Fantasy Football: Priority pickups for opening week

Fantastic work at your drafts, everyone. Very well done. It appears you've crafted deep and dangerous rosters, set up for full-season success. You delivered a masterclass in team-building, truly. Whatever draft grades we gave you, they weren't good enough. Wow, what squads.

Now, let's blow 'em up!

It's never too early in a season to make improvements. Throughout the year, we'll be offering pickup recommendations ahead of weekly waiver deadlines. Around here, we like to focus on players who are widely available, unattached in at least 60 percent of Yahoo leagues. If you feel like tweaking that roster you just assembled, here are a few names to consider ahead of opening week ...

Ty Johnson, RB, New York Jets (11% rostered)

This will serve as your final warning that Johnson and Tevin Coleman are going to be serious annoyances for anyone who drafted Michael Carter at or ahead of ADP. Throughout the preseason, Johnson and Coleman sure looked like the key pieces in a two-man backfield committee for the Jets. Carter, you might recall, was a third-day draft pick, not a player who was ever likely to be handed an early season starting job.

Johnson had a nice partial season for New York in 2020, averaging 4.7 YPC and hauling in 16 of his 20 targets. He also absolutely wrecked an opposing DB in the Jets' final preseason game:

Don't be surprised if Johnson sees double-digit touches and delivers a useful stat line in the opener at Carolina, a friendly matchup.

Ty'Son Williams, RB, Baltimore Ravens (31%)

Gus Edwards is the presumptive lead runner for the Ravens in the aftermath of J.K. Dobbins' season-ending injury, but, in all likelihood, he won't be the only back who sees the field. Baltimore has enjoyed success with the committee approach and we shouldn't expect them to change the formula.

This brings us to Williams, a preseason star:

The Ravens have worked out a few veteran backs after losing Justice Hill for the year, which will likely lead to thousands of speculative fantasy pickups of unhelpful players who are years past their expiration dates. But Williams enters the season as the team's No. 2 option (or the 1A?) alongside Edwards. He took a wild, circuitous route to reach the NFL (involving three collegiate stops and an ACL tear) but he's here now — and he definitely looks like he belongs. Add him ahead of a possible Week 2 rush.

Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, New England Patriots (25%)

Stevenson is gonna be a first-ballot preseason Hall of Famer, as he led the league in both rushing yards (216) and scoring (5 TDs) during exhibition play. He was phenomenal. His stellar work made Sony Michel expendable. At 230 pounds, he seems well-suited for goal-line and short-yardage carries. No one should be surprised if he has a meaningful role behind Damien Harris immediately. We should probably assume New England's general offensive plan will be to maul opposing defenses up front, leaning on its excellent O-line and bulldozing backs.

Wayne Gallman, RB, Atlanta Falcons (4%)

To be clear, Mike Davis has total control of Atlanta's backfield. He's a reliable back with receiving ability and unnaturally large quads. Davis deserved his RB2 draft status, no question. But when the Falcons signed Gallman last week and waived Qadree Ollison, the move definitely drew the attention of the fantasy community. Gallman was a productive back for the Giants last season, averaging 4.6 YPC, catching 21 balls, and scoring six touchdowns. The talent gap between Davis and Gallman isn't exactly a chasm, either. It's easy enough to imagine a 60/40 workload split developing in this backfield as the season unfolds. We should think of Gallman as something more than a pure backup.

Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, Carolina Panthers (19%)

Carolina's preseason essentially became the Terrace Marshall show, as he produced at least one sensational long reception in every game en route to a league-leading 181 receiving yards.

Marshall was one of the few size/speed combo receivers in his draft class (6-foot-3, 4.4 wheels), at least among the early-rounders, and we immediately saw those traits on display in game action. Carolina's passing game has no shortage of weapons, which should lead to plenty of favorable slot matchups for Marshall. He's gonna be a serious problem.

Parris Campbell, WR, Indianapolis Colts (11%)

Look, it's entirely possible that Campbell is simply a mistake I will continue to make until he's out of the league. (This happened previously with Chaz Schilens, Ramses Barden, and various others.) But Campbell was a terrific collegiate receiver at Ohio State back in the day (90 receptions in 2018), and he has flashed legit talent for the Colts when healthy. His big issue has been availability. At the moment, he's actually among the healthiest receivers in Indy. TY Hilton will open the season on injured reserve following neck/disk surgery, which should lead to plenty of snaps and targets for Campbell.

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Rondale Moore, WR, Arizona Cardinals (22%)

Moore is a blur, an explosive after-the-catch machine tied to a passing offense that should suit his skills. He was an absolutely unfair college player, capable of turning any touch into a long TD. Arizona's distribution of targets beyond Nuk Hopkins is yet to be determined; preseason usage suggests Moore will see enough touches to make a splash. He's exactly the sort of electric talent you want to chase as a stash-and-watch lottery ticket.

Tyrell Williams, WR, Detroit Lions (32%)

We're not gonna give you a hard sell on Williams, a player you've surely rostered in previous seasons with mixed results. But it's worth noting the fact that Detroit released Breshad Perriman a week ago, leaving Williams as the de facto No. 1 wideout in a scandalously talent-starved receiving corps. T.J. Hockenson won't see every target.

Sam Darnold, QB, Carolina Panthers (14%)

If your quarterback plan for 2021 was to draft and hold either Trey Lance or Justin Fields, then stream the position in the early weeks, Darnold should have plenty of early-season appeal. First of all, his receiving options are outstanding: McCaffrey, Moore, Anderson, Marshall, et al. Also, Carolina's first-half schedule is a gift to fantasy managers: NYJ, NO, at Hou, at Dal, Phi, Min, at NYG, at Atl. Darnold definitely has his shortcomings, but he's still likely to deliver several multi-touchdown performances through September and October.

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