Week 1 Sleepers: Underrated Fantasy Football Options for Season Openers
At long last the NFL season is set to begin. Along with it comes tough decisions for fantasy football owners as they attempt to piece together the perfect lineup for Week 1. As always, it's a task that's easier said than done.
The toughest part, especially during the early stages of the season, is making the right calls on fringe starters. Whether it's due to an unknown role or inconsistent production last season, the batch of uncertainties is particularly large in the early going.
With that in mind, let's examine a sleeper at each of the key fantasy positions. Each of them faces hurdles toward becoming fantasy stalwarts in 2013, but should provide valuable production during their respective season openers.
QB: Philip Rivers (San Diego Chargers)
Rivers is coming off a forgettable season. He no longer looked like the reliable fantasy asset he once was and it caused his value to plummet. Statistically speaking, he only scored more than 20 fantasy points twice and had five games below 10 points in 2012.
So while he's no longer an elite option at the position, the Chargers quarterback still possesses value in certain matchups. That's the case in Week 1 as San Diego welcomes the Houston Texans for a Monday night clash.
Last season, the Texans ranked in the middle of the pack in passing yards allowed and gave up 29 touchdowns through the air, tied for the sixth most. It opens the door for Rivers to get his attempt at a rebound season off to a strong start.
RB: Isaac Redman (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Redman is an interesting case. As of this writing, he's owned in more than 95 percent of ESPN leagues, but being started in less than 10 percent. The weird part is his peak fantasy value is going to come right away, meaning now is the best time to start him if owners are going to have him on their roster.
Rookie Le'Veon Bell, whom the Steelers drafted in the second round this year to bolster their rushing attack, is currently sidelined with a foot injury. That opens the door for Redman to assume a starter's workload until his backfield partner returns.
Furthermore, he's going up against a shaky Tennessee Titans rush defense, which ranked in the bottom third of the league last season. There might not be a better opportunity for Redman to make a fantasy impact all season than Week 1. He's a solid flex option.
WR: Kenbrell Thompkins (New England Patriots)
As things stand right now, Danny Amendola appears poised for a monster season in New England if he can stay healthy. Beyond that, there are plenty of targets available from Tom Brady and it comes down to which wide receiver steps up.
Which sleeper is the best fantasy asset for Week 1?
Thompkins is the best fantasy asset among the other wideouts. If he can build off his strong preseason, in which he reeled in 15 passes for 166 yards, he can work his way into strong weekly consideration for fantasy owners.
He'll even have value as a third option behind Amendola and tight end Rob Gronkowski, whose status remains uncertain due to back and arm injuries. Start Thompkins against an extremely suspect Buffalo Bills secondary in Week 1, who will be without top corner Stephon Gilmore, and take it week-by-week from there.
TE: Brent Celek (Philadelphia Eagles)
Celek racked up 15 fantasy points in Week 2 last season. He didn't score more than seven points in any other weeks, however, and finished the campaign with just one touchdown. So his fantasy stock faded considerably over the summer.
Alas, he's a player who should benefit from the team's new approach under Chip Kelly. The fast-paced attack should mean Michael Vick is quicker to move toward his check-down option instead of waiting for those deep routes to develop.
It should lead to more targets for Celek, including in the red zone. It makes him a strong bet to return to fantasy relevance. He should get off on the right foot against a Washington Redskins defense that struggled against tight ends last season.
D: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Unless an owner has one of the truly elite defenses, such as the Seattle Seahawks or San Francisco 49ers, it all comes down the matchups. Rotating them on a weekly basis to maximize your scoring potential is normally the right way to go.
That's why the Buccaneers make the list for Week 1. Even though they ranked in the bottom half of the league in terms of fantasy scoring last season, their opener against the lowly New York Jets offense makes the Bucs a terrific play.
They added Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson to bolster a secondary that had too many weak points last season. It means Tampa should have a more well-rounded defense in 2013, and facing the Jets makes them an ideal fantasy play for the opener.
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