Now that our drafts are behind us (they are, aren’t they?), all we can do now is wait for Thursday night…and dream up scenarios in which our late-round fliers evolve into next year’s elites.
So as we ponder the fate of the squads we’ve painstakingly assembled, here are 10 burning questions that should be answered as 2013 Opening Weekend unfolds:
1. How healthy are Robert Griffin III, Arian Foster, Maurice Jones-Drew, Brandon Marshall, Victor Cruz, Jordy Nelson, Roddy White, Wes Welker and other nicked-up stars? Last year at this time, all eyes were on Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles, who each were returning from serious injury. Another All Pro cast of walking wounded is expected to suit up for their first significant action of the season this weekend, with lingering concerns hanging over assorted body parts.
2. Who will emerge from obscurity? Last season, Alfred Morris, James Jones and Martellus Bennett became prized free-agent acquisitions after stellar Week 1 performances. Which players will we be scrambling for next week? Zac Stacy? Joique Bell? Ryan Broyles? Zach Sudfeld?
3. Will Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson take the next step to elite-level fantasy QBs? Joe Flacco is the reigning Super Bowl MVP, and yet he went undrafted in many leagues despite his exceptional postseason run. Meanwhile, Kaepernick lost the Super Bowl but won the hearts of countless fantasy enthusiasts with his multi-dimensional play. He and Wilson are true wild cards that could tip the balance of power in any league.
4. Will the Eagles’ offense explode or implode under Chip Kelly? Following a terrific preseason, Michael Vick has first crack at executing Kelly’s up-tempo offense. LeSean McCoy should be the biggest beneficiary of the new scheme, but Vick must improve on his decision-making and ball-protection to make it all work.
5. How will Peyton Manning distribute the love? Those who made Demaryius Thomas one of the first five receivers off the board won’t be cheering if Welker snags 10 or 12 balls on Thursday night. Eric Decker’s owners are equally nervous to see how the new pecking order shakes out.
6. Can anyone get the ball to Stevie Johnson? Even if rookie EJ Manuel (knee) suits up, which is still very iffy, what are the chances he can make multiple connections to his top wideout? Johnson is a solid fantasy receiver, but he can’t throw the ball to himself. His season could get off to a very slow start, especially if Jeff Tuel is under center.
7. Is Zach Sudfeld the next Aaron Hernandez (on the field)? The 6’7”, 260-pound undrafted tight end is arguably the late-round flier with the highest ceiling. He’ll have a golden opportunity to excel while Rob Gronkowski sits out the first couple of weeks (at least). If Sudfeld produces early on, he could become a fixture in the Patriots’ high-flying offense.
8. How will the Steelers’ RB committee shake out? The latest indications are that newly acquired Felix Jones will get the start on Sunday, with Isaac Redman spelling him first. This is probably a backfield to avoid altogether until rookie Le’Veon Bell returns from his foot injury.
9. Is John Fox the new Mike Shanahan? Denver’s head coach seems intent on reprising his predecessor’s maddening approach to the Broncos’ backfield rotation, with Ronnie Hillman, Montee Ball and Knowshon Moreno all possible starters or benchwarmers. Stay away until someone, most likely Ball, breaks through the clutter.
10. Will the Jets offense cross midfield? Anyone invested in Chris Ivory or, well, that’s about it, wants to know. Seriously, only Miley Cyrus’ foam finger is pointed in a more appalling direction than this offense.
After another interminable offseason, these questions and many more will finally be answered in just a few short days. And I can’t wait.
See you on the other side!