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Fantasy Football Preview - Entering the Fray

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As we kick off the NFL season this week, we're also putting your fantasy squads to the test. We're running through players to be excited about as we enter the new year.

Carr and Mariota - two guys to get excited about for the future of the game
Carr and Mariota - two guys to get excited about for the future of the game
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Week 1 is a special time in the fantasy football world. You haven't figured out that the team you drafted isn't nearly what you thought it would be. That running back you drafted in the 1st round? He's going to get hurt. That breakout wide receiver? He played 3 snaps last week. That super sleeper? Still sleeping. That's okay -€” it's why we have a game. So, instead of highlighting players for Week 1 and try to ruin your fantasy of a perfect season, let's look at some guys I'm excited about for the season now that the year is here! Feel free to post your favorite fantasy players in the comments.

QUARTERBACKS

Marcus Mariota -€” I have no shares of the second year signal caller so this is purely from a curiosity standpoint. Tennessee has been bad for a long while (maybe Jeff Fisher isn't as bad as all of us think) but there is some hope in Nashville with Mariota's rookie year. The cool-headed Hawaiian has a head coach committed to the running game -€” something called "exotic smashmouth" -€” which should help him see more single coverage looks. His receivers are a work in progress but Kendall Wright, Delanie Walker, and the emerging Tajae Sharpe are at least intriguing.

Eli Manning -€” I know, I know, no one has ever been excited about Eli Manning. But think about this: the Giants defense is likely to be bad again, Eli showed steady improvement in Ben McAdoo's offense, and they added Sterling Shepherd in the draft to the talented (if mercurial) Odell Beckham Jr. They may even have Victor Cruz to add to the arsenal. They have underwhelming weapons in the running game and I can see Eli dropping back 40+ times consistently. Interceptions will always be an Eli issue but he could be a volume monster this year.

Derek Carr -€” A personal favorite of mine, Carr is entering the all-important third year. He's clearly the favorite for me of the Bortles / Bridgewater (pre-injury) draft class and the Raiders appear to be ascending. Carr is a fearless gunslinger that has gotten others into trouble in the past, but I have a feeling a swashbuckling signal caller plays in Oakland...or Las Vegas or wherever they'll play. I'm interested to see where Carr can take his game and if he's the future of the position.

RUNNING BACKS

Ezekiel Elliot -€” Everyone in the fantasy world is excited for this guy but I'm excited because I think the running back position has unfairly come under some bad press lately. Devaluation of the position may be true to some extent with the expansion of passing games in the league, however, I like to see teams take an old school approach and want to run the football. With defenses focusing on their sub packages by bringing in their nickel corners, that should, in theory, open up more running lanes. With investment in offensive lines and a talented back Elliot could be the epitome of a counter trap movement to reemphasize the running back. Tennessee is doing it with DeMarco Murray and Derek Henry, Todd Gurley is doing his thing in LA, and next year we'll get to add Leonard Fournette to the league. Here's one for the old school.

Lamar Miller -€” The former Dolphin, current Texan, has been drafted in fantasy leagues like a sure thing. Everything would appear to be set up for Miller with a coach committed to the run, no real competition for carries, and a good defense that will support running the football. Miller was oft-underutilized in Miami so the sense is that if a little bit of Lamar Miller is good, a lot will be great. That doesn't always hold up but it will be fun to see.

LeSean McCoy -€” I don't want Chip Kelly to be right. McCoy was shipped off in a bizarre trade from Philadelphia to Buffalo last year when Chip was playing Madden. Rex Ryan gladly took Shady and gave him a nice contract extension. The Bills were rewarded with...an injured McCoy. By all accounts, Shady is healthy and it will be fun to watch him in a Ground & Pound system with the developing dynamic Tyrod Taylor.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Mike Evans -€” The world all knows about Mike Evans. What I'm excited about is if he can put everything together with his young QB. In his rookie season, Evans got in the end zone a lot. Last year, Winston's rookie campaign, Evans seemed to be allergic to the stripe. Undoubtedly a focus for the Bucs this offseason, I expect Mike Evans to jump a tier into that elite group of Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, OBJ, DeAndre Hopkins, and AJ Green.

Sterling Shepard -€” I've been high on the rookie since the draft, so no sense in backing away now. The hype train certainly got out of the station early and picked up speed. This is one of those things that can backlash early. Make sure you give him at least a little bit of a leash on your bench if he disappoints early. We've been spoiled by rookie WRs in the past couple years producing early, but normally it takes time.

Keenan Allen -€” It sure looked like the Charger was on his way to a monster year when he sustained an internal organ injury last year. Lacerated kidney sounds terrible but I don't think it's a recurring injury threat. While Allen hasn't been a great bargain at the draft table, he's one of the safest picks, particularly in PPR league. Philip Rivers is a really good QB and Allen is his unquestioned #1 WR right now. I'm interested to see if Allen can challenge Antonio Brown and Julio Jones for the most catches this season.

Your turn - who are you excited about?