Here we’ll tackle five fantasy players in position to start the season fast. We’ve also explored guys set to disappoint early in 2017.
Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals
After implementing a new offseason-conditioning regimen, Palmer is reportedly fresher than he’s been in years. Entering his age 37-season, erosion is bound to surface sooner rather than later. For the moment, however, he’s healthy and facing the fifth best strength of schedule for the position. With David Johnson set to feast, Larry Fitzgerald coming off his second consecutive 1,000 yard effort, and John Brown flashing his trademark playmaking ability… Palmer’s Fall figures to be high-flying.
Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
When news of Spencer Ware’s PCL injury broke, Hunt truthers nearly crashed #fantasytwitter with their opportunistic zeal. As a rookie with limited pass protecting experience, Hunt doesn’t come without some red flags. As the RB1 in an Andy Reid offense, however, those misgivings are easy to look past. A highly-productive college player who can catch – and works a dizzying spin move – Hunt infuses fresh legs into a tired backfield. In his first five weeks of pro action he’ll face three run-blocking units that allowed at least 99 rushing yards per game last year.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Los Angeles Rams
I haven’t been shy about voicing my optimism for the Rams offense with Sean McVay holding the clipboard. Yes, Jared Goff has had his ups and downs throughout the preseason, mainly utilizing safety valve slot-man Cooper Kupp, and struggling to connect with his No. 1 reciever, but Watkins is a game changing talent. Heck, he did THIS with E.J. Manuel under center. AND he’s healthy right now. Set to open the season at home and facing a Colts defense that will be without top CB Vontae Davis (groin), Watkins will be loving autumn in LA.
Rishard Matthews, WR, Tennessee Titans
Despite scoring 9 TDs and finishing as fantasy’s WR13 overall last year, Matthews has been largely overlooked by the fantasy community. Coming off the board in Round 10 of twelve-team exercises, the former Dolphin is likely have his opportunity share (6.8 looks per game in 2016) reduced… eventually.
Right now, however, he’s the team’s most experienced and healthiest receiving option. With rookie Corey Davis missing the whole of the preseason (hamstring) and Eric Decker already getting dinged up (ankle), Matthews exists as Marcus Mariota’s most reliable target. In Week 1, he’ll host a Raiders defense who’s first-team was booed by fans as Jared Goff picked them apart in the preseason. Look for the 27-year-old (who produced a Week 17 stat line of 9-114-1 vs. HOU) to pick up in 2017 where he left off in 2016 (for now).
Cole Beasley, WR, Dallas Cowboys
After hooking up 75 times for over 800 yards last year, the Prescott/Beasley connection cannot be denied. Leading the Cowboys in targets (98), Beasley emerged as a security blanket for his young QB. Given his 76.5 percent catch rate (second best among WRs in 2016), the Lilliputian-esque receiver excelled in his new role.
With Ezekiel Elliot likely to be absent until Halloween, the ‘Boys will be forced to throw more. And while, at first glance, the beneficiary of this increased passing volume seems to be Dez Bryant, the X receiver’s matchups are beyond brutal. Facing off against three of the league’s most shutdown corners in the first three weeks of the 2017 regular season (NYG, DEN, AZ), Dez will have his work cut out for him. My money is on Beasley to show up for Dak and move the chains for Dallas early.
Share your hottest starts with Liz on Twitter @LizLoza_FF.