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The Fantasy Blueprint

The Fantasy Blueprint: Week 1

by Hayden Winks
Updated On: September 13, 2020, 12:58 am ET

Posted Thursday and updated Friday/Saturday, “The Fantasy Blueprint” will get you the stats and information that actually matter for fantasy football, and it will be produced it in a way that doesn’t waste our time. If you don't know what "Fantasy Usage" is, read this. If you need live Vegas odds, go here. If you want my best bets, scroll to the bottom. If you have other questions, reach out on Twitter (@HaydenWinks). Alright, now let's go print, starting with the team with the highest projected team total... 

 

Chiefs (32.25 points, -10 spread) vs. HOU

ChiefsTexans

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

NA Clyde Edwards-Helaire (big favorite)

NA Darrel Williams

WR10 Tyreek Hill

WR40 Sammy Watkins

WR100+ Mecole Hardman

TE1 Travis Kelce

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

The Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs are unsurprisingly expected to score the most points (32.25) of Week 1 according to Vegas and will assuredly do so on the back of their league’s best passing offense (1st in EPA per dropback). They’d eat regardless, but the Texans’ lackluster passing defense figures to add to the fireworks. Houston allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks last year and did nothing of significance this offseason to change our outlook of them. A 300-yard, 3-TD game is almost expected out of Mahomes… Travis Kelce finished as the TE1 overall last season despite horrendous touchdown luck; he scored 2.3 fewer touchdowns than his usage would expect because he somehow only converted 2-of-19 red zone targets into scores. The Texans just gave up a 10-134-3 receiving line to Kelce in last year’s playoffs, making him an obviously elite play… Over the last two seasons including playoffs, Tyreek Hill has averaged 18.2 PPR points per game when he’s been healthy and has eclipsed 20 PPR points in 14-of-31 games. The Texans’ 24th-ranked defense against fantasy receivers should be no impedance to a potential blow-up spot for the league’s most explosive pass catcher. Hill is a no-brainer top-five receiver… The regular season wasn’t kind to Sammy Watkins in 2019, but he had a strong run during the playoffs. During that Super Bowl run, Watkins ran more routes than Mecole Hardman (123 to 17) and also out-targeted him (18 to 6). It’s impossible to trust Watkins after he scored fewer than 15 PPR points in 15-of-17 games last year, but the upside is undeniable, particularly in a contract season. Watkins is a boom-bust dart throw in a plus home matchup… Mecole Hardman might’ve jumped Demarcus Robinson this offseason (not a total given) but remains a complete wild card when it comes to actual targets even if he did earn the No. 3 receiver job. He’s likely fifth in the pecking order, which gives him zero floor. His 4.33-speed and last year’s 12.1 yards per target average are the reasons why there’s a path to long-touchdown upside… Demarcus Robinson only had two games over 10 PPR points last year…

Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been a standout in training camp and the backup backs are weak enough for me to project a workhorse role for the first-round rookie immediately. Damien Williams was the RB7 overall in fantasy usage from Week 9 through the playoffs last season, usage that Edwards-Helaire should capitalize on as a better tackle breaker. The Chiefs’ 10-point favorite status and the Texans’ 27th-ranked defense against fantasy running backs make CEH a top-8 back with RB1 overall potential this week… Darrel Williams (“The Mentor”) earned backup duties in camp, which eventually led to DeAndre Washington’s release. Darwin Thompson is a gadget player only, leaving Williams in a potential goal-line role if he’s lucky. A few touches in short-yardage would pay off his single-game DFS slate price tag. He’s also one of the better pure insurance backs in season-long fantasy.

 

Fantasy Rankings

Watkins is my WR40 this week. Subscribe to Rotoworld EDGE+ here to unlock the rest of my personal weekly positional rankings for only $3.99 per month. Use promo code: WINKS10 for 10% off.

 

Ravens (28.75, -8) vs. CLE

RavensBrowns

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

RB23 Mark Ingram (big favorite)

NA J.K. Dobbins

WR49 Marquise Brown (vs. Denzel Ward)

WR100+ Miles Boykin

WR100+ Willie Snead

TE6 Mark Andrews

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Lamar Jackson may not throw for a league-leading 36 touchdowns or break the quarterback rushing record as he did in 2019, but he’ll be a top-two fantasy option in most matchups including this one. The MVP dropped 29.8 and 24.5 fantasy points against these Browns last year… Mark Andrews was the TE7 per-game in 2019 despite only running a route on 61% of the Ravens’ dropbacks. Better health and Hayden Hurst’s departure (39 targets and 219 routes run) open up a massive ceiling for Andrews. The Browns were 22nd against tight ends last year, which includes Andrews’ 6-93-2 and 4-31-1 receiving lines… 2019 first-rounder Marquise Brown flashed sub-4.4 speed and stud playmaking as a rookie, but he ultimately only played three games with a 75% plus snap share due to a foot injury. Brown had the screw removed and added muscle this offseason, setting him up for a more productive year. CB Denzel Ward makes this matchup far from a layup, but Vegas’ 28.75-point projection for the Ravens Offense puts Brown into the upside WR3 mix. Brown was completely off the injury report on Wednesday… Slot man Willie Snead and Miles Boykin round out three-WR sets, but neither were on the fantasy radar last season despite Brown’s injuries and Lamar’s unsustainable brilliance…

Mark Ingram is coming off an RB12 per-game finish (16.2 FP/G) in 2019 but faces far more competition for backfield touches with second-rounder J.K. Dobbins around. Ingram likely gets the veteran nod as starter and most of the grinding carries, while Dobbins gets more big-play opportunities on a chunk of those 12.9 touches that Gus Edwards and Justice Hill combined for last year. Cleveland’s 29th-ranked defense against the run and Baltimore’s status as 8-point favorites set up both backs favorably, although projected touch totals make me lean towards Ingram in Week 1.

 

49ers (27, -7.5) vs. ARI 

49ersCardinals

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

RB41 Raheem Mostert (big favorite)

RB40 Tevin Coleman (questionable)

NA Brandon Aiyuk (questionable)

WR100+ Kendrick Bourne

NA Trent Taylor

NA Deebo Samuel (out, injured reserve)

TE5 George Kittle

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Including playoffs, Jimmy Garoppolo’s best (29.7 fantasy points) and second best (28.9) games of 2019 came against Arizona, which was the worst defense against fantasy quarterbacks last season. The 49ers are a team expected to pass more this season, and a home matchup with a 27-point team total is the type of week to cash in Garoppolo QB2 tickets as long as his receivers are healthy… Last year’s TE3 on a per-game basis, George Kittle is set up for a huge season opener. Arizona was by far the worst defense against tight ends last season, and Kittle could be set up for even more targets given the health of the receivers. He posted 19.9 PPR points in his lone game versus them last season and easily is a top-two option this week… Jordan Reed had a good camp on limited reps and will be running routes on most two-TE passing plays as a TE3 flier in an ideal matchup… Updated Saturday: Deebo Samuel (foot) is out. Meanwhile, first-round rookie Brandon Aiyuk (hamstring) practiced this week and is trending in the right direction. There's injury risk, but Aiyuk catches a decent opening matchup with the 49ers' 27-point team total. He'll be manufactured touches as long as he's healthy and will be the de-facto No. 1 receiver against Arizona's No. 30 ranked passing EPA defense. Aiyuk is a boom-bust WR4... San Francisco will run a lot of two-receiver sets with Samuel sidelined, and Kendrick Bourne figures to be the second receiver and a near full-time player. He's the next best option for deep leagues... When SF goes to three-receiver sets, slot man Trent Taylor will be on the field as distant option... 

The touchdown scoring was unsustainable, but Raheem Mostert averaged 19.8 PPR points from Week 13 through the playoffs while Coleman rotated in-and-out of the lineup. Mostert looked far more explosive in 2019, received a pay bump this offseason, and handled most first-team touches during training camp while most of the fantasy industry looked the other way. Mostert should see 12-16 high-efficient carries on outside runs and a couple of targets as the leader of the committee. The 49ers averaged 159.6 rushing yards and 1.8 rushing touchdowns in wins last season. Updated Friday: One extra thing to keep an eye out for is Tevin Coleman's (sickle-cell trait) status with California's air quality in the dumpster right now. He could be a last minute sit, which would make Mostert a top-16 RB for me. If he's active, Coleman may draw a “start” as Shanahan uses his bigger body to open up holes for Mostert, but it’d be an upset if Coleman saw more than 8-12 high-value touches. The scheme and home-favorite matchup are enough to keep him in the RB3 mix in deeper leagues, however. I’m just betting on talent (Mostert > Coleman) winning out here… Jerick McKinnon reportedly had a good camp as a passing-down back. I doubt Shanahan gives him more than a handful of reps while easing him back into game action.

