Folks, it’s finally here! Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season started last night and yes, it feels like it’s been a long time coming. We made it and it’s time to root on your favorite team while simultaneously hoping that your fantasy players go off. This week, I’ll be breaking down who I think the top 3 fantasy performers will be at each position: QB, RB, WR, TE, DEF, K and I’ll throw in some possible FLEX options. This should be useful for those DFS players out there.
Week 1 in fantasy is important because you want to start the season off on the right foot with a win. But if you do take that L, no worries because you have 12 more weeks to get into playoff contention. So lets jump right into this.
*All Projections Based On PPR Formats*
Week 1 Fantasy Predictions: Top 3 Fantasy Performers At Each Position
Top 3 QBs
1.) Lamar Jackson – Baltimore Ravens
Week 1 for Jackson and the Ravens is a Divisional match-up between the Cleveland Browns. In the first meeting last year, the Browns roasted the Ravens for a 15-point win, 40-25. Lamar was responsible for all three of the Ravens touchdowns through the air with 3 to go with 240+ passing yards and 66 rushing yards. The caveat of that performance was 2 interceptions.
Look for this year to be much different. Though his performance won’t be closer to his 2019 Week 1 start vs. the Miami Dolphins, he should be able to put up quality numbers for you in the season opener.
2.) Philip Rivers – Indianapolis Colts
Now this one could be seen as a head-scratcher but here me out. Rivers is playing on a new team for the first time in his career. The Colts gave him a big one year contract in the hopes that he can bring them to the Super Bowl, a feat that hasn’t happened since the Peyton Manning era. He’s well equipped with the targets and talents to light up a Jacksonville Jaguars team that has essentially overhauled their roster this season. Rivers has been a turnover machine in recent years, but if he can avoid ill-advised throws, look for a big first week from Rivers.
3.) Kyler Murray – Arizona Cardinals
Except for 4 or 5 games in 2019, the Cardinals were in every game. The good thing about that is none of those games were against their Week 1 divisional foe, the San Francisco 49ers. In their Week 9 and 11 match-ups, they lost by 3 and 10 respectively. This year should be different and don’t be surprised if the Cardinals split 1-1 with the 49ers because of Murray. In both contests, Murray threw for two scores against no turnovers. Though the 49ers have a stout defense, Kliff Kingsbury and Co. seemed to have figured out how to hang with the NFC West top team from last season. This will be a shoot out in Week 1 led by Murray.
Top 3 RBs
1.) Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers
If there is anything that new head coach Matt Rhule should know about his team it’s that you feed McCaffrey the ball as many times as possible. Don’t run him into the ground, but just know that your team is better when #22 has the ball in his hands. McCaffrey is why every fantasy owner wants the first pick in the draft.
Although the Raiders were in the middle of the pack in terms of rush defense last year, there really isn’t a good way to slow down McCaffrey. Look for Christian to lead his team in hopes of a season opener victory.
2.) Austin Ekeler – Los Angeles Chargers
Ekeler was perhaps the only bright spot on a lackluster Chargers team in 2019. While the Chargers look to return to the playoffs, Ekeler should be the play-maker that helps swing the momentum of games. The great thing for Ekeler is he doesn’t have to worry about another RB coming back mid-season to supplant his touches.
In a Week 1 match-up with the Cincinnati Bengals, Ekeler is poised to start the season big. In 2019, the Bengals were the 9th worst rush defense in the league. Add in the fact the Ekeler can also catch the ball out of the backfield and you have a recipe for success in this match-up.
3.) Josh Jacobs – Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders will be looking to start off the season with a win vs the Carolina Panthers. A new coaching regime in Carolina could mean some growing pains through the early parts of the season. This is a good sign for Jacobs who had a stellar rookie campaign as the feature back. The Panthers defense last year was worst in the league in rush defense allowing 2,000+ yards and 27 scores. You’d think that would give Jacobs the top spot for fantasy RBs. Truth be told though, Jacobs isn’t really a pass-catching back. He’s an old-fashioned downhill runner. Regardless, look for him to have a solid start to the season.
**Any three numbers in order noted as 3/95/1, for example, refers to Receptions/Yards/Touchdowns.**
Top 3 WRs
1.) Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons
Jones and the Falcons open the season with a tough home opener against the Seattle Seahawks. Fear not though Julio Jones fantasy owners because Jones went off last year against the Seahawks.
He hauled in 10 receptions for 152 yards, though he did not score. If he can replicate that same success while adding maybe a score or two to his name, you’re looking at a 30+ point week for the #1 target in Atlanta. If that doesn’t convince you, in two of his three other career games vs the Seahawks, he’s gone over 125+ yards and tallied at least 7 receptions.
2.) Michael Thomas – New Orleans Saints
Thomas is a target machine for Drew Brees and the Saints and don’t expect that to change. Now people do give him flack for catching a lot of slants and routes under 15 yards. That’s strategy though because once you lull the defense with the boring routes, you hit them over the top for the big gain. What really matters though is that the Saints season opener is against a division rival in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So what did Thomas do against the Bucs last season? A mere 17 receptions for 296 yards and 3 scores. I think you’ll be in good hands this week with Thomas on the field.
3.) DeAndre Hopkins – Arizona Cardinals
In his debut for the Cardinals, look for Hopkins to show out and put up numbers. You may be thinking, “Richard Sherman will be covering him.” That does not bother me in the least. Larry Fitzgerald was great for Kyler Murray in his first year, but Hopkins is a whole other beast.
