Happy Week 1! The NFL is back and vibes are good — for now.
We’ve spent the last seven months in fantasy football land projecting what might play out in the 2020 season. Per usual, plenty of what we thought we knew will be flipped on its metaphorical head by this time next week. It’s important to not overreact to fluky one-week samples, but it’s also key to decipher new information and react accordingly.
What follows are my Week 1 QB rankings. Note that these are not season-long lists or projections; I’m purely ranking based on who I believe will score more fantasy points this week with a focus on 1) What the QB achieved in 2019 as a fantasy performer, 2) Offseason moves that could lead to a change in 2020 production, and 3) This week’s matchup.
1. Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson vs. Cleveland Browns (BAL -8, 48.5)
Only Ezekiel Elliott, Josh Jacobs, Derrick Henry and Chris Carson have averaged more rushing yards per start than Jackson since 2018. Last season, Jackson averaged a full six fantasy points per game more than the next-closest QB. History tells us that he won’t post a 9% TD rate again, but that doesn’t mean the gap between himself and fantasy’s QB2 will necessarily evaporate.
The largest offseason move working in Jackson’s favor is the reality that the Ravens are largely bringing the same offense back. Overall, only the Chiefs have more continuity in their pass game than the Ravens, who are in a tier with the Cardinals, Bills, Raiders, Falcons and Titans.
The Browns, like most NFL teams, haven’t managed to slow down Jackson’s rushing ability:
- 2018 Week 17: 20 rushes-90 rush yards-2 TD
- 2019 Week 4: 9-66-0
- 2019 Week 16: 17-103-0
The potential for Myles Garrett to completely take over a game always looms, but the Browns again look like a defense better suited to defend the pass (18th in DVOA in 2019) than run (30th). This is generally the superior setup on defense in today’s NFL; just not against the Ravens’ juggernaut of a run game.
DFS note: Jackson is coming in at personal regular-season high $8,100 on DraftKings. I’d consider a cheaper target for cash games, while stacking Jackson with the likes of Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown in tournaments.
2. Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes vs. Houston Texans (KC -9.5, 54)
Mahomes is the best QB in the Super Bowl era in career QB Rating (108.9), yards per attempt (8.6), adjusted yards per attempt (9.2) and adjusted net yards per attempt (8.6). He might’ve lost the fantasy QB1 crown in 2019, although the difference between 2018 Mahomes (26.1 fantasy PPG) and 2019 Jackson (27.7) was negligible. Note that those aforementioned two seasons are the top-two most-productive fantasy seasons at the QB position *ever*.
Mahomes’ best path to catching Jackson might be continuing to use his legs a bit more often, as he did down the Chiefs’ playoff stretch.
Mahomes is the best QB alive don't @ mepic.twitter.com/bjOmiTksu3
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) January 19, 2020
Nobody brings back more continuity in the passing game than the Chiefs. Adding first-round RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire — Mahomes’ preferred pick — is just the cherry on top of another great offseason from GM Brett Veach and company.
Mahomes has thrown for eight scores in his last eight quarters of football against the Texans, who ranked dead last in yards allowed per play in 2019. Perhaps second-round DT Ross Blacklock and third-round DE Jonathan Greenard will help raise the group’s floor if/when J.J. Watt is forced to miss time. Even with this group at full strength, don’t expect them to slow down the NFL’s scariest offense.
DFS note: Fading Mahomes in a showdown slate must be painstakingly terrifying. I wouldn’t know, because I’ve never faded the greatest QB alive in a one-game slate.