 

Saints (26.75, -4) vs. TB

SaintsBucs

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

RB3 Alvin Kamara

WR1 Michael Thomas

WR59 Emmanuel Sanders

WR100+ Tre’Quan Smith

TE15 Jared Cook

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

There are three red flags for Drew Brees going into 2020: Age (41), Taysom Hill as a red zone annoyance, and touchdown regression after coming off a career-high 7.1 touchdown rate. Those issues likely become bigger as the season progresses, not in Week 1 with the Saints projected for 26.75 points in New Orleans where Brees has averaged 3.8 more points than on the road as a Saint. The Tampa defense is no slouch (9th against the pass, 1st against the run), however, so low-end QB1 expectations are realistic here… Michael Thomas has averaged 21.3 PPR points since 2018, the most among all receivers. Another 8-12 targets are projected in this matchup, one that Thomas has absolutely shredded recently. His last four games against TB: 38.0, 20.8, 41.2, and 25.4 PPR points… The 31-year-old Emmanuel Sanders likely settles into 4-6 targets in most games as Brees’ third or fourth go-to player after averaging 51 yards across 17 games last season. The Bucs’ improving young secondary makes their worst-ranked defense against fantasy receivers a slight trap. The matchup for Sanders is good, not great… Tre’Quan Smith was the WR115 in fantasy usage last season and that was without Sanders… Jared Cook is the biggest negative regression candidate when it comes to receiving touchdowns. He scored five times on targets outside of the red zone in 2019. Just unsustainable production, especially with more competition for targets between Sanders and Kamara’s better projected health. The plus home matchup keeps Cook in the low-end TE1 mix as a touchdown-dependent player…

Alvin Kamara broke 0.32 tackles per touch before his ankle/knee injury and 0.14 tackles per touch afterwards last season. He should be more explosive and elusive to begin 2020. The Bucs’ No. 2 ranked defense against fantasy backs is certainly a slight negative here, but Kamara had 22.2 and 16.9 PPR points against them last year without scoring a touchdown in either game… Last year, Latavius Murray only averaged 6.2 carries and 1.5 receptions in the 13 games Kamara played in, excluding the Saints’ meaningless Week 17 game. He doesn’t provide standalone value when Kamara is healthy.

 

Editor’s Note:

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Colts (26.5, -7) @ JAX

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

NA Jonathan Taylor (big favorite)

RB33 Marlon Mack (big favorite)

RB48 Nyheim Hines

WR31 T.Y. Hilton (Fantasy Usage Model value)

NA Parris Campbell

NA Michael Pittman

TE18 Jack Doyle

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Philip Rivers is coming off a career-low 3.8 TD%, but reunites with his old OC and more importantly plays behind a top-three offensive line, something he never had with the Bolts. A CPOY season is within reach, and a season opening matchup against the tanking Jaguars should start that campaign. Jacksonville’s borderline top-10 ranked pass defense will negatively regress after losing their best pass rusher, corner, and safety… From my Week 1 Fantasy Usage Model column, “Hilton’s WR31 fantasy usage from 2019 likely increases with the Colts set up to pass the ball more. The offense was slow-paced and run-heavy with bridge quarterback Jacoby Brissett, and Philip Rivers wasn’t brought in to game manage. They’ll sling the ball a bit, and Hilton’s skill set is an ideal fit with Rivers’ style. In Week 1, Hilton catches a Jacksonville defense that’s lost almost all of their difference makers. CB Tre Herndon was an undrafted free agent three years ago.”... Parris Campbell is healthy following a redshirt rookie season. He’ll be the primary underneath/slot receiver with strong YAC ability and 4.31 speed. Campbell is a deep-league flex with veteran slot CB D.J. Hayden providing quality coverage on him… Second-round rookie Michael Pittman should be an every-down player later in the year, but crafty veteran Zach Pascal (8.4 YPT) could limit his routes in September… Jack Doyle lacks sex appeal, but he’ll be an every-route player with Ebron in Pittsburgh. Doyle likely ends up finishing a few spots ahead of last season’s TE22 per-game rank. This is an average individual matchup for him…

Second-rounder Jonathan Taylor is the best ball carrier on the roster, but he’ll have to pry away touches from starting-caliber back Marlon Mack, who is a Colts’ staff favorite. They could make for a frustrating 1-2 punch on the ground early until Taylor earns more work. Taylor (5’10/226), who scored 50 rushing touchdowns in three collegiate seasons, should be the goal-line back, making him an upside RB3 given Indy’s 26.5-point team total. The Colts were the second-best rushing offense in neutral-situations last season, and Jacksonville’s defense was 30th… Nyheim Hines only had RB48 usage last season without the running back of the future on the roster.

 

Cowboys (26.5, -2.5) @ LAR

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

RB5 Ezekiel Elliott

WR25 Amari Cooper (vs. Jalen Ramsey)

WR26 Michael Gallup

NA CeeDee Lamb

NA Blake Jarwin

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

The Cowboys already ranked 3rd in EPA per dropback last season and only upgraded the offense for Dak Prescott, who rightfully was drafted as the QB3 this offseason. This is a nice season-opening matchup with both Dallas and L.A. posting top-three offenses in pace. Prescott has averaged 21.0 fantasy points in three starts against L.A. and has more tools than ever… In their Week 15 matchup last season, CB Jalen Ramsey trailed Amari Cooper on most plays and held him to a 1-19-0 receiving line. It’s a matchup that lowers Amari’s floor, but this offense is too explosive to move Amari out of the WR2 mix. He’s averaged 16.1 PPR points in his 25 games with Dak. He practiced in full (hamstring) on Wednesday… Michael Gallup will play X receiver and dodge Ramsey’s coverage on most snaps, making him a sneaky WR2/3 in this matchup despite his 1-6-0 receiving line against these Rams last season. Gallup averaged 15.2 PPR points last season and is an underrated talent in general… CeeDee Lamb’s draft profile was elite, and the Cowboys have the second-most available targets from a season ago, meaning there’s a role waiting for him between slot receiver and Z. Lamb likely settles in as a 4-7 target player, so he’ll need big plays to pay off as a fantasy flex. Good thing he’s explosive and is in an explosive offense with the fifth-highest projected team total this week… Jason Witten was the TE13 overall in fantasy usage from Week 9 on last season, so there’s a role for Blake Jarwin who provides less reliability but far more explosion than Witten. He’ll ultimately be touchdown-dependent. The Rams were middle of the pack (17th) against fantasy tight ends in 2019…

Ezekiel Elliott had at least 13.0 PPR points in 15-of-16 games last season as fantasy’s second-best back in terms of floor. An upside game is in play as 2.5-point favorites against a defense better against the pass (8th) than the run (20th). Elliott totaled 31.0 PPR points against the Rams in Week 15, his second-highest score of 2019. He’s a top-three back… Tony Pollard had 7.5 or fewer PPR points in 12-of-15 games last season as a pure insurance back until proven otherwise.

 

Steelers (25.75, -4) @ NYG

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

NA James Conner

NA JuJu Smith-Schuster

NA Diontae Johnson

NA James Washington

NA Eric Ebron

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Throw out all 2019 numbers, but make sure to throw out all 2018 numbers, too. Even though training camp reports were positive, I’m not buying that Ben Roethlisberger will attempt anywhere near the 675 pass attempts he had with Antonio Brown and full health two years ago. The Steelers likely take a more balanced approach on offense. With that said, this matchup is a great one. The Giants lost multiple players in the secondary (injuries and robberies) and already were 29th against fantasy quarterbacks last season. The Steelers’ 25.25-point team total puts Big Ben on the QB1/2 borderline… JuJu Smith-Schuster has yet to prove he’s a true No. 1 receiver, but his 2,895 receiving yards through his age-23 season is 10th all time. Smith-Schuster is a rebound candidate now that he and Big Ben are healthy. His individual matchup against newly-signed CB Logan Ryan is rock solid, making JuJu a top-12 receiver in the season opener. New York was 29th against fantasy receivers last season… Diontae Johnson was an offseason hype machine after #WatchTheTape twitter got the ball rolling. His production was fluky to me, and he did finish with fewer receiving yards than Washington last season. Johnson is a fine bet for WR4 production in this matchup against the burnable CB Isaac Yiadom. A lot of smart analysts are all the way in on Diontae… James Washington needs to hold off athletic second-round rookie Chase Claypool, but he’ll open the year as the No. 3 receiver with the shortened offseason. Washington is a one-trick pony as a deep threat. Big Ben just straight up doesn’t like him, making him extremely boom-bust with more busts than booms… Eric Ebron will be a receiving-only tight end and could lead the offense in red zone production. Big Ben hasn’t had a receiving talent at the position like Ebron in years. He’ll be touchdown-dependent TE2 in most weeks…

James Conner will be a featured back for as long as he’s healthy. With the Steelers projected for a more balanced offense, Conner should see 15-20 carries per week with a few receptions as well. The Giants are stronger against the run than the pass, but it’s by no means a matchup to fade. Pittsburgh is four-point favorites. I like Conner as a top-12 back despite being drafted in season-long leagues as the universal RB15.

 

Eagles (25.5, -6.5) @ WAS

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

NA Boston Scott

NA Corey Clement

RB11 Miles Sanders (out)

NA DeSean Jackson

NA Jalen Reagor (questionable)

NA Greg Ward

NA JJ Arcega-Whiteside

TE2 Zach Ertz

TE13 Dallas Goedert

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Carson Wentz’s aggressiveness downfield was suppressed in 2019, but he has the receiver speed he needs to take those valuable deep shots now. Setting things up this week is Washington’s projected pass funnel (they have a top-5 defensive line and one of the worst secondaries in the NFL). Wentz has averaged 23.2 fantasy points in his last five games against Washington, although his offensive line is worse and Washington’s DL has improved since… Zach Ertz may see a slight dip in target share with more competition, but he’s still projected for top-five volume and production. A matchup against Washington’s No. 29 defense against fantasy tight ends doesn’t change Ertz’s outlook much. He’s totaled at least five receptions and 54 yards in five of his last six games against the Football Team… Dallas Goedert will be a near full-time player in Philly’s two-TE sets, but he’s a fantasy TE2 more than a fantasy TE1 when the offense is healthy. He averaged 9.9 PPR points with Ertz in 2019… Updated Friday: Alshon Jeffery (foot) never practiced, but Jalen Reagor (shoulder) was able to get in a full practice, setting him up to play Week 1 most likely. Reagor's range of motion and increased re-injury risk make him dicier as a WR4, but his playmaking and role should keep him in the fantasy mix. Washington's secondary was already bad and now won't have CB Kendall Fuller either... That's great news for DeSean Jackson, who went nuclear in Week 1 last year and led the NFL in yards per reception in 2018. He's had a healthy camp and opens as the best bet for WR3 production. The matchup and the Eagles' injuries make him a DFS tournament target... Greg Ward and JJ Arcega-Whiteside will battle things out as the third receiver, but the Eagles used two-TEs on 67% of their pass plays last season. Neither can be starter... 

