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Fantasy Football Week 1 Rankings: Matchups and Projections for Players We Love

Fantasy Football
September 11, 2015

One game down, 15 more to go for fantasy owners hoping to start the season off on the right foot.

What did the Thursday Night Football showdown between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots tell owners?

Trust those players they love, of course. Tom Brady went off for 27 points. No Le’Veon Bell, no problem—Antonio Brown went off for 19 points and popular waiver add DeAngelo Williams scored 12. Rob Gronkowski was Rob Gronkowski with a whopping 27 points.

No matter where owners stand in the aftermath, there are plenty of games left on the slate and chances to rise above the opposition. Below, let’s take a look at projections at each position based on standard-league scoring and highlight some players we love.

Week 1 Schedule


What, afraid a few injuries will hurt Aaron Rodgers‘ production this week?

As a wise man once said, child please.

Sure, Rodgers won’t have Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb continues to struggle with a shoulder injury, but last year’s leading scorer at quarterback can make anyone look great.

At worst, Cobb suits up and plays. Davante Adams is one of this year’s biggest breakout candidates after encouraging signs last year, and the team even brought back old friend James Jones.

To top it all off, Rodgers goes against the Chicago Bears, a team that allowed the second-most points to quarterbacks last year—and surrendered totals of 28 and 36 against Green Bay.

Want a high-value pick? Don’t look past Ryan Tannehill of the Miami Dolphins. The young gunslinger got a new offensive coordinator by the name of Bill Lazor last year and proceeded to improve to the tune of just one game outside of double-digit production.

With more experience in hand and the additions of Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings, DeVante Parker and Jordan Cameron around him, Tannehill‘s in for a big day.

Oh, and he squares off against the only team to rank worse against quarterbacks last year, Washington.

Running Backs

Old reliable is back.

This refers to Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings, of course. Peterson missed most of last year, but owners would be hard-pressed to find an excuse to bench him.

Not only are Peterson’s legs healthy, the passing game around him is a threat for the first time in a long time. Teddy Bridgewater is a solid young quarterback who gets a healthy Kyle Rudolph and a new face in Mike Wallace to throw to.

New reliable is back, too.

Jeremy Hill of the Cincinnati Bengals exploded onto the scene last year as fantasy’s 10th scoring back despite double-digit totes just once through the first seven weeks of the season.

Hill grinds north-south better than most backs in the league and rests in one of the NFL‘s most balanced attacks. He won’t be subjected to training wheels this year, which means a matchup against the Oakland Raiders—a team that gave up the most points to backs last season—will produce some eye-popping numbers.

Don’t sleep on Mark Ingram down in New Orleans, either. Everyone knows he’s in an elite offense, but what they might not is the fact he went for double digits nine times last year.

This week, Ingram will see action as the every-down back thanks to an injury to C.J. Spiller. The Arizona Cardinals are a tough matchup, but Ingram has taken the last year and change to prove he can get it done through multiple avenues when healthy.

Remember Doug Martin? He’s back and looking like the rookie who rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 scores in 2012 after suiting up for just 17 games over the course of the last two seasons.

Martin also resides in an offense continuing to improve, this one thanks to the presence of rookie quarterback Jameis Winston. He’s looked great all preseason and now gets to announce his comeback against a Tennessee Titans team that ranked second to last against backs last season.

Wide Receivers

Julio Jones is the wideout in Week 1.

The Atlanta Falcons superstar finished eighth in scoring at the position last year but looks healthy and has a new coordinator in Kyle Shanahan, who happens to squeeze the most out of his top wideouts.

There isn’t much on the roster to detract from Jones’ production these days, with Roddy White looking more and more like a distraction at best while he battles back from an injury.

The matchup couldn’t be better, either. Atlanta will need to air it out early and often to keep pace with the Philadelphia Eagles, so as long as Jones can win his one-on-one battles with Byron Maxwell, he’ll post a major day.

Just keep locked on the Monday Night Football showdown because it looks like a hotbed of activity at wideout.

On the opposite sideline from Jones is an up-and-comer by the name of Jordan Matthews. The Vanderbilt product exploded down the stretch as a rookie last year when his usage increased, as ESPN.com‘s fantasy profile detailed: “Matthews saw his role increase last year as his rookie season progressed; he was fantasy’s No. 11 wide receiver from Week 9 on, racking up 6 TDs and an impressive 15.8 yards per catch. All but four of Matthews’ 98 targets — and all eight of his touchdowns — came out of the slot.”

Against the Falcons and a defense that surrendered the seventh-most points to wideouts last year, he’s sure to have a breakout game.

When it comes to surprise performances, though, don’t look any further than John Brown in the desert. With Michael Floyd nursing an injury, Brown figures to see more usage than usual in what should be a shootout against the Saints.

Brown stands as one of the best deep threats in the game and has a healthy Carson Palmer under center. The Saints allowed the sixth-most points to wideouts last year, so all it takes is a few big plays for Brown to match the hype.

Tight Ends

Tight end, by far the most frustrating position in fantasy football, is all about upside.

With Jimmy Graham stuck in a run-first offense and so many other unknowns surrounding the position, owners wouldn’t be in the wrong to take a gamble on upside and actually come away with an elite scorer.

Give Owen Daniels a shot this week.

Daniels spent time with the Houston Texans from 2006-2013 before a sluggish campaign with Baltimore last year. Now he’s in Denver with Peyton Manning, though, where Julius Thomas scored 24 touchdowns over the past two seasons before departing.

In this offense, anything is possible for the veteran.

Defense/Special Teams

Too easy.

It really is as simple as playing whichever defense lines up across from the Jacksonville Jaguars each week.

This week it’s the Carolina Panthers, one of the league’s most underrated units as is. Charles Johnson, Star Lotulelei, Kawann Short and Kony Ealy make up one of the league’s most underrated units. Everyone knows about big names such as Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Charles Tillman.

The Jaguars surrendered the most points to defenses last year. Not only should the Panthers get a few turnovers, Ted Ginn on punt and kicks returns looks promising.


A shootout can mean a lot of points for a kicker, so go back to the Bears-Packers showdown.

Mason Crosby put up seven double-digit performances last year and a date with a struggling Chicago franchise screams another opportunity to have a big game. The Bears gave up the most points to kickers last season, totaling 24 points over two contests against Green Bay.

Going with the sure thing is always the safest play at kicker. Crosby has been at this a long time and defines the word “safe” these days.

All scoring info courtesy of ESPN standard leagues, as is points-against info and ownership stats as of September 11. Statistics courtesy of ESPN.com. All ADP info courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator.

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