Each week of the NFL campaign we sift through the deeper options at each position with an eye on identifying streaming fantasy commodities with valuable matchups to consider.
Even in these first weeks of the season, you might require replacement options for injured or suspended players, or are you merely dealing with depth issues heading into the season? We have some choice names to consider for those seeking widely available options at each position.
Case Keenum, Denver Broncos
The sample size is decidedly small, but last week’s strong fantasy performance suggests Keenum’s statistical success last season can be sustained outside of a Pat Shurmur offense. A crew of capable skill players in Denver, if not quite at Minnesota’s level, can help buoy Keenum to another QB1 performance at home. The Mack-less Raiders elevate to Denver on a short week after creating pressure on just 14.7 percent of the Rams’ dropbacks in Week 1, third lowest in the league. Just last week, Keenum threw a touchdown on nearly 9 percent of his unpressured drops, suggesting his ceiling remains impressive for this fantasy-friendly division matchup.
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Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
I swear this has nothing to do with being a season-ticket holder in South Philly. Nothing. Really though, a thematic part of my strategy for identifying streamers is facing defenses that don’t create pressure. It’s a simple sifting tool that can then deduce the handful of worthy candidates each week. Last week, NFL quarterbacks threw a touchdown on 4.9 percent of dropbacks with a healthy 8.1 yards per attempt, compared to a 2.3 percent touchdown rate and 7.2 yards per attempt when pressured. Foles didn’t look good in the preseason or against Atlanta last week, there’s no doubt about that, but we also know this is a highly variant player with a lofty ceiling. If the Bucs appear bent on winning shootouts, as their lack of pass-rush pressure could indicate, this could be a fun trip to Florida for Foles’ fantasy investors.
Javorius Allen, Baltimore Ravens
Never the most exciting name on the draft board or waiver wire, “Buck” Allen continues to consume a rewarding portion of the Ravens’ passing game. The change-of-pace specialist could be the most bankable of Baltimore’s seeming committee in PPR formats; he ran the fourth-most routes on the team and was targeted on a team-high 31.6 percent of his routes in Week 1. The Bengals have ceded the most receiving yards per game to tailbacks since the start of last season, thus both usage and matchup align to make Allen a respectable flex asset.
Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts
An early-summer sleeper, and then apparently on the roster bubble in the preseason, Hines has regained lost luster with a target-filled debut for the Colts. Andrew Luck‘s new agenda appears to be matriculating the ball down the field with a series of quick-hitting, high-percentage targets to his backs and tight ends. Luck averaged 5.53 air yards per target in Week 1, with only Derek Carr and Alex Smith registering shorter average depth of target rates. This scheme plays well into Hines’s skill set; he tallied 89 catches with 10.5 yards per catch at NC State.
Mike Wallace, Philadelphia Eagles
Yes, I’m essentially touting a streaming stack of Foles and Wallace in deeper and multi-quarterback formats. While bold, the premise has some merit; Wallace was 24th last week among all skill players in air yards with 109, ahead of the likes of T.Y. Hilton and Allen Robinson. This doesn’t suggest he’s in the same overall usage tier as those players, but rather, there is a good bit of big-play potential for Wallace as the field-stretcher for Philly. The Bucs’ secondary can be exploited at outside corner, indicating Wallace is an intriguing deep-league flier and DFS target.
Quincy Enunwa, New York Jets
The national audience witnessed the rapport Enunwa has with rookie signal-caller Sam Darnold. After missing last season with a neck injury, it was great to see Enunwa productive as a key cog for the Jets. Enunwa led the Jets with 21 routes and was targeted on a robust 42.9 percent of his routes. We likely underpriced or ignored this offense too often in drafts but can get shares of the widely available Enunwa for what should be another busy outing against the rival Dolphins.
Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers
A sleeper at the position for several seasons now, McDonald has yet to wake up just yet but is arguably in the best spot of his career as the potential top receiving tight end in Pittsburgh. It was a one-game window, but McDonald netted 16 targets and 10 catches in the playoffs last season. Game script was decidedly favorable for such a busy day, as the Steelers trailed big to Jacksonville, but it’s impressive to see wideout-like attention for a “move” tight end like McDonald. If he can make it through the week of practice and suits up against the Chiefs, one of the more suspect pass defenses in the league, McDonald makes for a solid streamer at this increasingly shallow position.
Ian Thomas, Carolina Panthers
We’re going deep into fantasy free agency to pull Thomas, the rookie understudy for Greg Olsen. With the veteran tight end unfortunately injured again, the team turns to this unique athlete at the position; he tested in the 91st percentile in SPARQ for this recent rookie class, second only to Mike Gesicki in this regard. We clearly don’t know what percentage of Olsen’s market share Thomas will inherit, but at this almost absurdly shallow position, it’s worth being early on potential-laden players such as Thomas. Per this week’s matchup and his stock as a streamer, Thomas faces a suddenly depleted Atlanta defense that could be without their best coverage linebacker and safety at the same time.
Facing Luck isn’t exactly an ideal streaming strategy in the macro sense, but if we look deeper in to the matchup metrics, we find the Redskins are first in the NFL in creating pressure on opposing passers. With some potential for sacks and increased turnover upside, rolling out the Redskins in leagues of at least 12 teams could prove prudent.
Individual defensive players
T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers
The box score can’t do Watt’s awesome opener justice. That’s not true, he had four sacks! J.J.’s baby bro has emerged as one of the more exciting edge rushers in the AFC, if not the league. The Chiefs allowed pressure on Pat Mahomes on 44.8 percent of his dropbacks in Week 1, the third-highest rate in the league. This could be fun.
Bradley McDougald, Seattle Seahawks There just isn’t a way for McDougald to fully replicate the real defensive impact Kam Chancellor provided for years in Seattle, but there is a good chance he can approximate Chancellor’s fantasy value. In a busy role in both stopping the run and policing the passing lanes as Seattle’s strong safety, McDougald is in a nice spot to chase down the Bears’ collective of running backs and tight ends on Monday night.
Sheldon Richardson, Minnesota Vikings
On the field for 42 of the team’s 61 defensive snaps in Week 1, Richardson delivered awesome fantasy results in his debut with the Vikings. With strong run-stop skills and the potential to get both coverage and complementary sacks in addition to simply getting to the quarterback all by himself, Richardson is the rare defensive tackle with a reasonably high floor.