Hot Starts: Five fantasy players who will shine early in 2016

Can Jeremy Hill return to 2014 form? (Getty)
Can Jeremy Hill return to 2014 form? (Getty)

Matt Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
Looking comfy in Jim Bob Cooter’s offense, the Lions’ signal caller completed nearly 71 percent of his passes after Detroit’s bye week in 2015. With news that the Lions are planning to push the pace in 2016, Staff could throw the ball upwards of 640 times in 2016. While losing Calvin Johnson obviously hurts, opening the season opposite a Vontae Davis-less Colts should get the momentum going.

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Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Running with a fervor that’s resembled his 2014 campaign, Hill has wowed over the preseason. With numerous pass-catching weapons missing from the lineup, the Bengals are likely to lean on the 23-year-old bruiser early. In fact, Hill saw his highest number of totes last year during the weeks in which Tyler Eifert – who is expected to miss the first four to six games of the regular season – was sidelined. A match-up against the Jets in Week 1 may not seem ideal, but Hill’s renewed burst, in tandem with his volume, should stun even Gang Green.

Mike Wallace, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Just two years removed from a 10 TD campaign, Wallace is ripe for a rebound. In the regular season dress rehearsal, Flacco showed his affection for Wallace, targeting the 30-year-old six times in the first quarter. With TE Ben Watson out for the season and the rest of the receiving corps shaking off rust, the Flacco/Wallace connection should continue to flourish.

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Jared Cook, TE, Green Bay Packers
I was admittedly skeptical about Cook’s ability to stand out in Green Bay, but after watching him haul in four of five targets in the Packers’ third preseason outing, I’m more convinced. Not since Jermichael Finley has Green Bay had such a reliable weapon over the middle. Richard Rodgers flashed in 2015, but he’s nowhere near as athletic as Cook. Like a shiny new toy, McCarthy will be eager to use the 6-foot-5 and 254-pound specimen, especially as Jordy Nelson is eased in.

Eli Rogers, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Looking agile and polished, Rogers has muscled his way up the Steelers depth chart, effectively shutting down the Sammie Coates hype train. Expected to open the season in the slot as Pittsburgh’s No. 3 receiver, Rogers should benefit from softer coverage as defenders attempt to slow Antonio Brown. The Louisville product additionally figures to see a large number of targets with Ladarius Green’s availability in question. Plus, he’ll be an asset to Ben Roethlisberger while Le’Veon Bell serves a three-game suspension. In a high-flying offense that’s potentially beginning the year without three of the team’s most valued weapons, Rogers is a sneaky pick to surprise.

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