Hey, terrific work in those fantasy football drafts, everyone. Your squads are looking solid — well-balanced, plenty of upside. Great job. A triumph of modern drafting principles. Truly impressive stuff.
But c'mon, you've been staring at the same rosters for days. Let's blow 'em up!
At the very least, let's maybe make a few targeted enhancements. It's never too early in the season to improve your teams. Here are eight widely available players (plus a useful defense for Week 1) who deserve your attention ...
Marvin Mims Jr., WR, Denver Broncos (37% rostered)
Denver's receiving room was hit hard by injuries this summer, leaving Mims with an unobstructed path to significant snaps and an early season starting role. The rookie was a big-play machine at the collegiate level, averaging 19.5 yards per reception over three seasons at Oklahoma. He became the first draft pick of the Sean Payton era when the Broncos traded up to land him with the final pick of the second round. After an encouraging camp and preseason, Mims seems like a serious challenger to be this season's top-scoring rookie receiver.
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) August 27, 2023
Mims has rare athletic traits that separate him from any other member of Denver's receiving corps, including 4.38 speed and a 39.5 vertical. He deserves a spot on someone's roster in any 12-team league.
Recommended bid, assuming $100 budget: $9
Tank Bigsby, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (48%)
Bigsby was a yards-after-contact terror in the preseason, averaging 5.7 YPC, breaking off several big gains and generally passing the eye test.
— NFL (@NFL) August 26, 2023
He's not any sort of immediate threat to Travis Etienne, but the bruising rookie is an ideal complementary back. It shouldn't surprise anyone if he has a rotational role in Jacksonville's backfield in the opener. Bigsby hauled in 30 catches at Auburn last season, so he's approved for use as a receiving weapon as well. Consider him a premium understudy with the potential to enter the flex conversation.
Juwan Johnson, TE, New Orleans Saints (47%)
Just so we're clear: If you're looking for a perfect stat-for-stat replacement for an injured Travis Kelce, who was ruled out for Week 1, it ain't happening. Such a player does not exist. Kelce is a tier-of-his-own tight end. We certainly can't expect Noah Gray or any other Chiefs tight end to deliver as Kelce would have.
Which brings us to Johnson, a veteran coming off a 508-yard, 7-TD season for the Saints. He finished as the overall TE8 last season (miles behind Kelce), delivering a particularly strong second half. The team made a modest upgrade at quarterback, which should benefit the entire offense. Johnson opens his season against a Tennessee defense that ranked dead-last against the pass last year, allowing the second-most receptions (100) and receiving yards (1,144) to opposing tight ends.
Jake Ferguson, TE, Dallas Cowboys (33%)
Ferguson is a second-year pro from Wisconsin who caught 19 of his 22 targets last season and now finds himself as the starter for Dallas. Last year, the Cowboys wore out Dalton Schultz in the red zone; he saw the second-most RZ targets among all tight ends (20) and the second-most chances inside the 10-yard line (10). If Ferguson finds himself with similar usage, he'll easily produce a top-10 positional finish.
Van Jefferson, WR, Los Angeles Rams (31%)
We certainly aren't going to argue that Jefferson is a perfect one-for-one replacement for the injured Cooper Kupp, because ... well, because nobody fits that description. But Jefferson is a quality receiving option with big-play ability, just one season removed from an 802-yard, six-touchdown campaign. He and Tyler Higbee should see all the targets they can handle in the opener (and possibly beyond), with Kupp presumably sidelined. Jefferson is fully Reception Perception-approved, too. He's a viable deep-league starter against Seattle in Week 1.
Sam Howell, QB, Washington Commanders (22%)
If Howell simply remains healthy in 2023 and gives us a full season, he can absolutely finish among the top-10 at his position. First of all, his top two receivers are emerging stars ...
— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) August 12, 2023
... which certainly helps. Jahan Dotson was a revelation as a rookie and he's been one of the league's buzziest players throughout the summer. Terry McLaurin has already produced three straight 1,000-yard seasons, despite having worked with a parade of unimpressive QBs.
And then there's Howell himself. He has plenty of arm talent and improvisational ability, plus he's a serious rushing threat. In his final collegiate season at UNC, he ran for 828 yards and 11 TDs. We've hyped and re-hyped Howell around here as a down-the-ranks option for managers who pass on the early round quarterbacks. He's one of the few players at this spot who's worth stashing as a what-if option, just in case Washington's offense carries its preseason momentum into September.
Deon Jackson, RB, Indianapolis Colts (40%)
Jackson is plainly not an adequate replacement for Jonathan Taylor, yet here we are. Jim Irsay just makes everything so much weirder and more difficult than it needs to be.
The Colts are opening the season without their most explosive skill player (through significant fault of their own), which leaves Jackson as the likely starting running back. Fifth-round rookie Evan Hull should see action in passing situations; he's coming off a 55-catch season for a dreadful Northwestern team. Sketchy vet Zack Moss should return from injury within a week or two.
This backfield is just ... well, it's kinda disgusting. Here's hoping you didn't draft your way into a situation in which you need to rely on any Colts in September. However, if you constructed a Zero RB roster, this is the life you chose. For you, Jackson is probably a mandatory add. As is Moss. And Hull is the thrill-of-the-unknown guy with receiving ability.
All things considered, this depth chart is pretty gross without Taylor. We need him back in the worst way.
FAB: Officially $5, but the Zero RB squads may need to be more aggressive with Colts backs.
Sean Tucker, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4%)
Tucker will open the year as the direct backup to Rachaad White, a player coming off an inefficient first pro season, light on highlights and breakaway runs. It's not as if White can't possibly cede touches to another back. Over Tucker's final two seasons at Syracuse, he gained over 3,000 scrimmage yards, scored 27 touchdowns and caught 56 passes. He likely would have been a Day Two pick in the draft, but he was diagnosed with a previously unrecognized heart condition during the NFL combine. Tucker was cleared by doctors over the summer and he's pretty clearly made the most of his opportunity. It may not take long for Tucker to emerge as more the 1A than the No. 2 in Tampa's backfield. Stash him now, before he's the headliner in the pickups column later in the season.
Seattle Seahawks, D/ST (16%)
Seattle is a 5.5-point home favorite facing Matthew Stafford and a seemingly Kupp-less Rams. This pickup honestly shouldn't require much additional explanation. If we get 40-plus dropbacks from Stafford in opening week, he's likely to take 3-5 sacks and give the ball away once or twice. You can't ask for much more when streaming Ds.