Updated Saturday: Miles Sanders (hamstring) is out for Week 1, although ESPN's Adam Schefter reports this was a move to keep Sanders fresh for the long haul. He's reportedly "progressing well". In the meantime, Boston Scott will handle a more full-time role with Corey Clement spelling him. Scott has been a fantasy asset when given touches and projects as a startable RB2 even in a tough environment. The Eagles offensive line is injured and Washington's front seven projects as a top-five unit. Volume tends to win out in fantasy football, however. Scott is a must-add in all leagues if he somehow was available on waivers.

 

Patriots (25.25, -7) vs. MIA

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

RB22 James White

RB36 Sony Michel

NA Damien Harris (out)

WR6 Julian Edelman (Fantasy Usage Model value)

WR91 N’Keal Harry

NA Damiere Byrd

NA Devin Asiasi

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

The Patriots Offense could get funky with a run-centered approach. That’s how the roster shapes up on paper, and it’s how to best utilize Cam Newton as long as he’s healthy. Training camp reports suggest he is, as does the Patriots’ 25.25-point team total. Belichick may lean heavily on a ground-and-pound attack against a below-average Miami front seven, but Newton remains a candidate for 30+ yards rushing and goal-line opportunities. We’ll learn a lot more about his health and the offense in general this weekend. I’ll have Newton on the QB1/2 borderline… Julian Edelman’s age (34) will matter more later in the year, and he may go overlooked in DFS after being drafted outside of the top-36 in redraft leagues. Edelman had WR6 overall per-game usage in 2019, and New England didn’t upgrade their pass-catchers this offseason. Another 7-9 targets for Edelman are expected. It’s worth noting that coach Brian Flores held Edelman to 9.2 and 5.6 PPR games last season, but things may open up with 20-year-old rookie CB Noah Igbinoghene starting in the slot now… With Sanu released, N’Keal Harry will be thrown into the fire as the de facto No. 2 receiver. Harry’s inability to separate is a legit concern even if he earns 5-7 targets in the offense. Harry’s matchup against quality boundary CBs Byron Jones and Xavien Howard is more difficult than Edelman’s… Damiere Byrd likely opens as the No. 3 receiver as the primary deep threat… 2018 seventh-rounder Ryan Izzo likely starts at tight end, but he only has six career receptions and ran the forty in 4.94 seconds. He’ll be holding on for dear life with third-round rookie Devin Asiasi (4.73 forty) close behind on the depth chart…

Ready for the chaos at running back? Damien Harris (hand) is on injured reserve, but James White, Sony Michel (foot), and Rex Burkhead will combine for a frustrating fantasy committee. If fully healthy, Michel would be in ideal game script as 7-point home favorites against the No. 26 rushing EPA defense. The problem is that Michel is expected to be “eased into the mix” early, which likely means Burkhead sees more than a handful of carries here. White easily is the best PPR option of the trio as the Patriots’ second-best receiver. He’s posted 10.1, 31.2, 4.8, 11.9, and 11.7 PPR points in his last five games against Miami. There’s a ceiling to chase between Michel and White, but there’s zero floor.

 

Vikings (25, -3.5) vs. GB

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

RB4 Dalvin Cook

NA Adam Thielen (vs. CB Jaire Alexander)

WR89 Bisi Johnson

NA Justin Jefferson

TE29 Irv Smith

TE27 Kyle Rudolph

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Kirk Cousins was a top-10 real-life quarterback in 2019 but only finished as the QB18 per game for fantasy purposes with Minnesota throwing the third-fewest passes in the NFL. More volume is coming because the Vikings project to have a worse defense (particularly at CB) and worse offense without Stefon Diggs. Cousins is a serviceable low-end QB2 at home still, but Green Bay did hold him to 8.9 and 9.9 fantasy points in their matchups last season… Adam Thielen could finish top-three in targets this season with Diggs gone and targets concentrated in Minnesota’s two-TE personnel. He’ll go to battle with CB Jaire Alexander (PFF’s No. 12 CB) here but target volume should win out, especially at home. I’m aiming to be overweight on Thielen this season… Bisi Johnson was ahead of first-rounder Justin Jefferson in training camp, but it’s a situation to largely avoid with the depth chart uncertain. Johnson averaged 6.0 PPR points per game in a similar situation last season and quite frankly isn’t very good. I’m hoping Jefferson takes over soon. I think Jefferson will be manufactured touches early, especially in three-receiver sets from the slot… Veteran Kyle Rudolph figures to be attached to the offensive line on most snaps as the primary blocker between the two starting tight ends. While Rudolph is a touchdown-dependent TE3, Irv Smith has true TE2 breakout appeal. He has 87th percentile speed and will be in the slot or outside on most passing plays. The individual matchup against Green Bay doesn’t move the needle in either direction…

It’s a little unsettling that Dalvin Cook hasn’t been paid, but he’s at least said he’ll suit up without a contract. We’ll find out shortly if his actions match his words. Assuming he plays, Cook is in a solid spot at home against Green Bay’s second-worst rushing EPA defense. Cook hung 28.1 PPR points, his second highest total of 2019, on 20 carries last time he faced the Packers… Alexander Mattison took almost all first-team reps in training camp with Cook mostly watching practice. He’s an elite insurance option for season-long leagues just in case contract discussions or Cook’s troublesome shoulder act up.

 

Seahawks (24.75, -1) @ ATL

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

RB16 Chris Carson

WR30 Tyler Lockett

WR48 DK Metcalf

WR64 Phillip Dorsett

NA Greg Olsen

NA Will Dissly

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

At home against the most pass-heavy offense in the league is a situation where Pete Carroll may actually #LetRussCook. Russell Wilson has top-four QB potential against a defense that was 23rd against fantasy quarterbacks and did little this offseason to upgrade their defensive unit. Wilson’s weapons have never been better, too… Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf form one hell of a receiver duo, but it’ll be a hard duo to decipher early in the season. When the two of them were healthy from Weeks 14 through the playoffs, Lockett out-targeted Metcalf (47 to 37), although they averaged similar fantasy points during that stretch (15.4 to 14.1). Both have good individual matchups against a young Atlanta secondary, giving them WR2 status with obvious upside. They scored 16.3 and 16.0 PPR points in this same matchup last season… Phillip Dorsett is battling a foot injury but figures to be a speedy low-volume deep threat in three-WR sets… The Seahawks have depth at tight end. Greg Olsen likely draws the start with Will Dissly also mixing in on passing downs. Volume won’t be enough for TE2 production, so they’ll be tied to random touchdowns. At least their quarterback has thrown the second most touchdowns in the last two seasons (66)...

Chris Carson was banged up this offseason but is healthy enough to start. He received high-end RB2-level usage last season (RB16), volume that I’ll continue to project until proven otherwise even with bulldozing RB Carlos Hyde now in the mix. Carson’s touch share is 14% higher when the Seahawks are leading than trailing, giving him a high ceiling if the Hawks jump out to an early lead.

 

Raiders (24.25, -1.5) @ CAR

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

RB17 Josh Jacobs (elite matchup)

NA Henry Ruggs

NA Bryan Edwards

WR67 Hunter Renfrow

TE7 Darren Waller

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Derek Carr has better weapons and more pressure to be better in 2020. Catching the youngest (read: worst) defense to open the year is good news, even if they travel to the east coast. The Raiders’ projected point total (24.25) will be among the highest of the year, so if there’s a time to sneak Carr into the low-end QB2 mix, it’s here. His ceiling just always feels so low. Carr only has reached 25 fantasy points in 2-of-32 games since 2018… First-round rookie Henry Ruggs will be the fastest player on the field and will avoid press coverage while lining up at Z receiver. While fast, Ruggs is more of a YAC specialist than pure deep threat, although he’s a deep threat too. An inexperienced cornerback group in Carolina adds to Ruggs’ 50-yard touchdown threat as a boom-bust flex play… With Tyrell Williams (shoulder) out, third-round rookie Bryan Edwards will start at X receiver. Nobody in the entire NFL had more training camp buzz than Edwards. That’s not even a joke. Edwards is a plus athlete with major collegiate production, giving him a chance for some deep-league flex relevance. His floor remains non-existent until we see him live, however… Slot man Hunter Renfrow is the third or fourth receiving option on a team that was 29th in receiver scoring in 2019. Renfrow needs chaos to be a top-50 fantasy receiver… Darren Waller’s role dimensioned when Renfrow made starts, likely because there was more competition for underneath targets. Ruggs’ entrance doesn’t help matters, although Waller has a unique role as a seam stretcher. It’s best to completely ignore Carolina’s No. 4 defense against fantasy tight ends with LB Luke Kuechly retired. Waller is a mid-range TE1 even if Jason Witten and Foster Moreau play meaningful snaps…

Josh Jacobs was one-dimensional as a rookie. His touch share dropped from 32% to 22% with and without a lead last season because he was subbed out for smaller passing-down backs, possibly to give his gimpy shoulder a break. Until that changes, Jacobs belongs on the RB1/2 borderline. In this exceptional matchup against the worst run defense in the NFL, I’m moving Jacobs inside my top-10. 

