Football is finally here. This is the moment every fantasy owner and fan alike have been waiting for all offseason and preseason. With 2018 fantasy drafts now in the books, you have done your research and are chomping at the bit for real football to start. This is no dress rehearsal, but we know most of you may be on the fence about tough Week 1 matchups and who to start and who to sit.
Let’s establish a baseline right now. I am never going to tell you start Todd Gurley or Ezekiel Elliot. I am never going to tell you sit Le’Veon Bell or Aaron Rodgers (But you may want to sit Le’Veon Bell because he is not projected to play Week 1). You invested heavily in these players early in drafts to start them every week and that is understandable. But, if a matchup proves beneficial or troublesome to an early round stud, we are going to tell you.
This is just a recommendation based on statistical data and in no way is a guarantee. We are here to help you optimize your fantasy rosters and win your league, but we all make mistakes and get things wrong.
As always, if you have any Start/Sit questions, please hit me up on Twitter @Bishphat. And a huge thank you to @FreshMeatLeague for all the graphics in this article, which depict a defense’s fantasy results last season against that players respective position. Enjoy.
KIRK COUSINS: QB Minnesota Vikings vs. San Francisco 49ers
(21.0 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS)
Kirk Cousins signed with the Minnesota Vikings in the offseason and inherits a true deep threat in Stephon Diggs and a 1,200 Yard Receiver in Adam Thielen. The addition of Richard Sherman to this 49ers Secondary should scare opposing offenses, but Kirk Cousins should be able to find a lot of throwing lanes in this one and could even run for a score in Week 1. I would expect him to exceed his projected point total in Week 1 and find his new receiving core for multiple scores.
JOE MIXON, RB Cincinnati Bengals vs. Indianapolis Colts
(11.0 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS)
The Bengals offensive line struggled mightily last season against the run. They had 10 different offensive linemen play at least 80 snaps and all 10 gave up at least 1 sack. The Bengals line averaged just 3.17 yards per carry and 0.93 yards before contact on outside runs, which was 5th and 3rd lowest in the NFL respectively. The offensive line is projected to be vastly improved this season, which should help to open holes for Mixon.
The Colts are coming into 2018 with the 21st Ranked pass rush in the NFL with Jabaal Sheard (91.3 Grade) as the only notable edge defender and not much outside of him. While the Colts defense was ranked 31st last season against pass catching running backs, they were surprisingly tough against receiving running backs where it mattered :
- 94 targets against (31st in NFL)
- 72 Receptions against (28th in NFL)
- 2 Receiving TDs given up (28th in NFL)
Joe Mixon should find some running room in this one and could be involved early in the passing game, allotting him additional opportunities for early points. He should be a lock for 15+ Fantasy Points.
ALEX COLLINS (START OF THE WEEK): RB Baltimore Ravens vs. Buffalo Bills
(10.6 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS)
The Ravens Week 1 matchup at home against the Buffalo Bills is a dream for 3rd year running back Alex Collins. The Bills defense was terrible last season against the run and the worst in the NFL in most fantasy categories that mattered. Baltimore returns the 18th ranked front 5 in the NFL and one that is much improved from last season.
The Ravens totaled 146 Total Targets to their Running Backs last season, which was 4th in the NFL and since 2015, they have averaged 157 Targets to their Running Backs per season. The Bills are returning the 31st ranked pass rush in the NFL and a defense that ranked 20th in the NFL to pass catching running backs last season. This is my RB Start of the Week and Collins may be a candidate for 20+ Fantasy Points Week 1 against a bad Bills Defense. Start him with Confidence
KEENAN ALLEN (START OF THE WEEK): WR Los Angeles Chargers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
(13.25 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS)
I know dude, this is a no-brainer! You most likely drafted Allen in the 2nd round this year to be an every week starter. But Week 1 could be enormous for Keenan Allen and help him become the breakout superstar that we know he is. In 2018, the Chiefs defense ranked 31st against #1 receivers and 18th against slot receivers. Keenan Allen, the Charger’s #1 receiver, lined up in the slot on 49% of his snaps last season. Allen was targeted 9.9 times per game last season, which was 5th best in the NFL. On top of the that, Kansas City’s Defense let up the most fantasy points (391.50) and the most fantasy points per game (24.5) to Wide Receivers in 2017. No team played man coverage more often in 2017 than the Chiefs Defense and Keenan Allen ranked in the 97th percentile in success rate among NFL Wide Receivers vs. man coverage:
Kansas City’s newly acquired slot corner Kendall Fuller may slow Allen down a bit, but he should find plenty room and rip off chunks of yardage in this offensive barrage. Expect Allen to be a league leader Week 1 in receiving with over 100 total yards and multiple scores. This will be his year.
