DALLAS - Heading into the first Sunday of the NFL regular season, there are more questions than any other week during the year. In any given year, star players can see their production fall off a cliff and unknown players can become folk heroes for fantasy owners everywhere.
Sometimes, that thought can cause many owners to over-think things when setting their starting lineups. Despite all the questions that will be answered as the season progresses, in many ways, the first week of fantasy action is among the easiest week for setting your lineup. There's no reason to get cute. Play your starters. You drafted them, now it's time to see what they can do.
Here are the 10 must start players for Week 1, including two surprises:
EDDIE LACY, RB, GB (surprise #1)
The Packers running back took a step backwards last season after showing up overweight and never shedding it. He was a disappointment more often and not, frustrating fantasy owners who used high picks on him in their drafts. Thus, causing him to fall out of the elite category in many drafts this season.
However, Lacy shed a reported 20 plus pounds this offseason and looks like a completely new player. He had a very strong preseason, and should have enormous opportunity to produce in a high powered offense that is also getting wide receiver Jordy Nelson back. Look for the new and improved Lacy to put himself back on the fantasy map against a Jacksonville defense that was towards the bottom of the league in allowing points to running backs in 2015.
DEZ BRYANT, WR, DAL (surprise #2)
His value dropped in drafts after the preseason injury to Tony Romo. His tumble came on top of the already small drop he suffered after missing most of last season with a broken bone in his foot. Now, with rookie Dak Prescott throwing him the football, can Dez still put up elite numbers?
The short and easy answer is “yes”. Prescott has all the physical tools to be a successful player in the NFL and he has also showed great poise in the pocket during preseason action. In college, Prescott only threw 1 interception for every 50 pass attempts. He can make all the throws and there is no doubt the Cowboys will look to keep Dez involved.
The only potential worry is that Bryant could lose out on some production due to the Cowboys running game. That is a legit concern, but it wasn’t a problem in 2014 when DeMarco Murray led the NFL in rushing. Dez Bryant is healthy, he still has a QB that can get him the football, and the Cowboys actively look to keep him fed and happy. After missing most of last season, Dez is going to be drooling to get into the endzone against the division rival Giants, and I wouldn’t bet against him.
TODD GURLEY, RB, LA
Gurley appears to be the second coming of Adrian Peterson. Showing off an ability to do just about anything on the football field as a rookie coming off an injury, the sky is the limit for the Rams prized running back.
With the quarterback situation very shaky, the Rams should look to feed Gurley the ball early and often. Obviously you start Gurley every single week, but you should expect very big things this week against a horrible 49ers run defense.
ANTONIO BROWN, WR, PIT
Brown is the best wide receiver in football and you subsequently start him every week because of that. Nothing else needs to be said.
JULIO JONES, WR, ATL
If Antonio Brown is the best receiver in football, then Jones is a very close second. Even when he isn’t fully healthy, he can put up huge numbers. This week he is healthy and going up against a Tampa Bay pass defense that was bad in 2015.
KEENAN ALLEN, WR, SD
Allen is a target monster on an offense that should be above average this season. He missed more than half the season last year, but was on pace for over 130 receptions before the injury. He is fully healthy and will be facing a remarkably subpar Kansas City pass defense.
EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, RB, DAL
The preseason favorite for Rookie of the Year, Elliott should get plenty of chances to shine in his first NFL game. Playing at home in front of the Dallas fans, against a division rival who had a very bad run defense a year ago, while also benefiting from quarterback Dak Prescott’s ability to run the football himself, Elliott should splash onto the NFL scene early.
AARON RODGERS, QB, GB
Even though Eddie Lacy should also have a big game running the football, Rodgers will no doubt look more like his old self with wide receiver duo of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb back together. New tight end Jared Cook could also give Rodgers a receiving threat at tight end that he hasn’t had in a long time.
Rodgers is also going up against a Jacksonville pass defense that was almost last in the league last year in points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Sure, they might be somewhat improved, but not enough to slow down the best quarterback in football. Rodgers should throw for at least 2 touchdowns and have a very productive day for his fantasy owners.
DREW BREES, QB, NO
Once he finally healed after playing injured during the first part of the 2015 season, Brees looked like his old dominant self. With tons of young athletic talent around him, and an offense that still relies on the pass, Brees should have a big day at home against a very average Oakland pass defense.
SAMMY WATKINS, WR, BUF
From weeks 9 through 17 (8 games) in 2015, Watkins had 7 touchdowns and five games with at least 109 yards receiving. In three of those games, he had 136, 158 and 168 yards receiving respectively. Finally healthy entering a season and with an improving Tyrod Taylor at QB, Watkins should star against a Baltimore pass defense that was horrendous in 2015.
Need to know who to start? You can ask Blake your fantasy football questions on Twitter @blakegibbs.
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