 

Rams (24, +2.5) vs. DAL

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

NA Cam Akers

NA Darrell Henderson (questionable)

NA Malcolm Brown

WR13 Robert Woods (Fantasy Usage Model value)

WR17 Cooper Kupp

WR100+ Josh Reynolds

NA Van Jefferson

TE10 Tyler Higbee

TE16 Gerald Everett

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Jared Goff was very unlucky in the touchdown department last season. Math suggests he’s a positive regression candidate, and a home matchup with two fast-paced teams (2nd and 3rd in offensive pace) is the environment to cash in those underrated tickets, especially if this turns into a shootout. Goff quietly was the QB5 overall from Week 13 on last season… Robert Woods was one of my guys this offseason because of his bankable volume. He was the WR5 overall in fantasy usage from Week 9 on and benefits whenever the Rams are trailing. McVay plays at the fastest pace and passes the ball at the highest rate when L.A. is trailing. Dallas’ cornerback group is without their best player this season, setting up Woods for WR1/2 production… Cooper Kupp would be put into a worse spot if the Rams use two-TE sets, as it pushes him outside more often and even pushed him off the field in favor of Josh Reynolds at some points last season. It makes him a little risky, but this is the type of game script to target Kupp as a WR2/3. Kupp had 16.1 PPR points against Dallas in Week 15 of last season… Josh Reynolds may not even start with third-round rookie WR Van Jefferson showing well in training camp. We’ll learn more about this No. 3 job and how often the Rams use 11-personnel this Sunday night… Tyler Higbee’s role for his first 58 games was nothing like the one he had from Week 13 on. We’ll quickly find out which one he’ll have in 2020, but I’m betting on TE1 usage with the Rams’ offense setting up to be pass-heavy. Higbee quietly was third in the predictive yards per route run, too, so I think his raw talent is being undersold. A matchup against the 30th-ranked defense against fantasy tight ends adds to the ceiling potential… Gerald Everett has been working with the first-team in camp, but I think the fact that he’s without a contract and the fact that Higbee’s paid long-term is enough to project a secondary role for Everett. The matchup is great if you’re looking for a minimum-priced dart…

Second-year pro Darrell Henderson (hamstring) practiced in full on Wednesday, putting him on track to disrupt things in this potential three-back committee. I believe second-round rookie Cam Akers is the best all-around back, but these are the type of situations that veteran backs like short-yardage plodder Malcolm Brown make tricky. Despite being a rookie, Akers projects as the best pass protector and passing-down back. If forced to choose between the three, Akers would be my play. Expectations just have to be held in check early, especially with the Rams’ 2019 running backs combining to finish 28th in fantasy points.

 

Falcons (23.75, +1) vs. SEA

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

RB19 Todd Gurley

WR4 Julio Jones

WR37 Calvin Ridley

WR70 Russell Gage

NA Hayden Hurst

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Matt Ryan had 300 passing yards in 11-of-15 games last season despite an ankle injury slowing him down late. The Falcons are set up for a heavy passing attack, and the Seahawks defensive scheme is willing to allow yardage underneath. There’s some shootout potential if Russ cooks, and the Seahawks 30th-ranked adjusted sack rate isn’t set to improve following Clowney’s departure. Ryan is a high-floor, low-end QB1… Julio Jones had a 10-152-0 receiving line against Seattle last year with Matt Schaub as his quarterback. He’s a top-five fantasy receiver in almost all matchups, including this one… Calvin Ridley stands to benefit from Atlanta’s league-leading available targets (258). He was the WR7 overall per game following the mid-season Sanu trade in 2019 and could handle top-12 fantasy usage throughout 2020. There’s nothing about this matchup scaring me off Ridley as a high-end WR2… Former sixth-rounder Russell Gage (career 6.1 YPT) will be the third receiver… Hayden Hurst slides into the Hooper role, one that resulted in TE4 fantasy usage last season. That level of usage can’t fully be projected onto Hurst because we’re not fully sure how good he is, but I think 5-8 targets is in the range of outcomes here. Unfortunately, he’ll be facing safeties Jamaal Adams and Quandre Diggs on Sunday. Seattle’s 31st-ranked defense against fantasy tight ends can’t be extrapolated to 2020…

Todd Gurley takes on the Freeman role, and the Falcons OC believes that means Gurley will see 15-25 touches weekly, which means 14-19 touches after adjusting for coach speak and Gurley’s knees. Seattle’s front-seven is a weakness Gurley could have some success against, but he was awful as a receiver last year, finishing 45th out of 45 in yards per route run among qualifying RBs. RB2 production is expected whenever he’s active solely on volume. Brian Hill appears to be his insurance for deep leagues.

 

Bills (23.5, -6.5) vs. NYJ

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

RB20 Devin Singletary (big favorite)

NA Zack Moss

NA Stefon Diggs

NA John Brown

NA Cole Beasley (vs. CB Brian Poole)

TE28 Dawson Knox

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Josh Allen is set up for a QB1 finish at home against a defense that lost its top-two defenders (Mosely and Adams). He posted 18.3 and 16.0 fantasy points in his two starts against the Jets and now trots out one of the better three-WR sets (and coaching staffs) in the NFL. I’m projecting more passing production from Allen, but he needs to keep utilizing his legs for true ceiling weeks. Math and training camp quotes suggest that he’ll have slightly less rushing production in 2020… Cousins and Allen are on other planets in terms of accuracy, so the Stefon Diggs adjustment will be interesting to watch. Further complicating things is the Bills’ league-low available targets from last season, meaning there are more people than chairs when the music stops. Diggs certainly will be the target leader but that number likely falls into the 5-8 range every week. Luckily the Jets secondary is awful, so this could be a ceiling week for the boom-bust WR3… John Brown will run a lot of deep clear-out routes with Diggs gobbling up middle-of-the-field looks. It makes Brown way more of a boom-bust player than he was last season, but he did light up these Jets for a 7-123-1 game the last time they faced off… Slot man Cole Beasley projects for the fewest targets of the Bills’ starting receivers and faces the toughest individual against underrated slot corner Brian PooleDawson Knox eclipsed 70 yards in 0-of-16 games as a rookie and projects for a smaller target share in 2020. He’s a touchdown-or-bust TE3. The Jets’ 3rd-ranked defense against fantasy tight ends does expect to drop with Adams now in Seattle…

The Bills trust Devin Singletary between the tackles (5.1 YPC as a rookie), but they spent another third-round pick to make sure they don’t fully feature Singletary, who is 5-foot-7 and 203 pounds. Singletary never was utilized near the goal-line as a rookie and proved forgettable as a receiver (4.7 YPT on 41 targets), roles that rookie Zack Moss (5’9/223) could fill as a three-down producer out of  Utah. With the Jets quite stingy on the ground last season, Singletary only belongs on the RB2/3 borderline despite being 6.5-point home favorites. Moss could flirt with sneaky RB3 numbers.

 

Chargers (23.5, -3) @ CIN

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

NA Austin Ekeler

NA Justin Jackson

WR8 Keenan Allen

NA Jalen Guyton

WR42 Mike Williams (out)

TE8 Hunter Henry

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Philip Rivers averaged 36.9 pass attempts and 288 passing yards per game last season. In his three seasons in Buffalo, Tyrod Taylor was only at 28.0 attempts and 201 yards. It’s a big shift offensively, but one we can squeeze some juice from at quarterback in deeper leagues. Taylor will provide top-five rushing volume among quarterbacks and is talented enough as a passer to move the chains with the quality talent around him. The Bengals below-average defense sets up Taylor as a top-20 QB in Week 1, and Vegas’ 23.5-point team projection backs that up… Keenan Allen’s target totals will drop with the quarterback change, and they already were lower when Henry was in the lineup (8.3 targets per game) than without him (11.0). Even with a slightly decreased role, Allen is a serviceable WR2/3 in PPR formats, particularly in quality matchups like this one. Cincy was 27th against the pass last season… Mike Williams (shoulder) is out. No-namer Jalen Guyton was starting in training camp three-receiver sets. He’s an undrafted speedster from North Texas who didn’t record a reception as a rookie last year… Hunter Henry is in a contract season but faces target concerns and only was the TE9 per game last season with a better passing quarterback. Henry’s real-life impact may prove grander than his fantasy impact, although he’ll remain on the TE1/2 borderline on talent alone. The Bengals were average against fantasy tight ends last season. Williams’ absence clears up an extra target or two…

Austin Ekeler goes back to his early-season 2019 role with Gordon in Denver. Ekeler assuredly won’t repeat his efficiency numbers and may lose some targets with Tyrod set to scramble more than Rivers, but he remains a low-end RB1 in PPR formats. With Cincy trotting out one of the worst linebacker rooms in the NFL, Ekeler is set up for a potential ceiling game as 3-point favorites… Day 3 rookie Joshua Kelley had some training camp buzz, but Justin Jackson worked with the first-team offense during scrimmages and projects to be Ekeler’s sidekick early in the season. Jackson handled 5-10 touches in a similar role during Gordon’s hold out in 2019. It’s unknown if Jackson, Ekeler, or Kelley will be the primary goal-line back.

