Jared Cook, TE, STL
Cook, a five-year veteran, has always had the size (6-foot-5, 254 pounds) and wheels (4.49-second 40-yard dash) to look frightening on paper, but it wasn’t until Sunday’s game against Arizona that he finally realized his potential. Utilized more as a slot and outside receiver than a traditional tight end, Cook emerged as both Sam Bradford's security blanket (seven catches) and big-play source (141 yards and two touchdowns) against the Cardinals. The Rams have an exceptional deep-route specialist in Chris Givens and a dangerous slot threat in Tavon Austin, but Cook is the only target in the Rams offense who provides standout production on short, deep and red-zone routes. There’s no reason why Cook can’t establish himself as one of the top fantasy tight ends this year.
Anquan Boldin, WR, SF
Boldin will be 33 years old on Oct. 3, but his 13-catch, 208-yard showing against Green Bay on Sunday could have convinced someone otherwise. Indeed, his numbers looked a lot like his career-opening 10-catch, 217-yard game against Detroit in 2003. He also caught one of Colin Kaepernick’s three touchdown passes against Green Bay, giving him five scores in his last five games, including the 2012 playoffs. Boldin went through a three-year lull in Baltimore's unimpressive passing games from 2010 to 2012, but Kaepernick’s aggressive, high-velocity passing has clearly rejuvenated Boldin. It’s easy to argue that Boldin is still better than Michael Crabtree, who caught 85 passes for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns as San Francisco's lead wideout last year.
Julius Thomas, TE, DEN
In terms of out-of-nowhere breakout performances, Thomas might have been the NFL’s most notable story in Week 1. Previously just a developmental fourth-round prospect out of Portland State, Thomas’ 2011 rookie season was derailed by ankle issues, and he was rarely active on game days during a 2012 season that never got off the ground. So when he lit up the Baltimore Ravens for 110 yards and two touchdowns on five catches in Thursday's season-opening game, it’s safe to say almost everyone was caught off guard. Thomas killed the Baltimore defense down the seam on play-action passes, using his head-turning speed to burn safeties for even glancing in the backfield. His average of 22 yards per catch is not sustainable and he might see his target count fluctuate in an offense that spreads the ball between three star wideouts in Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker, but Thomas will have TE1 value until further notice and needs to be owned in all leagues. He has clearly arrived as an NFL tight end, and defenses simply can’t account for his speed while also dealing with Denver’s dynamic trio of receivers.
Julian Edelman, WR, NE
Edelman was largely written off by fantasy footballers after the Patriots signed Danny Amendola and brought in the rookie trio of Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce in the offseason, but after one week it looks like Edelman might contend for the team lead in all significant receiving categories. Injuries to Amendola (groin) and Rob Gronkowski (back) have a lot to do with that – both players are doubtful for Thursday’s game against the Jets – but Edelman still deserves credit for hauling in seven catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns against the Bills on Sunday. He should probably be owned in all but the shallowest leagues, especially in the short term.
Joique Bell, RB, DET
Bell and Mikel Leshoure coexisted as fantasy-relevant running backs in Detroit’s fast-paced offense a year ago, combining for 1,911 yards and 12 touchdowns from scrimmage, so it wasn’t shocking to see two Detroit runners make a fantasy impact in Week 1 of this year. It was surprising, though, that Leshoure was a healthy scratch, and it equally surprising to see Bell post 92 yards (25 rushing, 67 receiving) and two rushing touchdowns off the bench. Sunday’s game could easily go down as Bell’s best fantasy output of the year, but starter Reggie Bush has never been durable, and Bell has proven at this point that he can provide flex production off the bench most weeks, especially in PPR leagues.
David Wilson, RB, NYG
With Andre Brown (leg) out until Week 10, Wilson had a huge opportunity against Dallas in Week 1 to establish himself as the workhorse back for the Giants. He couldn’t have failed much more miserably than he did Sunday night, however, finishing the game with just 19 yards on seven carries while losing two fumbles. Wilson is too talented to put up such pathetic numbers going forward, but he has understandably lost the trust of coach Tom Coughlin – something he only loosely had to begin with – and now he’ll need to hold off former teammate (and goal-line back) Brandon Jacobs, who signed with the Giants on Tuesday.
Ryan Mathews, RB, SD
Everyone knew heading into this year that Mathews’ fragility and inconsistency would make him unreliable as a starting fantasy back, but the Chargers made it clear in Monday’s game against Houston that Mathews’ upside would be limited even further by a timeshare with Ronnie Brown and Danny Woodhead. Mathews scored on a 14-yard reception Monday, but he finished the game with just 13 carries for 33 yards and two catches for 22 yards. It was actually Brown who led the Chargers in snaps among running backs, in fact, with 25 plays compared to 20 for Mathews and 10 for Woodhead.
Danny Amendola, WR, NE
The Patriots were confident that they could let top receiver Wes Welker walk in free agency and replace him with Amendola, a player with a cheaper price tag in large part thanks to his issues staying healthy in St. Louis. The Patriots didn’t even make it one week before the gamble burned them, as Amendola suffered a groin injury Sunday that will likely keep him out against the Jets on Thursday. Amendola’s productivity isn’t in question when healthy – he caught 10 passes for 104 yards against the Bills – but if he sits against the Jets it will mark his sixth missed game out of his last 13. He also missed the last two weeks of the preseason with an undisclosed injury, though his inclusion on the Week 1 injury report with a groin injury implies that it was a groin issue all along, meaning he has been dealing with it for over three weeks now.
Ryan Broyles, WR, DET
Broyles (ACL) played in the preseason and practiced throughout training camp, but the Lions opted to make him a healthy scratch against Minnesota on Sunday. The Lions are now saying Broyles won’t play until he’s 100 percent recovered from his December ACL tear, which makes his timetable very blurry. While it would be surprising if Broyles sat out for a month or more, most of his owners were expecting immediate fantasy viability despite taking him relatively late in drafts.
Isaac Redman, RB, PIT
Although he was nothing more than a short-term rental given the assumption that Le’Veon Bell (foot) would take over as the starter when healthy, Redman seemingly set fire to just about all traces of his fantasy value in Week 1, running for just nine yards on eight carries while fumbling twice, and losing one. Redman’s Week 2 opponent is a Cincinnati squad that held the vastly superior Matt Forte to just 50 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries Sunday, so there’s little reason to think Redman will find conditions any more favorable in Week 2, even though he is expected to start. Still, with Jonathan Dwyer re-signed, a timeshare is likely, and Redman will be on a short leash.