News & Analysis

Sunday morning fantasy football decisions: Rankings, start/sit, sleepers, and busts for Week 1

(Each week, the Sunday Study Session will feature a quick-hit look at our top fantasy football advice of the week to help you prepare for that week’s fantasy slate, as well as links to our full writeups. For last-minute research and prep, this is the place.)

The overreaction theater has already started around the fantasy landscape. Mitchell Trubisky should be benched, David Montgomery was a wasted pick, Marquez Valdes-Scantling is a breakout star, Geronimo Allison is waiver bait, Jimmy Graham is back. After Thursday’s yawner of an NFL opener, all that information and more was prevalent in the fantasy world.

And maybe some of it is true! Maybe even all of it is true. But it’s early, and we just don’t know for sure. Remember last year’s NFL opener, when the Eagles (behind Nick Foles) beat the Falcons 18-12. Matt Ryan had 251 scoreless passing yards and threw an interception. Zach Ertz had 48 yards. The two offenses looked like busts.

By the end of the year, of course, Ryan had the 14th-most QB fantasy points ever, Ertz was setting TE target records, and both teams actually had worthwhile offenses. Some parts of Week 1 were true — Julio Jones was great, Devonta Freeman wasn’t, etc. — but if we had decided on how 2018 would go based only on that game, we’d have had some big misses.

So watch Week 1. Absorb it. And be prepared to make decisions based on it. But still remember, it’s just one game. We might know some things this week. But some of the things we “know” will also end up being wrong.

Season-long league advice

These are the pieces that will help you build your roster and set your lineup each week. On Tuesday, Jeff Ratcliffe breaks down the best waiver claims of the week. Wednesday is Jeff’s top 150 flex rankings and Daniel Kelley’s peek at the best and worst matchups of the week. Thursday, Daniel returns with his weekly sleepers and busts, while Scott Barrett breaks down the key start and the sits of the week. And finally, Jeff is back Friday with his weekly focus, taking a full look at the whole weekly slate from every angle.

Previewing the weekend in fantasy

For most of these pieces, we’ll pull a blurb to highlight and offer up a key takeaway. For this piece, though? It’s worth a full read. Beginning to end, Jeff brings the crucial info.

A snapshot of the flex rankings

12.Michael Thomas, NO vs HOU (WR4) — He’s coming off a massive 125 catches last season and remains locked in as Drew Brees’ primary target.
13.James Conner, PIT @ NE (RB9) — Conner was one of just five backs to average over 20 touches per game last season.
14.Leonard Fournette, JAC vs KC (RB10) — All the reports out of Jacksonville have been favorable for Fournette this preseason. He’s slated to be a three-down workhorse.
15.Mike Evans, TB vs SF (WR5) — This is a fantastic matchup for Evans. He has the potential to explode out of the gate for the Bucs.

Two starts, two sits

START Lamar Jackson in medium-sized leagues: Jackson has an unrivaled floor — scoring just 15.9 fantasy points in his worst game as a starter (best in the league) — and massive upside this week, against an anemic Miami pass rush. In 2018, Jackson broke the PFF record for fantasy points per dropback, while Miami ranked third-worst in fantasy points allowed per dropback.
START John Brown in deep leagues: The Jets have the worst cornerbacks corps in the NFL, and are especially vulnerable deep — they gave up the sixth-most fantasy points to wide receivers on deep passes last year. Even CB1 Trumaine Johnson (4.61 40-yard-dash at the combine in 2012) would be no match for Brown’s 4.34 speed.
SIT Derrius Guice in shallow leagues: Guice was a terrific redraft value all year, but after spending most of the offseason sidelined with injuries, I’m not sure he’ll see a workhorse workload in Week 1. Further, it’s a brutal matchup for a running back who will likely be spelled by Chris Thompson in passing situations.
SIT Donte Moncrief in medium-sized leagues: Moncrief appears to have locked up starting WR2 duties in Pittsburgh, which should prove to be a valuable role. However, he has an especially difficult matchup this week, in shadow coverage against Jason McCourty.

