By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
Typically, I like to start with a fun anecdote, relating it to something relevant in fantasy, but I want to touch on something that in the grand scheme of things is a little more important than fantasy football. Then I’ll come back to it. Just hear me out.
With what’s going on in the world at the moment, it’s hard to be funny. There are natural disasters pummeling coasts, destroying homes, displacing families, leaving pets stranded, not to mention the political squabbles of which I refuse to dip my toe into at the moment – it’s a nightmare. If Houston thought Harvey was bad, Irma is telling Florida, “hold onto your britches!” See, I can say that because I live in Florida. Sometimes you just have to laugh in the face of adversity and find something to take your mind off the devastation that awaits.
Which brings me to Week One of the NFL season. I, like all of you, have been waiting for this since the
Patriots won Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl. Through free agency, the NFL Draft, training camp, and preseason games, it’s finally here. For those of you in Houston that have somehow managed to regain power, watching your Texans take on the Jaguars at home this week will be a welcome distraction. And if you dislike the Texans, you’re not allowed to hate on J.J. Watt for sacking your quarterback. He’s the man. He’s that city’s savior. Watt, I love you bro. You’re a class act and deserve any and all accolades you receive.
That brings me to Florida. Hurricane Irma, go home, you’re drunk. You’ve grown so much in such a short time, I’m sure Poseiden is proud of his offspring in some cryptic, god-like way. Even if this hurricane’s eye misses Florida by a few miles, all areas of the state will be hit with hurricane force winds. That’s no joke. That’s why your’s truly is writing this column, packing some valuables, and high tailing it to the Volunteer State. A friend is volunteering to put me up. At least it’s nice he’s fitting in with the state’s motto.
I apologize there are no rankings this week, but I couldn’t leave you all totally hanging. There’s news to break and you gotta know who to start, right? We all need help. From you with your fantasy teams, to people in Houston and eventually in Florida. (Did I mention it’s the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew destroying Miami? Florida can’t catch a break.) We as people all need to step up and be there for others. I’m here to help you in my desperate hour. Take some time to help others, even if from afar by donating to charities to help those in need, giving blood for the injured and needy, or donating some canned goods. Any and everything will help.
One item to note: the Bucs-Dolphins game that was slated for Sunday has been postponed and rescheduled for Week 11. If you were relying on any Bucs or Dolphins players this week, some of the below players will help fill in for those starters.
And with that, I give you my Confidence Plays for Week One. In case you missed this column in 2016 or even my preseason column, here’s a refresher. This is effectively a Start/Sit column with a new twist. I break things down into three categories. Start means exactly that. These are your studs, the guys we know are going to be studs this year and this is a week they return some of that draft value. Get them into your lineup! Play analyzes the fringe starters, your FLEX plays if you will. These guys could be on your bench one week and thrust into your starting lineup the next based on the matchup. When you see them mentioned here, put them in your lineup in some way, shape, or form. Do not misconstrue what Bench means. Seriously. I’m not saying to not start the players that end up in this section. Maybe they’re your studs that you know you’re going to start, but with bad match-ups, temper expectations. If I tell you to bench them, then you can blame me if they go off.
To the picks!
QB Russell Wilson & WR Doug Baldwin (SEA) – We all remember how awful the Green Bay secondary is, right? Sure, they upgraded in the draft, but how often are rookie corners great in year one? Exactly. Get Wilson & Baldwin into your lineups against the team that gave up the 7th most fantasy points to QBs and the most fantasy points to WRs in 2016.
QB Kirk Cousins (WSH) – Sense the theme folks. Look, I love my Eagles, but even after trading for CB Ronald Darby, Cousins is going to light up their secondary to the tune of at least 400 yards and 2 TDs. The Eagles secondary wasn’t as fantasy friendly as their stats would indicate – they allowed the 9th fewest fantasy points to QBs last year and they do create a good amount of turnovers – but Cousins had 21.3 and 22.0 fantasy points against them in 2016 and I don’t think having new, unfamiliar weapons will keep him below 20 points.
