Welcome to Last Word on Football’s third annual weekly watch list. This is a list that helps fantasy football team managers stay ahead of the curve. Everyone knows that leagues are not won through the draft, but instead through free agency. But when most think free agency, they think of waivers. Well, the watch list bypasses waivers altogether but finding those players before they have their breakout week. Week 1 is sure to be as wild of a week as the league has ever seen. Keep on an eye on Nyheim Hines, J.D. McKissic, and Bryan Edwards.
Week One Fantasy Football Watch List Highlighted by Bryan Edwards
To many people, this one will not make sense. Rookie wide receivers already face an uphill battle at fantasy relevance. And not only that, but the Las Vegas Raiders also took Henry Ruggs III as a first-round pick before snagging Bryan Edwards in the third as a day-two pick. But the Edwards hype train has been slowly filling to capacity this entire offseason.
The rookie has looked so good that Jon Gruden even talked about playing Ruggs in the slot just to get the two of them on the field at the same time with veteran Tyrell Williams. Once Williams was lost for the season, they didn’t have to do that anymore, and now both Ruggs and Edwards are listed as the outside starters.
The thing that makes Edwards the more appetizing rookie is that he is a bit more polished of a prospect, having played four years for South Carolina as a starter. This allowed Edwards to rack up over 3,000 receiving yards and six touchdowns. His senior year he likely would have eclipsed 1,000 yards had he not been limited to 10 games with an injury. Then, he broke his foot leading up to the Combine, preventing him from participating.
This isn’t to say that Ruggs can’t also be fantasy relevant. He will act as the team’s speedster, probably putting up boom-or-bust stats from week to week. But Edwards 6’3″, 212-pound frame will give him the opportunity to be quarterback Derek Carr’s go-to guy, which might lead to more overall looks, including in the red zone. Check out how he and Ruggs pair together in their first NFL action this Sunday.
The most talked-about running backs for the Indianapolis Colts this off-season have been Jonathan Taylor and Marlon Mack. Mack has been the incumbent starter for the past two seasons but will likely be usurped at some point this season by the rookie Taylor.
Mack has been a more-than-serviceable runner during his time with the Colts. However, the team obviously wasn’t sold on him, mostly because of his health issues. Mack has never started 16 games in a season and has left matchups multiple times after being banged up. Indianapolis is looking for someone who can be reliable, and they feel that Taylor will be that guy. Taylor racked up over 6,000 rushing yards in his three college seasons, only missing one game.
So where does Nyheim Hines come into the picture? With Philip Rivers. The wily veteran comes to Indianapolis after spending his entire 15-year career with the Los Angeles Chargers. During that time he made pass-catching backs like Darren Sproles, and most recently Austin Ekeler household names. Hines has never been a big runner, but he does have over 700 receiving yards in his two-year NFL career.
Taylor has never been much of a receiver, only hauling in a total of 42 catches during his time at Wisconsin. Mack might end up being the odd-man-out here, with Taylor taking over early-down work, and then Hines coming in as the change-of-pace and receiving back. Watch his role this weekend to see if he might be worth stashing.
J.D. McKissic is a guy that kind of came out of nowhere recently for the Washington Football Team. Their backfield turned into a fantasy football mess when they cut both Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson. Most project rookie Antonio Gibson to get passing down work, with either Peyton Barber or Bryce Love coming in on early-down work.
However, it turned heads when the team announced McKissic as the starter. Yahoo is calling it “veteran treatment,” as he is the eldest of the room. Still, it is something worth monitoring. McKissic really hasn’t done much his entire NFL career. Early on, he dealt with injuries that limited him to just 18 games his first three years with the Seattle Seahawks. However, last year he appeared in all 16 games for the Detroit Lions. He played a backseat role, only getting 38 carries and catching 34 passes.
Interestingly enough, Gibson, who is projected ahead of him, has almost identical numbers there, with 38 receptions and 33 rushes his final college season. However, he did a lot more with his work. Gibson racked up 12 touchdowns and over 1,000 yards from scrimmage in his limited work. But as a rookie, it is tough to say if he can really translate that to NFL success, or if his body will be able to take the physicality of the pro game.
From there, Love is still a player on the roster bubble, and Barber didn’t show that he can be anything more than average during his time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. McKissic is nowhere near fantasy-relevant yet, but watch that entire backfield week one to get an idea on how it might start to play out.