RB Giovani Bernard (Cincinnati) UP
Giovani Bernard had a strong pre-season, especially around the goal line. He’s the more talented of Cincinnati’s two running backs and, while he may start the season splitting carries with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, he might not stay in that role all season. Few flex plays have more upside.
Projection: 190 carries for 840 rushing yards 6 total touchdowns 40 catches for 320 yards (152 pts, 199 pts PPR)
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (Cincinnati) DOWN
BJGE is really only worth a late round pick at this point. He’s not an inefficient per carry runner and he doesn’t provide anything in the air. If he starts losing carries and goal line carries to Bernard, he’ll be useless in fantasy, except as a Bernard handcuff.
Projection: 150 carries for 590 rushing yards 5 total touchdowns 12 catches for 70 yards (96 pts, 108 pts PPR)
QB Terrelle Pryor (Oakland) UP
Terrelle Pryor appears to have won the Raiders’ starting job. He might be the worst passer of any of the 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL this season, but the Raiders will be trailing an awful lot so he’ll get a lot of pass attempts and add value on the ground. He’ll be a better fantasy quarterback than real quarterback. He’s only a QB2 in deep leagues though because he could easily be benched for Matt Flynn at some point this season, but there’s upside with him if he can make all 16 starts.
Projection: 3250 passing yards, 13 passing touchdowns, 17 interceptions, 400 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns (206 pts standard, 232 pts 6 pt td leagues)
QB Geno Smith (NY Jets) UP
Mark Sanchez sounds like he’ll miss multiple weeks with injury, so Geno Smith, by default, looks to be the Jets’ starting quarterback. It’ll probably remain that way even when Sanchez returns because the Jets won’t want to kill the rookie’s confidence by benching him mid-season. Don’t expect much from Smith though. The history of non-1st round pick quarterbacks in the NFL is pretty poor, especially as rookies (Andy Dalton and Russell Wilson are the exception not the rule). Smith looked awful in his first extended pre-season action during the 3rd pre-season game.
Projection: 3000 passing yards, 12 passing touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 200 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown (163 pts standard, 187 pts 6 pt td leagues)
RB David Wilson (NY Giants) UP
I was already considering moving Wilson up because he was taking some of the goal line carries away from Andre Brown and because he was having an amazing pre-season, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. However, Andre Brown is out indefinitely with a fractured ankle and might miss the entire season. It’s the same leg he fractured last season. He’s not draftable any more, while Wilson has minimal competition for carries and is as close to being a true feature back as you can be. There’s RB1 upside here. The Giants have averaged 16.6 rushing touchdowns per season since 2004. The last time a Giants’ starting running back was also the goal line back, he scored 15 times, Tiki Barber in 2004, before Brandon Jacobs and Andre Brown. Brandon Jacobs scored 15 times in 2008 despite splitting carries. Tom Coughlin runs on the goal line.
Projection: 280 carries for 1260 rushing yards 12 total touchdowns 28 catches for 200 rushing yards (218 pts standard, 246 pts PPR)
RB Isaac Redman (Pittsburgh) UP
The Steelers have cut Jonathan Dwyer. This is good news for Isaac Redman, who will be pretty much the feature back until Le’Veon Bell returns, with just change of pace backs La’Rod Stephens-Howling and Felix Jones behind him on the depth chart. It’s still not a great fantasy situation, but Redman isn’t a bad late round pick by any stretch of the imagination.
Projection: 140 carries for 630 rushing yards and 4 total touchdowns 25 catches for 200 receiving yards (107 pts standard, 132 pts PPR)
RB Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh) UP
Dwyer’s release is also good news for Bell, as it’s a sign that Bell is farther along in his recovery than originally thought. He’s out of his walking boot and while he’ll miss at least 4-6 weeks with an injury that tends to linger, his value is on the rise. The only concern is that Redman impresses in his absence, but Redman will probably go back to being just a passing down back upon Bell’s return.
Projection: 150 carries for 630 rushing yards and 5 total touchdowns 23 catches for 150 receiving yards (108 pts standard, 131 pts PPR)