Each week, TSN.ca Fantasy Editor Scott Cullen and NFL Editors Ben Fisher and Mitch Ward discuss three hot fantasy football topics.
1) Which player will come from nowhere to have a huge season like Alfred Morris last year?
Cullen: While there aren't any late-round rookie runners, Patriots wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins was undrafted and has been getting a lot of positive publicity in training camp, so maybe Tom Brady could drag Thompkins into being a productive first-year receiver.
A better look for players coming from nowhere might be for running backs that are moving into starting roles for the first time. Miami's Lamar Miller, the Jets' Bilal Powell, Denver's Ronnie Hillman and St. Louis' Daryl Richardson aren't necessarily household names -- none of them having rushed for even 500 yards in a season -- but they are at the top of their respective teams' depth charts entering the season and if they are productive early, like Morris last season (he had 96 rushing yards and two touchdowns in Week One), that could solidify their role and any back that starts 16 games is going to have a very good chance to rush for 1,000 yards over the course of the entire season. From that group, I prefer Richardson ever-so-slightly over Miller.
Fisher: I like Green Bay Packers RB Eddie Lacy. Lacy was arguably a first round talent in the draft this year and joins an explosive offence.
The Packers threw pretty much all the time last year, including in the red zone, but preseason reports say with Lacy they should be more inclined to stay on the ground close to the end zone. At 230 pounds he gives the team a legitimate goal line threat.
With DuJuan Harris on injured reserve and Johnathan Franklin struggling in the preseason, Lacy will get his touches and get his yards. The question is how much he'll score, but he'll definitely get more than two (how many Harris and Brandon Jackson, the team co-leaders in rushing TDs, had last year.)
Ward: Giovani Bernard. He enters the season behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis on the Bengals' depth chart, but Bernard is more skilled than the Law Firm in almost every facet of the game. Gio has great speed, excellent lateral agility and is already building up his goal-line resume with three one-yard touchdowns in the preseason.
Bernard likely won't put up Alfred Morris type numbers this season, but behind a very good offensive line in Cincinnati, there's a chance he could explode. I expect him to take over the Bengals' backfield sooner than later and be a high-end RB2 by season's end.
2) Who will have the better sophomore season among Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson?
Cullen: Any of the three should be a viable fantasy starter this season, but the most upside rests with Luck, who has an improved supporting cast, including RB Ahmad Bradshaw and WR Darrius Heyward-Bey and some new faces on the offensive line. That stands in contrast to Wilson, whose big offseason addition, WR Percy Harvin, is injured and Griffin, who is his own injury risk, having not touched the field in the preseason as he recovers from knee surgery.
It's low risk to take the No. 1 pick in the 2012 Draft to have the best sophomore year in 2013, but Luck threw for 4,374 yards as a rookie and it's not out of the question that he has a chance at 5,000 yards this season.
Fisher: The trend for picking quarterbacks in fantasy has been leaning towards the athletic read-option types. But the best fantasy QBs are still the top pure passers like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and yes, Andrew Luck.
Everyone agrees that Luck will at some point in his career join that group of elite passers; I think he does it this year. Reports out of Indianapolis say he's looked great and ready to take the next step; Luck should flirt with 5,000 yards passing this year and 30+ touchdowns.
Griffin III and Wilson are unlikely to hit those lofty numbers through the air, and while their ability to gain yards on the ground will make up much of the difference, Luck is too much of a pure passing talent to go against, not to mention a lessened injury risk.
Ward: You can't really go wrong here as I think all three guys are primed for very good sophomore seasons, but I'm feeling Lucky too.
Last season Luck threw for 4,374 yards and 23 touchdowns but completed only 54.1 percent of his passes and was intercepted 18 times. With a year of experience under his belt and new OC Pep Hamilton's more conservative, QB friendly system, I expect the completion percentage to go way up and the interceptions to go down. During his last two seasons at Stanford under Hamilton, Luck completed more than 70 percent of his passes.
I'm expecting numbers in the neighbourhood of 4,500 yards, 30 pass TDs, 12 INTs, 250 rush yards and 4 rush TDs. I just don't see Griffin III with his knee injury, lack of preseason action and weird dynamic with Mike Shanahan or Wilson without Percy Harvin for a big chunk of the year being able to match those stats.
3) What type of season do you expect from Steven Jackson in Atlanta this season?
Cullen: For a 30-year-old running back -- a time when production generally starts to fade -- this is a really good situation for Jackson.
He's been cranking out 1,000-yard seasons in each of the last eight years for St. Louis, but has scored six touchdowns or fewer in each of the last four seasons because the Rams haven't had much of a team supporting him. In Atlanta, Jackson is the supporting cast for one of the league's best passing offences and a past-his-prime Michael Turner rushed for 11 touchdowns with the Falcons last year, so it's not unreasonable to think that Jackson could roll to 1,000 rushing yards and maybe push double digit touchdowns this year.
Fisher: As part of the Atlanta Falcons' high-powered offence, I think Steven Jackson could be a top 10 fantasy RB this season, or very close to it.
The move from St. Louis' offence to Atlanta should outweigh the extra year of wear and tear on the now nine-year veteran. Michael Turner, who we can all agree was running on fumes last year with the Falcons, still managed a double-digit touchdown season. Jackson, a far superior runner, should have enough tread left on his tires to exceed that number and then some.
All the warning lights go off with Jackson. He's 30-years-old now and long ago passed 1,500 career carries. But he still looked good with the Rams most of the time last year (it was the rest of the offence that didn't) and even if he completely falls off a cliff skill-wise, you're still getting an RB2 (Turner finished 17th among running backs last season.)
Ward: A very good one. Sure, Jackson is getting up there in age and has some of his explosiveness, but he's still coming off his eighth consecutive 1,000 yard season and I'd be surprised if he didn't make it nine in row.
I'm not expecting huge rushing numbers in the Falcons pass-heavy offence but something in the 1,100 yards range with maybe a slight uptick in his receiving yards from last year sounds about right.
Where I really expect more out of Jackson this year is in the touchdown department. The Falcons get into the red zone far more often than the Rams so he will have substantially more opportunities to score. Michael Turner, who looked awful last year, hit paydirt 11 times so double-digit touchdowns are definitely not out of the question for Jackson.