The Bills are going to continue to throw the ball often, and that should benefit 2010 break-out start Stevie Johnson, who goes up against an average Chiefs passing defense on Sunday. But what is important to watch on Sunday in terms of fantasy is who emerges as the team's No. 2 and No. 3 wide receivers with Lee Evans gone. The Bills like to get Roscoe Parrish involved, and it will be interesting to see who among Donald Jones, David Nelson and Marcus Easley attracts targets from Ryan Fitzpatrick. One or two of those three players could emerge and be a viable fantasy option behind Stevie. Johnson makes a solid No. 2 fantasy wideout this week, but all others should remain on your bench.
Brandon Marshall appears to finally be on the same page as Chad Henne in South Florida, and that could pay dividends in the season opener against the Patriots, whose passing defense ranked 30th last season. Assuming the Dolphins are trailing, Henne will be airing it out often and looking to get Marshall the rock. Brian Daboll's offense allows wideouts to line up in different spots, which should help put Marshall in favorable matchups. The Dolphins also will be putting more emphasis on targeting Marshall near the goal line, which is key for fantasy. Marshall makes a great low-end No. 1 or high-end No. 2 fantasy receiver this week.
Bengals WR A.J. Green led the club in targets in the preseason (17), catching nine passes for 96 yards and a TD (a 40-yarder vs. Carolina). Rookie receivers aren't slam-dunk propositions, but Green has uncommon talent, and he's going to have a real shot at being Andy Dalton's go-to receiver. His progress is something to monitor if you drafted him with the hope he and the Bengals' offense would show improvement as the season goes on. His greater value is in PPR leagues as his touchdowns may be limited in 2011.
Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders (foot) is expected to play in Week One, according to head coach Mike Tomlin. It will be interesting to see how much playing time Sanders, Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery get Sunday at Baltimore. Mike Wallace and Hines Ward are the starters, but Sanders, Brown and Cotchery figure to all see action when Pittsburgh spreads the field. If Sanders sees a lot of playing time right off the bat, he might be a nice Week Two waiver claim for owners looking for WR depth in bigger leagues.
It's a good sign for Kenny Britt owners that he did not pop up on Wednesday's injury report, as a nagging hamstring injury has been an issue throughout the offseason. Although Britt did not get as many reps with new QB Matt Hasselbeck throughout camp, he is undoubtedly the Titans' top wideout and enters a Week One matchup against a Jacksonville secondary that finished the 2010 season ranked 29th defending the pass.
Although it seemed like a long shot earlier in the preseason, it appears the Colts will have a full receiving corps at their disposal in Week One, with Blair White (back), Austin Collie (foot) and Anthony Gonzalez all participating in practice this week. Still, beware of the hit all of these players value could take this season - not to mention, WRs Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon and TE Dallas Clark - with no timetable for Peyton Manning's return to the field because of a setback from his latest neck surgery. Outside of Wayne, Garcon and Clark, watch how QB Kerry Collins uses the rest of the wideouts before starting them.
The surprise of Raiders camp was fifth-round pick Denarius Moore, who impressed coaches with his ability to make plays over the middle of the field and to earn tough yards after the catch. With Jacoby Ford and Darrius Heyward-Bey both missing time in the preseason due to injuries, Moore may be the player QB Jason Campbell trusts most when airing it out. Moore is an injury fill-in, at best, this week until we see how he's used in the regular season.
No player tortured Broncos WR Brandon Lloyd more than Nnamdi Asomugha, the ex-Raiders corner who limited the NFL's receiving yards leader to just five total receptions against Oakland last season. Now Asomugha's gone, allowing Lloyd to potentially have a breakout game on Monday night. He's a No. 2 fantasy receiver this week.
It appears as if Steve Smith will give it a go for the Eagles. Expectations are low coming off microfracture surgery, but it might give you an idea he should not be dropped after the first week or two. Also, Jeremy Maclin is a go. He's a starting-caliber play in Week One, despite offensive questions for the Eagles.
Yes, it was preseason, but if you needed any reassurance that Calvin Johnson wasn't a blue-chip wideout, you got it. Three of Johnson's four catches went for 26 yards or more. He's a must-start vs. a Tampa Bay secondary that surrendered 10 catches to him last season (but does get Aqib Talib back for this meeting).
The Saints will be without WR Lance Moore (groin) against the Packers in Week One. We don't expect his absence to have a significant fantasy impact on any other Saints receiver, though. There could be a few more opportunities for WRs Marques Colston, Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson and TE Jimmy Graham with Moore on the sideline, but QB Drew Brees spreads the ball around and he's unlikely to hone in on one or two targets. However, don't hesitate to insert Meachem as a No. 3 fantasy receiver and Henderson as a flex or injury fill-in.
Even though it'll be matched up against a Seahawks secondary that left a lot to be desired last season, the Niners firepower at the wideout position looks suspect at best entering their season opener against the Seahawks. How uncertain are the 49er wideouts? Consider that Ted Ginn Jr. OR Braylon Edwards are listed as the starters on the team's depth chart opposite Josh Morgan. The Niners dodged a bullet when Edwards avoided a suspension following a recent DUI charge, but team insiders think he might not be grasping the new offensive system all that well initially. Until we see how they play on the field, your best bet is to keep both players on the bench.
As for Michael Crabtree, the projected No. 1 wideout, he actually worked out in pads for the first time this summer on Wednesday, and the foot injury that has sidelined him was not mentioned on the early NFL injury report. Observers at the Wednesday practice said he looked to be operating at close to full speed and running his usually crisp routes. "He won't have any problem catching up mentally," said one observer of Crabtree. "He's very smart." Whether that's coachspeak or not, until Crabtree gets some time on the field with QB Alex Smith, keep him on your bench.
The Rams' already muddled WR situation became even more perplexing with the late re-signing of Mark Clayton, who was immediately placed on the physically unable to perform list, which makes him ineligible to play for a minimum of six weeks (five games in that span).
Our sources in St. Louis tell us the team has every intention of working Clayton into the mix in a major way a little more than a month down the road. Last year he proved to be an amazingly quick study, catching a career-high 10 passes for 119 yards in Week One last season, only six days after being obtained from the Ravens. Whether he will be the No. 1 wideout right away, though, remains to be seen.
Actually, it really is quite possible the Rams' No. 1 receiving options will vary from opponent to opponent, with new coordinator Josh McDaniels' games plans specifically designed to attack opposing defenses' specific weaknesses. For now, until you hear or see otherwise, view Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson and Mike Sims-Walker as the only wide receivers worth owning. For now all three are injury fill-ins, at best, in PPR formats, until we see how QB Sam Bradford distributes the ball.
There's no denying the No. 1 fantasy question in Seattle entering Week One: Where's Sidney (as in newly acquired WR Sidney Rice), and will he be able to literally shoulder the load as the Seahawks' No. 1 receiving option? The Seahawks appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach with Rice, who has been battling a sore shoulder, which has prevented him from practicing since the end of August. When Rice had been on the field in practice, we hear he has had his share of highlight-reel moments. If he's good to go on Sunday, he could cause problems for a Niners secondary that has been totally rearranged at the CB position.
If Rice can't play, both Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu could have productive days in his absence Sunday. Rice is a bench because he's not 100 percent and the quarterback play of Tarvaris Jackson was poor in the preseason.