Fantasy upside picks if you need to replace a star due to holdout or injury in Week 1

Yahoo Sports

By Matt Kelley (@Fantasy_Mansion)
Special to Yahoo Sports

Your Fantasy Football draft was 10 days ago. Yahoo! gave you an A- grade.

You’re feeling pretty good about yourself. Then, you remember fantasy is a 2018 proxy for gladiator spectacle and quickly swipe over to your team as the horror washes over…

“Wait, Carson Wentz is OUT Week 1?”

“Ummmm, Le’Veon Bell’s still holding out?”

“So… Alshon Jeffery is missing how many games?

“Do I really have to start this guy at tight end?”

Breathe in. Breathe out. Don’t worry. I’m here with one metrics-based high upside play at each position that too few fantasy enthusiasts are talking about. Just. Breathe.  

Andy Dalton (available in 72% of Yahoo leagues – DFS Salary $25)

Did you know Dalton once finished top-5 in total fantasy points for a full NFL season? It happened in 2013. I was there. When browsing the dented cans bin of NFL quarterbacks, Dalton has the most juice left to squeeze.

The perennially underrated Dalton has four seasons with 25 touchdowns on his résumé, including last season when his efficiency cratered. After four straight seasons with 60-plus-percent completion percentage, last season’s 59.9-percent rate was a clear anomaly. Dalton was set up to fail in 2017 after the team purged the offensive line prior to facing one of the NFL’s most difficult schedules. Bengals coaches attempted to camouflage the problem by calling the fewest pass plays in the NFL. Yes, Jacksonville actually called more pass plays than Cincinnati last season.

External forces around Dalton are shifting from a headwind to a tailwind this season. The team fortified the offensive line, headlined by the acquisition of Cordy Glenn, the mountainous former Bills left tackle. Dalton will enjoy a friendly schedule as well as a healthy John Ross stretching the field and Tyler Eifert in the red zone. Heading to Indianapolis to face the league’s most beleaguered secondary, Dalton is the sexiest streaming option on the board for both seasonal leagues and daily fantasy lineups.

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Matt Breida (available in 48% of Yahoo leagues – DFS Salary $10)

Since Jerick McKinnon was lost for the season with a torn ACL, fantasy gamers are shifting their focus to Alfred Morris, the named starter. However, a more explosive, high-upside option lurks on the depth chart. If you don’t know the name Matt Breida, you will on Sunday.

Breida was a Jim Thorpe award finalist after an exceptional junior season at Georgia Southern. He face-planted in his senior season after a change in offensive scheme and some bad luck but demonstrated excellent speed and burst in his pre-draft workouts, evidenced by a 138.4 (99th-percentile) Burst Score on In Breida, Kyle Shanahan found the explosive hurry-up back that he pounded the table for Joe Williams to be.

Morris will be the starter in name only this week as the 49ers go on the road to Minnesota where the team is a six-point underdog. While Morris is an adequate between-the-tackles grinder, when the team shifts into hurry-up mode, Breida is a more fluid pass catcher and electric in space. His 5.1 yards per touch ranked No. 17 among qualified running backs last season. Breida, not Morris, will be on the field when the 49ers need to score points.

San Francisco 49ers running back Matt Breida is a DFS bargain in Week 1 and offers solid season-long upside. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
San Francisco 49ers running back Matt Breida is a DFS bargain in Week 1 and offers solid season-long upside. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Keelan Cole (available in 45% of Yahoo leagues – DFS Salary $11)

After going undrafted in 2017, Cole enjoyed one of the most anonymous breakout seasons in NFL history. He finished No. 3 among rookie receivers in receiving yards, behind only JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cooper Kupp, all-the-while operating in the league’s most run-heavy system and fielding wayward targets from Blake Bortles. Impressive.

While NFL evaluators missed on Cole in the draft, his advanced stats and metrics prospect profile demonstrated special ability. Cole was extraordinarily prolific and efficient at Kentucky Wesleyan, evidenced by a 60.7-percent (99th-percentile) College Dominator Rating, his percentage of team receiving yards and touchdowns, and 24.6 (99th-percentile) yards per reception. He is the rare possession receiver who delivers splash plays.

What about the Bortles problem? Lacking straight line speed, Cole models his game after (blasphemy alert sound effect) Antonio Brown, one of his closes comps in the database. Like Brown, Cole is a whiz after the catch, posting a 3.3 YAC Per Target last season. YAC is the path to overcoming bad quarterback play, just ask Jarvis Landry.

Jacksonville knows what it has in Cole as he’s cleary the new No. 1 WR in the wake of Marqise Lee’s season-ending knee injury. He will enjoy a plum match-up against Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple, and the Giants secondary in Week 1. Jenkins and Apple both finished outside the top-40 in Passer Rating Allowed to Opposing Wide Receivers, and the Giants were bottom-10 in PPR fantasy points allowed to opposing receivers (33.3) in 2017.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins (available in 68% of Yahoo leagues – DFS Salary $16)

Seferian-Jenkins possesses one of the most impressive advanced prospect profiles in the history of Seferian-Jenkins almost threw it all away, but has turned things around.

A quietly featured weapon for the Jets in 2017, Seferian-Jenkins’ 18.6-percent Target Share ranked No. 9 among qualified tight ends. For every touchdown he scored, Seferian-Jenkins had one nullified by a penalty, ripped away by pass interference, or overturned by instant replay. In an alternate red zone universe, ASJ was a top-12 fantasy tight end last season.

Seferian-Jenkins is now a Jaguar, which is somehow a good thing. Beyond Cole, Jacksonville’s receiving corps is devoid of proven producers. Donte Moncrief has never consistently delivered, field stretcher Dede Westbrook is a skill mismatch with Bortles, and DJ Chark is at least a year away from becoming a consistent contributor. The path is clear for Seferian-Jenkins to once again finish in the top-10 among NFL tight ends in Target Share.

Assuming he plays through his abdominal injury this week, Seferian-Jenkins faces the New York Giants, one of the all-time friendliest defenses for opposing tight ends. The Giants allowed an astonishing 16.1 fantasy points per game, including 13 total touchdowns, to opposing tight ends in 2017. Talent + Opportunity = Fantasy Points. Play ASJ.

You’re welcome.

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