QB Marcus Mariota (TEN) – I’m a lot higher on Mariota than most, but the Raiders’ secondary is brutal. They’re the biggest hindrance on a talented team and Mariota’s red zone efficiency, coupled with the arrival of arguably the best red zone receiver in the NFL, Eric Decker, trends for a field day for the Titans’ signal-caller in Week One.
RB Le’Veon Bell (PIT) – I know, he’s a no brainer. If I had time to do my rankings this week, he’d be my number one overall player. Yes, even in PPR formats like Club Fantasy. He plays the Browns. Did you need more convincing?
RB LeSean McCoy (BUF) – If Bell is ranked 1, McCoy is probably 1a. Bell plays the Browns and McCoy gets the Jets. The same Jets who basically stripped the whip and sold it for parts. And with news that Tyrod Taylor may miss this game with a concussion (I think he plays), Shady could approach 200 total yards. Money in the bank.
RB Melvin Gordon (LAC) – I know, he’s playing the Broncos. But as great as their defense is, they struggled mightily against the run in 2016. They ranked 28th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed and Gordon already has a 100 yard game against them. The Chargers will want to control the clock and Gordon will be used a lot in this game.
WR Julio Jones (ATL) – The Bears are in a similar state as the Browns and Jets. Not a lot of talent and teams will exploit them. Julio Jones has a new offensive coordinator and he’s going to feed the beast. Chicago allowed the 10th most fantasy points to WRs in 2016 and I don’t see that improving in Week One.
WR Brandin Cooks (NE) – I’ve preached about him all preseason after the trade to the Patriots and my tone only got louder with the injury to Julian Edelman. Marcus Peters can be beat and Brady will be eager to play with his new toy. Look for Cooks to have a huge game to start off Thursday night.
QB Tyrod Taylor (BUF) – This is risky because of the concussion, but he’s trending towards playing and even with a dilapidated receiving corps, he’ll score points against a porous Jets defense. It’s always great when it’s obvious.
QB Carson Palmer (ARI) – Did you know that the Lions allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to QBs in 2016? The miracle of research. Palmer should find Fitzgerald early and often and David Johnson will clean up the rest. Palmer should be good for 300 yards and 2 TDs, a good fill-in if you were relying on Jameis Winston in Week One.
RBs Christian McCaffrey & Jonathan Stewart (CAR) – I’ve come around on the rookie. I don’t think he’ll be as effective as people think, but he’s facing the league’s worst rush defense from 2016 so I’d hardly be shocked if he and Stewart go for 100 yards and TD during the opening week. The 49ers really are that bad folks.
RB Dalvin Cook (MIN) – Talk about Latavius Murray all you want, but this is Cook’s team now. The Saints were almost as bad as the 49ers when it came to stopping the run last year so Cook will find some wiggle room. That breakaway speed will be on display Monday night and you’ll see the full repertoire. Get in line folks. It’s gonna be a fun season watching him play.
RB Bilal Powell (NYJ) – I feel dirty just typing this. But when you have two terrible teams playing on Sunday, you’d think you were watching hobos fight over table scraps on the street in San Francisco. I’m only half serious, but you get it. Powell is all the Jets have. He’ll try to keep up with Shady. He’ll fall short, but he’ll hold his own against a Bills team that allowed the 9th most fantasy points to RBs last year.
WRs Terrelle Pryor Sr. & Jamison Crowder (WSH) – In his debut with the ‘Skins, Pryor gets to go one-on-one with new Eagles corner Ronald Darby. This should be a good matchup, but one I think Pryor wins. He should be good for 80 yards and a score. Not a bad debut. Crowder will likely work exclusively out of the slot and will likely command either CB Patrick Robinson (vomit) or S Malcolm Jenkins. While Jenkins’ cover skills are better than the average safety, let me remind you that he was converted to safety from corner because he couldn’t keep up with WRs. Let that sink in. If you needed more reason to play Pryor & Crowder, the Eagles allowed the 5th most fantasy points to WRs in 2016.
WR Kelvin Benjamin (CAR) – Did I mention the 49ers have a terrible defense? Benjamin looks resurgent, and if Cam Newton’s shoulder is okay, Benjamin should have a solid game to warrant a WR2 floor.
