Fantasy Football Week 1 Projections: High-Risk, High-Reward Studs Worth Starting
Those in fantasy football leagues with 12 or more owners and/or formats with an immense number of starting players are accustomed to taking gambles on high-risk, high-reward talent.
While many of these tantalizing stars have red flags and seem questionable to break out, there are a few that look poised for greatness as early as Week 1 of the 2013 NFL season.
If you have a huge roster, participate in a league with tons of owners or just want to try and hit an unexpected home run to open the campaign, then keep reading to see my suggestions for overlooked players that could come up big in a starting role.
Zach Sudfeld, TE, New England Patriots
The drop-off in tight end quality after Jimmy Graham this year is ridiculous, leaving many owners deciding between rolling the dice on Rob Gronkowski’s health, selecting a mediocre starter or gambling on an unproven talent.
Those in the latter group have likely made the wisest decision, as there are a number of great tight ends just waiting to emerge this year. Studs like Jordan Cameron and Brandon Myers are looking awesome in preseason, but Sudfeld has the most upside in Week 1.
With Gronk sidelined and Aaron Hernandez in prison, it will be up to the rookie from Nevada and Michael Hoomanawanui to replace their production.
Is Zach Sudfeld going to be a stud?
At 6’7”, 225 pounds, and in possession of elite pass catching and blocking skills, there is no doubt that Sudfeld will be on the field for much of the game against the Buffalo Bills.
In last year's meeting at Ralph Wilson stadium, Gronk recorded five receptions for 104 yards and a score. Brady is always looking for his tight ends, especially down in the red zone. Sudfeld should be able to capitalize on this and come up with at least one touchdown on Sunday.
Factor in Jeff Tuel starting under center for Buffalo and you have the recipe for a high-scoring game for New England that could see Sudfeld dancing in the end zone multiple times.
Week 1 Projection: Seven receptions for 87 yards and two touchdowns.
Felix Jones, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers released Jonathan Dwyer during the final roster cuts, leaving Felix Jones and Isaac Redman as the two rushers most likely to get the majority of carries until Le'Veon Bell is back from injury.
According to Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Jones is the one expected to start the season-opener against the Tennessee Titans and their mediocre rush defense.
After bouncing from the Dallas Cowboys—the team that drafted him in the first round back in 2008—to the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason, Jones was dealt to Pittsburgh after Bell went down with a foot injury.
The 26-year-old still has plenty in the tank and showed off some of his skills last season with the Cowboys. Against the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, Jones rushed for 92 yards and a score on 18 carries. He also caught one pass for 13 yards.
He scored a total of five touchdowns and rushed 111 times for 402 yards in 2012, but didn’t get a proper workload with DeMarco Murray being utilized as a feature back when healthy.
Unless Redman makes an unexpected push against the Titans, you can expect Jones to get plenty of work and opportunities. He’s a solid pass-catcher and should be the third-down back, possibly even when Bell returns.
Week 1 Projection: 15 carries for 72 yards, four receptions for 34 yards and one touchdown.
Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Rams
The St. Louis Rams offense will look drastically different in 2013 due to the presence of Austin—even if he hasn’t shown his worth as the No. 8 overall pick in this year’s draft.
During the preseason, Austin was limited in his use and only caught a few passes and made one big special teams play in four appearances.
However, head coach Jeff Fisher told Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk that Austin’s underwhelming performance was planned, as the club has big plans for the former West Virginia star this season and did not want to give those away in meaningless exhibition games.
The speedster has breakaway speed and is completely capable of changing a game once he catches the ball. Expect to see the Rams do whatever they can to put the rock in his hands, even if it means utilizing him out of the backfield or throwing numerous screen passes
If your league rewards return yardage, Austin is definitely a must-play. He’s capable of hitting a home run on both kickoff and punt returns and could even score his first NFL touchdown off one of those.
This dynamic playmaker should not be underestimated and could soon become a favorite target of quarterback Sam Bradford.
Week 1 Projection: Four receptions for 57 yards, two carries for 27 yards and one punt return touchdown.
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