Fantasy Football Week 1: Rankings, Projections and Waiver-Wire Tips

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Fantasy Football Week 1: Rankings, Projections and Waiver-Wire Tips
LM Otero/Associated Press

The moment we've been waiting weeks—OK, months—to arrive is just days away: the opening of the 2014 NFL football season. And for most of us (normal people), that means another infinitely more important arrival: the beginning of the fantasy football.      

With Labor Day weekend playing host to the final straggling drafts and auctions yet to be complete, nearly every league is set in anticipation for Thursday night's game between the Packers and Seahawks. For fantasy owners, the first week is by far the most relaxing. We have a generally good sense of who is injured, how we want to structure our lineups and what to expect from each crevice of our roster.

Only when the real games start do things start getting messy. A major injury wipes out a first-round pick, your boom-or-bust pick starts toward Ryan Leafdom and at least one player you've never heard of becomes God in shoulderpads.

For now? Yawn. Peyton Manning is still in one piece, Brandin Cooks still might be the superstar the Saints hope he is and Khiry Robinson isn't yet at the top of everyone's waiver pickups list. This is the calm before the storm.

With that in mind, let's roll the dice on some projections before things get underway.

 

Week 1 Rankings

Fantasy Football Week 1 Rankings and Projections: QB
Rank Player Opponent Projections
1 Peyton Manning, DEN vs. Indianapolis Colts 25 Points
2 Drew Brees, NO at Atlanta Falcons 25 Points
3 Aaron Rodgers, GB at Seattle Seahawks 23 Points
4 Matthew Stafford, DET vs. New York Giants 22 Points
5 Colin Kaepernick, SF at Dallas Cowboys 22 Points
6 Nick Foles, PHI vs. Jacksonville Jaguars 20 Points
7 Tom Brady, NE at Miami Dolphins 19 Points
8 Andrew Luck, IND at Denver Broncos 19 Points
9 Jay Cutler, CHI vs. Buffalo Bills 18 Points
10 Cam Newton, CAR at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 18 Points
11 Robert Griffin III, WAS at Houston Texans 16 Points
12 Matt Ryan, ATL vs. New Orleans Saints 16 Points
13 Tony Romo, DAL vs. San Francisco 49ers 16 Points
14 Russell Wilson, SEA vs. Green Bay Packers 15 Points
15 Philip Rivers, SD at Arizona Cardinals 15 Points
16 Andy Dalton, CIN at Baltimore Ravens 14 Points
17 Eli Manning, NYG at Detroit Lions 14 Points
18 Carson Palmer, ARI vs. San Diego Chargers 13 Points
19 Ben Roethlisberger, PIT vs. Cleveland Browns 12 Points
20 Josh McCown, TB vs. Carolina Panthers 12 Points

Top Dog: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

To quote another famous southern hero: To be the man, you've got to beat the man. Manning is unquestionably the Aloe Blacc (I'm sorry) of the quarterback spot after his career-best 2013 campaign. Having the five-time NFL MVP on your roster last season was a one-way ticket to the playoffs, as Manning set NFL records for passing yards and touchdowns while reserving all the (pre-Super Bowl) Manning Faces for brother Eli. 

Odds are he'll never touch those individual heights again, and Manning has been up-and-down against his former team since arriving in Denver. But still. Outside of Drew Brees no one received consideration here. 

 

Sleeper: Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

If it seems weird to call Tom Brady a sleeper at anything, well, that's because duh. Brady is the best or second-best quarterback of his generation, held the touchdown pass record before Manning broke it and is still ridiculously good at football.

That hasn't mattered much to fantasy owners, though, as Brady has fallen down boards after a 2013 campaign that saw him dink and dunk his way down the field en route to his worst post-ACL tear season. Memories—OK night terrors—of wasting a second-round pick on Brady only to see him fail has the Pats star coming into 2014 a bit undervalued. 

Rob Gronkowski has declared himself ready to go, and with the tight end active Brady should return to near-elite status this season. In the seven games Gronkowski played last season, the Patriots never scored below 20 points and scored 27 or above six times. This is a completely different offense when he's on the field.