ALLEN ROBINSON, WR Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers
(10.1 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS)
We haven’t seen Allen Robinson in almost 12 months since tearing his ACL Week 1 and missing the entire 2017 season. Coming into 2017, Robinson was coming off back-to-back 150+ target seasons and a 1,400 Yard, 14 TD campaign in 2015. He is not a burner, but a big bodied receiver with good hands who runs effective routes.
The Bears offense should be able to create mismatches by splitting newly acquired Tight End Trey Burton outside and creating one-on-one coverage for Robinson to get open. Green Bay Defense was ranked #32nd in the NFL last season against #1 Wide Receivers. Robinson should be peppered with targets in this one and should exceed 15+ fantasy points.
Green Bay Packers Defense 2017 Against Wide Receivers:
- 2,572 Yards Against (7th in NFL)
- 21 TDs Against (1st in NFL)
- 40 Fantasy Points Against (2nd in NFL)
- 3 Fantasy Points Per Game (2nd in NFL)
DELANIE WALKER (START OF THE WEEK): TE Tennessee Titans vs. Miami Dolphins
(8.3 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS)
Use this as a Rule of Thumb going forward: START ANY AND ALL TIGHT ENDS AGAINST MIAMI DEFENSE. The Miami Dolphin Defense has a sweet spot for opposing Tight Ends – one that yields a considerable amount of Fantasy Points. The Dolphins Defense gave up the most total fantasy points (163.4) and most points per game (10.2) to opposing tight ends last season.
In 2017, opposing offenses targeted their Tight Ends 25.8% of the time against Miami’s Defense, which was the 3rd highest rate in the NFL. The Dolphins Defense also allowed 5.8 receptions to Tight Ends per game last season, which was tied for 1st in the NFL. Delanie Walker is questionable for Week 1 at Miami with an undisclosed injury but is expected to be ready for the opener. Even if he can’t suit up and go on Sunday and your desperate for a Tight End, pick up his backup and start him, whoever that is (Jonnu Smith). I know you’ve never heard of him and that may be a slight exaggeration, but that is how bad Miami’s defense is against Tight Ends. Start any and all Tight Ends at Miami, starting with Delanie Walker.
JIMMY GAROPPOLO, QB San Francisco 49ers vs. Minnesota Vikings
(16.3 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS)
A late season trade brought Jimmy GQ over to the bay area for a 5 game sample size, where his play electrified a fan base and reinvigorated a franchise that has been searching for a career QB. While Garoppolo may be poised for a Breakout in the Bay, it may be wise to avoid him Week 1 in your fantasy league. The Minnesota Vikings were pretty dominant against opposing quarterbacks in 2017:
Minnesota Vikings 2017 Defense Against Quarterbacks:
- 323 Completions Against (30th)
- 3,291 Yards Against (31st)
- 12 TDs against (32nd)
- 24 Fantasy Points Against (30th)
- 7 Fantasy Points Per Game (30th)
Minnesota is returning All-Pro Cornerback Xavier Rhodes and All-Pro Safety Harrison Smith, who was the highest graded safety in the league last season (97.0). The Vikings are coming into 2018 as the #6 ranked secondary in the NFL, who play hard and play with intensity. Yards and Fantasy Points will be hard to come by in this one, so look elsewhere if you have other options.
KENYAN DRAKE, RB Miami Dolphins vs. Tennessee Titans
(10.0 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS)
When Jay Ajayi was traded to Philadelphia Week 12 of the 2017 season, Kenyan Drake took his opportunity and ran with it, averaging 18.2 Carries, 88.8 rush yards and 13.4 fantasy points per game in the last 5 weeks of the regular season. Miami’s Front Five is the 29th Ranked O-Line coming into the 2018 season due to run blocking issues upfront. Miami’s offensive line struggled immensely last year against the run, with running backs averaging just 0.59 yards before contact, which was last in the NFL by a wide margin (Detroit was second to last with 0.96 yards) and well below the NFL average of 1.56 yards before contact.
