With football finally back, this means one of our greatest national obsessions in fantasy football also returns. Each year millions invest plenty of time (and often money) into their teams in order to beat their friends or others. For those who haven’t read this series before, I’m going to pick one player at each position who could exceed the expectations of fantasy players in a given week. So if you’re expecting to see something that says to start Antonio Brown or another top tier player, that won’t be the case. With that said, on to my week one picks.
QB: Matthew Stafford vs Colts: A few years ago, Stafford was far too touted from a fantasy perspective to have placed in this type of article. However, factors such as losing Calvin Johnson can change things. Despite losing a future hall of famer, Stafford has shown in the past that he is able to incorporate other pass catchers into the Lions offense.
It’s also worth noting that the right Cooter can change a man, and if the second half of last season is any indication Stafford is in good hands. With Jim Bob Cooter calling the offensive plays, Stafford was one of the top fantasy quarterbacks down the stretch. Going up against a banged up Colts secondary in a game that could be very high scoring, start Stafford with confidence. Expect around 275 yards and two touchdowns.
RB: Ryan Mathews vs Browns: It didn’t seem likely this time last year that Mathews would be the Eagles starting back for any reason in 2016 besides a DeMarco Murray injury, but here we are. By this point entering year seven, we know the drill with Mathews. He’s a very talented back but has trouble staying healthy. The good news is this is week one, so this will probably be the healthiest he is all year.
Beyond that, with Carson Wentz making his first career start the Eagles might limit the playbook and rely on Mathews and the running game (Darren Sproles is a very nice option in PPR leagues this week) against a young Browns defense. This game also has some sneaky shootout potential so don’t be surprised if Mathews ends up being one of the higher scoring backs this week. Expect around 100 total yards and a touchdown.
WR: Marvin Jones vs Colts: Jones unfortunately have some “he’s no Megatron” comments directed his way by Lions fans, but who is? Despite that, he has a fantastic opportunity to immediately contribute against a Colts defense that at this time is quite vulnerable. At the very least, Jones will be a productive WR3 this week and will be a nice option for daily fantasy players to save cap at the position. Expect around 70 yards and a touchdown.
TE: Vance McDonald vs Rams: I said these would be surprises right? McDonald most likely isn’t on very many fantasy radars at this point and time, but he very well could be as soon as next weeks waiver wire. Blaine Gabbert seems to have formed a solid rapport with him, so targets figure to be here. Also in a game where the 49ers could be playing from behind, that leads to more opportunities.
If you’re in desperate need of a tight end or looking to punt the position to spend up on other areas in daily fantasy, McDonald is worth a serious look. Expect around 50 yards and a touchdown.
K: Nick Novak vs Bears: Kickers in fantasy all come down to having the opportunities. Against a Bears defense already dealing with injuries, I’m expecting the Texans to put up points meaning Novak will get his. If you play kicker roulette from the waiver wire each week, there are much worse options out there this week. Expect around three extra points and two field goals.
DEF: Eagles vs Browns: While I mentioned this game has sneaky shootout potential and Robert Griffin has looked improved this preseason, I still like the matchup for the Eagles. Teams usually don’t show much in terms of defensive scheme in preseason so things can be rather vanilla. Even though I think Griffin could recapture some of the RGIII form this season, going against a Jim Schwartz defense that knows how to get to the quarterback and force turnovers may not be a great start. If you like streaming your defenses weekly, this is a unit that could be available. Expect around four sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery.