With Week 1 finally here, this will be the final time for teams to add players before the games begin. Most fantasy owners should still have time through waivers or FCFS to add players this week. As always, some of the players discussed are lottery tickets, in an attempt to stash them before you have to fight for them with your league mates in future weeks, and just because someone is mentioned doesn't mean they are an automatic pickup depending on your league. This week I'll dig a little deeper than normal, this being the first regular-season column.
Terrelle Pryor, OAK - This recommendation is really if you're looking for a long shot at quarterback. Pryor has reportedly been named the Week 1 starter, and it's hard to imagine with Matt Flynn's injury and Pryor's mild preseason success it won't be Pryor under center Monday. The last few seasons have seen running quarterbacks come out of nowhere to be fantasy gems, including: Cam Newton, Michael Vick and Colin Kaepernick. While Pryor might not be the most accurate quarterback throwing, he has great mobility that is critical in the fantasy world. Considering the division's defenses, the schedule and the prospects of Pryor being the garbage-time hero, he's your guy if you need quarterback help.
Cierre Wood, HOU - Wood was an undrafted free agent who inked with the Texans hours after the draft. He's done enough during camp to get listed as the third-string back with only an injury to Ben Tate or Arian Foster standing in the way of touches for the run-heavy Texans offense. While he was a backup (to the Lions' Theo Riddick) at Notre Dame last year, he managed 6.5 yards per carry and ran a 4.46 40 at the Combine. This is only a recommendation for deep leagues if you're looking for a running back with some upside.
Kendall Hunter, SF - About a month ago there was a lot of buzz about LaMichael James who appeared ready to play the complementary "change-of-pace" role with Frank Gore. However, James has been less than impressive and is now dealing with a knee injury that could sideline him for another month. While Hunter is coming off an Achilles' injury, he played two preseason games and last season averaged 5.2 yards per carry. He's probably not built to handle a full workload should Gore get hurt but should see 8-10 touches per game to start the season.
Mike Tolbert, CAR - There's been a little buzz about Kenjon Barner while Jonathan Stewart has been out and that gained a little momentum when Stewart was placed on the PUP list. However, Barner has been in a walking boot and doesn't have the size to be a goal-line or short-yardage back. Tolbert has had plenty of success in that role and had five touchdowns over the final three games last season while Stewart was out. DeAngelo Williams will get the bulk of the work; only look at Tolbert in touchdown-only leagues or a deeper PPR format.
Da'Rel Scott, NYG - Scott becomes the beneficiary of the Andre Brown injury and should find some touches spelling David Wilson. Scott has excellent speed (4.34 40) and should garner your attention in deep leagues. Wilson is the real winner with Brown's injury but Scott should see a few touches per game over the first few weeks of the season.
Kenny Stills, NO - Stills is one of the rare players who was worth tracking during the preseason since no one knew how fast the rookie would pick up the offense and develop a good rapport with Drew Brees. His work in practice and seven catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns in preseason were good enough to lock down the third wide-receiver job with Joseph Morgan out for the year. Stills, whose father and uncle both played in the NFL, has good explosion off the line and enough speed that he could develop into the deep-threat role held by Devery Henderson over the last few seasons.
Josh Boyce, NE - So much has been made about Patriots rookies Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins that Boyce has been overlooked, or at least not discussed enough. He's clearly behind those two in the pecking order, but it's not like they've solidified their roles in the offense yet. The high school teammate of Robert Griffin III, Boyce fell in the draft to the 102nd pick due to a foot injury and should see some time in the slot to start the season. At the very least he's a name to know; watch how the Patriots utilize him while Rob Gronkowski is out.
Patrick Edwards, DET - I understand Ryan Broyles' potential and that he's been on a lot of sleepers lists this preseason, but Edwards should see a good amount of snaps in the pass-heavy Lions offense. Playing with Calvin Johnson will give Edwards consistent single coverage and despite lacking size, he has the speed to get open downfield and be a big-play threat. Teammate Nate Burleson sang his praises this preseason (which doesn't hurt), and Edwards could sneak onto the fantasy radar if the targets come.
New England Patriots - We will find out Wednesday who the Bills starting quarterback will be this week and either see the start of the EJ Manuel era or if undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel is ready for the pros. I'm not overly optimistic about the Patriots defense this season, but if you're looking at playing the streaming game (I recommended the Indianapolis defense a couple weeks ago), the Patriots are worth a look this week. Manuel has only been back on the field for a week, and the better scenario for the Patriots would be if the Bills played it safe and went with Tuel. There's a reason Tuel wasn't drafted, so it's highly unlikely he comes out and has immediate success.