The first week of the 2016 Fantasy Football season is finally here, as final drafts are wrapping up and most players have already entered an initial lineup for their first game. Of course, there may be some tinkering done over the next few days, but for the most part, you know who you are going to roll with in your Fantasy Football season opener.
While we did learn a lot last year that we can use for the new campaign, there will be many new trends and players to watch in the early weeks of the new season. So much changes in the NFL from season to season, including personnel, coaches and schemes. Every season is a new and unique campaign and we simply have to wait and see how things shake out in certain situations.
Such is the case with the Seahawks running backs, as preseason sensation Christine Michael and 2015 breakout player Thomas Rawls are both vying for quality playing time as the home opener against Miami beckons. Michael averaged six yards per carry in the preseason with a 20-yard run as the Seahawks coaching staff was impressed with his increased maturity and improved instincts as a runner. Rawls scored 118.60 points in NFL.com standard leagues in just seven starts last year.
The Seahawks staff likely views it as a luxury that they can use two potentially outstanding RBs to keep both fresh and help keep defenses off balance. Fantasy players, however, would prefer that there be a situation like the past half-decade in Seattle, when it was just about drafting and easily plugging in Marshawn Lynch every year. Those days are gone, though, and Fantasy types will simply have to adjust as both Michael and Rawls attempt to show they are both worthy of taking the torch from the most impactful RB and greatest Fantasy player at the position in franchise history.
Michael is listed as the starter on the initial depth chart, but Rawls could potentially get a respectable amount of quality work as well in the opener against the Dolphins after making his exhibition debut in the last preseason game. Both should be considered strong flex plays/RB3s for the first week of Fantasy Football play. The two running backs may conceivably share playing time for the foreseeable future as well. Fantasy owners should view them as potential upside plays beyond their first two RB slots for now.
Spencer Ware is expected to get the start at RB for the Chiefs against the Chargers, and he is among my Top 15 PPR plays at the position in my Week 1 Lineup Rankings at RotoExperts.com. The former Seahawk scored six times and averaged 5.6 yards per carry on just 72 attempts last year. With an expanded role after showing well in the preseason, Ware has the look of a Fantasy RB1 for the season's first week.
Ezekiel Elliott will make his pro debut against the Giants, and should play a major role as Dallas looks to revert to their very successful methods of 2014, when they controlled the clock with a dominant running game. Eddie Lacy looked rejuvenated in the preseason and should start strong against Jacksonville. Green Bay will likely want to play some ball control against a potent Jacksonville offense.
DeAngelo Williams is a prime starter in what could be a high-scoring affair against Washington. Don't forget that Williams' 191.40 Fantasy points was fourth-best among all RBs on NFL.com last season. Ryan Mathews is a rock for the new-look Eagles to lean on against Cleveland, and Chris Ivory should be good for a score or two against Green Bay. San Diego's Melvin Gordon showed some renewed promise in the preseason, so don't be afraid to start him. He had a 39-yard TD run and a 44-yard TD reception during exhibition play. Duke Johnson deserves PPR flex consideration in the first week and Rashad Jennings may be in for more goal-line carries this season and should be used as a flex also.
At quarterback, Russell Wilson is coming off a career season in which he totaled 333.26 Fantasy Points on NFL.com. Only Cam Newton and Tom Brady had more, and Wilson was a Top 4 QB in many 2016 Fantasy drafts this year. He gets a fine matchup to open the season, as the Miami secondary appears to be a work in progress at this point, even with former Seahawk Byron Maxwell as a starting cornerback. The Dolphins should be able to muster a pretty good pass rush, but with Wilson's ability to get rid of the ball quickly or his propensity to extend plays and evade defenders, he'll simply be too much for the Miami defense to handle. I have him as my top-rated Fantasy QB for Week 1 of the Fantasy Football season. The Seattle wideouts will simply overwhelm Miami, and I am expecting three TD passes from Wilson.
Look for a big week from Derek Carr against the Saints in a game that should have the scoreboard operator quite busy. Oakland is an offense on the rise and Carr came out of the blocks quickly last year also. Kirk Cousins should build on a breakout season in 2015 with a strong opening performance against the Steelers. Blake Bortles should be big on volume and Fantasy points again vs. Green Bay. Take note when players face their former teams, as it can be an extra motivator. Tyrod Taylor takes on his former ballclub, the Ravens.
Doug Baldwin is coming off the best Fantasy season for a wide receiver in Seahawks history, with his 190.90 points on NFL.com placing him seventh on the wide receiver ladder. He and Maxwell are likely familiar enough with each other from past practice battles, but Baldwin cannot be held down if Wilson is going to have a big day. He's an obvious must-start, as is Tyler Lockett, a widely hailed breakout star among Fantasy analysts this year. He was drafted as early as the fourth round in some leagues, and is a strong start as a WR3 this week. Jermaine Kearse also should be considered in leagues of 14 teams or more.
Jeremy Maclin is a solid start in a divisional matchup with San Diego, and in the same game, look for Chargers newcomer Travis Benjamin to make some noise with downfield plays. Detroit's Marvin Jones showed big-play promise in the preseason and should make his presence felt with his new team quickly as he faces Indianapolis. Giants rookie Sterling Shepard looks like a quick study and is a sound PPR option against Dallas. Michael Crabtree is a very solid WR3 start working with Carr against New Orleans.
At tight end, Cleveland's Gary Barnidge was a surprise star last year, and should resume where he left off against the Eagles. Robert Griffin III may need to find him quickly against the Philadelphia pass rush. Coby Fleener joins a Saints offense that has historically been TE friendly, and he should find the end zone against the Raiders. Jesse James is now Pittsburgh's top TE, and he has TD potential against Washington. Charles Clay should start showing his better form again vs. Baltimore.
Steven Hauschka was the sixth-best Fantasy kicker on NFL.com last year, and will be very prolific as the Seahawks offense moves the ball crisply this week. The Seahawks secondary may not be challenged enough by any other Miami wideouts other than Jarvis Landry, and is the best-looking Fantasy defense of the week. Arizona (vs. New England) and Houston (vs. Chicago) are other top starts. The Texans should indeed have J.J. Watt for their opener. The Vikings (vs. Tennessee) and Eagles (vs. Cleveland) are other units to consider.
*Scott Engel is a 20-year veteran of the Fantasy Sports industry and an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's Hall of Fame. For more in-depth advice and a full suite of Fantasy draft prep information from Scott and the team at RotoExperts.com, register for the Xclusive Edge Fantasy Football package right here. Seahawks.com readers get a special discount by entering promocode "seahawks" at checkout. *
These two teams have battled 14 times since 1977, including three times in the postseason. Miami has won 10 out of the 14 games, and the Seahawks will look to win their fifth this Sunday at CenturyLink Field.