 

Lions (22.75, -1.5) vs. CHI

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019 With Stafford

NA Kerryon Johnson

NA D’Andre Swift

NA Adrian Peterson

WR26 Marvin Jones

WR47 Danny Amendola

NA Marvin Hall

NA Quintez Cephus

WR18 Kenny Golladay (doubtful)

TE18 T.J. Hockenson

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

New OC Darrell Bevell unleashed Matthew Stafford’s elite arm last year. Stafford was the QB5 through eight weeks before his back injury while finishing first in air yards per attempt (10.7). The Lions have even more weapons, which is why I like Stafford as a dark horse to lead the NFL in yards. Chicago presents a difficult matchup (4th against fantasy QBs), however, limiting Stafford to the QB1/2 borderline, especially with his receiver injuries… Updated Friday: Kenny Golladay (hamstring) is doubtful, which means out for fantasy purposes. Hopefully this is a 1-2 week injury... Marvin Jones turns into a must-start WR2 with upside. He quietly was the WR11 with Stafford last season and even more quietly has averaged 14.7 PPR points with Stafford since 2018. He might catch rookie CB Jaylon Johnson on Sunday, too. In a similar situation, Golladay scored 25.8 and 14.7 PPR points against these Bears last season. Don't let the matchup scare you too much... Slot man Danny Amendola averaged 11.9 PPR points with Stafford last season and becomes the No. 2 target among receivers for Week 1. Amendola did have four games of at least 17.5 PPR points in 2019, so there’s more of a ceiling than people think… At the third spot in Detroit's heavy three-WR personnel, it will be Marvin Hall and Day 3 rookie Quintez Cephus in a rotation, making both of them completely touchdown-dependent for the deepest of deep leagues... T.J. Hockenson’s ankle injury derailed his rookie season, but he reportedly had a strong training camp even with his ankle not quite at 100%. He's set up for more targets in year two, particularly with Golladay on the sideline. Chicago was more vulnerable to fantasy tight ends (24th) compared to other positions…

Updated Friday: The Lions backfield may be a mess early. Second-rounder D’Andre Swift (leg) missed a lot of training camp, which may’ve played into the Adrian Peterson signing, but he was able to practice in full on Friday. It's impossible to know how he'll be utilized alongside Kerryon Johnson in the first contest. My guess would be Johnson starting with Swift and Peterson mixing in. If forced to start one, it'd be Johnson, although Swift remains the highest-ceiling player long term in this committee.

 

Panthers (22.75, +1.5) vs. LV

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

RB1 Christian McCaffrey

WR9 D.J. Moore

WR34 Curtis Samuel (Fantasy Usage Model value)

WR51 Robby Anderson

NA Ian Thomas (questionable)

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Teddy Bridgewater is a game manager, but he’ll be thrust into an up-tempo, pass-heavy attack and has the weapons to post garbage-time fantasy points with Carolina arguably trotting out the worst defense in the NFL. The Raiders were dead last in passing EPA defense last season and have a very inexperienced secondary for new OC Joe Brady to toy with. Bridgewater is a volume-based QB2 in a quality home matchup… D.J. Moore should repeat as a top-15 receiver in fantasy usage (WR9 last season) given projected positive game scripts. This week, he catches surprise first-round rookie CB Damon Arnette, who is playing with a fractured thumb… From my Week 1 Fantasy Usage Model column, “Samuel was misfitted by the last coaching staff, seeing uncatchable deep targets near the sideline from a quarterback that couldn’t throw. The new staff probably puts him into the slot more often where he can use his YAC skills as an underneath receiver, letting Anderson run those volatile deep clear-out routes. Teddy Bridgewater isn’t a perfect quarterback, but his skill set fits well with Samuel, who was the WR34 in fantasy usage in 2019. The corner defending Samuel in the slot in Week 1 received the 4th-worst grade last year by PFF among 2020 projected starting corners.”... Robby Anderson is the boom-bust second outside receiver who will need to come down with long bombs to provide fantasy value. Unfortunately, Bridgewater was last in air yards beyond the first-down marker last season… Ian Thomas (toe) has missed a chunk of training camp but expects to play after a full practice Wednesday. There’s no real competition for tight end routes, although he’ll be the fifth target option on most dropbacks. The Raiders’ 25th ranking against fantasy tight ends creates a path for TE2 value, but it’s hard to project for too many targets. Thomas also has a career 5.4 YPT…

Christian McCaffrey easily is the best fantasy player on fantasy usage alone and catches a home matchup against an average at best rushing defense to open the season.

 

Bucs (22.75, +4) @ NO

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

NA Leonard Fournette

NA Ronald Jones

NA LeSean McCoy

WR15 Chris Godwin

NA Scotty Miller

NA Justin Watson

WR3 Mike Evans (questionable)

NA Rob Gronkowski

NA O.J. Howard

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Tom Brady’s 2019 decline (6.6 YPA, worst since 2002) should be offset by the much better supporting cast in Tampa Bay, but this New Orleans defense is no joke at all three levels. Albeit totally different players, Jameis Winston was held to 17.5 and 14.8 fantasy points against them last season despite finishing as the QB5 overall. Brady belongs on the QB1/2 borderline as the Bucs’ 22.75-point team total suggests… Updated Sunday AM: Mike Evans (hamstring) is a true game-time decision but could be a decoy or on a pitch count if active. Considering he'd be defended by CB Marshon Lattimore, I'm okay with fading him completely. I'd start someone like Anthony Miller over Evans this week unless there's more (positive) clarity on the situation tomorrow... Evans finished ahead of Chris Godwin in fantasy usage last season (WR3 to WR15), but it was Godwin who finished as the WR2 overall in PPR points per game while Evans was the WR6. Godwin is a negative regression candidate in all volatile categories including YAC and touchdowns but should hang onto WR1-level production regardless because he’s a total beast. His floor and ceiling are heavily elevated with Evans likely limited for the season opener. It's unknown if CB Marshon Lattimore will now shadow Godwin, but it probably doesn't matter because Godwin will see 8+ targets as a locked-in WR1... Scotty Miller (4.44 forty) would be the biggest beneficiary if Evans missed, although he's a pure dart throw only as a potential deep threat... Rounding out three-receiver sets will be Justin Watson (4.49 forty), who is in a similar position as Miller but figures for a closer to the line of scrimmage role... Rob Gronkowski had a very quiet training camp with the Bucs likely just limiting his reps. NBC Sports’ Peter King predicted Gronk to finish behind both O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate for raw snaps in 2020, but Gronk can flirt with top-12 production as a red zone and third down specialist. His Week 1 matchup against these stud Saints’ safeties is by no means easy. I’ll be underweight on Gronk in most matchups this year. Evans being out does open things up for Gronk a little more…

The Bucs signed Leonard Fournette to be their starter. It’s unknown if that happens on short notice, but Ronald Jones has done little through two seasons (3.9 YPC) to give me any RB3 confidence with Fournette and LeSean McCoy on the roster. The Saints’ No. 4 rushing EPA defense makes me just want to fade this group until touches are ironed out. If forced to choose, I’d roll the dice with Fournette.

 

Texans (22.25, +10) @ KC

TexansChiefs

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

NA David Johnson

RB37 Duke Johnson

WR33 Will Fuller (Fantasy Usage Model value)

NA Brandin Cooks (questionable)

NA Randall Cobb

WR80 Kenny Stills

TE26 Darren Fells

TE32 Jordan Akins

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Deshaun Watson in negative game script has been fantasy gold. Watson scrambles more often (38.3 rushing yards in career losses and 31.5 rushing yards in career wins) and presses with more downfield shots. As 10-point dogs against the best offense, expect Watson to post QB1-level garbage-time numbers even as he breaks in his new receiver depth chart. In his three games against Kansas City, Watson has totaled 35.5, 33.2, and 29.4 fantasy points… Will Fuller has averaged 15.4 PPR points in the 21 games he’s seen at least two targets with Deshaun Watson. Fuller figures to set a career high in targets with DeAndre Hopkins leaving behind 10.0 per game, and he has an okay matchup to get the party started. Fuller had a 5-89-0 line on eight looks in the Chiefs-Texans playoffs game eight months ago… In theory, Brandin Cooks’ speed is an ideal match with Watson’s aggressiveness, but there’s no telling if they’ve established chemistry. It may not matter if Houston is forced into a pass-heavy attack because of game script. Cooks was being drafted as WR4 due to injury risks, which tells me that he should be on the WR3/4 radar in healthy games. Unfortunately, he’s been on the injury report with a quad injury… Randall Cobb quietly averaged 10.0 YPT and had 838 yards last season but falls into a less ideal situation for his particular skill set in the slot and will see some coverage against Tyrann Matthieu on Thursday. Cobb belongs on the bench in standard-sized leagues… Kenny Stills projects as a low-volume rotational player with a healthy Cooks but always offers some potential pop as a pure dart throw… Darren Fells and Jordan Akins figure to compete for routes run as completely touchdown-dependent TE3 dart throws. The Chiefs at least were 27th against the position in 2019…

David Johnson has averaged just 3.6 YPC since 2017, but that didn’t deter Houston from sending a second-round pick for him. They clearly believe in a bounce back season even if DJ’s injuries make him a risky asset. The 10-point spread works against Johnson in the season opener, but Kansas City dared opponents into rushing last season because they’re better at defending the pass (12th in EPA allowed) than the run (27th). Carlos Hyde saw 13 and 26 carries in the Texans’ games against the Chiefs in 2019, and Johnson figures to split the difference here… Duke Johnson only saw six and seven touches and 13.4 and 8.4 PPR points in the two games against the Chiefs last season. Watson targeted his backs at the third-lowest rate last season.

