Fear not, football fans; the NFL returns to action Sunday night, when the Miami Dolphins face the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame Game to kick off the 2013-14 season. While the preseason certainly lacks the excitement and intensity of the regular season, fantasy owners may be able to gain an edge by tuning in for as long as the starters play. Here’s who to watch in Sunday’s game:
Miami’s biggest free agent signing should immediately improve their offense, but fantasy owners should be weary of taking Wallace too high. While Wallace has the speed and skill to make a splash in South Beach, it’s quite possible that his numbers will take a dip now that he’s removed from the talent in Pittsburgh and has to catch passes from second year QB Ryan Tannehill. Last season, Wallace caught nearly as many touchdowns (8) as Tannehill threw (12), so unless Tannehill either zeroes in on Wallace or raises his level of play significantly, Wallace won’t be as useful in fantasy leagues. Sunday’s game should provide an early glimpse of what the connection between Tannehill and Wallace looks like. If it seems to be a work in progress, buyer beware; if they seem to be on the same page and Wallace is actively targeted rather than being mainly a deep threat, there’s a chance he will become a Top 10 WR.
While watching Wallace, fantasy owners will of course be watching Tannehill too. Last season, his TD totals were too low and turnovers were too high, though he showed a lot of promise and threw for nearly 3,300 yards. Armed with new weapons this season such as Wallace and TE Dustin Keller, Tannehill should continue to improve, but he’ll need to show more consistency to merit a fantasy roster spot. Look for how he performs with the new personnel on Sunday, and if he displays good decision-making and can find the end zone, consider drafting him as your backup QB.
The simple fact that Miller is slated to be the lead running back in Miami makes him a valuable fantasy option, but he’s largely unknown. In his rookie year last season, Miller carried the ball 51 times at a healthy 4.9 Y/A, but that’s obviously a small sample size, so it’s tough to project how he’ll do as a starter. With a 4.4 40 time, though, Miller certainly has the speed to be a dangerous back. Pay close attention on Sunday to see if you can gain any insight as to how much Miami plans to use him in their offense and how he performs under an increased workload.
Unlike Miami, Dallas has a proven offense with fantasy studs all around, so there’s no need to worry about how players like Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten perform. However, Murray is still a bit of a question mark, as he’s struggled with injuries yet shown flashes of brilliance. Now in his third season and clearly the starter in Dallas, Murray has the potential to turn in a monster fantasy season if he can stay on the field. While that can’t be answered in Sunday’s game, it would still be useful to see if he has any lingering effects from past injuries or if he looks like his explosive self. From there, you can better decide whether you’re willing to accept the risk that comes with drafting him.