The NFL is finally here and kicks off tonight on NBC. Here at Touchdown Alabama, we will begin a new series called The Crimson Fantasy. We will be taking a look at what type of fantasy football production you should expect from former Alabama players now in the league. We all love our former Crimson Tide and probably draft them a round or two higher than they deserve but as long as they produce, who cares. I will let you know whether I would start or sit each player based off their matchups in that week. I will show scoring projections for both ESPN and Yahoo standard scoring leagues before giving my own projection of stats and fantasy points. Let’s get things started with the Alabama greats that are now NFL stars.
Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons will host the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night on ESPN. All the talks coming out of Hotlanta are about the improved Falcon offense. Matt Ryan is back and has Jones as his favorite target. The Eagles defense finished 31st last season in pass defense and gave up the 5th most passing touchdowns. Byron Maxwell will be a huge help but there are still a lot of questions. Unfortunately for Jones, Maxwell will be the one covering the former Tide star most of the time. Still, there are issues in the secondary and Jones should be able to take advantage of it for a huge opening week.
ESPN standard projection: 15 points; Yahoo standard projection: 13.41 points
TDAM’s Caleb Turrentine projection: 15 targets, 10 catches, 105 yards, 1 touchdown, 16 points
Eddie Lacy was a top draft pick in many fantasy leagues over the last month and is ready to show everyone why. The Packers thrive off the arm of Aaron Rodgers but Lacy may see more touches with an inactive Jordy Nelson and a recovering Randall Cobb. Lacy was mostly tied down by the Bears’ defense last season, totaling 177 total yards and two touchdowns on 35 touches (67 yards coming on a touchdown catch). Chicago could be even better and may make the trip to Soldier Field a little difficult for Eddie Lacy on Sunday. However, Lacy is an easy start for a running back spot in any league.
ESPN: 14; Yahoo: 14.46
TDAM: 19 carries, 72 rushing yards, 1 touchdown, 3 catches, 22 receiving yards, 15 points
Mark Ingram is the main guy in New Orleans this year and will be looked at often by the offense and Drew Brees. However, Ingram has yet to show fantasy owners that he can have consistent production. He was a workhorse in the middle of the season but still had two five-game stretches without a touchdown. Ingram will see rare time in the passing game with the amount of running backs the Saints like to use but he should get the majority of the carries this week against Arizona. He should still be a solid starter at RB2 but be careful if you are in a smaller league and have other options.
ESPN: 9; Yahoo: 11.3
TDAM: 18 carries, 64 rushing yards, 2 catches, 17 yards, 7 points
THE STAR ROOKIES
Amari Cooper will make his fantasy football debut this weekend against the Cincinnati Bengals and may owners who drafted him as early as the second round are very excited about it. Cooper has had a great camp and preseason and will be the Raiders top offensive weapon. Unfortunately, the Bengals had the third best defense in 2014 against passing touchdowns. Cooper will line up against either Dre Kirkpatrick or Adam Jones for most of the game and they could give the rookies some troubles in his debut. There are a lot of good receivers in the league and Cooper should still be a good FLEX option in even the smallest leagues.
ESPN: 8 points; Yahoo: 8.55 points; TDAM: 15 targets, 8 catches, 75 yards, 1 carry, 12 yards, 8 points
T.J. Yeldon is also making his debut on Sunday but six hours before Cooper does. Yeldon is in a similar situation, as he will be expected to carry much of the offensive load for the Jaguars this season. He is also in a similar situation by facing a stiff defense in his first big-league game. Yeldon should be an every-down type of back for Jacksonville but Carolina’s rush defense was outstanding toward the end of last season. They didn’t allow a touchdown on the ground over the last six games, while only allowing 80.4 yards per game to opponents. Yeldon has a big season in front of him but he should be no more than a FLEX starter in standard leagues this week.
ESPN: 8 points; Yahoo: 8.84 points; TDAM: 13 carries, 50 yards, 2 catches, 9 yards, 5 points
THE QUIET ONES
There are two more receivers that could see points throughout the season but are not significant enough to be put in a fantasy starting lineup… yet. Kevin Norwood is with his new team in Carolina and currently sits fifth among a depleted group of wide receivers. Norwood will see playing time on Sunday morning against the Jags but seeing targets may be another issue. One or two catches wouldn’t surprise me but I don’t expect Norwood to get any red-zone looks. DeAndrew White had a good camp and made the cut on a down San Francisco squad. White sits just behind Torrey Smith on the depth chart and should see a lot of the field against the Vikings on Monday night. Minnesota has a solid pass defense and will give the 49ers trouble but White may be targeted often as the third option. I see White getting two catches in this one for 30-40 yards but no scores in his NFL debut. Jalston Fowler is another rookie set to make his debut. The newest Tennessee fullback is in a prime spot to vulture 1-yard touchdown runs or catches but we aren’t sure how the Titans and Marcus Mariota will use him. So it’s hard to see Fowler will get any fantasy production in week one. Then, of course, there is A.J. McCarron. The Bengals still have full faith in Andy Dalton, as they should, but it may not be long before McCarron sees playing time in 2015. When McCarron starts to fly off the waiver wire in your Alabama leagues, you know Dalton did something wrong.
Caleb Turrentine is a contributor at Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow him on Twitter, @CalebTurrentine.