How Are You Feeling?
You just emerged from your draft feeling like a champion, feeling content, or feeling like a buffoon. Whichever bucket you fall into, don’t worry too much. There are reinforcements out there for the taking that may very well help you start the season 1-0 (or in first place if you’re a Rotisserie player). Even if you have a starting lineup in mind, it’s probable that a certain match-up makes you uneasy. So, without further adieu, here are some of my potential Week 1 Waiver Wire finds!
Week 1 Fantasy Hesitations And Waiver Wire Finds
Not So Fast!
I get it, Baker Mayfield is your guy. He’s ready to improve on an exciting 2018. But, doesn’t a Week 1 matchup against Tennessee scare you? Oh, I think that Cleveland wins the game fairly easily. But the inconsistency of the Titan offense makes owners forget that they actually have a good defense. The secondary is talented, led by Malcolm Butler, Kenny Vaccaro, and Logan Ryan. The Titans featured the 6th ranked pass defense in 2018, and while I think Mayfield has a decent game and leads the Browns to a 1-0 start, I’m worried that owners have been drinking just a little too much Kool-Aid with their expectations for Mayfield. At the very least, I find it unlikely that he will have a monster game. If I’m a Browns fan, I’m not nervous about the outcome of the game. If I’m a Fantasy owner starting Mayfield, I am nervous about his performance.
Matt Ryan was exceptional in 2019, passing for 4,924 yards with 35 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. He also added 3 scores on the ground. I have high expectations for Matt Ryan and the entire Falcons offense in 2019. Do I have high expectations for Week 1 at Minnesota? The Vikings lost Sheldon Richardson and Andrew Sendejo but should be a very strong unit in 2019. I wouldn’t say that I’d be pessimistic about starting Matt Ryan Week 1, but I do believe there to be safer options out there.
Derrick Henry is one of the more divisive players in the world of Fantasy. He averaged 5.0 points per game from Weeks 1-6, 14.5 points from Weeks 7-10, 4.8 points in Weeks 11-12, and 23.7 points from Weeks 13-17. Has he turned a corner, and is he now ready to shoulder a heavy workload and RB1 responsibilities? Or did he simply have two hot weeks, and is otherwise a Flex/RB2 option? I’d lean somewhere in the middle myself, and many owners seem to agree.
On average, Henry is the 19th Running Back off the board but is going anywhere from #10 to #85 overall. So, it seems that there are as many opinions about Derrick Henry as there are Fantasy Football team names. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, I’d feel uneasy starting him Week 1 at Cleveland, especially as an RB1 or RB2.
In 2018, the Browns forced 18 fumbles (#6 in the NFL) and had 101 tackles for loss (#5 in the NFL). They drafted Greedy Williams to help lock down the secondary and brought in Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson for help in the trenches and pass rush. I’m not completely on board with the “Browns Bandwagon”, but I feel that they will be a much-improved and a borderline playoff team. Confidence will be sky-high on opening day, and though it’s always possible that Henry gets 25 carries and forces his way into Fantasy relevance, I’m not feeling super confident that he has a big day Week 1.
Kenyan Drake is a strange Fantasy asset, to say the least. In 2018, he finished with 3 games of more than 20 points, 2 games with 15-20 points, 3 games with 10-15 points, 6 games with 5-10 points, and 2 games with less than 5 points. His usage is extremely difficult to predict from one game to the next. One week after accumulating 12 carries for 58 yards and a touchdown, to go along with 2 receptions for 37 yards and an additional score, Drake carried the ball 3 times for 9 yards against the Jets.
In 2019, he’s expected to share time with Kalen Ballage, though Ballage is expected to get most of the goal-line carries. A week 1 matchup against Baltimore, the reigning #1 defense in terms of yards allowed and #2 scoring defense, combined with Drake’s boom or bust potential would give me pause before committing to start him at a FLEX, or RB2 slot.
As with Matt Ryan, I’m very high on Juju Smith-Schuster in 2019. He takes over as Big Ben’s clear #1 target after the departure of Antonio Brown. However, also as with Matt Ryan, I’m not too high on Juju in a Week 1 matchup at New England. Last year, the Patriots’ secondary held him to 4 catches for 40 yards in Pittsburgh. I’m still starting Juju, but with Stephon Gilmore looming in a primetime match-up on the road, I’m nervous.
Tyler Boyd is a popular breakout candidate, and I’m buying the hype. In 2018, he scored over 20 points 6 times, and double-digit points in 9 of his 14 games. However, a Week 1 match-up on the road against a newly reinforced Seahawk defense, and with no A.J. Green to take attention away from him scares me. Seattle may not have the vaunted “Legion of Boom” anymore, but they still feature a frightening pass rush with newly acquired Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah. Boyd will get his targets, but Andy Dalton may be running for his life from the Seattle defense and the 12th man. Consider downgrading Boyd to a WR3 or FLEX for this week.
Austin Hooper is ranked as a Top-10 TE in Week 1, but this scares me due to his boom or bust potential, in addition to my prediction for the game. In 2018, he had 2 games with more than 20 points, 3 games with 15-20 points, 5 games with 7-10 points, and 4 games with less than 7 points. I believe that both teams will rely heavily on the running game, leaving Hooper on the outside looking in as a Fantasy asset.
David Njoku is a popular breakout candidate as a part of the “Browns Bandwagon”. He’s flashed extreme potential at times but has also been maddeningly inconsistent. In the 9 games that he scored single-digit points in 2018, Njoku averaged 2.9 receptions for 30.6 yards (5.9 points in standard ESPN scoring) and didn’t score any touchdowns. In the 6 games that he scored double-digit points, Njoku averaged 5 catches for 60.7 yards (15.1 points in standard ESPN scoring) and scored touchdowns in four of them. Tennessee was a Top-10 defense in 2018 and may present a challenge to a fairly touchdown-dependent Njoku in Week 1.
The Saints defense is one of the great comeback stories. For years, the question was always “Can Drew Brees and the offense bail out the defense?”, and the answer went a long way towards determining whether the Saints made the playoffs. Since 2017 though, the unit has become an above-average defense, posting 7 double-digit point outings in 2018 and two additional games of 9 points. They’re a strong streaming option but make me nervous in a Week 1 primetime matchup against Houston. Deshaun Watson has a healthy receiving corps and averaged 21 fantasy points per game in 2018 when he had both Deandre Hopkins and Will Fuller at his disposal. I think the Saints win in a high-scoring affair that makes both defenses look bad.
As a rabid New York Jets fan, I both love and hate the Jets. Many other Jets fans will know exactly what I mean. Their defense may be a shining example of this love/hate relationship. This unit is represented by several extremely talented players, such as Jamal Adams, Leonard Williams, Trumaine Johnson, C.J. Mosley, and rookie Quinnen Williams. However, it seems like the sum is always less than the parts. In 2018, the Jets posted 6 double-digit point outings, but in the other 10, averaged 1.7 points per game. A Week 1 match-up at home against Buffalo may seem favorable, but in 2018 the Bills trounced the Jets at Metlife Stadium and defeated them 41-10. The Jets are an improved team this year, but they make me nervous in Week 1.
Under The Radar Options
Jameis Winston is inconsistent, to say the least. When he’s off, he’s really off. In 2018, Winston posted games of 4.3, 8.8, and 6.5 fantasy points. However, he also posted five starts of more than 20 points. The San Francisco 49ers gave up the second-most passing touchdowns (35) in the NFL in 2018, and Winston completed 76% of his passes for 312 yards and 2 touchdowns against them in a Week 12 match-up. San Francisco’s defense is owned in only 3.3% of ESPN leagues for a reason. Winston is owned in only 53.1% of leagues but has an extremely high ceiling and QB1 upside in Week 1. He is a fantastic streaming option if you don’t like your starting QB’s Week 1 match-up.