Sleepers and busts for the week

SLEEPER: Matthew Stafford: Until the Cardinals’ motley assortment of Patrick Peterson-less corners show us they can stop people, I’m heavily using any quarterback facing them and I’m licking my lips in the process.
BUST: Austin Ekeler: If Ekeler actually does get a bell cow role … he’s topped 35 snaps in four of his 32 career games and averaged 3.1 yards per carry (113 carries) in those games. In all other games, he’s averaged 6.1 yards on 113 carries.

The best and worst matchups of the week

BEST: Mark Ingram: You’d expect running backs to feast against Miami all year long, given how awful the team overall is, how often it should be trailing, and how its one relative strength is its pass defense. You’d also expect Ingram to have a big year as the RB1 in one of the league’s most run-heavy offenses.
WORST: Derrick Henry: The formidable Cleveland defensive line announced its presence with authority in that preseason game against Tampa Bay when Jameis Winston couldn’t stay upright, and now gets to go against a Tennessee line that will be without LT Taylor Lewan for the first month.

Waiver claims to make a week early

Trey Quinn: By yards per route run, Quinn was the best slot receiver in college in 2017. He enters his second year as the odds-on favorite to be the team’s leading slot receiver in the role vacated by Jamison Crowder.
Hunter Renfrow: Renfrow’s stock has risen over the preseason, and now he looks likely to open the season as the Raiders’ No. 3 receiver, operating largely out of the slot.

Player prop bets (from BetMGM)

Lamar Jackson UNDER 69.5 rushing yards: There’s no doubt that Jackson is the odds-on favorite to lead the league’s quarterbacks in rushing this season, but this line is massive. Our projections still give Jackson a healthy 47.5 rushing yards, which makes this a healthy under.

DFS advice

Scott Barrett’s DFS Focus piece will highlight all the key daily fantasy tips and tricks from one of the industry’s best, but that isn’t all, as our team tackles the main DFS slate from every angle.

Bargains

Chris Thompson, RB, Washington Redskins: Thompson has played just 10 games each of the last two seasons and Derrius Guice figures to factor into the passing game this season. Still, Thompson should have a carved-out pass-catching role early on as a guy who has caught 80 passes over his last 20 games.
Marvin Jones, WR, Detroit Lions: Jones was on pace for just under 1,000 yards last season and 8.8 touchdowns. With his injury issues behind him, a matchup against our projected 24th-ranked cover defense, and a budget-friendly price, Jones is a good bet this weekend.

Locks

Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: Wentz will make for a tricky stack every week, given the wealth of offense weapons the Eagles have. But as an individual play, that load of weapons and the league’s best offensive line make him a strong option in any matchup.
John Brown, WR, Buffalo Bills: The jury is out on Josh Allen overall, but we know he can throw deep, and we know Brown can catch the deep ball. Meanwhile, the Jets were among the most vulnerable teams to the deep pass in the league in 2018.

Fades

Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals: A subpar offensive line isn’t necessarily a total dealbreaker for a running quarterback like Murray promises to be. But the combination of Arizona’s 30th-ranked line and opposing Detroit’s formidable defensive front that could be the league’s best in 2019 is just an awful one for the rookie’s debut.
Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons: Ridley ranked top-20 in the league last year in yards after the catch per reception (5.73, 17th among qualified receivers). Per our WR/CB matchup chart for Week 1, he’s likely to draw the lion’s share of his coverage in Week 1 from Trae Waynes, who allowed only 90 yards after the catch, 2.50 per reception.

Stacks

Jared Goff, QB; Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams: The Panthers’ zone-heavy defense is a matchup that could funnel into a huge week for Kupp. He should be lesser-owned due to him coming off injury, which makes him a great play in GPP paired with Goff.

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