The first week of football is incredibly unpredictable. The league’s best players aren’t in game shape yet, so they’re not putting up their usual stats. Worse yet, some of the best players were injured or held out and missed all of camp. No one really knows what’s going to happen in week 1. We have nothing concrete to analyze, so we’re either making guesses based on what we saw in two and a half quarters of action in week 3, or figuring that this year’s performances will be like last year’s. My preference is to look at the league’s worst teams from last season, while trying to avoid teams that had great off-seasons. Without further ado, here are my top picks by position in week 1.
In my opinion, you should spend big on a QB because QBs typically score the most points per week.
While Matt Ryan perhaps seems like the obvious pick, something about the Bears in week 1 worries me. They allowed the seventh fewest passing yards per game, and were tied for 11th in passing TDs allowed. Their defensive schemes remain the same, and they even added some talent.
Despite that he’s facing a better team, Aaron Rodgers comes in as my top pick for week 1.
Rodgers has faced the Seahawks four times since 2012. Although his two most recent games in Seattle subpar, Rodgers performed well in the last two home games, where they’ll be this week, going 25/33 for 249 yards and 2 TDs in 2015, and 18/23 for 246 yards and 3 TDs in 2016. I think we’ll see another strong performance. He’s also reasonably priced at $8300 on FanDuel and $7000 on DraftKings.
Marcus Mariota vs Oakland. If you’re looking for a higher risk/reward, probably needed to win a GPP, I think Mariota is the way to go. The Raiders defense has been terrible for years, and I don’t think they’re going to suddenly be better. He’s got legs, too, so you might get lucky and pick up a few points from rushing, maybe even a TD. Against Oakland, anything is possible.
Derek Carr vs Tennessee. I rank him slightly lower only because Mariota has higher potential to gain rushing stats, which are worth more than passing stats, and thus make him a slightly more attractive option. I don’t think you can go wrong with either QB, though, and if you need $100 for another player, then this is an easy place to save it. You might also benefit from stacking him with Cooper or Crabtree.
Todd Gurley vs Indianapolis is a clear winner. Gurley is primed for a great game here. Luck is out, so the Colts will probably struggle all day on offense, and that should mean good things for the Rams running game. I can see him racking 100 yards and a TD easily against the Colts, who allowed 4.7 ypc last season. That said, Gurley is not budget friendly, and he doesn’t catch many passes, so if you’re playing a PPR site, then you might consider alternative options.
Jordan Howard vs Atlanta. I’m not telling anyone who’s coming to this site anything they don’t already know when I say that the Bears offense is terrible, but the Bears offense is terrible. Mike Glennon didn’t look good in pre-season, and he’s starting in week 1. Despite all of that, I think the Bears D will keep this game competitive for long enough for Howard to rack up some yards, and maybe even a score. Howard also catches passes from time to time, so he might get you a couple extra points there. He’s a good talent against a middle-of-the-road rushing defense that allowed 4.5 ypc last season. The only reason they weren’t lower in total rushing D or rushing TDs is that they were constantly playing with a lead, and if my thoughts about the Bears defense hold true, this pick holds a lot of upside.
But what about Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson? The league’s top two HBs certainly have favorable matchups, but both cost too much, and Bell held out this offseason, so he might not be completely ready to go. I think there is better value in the two above, and a lot more value in the suggestions below.
If you’re looking to save some cap space, or if the scoring gives a full point per reception, there are some other strong options out there:
Bilal Powell vs Buffalo. Buffalo had the fourth worst total rushing defense last year, allowed 4.6 ypc, and 21 TDs (second worst). Powell averaged 5.5 ypc last season, and pulled in 58 catches on 75 targets. The Jets have no one else to throw to, and Matt Forte’s utilization is apparently going to be closely monitored, which leaves few other players to benefit on the Jets. There’s a long history of halfbacks in these situations putting up massive numbers (Westbrook, Faulk, Forte, Charles, and the list goes on).
