The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

September 4, 2013

Daily Item fantasy football: 5 NFL players you need to grab before Week 1

By John Zaktansky
The Daily Item

— From diffusing a bomb to toasting the perfect grilled cheese sandwich, timing is everything.

The same could be said about fantasy football – knowing when to pick up a value player just before he breaks out and when to cut ties with another option that is about to hit the skids. It’s like playing the stock market or deciding what to do with the hand you’re dealt in a poker match.

While you may not have many holes heading into Week 1 of football action, there are certain players that are primed to break out from the opening kickoff, and snagging them now will increase your chances of landing them before the Monday waiver wire battle to scoop up the next hot player.

Some players you need to consider grabbing:

Julius Thomas, TE, DEN.

Owned in 26 percent of Yahoo leagues at the moment, Thomas is starting to break onto radar screens as an upside tight end for those teams who missed out on the Jimmy Grahams and Jason Wittens of their respective drafts.

Thomas is a former basketball player with plenty of athleticism … which basically is the blueprint behind tight end breakouts such as Antonio Gates a few years ago and Jimmy Graham more recently.

Thomas has been anointed the official starting tight end for Denver, and while he has a lot of competition for targets (Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker come to mind), Thomas could excel thanks to his attributes and because Peyton Manning is slinging the pigskin. Manning made Dallas Clark a household name for years in Indianapolis.

Thomas will play Thursday night against the Ravens, who actually look to be a decent matchup for him to break out in primetime action. Grab him now before it is too late.

Roy Helu, RB, WAS.

As with many RB2s in the NFL, there is ample opportunity for guys like Helu to become major fantasy fixtures this year overnight if the guy ahead of them gets injured and misses significant time.

The problem is that it is impossible to predict injuries. The plus with Helu, though, is that he provides more than just handcuff appeal. Showing this preseason that he’s back to full strength, Helu exploded onto the scene with 27 rushes for 157 yards. His ability to produce in the passing game is also a huge attribute, something he does much better than the back who is ahead of him … Alfred Morris.

While the sometimes RB fickle Mike Shanahan has devoted himself to Morris, there is little doubt that things could change if Helu continues to show the type of versatility that could help the Redskins secure a few more wins.

A matchup against the Eagles is tantalizing based on how easy it was to run on Philly last season. Of course, the Eagles attempted to patch those holes in the offseason, but it still poses a decent matchup for the Redskins running game.

Joique Bell, RB, DET.

Another RB handcuff on the surface, Bell has officially leapfrogged Mikel LeShoure as Reggie Bush’s clear backup after a very solid preseason.

Bell offers the ability to run the ball with finesse while offering plenty in the passing game, something that would be taken to a new level if Reggie Bush goes down with an injury. Bush’s injury history is scattered with missed games, which bodes well for Bell.

A matchup this week with the Vikings may not look great on paper, but the Lions should be able to jump ahead of Minnesota based on offensive talent alone, meaning more runs and clock-burning plays that should help give Bell plenty of action behind Bush.

E.J. Manuel, QB, BUF.

I wanted to use Carson Palmer here as he debuts with Larry Fitzgerald and company against the Rams. However, Palmer is owned in 60 percent of Yahoo leagues, meaning he’s likely already scooped up in your respective leagues.

However, Manuel is owned in just 18 percent despite being named the bonafide starter early on Wednesday.

Detractors will point out that he’s a raw rookie coming off a meniscus procedure, and that the Bills will rely heavily on its running game to take the pressure off Manuel. That is true, but against a Patriots squad that will look to run up the score early, the Bills won’t be able to play a conservative scheme for the entire game.

Manuel will likely have plenty of garbage time to pad his stats.

Rod Streater, WR, OAK.

A sleeper option for many earlier this summer, Streater’s stock took a hit when he was dealt a concussion.

Surprisingly, he’s bounced back from the ailment and is ready to start this week for the Raiders in a game that will require plenty of passing to offset what will likely be a defensive no-show.

Demarius Moore is listed as the WR1 in Raiders-land, but Streater was looking to potentially leapfrog Moore before the concussion. Some of his value will depend on personal preference for new starting QB Terrelle Pryor.