Whether you are a defending champion or a first-timer, the one thing that makes or breaks fantasy football teams is stocking your team with quality depth players.
Whether they are an emergency fill-in at quarterback,a deep sleeper that lights it up for a couple of games, fantasy football is all about matchups, not projections.
In my eight-plus years of playing fantasy, I’ve learned that having a core of five players, plus a couple of sleepers and some waiver wire gems are the difference to going 4-12 to going 16-0 and winning handily. The thing though is this, never second-guess yourself or go off of projected numbers, play the matchup.
That being said, the one player who is—in my opinion—THE best bargain buy in all of fantasy football is Oakland Raiders second-year quarterback Derek Carr. In 16 starts for the Silver and Black, the former Fresno State standout led all rookies in touchdown passes (21) and yards passing (3,270) and completions (348)
His 21 touchdown passes rank fifth all-time in NFL history for a first-year starter. Carr also became the first Oakland QB to start all 16 games since Rich Gannon in 2002 per Raiders.com
What those numbers should mean to fantasy owners is that Carr is durable and will likely be asked to throw downfield even more in 2015 thanks to the additions of wideout Michael Crabtree in free agency and rookies such as former Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper and tight end Clive Walford.
So, if you’re in a bye-week bind and need a fill-in or even someone to possibly start for your team for a couple of games, Carr is destined to be your proverbial Ferrari.
1.) Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders: As stated above, Carr will be throwing to the likes of Crabtree, Cooper and Walford. A solid fill-in or even starter in deeper leagues. Projected fantasy stats: 4,124 passing yards, 29 passing touchdowns
2.) Marcus Mariota (R), QB, Tennessee Titans: Don’t look now, but mark my words when I say that Mariota is the Andrew Luck in this QB class. He is mobile, accurate, smart and has weapons to throw to in tight end Delanie Walker, Justin Hunter, Kendall Wright and Dorial Green-Beckham. Projected fantasy stats: 4,036 passing yards, 24 passing touchdowns, 4 rushing touchdowns and 674 rushing yards
3.) Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota Vikings: In a class that featured the fore mentioned Carr and the over-hyped Johnny Manziel, it was Bridgewater, who turned out to be a winner, in being the only rookie QB to boast a winning record. Look for the 2014 NFL Rookie of The Year to get even better with the return of Adrian Peterson, Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph, and speedy wideouts in Cordarelle Patterson, Mike Wallace and Charles Johnson to push the former Louisville product in to QB1 status. Projected fantasy stats: 3,786 passing yards, 25 passing touchdowns, 456 rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns.
4.) Duke Johnson (R), RB, Cleveland Browns: Word out of Cleveland is that the Browns may have finally found themselves their own Brian Westbrook in Duke Johnson. Johnson who has been working out of the slot as a receiver and in the backfield, will be the featured safety valve on third down for Josh McCown in 2015. Projected fantasy stats: 1,123 rushing yards, 6 rushing touchdowns, 896 receiving yards and 7 receiving touchdowns.
5.) Devin Smith (R), WR, New York Jets: The likely No.3 wideout behind Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, the former Ohio State Buckeye speedster will likely be on the receiving end of a few long touchdown passes. Projected fantasy stats: 1,004 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns
6.) Justin Hardy (R), WR, Atlanta Falcons: Another third receiver on a roster with two talented ones ahead of him in Julio Jones and Roddy White, look for the rookie from East Carolina to be an absolute beast in PPR leagues. Projected fantasy stats: 981 receiving yards, 5 receiving touchdowns.
7.) Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans: Question? What is a rookie franchise quarterback’s best friend? Why, a pass-catching tight end of course! Look for Walker to be Marcus Mariota’s safety valve early and often. Projected fantasy stats: 947 receiving yards, 5 receiving touchdowns
8.) Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs: With targets such as Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce, SURELY Smith will be able to have at least one TD to an actual WR, right?: Projected fantasy stats: 3,517 passing yards and 22 passing touchdowns
9.) Brian Hoyer, QB, Houston Texans: Goodbye anemic passing attack in Cleveland, hello to fellow Cleveland native Cecil Shorts III, DeAndre Hopkins and deep sleeper Jaelen Strong! Yes please!: Projected fantasy stats: 3,517 passing yards and 22 passing touchdowns
10.) Charles Johnson, WR, Minnesota Vikings: With newly acquired Mike Wallace likely to command double teams downfield and Kyle Rudolph likely to cause havoc in the middle, look for Johnson to once again have a quietly productive year. Projected fantasy stats: 789 receiving yards and 5 receiving touchdowns
11.) Markus Wheaton, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: The No.2 receiver across from the dangerous Antonio Brown, Wheaton will play a vital role and the new-look Steelers passing attack: Projected fantasy stats: 809 receiving yards and 4 receiving touchdowns.
12.) Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers: The No.3 receiver in the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers attack, look for Adams to get a couple of timely scores, due to all the attention that will be paid to Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb: Projected fantasy stats: 796 receiving yards and 4 receiving touchdowns
13.) DeVante Parker (R), WR, Miami Dolphins: Likely to miss 1-2 weeks due to a foot injury, Parker could be worth a late-round stash-and-grab for later in the season. Projected fantasy stats: 801 receiving yards and 3 receiving touchdowns
14.) Jaelen Strong (R), WR, Houston Texas: How a 6’3, 220-pound physical specimen such as Strong dropped to the Texans remains a mystery. A lucky fantasy owner will reap the benefits of the answer. Projected fantasy stats: 793 receiving yards and 5 receiving touchdowns
15.) Tevon Coleman (R), RB, Atlanta Falcons: Likely to be used as a third-down specialist, the rookie from Indiana will get his fair share of targets from Ryan. Projected fantasy stats: 544 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns, 389 receiving yards and 2 receiving touchdowns.
16.) Clive Walford (R), TE, Oakland Raiders: See Delanie Walker and Derek Carr above. Projected fantasy stats: 781 receiving yards, 4 receiving touchdowns
17.) Tavon Austin, WR, St Louis Rams: Perhaps one of the biggest beneficiaries from having a durable and strong-armed QB in Nick Foles in St Louis, the under-achieving Austin could finally breakout in 2015: Projected fantasy stats: 754 receiving yards, 5 receiving touchdowns
18.) Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: See Clive Walford, Delanie Walker and Derek Carr above. Projected fantasy stats: 589 receiving yards and 4 receiving touchdowns
19.) Bobby Rainey, RB , Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Another third-down specialist who could be a potential fantasy vulture. Projected fantasy stats: 450 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns, 397 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns
20.) Latavius Murray, RB, Oakland Raiders: After bursting on the scene late last year for Oakland, look for Murray to play a big role in the Raiders rushing attack this season. Projected fantasy stats: 897 rushing yards and 7 rushing touchdowns.