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MJD is back but is he ready?
We're going to cover fantasy football all season long here at Birds' Nest by answering five questions every week about various fantasy-related topics. Let's roll.
1. Maurice Jones-Drew is back! Should I start him? This would imply that you drafted him (and if you did, congrats on the foresight -- but only if you didn't do something silly like take him in the first round). But, yeah, start him. And if you were lucky enough to snag Rashad Jennings -- the Jags' Week 1 starter against the Vikings -- in the late rounds, even better. Because you can start them both. MJD's 38-day holdout means that he's not in football shape but this is the same guy who carried the Jags' offense a year ago. Yes, it's a new system but he's a running back. The job description hasn't changed: take handoff, run towards goal posts. And while the Jacksonville offense will be more balanced -- in theory, anyway -- if quarterback Blaine Gabbert doesn't show marked improvement then the running game will be key.
2. A year ago, Cam Newton came out of nowhere. Who are the rookies to watch in 2012? Andrew Luck isn't as athletic as Newton but he's close. More than that, he comes from a pro-style college offense, he's apparently one of the smartest people on the planet, and his offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians (he was also Peyton Manning's QB coach during Peyton's rookie season), loves to throw the ball. The preseason might not offer much insight in the way of schemes and game plans, but it did give us a peak into Luck's ability to go through his progressions and throw accurately. And he was impressive. He doesn't have many playmakers around him but for the Colts to have a chance to win each week Luck will have to air it out.
(If Luck seems too obvious, how about Browns running back Trent Richardson. He had his knee scoped three weeks ago and his status for Week 1 is in doubt, but here's what we know: Cleveland is a bad, bad team. If there's any chance Richardson can suit up, he will, and he'll get the ball. A lot.)
3. Who are the fantasy sleepers I should be looking out for? Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman had an impressive rookie season in 2009, improved in 2010, then slipped -- along with the rest of his team -- last season. And now, by all accounts, he's poised to be a re-emerging talent. It doesn't hurt that he now has Vince Jackson on the other end of his throws. Other sleepers: Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate, who may suddenly be the beneficiary of Russell Wilson's ascension up the depth chart. Sleepers that should remain asleep: ESPN.com's Stephania Bell is going with Mark Sanchez. Unless this is a league that rewards sacks, incompletions and shutouts, we can only assume that this is a joke.
4. Which defense is the best bet to give me a lot of points in Week 1? Continuing the Mark Sanchez theme… It would have to be the Bills, who face the punchless Jets Sunday at 1 p.m. Buffalo has one of the league's best defensive lines -- Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Mario Williams are nearly unstoppable -- and the Jets' O-line issues (particularly at right tackle) have been well documented. The Bills' secondary is also pretty good, the Jets' QB situation isn't, and worse: outside of Santonio Holmes, Sanchez and/or Tim Tebow have absolutely no one to throw to.
5. Which Eagles should I start in Week 1? LeSean McCoy is the obvious answer and if you weren't sure about that then your fantasy season is already lost. A less obvious choice: Jeremy Maclin. The Browns were soft against the run last year but cornerback Joe Haden has shutdown capabilities. (This assumes, of course, that Haden plays Sunday. He's still awaiting word from the league about a possible suspension.) According to Football Outsiders, in 2011, the Browns' D played No. 1 receivers well but ranked near the bottom of the league against No. 2s.