 

Beware: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

Jim Rogash/Getty Images

As a card-carrying member of the Cam Newton is Awesome, Please Stop Criticizing Him club, this is difficult. On one hand, Newton is off-the-charts talented and remains underrated when discussing the young quarterbacks of his generation. On the other, he has a hairline fracture in his ribs, the worst cast of skill position players around him in football and is facing what should be a strong Bucs defense in Week 1.

Newton's consistency in the ground game keeps him inside the top 10. Just don't be surprised if a lot of owners who drafted him early leave Sunday disappointed.

 

Fantasy Football Week 1 Rankings and Projections: RB
Rank Player Opponent Projection
1 LeSean McCoy, PHI vs. Jacksonville Jaguars 20 Points
2 Jamaal Charles, KC vs. Tennessee Titans 20 Points
3 Adrian Peterson, MIN at St. Louis Rams 18 Points
4 Matt Forte, CHI vs. Buffalo Bills 17 Points
5 Montee Ball, DEN vs. Indianapolis Colts 16 Points
6 Marshawn Lynch, SEA vs. Green Bay Packers 15 Points
7 Eddie Lacy, GB at Seattle Seahawks 15 Points
8 Le'Veon Bell, PIT vs. Cleveland Browns 14 Points
9 Zac Stacy, STL vs. Minnesota Vikings 13 Points
10 Giovani Bernard, CIN at Baltimore Ravens 13 Points
11 Arian Foster, HOU vs. Washington 13 Points
12 Andre Ellington, ARI vs. San Diego Chargers 12 Points
13 Alfred Morris, WAS at Houston Texans 12 Points
14 Reggie Bush, DET vs. New York Giants 11 Points
15 Frank Gore, SF at Dallas Cowboys 11 Points
16 DeMarco Murray, DAL vs. San Francisco 49ers 11 Points
17 Shane Vereen, NE at Miami Dolphins 10 Points
18 Bernard Pierce, BAL vs. Cincinnati Bengals 10 Points
19 Ben Tate, CLE at Pittsburgh Steelers 10 Points
20 Ryan Mathews, SD at Arizona Cardinals 10 Points
21 Doug Martin, TB vs. Carolina Panthers 10 Points
22 Rashad Jennings, NYG at Detroit Lions 9 Points
23 Toby Gerhart, JAC at Philadelphia Eagles 9 Points
24 C.J. Spiller, BUF at Chicago Bears 9 Points
25 Trent Richardson, IND at Denver Broncos 8 Points
26 Steven Jackson, ATL vs. New Orleans Saints 8 Points
27 Pierre Thomas, NO at Atlanta Falcons 8 Points
28 Chris Johnson, NYJ vs. Oakland Raiders 8 Points
29 Maurice Jones-Drew, OAK at New York Jets 7 Points
30 Lamar Miller, MIA vs. New England Patriots 6 Points

Top Dog: LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

McCoy rushed for 268 yards more than any other player last season. That's nearly two points per game extra in yards alone, without accounting for the 52 receptions and 539 yards he added through the air. At age 26 and in an offense designed to highlight his abundant skill set, there is no reason to expect much attrition if he stays healthy. 

The Eagles star is the top player on my board overall for 2014, and that's especially the case heading into a matchup against Jacksonville. The Jags' problems are mostly offensive and they'll be better than people think this season, but enough to knock McCoy down. 

 

Sleeper: Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Ellington is far from an actual sleeper. Everyone in your league is so aware of the second-year back that he probably went at least a round before he should have on draft night. He was the guy who received a whole lot of congratulatory "good pick" comments while players with better resumes lasted two or three more rounds.

For that reason, Ellington was a guy I knew I wouldn't get in drafts this year. But I am nonetheless prepared to back him hard heading into a gem of an opening-week matchup against the Chargers. San Diego finished dead last in Football Outsiders' DVOA rankings in 2013, next to last against the run and pass. With minimal cap room this spring, the Chargers weren't able to add nearly enough pieces to cobble together a league-average attack.

Ellington might crack the top 10 this week.

 

Beware: Either Bills Running Back

Bill Wippert/Associated Press

There is a lot to like about both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Jackson is a bastion of consistency, the mid-30s dude who gets written off every preseason and then becomes one of the draft's biggest steals. He is Thomas Jones for a new generation. Spiller is still only two years removed from his superstar-level breakout and averaged 4.6 yards per carry in a "down" 2014 season.