 

Broncos (22, -1.5) vs. TEN

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

NA Melvin Gordon

RB28 Phillip Lindsay

NA Jerry Jeudy

NA Tim Patrick

NA KJ Hamler (questionable)

NA DaeSean Hamilton

WR20 Courtland Sutton (questionable)

TE20 Noah Fant

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Drew Lock has some upside as a downfield thrower with decent athleticism, but it’s better to bet against him as a top-20 option despite major upgrades on offense. This is a defense-led team with two quality backs and little continuity. The Broncos’ 22-2 home record within the first two games of the year since 2000 (altitude related?) helps his chances, but the Titans’ defensive line will cause the Broncos’ very questionable offensive line trouble… Updated Sunday AM: I had him in my Week 1 Fantasy Usage Model column, but Courtland Sutton (shoulder) looks to be on the wrong side of questionable for the Monday Night game. There's no way I'd trust Sutton's status for season-long leagues with the game being the last to kick off. Find a replacement... Sutton's injury thrusts first-round rookie Jerry Jeudy into an unexpected big role. KJ Hamler (hamstring) is questionable, so it could just be Jeudy, Tim Patrick (career 7.4 YPT), and DaeSean Hamilton as the top receivers. Yuck. Jeudy is experienced on the inside and outside and obviously is the best bet for production, whether that comes in garbage time or not. It won't be pretty I'm sure, but I think Jeudy is a flex option at this point... Noah Fant finished with the 19th most receiving yards among rookie tight ends in NFL history. He was an elite prospect before that, too. Fant has top-12 fantasy upside but faces more target competition than we’d like and plays in an offense that was 25th in EPA per dropback last season. At least he’s at home and plays the Titans’ No. 25 defense against fantasy tight ends…

Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay combine for a complicated running back by committee, one that coach Vic Fangio refuses to name a starter for. Gordon is 25 pounds heavier and has been twice as productive in receiving yards per game compared to Lindsay (28.0 to 14.1), giving him the edge for high-value touches near the goal-line and as a pass catcher. Lindsay could limit Gordon’s upside, however, as a very capable early-down back (career 4.9 YPC). The Titans’ No. 10 rushing EPA defense is stronger with Clowney and second-year breakout candidate Jeffery Simmons ready to roll.

 

Giants (21.75, +4) vs. PIT

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

RB6 Saquon Barkley

WR16 Sterling Shepard

WR32 Golden Tate (questionable)

WR56 Darius Slayton

TE3 Evan Engram

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

The Giants' new coaching staff is concerning for fantasy players outside Saquon. New York was top-12 in pace, aggressiveness, and pass rate last season, and OC Jason Garrett hasn’t called plays in nearly a decade. Daniel Jones will have to clean up his rookie mistakes to overcome play calling issues, something that is extra concerning against the No. 1 defense in adjusted sack rate… Sterling Shepard being drafted after Slayton (and sometimes Tate) was a mistake. Shepard easily had the most per-game fantasy usage (WR16) last season and is the best all-around talent of the three. All three will be inconsistent, but Shepard is my bet for top-40 receiver production. His Week 1 matchup versus CB Steven Nelson is difficult… Darius Slayton is a better real-life asset than fantasy one as the Giants’ clear-out deep receiver. In a crowded defense, Slayton will be reliant on touchdowns (or injuries), and he was an obvious negative regression candidate in my receiving touchdown model. I’ll be fading him against CB Joe Haden… Slot receiver Golden Tate had WR30 usage in the second half of 2019 when the offense was healthier. That will decline in 2020, leaving him to WR5 status in most weeks. That’s the case against average slot CB Mike HiltonEvan Engram had overall TE3 per-game usage in healthy games last season and remains one of the more athletic pure-receiving tight ends in the NFL. He’s had a healthy training camp and should provide mid-range TE1 value in most matchups. The Steelers’ No. 10 defense against fantasy tight ends make this slightly more challenging than average…

Saquon Barkley’s ankle injury zapped some of his explosiveness last season, but he’s fully healthy now. I’m anticipating more carries for Saquon with the new coaching staff, but a low team total (21.75) and the Steelers’ top-five rushing EPA defense limit the potential of a true ceiling game this week. Saquon is locked into top-five weekly rankings until proven otherwise, even in difficult matchups like this one.

 

Packers (21.5, +3.5) @ MIN

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

RB18 Aaron Jones

NA Jamaal Williams

NA AJ Dillon

WR2 Davante Adams

WR83 Allen Lazard

WR99 Marquez Valdes-Scantling

NA Robert Tonyan

NA Jace Sternberger

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Angry Aaron Rodgers didn’t get any help from his front office this offseason, but he is a positive regression candidate and catches a Vikings’ secondary that lost all of their starting corners. The real concern is Rodgers’ decline in fantasy production. Since 2017, Rodgers has only averaged 18.4 fantasy points and that was better than last year’s 17.4 average. Rodgers should be treated as a QB2 in most weeks. The Packers’ below-average 21.5-point team total backs that stance up… Davante Adams will compete for the highest team target share in the NFL and has a chance to unseat Mike Thomas as fantasy WR1 overall receiver. Adams was the WR3 overall per game on WR2 overall fantasy usage while battling injuries last season. I’m 100% willing to throw out Adams’ career 9.7 PPR average against these Vikings with their corner group depleted… Allen Lazard “solidified” the No. 2 receiver job in training camp, but Rodgers’ second receiver hasn’t been a fantasy asset in years with his own play regressing. Lazard’s 9.2 YPT average on his 53 targets from last year is the only thing keeping him on 10-team fantasy league benches. He’ll be touchdown-dependent as long as Adams is healthy… Marquez Valdes-Scantling is the favorite for third receiver duties, but it’s a low-volume position in this offense… 2019 second-rounder Jace Sternberger didn’t do anything as a rookie and wasn’t the clear-cut starting tight end in training camp because of Robert Tonyan, a third-year UDFA with 14 career NFL catches. Sternberger has to earn my trust as a top-30 option, especially against the Vikings’ safety duo. Tonyan (4.63 forty at 6’5/236) could end up being the top Packers tight end for fantasy purposes…

Aaron Jones’ 16 rushing touchdowns will take a step back in 2020, but he isn’t expected to lose touches to 247-pound second-round rookie A.J. Dillon early in the season (Dillon reportedly is the RB3 currently). The matchup, however, is so-so. Minnesota’s front-seven is loaded and Green Bay is only projected for 21.5 points, but Jones popped for 28.0 and 25.0 PPR points against these Vikings last season, rushing for 116+ yards on 23 carries in each contest.

 

Bears (21.25, +1.5) @ DET

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

RB24 David Montgomery

RB25 Tarik Cohen

WR7 Allen Robinson

WR28 Anthony Miller (Fantasy Usage Model value)

NA Ted Ginn

NA Jimmy Graham

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Bears GM Ryan Pace passed on a free Cam Newton and Jameis Winston in favor of giving up a fourth-round pick and more money to Nick Foles. Despite that, Foles lost the starting job to Mitchell Trubisky in training camp, although his leash will be very short. I bet Trubisky survives Week 1 given the dome matchup against Detroit, who he’s lit up for 23.9, 19.7, and 36.0 fantasy points since 2018… Allen Robinson was my WR6 overall in redraft leagues after finishing with WR7 fantasy usage last season. Volume will be there, and the matchup against first-round rookie Jeffery Okudah is decent. The Lions allowed the second-most fantasy points to receivers in 2019, including two 86-yard games to A-Rob… From my Week 1 Fantasy Usage Model column, “Anthony Miller was the WR28 in fantasy usage from Week 9 on last season after Taylor Gabriel was removed from the offense. The Bears don’t have an established receiver behind Miller, so I’m expecting a bigger target total than the market. Detroit’s 31st-ranked defense against fantasy receivers is the cherry on top for under appreciated high-upside flex value this week. Among projected starters, Miller’s coverage corner allowed the 9th-most yards per route in coverage last season according to PFF.”... Ted Ginn and Javon Wims will see snaps when the Bears aren’t in two-TE sets… Jimmy Graham was the TE27 last year. Stop…

Updated Friday: David Montgomery (groin) practiced in full this week and surprisingly looks ready to go for Week 1. I still have some concerns about his health, but he is on the flex radar as long as news doesn't change. The Lions defensive front remains iffy and Montgomery saw 16 and 17 carries in his two games against the Lions last season. Montgomery's return makes Tarik Cohen an ugly flex option, one that I'd really try to avoid.

 

Browns (20.75, +8) @ BAL

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

RB10 Nick Chubb

RB27 Kareem Hunt

WR19 Odell Beckham (vs. CB Marcus Peters)

WR14 Jarvis Landry (vs. CB Marlon Humphrey)

NA Austin Hooper

NA David Njoku

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

No team did more to help their quarterback this offseason than the Browns did for Baker Mayfield. The coaching change, adding Hooper, and getting Odell healthy will help Mayfield in 2020, at least in terms of efficiency after finishing 22nd in EPA per dropback last year. Overall volume remains a concern, particularly against a Ravens team that was 27th in neutral pace and controls the clock. Baltimore allowed the second-fewest points to fantasy quarterbacks, something Mayfield contributed to with 15.8 and 14.1 fantasy point finishes in 2019… Odell Beckham is healthier now than he was 12 months ago and gets an offensive scheme that plays to his strengths. There will be big weeks coming, but catching CB Marcus Peters and the Ravens suffocating time of possession set up Odell for a WR2/3 finish rather than a WR1/2 finish… Perennially undervalued, Jarvis Landry finished as PPR’s per-game WR22 last season. He returned from offseason hip surgery on time and should be near 100% for his tough matchup against CB Marlon Humphrey. Two slow-paced offenses (28th and 27th) set up Landry for a below-average game, although he did post 24.7 and 14.4 PPR games against Baltimore last season… Austin Hooper was signed to the biggest tight end contract this offseason but projects for less usage in Cleveland than he had in Atlanta. Even without S Earl Thomas, this is a very difficult individual matchup for Hooper, who has zero game reps with his quarterback. Baltimore allowed the fewest fantasy points to tight ends in 2019, putting Hooper in the high-end TE2 category this week… David Njoku is off the radar while in a tough matchup…

Nick Chubb’s splits with (13.0 PPR) and without (19.6 PPR) Hunt were more of a function of touchdown variance and YPC than anything else. Chubb only had 1.1 fewer rushing attempts in games with Hunt, and the 3.1 to 1.4 reception drop will only hurt so much over the entire season. With that said, this is the game script (8-point underdogs) that very much works against Chubb… Game script favors electric passing-down back Kareem Hunt, but a 20.75-point team total and Baltimore’s No. 4 defense against fantasy backs limit the appeal. Hunt only caught four passes in this matchup last season despite the game ending, 31-15 Ravens.

