This one is purely speculative. Matt Cassel is firmly entrenched as the Vikings’ Week 1 starter. Cassel’s a seasoned game manager, and as long as the Vikings are winning, he’ll hold onto the starting role. But many analysts question Cassel’s ability to flourish in Norv Turner’s vertical passing offense. If and when Bridgewater gets the go-ahead in Minnesota, he could become a starting QB in deep fantasy leagues. He had a very solid preseason, throwing five touchdowns and zero interceptions in 49 attempts. Just 21 years old, he’s regarded as extremely mature for his age. He probably won’t see any playing time for at least the first few weeks of the season, but if you play in a dynasty league, Bridgewater could be worth a roster spot. You’ll never be able to get him cheaper than you can right now.
Smith was a picture of inconsistency in his rookie season. It was impossible to know what to expect from him. He had five 20-plus fantasy-point games and seven single-digit games. That problem made it impossible to start him from week to week. But with another year of experience under his belt and new WR Eric Decker in the lineup, Smith has a chance to make a big leap. At a time when big-name mobile QBs like Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III are being reined in, Smith’s rushing potential is valuable. Last season, he ran for 366 yards and six touchdowns, which were worth about 4.5 fantasy points per week. You probably don’t want to be starting him in Week 1, even at home against a miserable Raiders defense. Wait and see how he performs first, but Smith has plenty of upside. For those playing in deep leagues, two-QB leagues, or for owners who didn’t draft a backup QB, Smith isn’t a bad pickup.
Last year in Detroit, new Cowboys play caller Scott Linehan turned both Reggie Bush and Joique Bell into valuable fantasy options. Some analysts are predicting a repeat of that situation this year in Dallas with Dunbar and DeMarco Murray. At 5-foot-8 and 195 pounds, Dunbar isn’t a traditional handcuff. He won’t be “the guy” to carry the load if Murray goes down with one of his frequent injuries. But many observers expect Dunbar to have a valuable stand-alone role in Dallas’ offense. Linehan talked up Dunbar in the preseason, and the Cowboys thought enough of the third-year back to hold him out of the first preseason game along with Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant and Murray. Look for him to work as a receiver out of the backfield quite a bit, a la Darren Sproles and Bush. He averaged 5 yards per carry and 8.4 yards per reception last season and has the speed to break big plays. Available in a wide majority of leagues, Dunbar has a chance to develop into a valuable flex play.
In 12 games last year, Dobson caught 37 balls for 519 yards and four touchdowns. And Dobson did that as a rookie. The Patriots are still looking for a dependable deep threat to complement Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, and Dobson might fit the bill. At 6-foot-3, he has the length to bring down errant and difficult passes. Plus, he ran a blistering 4.37 40-yard dash at his 2013 pro day. Dobson will have to fight with New England’s bevy of wideouts for targets, but he should see the field in two-WR sets often this year. If you’re among those expecting a resurgent Patriots passing game in 2014, Dobson is worth adding.
New England Patriots WR Aaron Dobson
In Seattle’s Super Bowl rout of the Broncos in February, Kearse caught four passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. He is behind Percy Harvin and Doug Baldwin on Seattle’s depth chart, so he’ll only get his chances in three-WR sets, and the Seahawks are known for their running game. But QB Russell Wilson was magnificent this preseason, and it’s fair to wonder if the Seahawks might open up their offense a little more this year. Kearse is known for his jump-ball ability, and at 6-foot-1, he is a significantly bigger target than Harvin and Baldwin. He should see plenty of red zone work and the touchdowns that come with it. Kearse has real upside if Harvin goes down with another injury.
Kelce was the hands-down standout tight end of the 2014 preseason. He caught 11 passes for 193 yards. His two touchdowns were scored on plays longer than 40 yards. For a player of his size – 6-foot-5, 260 pounds – Kelce has game-breaking speed. Right now, he’s still listed behind Anthony Fasano on the Chiefs’ depth chart.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce
But there have been reports recently stating that Kelce is seeing heavy work with the Chiefs’ offensive starters in practice, and that his big-play ability is one reason Kansas City felt comfortable not pursuing other receiving talent in the free-agency period. Given the rarity of a TE with upside and big-play ability, Kelce is worth a roster spot in many leagues.
With Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans and Seferian-Jenkins, all of whom are 6-foot-5, there have been a lot of jokes about the Bucs leading the NFL in rebounds. With his height, Seferian-Jenkins could be a major red zone factor in Tampa Bay’s offense. The rookie caught eight touchdown passes in his final year at Washington, and the Buccaneers felt he was worth a second-round pick in the 2014 draft. Because he hasn’t played an NFL regular-season snap yet, there’s no guarantee that his physical tools will translate into production. But in an era when tight end is a thin position in fantasy, it could be worth taking a long shot on this young player with upside.