Both are good on their own merit. Which is exactly why you can't trust either until Doug Marrone establishes a hierarchy. The Bears spent their offseason trying to address their defensive needs, adding the likes of Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston to a front seven that struggled for most of 2013. They should approach league average this season against the run, which makes the Buffalo timeshare look less attractive in this matchup.

 

Fantasy Football Week 1 Rankings and Projections: WR
Rank Player Opponent Projection
1 Calvin Johnson, DET vs. New York Giants 15 Points
2 Demaryius Thomas, DEN vs. Indianapolis Colts 14 Points
3 Dez Bryant, DAL vs. San Francisco 49ers 14 Points
4 A.J. Green, CIN at Baltimore Ravens 14 Points
5 Brandon Marshall, CHI vs. Buffalo Bills 13 Points
6 Julio Jones, ATL vs. New Orleans Saints 13 Points
7 Alshon Jeffery, CHI vs. Buffalo Bills 12 Points
8 Antonio Brown, PIT vs. Cleveland Browns 12 Points
9 Andre Johnson, HOU vs. Washington 11 Points
10 Jordy Nelson, GB at Seattle Seahawks 10 Points
11 Larry Fitzgerald, ARI vs. San Diego Chargers 10 Points
12 Victor Cruz, NYG at Detroit Lions 9 Points
13 Vincent Jackson, TB vs. Carolina Panthers 9 Points
14 Keenan Allen, SD at Arizona Cardinals 9 Points
15 Randall Cobb, GB at Seattle Seahawks 8 Points
16 Pierre Garcon, WAS at Houston Texans 8 Points
17 Michael Floyd, ARI vs. San Diego Chargers 8 Points
18 Cordarrelle Patterson, MIN at St. Louis Rams 8 Points
19 Jeremy Maclin, PHI vs. Jacksonville Jaguars 8 Points
20 Roddy White, ATL vs. New Orleans Saints 7 Points
21 Marques Colston, NO at Atlanta Falcons 7 Points
22 Michael Crabtree, SF at Dallas Cowboys 7 Points
23 Kendall Wright, TEN at Kansas City Chiefs 7 Points
24 T.Y. Hilton, IND at Denver Broncos 7 Points
25 Torrey Smith vs. Cincinnati Bengals 7 Points
26 Brandin Cooks, NO at Atlanta Falcons 7 Points
27 Percy Harvin, SEA vs. Green Bay Packers 6 Points
28 DeSean Jackson, WAS at Houston Texans 6 Points
29 Julian Edelman, NE at Miami Dolphins 6 Points
30 Eric Decker, NYJ vs. Oakland Raiders 6 Points
31 Reggie Wayne, IND at Denver Broncos 5 Points
32 Emmanuel Sanders, DEN vs. Indianapolis Colts 5 Points
33 Golden Tate, DET vs. New York Giants 5 Points
34 Mike Wallace, MIA vs. New England Patriots 5 Points
35 DeAndre Hopkins, HOU vs. Washington 5 Points
35 Riley Cooper, PHI vs. Jacksonville Jaguars 5 Points
36 Terrance Williams, DAL vs. San Francisco 49ers 4 Points
37 Anquan Boldin, SF at Dallas Cowboys 4 Points
38 Cecil Shorts, JAC at Philadelphia Eagles 4 Points
39 Sammy Watkins, BUF at Chicago Bears 4 Points
40 Danny Amendola, NE at Miami Dolphins 4 Points

Top Dog: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

With Josh Gordon suspended for the entire 2014 campaign, Calvin Johnson re-ascends to his status as the unquestioned top wideout in fantasy. Gordon, who compiled an NFL-high 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in 14 games last season, would have made a compelling case if his suspension was overturned.

As it is, Calvin goes back to being Calvin and should start the season well on Monday. The Giants signed Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie this spring and Prince Amukamara has gotten better each of his three NFL seasons, but there's not much analysis needed here. He's Calvin Johnson and this is the Lions offense. Something good will happen.

