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Position Units: Strong Plays for Week 1

Chris Bennett

Chris Bennett

Bennett covers baseball, college football and college basketball for RotoWire. Before turning to fantasy writing, he worked in scouting/player development for the Atlanta Braves and Montreal Expos. He's also a fan of the ACC.

It wasn't so long ago that college fantasy football sites were not allowed to use player names. Although that has since passed, the concept of unit-based rosters remains. It's a unique game style in which not only are matchups important, but so are committees. Just imagine being able to start all of Oregon's running backs simultaneously, and using one roster spot. Each week throughout the season we'll look at skill-position units that offer favorable fantasy matchups.

The opening week of the season is both a goldmine and a landmine. It's a schedule littered with creampuff matchups, even in the bottom-tier conferences. Wide receiver becomes a challenging position as you question whether units will need to pass during the second half. That question makes running-back options plentiful. Overall, you'll notice one alarming trend - all but one team below is playing at home.

RUNNING BACK

Georgia Tech (vs. Elon) -
A triple-option attack against an FCS opponent? Yes, please. Georgia Tech's offense is the perfect example of how a unit-style league can offer drastically more value than any individual player draft. B-Back (or fullback in most offenes) David Sims likely sits on most league's waiver wires, but Sims, fellow B-Back Zach Laskey and a host of A-Backs should chunk off big yardage against the Phoenix.

Eastern Michigan (vs. Howard) -
Bronson Hill isn't one of the nation's best kept secrets, but he is a solid bet to threaten 1,000 yards. And if you look at the Eagles' schedule, he's unlikely to be consistent. Last season, he finished with 905 yards, but topped the century mark just three times. That was highlighted by a 285-yard outburst, and while that's not on the weekend horizon, large chunks of yardage are.

Tulane (vs. Jackson State) -
Call it a hunch, but Week 1 reminds fantasy owners why Orleans Darkwa was a budding star three seasons ago. Tulane's offense is a wreck with little identity, but it is deeper than just Darkwa, and should find room to run.

Ohio State (vs. Buffalo) -
The Buckeyes could be an overlooked unit this week. Starting running back Carlos Hyde will begin his suspension, but Jordan Hall and Bri'onte Dunn are eager to pick up carries. Quarterback Braxton Miller figures to be finished by halftime, and Ohio State should push its way to more yards after intermission. A real wild card here is freshman Dontre Wilson's position eligibility. If he's deemed a runner ... the sky is the limit.

Oregon (vs. Nicholls State) -
Yes, this is obvious, as the Ducks should be in most lineups weekly. But in this name-your-score outing, the Quack Attack figures to do nothing but handing off after halftime, and still racking up huge yardage.

Oregon State (vs. Eastern Washington) -
Storm Wood's hamstring is irrelevant when thinking about this unit. Envision a few aerial scores early, and a lot of running late, regardless of who's carrying the rock.

San Diego State (vs. Eastern Illinois) -
Adam Muema is a popular name among fantasy folk. While he may be done early, the Aztecs are breaking in a new signal caller and a lot of handoffs can be expected in the second half.

WIDE RECEIVER

San Jose State (vs. Sacramento State) -
The Spartans have an NFL-caliber quarterback in David Fales, a plethora of receiving options and make little effort to run the ball. It's a perfect storm.

Fresno State (vs. Rutgers) -
Similar to San Jose State, Fresno State features its own NFL-caliber signal caller in former No. 1-pick David Carr's brother Derek. This is a game that could remain competitive, and with the Scarlet Knights flying across the country, expect a shootout and passing throughout the game.

Miami (vs. Florida Atlantic) -
Hurricanes receivers may be equal to the Georgia Tech running backs - they post great season totals but no great individual statistical leader. Quarterback Stephen Morris figures to hit a few deep balls before resting, and the likes of Phillip Dorsett, Allen Hurns, Herb Waters, Rashawn Scott, et al., will happily run underneath those tosses.

Duke (vs. North Carolina Central) -
The Blue Devils may be just a bit risky, given their new quarterback, the loss of the school's top receiver and a lot of youth. They also bring a read-option look into the weekend. But this game is a warm up, even for Duke. And what happens in warm-ups? Teams practice deep passes to different receivers.

Baylor (vs. Wofford) -
Baylor is one of many system plays in the Big 12. It doesn't matter who is under center, the offense churns out yards. With new signal caller Bryce Petty getting his first extended look, coach Art Briles and company will look to establish some chemistry. The already know what they've got in running back Lache Seastrunk. It's time for them to learn what receivers Levi Norwood and Robbie Rhodes bring to the table.

Clemson (vs. Georgia) -
This unit is likely to be active weekly, but if you were thinking about passing because of a named opponent, don't. Clemson will continue to run occasionally, but this year will feature more of a committee backfield. That's music to Tajh Boyd and company's ears, as the veteran will abuse an inexperienced defense. Led by Sammy Watkins, the likes of Charone Peake and Martavis Bryant are likely to be household names sooner than later. Boyd's Heisman campaign begins with a bang Saturday.

Washington State (at Auburn) -
The one road team to make the list, Mike Leach brings his pirates across the country to face a rebuilding Auburn squad. This game simply smells like a shootout, and the Air Raid offense figures to look better in Year 2. The Cougars are likely to drive owners wild if you're looking for one receiver to own. Thankfully here, that's irrelevant.

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