Under the Radar Plays
With the first Sunday of the 2016-17 NFL season starting in less than 24 hours and the amount of injury concerns and surprise scratches (GRONK?!?!) occurring with each moment, what better way to help the fantasy audience than Under the Radar players. The Under the Radar section, otherwise known as Sleepers on some sites, is a place where I like to list some Week 1 studs whose names may not even be known and could potentially be on your waiver wire right NOW! Below I have listed and discussed 3 players at each position who I believe have the opportunity or match-up to provide relevant fantasy points for your team. Besides being able to use these players as fill-ins for injuries or suspended studs, what better way to show your league mates how much of a fantasy genius you are than by starting a player whose name they don’t even know and having that player put up 20+ points. These plays will not only win you your week, but have the rest of your league asking you for advice next week.
Tyrod Taylor, QB BUF at BAL
Tyrod Taylor came on the Fantasy scene in 2015 and dazzled with his combination of passing and rushing abilities. He is a rarity at the QB position who puts up fantasy points through the air and on the ground and can score a TD either rushing or receiving. Too many experts are not ranking him appropriately and it feels like many have forgotten about how dominant he was while healthy. Taylor started 14 games in the 2015 regular season and averaged approximately 22 Fantasy Points Per Game (FPPG). Of these 14 games played Taylor had 5 game in which he scored 30 fantasy points (FP) or more. This week he takes on a poor Baltimore Ravens defense that allowed 30 passing TD’s in 2015 putting them tied for 22nd in the league in that statistic. With a fully healthy Sammy Watkins I see Tyrod putting up a huge game on the first Sunday of the season.
Scoring Projection: 250 passing yards, 45 rushing yards, 3 total TD’s
Robert Griffin III (RG3), CLE QB at PHI
Much like the aforementioned Taylor, RG3 possesses a much sought after myriad of skills for a fantasy QB. RG3 has shown, even though it was in the 2013 season, that he can be an effective rushing and passing QB. In 2013 he averaged over 19 FPPG and 5 out of 13 games where he scored 25+ FP. RG3 has one of the most favorable match-ups this week based on 2015 defensive statistics. The Eagles were 28th in passing yards and 31st in Passing TD’s allowed in 2015. In addition, Philadelphia was last in rushing yards allowed in 2015 which plays to RG3’s special set of skills. I see Griffin taking advantage of a great match-up and posting fantasy relevant stats in week 1.
Scoring Projection: 281 passing yards, 55 rushing yards, 2 total TD’s
Kirk Cousins, WAS QB vs. PIT
Cousins is a QB who really slings the ball around the field and is capable of putting up massive fantasy points. During the 2015 season, Cousins put up four 30+ FP games in which 2 of those exceeded 40 FP’s (YOU LIKE THAT)! These are the type of weeks where one player can almost single handedly deliver you a fantasy victory. His upside potential against the weak Pittsburgh Steelers secondary cannot be ignored this week and I see a possibility where Cousins is a top 5 QB in week 1. It also helps to have a deep threat like DeSean Jackson (Spoiler Alert: Also later mentioned) and a beast tight end like Jordan Reed at your disposal.
Scoring Projection: 300 passing yards, 3 passing TD’s
Rashad Jennings, NYG RB at DAL
Coming into the 2016-17 NFL season it almost feels as if people have forgotten that Jennings is a RB1 on a fairly potent offense. Jennings has shown in the past that he can have explosive fantasy games and for where he was drafted is a capable RB2 in week 1. His opponent, Dallas, ranked 23rd in total rushing yards allowed and 28th in rushing TD’s allowed in 2015. I see Jennings as a definite RB2 with RB1 upside.
Scoring Projection: 75 rushing yards 1 TD
Duke Johnson, CLE RB at PHI
As mentioned under Robert Griffin III, the Eagles rush defense in 2015 was among the leagues worst. This will provide plenty of opportunities for Cleveland running back Duke Johnson to show his skills. Johnson is a receiving back who will succeed in the new offense lead by RG3. Johnson is an up-side FLEX play this week especially in PPR leagues.
Scoring Projection: 30 rushing yards, 6 receptions, 55 receiving yards, 1 TD
Ryan Mathews, PHI RB vs. CLE
On the other side of the ball from RG3 and Johnson is running back Ryan Mathews. With the departure of Sam Bradford, Mathews now finds himself as the main offensive weapon for the Eagles. Mathews has found himself in the lead back position in his past NFL stops and has shown that he can be a successful fantasy back when healthy. That last part is the main concern for Mathews…health. Going into this season Mathews is reportedly healthy and should be able to show his talents as a RB1 once again. Not only is Mathews in the position to put up fantasy numbers, he is also facing the 3rd worst rush defense in 2015 by total rushing yards allowed. I expect at least RB2 numbers from Mathews with RB1 upside.