As I mentioned, I believe that when the Vikings host the Falcons in Week 1, both teams will rely heavily on the running game. However, Kirk Cousins should offer up a high floor. In 2018, the Falcons finished 4th-worst in passing touchdowns allowed (33) and 6th-worst in passing yards allowed (4,153). Though he had a “down year” in 2018, Cousins passed for at least 1 touchdown in every game, passed for over 200 yards in 14 of 16 games, and had two monster games (at Green Bay and at the Rams) with over 400 yards. I think he rebounds to have a solid year, and his solid year can very well begin in a home match-up against one of the worst pass defenses from 2018. Cousins is owned in only 46.6% of leagues on ESPN and is worth taking a flyer on in Week 1.
As much as I’m not yet on the “Browns Bandwagon”, I am on the “Josh Allen Bandwagon”. The Bills will be mediocre again, but I think Allen takes a huge step forward in Year 2. In six pre-injury 2018 starts, Allen averaged 10.5 fantasy points per game. After returning in Week 12, he averaged 24.2. There may be a bit of a market correction with the rushing yards (he averaged 79.3 rushing yards per game from Week 12-17), but I like Allen in Week 1 against an unreliable Jets defense. He’s only owned in 20.5% of leagues but is a breakout candidate for 2019.
The Melvin Gordon saga seems to have reached an impasse. In the meantime, Austin Ekeler is the hot name to replace Gordon to lead the Chargers backfield. However, a name that’s getting overlooked is Justin Jackson, who should receive significant playing time with Gordon off the field. With Gordon injured in Weeks 13 and 14 in 2018, Jackson rushed 15 times for 75 yards (5.0 YPC) with a touchdown and added 3 catches for 42 yards. As the backup to Melvin Gordon in Week 16, Jackson totaled 7 catches for 47 yards. In three 2018 starts, Ekeler averaged 3.2 yards per carry and only scored one touchdown across 40 carries. Jackson is a valuable handicap asset at the very least to start the season and could carve out a larger role if Gordon continues to hold out or is traded. He is only rostered in 32.1% of leagues but should see a significant Week 1 workload.
Chris Thompson has shown flashes of brilliance but has been derailed by injuries time and time again. His role as a runner has always been limited but he has been one of the better receiving backs in the NFL when healthy. In 2017, he accumulated 804 scrimmage yards and 6 touchdowns in only 10 games. Thompson’s 2018 started out strong, as he posted 19 catches for 155 yards and a touchdown in his first two games, good for 47.1 fantasy points. However, injuries and inconsistency plagued the rest of the campaign. Thompson has emerged from the preseason healthy and is a good bet to get a significant workload in a Week 1 tilt in Philadelphia. The Redskins figure to be playing from behind for much of the game, and with an unproven Derrius Guice and a 34-year-old Adrian Peterson in the mix, Thompson should at least see significant volume in the passing game. He’s only rostered in 18.7% of leagues but could serve a significant role in the Washington offense in Week 1, especially if Guice isn’t handed a full workload yet.
Mohamed Sanu is often the forgotten man of the Atlanta receiving corps, but he is an ever-present and reliable member of that unit. Much of the attention is given to Julio Jones and rookie sensation Calvin Ridley, but Sanu was on the field for the most snaps in 2018 and was #2 on the team in targets and yards. There are many targets to go around in the high-scoring Falcons offense. The Minnesota secondary has depth on paper but has been plagued by a multitude of issues. Touchdowns have been an issue for Sanu (only 4 in 2018), but he should provide a steady floor in a Week 1 tilt at the Vikings. Sanu posted 4 games in 2018 with less than 7 points and averaged 13.5 in the other 12. Owned in only 47.2% of leagues, he’s worth considering as a Flex play in Week 1.
