SportsGuyRy’s Highs and Lows:
In my weekly Highs and Lows column, I am going to examine the matchups that are on the docket each week and determine the players that I feel great about starting and players I’d recommend sitting or having a tempered expectations if you decide to start on a weekly basis.
In week 1, this seems to always be the hardest Highs and Lows column to write given the fact, outside of pre-season, we haven’t seen any of these players play yet. We don’t understand how much defenses improved against the pass and run. We aren’t sure how offensive lineman will gel to open up lanes for the RBs or protect QBs. We aren’t sure how chemistry between new QB’s and WR’s are going to mix.
With all the above factoring in, I’m going to guide you all the best I can to hopefully lead you into a fantasy victory in week 1.
High – Monday Night Quarterbacks Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions and Jared Goff – Detroit Lions
When looking at the match ups for these two QB’s, they each have a great opportunity to really show out on the big stage of Monday Night Football. Looking at the matchups:
Matthew Stafford gets the early game against the New York Jets. Although they brought in high priced free agent Trumaine Johnson, and second year pro Jamal Adams might have improved this offseason, I’m still not sold on their ability to hold up against a high powered passing attack. Last year, the Jets let up the 3rd most fantasy points in the league last year to QBs.
Stafford has a bevy of weapons at his disposal with Marvin Jones and Golden Tate who both finished top 20 last year in fantasy points. We have Kenny Golladay coming off a decent rookie year but with a lot of promise to improve upon that. Add in Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount to help balance the attack out some on the ground and pass catching backs Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah, there’s a lot of outlets Stafford has to be successful.
Jared Goff, similarly, has a great opportunity to start the year off with a bang. Going against the lowly Raiders defense who has gotten worse than last season with the departure of Khalil Mack and no real improvements in the secondary, leaning on Rashaan Melvin, a FA from the Colts and Gareon Conley, a second year pro coming off an unimpressive rookie season. Letting up the 11th most fantasy points to QB’s last season, I am guessing the Raiders take a step back in that category this year.
Goff is intriguing in this matchup not only because of who they play, but what they bring as well. Goff has a new weapon in Brandin Cooks, who’s as explosive as they come in the receiving game and can bust any play for big yards. Returning is a health Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, both who had very impressive seasons last year. Goff has Gurley coming out of the backfield as a rusher and receiver and a solid offensive line to give him time to analyze and get the ball out quickly against this pass rush that’s expected to be less than impressive without Mack.
Low – Jimmy Garoppolo – QB – San Francisco 49ers
I know, I know, this seems like it’s a homer pick for the Vikings fan here, however, if we look at the numbers and match up, it makes sense given Jimmy’s hot streak, where he ended the season on a 5 game winning streak, playing quite well.
Jimmy’s first test is going against the Minnesota Vikings defense that let up the 3rd fewest fantasy points to QB’s last season. The Vikings defense returns 10 of its 11 starters from last season and added in Sheldon Richardson to the interior of that line as an improvement on Tom Johnson. I don’t anticipate there being a huge decline in their production this year.
Jimmy also didn’t gain a lot from his weapons perspective this offseason. He’s got a returning Marquise Goodwin who I like as a fantasy player this year. He’s got Pierre Garcon and added Dante Pettis who is an intriguing rookie. They lost Jerick McKinnon already for the season and are relying on Alfred Morris to carry the weight at RB.
Although Jimmy is an impressive QB and ended well last year, he’s got a tough match up week 1 that I’d avoid if I were his fantasy owner.
High – Juju Smith-Schuster – WR – Pittsburgh Steelers
Juju Smith-Schuster had a fantastic rookie season. Coming off a 917 yard campaign and 7 touchdowns, I don’t think people could have asked for more from Juju. Coming into his sophomore season, he’s hands down the WR2 for this team. Why I like him in week 1 is because of a few reasons.
First being, Le’Veon Bell hasn’t reported yet and even if he does report before the first game, he’s definitely not going to be full-speed in week 1. This opens up a lot of opportunities in the passing game. On top of that, Antonio Brown has been nursing an injury all pre-season and although he’s all systems go, JuJu has been there all pre-season gaining chemistry, timing and trust with Ben Roethlisberger.
The matchup is also pretty juicy for Juju. He’s going against the Cleveland Browns and will be matched up with Terrance Mitchell and rookie Denzel Ward. Ward may have a great career but most rookies struggle transitioning into the NFL. Not only that, he’s going up against one of the best WR duo’s in the league.
If I’m a Juju owner, which I’m not in any of my leagues, I’d start him with confidence.
