Entering the first week of NFL action, fantasy owners are usually reluctant to immediately make roster moves reticent to make roster moves after doing tons of draft prep on the guys they ended up drafting. But no matter how much research you do, NFL teams can still change up rosters and depth charts enough to ruin your fantasy players’ values or improve the value of some free agents.
Each week, we’ll share 8-12 players we think are worth a look in standard fantasy football leagues based on performance and upcoming matchups. Each of these players listed are owned in fewer than 30 percent of leagues on CBS Sports, ESPN and Yahoo leagues.
Geno Smith, New York Jets (Owned in 17 percent of CBSSports leagues, 6.7 percent of ESPN leagues and nine percent of Yahoo! leagues) -- It’s easy to write Smith off in fantasy leagues, because we haven't seen much fantasy value come out of this team in a few years. Three Jets were drafted in most formats -- RBs Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory, and WR Eric Decker. For the two years before that, we only saw the starting running backs and Santonio Holmes get drafted in most formats.
However the Jets’ sophomore is worth a look in deep leagues, because he has an above-average wide receiver in Decker, a very good pass-catching back in Chris Johnson and he has the ability to get 40-50 rushing yards per game, like he did in each of the final four games last season (with three rushing touchdowns). If he shows any kind of consistency, he could be a worthy QB2 this season.
Ronnie Hillman, Denver Broncos (30 percent, 3.4 percent and 15 percent) -- Hillman was hampered by injuries in his rookie season before finally getting a shot, but he blew it by not being able to protect Peyton Manning. The Broncos drafted Montee Ball last season to be their new starter, pushing Hillman down the depth chart; but now that Knowshon Moreno is gone, Hillman looks to be the starter if Ball falters or gets injured. A speedy pass-catching running back who has been in this offense for three years sounds like an investment as a sleeper.
Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta Falcons (20 percent, 6.7 percent and 9 percent) -- With Steven Jackson’s hamstring healed, the Falcons running game looks to be intact for now. And while we love rookie Devonta Freeman, as do many others, considering his higher ownership percentages, the Falcons appear more intent on using a committee, led by Rodgers, if Jackson is hurt again.
James White, New England Patriots (15 percent, 3.1 percent and 17 percent) -- Despite the fact that White underwhelmed this preseason, the Patriots will likely go to the rookie out of Wisconsin at some point. Both Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are in the final years of their contracts, and the Patriots will want to determine if White could be a starter next season. He’s an all-around back with ability to go between or around the tackles, and he had just two fumbles in 754 career touches in college.
Aaron Dobson, New England Patriots (28 percent, 9.4 percent, 25 percent) -- The second-year receiver had surgery on his foot in March, which slowed down his preseason progress and kept his ADP low. But he played in the team’s preseason finale, and he’s expected to start alongside Julian Edelman in Tom Brady’s offense. He might need a week or two to get into midseason shape, but his ceiling is quite high.
Cody Latimer, Denver Broncos (Nine percent, 2.8 percent, eight percent) -- The rookie out of Indiana will likely join Emmanuel Sanders in replacing Eric Decker. Latimer has good size (6-foot-2) and Sanders has speed to spare. Wes Welker is dealing with another concussion, and he's in the final year of his Broncos contract. Reports say that Latimer will be used in red-zone packages in the early part of the season.
John Brown, Arizona Cardinals (Eight percent, 2.6 percent, six percent) -- Cardinals general manager Steve Keim has already compared Brown to Anquan Boldin, and the speedster seems to have overtaken Ted Ginn Jr. as the third wide receiver in Carson Palmer’s offense. Head coach Bruce Arians told Peter King of TheMMQB.com that the rookie could play in about 60 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. It’s tough to consider him anything more than a WR4/5 at this stage, but his ownership percentages should be in double digits, considering how many deep-rostered leagues there are.
Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs (30 percent, 7.1 percent, 20 percent) -- Standing at 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, with the speed and moves of a much smaller man, Kelce looks to become one of Alex Smith’s favorite targets now that he’s recovered from last year’s knee injury. The Chiefs have very few passing options, especially with Dwayne Bowe suspended for Week 1. If you have a mandatory roster requirement to take two tight ends, Kelce is a solid choice -- and he could break out with above average playmaking skills.
Nate Freese, Detroit Lions (28 percent, 3.5 percent, five percent) -- The rookie will kick for one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL, with 10 games played inside a dome this season. The Lions went from 36 field-goal attempts (sixth in the NFL) to 24 FGA last season (31st), but that number should buoy back up again in 2014.
Detroit Lions (24 percent, 5.1 percent, 33 percent) -- The Lions defense is under new management, and they have an excellent front seven. Their secondary was brutal last season, but their new defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin, is a defensive backs coach in the NFL from 2003-2009 before he became a DC for other teams. With games against the Giants, Panthers, Jets and Bills in the first five games (the Packers, too), the Lions defense has one of the strongest schedules.