Everyone assumes that the Saints will have a high-powered offense, but the question remains. Who will be their #2 receiver? Jared Cook figures to factor heavily into the passing game, as will dynamic Running Back Alvin Kamara. Overlooked in most leagues (he’s owned in only 14.6% of ESPN leagues) is 34-year-old Ted Ginn Jr. In Weeks 1-3 in 2018, Ginn Jr caught 12 passes on 19 targets for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns. A knee injury derailed much of the rest of the season until he returned in Week 16 and caught 5 passes on 8 targets for 74 yards. By all reports, Ginn Jr is healthy and on track to play in Week 1, in what figures to be a high scoring affair against the Texans. His big-play ability and possible claim as the WR2 in a high-powered Saints offense shouldn’t be ignored. Ginn Jr is a viable Flex play in Week 1 at the Superdome.
Adam Humphries may not be a sure bet to get you a touchdown, but his expected role in the Tennessee offense should give him some viability as a weekly Flex option. In 2018, Humphries averaged 6.6 targets per game and set career-highs in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. Delanie Walker has returned from a 2018 injury and will take up some of the volume in the passing game, and the Titans employ a run-heavy scheme, but Humphries will see a lot of work, and should at least be rostered in PPR formats. He’s an intriguing candidate to play Week 1 at Cleveland.
Many Fantasy owners rode the Eric Ebron train to glory in 2018. Ebron was great, but many owners seem to have forgotten that he wasn’t even the Colts’ #1 TE going into the season. That honor belonged to Jack Doyle. In the six 2018 games that both Doyle and Ebron played, Doyle ran 50 more routes than Ebron and was targeted 11 more times. In 2017, with Jacoby Brisset starting at QB in place of an injured Andrew Luck, Doyle totaled 80 receptions in 15 games. Brisset will rely on Doyle early and often in a Week 1 match-up at the Chargers. Owned in only 35.7% of ESPN leagues, Doyle is well worth a start in Week 1 and could be a valuable asset by season’s end.
The 8th overall pick in the 2019 draft was T.J. Hockenson, a TE out of Iowa. The Detroit Lions made Hockenson the highest-drafted TE since Vernon Davis went 6th overall in the 2006 draft. A Lions Vs. Cardinals Week 1 tilt isn’t a sexy match-up, but I see the game being higher scoring than most think. I believe that the Cardinals roll over the Lions and get off to a hot start in the Kyler Murray Era. However, that being the case, I see the Lions playing from behind, and Matt Stafford being forced to throw, throw, and throw. Hockenson will be one of the top receiving TE’s in the NFL by season’s end, and I like him to make a surprise impact in Week 1.
The Miami Dolphins are expected to have a rough year, to say the least. Their passing game will be inconsistent at best, and terrible at worst. The running game is difficult to figure out. Who are their receivers? Regardless, who gets a favorable Week 1 match-up in Miami? That would be the Baltimore Ravens, 2018’s #1 defense in terms of total yards allowed and #2 in points allowed. The Ravens lost some assets in Eric Weddle, C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs, and Za’Darius Smith before adding Earl Thomas. I do not expect the Baltimore defense to be as good as they were in 2018. However, I do expect them to be superb in a Week 1 match-up against the hopeless Dolphins. Only rostered in 46.8% of leagues, they’re a strong Week 1 streaming option if you don’t love your defense’s match-up (Rams at Carolina, Jaguars against Chiefs, Vikings against Falcons).
The Legion of Boom is no more, but that doesn’t mean Seattle’s defense can’t be a good streaming option. The Seahawks lost Earl Thomas, Frank Clark, and Justin Coleman, but added Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah. In addition, the advantage of the Seattle 12th man can’t ever be counted out. A favorable Week 1 match-up against a Cincinnati offense that had low expectations before dealing with an A.J. Green injury and a depleted offensive line makes the Seahawks a solid starting option for Week 1. Only rostered in 15.4% of leagues, they’re worth considering if you don’t like your starting defense’s match-up.