Most of the football season, in this space, I'll be giving start 'em and sit 'em advice for that week's slate of games. I think that's kind of dumb for week 1. Yes, there are probably a few instances where you will have to choose who you will be starting as your WR3 or your flex, but in the first week of the season, I suggest you stick with the initial line-up you had in mind as you completed your draft. There is a reason you drafted players in the round you did.
With that said, there are always a handful of players no one has ever heard of or that no one bothered to draft who absolutely blow-up in the first week of the season, and come flying off the waiver wire. Consider this column a chance to beat your opponent to the punch. I'm going to look into my crystal ball and try to predict a few guys available in more than 65 percent of Yahoo leagues who you might be itching to add after a big first game.
Lock 'em up now, then laugh at your opponents when they go scrambling on Tuesday morning, only to find out you've already rostered them.
QB Geno Smith, New York Jets (9 percent availability). Smith became a bit of a punchline last season, but go back and check the stats, jack. As a fantasy quarterback, Smith actually finished in the top 20 and put up top five numbers over the final few weeks of the season. The Jets also gave him a legitimate wide receiver in Eric Decker and an intriguing target in TE Jace Amaro. The Jets defense is also going to be brutal, especially the secondary, and they face a lot of high-scoring teams in the first half of the season, meaning they'll be putting the ball in Geno's hands quite a bit to air it out, and he'll still do a bit of scrambling. In other words, the Jets are going to be terrible and Geno Smith might not be the best real-life quarterback, but he'll get a lot of opportunity to earn fantasy points.
RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Indianapolis Colts (25 percent). Before the Colts traded for Trent Richardson last year, Bradshaw was the lead back in Pep Hamilton's offense, and was averaging 76 total yards per game and scored twice through three weeks. Then, as always seems to happen with Bradshaw, he was injured and his season was over. Make no mistake, T-Rich is going to get force fed carries because of the high price tag the Colts invested in him, but Bradshaw will likely get worked into the plan, just as Donald Brown was a year ago. Don't be shocked if Bradshaw ends up playing fewer snaps and outproducing T-Rich in week 1 and gets more touches as the season goes on.
RB Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers (20 percent). Stewart's talent has never been in doubt, but he's always had two things working against him: his health and DeAngelo Williams. He's struggled through injuries each of his past three seasons, but now seems to be entering a season fully healthy. Williams is still there, but he's 31. Unfortunately, there probably won't be much in the way of goalline carries for Stewart (Cam Newton and Mike Tolbert will vulture those) but Stewart could surpass Williams as the No. 1 back in Carolina this year.
WR Cody Latimer, Denver Broncos (23 percent). Ownership of Latimer may go up with Wes Welker suspended four games, but as of right now, he's still widely available. He was going to find his way onto the field anyway, especially in the red zone, but he'll get even more work between the 20s with Welker not around. Week 1 against the Colts should be a bit of a shoot out, so there will be plenty of opportunities for him. How he'll be used after Welker returns in October, though is anyone's guess, so get what you can out of him now and maybe try to trade him while he's hot.
WR Marquis Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars (13 percent). People are really scared off by the Jags offense. There is no other explanation for why Lee is barely owned. He's the most talented wide receiver on a team that is likely going to be playing from behind most of the season, and it's not like Jags receivers has been completely useless in previous seasons. Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon (when not suspended) were guys you'd consider as low-end WR2s. In week 1, Jacksonville is going to play Philly's high-tempo offense, which means they'll be playing catch-up most of the second half. I reckon Lee will get a fair number of those garbage-time catches and yards, which count the same in fantasy football.
WR Malcolm Floyd, San Diego Chargers (9 percent). He missed most of last season with an injury, and he's a bit of an afterthought thanks to sophomore sensation Keenan Allen, but Floyd should be the big-play threat in the Bolts offense this season. With ace corner Patrick Peterson likely shading Allen all game, expect Philip Rivers to direct a few deep balls to the other side of the field and Floyd to end up with better numbers in week 1, and remain a factor most of the regular season.
WR John Brown, Arizona Cardnials (7 percent). The speedy rookie out of tiny Pittsburg State has locked up the No. 3 wide receiver spot between Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, who is expected to blossom this year as well. Think T.Y. Hilton with the Colts a few years back, but possibly faster and with a little more polish. Brown's been buzzy throughout training camp and flashed big-play ability in the preseason. Don't be shocked if he reels in a couple long catches on Monday Night Football against the Chargers suspect secondary.
TE Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs (34 percent). Donnie Avery, Frankie Hammond, Junior Hemingway, Albert Wilson, A.J. Jenkins. In week 1, that's the wide receiving corps for the Chiefs (Dwayne Bowe is suspended for week 1). Obviously, KC is going to lean on all-universe running back Jamaal Charles in both the ground and passing attack, but expect them to feature Kelce as the "move" tight end and trying to exploit match-ups in the middle of the field. If you missed on a big-time tight end in your draft, add Kelce now and hope he's this year's Julius Thomas in week 1, and you're ahead of the curve. Word is getting out, and his ownership as jumped 10 percent in the past week, so get him if you still can.