WR Pierre Garçon (SF) – Speaking of the 49ers, they have like, one real weapon on offense. Luke Kuechly and the stout defensive line will contain Carlos Hyde but the secondary is their weak point. The 49ers will have to throw to keep up so I’m of the mindset that Garçon will have like 25 targets as a result. Okay, a slight exaggeration but you get it.
TE Zach Ertz (PHI) – I told you I was high on Ertz this year, and Week One is where it starts. The Redskins allowed the 6th most fantasy points to TEs in 2016.
TE Jason Witten (DAL) – In the two games against the Giants in 2016, Dak Prescott looked like a 4th round pick. Ezekiel Elliott looked like a 4th round pick. But Jason Witten looked like a Pro Bowler. Right, he is, so we’re on the same page. Witten had 22.2 fantasy points versus the Giants last year and will be a great spot start in Week One if you ended up with Julius Thomas or Cameron Brate/O.J. Howard as your starting TE.
Bills D/ST (BUF) & Falcons D/ST (ATL) – The Bills get the Jets and the Falcons face the Bears. It’s easy to suggest the Rams without Luck at QB for the Colts, but they still don’t have Aaron Donald so I’m going another direction. The Jets and Bears are just as bad at QB as the Colts, so we have a tie for streaming defense of the week.
QB Dak Prescott & RB Ezekiel Elliott (DAL) – For the record, you’re starting both. They were drafted to be starters for you and with Elliott’s suspension delayed one week, you want to start him because you can’t again until Week 9. Just don’t get too excited when he doesn’t break 13 points. The Giants are loaded on defense. They handled the Cowboys offense rather well in 2016 and the Cowboys trot out the same offensive weapons. Those unwilling to change fail as a result. You’ve been warned.
QB Matthew Stafford & RB Ameer Abdullah (DET) – The Cardinals have a good defense, minus their number two corner. Maybe that means Marvin Jones will have yet another great Week One, but I’m benching Stafford and Abdullah this week. The Cardinals allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing RBs in 2016, and 11th fewest points to QBs. Abdullah you’re likely benching as he’s your 3rd RB, but I spent all offseason talking him up that I needed to do this for me. Don’t worry, he’ll make appearances in the other two sections as the season progresses.
RB Ty Montgomery (GB) – The Seahawks reinforced their defensive line with the acquisition of Sheldon Richardson. Without him, they still allowed the 3rd fewest fantasy points to RBs in 2016. Ty Montgomery has been a running back in the NFL for less than a year. Advantage: Seahawks.
WR Michael Thomas (NO) – For future reference, star receivers that face the Vikings’ Xavier Rhodes will end up on this list. You’re not benching him – he was a first or second round pick in damn near every league – but consider yourself warned and underwhelmed come Tuesday.
WR T.Y. Hilton (IND) – Fun facts about Hilton: he has played in 10 career games without Andrew Luck. He averages 7 targets, 3.9 catches for 60.9 yards and has a total of 2 TDs, or 0.2 TDs per game. In case you missed it, Andrew Luck will not play in Week One. Again, you’re not benching him because he’s T.Y. Hilton, but I wouldn’t expect more than 8 points this week.
WR Keenan Allen (LAC) – Just like I’m adding any WR who faces Xavier Rhodes on the “Bench” list, I’m inserting any star WR facing the Broncos. It’s a thing, trust me.
TE Jordan Reed (WSH) – I think Cousins has a good game testing out his new toy in Terrelle Pryor Sr. But his old toy, Jordan Reed, likely won’t have a fun day. The Eagles were the 2nd stingiest in fantasy points allowed to TEs in 2016 and Reed played the Eagles once last year and caught all of 1 pass for 10 yards. That’s it. Thankfully, you drafted a second TE because of how injury-prone Reed is. Treat this like an injury week.
TE Martellus Bennett (GB) – Admittedly, I’m not as high on Bennett in Green Bay as most. But against the Seahawks, I’m really not high on him. The Seahawks allowed the 4th fewest fantasy points to TEs in 2016, so there’s that too.
I can’t say this enough: be safe Florida. If you haven’t already, strongly consider getting the hell out of there. Don’t try to be brave, or in this case, stubborn. No one will judge you if you leave. Be safe everybody. See you in the aftermath.