My friends: the time is nigh. Pumpkin spice has returned to your local Starbucks, German restaurants are advertising pre-Octoberfest parties, and your fantasy football team is about ready to enter the fray. Whether you’re looking to win some money or just not suffer the embarrassment of losing to Tony from Accounting, we’re here to help you win your leagues.
Put it in your calendar: this year I’ll be re-capping the Sunday games with a Monday byline, as well as giving you the full fantasy football injury report on Saturday mornings. Of course, that leaves me with a quizzical task for this final pre-season article: do I write the 7,000th “draft this guy in round 20” article that you’ve read this year — and you’ve probably drafted 18 teams by now — or do I bring my award-winning analytical eye to tell you how to not fudge up your Week 1 fantasy football lineup? Our time is probably best spent doing the latter. ACKSHUALLY, our time is best spent taking a nap or staring at the ocean or contemplating a shirtless Austin Ekeler. But for now, I’m going to set you on the right track with some strategies to help you claim a week 1 victory.
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Start Your Studs: What a weird name for a player! ACKSHUALLY, this is just a reminder not to overthink your starts/sits. Be like water. Do what comes naturally. Those players that you drafted as your starter? You start them (assuming they’re sort of healthy). Those players you drafted as your bench? You sit them or swap them out for a free agent with a sexy matchup. What am I, The Bachelor? Did anybody tell you that former Razzball contributor Tehol Beddict was on The Bachelor last year? I suppose I’ll appear for The Bachelor season where they invite sweaty 40+-year-olds who wear track pants in professional settings. The Bachlor: Fantasy Analyst Edition — Coming to a Disney affiliate near you in 2025!
Rams / Bills: Opening night jitters? Nah. The Over/Under on this game is 52.5 at the time of writing, which is like 7 TDs worth of scoring. You think Josh Allen and Matthew Stafford need warmups? OK, Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson are less than optimal starts because they’ve had the least time to stretch out and recover, but you’re putting them in your week 1 roster anyway. This game is 90% guaranteed to be a shootout and you want every piece of that action that you can manage [wonders if that sentence will get past my editor]. Start all players on these teams and don’t worry about it being the first game of the season.
Trey Sermon, Sony Michel, Jalen Reagor: You ever get fired from a job and then your competition hits you up on LinkedIn saying, “We’ve got a spot for you!” Wow, you’ve got insurance again! But did you accomplish anything the first week of your new job? Probably not, unless you’re one of those “lunchpail guys” that sleeps on the oil derrick, slipping every milkshake that comes your way. Also, you’re an oil worker! How sexy. Most sports stars who join a new team make no fantasy impact for several weeks. You can drop Sermon, Michel, Reagor (did you draft him? how brave!), or any other player who swapped teams in the last week of the pre-season. These team-traders (or traitor? hmmm) are fantasy irrelevant right now, and you could get a better performance out of just about any backup RB/WR in Week 1. If you’re playing DFS, you can feel free to make a couple of contrarian lineups if a guy like Sermon is told to “prove it” on the field and they stumble their way into a TD with a $2500 salary. Don’t overthink it: drop these guys in all redraft formats and find somebody else to ride on your bench.
Antonio Gibson: Will I get canceled if I post a Sopranos GIF? Gibson lost his job to rookie RB Brian Robinson. Then, the day after Robinson staked his claim to the coveted position as RB1 to Carson Wentz, the rookie RB suffered multiple gunshot wounds in a carjacking. Yeeesh. Our Razz best to Brian Robinson on a full and speedy recovery. Meanwhile, Antonio Gibson should take over RB1 duties for the Commanders. For readers with short memories, Gibson finished as RB12 last year, despite a nagging stress fracture injury. Why wasn’t he a shoe-in for RB1 in 2022? Probably the same reason the Commanders looked at the QB market and thought, “Sure, Carson Wentz looks like a winner.” Whatever. I’m not The Athletic, asking you for $1 a month and telling you why Antonio Gibson couldn’t keep his job. I am a fantasy footballer (DT put it on my job description) and I’m pointing you to the value picks. Start or pickup Antonio Gibson (available in 6% of leagues!) and enjoy your accolades.
Trey Lance: News broke this week that the fine-chinned Jimmy Garoppolo (there’s always one less “r” than I think in that name) signed to stay with the 49ers and now fantasy footballers (my competition, not me) are shouting from the rafters that Trey Lance is useless and will be supplanted by Jimmy G at halftime in week 1. “Nobody keeps a top quarterback as a backup!” they shout. OK. Jimmy G has never finished as a usable 12-team QB in his career. He played 83% of snaps in 2021 and finished as QB17 on a per-game basis. For NFL, that’s fine. There are NFL teams that would literally play a wide receiver at QB rather than train up a QB stable (see the 2020 Broncos, or the many years the Vikings used Joe Webb as QB3…and sometimes QB1. I digress). ENYWHEY. Lance is QB1 in Silicon Valley until he proves otherwise. If you drafted Lance at ADP, you probably did so as either the 10th-12th QB off the board or as your backup QB. If Lance is your starter, you start him. If you drafted him as an early backup, you sit him and start Joe Burrow or whoever you drafted first. Fantasy football is easy!
