Arizona Cardinals: Ricky Seals-Jones – After 35-year-old Larry Fitzgerald, targets are wide open in Arizona. Seals-Jones’ 2.96 yards per route run last season would’ve easily led all tight ends had he qualified, so he offers rare upside at the position.
Atlanta Falcons: Team Defense – It’s a younger unit that was playing extremely well down the stretch last season and sports an underrated secondary that should benefit from an easier schedule that includes an early stretch of five home games in six weeks.
Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson – Since 2013, Joe Flacco has been the highest paid player in the NFL while also sporting the lowest YPA, so the rebuilding Ravens shouldn’t hesitate to hand the keys over to a playmaker like Jackson, who doesn’t have to be a great (or even good) passer to make a major fantasy impact thanks to his legs (Jackson ran for 3,172 yards and 39 touchdowns over the last two seasons in Louisville).
Buffalo Bills: Chris Ivory – LeSean McCoy is 30 years old and coming off a season in which he totaled 371 touches (and the first in which he played 16 games since 2014), when he ranked 45th out of 53 qualified running backs in elusive rating. He’s also facing a possible league suspension, so consider this more of a McCoy fade, as Ivory is the clear backup in Buffalo.
Carolina Panthers: D.J. Moore – His college numbers look far more impressive when you consider just how limited Maryland’s passing attack was, and it shouldn’t take long before Moore displaces the thoroughly mediocre Devin Funchess as Carolina’s No. 1 wide receiver.
Chicago Bears: Mitchell Trubisky – He wasn’t asked to do much as a rookie, but he at least held his own and got a huge upgrade in coaching during the offseason, when Chicago also added Allen Robinson, Trey Burton and Anthony Miller as weapons. Trubisky can run, could make a huge leap in year two, and Chicago projects to have one of the league’s easier pass defense schedules.
Cincinnati Bengals: John Ross – The No. 9 pick in the 2017 draft, Ross’ path to Cincinnati’s WR2 role was made easier once the team released Brandon LaFell. Finally healthy, Ross could see a significant role in an offense frequently playing from behind and relying on brittle Tyler Eifert as the best alternative to A.J. Green.
Cleveland Browns: David Njoku – He flashed during his rookie campaign and looks poised to break out in year two, especially given Cleveland’s once deep-looking wide receiver corps is suddenly in question. Don’t be surprised when Njoku finishes with more fantasy value than Jimmy Graham this season.
Dallas Cowboys: Michael Gallup – The Cowboys no longer have Dez Bryant or Jason Witten and currently list Allen Hurns and Terrance Williams atop one of the league’s weakest WR depth charts. Gallup should immediately make noise in the red zone and emerge as Dallas’ top receiver over the second half of the season.
Denver Broncos: Case Keenum – He proved plenty capable last year, posting a 7.8 YPA and a 15:4 TD:INT ratio over the final eight games. Keenum will once again benefit from throwing to a couple of talented wideouts in Denver just like he did in Minnesota.
Detroit Lions: Luke Willson – Detroit’s new starter after Eric Ebron’s departure, Willson never got much of an opportunity in Seattle, but there’s a need for him in the red zone on his new team.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Jones – He opens the year with a two-game suspension, but Jones’ 6.1 YPC against base fronts last year ranked second in the NFL, as did his breakaway run rate (7.5%). He still needs work in the passing game, but Jones is the far superior runner to Jamaal Williams (who suffered an ankle injury Thursday), and he’s the type of pick who can win your league for you if he becomes the feature back on an Aaron Rodgers led offense.
Houston Texans: Jordan Akins – Old for a rookie, Akins could fast emerge as Houston’s starting tight end with C.J. Fiedorowicz retired. Houston averaged 39.0 points during Deshaun Watson’s final five starts last season and lacks a star RB (and Will Fuller is a big injury risk), so this could be a sneaky good situation for the athletic Akins.
Indianapolis Colts: Ryan Grant – He’s the favorite to act as the No. 2 receiver on an offense led by a healthy-looking Andrew Luck yet curiously remains overlooked at draft tables.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Corey Grant – Leonard Fournette is one of the bigger injury risks among early picks, and Grant (not T.J. Yeldon) would be the fantasy back to own should he go down. He’s an afterthought who could be a real difference maker.
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes – He takes over a spot that made Alex Smith an MVP candidate last season, and Mahomes has more fantasy upside thanks to his rushing ability. The Chiefs added Sammy Watkins to an offense already featuring Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce to go along with a deteriorating defense, so the situation looks right for Mahomes to finish as a top-10 fantasy QB this year.
Los Angeles Chargers: Mike Williams – With Hunter Henry out for the season, a defense already getting hit by injuries and a No. 1 wide receiver in Keenan Allen who was not long ago thought of as one of the more injury-prone players in the league, there’s a clear path for Williams to make a major impact in 2018 despite his lost rookie season. Last year’s No. 7 overall pick should be used heavily in the red zone, at minimum.
