FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast: Week 1
Thomas Casale
September 3, 2013
Follow Follow @ThePigskinGuy
 
SYMBOL LEGEND
Rockstar Rock Star Free Agent
Injury Injury Replacement
Grab & Stash Grab & Stash
1 Week Plug & Play 1 Week Plug & Play
Dumpster Dive Dumpster Dive
Free Agent Auction
Bid (FAAB) Scale
$ $0 - $5
$$ $6 - $15
$$$ $16 - $25
$$$$ $26 - $40
$$$$$ $41+
Based on $100 cap,
12-team league.

Welcome to another season of the Free Agent Forecast. This weekly column is published every Tuesday morning and aims to identify free agents who will improve your chances of hoisting your league’s trophy at year end.

Given the diverse scoring systems and sizes of fantasy leagues, producing a weekly list of free agents that satisfies the masses can be challenging. For the most part, the column will hone in on players who are available in at least 35% of all fantasy leagues. If you play in a small league (8 teams), chances are there may be better players to pick up than you see listed here. If you play in a large league (16 teams), the majority of the players highlighted may already be on a squad; however, expect to find hidden gems, as well.

In addition to scouting “rock star” free agents who had breakout performances in the previous week, the Forecast will dig deep to identify players who may be worth a spot start or a roster stash.

QUARTERBACKS

E.J. Manuel, Bills
Grab & StashManuel is still iffy for Week 1 because of the minor procedure he had on his knee even though he returned to practice Monday. However, Manuel will be the Bills’ starter for the remainder once he’s healthy. Manuel still needs to become a more polished passer but he looked in command of Buffalo’s offense in the preseason. Plus, his rushing numbers will be a welcome bonus for fantasy owners. Rookie quarterbacks no longer have the big learning curve they once did 10-20 years ago, so Manuel should come in and produce solid fantasy numbers right away.
Availability: Owned in ~ 23% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Manuel’s rushing numbers give him intriguing upside this season as a QB2.

Brandon Weeden, Browns
Grab & StashWeeden was never a good fit in Pat Shurmur’s system but his ability to throw downfield is Taylor-made for what Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner like to do on offense. Turner put Weeden in the shotgun this preseason like he was most of the time in college. The results were him going a solid 30-of-50 (60 percent) for 334 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Weeden is still learning a new offense, so he’ll have ups and downs, but the second-year quarterback has some explosive weapons at his disposal. Weeden will be a nice bye-week and injury replacement this season when the match-up is favorable.
Availability: Owned in ~ 26% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Weeden will be a productive second-tier fantasy quarterback for an underrated Browns’ offense.

Running Backs

Isaac Redman, Steelers
Injury ReplacementThere’s nothing special about Redman but with only Felix Jones and La’Rod Stephens-Howling standing in his way, he should see a majority of the work for the Steelers while Le’Veon Bell recovers from a foot injury. Redman will get the goal line carries which is a plus, just don’t expect him to put up huge weekly numbers. Still, The Forecast likes him as the best fantasy option in Pittsburgh’s backfield until Bell returns.
Availability: Owned in ~ 40% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: An average play until Bell returns if you’re hurting for a running back.

Roy Helu, Redskins
Grab & StashThere’s no doubt Alfred Morris is the main man in Washington’s backfield but Helu should carve out a nice role as the Redskins’ third down back this season. Helu is an excellent receiver. He caught 49 passes on 59 targets two years ago, so he could even become a bye-week flex option in PPR formats. Helu is finally healthy again and looked great this preseason. If something happens to Morris, The Forecast likes Helu to put up big fantasy numbers in his place.
Availability: Owned in ~ 38% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: A quality bench player who will be a big fantasy factor if Morris goes down.

Christine Michael, Seahawks
Grab & StashMarshawn Lynch really is a beast and no running back in Seattle is going to have much fantasy value while he’s healthy. It’s a tired saying but Lynch does get stronger as the game goes on, so Pete Carroll is going to continue riding his workhorse into the ground. Robert Turbin is another strong runner but should something happen to Lynch, Michael is the guy to own. Michael has special talents that Turbin simply doesn’t possess. Michael will be a fantasy stud one day with all his physical skills. If you own Lynch, grabbing Michael as insurance is a must.
Availability: Owned in ~ 26% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: A talented young back with a ton of upside, Michael is one of the top handcuffs to own this year.

Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
Grab & StashAll the talk this summer has been about Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman. Didn’t you just know though that Moreno would come roaring down the backstretch in the end and win this race by a nose? Hillman is still listed as the “starter” and The Forecast loves Ball’s overall ability but John Fox likes his veterans. The bottom line is Moreno is the best out of the three at pass protection right now. When a group of running backs plays with Peyton Manning the one that protects him the best plays the most. It’s that simple. Moreno should be owned in more than 45 percent of leagues.
Availability: Owned in ~ 45% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Moreno will get on the field a lot because he’s a better pass protector right now than the younger, more talented Ball.

Stepfan Taylor, Cardinals
Dumpster DiveThe running back situation in Arizona screams of a darkhorse to emerge at some point and The Forecast likes Taylor. Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams spend more time in the training room than they do on the field. Taylor is a grinder but he can move the chains and get into the end zone. If Mendenhall can’t keep his knees healthy, Taylor is a player to watch in Arizona. Sooner or later the Cardinals will need a running back they can rely on for more than a couple weeks at a time.
Availability: Owned in ~ 7% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: If Mendenhall can’t stay on the field, Taylor could be next in line to carry the load.

Wide Receivers

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Colts
1 Week Plug & PlayThe Forecast likes any receiver that’s catching passes from Andrew Luck this season. Heyward-Bey will still drop some balls but he’ll get so many opportunities playing with Luck, it shouldn’t matter. It’s still too early to say if Heyward-Bey can be trusted every week but he’ll be able to feast on an overmatched Raiders’ secondary. If you need a flex play this week, you can do a lot worse than Heyward-Bey.
Availability: Owned in ~ 52% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Heyward-Bey will torch his old team for at least 80 yards and a score.

Ryan Broyles, Lions
Grab & StashIt may seem like Broyles is far down on the Lions’ depth chart but when looking at a preseason depth chart, it depends on the team and situation. It’s not like Broyles plays in Atlanta and is behind Julio Jones and Roddy White. He’s coming off his second knee surgery in two years and is behind Nate Burleson and Patrick Edwards. The Forecast believes Broyles is a better long-term fantasy option than either of those two and it’s only a matter of time before he becomes one of Matthew Stafford’s favorite targets.
Availability: Owned in ~ 48% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Broyles is a receiver currently on the waiver wire with the highest upside in PPR leagues. He should top 60 receptions if healthy.

Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings
Grab & StashThere’s good news and bad news when it comes to Patterson. The good news is Patterson is a physically gifted receiver on a team in dire need of playmakers. The bad news is he’s raw and the Vikings have a shaky quarterback situation. Patterson’s value does increase if your league offers points for return yards. He’ll be one of the NFL’s most explosive return men from Day 1. Patterson is probably a year away from making a big fantasy splash but The Forecast likes him to have a couple of big games while we wait.
Availability: Owned in ~ 37% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Patterson will be inconsistent but if you hit on his big weeks, it will be well worth it.

Andre Roberts, Cardinals
Grab & StashThe fantasy love in Arizona this summer has centered around the resurgence of Larry Fitzgerald and the breakout of Michael Floyd. Roberts has become the forgotten man. The Cardinals’ slot receiver had a pretty solid 2012 considering who was throwing to him, catching 64 passes for 759 yards. It also looked like in the preseason that Roberts has built a nice chemistry with Carson Palmer. Roberts is one of the most underrated slot receivers in the NFL and he could be in for a big year under Bruce Arians.
Availability: Owned in ~ 22% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Roberts will flourish in Arians’ three-receiver offense. Get him before he becomes a hot waiver addition.