Derrick Henry vs Oakland. The Raiders’ defense is just so bad. The total for this game is at 50.5-51 (depending on where you look), the highest of any game in week 1. The Raiders were the tenth worst total rushing defense, allowed 4.5 ypc, and surrendered 18 TDs. It could be a good day for everyone in Tennesse.
Antonio Brown vs Cleveland. I’m not sure this needs any explanation. Cleveland gave up 36 passing TDs last year. Any time one of the league’s top 3 position players are playing one of the league’s most notorious losers, you’ve got to play them.
A.J. Green vs Baltimore. Baltimore allowed the 10th fewest receiving yards last season (9th in passing: receiving – sacks), but they gave up 28 scores. Historically Green does well against them, too.
Amari Cooper vs Tennesee. For the same reason as all the other Titans vs Raiders picks. The game should be high scoring. Strongly consider taking Carr as your QB if you pick Cooper.
Michael Crabtree vs Tennesee. Pick one or the other. Crabtree will cost you less, and has high potential, but there’s no doubt that Cooper is the favored man.
Larry Fitzgerald vs Detroit. Detroit didn’t give up too many yards through the air last season, but they allowed 33 TDs, and Fitz has always had a way of finding the end zone.
Emmanuel Sanders vs San Diego (LA is stupid). He’s a bit risky, but he comes at a very low price for his talent level, and the Chargers aren’t world beaters on defense.
Terrelle Pryor vs Philidelphia. This is certainly a riskier pick, but it’s not like the Redskins have a wealth of receiving talent to make it a bad choice. Pryor showed some promise last year playing, and now he’s on an actual NFL team with a real NFL caliber quarterback. Philly wasn’t great against the pass last year, a middle of the road pass D that surrendered 25 TDs. The upside is big with Pryor.
Jeremy Maclin or Mike Wallace. Baltimore’s aerial attack could be impressive this season after adding Maclin to the roster. Wallace seems to have more bust potential, as he always does, but he’ll cost you less on DraftKings and FanDuel.
If you’re looking for some really cheap options with potential upside, consider Kevin White vs Atlanta, or Brandon LaFell vs Baltimore. White is the number one WR for Chicago, so if anyone is going to get looks, it should be him. LaFell is a decent wideout who occasionally has big games, and that’s the type of player that sometimes hits big and wins you a GPP.
Tight ends are hard to predict when they’re not named Rob Gronkowski, and my actual top pick won’t be playing this Sunday due to the weather (Julius Thomas), so here’s my best guess at the next best option.
Greg Olsen vs SF. Olsen has long been Cam’s go to guy, and SF’s defense is terrible. You never know when he’ll go out and nab 7 for 140 and 2 TDs, but this could be one of those days.
Martellus Bennett vs Seattle. He’s an absolute beast in the RZ. Rodgers will find him if he’s open. There’s good potential here, and he’s considerably less expensive than Olsen.
Antonio Gates vs Denver. I would normally not suggest playing anyone against Denver, but he’s been reasonably effective against Denver over the last three years, so if you want to save money at TE, I’m not sure you’ll ever find more value than Gates this week.
I believe you should sort lowest to highest, and grab the cheapest team with the best matchup. With that in mind, I like the Saints and the Jets this week.
I just don’t know where the Vikings will find points this year. They’ve gone from division contenders to nothings in a few short years.
The Jets held the Bills to 10 points in the final game last year, and Buffalo failed to impress in the preseason. Still, it’s a divisional game, and those get crazy sometimes.
If You Really Want to Spend Extra
I’m not saying I recommend it, but I think that the Rams will have the best defensive performance of the week. If you’ve got extra cap and can’t find a player or two to spend the extra ~$600 on, they seem like as sure a bet as you’ll ever find facing off against the Luckless Colts.
And that’s it for this week. We’ll see you back here next week for more daily fantasy discussion.