The NFL season is finally here. Now that we've seen final cut-downs, plus a flurry of activity over Labor Day Weekend, we've got a much better idea than we had just a few weeks ago about the will look like in Week 1 and beyond. Here's what you need to know, whether you're drafting one last time, making waiver claims or simply setting your lineup.
The big change in the offensive running back structure for the Bills was the release of LeSean McCoy. It’s an instant win/endorsement for Devin Singletary. In early September, look for Buffalo to rotate three RBs. Frank Gore will be the short-yardage/goal-line back with rotational value. T.J. Yeldon should receive most of the action on passing downs with a chance to gain the “hot hand carries” if Singletary struggles within a game.
On his college resume, Singletary scored an amazing 55 TDs in his final 26 games with minimal catches (51/397/1). As of September 2, I have him projected for 230-plus touches for 1,050-plus yards with about eight TDs and 25 catches. A fantasy owner has to understand not to overprice him in catches and TDs. Josh Allen is going to steal plenty of red-zone TDs while the Bills could push their way to 20-plus rushing TDs for the year.
The release of Kenneth Dixon after an injury settlement solidifies a piece of the puzzle in Baltimore for Justice Hill. Over the last couple of weeks in the high-stakes market, Hill has drawn much more attention from fantasy owners. His game is built speed and big plays, which makes him a natural complementary back to Mark Ingram. The Ravens will run the ball a ton, but their RBs won’t catch impact balls. In college, Hill had his best season (1,657 combined yards with 15 TDs) with some success in catches (31/190/1). I have him down for only 500 combined yards with about four TDs and 15 catches. Ingram isn’t going away without an injury plus Lamar Jackson will receive about 35% of the rushing attempts. I view Hill as more of a handcuff than a playable piece to a fantasy team early in the year.
Kansas City Chiefs
The shoe finally dropped for Carlos Hyde in Kansas City leaving the drunken drafters late in August with plenty of high-fives for their investment/commitment to Darwin Thompson. Within 24 hours, the backfield in Kansas City turned extremely cloudy after they signed LeSean McCoy. I expect Damien Williams to remain the lead back, but he’ll lose some action on early-downs with McCoy being a problem on some passing downs. Thompson fades to the bench despite all of him momentum in the preseason. The Chiefs like his game and upside, which puts him in the late-season breakout category while needing an injury to earn more touches. McCoy has a history with Andy Reid, which gives him a chance to steal the show if he outplays Williams early in the year.
Over the last week, the Texans have been active in the trade market, while also scrambling to find a lead running back after Lamar Miller went down with a season-ending injury. They picked Carlos Hyde to work as the early-down veteran back, but his opportunity could be short-lived. Houston added a left tackle (Laremy Tunsil) via a trade with the Dolphins. That's a big win for the passing game of Deshaun Watson. As for Hyde, he'll see most of the early-down carries with some value at the goal line.
The Josh Doctson experiment ended this week in Washington. He underperformed his expected upside while failing to separate himself from the below league average talent at wide receiver for the Redskins. His role slides over to Terry McLaurin who played in college with Dwayne Haskins. McLaurin fills the deep threat role highlighted by his final year at Ohio State (35/711/11). His low resume points to only a waiver-wire option for a fantasy owner even if he has a surprising game in Week 1.
The third WR role for the Vikings has been a problem over the previous three years due to Laquon Treadwell failing to live up to his first-round draft value (2016). Treadwell received his walking papers this week. The player I expect to gain the most benefit after his release in Minnesota's offense is Irv Smith. The Vikings want to have more success running the ball, and two TE sets should help achieve that goal. Smith can stretch the field, which will be vacated by defenses focusing on their two WRs. Chad Beebe moves to WR3 in this offense for now while Josh Doctson tries to find a role in Minnesota.