 

Sleeper: Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints  

Bill Haber/Associated Press

Normally, I'd advise caution. Take a week to look at Cooks' role within the Saints' offense and understand that you may be patting yourself on the back or kicking yourself in the forehead by Sunday evening. But if Cooks is as good as advertised, we should get a glimpse of it against Atlanta.

The Falcons had the worst pass defense DVOA in football last season and aren't going to be much better in 2014 unless Desmond Trufant becomes a superstar. Starting opposite of Trufant is Josh Wilson, who was not deemed good enough to stick with Washington's dreadful secondary. The Saints could very easily throw for 400 yards in Week 1. Cooks should produce like a top-level flex play.

 

Beware: Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks  

John Froschauer/Associated Press

I'll believe when I see it. When he's actually on the field, Harvin is one of the NFL's most dynamic and unique playmakers. The problem is keeping him there. He's played 16 games once in his five-year career and has appeared in only 10 regular-season games the past two seasons.

The Seahawks are confident, with coach Pete Carroll recently telling reporters he's "an incredible football player." Seattle's ceiling as a potential repeat champion is much higher with Harvin in the lineup. Until we actually see him play professional football, a healthy sense of skepticism is warranted.

 

Fantasy Football Week 1 Rankings and Projections: TE
Rank Player Opponent Projection
1 Jimmy Graham, NO at Atlanta Falcons 14 Points
2 Rob Gronkowski, NE at Miami Dolphins 13 Points
3 Julius Thomas, DEN vs. Indianapolis Colts 13 Points
4 Vernon Davis, SF at Dallas Cowboys 8 Points
5 Jordan Cameron, CLE at Pittsburgh Steelers 8 Points
6 Jason Witten, DAL vs. San Francisco 49ers 7 Points
7 Greg Olsen, CAR at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7 Points
8 Jordan Reed, WAS at Houston Texans 7 Points
9 Dennis Pitta, BAL vs. Cincinnati Bengals 7 Points
10 Charles Clay, MIA vs. New England Patriots 6 Points
11 Kyle Rudolph, MIN at St. Louis Rams 6 Points
12 Lardarius Green, SD at Arizona Cardinals 6 Points
13 Martellus Bennett, CHI vs. Buffalo Bills 5 Points
14 Zach Ertz, PHI vs. Jacksonville Jaguars 5 Points
15 Delanie Walker, TEN at Kansas City Chiefs 4 Points

Top Dog: Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

To the joy of fantasy football owners worldwide and to the chagrin of the man himself, Jimmy Graham was officially declared a tight end this offseason by an arbitrator. While the ruling likely cost Graham a few million bucks, it also made him the first legitimate first-round tight end in fantasy history.

Graham is a human anomaly. He's made at least 85 receptions each of the last three seasons, going over the 1,000-yard plateau two times and accumulating 36 touchdowns. Only Rob Gronkowski can come close to matching his effect, and the Patriots tight end has spent as much time on the sidelines as the field the last two years.

Graham is as reliable as he is great, which should lead to a big day against Atlanta.

 

Sleeper: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers  

Rob Foldy/Getty Images

None of the players listed above especially count as sleepers, so we'll highlight a guy who would have been added on my next five down list. Seferian-Jenkins, a wildly talented player who lasted until the second round only because of character concerns, looks like the real deal. The Buccaneers coaching staff has raved about him in the preseason, and he'll get an extended look in passing situations against Carolina.

In keeper and dynasty leagues, Seferian Jenkins is already a must own. If he's as impressive as I think he'll be Sunday, he might start creeping into a higher percentage of standard leagues.

 

Beware: Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Let's call it cautious optimism. Green is the Brandin Cooks of tight ends. He's been mentioned so often as a sleeper that it almost feels unfair at this point to call him one. More accurately, he's a talented dude of whom a lot of people expect big things in 2014.

One problem: Antonio Gates is unkillable. The eight-time Pro Bowler made 77 receptions for 872 yards and four touchdowns last season. Those numbers aren't going to evaporate overnight—especially not with Gates still being listed as the Chargers' starting tight end. Gates has been around for Philip Rivers' entire career; he's going to get targets.

Green is probably the more talented player at this point, but these are a lot of expectations for a player without a starting job.

