4 Downs: Week 1

Finally, football is here. Sadly, our drafts, the most exciting stage of the fantasy season, our complete yet now it’s time to see who’s hunches paid off, who had the best nose for sleepers and also who’s fantasy radar needs recalibrating.

In light of Kareem Hunt’s monster debut, let’s take a look into four other unknowns looking to make some noise in the fantasy community this Sunday.

1st Down | Christian McCaffrey – RB, Carolina Panthers

No rookie or any other player has made quite as many headlines or twitter impressions this offseason than McCaffrey. The Stanford stud has routinely plastered highlight clips all over the internet, causing his fantasy stock to sky-rocket in a matter of days.
We have yet to see any reason to assume McCaffrey will not be as successful at the pro level as his collegiate career and he will be looking to prove that in his week 1 match-up versus the 49ers.

McCaffrey’s use and volume are the only things that give pause to an otherwise fool-proof fantasy success story. This first game will indicate just how much the Panthers will use him going forward and if his volume and value will be scuppered by TD vulture Johnathan Stewart. However, we should expect a big showing from McCaffrey until he proves us otherwise.

2nd Down | Pierre Garçon – WR, San Francisco 49ers

It may seem strange to suggest that Garçon, a 1000+ yard WR last season, is an unknown commodity. Yet the truth is that both he and the entire 2017 49ers offense is just so.

With offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan now running the show it isn’t inconceivable that the new HC manages to coax a decent season out of a somewhat rag-tag bunch of offensive personnel. The 49ers haven’t really revealed much of their plan during this preseason and there has been a quiet but optimistic buzz emanating from Santa Clara this summer.

The depth chart behind Garçon is essentially non-existent and so it may be likely that he leads the NFL in targets this season. While his volume is unquestioned, the quality of his targets however are. The 49ers have been a barren fantasy landscape for a few seasons now and many may find it hard to shake the feeling of ineptitude regarding ‘Niners players.

The 49ers week 1 match-up against an emotional and stacked Houston defense will certainly be telling and indicate just how clever Kyle Shanahan really is if he can edge out a decent performance. Garçon seems a great value and a relatively safe player but many thought the same about Torrey Smith last season also.

3rd Down | Ameer Abdullah – RB, Detroit Lions

It appears that 2017 is a crossroads for both Ameer Abdullah’s career and fantasy reputation. An undeniable talent yes, but his NFL tenure has so far been littered with short promises of greatness and debilitating injuries.

The Lions truly showed how much they trust Abdullah this offseason, refraining from drafting another running-back in what was such a deep class. It seems that this will be Abdullah’s job to lose and he will finally be given a full opportunity to become the feature back in Detroit.

With Matthew Stafford’s emergence as an upper echelon quarterback last season, both on the field and in fantasy, defensive attention will likely be focused on the passing game in Detroit. If Abdullah truly wants to take a step forward then he will take advantage of these lighter boxes and utilize his elusiveness and agility.

This season and this week 1 game against the Arizona Cardinals will be one of great consequence for Abdullah and we will finally learn whether he has what it takes to become a great fantasy back or not.

4th Down | Jared Goff – QB, Los Angeles Rams

While it is hard to argue for Goff’s success in his rookie season last year, it is easy to argue that his situation was terrible. Surrounded by a terrible receiving corps, offensive line and more prominently a woefully underqualified coaching staff, Goff was never in a position to grow or even show a glimpse of his promise.

Now, a year on, with a full year under his belt and an offensive guru at his side in new HC Sean McVay, 2017 will be a big year for Jared Goff.
With play makers like Sammy Watkins and Todd Gurley being freed in a diverse offense, Goff will have both time and talent to perform with. Week 1 is a perfect statement game for the new look Rams, squaring up against the injury ravaged Indianapolis Colts.

A lack-luster ‘Luck-less’ Colts team are ripe for the picking for Goff to show his second-year progress and sharpen his teeth for the season to come. This game will either build Goff’s confidence immensely or truly suck any hint of pride from his body if they lose to potentially the worst team in the NFL.

In my opinion, Goff is ready to take the next step and so why he was worthy of the first pick in the 2016 draft. While I would avoid starting him in fantasy in any form, I would keep an eye on the 2017 Los Angeles Rams and their QB on the waiver wire.

Thank you for reading, please follow Will on Twitter @willpendosports

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