An abundance of optimism greets us prior to Week 1 of each fantasy season, when untested potential is rife with possibilities. Yes, it’s easy to envision a league title before the first snap has been played and I hope you have that kind of confidence in your squad. If you do, chances are you’re not agonizing over your Week 1 lineup. But if you didn’t draft well or have already been hit by the injury bug (sorry Jerrick McKinnon owners) you may be searching for an early season equalizer.
— Matthew M. Stevens (@stevens_mms) September 2, 2018
Week 1 Bank
Royce Freeman, Denver vs. Seattle
Opportunity is king and Freeman has been crowned, as the Broncos named the rookie their starter on Monday. He surpassed passing-down specialist Devontae Booker with his performance in the preseason, carrying the rock 15 times while averaging 5.6 yards per carry and scoring three touchdowns. Coach Vance Joseph has also lauded Freeman’s pass-blocking skills, something that regularly keeps rookies sidelined. Freeman is a sleeper to finish top-ten at his position, and if you got him at a good value (I grabbed him in the seventh round in my PPR league) he could be a huge difference-maker. Just please don’t name your team Rolls Royce.
Carlos Hyde, Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh
At present this backfield belongs to Hyde, so don’t let Nick Chubb intimidate you – yet. Chubb did nothing in the preseason to unseat Hyde, and while I expect the Browns to get Chubb involved it’s going to be a slow process while Hyde is healthy. Factor in Duke Johnson Jr. on third downs and there’s no rush to get Chubb on the field with capable veterans ahead of him. Hyde is a solid if not exciting dual-threat back, as evidenced by his 938 rushing yards (3.0 YPC), eight rushing touchdowns and 59 receptions for 350 yards in 2017 with the 49ers. Until further notice, Hyde should be in your lineup.
Marquise Goodwin, San Francisco at Minnesota
Goodwin put together a strong second half of 2017, finishing inside the top-20 at WR in both standard and PPR formats from Weeks 9-17. He finished as the team’s leading receiver with 962 yards and two TDs on 105 targets. Part of the reason for his turnaround?The Niners traded for Jimmy Garoppolo. Prior to that, Goodwin was catching passes from C.J. Beathard and Brian Hoyer. With Jimmy G at the helm, Goodwin is primed for a breakout season. The duo will be tested by the Vikings’ defense, but it’s a test I believe they’ll pass.
Chris Hogan, New England vs. Houston
Tom Brady could probably throw to Uncle Rico and take the Patriots to the Super Bowl. But instead he’s got Hogan, who was a top-10 wide receiver in standard and PPR formats through Week 8 last season before injuries derailed his campaign. Danny Amendola split for Miami, Julian Edelman is suspended four games and outside of Gronk, Hogan’s competition for targets includes Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrele Patterson (LOL). Roll out the former lacrosse star with confidence.
Week 1 Bench
Alfred Morris and Matt Breida, San Francisco at Minnesota
If you’re a poor soul like me who drafted McKinnon then you probably picked up one of these guys off the waiver wire after news of McKinnon’s season-ending ACL tear. Both have the potential to be weekly fantasy options, but I’m not ready to bet my first week’s matchup on either. Minnesota’s defense is intimidating enough, and a cloudy backfield situation only amplifies that. My gut says Morris, who previously played under Kyle Shanahan when Shanahan was the offensive coordinator in Washington, will get the yeoman’s share of work going forward. Morris, who joined the Niners before their third preseason game, has admitted he isn’t fully up to speed on the playbook. That means Breida, who eventually should settle into the passing down role, will get first crack at starting.
Josh Gordon, Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh
There’s no denying Gordon’s talent when he’s on the field. Problem is, we don’t know how much he’ll play against the Steelers as he works his way back from a hamstring injury. He also took a leave of absence during the preseason due to personal reasons. We do know that Antonio Callaway will start in his place, although Gordon will see the field against Pittsburgh. Those who reached to draft him knew the risk, but this is not going to be a week where that risk pays off. I’m rooting for Gordon as he works to regain the form he showed before his battle with addiction almost cost him his NFL career, and I like his outlook for the season in Cleveland’s revamped offense. I’m just not buying him as a reliable fantasy asset this week.
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo at Baltimore
Shady is trending down and it’s not just because of his potential legal trouble. In his age 30 season McCoy heads into Week 1 with a nagging groin injury, lining up behind an inexperienced QB who threw five interceptions in his NFL debut last season (hello, Nathan Peterman). The Bills offense is one I want no part of for the forseeable future, and that puts a big damper on McCoy.
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