 

Fantasy Football Week 1 Rankings and Projections: DEF
Rank Team Opponent Projection
1 Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14 Points
2 Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens 13 Points
3 New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins 13 Points
4 Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tennessee Titans 12 Points
5 St. Louis Rams vs. Minnesota Vikings 11 Points
6 Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers 11 Points
7 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns 10 Points
8 New York Jets vs. Oakland Raiders 10 Points
9 Philadelphia Eagles vs. Jacksonville Jaguars 10 Points
10 Chicago Bears vs. Buffalo Bills 9 Points
11 San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys 9 Points
12 Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers 8 Points
13 Detroit Lions vs. New York Giants 8 Points
14 Minnesota Vikings at St. Louis Rams 8 Points
15 Denver Broncos vs. Indianapolis Colts 7 Points

Top Dog: Carolina Panthers

The Panthers are going to be even more reliant on their defense in 2014 than they were a year ago. Sadly, their defense saw a mass exodus of talent and is probably 80 percent of what it was when it finished third in DVOA last season.

Carolina's decline shouldn't be apparent in Week 1 when it heads to Tampa Bay. For all the plaudits foisted on Josh McCown in 2013 and throughout the offseason, I tend to give greater credence to his decade-plus of mediocrity over eight games of stardom in Chicago. The Bucs have an elite one-two combination at receiver and a solid young tight end in Seferian-Jenkins but lack a quarterback who can get them the ball.

The Panthers are a fine play this week.

 

Sleeper: Pittsburgh Steelers 

Vincent Pugliese/Associated Press

The Steelers, owned in less than 15 percent of ESPN.com leagues, host the Gordon-less Browns in Week 1. Brian Hoyer threw three interceptions in 96 passes last season, and he'll have no one able to stretch the defense downfield. The Steelers are going to blitz hard and often. They'll be able to creep their safeties toward the line of scrimmage to help against the run and jump underneath passes.

The only thing going against Pittsburgh is that it is very, very old. A defensive touchdown isn't out of the question here if the creaky secondary gets enough of a headstart. 

 

Beware: San Francisco 49ers

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

For all of their foibles, the Cowboys have one of the NFL's five best offenses. Tony Romo remains underrated in fantasy and real life, a steady stream of 4,000-yard, 30-touchdown seasons and fourth-quarter interceptions. Dallas has also worked to fortify its once-porous offensive line in recent seasons and surround Romo with above-average skill-position talent.

San Francisco, meanwhile, very quietly finished 13th in defensive DVOA last season. It'll be interesting to see how their shaky secondary holds up at AT&T Stadium.

 

Fantasy Football Week 1 Rankings and Projections: K
Rank Player Opponent Projection
1 Stephen Gostkowski, NE at Miami Dolphins 11 Points
2 Matt Bryant, ATL vs. New Orleans Saints 11 Points
3 Phil Dawson, SF at Dallas Cowboys 10 Points
4 Justin Tucker, BAL vs. Cincinnati Bengals 10 Points
5 Brandon McManus, DEN vs. Indianapolis Colts 10 Points
6 Steven Hauschka, SEA vs. Green Bay Packers 10 Points
7 Blair Walsh, MIN at St. Louis Rams 9 Points
8 Adam Vinatieri, IND at Denver Broncos 9 Points
9 Mason Crosby, GB at Seattle Seahawks 9 Points
10 Nick Novak, SD at Arizona Cardinals 8 Ponts
11 Dan Bailey, DAL vs. San Francisco 49ers 8 Points
12 Robbie Gould, CHI vs. Buffalo Bills 8 Points
13 Cody Parkey, PHI vs. Jacksonville Jaguars 7 Points
14 Graham Gano, CAR at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7 Points
15 Kai Forbath, WSH at Houston Texans 7 Points

(Note: Because kicker scoring is entirely unpredictable, let's try to get through these quickly.)

 

Top Dog: Stephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots

Gostkowski was the "safest" kicker on draft night, to the point he probably went before the last round. While I wouldn't condone that decision, Gostkowski is very good at football. He'll be fine.

 

Sleeper: Matt Bryant, Atlanta Falcons

Gary Wiepert/Associated Press

The Falcons and Saints are going to score a ton of points. Bryant is typically good for a couple mid-range chippies when drives flame out. He's barely owned in a quarter of all fantasy leagues. 