While the hype is sky-high for a full season of Kenyan Drake this year, he may get bottled up early in this one, struggling to find running lanes. Tennessee is very porous against receiving running backs:
- 134 Targets Against (3rd Highest in NFL)
- 99 Receptions (2nd Highest in NFL)
- 967 Yards Against (1st Highest in NFL)
- 5 Receiving TDs against (2nd Highest in NFL)
But I wouldn’t count on him being heavily involved in the pass game (3.0 AVG. Targets per Game – 21st in NFL among RB). It may be hard, but if you can find the heart to, I would bench Kenyan Drake Week 1.
DEVONTA FREEMAN (SIT OF THE WEEK): RB Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles
(12.25 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS)
Devonta Freeman is a poster boy of consistency in fantasy football. He is the only running back with 195 carries and 35 catches in the last 3 seasons. He is also the only running back with 1,100 total yards from scrimmage and 8 touchdowns in the last 3 seasons. He is currently being drafted 18th overall in round 2 as RB 12 and was not drafted just to be benched Week 1. But when you see the Eagles Defense coming, you may understand.
The Eagles Defense ranks 7th in most targets against (124), 10th in receptions against (91) and 6th in Receiving TDs against by a running back, meaning they can be exposed by pass catching running backs. However, Freeman only averaged 3.4 targets per game last season (30th among RBs) and continues to not be much of a factor in the passing game. The Eagles have the #2 ranked Defensive Line in the NFL coming into 2018 and running room may be hard to find in the opener, forcing the Falcons to abandon the ground game and resort to the pass. He won’t be much of a factor on the ground or in the air, so keep him on your bench. I know it sucks.
ODELL BECKHAM, JR (SIT OF THE WEEK): WR New York Giants vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
(12.5 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS)
Don’t get mad at me. I’m just being realistic here. The New York Football Giants have a tall task for Week 1 in their home opener when they face off against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars are returning the #2 ranked Defensive Line, along with the #1 ranked Secondary in the NFL, led by All-Pro Jalen Ramsey (91.8 Grade). Ramsey and fellow corner A.J. Bouye (88.0 Grade) held opposing quarterbacks to an impressive 36.8 Passer Rating and they are ranked #1 in the NFL against opposing team’s #1 Wide Receivers (OBJ). The defensive line, led by Calais Campbell (93.5 Grade) will face the 26th Ranked NY Giants offensive line, who allowed 27 sacks last season, which was the 4th most in the NFL. If that wasn’t enough, take a look at the numbers:
Jacksonville Jaguars Defense 2017 Against Wide Receivers:
- 142 Receptions Against (32nd)
- 1,768 Yards Against (32nd)
- 9 TDs Against (30th)
- 238 Fantasy Points Against (32nd)
- 9 Fantasy Points Per Game (32nd)
I know you invested early draft capital in Beckham with a late 1st or early 2nd round pick, but there is no guarantee for elite production in Week 1 against the best defense in the NFL. Sit him. You’ve been warned.
DAVID NJOKU (SIT OF THE WEEK): TE Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
(7.90 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS)
David Njoku has been a preseason darling and a trendy sleeper Tight End coming into the 2018 NFL season. The big-bodied, physical Tight End will be thrust into a full-time role and may become a popular Red Zone target for Tyrod Taylor. However, the Steelers were the 3rd best team last season in defending Tight Ends, with only 2 Tight Ends topping 58 yards and allowing 2 TDs all season, which was 1st in the NFL:
Pittsburg Steelers Defense 2017 Against Tight Ends:
- 61 Receptions Against (28th)
- 2 TDs Against (32nd)
- 30 Fantasy Points Against (30th)
- 6 Fantasy Points Per Game (30th)
Njoku may be destined for a breakout 2018 campaign, but he will not find a lot of opportunities against the Steelers in Week 1. You may want to look for other options.
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