 

Titans (20.5, +1.5) @ DEN

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

RB12 Derrick Henry

NA Darrynton Evans (out)

WR69 A.J. Brown

WR75 Corey Davis

WR84 Adam Humphries

TE33 Jonnu Smith

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Ryan Tannehill won’t repeat his career-high pass efficiency and opens the season in a notoriously tough matchup in Denver. The Broncos are 22-2 at home within the first two weeks since 2000 with teams unable to adjust to the altitude. He at least dodges Von Miller (ankle) and possibly Bradley Chubb (knee), but there will be better weeks to trot Tannehill out as a QB2… A.J. Brown is the only Titans receiver to care about in this difficult matchup; Corey Davis averaged 7.6 PPR points with the red hot Tannehill at QB last season. Brown is a star already but is an all too obvious negative regression candidate if analyzing his per-target stats. With that said, Brown should see more targets in 2020 and remains an upside player in the WR3 mix. The Broncos were 10th against fantasy receivers in 2019… Jonnu Smith is a popular breakout candidate because he’s a 93rd percentile athlete, but volume remains a major barrier. In the 13 games with Tannehill last season, Smith only averaged 3.6 targets and 30.8 receiving yards. He’s a touchdown-dependent TE2 in a so-so individual road matchup…

Updated Saturday: Derrick Henry is a lock to see 15+ carries, all goal-line chances, and now receiving work. Third-round rookie Darrynton Evans (hamstring) is surprisingly out for Week 1, and the Titans originally only kept two running backs on their active roster. In a quietly great spot given injuries, Henry is locked into the top-8 this week.

 

Bengals (20.5, +3) vs. LAC

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

RB8 Joe Mixon

NA A.J. Green (vs. CB Casey Hayward)

NA Tyler Boyd (vs. CB Desmond King)

NA John Ross (vs. CB Chris Harris)

NA Tee Higgins (vs. CB Chris Harris)

NA C.J. Uzomah

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Joe Burrow will be tested immediately against the Chargers’ No. 5 defense versus fantasy quarterbacks. At least Burrow gets a full complement of pass catchers to work with and always has his completely underrated rushing ability to squeak by (he averaged 37 rushing yards at LSU after removing sack yards). There will be better weeks to play Burrow, but I still have him within my top-20 QB rankings despite a tough matchup… A.J. Green hasn’t played since 2018, but he’s motivated by a contract season and a legit quarterback throwing him the ball. We’ll learn how much juice he has left early, although this matchup against CB Casey Hayward sets up as a tough one regardless of juice level. Green is a WR3/flex play… Slot man Tyler Boyd also faces a difficult matchup versus CB Desmond King but provides a slightly higher floor than Green just because we’ve seen him play ball within the last 18 months. Boyd is a low-end WR3 in PPR formats, but I do worry about total play volume this week against the Chargers’ slowest-paced offense… John Ross, second-round rookie Tee Higgins, and Auden Tate will rotate as the second outside receiver against CB Chris Harris. I’m guessing Ross sees the most snaps, but we’ll learn more about this rotation after this week. I’ll wait for more info and for a better matchup to get cute with these guys… C.J. Uzomah is a touchdown-dependent TE3, who at least dodges S Derwin James (knee) Sunday…

Joe Mixon’s migraine cleared when the millions appeared in his bank account. I wish I could say the same. Mixon is a candidate to take a big leap in 2020 with better overall quarterback and OL play coming his way. He’s a positive regression candidate, as well. His individual matchup is decent despite the perceived toughness of the Bolts’ defense, which is better against the pass than the run. Mixon can be a top-six fantasy back if he’s more involved as a receiver, something Burrow loved to do at LSU with Edwards-Helaire.

 

Jaguars (19.5, +7) vs. IND

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

RB45 Chris Thompson

NA James Robinson

NA Dare Ogunbowale

NA Devine Ozigbo (out)

NA Ryquell Armstead (out)

WR21 D.J. Chark

WR55 Chris Conley (Fantasy Usage Model value)

NA Laviska Shenault

WR44 Dede Westbrook

TE21 Tyler Eifert

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Gardner Minshew should be a better fantasy asset than real-life threat. He was fantasy’s QB17 per game last season while averaging 26 rushing yards per start and arguably has better pass-catching options this season. Indy’s secondary remains flawed (20th vs. fantasy QBs), making Minshew a low-end QB2 at home. I like the over and the DFS prices of this game… Fantasy’s per-game WR20 last season, D.J. Chark opens as Minshew’s clear-cut top target. Chark averaged 14.2 PPR points in Minshew games last season and catches the smaller and slower CB Rock Ya-Sin in individual coverage. He shouldn’t be limited by Indy’s WR23 ranking against fantasy receivers…From my Week 1 Fantasy Usage Model column, “Conley has a role as a secondary deep target alongside Chark and potentially second-round rookie Laviska Shenault. From Weeks 9-16, Conley saw WR35 fantasy usage with Gardner Minshew willing to take chances down the field. Those deep targets likely increase with OC Jay Gruden installing a more pass-heavy attack sans Leonard Fournette. In Week 1, Conley will battle CB Xavier Rhodes who is slower than Conley and looked like total dust a season ago. In fact, Rhodes was the 3rd-worst graded corner who projects to start this season per PFF.”... Dede Westbrook (career 6.8 YPT) was on the roster bubble after a poor camp… Second-rounder Laviska Shenault would’ve been a locked-in first-rounder if not for injuries. He was extremely productive at Colorado and is very athletic, but most importantly, healthy going into Week 1. He is a “within 10 yards of the line-of-scrimmage” player with wild cat experience, enough to project a handful of manufactured touches per game and possibly some goal-line work. Shenault simply has underrated potential. I’ve heard of worse DFS tournament ideas given the status of the Jaguars’ running backsTyler Eifert has no real competition for tight end routes as a red zone threat. Eifert is healthy right now and belongs on the TE3 dart throw radar…

Fournette is gone. Ryquell Armstead (Covid-19 list) and Devine Ozigbo (hamstring) are out. Jacksonville has only signed special teams ace Dare Ogunbowale this week. Whether we're ready or not, it's the Chris Thompson and UDFA James Robinson show. Thompson's eval is simple -- he'll be the passing-down back and the best bet for RB3 production in PPR leagues. His familiarity with OC Jay Gruden should earn him an extra couple of targets, as will the projected negative game script as 7-point underdogs... Robinson projects for double-digit carries, but not much beyond that as a D-II prospect from Illinois State with 4.64 speed. Indy's defense was 10th best against fantasy running backs last season and added DT DeForest Buckner via trade this offseason. I won't be surprised if Shenault see snaps as a wild cat, too.

 

Cardinals (19.5, +7.5) @ SF

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

RB14 Kenyan Drake

WR5 DeAndre Hopkins (vs. CB Richard Sherman)

NA Christian Kirk

NA Larry Fitzgerald

NA Andy Isabella

NA Dan Arnold

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Kyler Murray and the Arizona offense in general should take a leap. There’s more talent on the roster, and they’re expected to run more plays after finishing 2nd in neutral pace yet 22nd in overall plays. Murray opens with a perceived tough matchup, but the secondary has some vulnerabilities and Murray posted 67 and 34 rushing yards against this unit last season. The lowly 19.5-point team total makes Murray more of a low-end QB1 than a no-brainer QB1, but I do think this game can go over… The history of receivers changing teams is bad, but elite receivers don’t change teams often. Bad ones do. DeAndre Hopkins just may be “too big to fail”, particularly in this game script as 7.5-point underdogs. An individual matchup with Richard Sherman isn’t ideal, but also isn’t one to completely run from with Sherman heading into his age-32 season. I’m only dropping Hopkins to the low-end WR1 range, although I admit there’s not a lot of data to go off one way or another… Christian Kirk had a disappointing injury-filled sophomore season (6.6 YPT and 54.5 receiving yards per game). He’ll have to play much better to be a weekly flex play with his 8.3 targets per game likely decreasing with Hopkins taking over. Kirk’s individual matchup is fine with San Fran allowing the 12th-most points to fantasy receivers in 2019, but he did post 10.2 and 3.6 PPR points in this in-division matchup last season… Larry Fitzgerald had fewer than 75 yards in all 15 of his most recent games… Andy Isabella could see upwards of 25-50% passing-down snaps as the No. 4 in Kinsgbury’s four-WR sets. Isabella was off the fantasy radar as a rookie but offers long-touchdown upside as a speedster who was “more confident” in training camp. I’ll be monitoring Isabella’s usage early as a deep sleeper… Dan Arnold is the tight end to track in Arizona -- Maxx Williams is just a blocker -- but this isn’t the matchup to get cute with Arnold…

Kenyan Drake received RB14 overall fantasy usage from Week 9 on as a Cardinal and balled out in Arizona’s extremely friendly rushing scheme, one that I expect to be top-five in efficiency once again. Drake’s matchup from a talent and game script perspective is tough, but Drake should handle 15-plus touches still as a back that’s more of a high-end RB2 than locked-in RB1 for this week only. Drake (foot) was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice and was out of his precautionary walking boot in a couple of days during training camp. It’s a non-issue right now… I’ll be eyeing Chase Edmonds usage following Kingsbury’s comments that he wants Edmonds to have a role in the offense. He’s off the flex radar until we gather some data first.