 

Beware: Josh Scobee, Jacksonville Jaguars

That offense is going to be very, very bad. Hopefully Scobee is owned in 32-team leagues or two-kicker leagues only.

 

Week 1 Waiver-Wire Advice

Don Wright/Associated Press

Don't Overthink Things

This is the first week of the season. We know nothing. Other than a few position battles being sorted out and a handful of former stars being cut, nothing is likely to have changed since draft night. Perhaps the Josh Gordon suspension wound up costing you a 15th-round pick, but selecting him was a Hail Mary smart owners already had a contingency plan in place for anyway.

The biggest piece of waiver-wire advice I can give is to avoid it entirely. There is no one currently not owned in your league who should be a Week 1 starter, besides maybe a kicker or a defense, and those are inherently unpredictable.

The first couple weeks of the season are an exercise in patience. Injuries will crop up and a couple noteworthy performances will cause a rush to the waiver wire, but the players currently owned were drafted for a reason: They're better than the players who weren't.

We're in one of the few times per season where you can be hands-off with your team. Take advantage.

 

That Said...

Here is a list of players owned in 50 percent or fewer of ESPN.com standard leagues that deserve a roster spot:

Best Players Available on Fantasy Waiver Wire
Player Position Team Ownership
Kelvin Benjamin WR Carolina Panthers 49.3%
Devonta Freeman RB Atlanta Falcons 43.5%
Ladarius Green TE San Diego Chargers 28.7%
Markus Wheaton WR Pittsburgh Steelers 35.9%
Andre Williams RB New York Giants 42.9%
Miles Austin WR Cleveland Browns 6.2%

ESPN.com

Grab Him Now: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers

Newton has to throw to somebody. The Panthers have to stretch the field deep at some point. We have enough data from Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery that say they're not equipped to be those players. Newton's fantasy value is down this season precisely because everyone is so afraid to rely on a raw project like Benjamin to step up.

It's a sentiment I generally share, but Benjamin should be owned in most 12-team formats as a just-in-case bench guy. That Dwayne Bowe is taking up roster spots in more than 90 percent of leagues while Benjamin sits on the wire is strange. We know who Bowe is at this point in his career. With Alex Smith at the helm for the foreseeable future, nothing about his ceiling is changing.

You can grab Bowe's production on waivers nearly every week. Benjamin has the chance to be this year's Keenan Allen.

 

Stash Him While You Can: Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons

STEPHEN B. MORTON/Associated Press

Steven Jackson is a 31-year-old NFL running back who set career lows in yards per carry and yards last season. Steven Jackson is a 31-year-old running back who had to miss the preseason due to soreness in his hamstring. Steven Jackson is a 31-year-old running back who has the future nipping at his heels in every practice.

Freeman, whom most of us know as the guy who looks consistently awesome on Hard Knocks, used his preseason opportunities well. He rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries, becoming the only Atlanta running back still on the roster to average four yards per attempt. He's going to be a factor this season—whether that's thanks to injury or ineffectiveness from the aforementioned Jackson.

 

Deep-League Desperate Dive: Miles Austin, WR, Cleveland Browns

Mark Duncan/Associated Press

I have as much faith in the Browns' passing attack this season as I do, well, the Browns' passing attack in most seasons. Brian Hoyer was a safe, predictable and status quo-keeping choice under center. Hoyer is the very definition of a caretaker: good enough to win his job against a high-variance rookie but not good enough to keep it very long.

But he's still an NFL quarterback. Which means he's going to have to throw the ball in the general direction of his teammates every once in a while. Most of those passes will go to tight end Jordan Cameron, who is probably headed for an All-Pro selection this season. When Cameron gets doubled—and he will—Austin might wind up being Hoyer's only option.

The former Cowboys star is Cleveland's top option by default after Gordon's suspension. He'll have more value in leagues that value receptions than in standard scoring, and yet is still owned in fewer leagues than his banned teammate. If he can stay on the field, there's little reason Austin can't put together an efficient 800-yard campaign.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

All ownership percentages are via ESPN. All projections are based on a standard scoring model.

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