Scoring Projection: 70 rushing yards, 4 receptions, 40 receiving yards, 1 TD
Tajae Sharpe/Rishard Matthews, TEN WR vs. MIN
These are some very deep wide receiver plays for week 1 that have the possibility of putting up fantasy relevant points on opening Sunday. Rookie WR Tajae Sharpe has exploded in the preseason catching 9 out of 12 passes for 163 yards and showing great report with QB Marcus Mariota. Rishard Matthews was an offseason acquisition by the Titans who showed promise in Miami in 2015 even though he was starting behind Jarvis Landry and being pushed by rookie DeVante Parker. My main thought process behind this projection is that DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry should provide a strong rushing attack which will open up the passing game. Besides tight end Delanie Walker, Sharpe and Matthews are the players in line for the remaining targets. If you were to hold me to one of them to start in week 1 as a FLEX it would be Tajae Sharpe. I believe in the rookies raw physical talent and the ability of Mariota to get him the ball.
Scoring Projection: 6 receptions, 75 yards, 1 TD
DeSean Jackson, WAS WR vs. PIT
Jackson has been one of the best upside WRs for years. Coming into the current fantasy season Jackson was going in the 7th round or later and presented a huge value for any willing fantasy managers. He has an incredible match-up with the Steelers secondary and appears to have great chemistry with QB Kirk Cousins (Also mentioned on this list). The Steelers were 3rd worst in total receiving yards allowed and the same ranking in receiving yards allowed per game during the 2015 season. This game should be a shootout on Monday night giving Jackson the opportunity to run free against a sub-par secondary. Jackson was drafted as a WR2/3, but in week 1 I expect him to be a fringe WR1.
Scoring Projection: 7 receptions, 100 yards, 1 TD
Tavon Austin, LA WR at SF
Austin is a speedy WR for the LA Rams (still looks weird to write) who over his career has provided boom or bust games for fantasy teams. In 2015 Austin put up four games over 15 FP and two over 20 FP. One of those games over 20 FP was against the same San Francisco 49ers that he is playing against in week 1. The huge game in 2015 does not come as a surprise since the 49ers were 26th in receiving yards per game at over 290 yards allowed. I expect a similar result for Austin in week 1 and is a definite FLEX play with WR1/2 upside.
Scoring Projection: 5 receptions, 90 yards, 25 rushing yards, 1 TD
Jesse James, PIT TE at WAS
In the offseason the Steelers lost their long time tight end Health Miller to retirement and found themselves acquiring Ladarius Green from the Chargers. Ladarius Green is injured and on the bench for the beginning of the 2016-17 season providing a big opportunity to 6-7 260+lb. tight end Jesse James. With the monster size that James provides and the lack of any other legitimate TE on the steelers active roster the script is there for a TE1/2 game for fantasy teams. This will also be a high scoring affair which only helps to bolster my position on James as an under the radar TE for week 1.
Scoring Projection: 5 receptions, 50 yards, 1 TD
Vance McDonald, SF TE vs. LA
Vance McDonald came onto the scene in 2015 as a tight end for the San Francisco 49ers. He put up 3 games with 12+ FP which is good considering he only started in 11 games. In those 3 games he had over 60 receiving yards which is impressive for the tight end position. He now finds himself as one of the few receiving options the 49ers have and seemed to be picking up steam at the end of the 2015-16 season. I see Vance as a great replacement for someone who lost Gronk this week and has potential TE1 upside.
Scoring Projection: 4 receptions, 60 yards, 1 TD
Zach Miller, CHI TE at HOU
Miller showed promise on the Bears in the latter half of the 2015 season where he produced four games of over 50 receiving yards one of which where he went for 107 yards. In that game he had 22 fantasy points and illustrated why he could be an under the radar value at the tight end position. The Bears lost Martellus Bennett to the Patriots in the offseason and this has now put Miller in the spotlight as the starting tight end. This position on the Bears has historically produced significant fantasy points and it does not feel like too much of a stretch to expect some of these points to go to Miller. My expectation is that Miller is a TE1 in week 1.
Scoring Projection: 5 receptions, 70 yards, 1 TD
Although I don’t feel as if he is still an under the radar play, I would like to make sure that everyone who has Gronk or is in need of a TE1 realizes the amount of upside that Martellus Bennett now has as the starting TE for the Patriots. I expect a big game from Bennett and he should be started on most fantasy teams who own him this week.
Thank you for reading this FantasyProjection article! Stay tuned for more articles to come.