Fantasy Attack: Week 1
The regular season is here, and it is time!
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Welcome to the Fantasy Attack, presented by DRAFT! Week 1 of the regular season is finally here, and this week I roll out what you’ll be seeing here every week. I’ll let you know the players you need to play, the players to need to avoid, and the players flying way under the radar that can give you an edge.
A brief explanation. For the past several years I’ve been doing a podcast with my partner in crime, the Voodoo Pengiuin. It’s mostly good times, inside jokes & hilarity. Unfortunately, we’ve had to reduce the size of the show over the years due to Penguin’s increasing unavailability due to a real life & my increasing unavailability due to other online responsibilities. This season we’ll just be covering the Official league we’re in over at offtheteam.com. In previous years we had Six Stories, a Fave Five, the Fearful Four, Three Sleepers, Two Minutes of Injuries, One Musical Break and then the picks for the league. This column will allow three of those features to live on.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the fantasy fun!
My fandom of pro wrestling is well-known, and the name of this section is an ode to the days when Booker T was announcing SmackDown and constantly talked about his Fave Five. It changed by the week, and so will this one. These are the five guys you should start without question if you have them, or pick up for your DFS needs. I try to stay away from ridiculously obvious names like Aaron Rodgers unless I think they’ll break some offensive records.
Alvin Kamara (19.7 DRAFT proj.): Kamara took the NFL by storm in his rookie season, getting over 1500 all-purpose yards, being named Offensive Rookie of the Year & carrying countless fantasy teams that got him on the waiver wire to championships. He was a first round pick this season, and he’ll provide first-round value against the Buccaneers. He’ll be especially productive for the first few games of the season thanks to Mark Ingram’s suspension.
Ben Roethlisberger (19.9 DRAFT proj.): As of the time I’m writing this column, Le’Veon Bell has yet to report to the Pittsburgh Steelers. We assume he will before Sunday. Last season, he reported late & was ineffective against the Browns. There are still plenty of other weapons at Ben’s disposal, namely Antonio Brown & JuJu Smith-Schuster. Expect them to get some targets & the Steelers to throw the ball a ton against Cleveland,
Matthew Stafford (18.7 DRAFT proj.): Two things play into Stafford’s favor this week. The Lions have quite the committee at running back and haven’t figured things out there yet, so Stafford will likely be throwing the ball more. He’ll be throwing the ball more against a Jets defense that gave up the third-most points to quarterbacks last season & allowed thirty passing touchdowns. Seems like a recipe for fantasy points to me.
Chris Hogan (8.4 DRAFT proj.): With Julian Edelman out of the mix for four games & Danny Amendola out of the picture, Tom Brady needs a white wide receiver to throw the ball to. Hey, don’t blame me, that’s just what the guy does. Hollywood Chris had a big game in the Super Bowl and will keep the momentum going as the Patriots’ WR1 by default against the Texans. That projection is way too low.
Kyle Rudolph (7.2 DRAFT proj.): Kirk Cousins loves his tight ends. Whether it was Jordan Reed or whoever was filling in for Jordan Reed on a given week, they were always solid fantasy producers. Rudolph is already among the most reliable in the league, and he gets the 49ers this week, a team that gave up eight touchdowns to tight ends in their last eleven games. Look for Rudolph to find the end zone this week and easily surpass that projection.
These are the four players that I don’t think will live up to expectations. You’ll probably have to start them anyway, but you won’t be happy about it.
Ezekiel Elliott (17.8 DRAFT proj.): This section of the column will typically be about loving the player and hating the matchup. There isn’t a whole lot to hate about Elliott’s game. Two things come to mind: the absence of Cowboys All-Pro center Travis Frederick, and his matchup this week against the Carolina Panthers. Carolina has one of the best front sevens in football and will be happy to let Dak Prescott try and beat them in the passing game. This top-five pick in most seasonal leagues won’t give you top-five numbers this week.
Dalvin Cook (15.1 DRAFT proj.): Theoretically, this should be an ideal scenario for Cook to make his return from injury. The 49ers were weak against the run last season while the Vikings’ line performed very well. This year looks to be different. Center Pat Elflein isn’t expected to play in Week 1 as he’s recovering from shoulder & ankle surgery. Having shoulder & ankle problems at the same time is the life of a lineman. The Vikings will need some time to figure things out on the line, which means you may see more of Latavius Murray in there as a blocker.
Odell Beckham Jr. (11.9 DRAFT proj.): Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with the Giants backing up the Brinks truck & giving Beckham all that money. He’s an amazing athlete that went off the board in nearly every fantasy league’s first round. This won’t be his week though, as the Jacksonville Jaguars come to town. They had the top ranked passing defense last season & Jalen Ramsey has pretty much become the defensive equivalent of Odell Beckham Jr. based on his talent & the amount of attention he gets off the field. If you’re in a regular league you’re probably stuck starting him & hating it. DFS players should stay away.
Philip Rivers (18.9 DRAFT proj.): Rivers is one of those guys that’s a lot better than his reputation would have you believe. He’s an acceptable fantasy starter on most weeks. I don’t think this will be one of those weeks, as the Kansas City Chiefs have owned him recently. Last season he threw six interceptions against KC in the two games the Chargers had with them. Yahoo has him among their top 5 QBs in projected points this week, and there’s no way I see that happening.
For years, my podcasting partner and I have been calling our shots on sleepers. Actual sleepers, which we consider to be people owned in less than 50% of Yahoo fantasy leagues. It’s one of the things we’ve actually done well, so if there’s one part of this column you should actually pay attention to it’s this one.
Andy Dalton (14.7 DRAFT proj., 26% Yahoo owned): Preseason is what it is, but that Bengals first-team offense looked very solid when it appeared. AJ Green did what he usually does, Tyler Eifert is healthy for now, and John Ross showed that he can make the big play, even if he makes a bad play here & there. The Colts defense isn’t exactly a top-notch unit, and Dalton had a nice game against them last season. If you’re like me and have Dalton on a team with a mid to low top 10 guy with a matchup concern, you might be thinking about starting him. DFS players looking for an edge might be intrigued. I think it works out this week.
Donte Moncrief (6.4 DRAFT proj., 17% Yahoo owned): Doncrief is a longtime favorite sleeper pick, and this season finds him in Jacksonville. People hear the name “Blake Bortles” and get worried, but there’s actually value to be had in the Jaguars’ passing game, especially with Marquise Lee out for the season. Moncrief’s possession receiving game should blend well with what Bortles does and he’ll get plenty of opportunity, especially in Week 1 against a Giants team that was soft against the pass last season.
Boston Scott (2.8 DRAFT proj., 1% Yahoo owned): I love to mix in a deep sleeper at the end, and it doesn’t get much deeper than the third RB on the Saints depth chart. The sixth round pick out of Louisiana Tech will be returning kicks for the Saints and get some third down work behind Mike Gillislee. He’s a power back that Pro Football Focus is in love with, so there’s a pretty good chance this isn’t the last time you hear this name. There’s even a chance in Week 1, as Tampa has been pretty putrid against the run in recent years.
Best of luck in Week 1, and let’s hope we all get off to a good start in our leagues!