 

Football Team (19, +6.5) vs. PHI

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

NA Antonio Gibson

NA Peyton Barber

NA J.D. McKissic

WR36 Terry McLaurin (Fantasy Usage Model value)

WR81 Steven Sims

NA Dontrelle Inman

NA Logan Thomas

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Dwayne Haskins was put in an unwinnable situation as a rookie but gets more help from his coaching staff heading into year two. Haskins remains a QB2/3 until proven otherwise, but there’s more upside than most people expect with more pass attempts coming his way under OC Scott Turner, who called an offense that finished second in pass attempts last season. Haskins has quality starting-caliber arm talent if the rest of his game elevates… From my Week 1 Fantasy Usage Model column, “Terry McLaurin surprised with WR36 fantasy usage and a WR28 per-game finish as a third-round rookie. There’s a path to much bigger volume in year two with a new coaching staff and little behind him on the depth chart. OC Scott Turner oversaw a Panthers Offense that was second in pass attempts last year, a signal that Washington will pass far more than they did last year (28th in attempts). I’m expecting top-15 usage for McLaurin, who had his second- (24.0) and third-best (23.5) PPR performances of last season against the Eagles.”… Slot man Steven Sims and dusty veteran Dontrelle Inman figure to start in three-WR sets next to McLaurin, but they’re only deep-league bench options for as long as McLaurin is healthy. Between the two, I’ll take my chances on Sims, who at least had four receptions and 40 yards in all four games to close 2019… Logan Thomas is a 29-year-old with almost zero NFL receiving production, but he was the first-team tight end and has a 91st percentile speed score. That’s enough to be on the TE2/3 upside radar. The Eagles’ top-five defense against fantasy tight ends will drop without S Malcolm Jenkins this upcoming year…

Washington was comfortable enough with their young backs to release Adrian Peterson. Peyton Barber and Bryce Love are the best bets for early-down work, but that’s not where the fantasy potential is on a team expected to be bottom-five in plays with a lead. Instead, the attention is on third-round rookie Antonio Gibson, who has drawn positive reviews as a specialty receiving back. Gibson has the size and athleticism (4.39 speed) to be a top-24 fantasy back in PPR leagues in the future, but veteran J.D. McKissic figures to be involved early and was named the “starter” for whatever it’s worth. Remember that Gibson only had 33 collegiate carries and spent most of his time as a receiver, so he could max out at a dozen touches in the season opener. The Eagles’ No. 28 defense against fantasy backs increases Gibson’s dart throw appeal even if we can’t project a full role in Week 1. We may get more news on how touches will be spilled later in the week.

 

Dolphins (18.25, +7) @ NE

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

NA Jordan Howard

NA Matt Breida

WR24 DeVante Parker (vs. CB Stephon Gilmore)

WR22 Preston Williams (questionable)

NA Jakeem Grant

TE12 Mike Gesicki

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Week 17 win against these Patriots last year went about as well as possible, and he only scored 24.3 fantasy points then. He had -1.8 fantasy points in the other 2019 matchup. New England’s top-ranked defense against fantasy quarterbacks makes Fitzpatrick only startable in deep two-quarterback leagues… DeVante Parker was on a bust trajectory until the second half of 2019 following Williams’ ACL tear. From Week 9 on, Parker was the WR5 overall per game on WR10 overall fantasy usage. That included an 8-137-0 line against the Patriots, although they held Parker to zero catches in Week 2 of 2019. Parker is a low-floor WR3 based on his matchup with DPOY Stephon Gilmore… Before his knee injury, Preston Williams out-targeted Parker, 51 to 46. His sixth-round draft capital doesn’t do Williams’ talent justice, as he only dropped for off-field concerns. Reportedly healthy, Williams is a potentially underrated asset early in the season. That is likely asking too much this week due to the matchup. The Patriots allowed the fewest fantasy points to receivers last year… Jakeem Grant will start in the slot following the opt outs of Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns… Third-year TE Mike Gesicki is the true beneficiary of those opt outs. It locks Gesicki into top-five slot snaps among tight ends after playing there in 72% of his snaps last year. Gesicki, a 97th percentile athlete, was the TE6 overall in fantasy usage from Week 9 on last year and averaged 13.8 FP/G in his last five games, signaling that he could be ready for a breakout season. It’s best to keep expectations in check in this matchup, however…

Jordan Howard projects for the early-down and goal-line role, but a road game as 7-point dogs isn’t the time to bet on him. New England was the stingiest unit against fantasy backs last year… Matt Breida may get additional looks as Miami’s passing-down back, but the reward of potential extended looks doesn’t outweigh the uncertainty of his role and the Dolphins’ offensive line in general.

 

Jets (17, +6.5) @ BUF

 

Fantasy Usage in 2019

RB13 Le’Veon Bell

WR28 Jamison Crowder (Fantasy Usage Model value)

WR73 Breshad Perriman (vs. Tre'Davious White)

NA Chris Hogan

NA Denzel Mims (doubtful)

NA Chris Herndon

 

The Fantasy Blueprint:

A road game against the No. 3 pass defense isn’t the time to get cute with Sam Darnold. He’s scored 13.0, 9.8, and 9.8 fantasy points against the Bills over his career… Breshad Perriman arguably is an underrated player, but he lines up against CB Tre’Davious White on the outside and has no chemistry with Darnold after missing some training camp with knee swelling… Updated Friday: Denzel Mims (hamstring) injured his other hamstring this week… That leaves Jamison Crowder with not only the best individual matchup of the week, but also the most projected targets. Crowder averaged 14.0 PPR points with Darnold last season, including 22.5 PPR points in the two matchups against these Bills. Crowder is a sneaky WR3 in PPR formats. He was the WR20 in fantasy usage from Week 9 on last year… Chris Herndon wasted 2019 with a suspension followed by an injury, but he was the star of the Jets’ training camp and has legit chemistry with Darnold, his 2018 NFL Draft mate. Herndon had the 10th-most receiving yards among rookie TEs in NFL history two years ago and may receive top-10 tight end usage this season as a Darren Waller type. Week 1 expectations should be held in check with Buffalo allowing the second-fewest points to tight ends in 2019, but I want to be higher than the market on Herndon early in the year…

Signing Frank Gore didn’t lessen the Gase and Le’Veon Bell tension this offseason, but Bell did see RB13 overall usage down the stretch in 2019 and appeared to be in better shape in training camp. The Jets offensive line remains a bottom-three unit, and this isn’t the game environment for a sneaky ceiling game. Bell is a low-end RB2 while we evaluate Gore’s role. Hopefully Bell’s role as a check-down option will increase. He’ll need it for fantasy purposes.

 


League-Wide Data

 

The Chiefs, per usual, are set up for the biggest fantasy week. They’re projected to score 4-plus points more than the second-highest projected team. The Cowboys and Ravens are the next best bets for huge weeks with the Patriots, Rams, 49ers, and Saints also poised for quality starts. On the flip side, these offenses are going to be tough to watch: Washington, Jacksonville, and the Jets. Expectations for Browns players need to be held in check as well.

 

 

Understanding how many plays a defense allows is more important than how talented a defense is because opportunity matters most. Defensive plays allowed have signal with gamescript, too, so for one-dimensional players like Jordan Howard, this chart can be very helpful. It’s no surprise that the ball-controlling Ravens played the second fewest plays on defense last year, including the fewest rush attempts because they led on the most offensive plays. On the flip side, the Lions played the most snaps on defense, including the fourth-most pass attempts allowed. If you’re looking for “pass funnels”, the Bucs and Saints are your defenses. 

 

 

The Chiefs are obviously ready for lift off, but Baltimore and San Francisco’s passing offenses may be being slept on a little bit despite being in eruption spots. The same thing can be said about Seattle and Dallas. Those are clear-cut stack options for DFS tournaments. As for a sleeper stack team, I’d look at Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati. Aside from each team’s WR1s, I’d fade the Jets, Dolphins, Giants, and Washington.

 

 

There are four rushing offenses particularly set up for strong games: Baltimore, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, and Minnesota. The Ravens are the best rushing team in the NFL but do trot out a committee backfield. The same can be said for the Colts, who have two strong early-down runners with unknown Week 1 roles. Dalvin Cook and Josh Jacobs have ceiling week potential on the ground this week.

 

 

Whoever gets the short-yardage role for the Chiefs is set up for additional work this week as touchdown-plus favorites. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is the favorite but watch for Darrel Williams in Thursday Night Football DFS tournaments. Washington is likely heading towards a lot more passing volume in 2020, particularly in Week 1. That’s great news for Terry McLaurin and to a lesser extent Antonio Gibson, Steven Sims, and Logan Thomas.

 

 

By looking at these two metrics (projected pressure and points allowed) we can get most of the information we need for ranking defenses. The Bills, Patriots, Eagles, 49ers, and Steelers are set up for nice weeks in both metrics. I think the Bucs, Colts, and Ravens will be better in 2020 than what these 2019 pressure metrics indicate. On the flip side, the Broncos are worse than the graph indicates following Von Miller (ankle) and Bradley Chubb’s (knee) injuries.

 


Bets of the Week

Posted Saturday, my five favorite bets of the week using Rotoworld's Live Odds page:

Bengals (+3.5) - Cincy improved. Chargers are banged up.

Ravens (-7.5) - Too many injuries for Cleveland.

Saints (-3.5) - Continuity and health on Saints' side.

Colts vs. Jaguars (over 45) - Tackling will be problematic.

Bears vs. Lions (over 42.5) - Chicago DEF is injured.

 

I'm probably much closer to a 50/50 bettor, but last year I was 47-32-1 (59%). Let's keep track again!