Low – Mike Evans – WR – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I really like Mike Evans from a player standpoint. He’s a big, fast for his size and strong receiver that can overpower and overmatch most defensive backs in the league. Unfortunately for him, specifically in week one, he’s going against one of the defensive backs that would fall into the category that is not “most”.
Coming off an spectacular rookie season, Marshon Lattimore is ready to improve on the impressive play he put on last year. When Evans and Lattimore matched up last season, Evans hauled in 6 of his 19 targets for 68 yards and no touchdowns.
That’s not all there is to dislike about Evans in week 1. His QB situation is less than ideal. With Jameis Winston being out for being an idiot, he’s got Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing him the ball. I know Fitzpatrick isn’t a complete chump, but he’s not a high caliber player. Obviously with a player of Evan’s caliber and potential, you probably can’t sit him, but understand that there’s a strong chance he repeats the results of last year against the Saints.
High – Joe Mixon – RB – Cincinnati Bengals
I’m excited to see how Joe Mixon does this year. With a full lion’s share of carries coming his way as well as an improved offensive line coming into 2018, he should be in for a good year.
His week 1 match-up should be a good indication of what he can do this season as he plays the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts last season let up the 10th most fantasy points to RBs and without significantly improving their defense, they should again let up quite a bit on the ground. Bringing in Jabaal Sheard should help and rookie Darius Leonard has looked good in pre-season according to the Colts, they may improve slightly but are still not very deep nor have great starters on defense.
With the Bengals bringing in Billy Price and Cordy Glenn to help sure up the line, there likely will be better lanes to run the ball. On top of that, there’s a great opportunity this year to utilize Mixon’s receiving ability more as a true 3 down threat. I’m starting Joe Mixon is any league I have him in happily and hoping for a great bang to the season.
Low – Ezekiel Elliott – RB – Dallas Cowboys
I may catch some flak for this but going off of what I know, it’s going to be a tough week 1 for Zeke Elliott. The Cowboys starting offense has looked atrocious this whole pre-season. With a couple of their offensive lineman (Martin and Fredrick) banged up most of the pre-season, it’s tough to know how things are going to go from that perspective. Dak Prescott is showing that he’s an average QB, especially when he only has average weapons to work with on the outside. That leaves everything to Zeke. He will be facing 9-10 man boxes most of the season, similar to AP back in his prime. He is their only legitimate weapon.
His match-up for week 1 is tough. The Carolina Panthers who let up the 3rd fewest fantasy points to RB’s last season. With Luke Kuechly and company on the other side, it’s going to be a long day to run the ball consistently. Again, I’m not sitting Zeke for week 1, but I would temper expectations as he has a tough matchup.
High – Delanie Walker – TE – Tennessee Titans
Delanie Walker is someone who you’d never realize is 34 years old. He has continued to play at a high level into his mid 30s and I don’t see that stopping in week one. Nursing a toe injury most of the pre-season, there’s not a lot of buzz around him right now which is great for this column. His match-up is one of the best for TE’s this week, playing against the 2nd worst fantasy defense against TE’s last year in the Miami Dolphins. I know they did improve slightly that could change that number some, but until the Dolphins players show they can stop the TE, I’d be happy starting any good TE against them on a weekly basis.
Walker should see quite a few targets again this season as all of Eric Deckers targets are now available. Understanding some of that will go to Dion Lewis and Taywan Taylor, there should be plenty for Walker to work with, especially in week 1. Start with confidence (as long as that Toe is okay).
Low – Travis Kelce – TE – Kansas City Chiefs
Okay, I know you’re not going to sit a guy who you drafted in the 3rd round and is easily a top 2-3 TE in the league, but again, temper expectations for week 1. Kelce is going into this match-up playing against the 6th best fantasy defense against TE’s. The Chargers are the real deal on defense and I don’t expect them to falter any from last season, meaning when they’re matched up with your TE, just know it’s going to be a tough week.
Kelce is elite and you should be starting him on a weekly basis but with that match-up and the fact he’s got a brand new, essentially rookie QB at the helm and A LOT of weapons to compete with for targets in Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Kareem Hunt, it may just be a tough week 1 as they work out how everything’s going to look.
That wraps up my week 1 edition of Highs and Lows. If I am right and helped you to a week 1 fantasy victory, you’re welcome. If you lost because I told you not to trust someone who goes off, or you start someone who sucks – It’s your own fault. You’re a grown up and make your own decisions.
Thank you and please follow me on Twitter @sportsguyry and let me know if you have any last minute fantasy questions or situations you need advice in throughout the fantasy season!