Fantasy Football Week 1: James White, John Ross among Jamey Eisenberg's favorite sleepers

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It's Week 1, so you may not be inclined to bench your expected regular starters for guys you drafted with late-round picks—or potentially found off the waiver wire. But that's not a good way to try and win.

You should play the best guys in the best situations, especially when the starters you expected to use all season are in tough spots. Case in point: Jimmy Garoppolo has a tough matchup at Minnesota, so I'd rather start Andy Dalton against Indianapolis.

Marshawn Lynch has to play the Rams, and I'd rather start James White against Houston in PPR instead. Kenny Stills vs. Tennessee is in a better spot than Doug Baldwin at Denver. And on it goes.

With that in mind, here are some sleepers to consider to replace some of the questionable stars. If you think they can improve your lineup this week then make them starters for your roster, and hopefully they deliver in a big way in Week 1.

20.8 projected points
Tyrod Taylor Cleveland Browns QB
Taylor should be fine following his wrist/finger injury from the preseason, and he gets a bonus with Josh Gordon expected to play this week against the Steelers. Look for Taylor to be productive at home, especially if the Browns are chasing points late in the game.
16.4 projected points
Marcus Mariota Tennessee Titans QB
The last time Mariota played at Miami was Week 5 in 2016, and he had 163 passing yards and three touchdowns along with 60 rushing yards and a touchdown, good for 36 Fantasy points. It's the third-most Fantasy points he's scored in his career. Let's hope for a repeat performance this week, and it helps that Rishard Matthews (knee) is expected to be active.
16.2 projected points
Sam Bradford Arizona Cardinals QB
When healthy, Bradford has been a decent Fantasy quarterback, and his track record in season-opening games reflects that. Over his last four season-opening games, Bradford is averaging 317 passing yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions. He's a great streaming option in two-quarterback leagues in Week 1.
13.8 projected points
Joe Flacco Baltimore Ravens QB
Flacco turned a good offseason into a good preseason, and hopefully it will carry over to Week 1 against the Bills. In his past three home games going back to last year, Flacco has passed for 709 yards, six touchdowns and one interception, and he's averaging 20.3 Fantasy points over that span.
Running backs
9.1 projected points
James Conner Pittsburgh Steelers RB
Conner should be considered a must-start running back with Le'Veon Bell not expected to play this week against the Browns. Conner is looking at a big workload, and he played well in the preseason with 19 carries for 100 yards (5.3 yards per carry) and a touchdown and seven catches for 61 yards.
5.9 projected points
Adrian Peterson Washington Redskins RB
We'll see how long he can hold up at 33, but he should have fresh legs for Week 1. And he looked good in the third preseason game for Washington with 11 carries for 56 yards. He's a flex play this week, as is Chris Thompson in PPR.
7.9 projected points
James White New England Patriots RB
We don't know how much work Rex Burkhead (knee) and Sony Michel (knee) will get in Week 1, or if Michel will play at all. That could leave White and Jeremy Hill to do a lot of heavy lifting. White has value on his own even if Burkhead and Michel are healthy, especially in PPR, and he should be involved quite a bit in the passing game with Julian Edelman (suspension) out. Hill is touchdown dependent, but he could get goal-line chances if Burkhead is limited.
8.5 projected points
Kerryon Johnson Detroit Lions RB
It's risky to trust Johnson since he's expected to share touches with LeGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick, but the Lions could blow out the Jets at home on Monday night. Johnson could get an extended look in this game and has flex appeal, especially in deeper leagues. Also in deeper leagues, I wouldn't be surprised if Blount finds the end zone in this matchup.
5.8 projected points
Jordan Wilkins Indianapolis Colts RB
I like Wilkins for the season, and hopefully he will establish himself as a significant contributor in this backfield. He doesn't have an easy matchup this week against the Bengals, but he should get plenty of volume if Marlon Mack (hamstring) is out. In deeper leagues, Wilkins could be a flex option.
8.3 projected points
Duke Johnson Cleveland Browns RB
