The 2016 Fantasy Football season is here, and Jake Ciely (@allinkid) of *RotoExperts.com will be providing exclusive expert Fantasy coverage for NewOrleansSaints.com. Throughout the season, Jake will give you the deal on Saints players from fantasy perspectives, while letting you know which performers will help you take home a championship, or more.*
The Saints will aim to get the season started on the right path with a home win against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Getting off to a fast start is always crucial in the NFL and Fantasy Football, and with no 2015 playoff teams on the schedule until after the bye, the Saints and their players are primed for big numbers early this year.
Drew Brees finished as QB6 last year despite playing only 15 games. He averaged the fourth most Fantasy Points Per Game (FPPG) for quarterbacks with 4,878 yards and 32 touchdowns. That marked the fifth straight season with at least 4,878 yards for Brees and his eighth straight with at least 32 touchdowns. The Raiders allowed the eighth most passing yards to quarterbacks last year, but you already knew that if you drafted Brees, you're starting him every week.
The Raiders allowed the fourth most receptions and 11th most yards to receivers last year. That's especially nice for PPR formats, and it means Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead IV and Michael Thomas should all find their way into most lineups. Cooks is a must-start every week, as he was the 12th best fantasy receiver last year thanks to a breakout season of 84 catches, 1,140 yards and nine touchdowns. Snead surprised many, but the talent was always there. Snead played 15 games and didn't start early in the season, but still had 70 catches, 990 yards and three touchdowns. It's hard to bench Snead in any format but even more so in PPR. As for Thomas, he has NFL-level route running ability, even as a rookie, and he will step in and be the new Marques Colston in the red zone. Thomas will be a threat to score every week and should reach 7-8 touchdowns as a rookie. Tight end Coby Fleener arrives via free agency and is similar to Thomas in that Brees will enjoy finding him in the red zone. As always, tight ends in the Saints offense have TE1 potential each week.
Running back Mark Ingram was among the elite last year in Fantasy Points Per Game. Ingram had 50 catches in 12 games, making him a Top 10 running back in FPPG both in standard and PPR formats. You drafted him early and deservedly so. Ingram is a "set it and forget it" running back. Never bench him. C.J. Spiller still carries upside in deeper PPR formats. Make sure he's owned in your league as the Saints look to get him more involved this season.
The Raiders offense broke out last year with Derek Carr throwing 32 touchdowns. This game could turn into a shootout. That's good news for the Saints kicker though. The Saints made a last-minute move to bring in Wil Lutz. If you're rostering the Saints kicker, make sure it's the right one.
Some of the big names at quarterback have favorable matchups already in Week 1. Carson Palmer and Aaron Rodgers both play two of the more forgiving defenses, but the two lesser-owned options are Tyrod Taylor and Matthew Stafford. Taylor impressed in 14 games last year thanks to his legs. The Ravens were weak against the pass all year and only made slight improvements this offseason. Stafford was a new man under Jim Bob Cooter and was a QB1 down the stretch. Stafford has a great opportunity to put up QB1 numbers in Week 1 against the Colts defense, especially without Vontae Davis. It's nice to see Ryan Fitzpatrick back for the Jets, but you may want to avoid using him against the Bengals to start the season.
Spencer Ware steps in to start for the Chiefs this week, and the Chargers defense was one of the weakest units against the run last season. With a starter's workload, Ware is in the discussion for RB1 status. The Giants promise to use Rashad Jennings more like they did late last year when he was a Top 5 running back over the last four weeks. A matchup against the Cowboys defense points to Jennings performing similarly to start 2016. Ryan Mathews always had the talent, and now he has the backfield to himself with DeMarco Murray in Tennessee. Treat him as a Top 15 option with the Browns defense on tap. Speaking of the Browns, the one good thing the Eagles defense was good at was stopping the run. Due to Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson sharing the backfield, you may want to find another option at running back this week. The same goes for Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead (although, Woodhead is at least a Flex in PPR) as they face the stingy Chiefs defense.
As mentioned with Stafford, the Colts defense is very forgiving in the passing game. With no Davis in the secondary, Golden Tate and Marvin Jones should have big days in store. Start both in all formats. Torrey Smith looks to rebound this year, and a matchup with the Rams secondary will certainly help. He's a boom/bust WR4 in all leagues and a sneaky DFS play. Corey Coleman is a talented rookie that will be the top option for the Browns to start the season. The Eagles are susceptible to big plays, and Coleman is dangerous after the catch. He has a nice ceiling as a WR4. Mohamed Sanu's signing with the Falcons has been a bit overlooked, but don't make that mistake in Fantasy, as the Bucs present a good opportunity for Sanu to start his Falcons career off right. Kelvin Benjamin now has Devin Funchess and Ted Ginn to contend with for targets, and the Broncos defense is by far the toughest against receivers. It would be wise to wait a week before plugging Benjamin in your lineup.
Dak Prescott is at quarterback for the Cowboys and showed good poise in the preseason. The Giants defense is revamped, but Jason Witten has a history of putting up big numbers against them… plus, a tight end is a rookie quarterback's best friend. Gary Barnidge showed up big for the Browns last year, and he should do the same in Week 1 against the Eagles. Start him with confidence. Don't expect Tyler Croft to put up Tyler Eifert-like numbers, especially against a Jets defense that shut down tight ends last year.