To avoid pointing out the obvious players… “You should definitely pick up that Peyton Manning guy in Denver!”… I’m limiting this list to players who are available in 40% or more of ESPN fantasy leagues (that’s less than 60% ownership for the mathematically challenged).
Kelvin Benjamin, WR – Carolina – I know rookie wide receivers don’t tend to do much in their first season – only AJ Green and Keenan Allen topped 1,000 yards as a rookie since 2007 – but Benjamin should be owned in more than 50.2% of leagues. His situation sets up perfectly for him to be fantasy relevant in 2014. The Panthers let Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn walk, and aside from drafting Benjamin they didn’t do much to replace them.
Benjamin has looked excellent in the pre-season catching 12 passes for 173 yards including a 29 yard touchdown, and at 6’6” is a massive target and a good fit for Cam Newton who isn’t exactly the most accurate passer in the league. He might not reach the 1,000-yard mark but I expect him to contribute right away, especially in the red zone, with double digit TD upside.
Ladarius Green, TE – San Diego – Seriously how is this guy only owned in 28.9% of fantasy leagues? Do fantasy owners not like massive upside? Do they hate 6’6” tight ends with 4.53 wheels and a basketball background? If this sounds like you, Heath Miller is all yours, but if you’re looking for a tight end who can make the leap in to one of the top tiers, this is your guy.
Yes, Antonio Gates is still there and that’ll be a buzz kill some weeks but Gates is getting old and has an injury report as thick as a phone book. Even if Gates is on the field, the Chargers aren’t exactly loaded with weapons outside of Keenan Allen so I expect to see a lot of two tight end sets with Green moved around to exploit matchups. If he’s available in your league, and you have dead weight to drop, I would add him immediately!
Devonta Freeman, RB – Atlanta – If you’ve been reading this blog since we started you know I’m very high on Freeman, both from a talent and situational standpoint. Freeman was a very productive back in college and can do it all, and now he backs up the suddenly injury prone Steven Jackson in a high-octane offense.
Jackson missed all of the preseason with a bad hamstring injury, and if he goes down again Freeman only needs to best the mediocre Jacquizz Rodgers for the starting job. Like all rookies, Freeman will need to master pass protection down before Mike Smith will trust him with the job, but if he can get full time carries he has low RB1 upside and is currently only 42.3% owned in ESPN leagues. I’m adding him wherever I can and you should too.
Dexter McCluster, RB – Tennessee – Last season Danny Woodhead shocked the fantasy world with 1,000+ yards, 76 grabs and 8 touchdowns. Do you know who San Diego’s offensive coordinator was last season? No, not him. Not him either. Ok, fine it was Ken Whisenhunt, who just so happens to be the new head coach of the Titans… the team who snapped McCluster up on the first day of free agency.
McCluster was never used well in KC, bouncing between receiver and running back, but there appears to be a very defined role for him in Whiz’s offense. I don’t expect McCluster to post numbers quite as high as Woodhead did but he should still have bye week RB value or better. At this point I wouldn’t cut anyone valuable to pick him up, but if you’re in a PPR league this guy should definitely be on your radar.