Carlos Hyde is a low-end starter for Fantasy owners this week and should be the No. 1 running back for the Browns. But Johnson is No. 2 and should be heavily involved, especially in the passing game. Last year against Pittsburgh in Week 17, Johnson had six carries for 20 yards and a touchdown and six catches for 75 yards. He's a great flex option in PPR.
Wide receivers
10.4 projected points
Will Fuller Houston Texans WR
In four games with Watson last year, Fuller had at least 14 PPR points in each outing, and he averaged 20.3 PPR points over that span. The Texans should be chasing points in this game, and Watson should lean on DeAndre Hopkins and Fuller quite a bit. Now, if Fuller doesn't score, he might not do much. But he's a sleeper for a reason given his high ceiling and low floor.
8.6 projected points
John Ross Cincinnati Bengals WR
Like Fuller, Ross has a high ceiling and low floor, and look for Dalton to take a couple of shots to Ross down the field against the Colts. He had a big play in the third preseason game against the Bills with a 57-yard touchdown on the first play of the game, and hopefully another moment like that happens in Week 1.
14.1 projected points
Josh Gordon Cleveland Browns WR
Gordon falls into sleeper category this week, hopefully for the last time ever, because of the report that he's not expected to start. He'll play, and he should play a lot if the Browns want to win. In a scenario where Cleveland is likely chasing points, don't be afraid of Gordon, and keep him active in all leagues.
10.0 projected points
Kenny Stills Miami Dolphins WR
Stills will operate as the No. 1 receiver for the Dolphins this season with Jarvis Landry gone, and look for Ryan Tannehill to lean on him in this matchup. Danny Amendola is also an option in PPR leagues whenever he's healthy, but Stills has the chance to be a star this season and a quality starter this week.
10.4 projected points
Jamison Crowder Washington Redskins WR
I'm excited about Crowder's outlook this season, and hopefully he can stay healthy for 16 games. He will avoid Patrick Peterson playing in the slot, and expect Alex Smith to lean on him as a prime target in this passing game. Last year against the Cardinals in Week 15, Crowder had five catches for 55 yards and a touchdown on seven targets.
9.7 projected points
Keelan Cole Jacksonville Jaguars WR
I like Cole and Dede Westbrook this week given the matchup with the Giants, who will be without their top pass rusher in Olivier Vernon (ankle). While the Jaguars will likely be run heavy this week (and most weeks), look for Blake Bortles to take some chances with Cole, Westbrook and possibly Donte Moncrief and DJ Chark. Cole has the most upside of the group, and he's worth using as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver in all formats.
Tight ends
7.8 projected points
Eric Ebron Indianapolis Colts TE
I like both Colts tight ends, Ebron and Jack Doyle, this week, and Andrew Luck should lean on these guys as primary targets behind T.Y. Hilton. Rookie safety Jessie Bates could be someone Luck tries to pick on if he's in coverage, and the Bengals are without linebacker Vontaze Burfict (suspension). Ebron could come up big in his first game with the Colts at home.
5.2 projected points
Antonio Gates Los Angeles Chargers TE
Gates is back with the Chargers as the replacement for Hunter Henry (ACL), and he should benefit if Eric Berry (heel) is out. He will likely need to score to help your Fantasy team, and he does have two touchdowns in his past three games against the Chiefs overall.
8.1 projected points
Austin Seferian-Jenkins Jacksonville Jaguars TE
Seferian-Jenkins should benefit with Marqise Lee (ACL) being out, and he has a great matchup against the Giants. They allowed the most Fantasy points to tight ends in 2017, and David Njoku already beat them up in the first preseason game for two touchdowns.
8.3 projected points
Benjamin Watson New Orleans Saints TE
The last time we saw Watson on the field for the Saints in the regular season was 2015, and that year he had 74 catches for 825 yards and six touchdowns. He's older now at 37, but he can still be productive in this offense. And this week, he faces a suspect Tampa Bay secondary at home. He's a good streaming option for Week 1.
Senior Fantasy Writer

Jamey Eisenberg has been a Senior Fantasy Writer for CBS Sports since 2006 with a focus on Fantasy Football. A University of Florida grad (class of '98), Jamey got his start in the newspaper business and... Full Bio

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