Fantasy Football Week 1: 10 things to know about the NFL's first week, with Ezekiel Elliott playing, and the Dolphins and Buccaneers not
Week 1 of the NFL season is here, and Heath Cummings has the 10 things you need to know.
The NFL has turned into a year-round phenomenon, so it's probably inaccurate to say that football is "back" with Week 1 here Thursday night, but man it feels good to say football is back.
Finally we get validation (or repudiation) of our preseason expectations. We'll get to see the rookies in their first real action and some old running backs trying to make one last run at it. We'll learn a lot simply from snap counts and targets. We get football, and I can't wait.
As always, we'll kick things off with Week 1 in a Tweet:
Patriots chase perfection, and we chase clarity in their touches
The Patriots have put together one of their best, and deepest, teams ever. That's awesome for them, but it sure makes ranking them in Fantasy a chore. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are both No. 1 at their respective positions this week; Brandin Cooks is a must-start.
Everyone else? I'd rather take a wait-and-see approach in Week 1.
Mike Gillislee is a No. 3 running back for me; not because I'm comfortable projecting him as a No. 3 back, but because the range is anywhere from workhorse to a few short yardage carries. James White's role seems more predictable, but I still see him as more of a PPR flex. Chris Hogan has a big role projected onto him with Julian Edelman's injury, but he's third at best in target potential. If you have to start one of these guys it isn't the end of the world, but I would rather see how the Patriots employ their weapons in Week 1 before taking the chance.
Ezekiel Elliott is playing
I'm sure you know this, and you've probably read Darren McFadden out. This is a bad matchup, but Elliott is as matchup proof as they come running behind this offensive line. His eligibility lowers Dak Prescott's upside slightly.already. We still don't have a permanent resolution to this saga, but all you need to know for Week 1 is get Elliott in your lineup. And get
Get all of your Dolphins and Buccaneers out of your lineup. Chris Towers has you covered with Week 1 replacements for all of the relevant players.
Longterm, this gives me a little bit of concern about Jay Ajayi holding up down the stretch. He's a high-volume back that runs angry and takes a lot of shots. Taking away that week of rest could hurt his prospects in the Fantasy playoffs.
So. Many. Bad. Quarterbacks.
What we don't know is how much these bad quarterbacks will affect the likes of T.Y. Hilton, Pierre Garcon, Corey Coleman, Kenny Britt and DeAndre Hopkins. I'll be watching closely, because Hilton and Hopkins specifically have top ten upside if their quarterback play could just be adequate.
I'd be remiss if I talked about bad quarterbacks and didn't mention Blake Bortles. Bortles has already survived one quarterback controversy in the preseason, but he has a terribly difficult matchup in Week 1 against the Texans. Could he get benched? It's possible.
Rookie running backs may get off to rough starts
This is the most hyped rookie class I can remember. While I've largely resisted the hype, I also can't wait to see if any of them can live up to it. That's going to be tough for Leonard Fournette, Kareem Hunt and Joe Mixon in Week 1 against terrible matchups. Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey have it easier, but McCaffrey specifically has usage concerns and a game script that may better suit Jonathan Stewart.
I'm starting Cook and Hunt as No. 2 running backs, and I'd have a hard time benching McCaffrey too, especially in PPR. Fournette and Mixon are in that gray area where I'm only starting them if I don't have an obviously better option. I would consider Rob Kelley and Terrance West better options this week in non-PPR leagues, for example, and I'd rather start Danny Woodhead or Bilal Powell in PPR.
Revenge games for running backs
Revenge game narratives are really fun, especially with high profile players. We get two of them in Week 1 with Adrian Peterson and Eddie Lacy both returning to the city where they made their name to face their former team. They're also both fighting for playing time.
I don't want to start Lacy or Peterson this week, but I do want to watch their touch split. Lacy's will likely be impacted by the health of Thomas Rawl, but the split between Peterson and Mark Ingram will be fascinating. I feel confident that Ingram is currently a better running back, but we'll find out if Sean Payton agrees.
Super Mariota starts his MVP bid
Okay, I'm stealing this one from Jamey Eisenberg. Jamey has called Mariota a dark horse MVP candidate and I love it. Marcus Mariota has has been remarkably efficient in his first two years in the league, while working with below average offensive weapons. In Week 1, we'll see him for the first time with Eric Decker and Corey Davis added on top. What makes it even better is we'll see him against a Raiders defense that was carved up in the preseason. Mariota is a consensus top-four quarterback for us this week, and by far my favorite quarterback to play in DFS.
Return of Beast Mode
Marshawn Lynch is back in the NFL. But is he back?
I have my doubts.
Lynch is a 31 year-old who sat out last year. He was bad and hurt the year before. He says he Raiders' tickets before they leave for Las Vegas? Maybe he's just here so he won't get fined.. So what's the motivation here? Selling Beast Mode gear? Selling
Whatever it is I'm going to have see Lynch looking like his old self before I believe it. I'd also like to get DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard on my bench in case this goes as poorly as I expect.
New-look offenses in San Francisco
It's obvious the 49ers will have a new offense, because of their new coach Kyle Shanahan. I'm interested to see that offense, and especially how Pierre Garcon and Carlos Hyde fit in it. But I'm far more interested in the team visiting San Fancisco this week.
The Panthers didn't add a new coach or quarterback like the 49ers, but they did add Christian McCaffrey and apparently they also added a just for their rookie running back. This is obviously exciting for McCaffrey, who could very well be the No. 1 rookie running back. However, I also want to see what it does for Cam Newton. Newton has never had anyone as adept as McCaffrey at gaining yards after the catch. With rumors that Newton will run less this season, I'm hopeful short throws to McCaffrey that turn into big gains will help mitigate the loss of rushing production.
Is "road Ben" still a thing?
Ben Roethlisberger has struggled on the road over the past three seasons, averaging more than a yard less per attempt, to go along with a terrible 2.7 percent touchdown rate. Of course, for most of the past three seasons he hasn't had all three of Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Le'Veon Bell on the field at the same time. When he did play with those three for ten games in 2014? It was incredible.
Roethlisberger had a 16-game pace of 5,374 yards and 38 touchdowns in those 10 games. He played four road games in that stretch and topped 340 yards in three of them. Now, is 2014 really relevant to the 2017 opener? Nope. But I'd argue it's just as relevant as Roethlisberger's road stats in past games without all of his weapons. I love this matchup against the Browns and have him ranked as my No. 2 quarterback this week.
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