In a 2017 game between the Texans and Seahawks, both Sherman and Hopkins’ former teams, Hopkins went off for 8 receptions, 224 yards, and a score. He might not have that big of numbers because of the other weapons in Arizona, but he’ll still have a good showing.
Top 3 TEs
1.) Mark Andrews – Baltimore Ravens
Andrews was Lamar Jackson’s favorite target last season, and I think they pick back up where the left off last year. In two match-ups with the Browns in 2019, Andrews had 3 TDs. Though his better showing was in the second match-up where he went off 6/93/2, I believe he’ll still get a healthy amount of targets from Jackson in the season opener. The weather looks good in Baltimore for game one, and I’d expect a solid start for Andrews.
2.) George Kittle – San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are a little banged up at WR to start the season, so expect Kittle to possibly lead the team in targets in Week 1. Kittle has a good rapport with QB Jimmy Garoppolo and head coach Kyle Shanahan is always thinking of creative ways to get the ball to his TE.
In Kittle’s lone contest vs the Cardinals last season, he hauled in 6 receptions for 79 yards and a score. Look for Jimmy G and Kittle to start the season off right with a good game.
3.) Rob Gronkowski – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Gronk is back and fantasy owners across the nation are hoping he can return to his prime form. I believe he does just that in his debut contest with the Bucs. Mike Evans is currently nursing a hamstring injury – an injury that ended his season last year – and if he is unable to go Week 1, look for the upside of Gronk’s production to increase. For what its worth, the sole time Gronk played the Saints, he went off for a 6/116/1 stat line. Here’s to a possible Gronk spike TD in Week 1.
Top 3 FLEX Options
1.) Cooper Kupp – Los Angeles Rams
In Kupp’s two career contests vs. the Dallas Cowboys, he’s gone 5/60/1 and 6/41/1 respectively. Now in both scenarios, those are solid numbers for a slot receiver. Also, Kupp has an excellent rapport with QB Jared Goff, so you can expect him to get a healthy amount of targets in Week 1.
2.) Davante Adams – Green Bay Packers
3.) D.J. Chark Jr. – Jacksonville Jaguars
For starters, the Jaguars look to be down in games this year more often than not, so they’ll be forced to throw the ball more often, especially in the 3rd and 4th quarters. Chark is good enough though to reel in some big plays early on. One of the few bright spots for the Jaguars in 2019. In a week 11 match-up last year with the Colts, Chark went off with 8 receptions for 104 yards and 2 scores.
Top 3 DEF/STs
1.) Los Angeles Chargers
I don’t know if you saw the video of Joe Burrow running for his life in the pocket, but I did and it gave me pause about the potential for success in his rookie year. Add in the fact that he now has two Pro-Bowl defensive ends rushing him – Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram – my heart goes out to Burrow and his scrambling ability. Expect the Chargers to put a lot of pressure on Burrow in Week 1 to force a couple of turnovers.
2.) Buffalo Bills
The jury is still way out on the Adam Gase project that is happening in New York. While last year the Jets had these random flashes of what they are capable of, most of the time they faltered. While the Bills did lose some talent from their 2nd rated defense last year, they also added some key talent to replace it. Look for the Bills to start off the season with a good showing from their defense fantasy-wise.
3.) Miami Dolphins
You’re probably wondering what the heck I’m thinking, that I have it wrong and the Patriots should be the team that is up here. I mean the Dolphins were the worst defense in the league last year, giving up 478 points. But it’s a new year in Miami and their defense is night and day better than it was last year with additions like Byron Jones, Kyle Van Noy, and Shaq Lawson. And this is Defense and Special Teams. So this may be seen as a long shot to many, but look for the Dolphins to have a good showing in their season opener.
Top 3 Kickers
1.) Wil Lutz – New Orleans Saints
The Saints have a very high octane offense and, in turn, score many touchdowns. This is a great thing for Lutz who was the second-best fantasy Kicker in 2019. He’s practically automatic from 39 yards and in and he plays in a domed stadium, so he doesn’t have to worry about weather. The Buccaneers have a good defense so if they get some stops, Lutz will be out there going for three.
2.) Ryan Succop – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Needless to say, I think it’s obvious why I like the Saints-Buccaneers game to open the season. Two Hall of Fame quarterbacks and a great opportunity for some fireworks. While Succop has been injured the past couple of seasons, the intrigue comes with the fact that he beat out Matt Gay, who was the third-best kicker a season ago. So this makes me think that Tampa likes where the veteran Succop is at and trust he’ll be reliable should clutch situations arise Week 1 and on.
3.) Matt Prater – Detroit Lions
Matt Prater, I pray to you! (Great SNL skit) If you haven’t noticed the correlation, I like kickers when they are in controlled environments without weather to bother them. The Lions and Bears Week 1 match-up might surprise some people with its scoring. The Bears will definitely get their stops, but Prater has the leg to give the Lions points from anywhere inside 60 yards.
It’s great to have the football season back as we all have been counting down the days. Whether you are playing in a league with friends or you are playing on sites like DraftKings and FanDuel, I think some of these options are good to take into consideration for your team. And if you’re opponent in your office fantasy league has one of these players, well I already know you hope that I’m wrong!
Agree with this assessment? Disagree? Feel free to let me know in the comments or on Twitter at @RealsleeepyG. Have a good weekend and praise your higher power that football is back!