Julian Edelman, Patriots
Dumpster DiveEdelman is listed as Danny Amendola’s backup, so he’s being passed over by fantasy owners in favor of guys like Aaron Dobson. However, once the season starts expect to see Edelman on the field a lot more than he was in the preseason. The Patriots wanted to get their young receivers work over the summer but once things kick off for real, Tom Brady is going to want guys he trusts on the field. Don’t be surprised if Edelman has a much bigger role in the Patriots’ offense than is being predicted.
Availability: Owned in ~ 11% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Edelman will take on a larger role in the regular season as some of the rookies begin to struggle.

Tight Ends

Dwayne Allen, Colts
1 Week Plug & PlayGrab & StashAllen’s foot injury has caused a lot of fantasy owners to pass up on the versatile tight end but The Forecast believes that’s a mistake. Allen returned to a full practice on Monday and appears to be a full-go for Week 1. He’s coming off a productive rookie campaign that saw him catch 45 passes for 521 yards. Even with Coby Fleener receiving more love for the second straight year, Allen should improve on those numbers in the Colts’ high-powered offense. It’s surprising that a player with his potential isn’t owned in more leagues.
Availability: Owned in ~ 15% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Allen has a good shot to find the end zone in Week 1 vs. the Raiders. He’ll be a lower-tier TE1 most weeks playing in the Colts’ offense.

Heath Miller, Steelers
Grab & StashMiller recently came off the active/PUP list and is still recovering from a knee injury but he’s expected to be back in the lineup by the end of September. Shrewd fantasy owners will jump on Miller before the rush to get him ensues later in the month. Miller caught 71 passes and eight touchdowns last season. He became Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite target, especially in the red zone. The tight end position offers few better options in PPR formats than a healthy Miller.
Availability: Owned in ~ 36% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Miller will be a nice payoff for fantasy owners over the second half of the season.

Kickers

Kai Forbath, Redskins
Rock StarThe Eagles may not have the worst defense in the NFL but The Forecast predicts they won’t have close to the best either. The Redskins should have multiple scoring opportunities Monday night in what will likely be a high-scoring affair. Forbath connected on 17-of-18 attempts last season and is surprisingly owned on just 30 percent of leagues so far. He’s a great option if you need a kicker in Week 1 and beyond. Forbath is an accurate kicker on one of the rising offenses in the NFL.
Availability: Owned in ~ 30% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Forbath will be one of the top scoring kickers in Week 1 and for the entire 2013 season.

Steven Hauschka, Seahawks
1 Week Plug & PlaySeattle plays Carolina in Week1, which means Hauschka should see plenty of scoring chances. It’s a new season so we can only go by last year right now. The Panthers struggled to stop the run in 2012, so it could be a long afternoon for Carolina’s defense. The Panthers gave up the fourth most fantasy points to kickers last season. Hauschka should be busy all day long.
Availability: Owned in ~ 28% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Expect a couple of field goals and at least three extra points out of Hauschka in Week 1.  

Defense/Special Teams

Cleveland Browns
1 Week Plug & PlayGrab & StashFantasy owners will want to familiarize themselves with the Browns defense because Ray Horton is now the coordinator. Wherever Horton goes, sacks and turnovers follow. Last season under Horton Arizona recorded 38 sacks and created 33 takeaways. Miami will be improved on offense this year but it’s still going to take some time before everything comes together. Expect Horton to light up Ryan Tannehill with plenty of blitzes early to try and rattle the young quarterback. 
Availability: Owned in ~ 14% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: The Browns will cause havoc for Miami in the opener and be one of the better fantasy defenses this season.

Tampa Buccaneers
1 Week Plug & PlayThe Buccaneers open the season against the Jets. Is that enough or do you need more analysis? Most likely rookie Geno Smith will be under center for New York. The last time we saw Smith he was throwing three interceptions and stepping out of the back of the end zone for a safety. The Bucs will give up some yards but they should make up for it by generating a few sacks and turnovers. They also get Darrelle Revis back. The Forecast loves the Bucs as a Week 1 Plug & Play.
Availability: Owned in ~ 60% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: The Bucs defense should smother the Jets and force at least three turnovers.


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