Which passing “attack” will be better-than-pathetic? I will be fairly shocked if any quarterback, wideout or tight end playing for the Bears, Bills, Browns, Jets, Rams or 49ers makes a consistent contribution to any fantasy squad this season. On a related note, I put the over/under on the Jets scoring their first passing touchdown at Week 3.
7. How will the Patriots’ RB committee shake out? Fantasy veterans know Bill Belichick hates us, so those who invested in Dion Lewis, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead or James White are just asking for weekly headaches. The best they can hope is that their pick emerges in the TD-centric role of LeGarrette Blount; but more likely, each player will be deployed on an inscrutable basis as dictated by Belichick’s weekly game plan.
8. Could someone in the 2017 rookie RB class replicate Elliott’s first-year success? In previous seasons, we’ve witnessed the rapid emergence of several first-year receivers. This year, it’s all about the runners. Leonard Fournette, Joe Mixon, Kareem Hunt, Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook will each get the chance to shine right out of the gate. While none is blessed with the supporting cast that Elliott has, they all are well positioned to prosper.
9. Will San Francisco’s defense be the MVP of fantasy football? The 49ers surrendered an average of 30 points and 406 yards per game in 2016, and only a diehard fan believes they will improve significantly this season. Their opponents could set records against this unit on a weekly basis.
10. Will Jay Cutler lead the Dolphins where Ryan Tannehill couldn’t? Short answer: No. But as long as Good Jay shows up more often than Bad Jay, Cutler should salvage decent-to-strong fantasy value for Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker.
After another interminable off-season, I’m ready for these answers – and others – to unfold. Aren’t you?
Ladd Biro is a two-time winner and five-time finalist of the Football Writer of the Year Award by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Follow all his advice daily at the Fantasy Fools blog (fantasy-fools.blogspot.com), on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).