Los Angeles Rams: Cooper Kupp – He’s third on the team’s WR depth chart but finished top-15 in yards per route run last season and has continued to show good rapport with Jared Goff all summer.
Miami Dolphins: Mike Gesicki – With Jarvis Landry out of town, and Devante Parker once again disappointing before getting hurt, there’s opportunity for the rookie to step in and be a big part of Miami’s offense right away. Gesicki’s workout metrics were ridiculous.
Minnesota Vikings: Latavius Murray – He could have standalone value if he wins Minnesota’s goal-line job anyway, but Murray’s real worth is stashing in case of Dalvin Cook going down. Murray has the ability to be a workhorse, and he’s quietly rushed for 20 touchdowns over the last two seasons. Given the situation, Murray would be a fantasy RB1 should he get a chance as the Vikings’ lead back.
New England Patriots: Jeremy Hill – I’m in on Rex Burkhead, but he’s never had even 75 rushing attempts in a season and is currently sidelined with a knee injury along with Sony Michel, so the opportunity may soon arise for Hill. One year after LeGarrette Blount led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns for the Pats, New England produced 20+ more RB touches in the red zone last season than the team with the next most, so it’s beneficial playing for the Patriots.
New Orleans Saints: Ben Watson – The Saints should throw more TD passes this year after Drew Brees tossed a modest 23 last season while leading the league in YPA (8.1) and setting the NFL record in completion percentage (72.0). The last time Watson teamed with Brees (in 2015), the tight end produced 74 catches for 825 yards and six touchdowns.
New York Giants: Eli Manning – It’s possible he’s finished at 37, but with Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley as weapons on an offense with a massive coaching upgrade, Manning is certainly in position to greatly outperform his ADP.
New York Jets: Robby Anderson – He finished 10th in Josh Hermsmeyer’s WOPR stat (it combines Air Yards with opportunity) last season, and the nine above him feature all of the league’s star wideouts. Anderson may not see quite the same target share in 2018, but he’s only getting better, and the Jets’ QB play offers more upside now.
Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr – His price tag has never been lower, and it’s possible the market is overreacting to Jon Gruden’s talk about returning football to the stone age. The Raiders feature Amari Cooper, a reportedly refreshed Jordy Nelson (and the theoretical potential of Martavis Bryant) and should be in plenty of AFC West shootouts this season.
Philadelphia Eagles: Mike Wallace – It’s quite impressive he got 8.5 yards per target over his two years in Baltimore given Joe Flacco’s play, and Wallace now joins the defending Super Bowl champs’ innovative offense that’s currently without Alshon Jeffrey and Nelson Agholor. Wallace ranked No. 21 in Air Yards last season, sandwiched between Larry Fitzgerald and Tyreek Hill.
Pittsburgh Steelers: James Conner – He’s emerging as the clear backup behind an injury-prone Le’Veon Bell who’s coming off extremely heavy workloads (he’s averaged 371 touches over the last two seasons despite missing five games) and currently holding out. Conner would have immediate fantasy value should Bell miss time in the regular season.
Seattle Seahawks: Tyler Lockett – Finally healthy after battling leg issues all of last season, Lockett has a clear path to a career-high in targets with Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson gone, and Doug Baldwin is out for the preseason with a knee injury. With a crumbling Seattle defense, the Seahawks are going to have to throw more than usual as well, and Lockett’s drop rate (2.17%) last year ranked seventh best.
San Francisco 49ers: George Kittle – Sidelined with a shoulder injury, Kittle’s buzz has died down some, but his upside during year two in San Francisco’s offense is matched by few other tight ends (Kittle’s yards per route run during Jimmy Garoppolo starts would’ve led all TEs over 2018). There’s a big area of need in the red zone for a team poised to score a bunch of points, and Kittle is a beast ready to take full advantage of the situation.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Chris Godwin – There’s little question he’s already a more complete receiver than DeSean Jackson, and Mike Evans is one of the more inefficient wideouts in the league. Godwin may have to rotate snaps some, but he finished top-15 in yards per route run last year as a rookie. Jameis Winston got 8.7 YPA over the second half of last season, so the Bucs will be quite interesting once they make a coaching change.
Tennessee Titans: Taywan Taylor – Everyone’s excited about the coaching moves in Tennessee (specifically the hiring of OC Matt LaFleur), and Taylor has emerged as a sneaky PPR option as the team’s WR3 with the potential for more with both Rishard Matthews and Corey Davis battling injuries.
Washington: Alex Smith – He got 8.0 YPA and finished as fantasy’s QB4 despite sitting out Week 17 last year. Smith won’t have Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce in Washington, but they do have plenty of interesting weapons (especially if Jordan Reed stays healthy) on an offense that runs a faster pace than Kansas City’s.