Sunday is the day that Seahawks fans and Fantasy players have waited for with incredible anticipation. The 2015 regular season begins with the Seahawks seeking their third consecutive Super Bowl trip, and Fantasy leaguers looking to ride Seattle's top players on their way to championships.
There is much excitement as Jimmy Graham, widely and decisively regarded as an elite real life and Fantasy tight end since 2011, makes his debut in a Seahawks uniform. The Seahawks brought in Graham to make key catches in important situations, and with Russell Wilson facing the most fearsome defensive line in the NFC, he will certainly look to Graham when he needs to make a high percentage or crucial throw. Graham adds new dimensions to the Seahawks passing game with his downfield playmaking ability and red zone presence, and even for a formidable defense like that of the Rams, he presents considerable matchup issues because of his proven blend of size, savvy, speed and athleticism.
Graham has an Average Draft Position of 30.16 on NFL.com this year, and he will start paying dividends to his owners immediately. With the threat of Wilson running the ball or spreading it around to different targets, plus the usual huge spectre of Marshawn Lynch, St. Louis cannot devote extra defensive attention to Graham without the threat of being burned elsewhere. Graham presents a new matchup problem for even the best defenses, and he should be expected to post some very good PPR totals and threaten the defense down the seam for quality yardage numbers. Graham has a very good statistical floor for Week 1.
In last year's matchup at St. Louis, Wilson made NFL history as he became the first player to ever throw for 300 yards and rush for 100 in the same game, adding two TD tosses and rushing for a score in the most epic Fantasy performance of his best season yet. The Rams were much better prepared for him in the season finale at Seattle, holding him to seven rushing yards with no TD passes. Games in recent seasons between these teams have frequently been physical, close struggles. But No. 3 has the new weapon in Graham this time, and the St. Louis defense will face a Seahawks team that can be more dangerous in the air than ever before in the Wilson era so far.
Wilson was sacked three times in each meeting with the Rams last year, but they must be even more disciplined up front against him this time. If they come after Wilson hard, his rushing ability and escape artistry now makes him even a bigger dual threat now. St. Louis already found out in the last meeting that pursuing Wilson hard could lead to big yardage numbers surrendered on scrambles. Or with Graham, Wilson can now get the crucial completion to his tight end when under pressure. The Seahawks star may now be more tough to defend than ever, justifying his NFL.com ADP of 28.74. He is looking like a must-start regardless of matchup, and could conceivably burn the Rams as more of a passer than a runner this week.
Doug Baldwin should also use his considerable experience with Wilson to make essential grabs when the QB faces pressure or the defense focuses on Graham when it counts. He is a quality Fantasy WR5 in PPR leagues this season. Tyler Lockett is another newcomer who can add some big play potential as both a receiver and a returner. He has a lot of long term Fantasy promise and can make an impact this year in leagues that award return points to individual players. Keep a watch on how Jermaine Kearse may benefit from the addition with Graham by possibly getting open for more intermediate and longer plays. He should be monitored closely for a possible Fantasy roster addition in upcoming weeks.
Of course, Lynch should truly benefit from an improved passing game. No opponent can now put its primary focus on containing Lynch without being concerned with Graham as well. Even against the impressive Rams front wall, Lynch may be able to pick and choose some quickly developing holes to burst through. The passing game will likely also put him near the goal line for at least one rushing score. Lynch is another Seahawks player with a high Fantasy floor this week.
Lynch's former teammate and old buddy from Buffalo, Fred Jackson, may also start to get involved in the flow this week as well. As he gets more comfortable in the Seahawks offense, Jackson brings additional skills to the offense to make it more diverse. He is a well-seasoned and highly successful receiving RB who will be able to become a fine check-down and flat pass option for Wilson. He is now the clear Fantasy handcuff to Lynch and should also be rostered as a deep option in PPR leagues.
Defensively, this matchup bodes well for the Seahawks in terms of sacks and points allowed. The Rams are talented on the offensive line, but the unit still needs to work together longer to truly mesh. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril and newcomer Frank Clark should lead a strong pass rush against Nick Foles, and extra pressure could lead to more than one interception. Potential standout rookie Todd Gurley will be ready later in the season, and Bobby Wagner and Brandon Mebane should limit the other St. LouisRBs for now.
Lockett adds the additional threat of a return TD at any time, further boosting the high appeal of the Seahawks defense/special teams unit. Steven Hauschka should be positioned for at least two field goals this week with a very balanced Seahawks attack putting him into position for some scoring chances.
In other games, Sam Bradford takes the controls of the high-powered Eagles offense, and he could make an immediate statistical splash with his new team against Atlanta. Ryan Tannehill will get his season off to a fine start as the Dolphins dictate the offensive flow against Washington.
At running back, Adrian Peterson will make a stellar return to action against San Francisco. Chris Ivory should post solid numbers against Cleveland. Doug Martin had a strong preseason and it should carry into the opener against Tennessee. Jonathan Stewart should have a very busy day against Jacksonville, and Giovani Bernard is a viable flex play against the Raiders.
Charles Johnson should get his 2015 season off to a good start vs. San Francisco. Davante Adams should make an immediate impact as a starter for the Packers against Chicago. John Brown will kick off what could be a breakout season with a good outing against the Saints. Rueben Randle and Terrance Williams are deeper plays in what could be a high-scoring affair between the Giants and Cowboys.
At TE, Tyler Eifert will get his season off to a good start against the Raiders. Green Bay's Richard Rodgers is also worth a look. Defensively, Denver (vs. Baltimore) and Miami should be two of the better units for the first week, and beyond.
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