You know the names. Ryan Tannehill. Kenyan Drake. DeVante Parker. The list goes on. Sam Darnold hopes to become the latest Adam Gase ex-pat to find delayed success. He’ll get the chance to do it against the team that gave him his first shot in the NFL. It’s a new day in Florham Park with Robert Saleh now calling the shots. Yet it’s hard to imagine that Gang Green’s turnaround will be immediate. Darnold is blessed with a forward-thinking offensive coordinator and the best supporting cast he’s ever had. With all apologies to the old Klingon proverb, revenge might be best served at around 80 degrees on a sunny Charlotte Sunday.
James Conner doesn’t inspire scores of hot take fantasy Twitter threads. This offseason, he hasn’t inspired much of anything. That ambivalence could work in someone’s favor this season — but especially in Week 1. Kliff Kingsbury was not shy about doling out touches to both of his running backs last season. That shouldn’t change this season. What should change is how both players are used. Conner is a different back than the departed Drake and appears headed for a role as a short yardage and goal line specialist. That’s encouraging news in the season opener versus a Titans defensive front that had wasn’t always stout against the run last year.
The Trey Sermon hype machine went into overdrive in the last couple weeks of fantasy draft season. That’s what happens when you’re a talented rookie runner in a Kyle Shanahan offense after your primary competition (Wayne Gallman) gets released. The 49ers start the season with an inclination to run and two running backs in Sermon and Raheem Mostert who can get it done. Oh, and they open with the Detroit Lions, who gave up a league-high 27 rushing touchdowns last season. Feels like a good place for the rookie to get his feet wet.
I’ve repeatedly said that the Colts wide receiver room is long on potential but short on production. **Michael Pittman** looks like the prime candidate to turn that potential into production –- especially with Carson Wentz on track to start in Week 1. Over the second half of last season, Pittman was Indy’s receiving weapon of choice after T.Y. Hilton. This season, Hilton starts the year on injured reserve, opening the door for the second-year wideout to take the lead. His first opponent will be a Seahawks secondary that made a season-long improvement from Historically Bad to Just Plain Ungood.
I put Terrace Marshall Jr. mostly because signs point to him making an immediate impact in Carolina’s offense. He’s expected to do most of his work from the slot, a spot Darnold has traditionally peppered with targets. Marshall also comes into an offense led by Joe Brady. Two years ago, Marshall was part of a record-setting, national championship-winning offense at LSU led by … Joe Brady. Expect the learning curve to be short. However, I also put Terrace Marshall Jr. on this list to let you know that if you insist on calling him “TMJ” you are wrong and bad and uncreative. Stop that.