These are the guys that make you look like the fantasy football genius you believe yourself to be. It’s the guys who are flying under everyone else’s radar because they’re not the “big name” players, but make all the difference in the world in a given week.
Here are our recommendations of “hidden gems” who could yield big payoffs if you start them in your lineup in week 1:
Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati — The punchline of numerous jokes about mediocre quarterbacking in recent years, if there was ever a week to start Andy Dalton in your lineup, this would be it. Not only has there been lots of buzz about how Dalton has performed in training camp and the preseason in Cincinnati, but he’s playing against an Indianapolis Colts secondary in Week 1 that might have the thinnest group of cornerbacks in the entire NFL.
C.J. Anderson, RB, Carolina — All the talk around the offense of the Carolina Panthers has been about how many times they’ll give the ball to running back Christian McCaffrey, but they signed running back C.J. Anderson to be more of the short-yardage specialist. Against a Dallas Cowboys team that was favorable in terms of fantasy football points to opposing running backs, Anderson could “vulture” a touchdown from McCaffrey this week, especially in red zone situations.
James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh — Unless you’re an NFL fan who’s been living under a rock for the last two weeks, you’re well aware of the fact that Le’Veon Bell will not be playing in week 1 for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin has publicly professed his confidence in backup James Conner, who’ll get the start in place of Bell. Cleveland was one of the weaker fantasy football defenses against running backs last year, so this would be a great opportunity to start Conner in your lineup.
Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas — With the loss of tight end Jason Witten and wide receiver Dez Bryant for the Dallas Cowboys, that opens up 220 combined targets from quarterback Dak Prescott. While free-agent signee Allen Hurns will see his share, the Cowboys are very excited about wide receiver Michael Gallup, their third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He could make an immediate impact against a Carolina Panthers team whose biggest weakness is at cornerback.
Cameron Meredith, WR, New Orleans — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are already going to have their hands full when dealing with the loaded offense of the New Orleans Saints this Sunday. But as they devote their focus to stopping running back Alvin Kamara and wide receiver Michael Thomas, that could mean someone like Cameron Meredith gets opportunities to exploit the Tampa defense. A free-agent signing in the offseason, Meredith is now the #2 receiver in New Orleans, and could see a lot of targets his way, especially against Tampa Bay’s porous pass defense.
Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, TE, Jacksonville — An under-the-radar free agent acquisition by the Jacksonville Jaguars, tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins is coming off a career-high 50 catches for 357 yards last year with the New York Jets. Don’t forget that Jaguars’ quarterback Blake Bortles threw a team-high five touchdown passes to tight end Marcedes Lewis last year, and Sefarian-Jenkins is now taking over Lewis’ role in the offense. It also helps his cause that that the New York Giants gave up the most fantasy football points to opposing tight ends last year.