We're back here in 2014 to give you a couple of players to push into your starting lineup or move to your bench, along with a sleeper pick.
Now, you're not going to find "start LeSean McCoy" here. If you drafted a player in the first five rounds, chances are those are your go-to players, so we'll try to give you some less-than-obvious choices to bolster your lineup every week.
On that note, here we go for Week 1:
Philadelphia Eagles defense vs. Jacksonville
The Jaguars were a fantasy goldmine for any opponent last year, offense or defense, and that should continue again in 2014 as they continue to rebuild. Chad Henne is getting the start at quarterback, and while he’s a serviceable veteran, he has never thrown more touchdowns than interceptions at any point in his six-year career. Toby Gerhart is also getting his first real shot as a starting running back. Now, the Eagles defense isn’t exactly inspiring. The unit finished 29th in the league last year (and last against the pass) and did improve slightly as the year went on, and 10 of the 11 starters are back for a second go-round in the 3-4 scheme.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis wide receiver at Denver
Hilton became more of a target for Andrew Luck when veteran Reggie Wayne was injured last year, averaging just over six catches and about 75 yards per game, but he scored just three touchdowns. Even though Wayne is back, you have to figure the chemistry Luck and Hilton developed will carry over. And, add in the fact that Denver’s offense is going to push the tempo and put up points, the Colts will have to keep up.
Tim Wright, New England tight end at Dolphins
A year ago, someone named Zach Sudfeld was dominating the pre-Week 1 conversation because of the injury history of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez’s arrest. Such fantasy conjecture was the highlight of poor Zach’s season. Tim Wright might have been a late-round pick for some fantasy drafters now that Tom Brady is his quarterback, but he’s only been in New England for a week. The 6-foot, 4-inch second year player caught 54 passes and 5 touchdowns last year in Tampa Bay and may yet prove to be a big part of the Patriots offense, but it’s too much of a dice-roll for Week 1.
San Francisco 49ers defense at Dallas
Glenn Dorsey – out. Aldon Smith – out. NaVorro Bowman – out. And, Ray McDonald may yet be suspended for his Sunday arrest on suspicion of felony domestic violence (even if he isn’t, you figure this has created a bit of a distraction around the team). Even with a full complement of stars, the 49ers would have their hands full with a Cowboys offense that opens the year at its healthiest. While questions will always surround Tony Romo and his health, when he played he averaged over 250 yards passing and two touchdowns a game last season. And (fantasy-wise) Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray were top picks for players. While the 49ers may yet prove to be a solid fantasy defense again, this week you may want to stay away.
Eric Decker, New York Jets wide receiver vs. Oakland Raiders
What a difference a year (and a quarterback) makes. Decker caught 172 passes and 24 touchdowns the last two years with Peyton Manning, but now he’s in New York with Geno Smith. If there was any reason this year to play the wideout, it would be this week against a terrible Oakland Raiders defense. You figure he’ll be targeted quite a bit by Smith, and the Raiders stand to be easy pickings.
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.