Fantasy Football Week 1 Rankings: Experts answer the biggest Week 1 questions on Ezekiel Elliott, Chiefs backfields, and more
Our trio of Fantasy experts answer the six biggest questions for Fantasy Week 1 rankings.
We know a lot of you are still finishing up drafts, but it's time to talk about Week 1. Yep, it's here. With the Packers and Bears set to kick off the NFL season in just one day and a handful of hours, our Fantasy analysts have their Week 1 rankings ready to go.
Of course, just as there is still a ton up in the air for those of you still drafting, so too is there a lot left to figure out for Week 1. After one of the busiest cut days I can remember — plus the still-lingering holdout by Melvin Gordon — we've got more questions than normal heading into Week 1 of the season. The Chiefs, Texans, Chargers, Cowboys, Bills, Dolphins, Eagles, Bears, Buccaneers, and 49ers all still have questions about how their backfields will look heading into Week 1 — though some more than others, obviously.
That's not even getting into new offenses being installed for the Dolphins, Jets, Ravens, Bengals, Jaguars, Packers, Vikings, Buccaneers, and Cardinals. Add in new starting quarterbacks for another six teams, and there's just a lot more unknowns heading into the start of the regular season than usual.
Every week this season, I'll ask our trio of analysts six of the biggest questions about their rankings heading into each scoring period, so we can hopefully try to get some clarity. Here's what we're looking at for Week 1.
1. How are you handling Ezekiel Elliott, based on the report that he would likely be limited to 20-25 reps in Week 1? Where does Tony Pollard slip to in your rankings?
- Jamey Eisenberg: Elliott remains a must-start Fantasy running back in limited touches because the Giants defense won't be able to stop him. And Pollard is still worth using as a flex option because he could be the one getting carries at the end of the game in a clock-killing situation with the Cowboys sitting on a lead.
- Dave Richard: Honestly, I never buy into reports like this. You mean to tell me that if the Cowboys are in a competitive game and Ezekiel Elliott looks OK that they're going to pull him in crunch time because he's limited to "20-25 reps"? No coach would do that. If Zeke is active, you're starting him, and Pollard can't be trusted.
- Heath Cummings: I project Elliott for 16 touches, 82 yards and .9 touchdowns. That makes him a top-15 back for me, but not as high as he normally is. Pollard falls to around RB40 in my rankings with 11 projected touches. He's a desperation flex play.
2. How are you handling the Chargers backfield for Week 1?
- Jamey: I'm planning on the Chargers going with a 60-40 split of Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson. I expect and Ekeler to be a starting Fantasy option in all leagues this week, while Jackson can be a serviceable flex.
- Dave: Until further notice, I'm expecting Gordon to not play Week 1. Ekeler (a solid No. 2 rusher) and Jackson (good non-PPR flex) each have some touchdown potential at home against the Colts.
- Heath: Currently ranking as if Ekeler and Jackson will be sharing the gig. Ekeler is my favorite, and you can flex Jackson.
3. How are you handling the Chiefs' backfield for Week 1?
- Jamey: Damien Williams is a low-end staring running back, and LeSean McCoy is a flex at best. Darwin Thompson should just be stashed on the bench.
- Dave: I'm assuming Williams will see the most playing time, followed by McCoy. Andy Reid trusts McCoy, that much we can safely assume, but until he looks like the Shady of old, Williams deserves the benefit of the doubt. I wouldn't start McCoy in Week 1. I also wouldn't be too excited to start Williams given the road matchup at Jacksonville.
- Heath: Another timeshare, but this one against a tough matchup. Williams is a low end starter in PPR and a high-end flex in non. McCoy is a low end flex in both. Thompson is just a stash now.
4. Who has the most to prove in Week 1?
- Jamey: Kyler Murray. Show us the preseason really doesn't matter.
- Dave: Todd Gurley. Last January he had like three good runs in one game and was miserable otherwise. Everything from his knee to his touches to his role has been questioned. Will he be a bargain as a second-rounder because he's the same stud we remember, or is he a shell of his former self?
- Heath: Kliff Kingsbury for sure. I saw enough throws from Kyler Murray to believe he can be a very exciting player in the NFL, but we've seen nothing from Kingsbury's offense yet. I'm not sure there's a wider range of outcomes possible in the NFL than what could happen with Arizona's offense.
5. Which top-10 QB are you considering sitting in Week 1?
- Jamey: Aaron Rodgers. He's got a tough matchup with the Bears, and this is a week to fade him if you can.
- Dave: Rodgers and Ryan each have tough matchups, both on the road against vaunted defenses. Ryan specifically has three straight losses against Mike Zimmer's Vikings defense with only one good Fantasy outing in that span. You could make the case for Lamar Jackson, Philip Rivers or Tom Brady ahead of Ryan in Week 1. Luckily, this is Ryan's worst matchup of the season — Rodgers gets those Vikings next week after the Bears on the road in Week 1.
- Heath: Rodgers and Ryan. Both have extremely difficult matchups on the road against NFC North opponents. Most of the players I rank above them are rostered in a majority of leagues but I'd choose both Dak Prescott and Lamar Jackson over these two.
6. Which top-20 RB are you considering sitting in Week 1?
- Jamey: Aaron Jones. See above.
- Dave: Derrick Henry shouldn't be trusted. I'm a believer in the Browns' front seven and figure they will come out aggressive and physical against a Titans offense that won't have its best offensive lineman (Taylor Lewan is suspended). Once the Titans are down by two scores, Henry's touches will dwindle. He'll be better in Week 2 versus Indy.
- Heath: I'm not sure if Damien Williams counts any more, but he'd be the answer against Jacksonville with a more questionable role.
7. What team are you planning on watching closest for Week 1?
- Jamey: The Chiefs. I want to see how this backfield works together.
- Dave: I can't wait to watch every game, but the Ravens offense is the one I'm most curious about. I expect them to look like world-beaters against the Dolphins, using creative concepts to run the ball in ways we have seen (zone-read) and haven't seen (triple option). If they don't crush Miami, it's a red flag.
- Heath: Besides Arizona? I can't wait to see Lamar Jackson and Baltimore's new offense. Miles Boykin and Marquise Brown weren't drafted in a lot of leagues but one of them could be a top waiver add after this week.
So who should you sit and start in Week 1? And which surprising quarterback can lead you to victory? Visit SportsLine now to get Week 1 Fantasy football rankings for every single position, and see which shocking QB comes out of nowhere to crack the top 10, all from the model that out-performed experts big-time last season.
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