Fantasy Football: Injured Stars Worth Playing in Week 1
It’s that time of the year, football fans. The season begins Wednesday, and for fantasy football owners, it’s not just opening week for the NFL. It’s also the beginning of a brand new fantasy season.
Unfortunately, Week 1 is perhaps the hardest time to predict who will be healthy and productive. Coaches don’t want to risk the health of their stars so early in the year, and players returning from offseason injuries are often eased back into the process.
The NFL injury report is marred with big fantasy names, and several of those guys won’t be wise plays in Week 1. But fear not! Here is a list of fantasy studs worth putting in your lineup this week.
Trent Richardson—Cleveland Browns
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Okay, so he’s not a star at this point, but Richardson has huge potential, and is certainly a star in the making. His ascent begins this week against the Eagles.
Richardson has everything NFL teams look for in a runner. He has explosiveness, vision, speed and agility, and could be the best rookie running back since Adrian Peterson.
Richardson has dealt with knee issues, the worst of which seem to be well behind him. He sat out the entire preseason after having his knee scoped on August 12. The surgery was reported to be “minor” in nature, and Richardson appears to be nearly full strength heading into the season.
Richardson is back to practicing with the Browns in a first-team capacity, and all signs point to him getting the starting nod on Sunday.
The Browns offense is unproven, and with rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden at the helm, expect to see Richardson get his share of touches against what could prove to be a stout Eagles defense this season. Cleveland will use Richardson to set up the pass and take some heat off Weeden in his first NFL start.
Production Prediction: 19 touches, 92 total yards, 1 TD
Dez Bryant/Miles Austin—Dallas Cowboys
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The Giants were in the bottom five in the NFL last season in passing yards allowed, which is a good sign for owners of Bryant and Austin.
Both players have been nursing injuries dating back to last season, but both appear to be healthy enough to see a lot of action against the Giants in Week 1. DeMarco Murray will need to be productive in the ground game. If he fails to get much going, expect the Cowboys to air it out often.
Jason Witten could be a scratch after suffering a lacerated spleen just a few weeks ago, and even if Witten plays, he’ll likely see limited action and limited production.
Without a proven third option at wide receiver, Bryant and Austin could be the beneficiaries of a lot of targets and some substantial looks in the red zone.
Production Prediction: Austin—6 catches, 105 yards
Bryant—8 catches, 98 yards, 2 touchdowns
Hakeem Nicks—New York Giants
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Nicks is recovering from foot surgery in the spring, but his recovery has gone better than expected.
Nicks saw some action in the Giants’ preseason finale, but was held out of practice on Monday due to soreness in his foot. He expects to play, and he is looking to be on the field for about 60 plays during the Giants' opener against the Cowboys.
Dallas was 23rd in the league in passing defense last season and doesn’t look like an elite defense this year, either. With the emergence of Victor Cruz last season, the Cowboys will be forced to game-plan for both Cruz and Nicks. One of the two will have a big week.
Regardless of who has the bigger week, Nicks will still see his share of targets. Barring an in-game setback, expect Nicks to put up good numbers in Week 1.
Production Prediction: 6 catches, 110 yards
Andre Johnson—Houston Texans
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The Dolphins defense could certainly look more imposing.
Miami’s secondary will likely have a very inconsistent season, and that spells big offensive numbers for Houston in Week 1. Sean Smith will likely be asked to blanket Johnson, and while Smith has not met the lofty expectations in Miami, he has the size to possibly limit Johnson’s end-zone targets.
Johnson (ribs) was held out of Houston’s final preseason game, but don’t let that worry you. As poor as Miami’s defense could be this year, Johnson is going to find holes in coverage. Matt Schaub is as healthy as he is going to be all season. Paired with a healthy Arian Foster, the passing game is going to open up throughout the game.
Expect Johnson to put up solid numbers in the opener, regardless of any ailments that have plagued him this preseason.
Production Prediction: 7 catches, 112 yards, 1 touchdown