The Week 1 Winners
Matt Ryan and Jameis Winston: So you did the QB freefall, didn’t you? Or maybe you’re in one of those superflex leagues, and you took a running back first round, leaving your team with nickels and dimes at quarterback. That’s OK, all change pays the same. Matt Ryan debuts for the Colts against the [checks notes] Houston Texans. [stifles laughing] OK footballers. Here’s one of those cases where you let the narrative drive your choices. Ryan wants a career resurrection in Indy, and he’s got a cake matchup to start. Before 2021, Ryan was about as consistent as a top 7-12 QB as you can get. I know what’s a weird thing to say — QB 7-12 — but fantasy football veterans understand that the QBs in that range win your leagues. Tom Brady was there for a decade when he was just a “game manager.” Meanwhile, Winston’s back and supposedly healthy with a Saints team that is also supposedly healthy. Supposedly chocolate milk is healthy, too. These guys are remarkably high on Rudy’s Fantasy Football Week 1 Rankings, so go snag them now if you’re desperate for a QB start. If you want more awesome information like that, cough up the $1/week to get Rudy’s projections and help keep the venture capitalists away.
Chase Edmonds: OK, Chase Edmonds has never been a winner. Whatever. He can catch a ball, and he fell into the RB1A slot to Raheem Mostert‘s RB1B slot in Miami. Mostert hasn’t played in [checks notes] a while so Edmonds will be getting all the traction in Miami for a hot minute. Edmonds is available in 15-20% of leagues and could produce sneaky upside value in PPR leagues. If you’re in one of those non-PPR leagues — and I honestly don’t hear about those leagues except for stories where “It’s my 20-year-old home league, and we still run it on newspapers, and I’ve had Tom Brady as a keeper since before the Iraq War began” — well, you’re stuck out of luck. Hope you could follow the logic of that interjection!
Marvin Jones: We all know Jacksonville will be a mess, but what’s really a mess is thinking “Christian Kirk: WR1″ by default. Kirk’s fine and I’m not throwing shade his way, but he struggled to be fantasy relevant on an air-first Arizona team for years before DeAndre Hopkins missed significant time in 2021. Marvin Jones doesn’t jump out as your season-long WR solution, but he’s a good band-aid for a week 1 matchup against the Commanders.
Rondale Moore: See what I said above about Christian Kirk making money in Arizona while Hopkins was out? Well, Hopkins is still out, and Moore is the WR2 in Arizona now. ‘Zona (that abbreviation saves two characters, bee-tee-dubya) faces off against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1. The over/under on the Cardinals/Chiefs at the time of writing is 53.5, or 7ish touchdowns. Who will get those TDs? 7 TDs for James Conner? Marquez Valdes-Scantling? Who knows. But with all eyes on Marquise Brown as the WR1 in ARI, there could be nice opportunities for guys like Rondale Moore or A.J. Green to snag extra scoring opportunities. All these WR2 guys are basically free, so you can march them out at will if you need a WR/Flex option for week 1.
Gerald Everett: There’s nothing un-sexier than being a tight end on the Chargers. [reads Wikipedia history on Antonio Gates] OK, maybe us fantasy footballers get things wrong from time to time. ENYWHEY. Everett is on his third team in three years, and he’s never really established himself as the fantasy tight end that analysts want him to be. For 2022, he suits up for the pass-first Chargers, which will likely increase his odds of seeing meaningful receptions and possibly a TD. Most of the TE around Everett’s level are fringe anyway, and they all have the same potential to crash and burn or see the sun. Maybe Icarus was a tight end? ENYWHEY. The Chargers/Raiders game also has an outstanding 52.5 over/under at the time of writing, meaning this slate is due for about 7 TDs. If you’re looking for a TE, Everett is as good a fill-in as you could find. If he doesn’t work out, it won’t be any worse than Cole Kmet or Irv Smith or the ghost of Robert Tonyan.
Week 1 Avoids
Baker Mayfield: Sure, he’s in Carolina now and the “new year/new you” narrative is strong. You’re thinking “Christian McCaffrey is back! Robbie Anderson rocks! DJ Moore catches everything!” Sure. And I look great in a cut-off t-shirt and fedora. Mayfield has never finished as a useful fantasy QB in his career. What’s worse, is that he hasn’t even been Superflex QB2 useful in the past three years. Yeesh. The Over/Under on the Panthers/Browns game is barely above 40 points, and we’ll probably see CMC do his thing to get the Panthers in the groove for the rest of the season. Rudy has Mayfield beneath Marcus Mariota on the Week 1 rankings, and Mariota hasn’t played meaningful football since 2019. Let Baker prove himself before rostering. Get it? Baking? Proof? I wish Hollywood Brown was on his team so I could make a Paul Hollywood joke.
Michael Thomas: The Saints wideout will return to action for the first time since intense Covid protocols were in place. Think about that — a possession receiver who has missed nearly 30 consecutive NFL games and most of the 2022 pre-season. Should Thomas be your starting wideout in Week 1? Probably not. Thomas will make sense later this year — hopefully! — but you’re probably better off grabbing one of the Chiefs/Cardinals wideouts for your team instead of starting MT this week.
Dameon Pierce: Geez, there was like a one-week window where his ADP made sense. Pierce — a 4th round rookie — stands to inherit the running back duties for the Texans. Also: the Texans are awful. Sure, Brandin Cooks will put up some nice numbers, and Davis Mills will probably be streamable, but these are simply effects of the Texans being down 3 touchdowns at the half every game. Pierce won’t be involved in the Texans’ games once the team is down a couple of TDs. No team has a bigger spread on the Week 1 slate than the Texans vs Colts — and the Texans are massive underdogs on the Vegas line. Sure, if you’re a contrarian gambler, it probably makes sense to chuck some money at the spread and put Pierce on your DFS lineups. But for the average Joe and Jane and Jose? You’re better off avoiding Pierce in Week 1.
OK footballers! This is your last chance to get me on the horn before the start of the NFL season. What questions do you have? Have you been hydrating? How’s your fantasy baseball team doing?
If you’re looking for more EverywhereBlair, catch me on Saturday morning with the injury report for Week 1. If there are certain types of coverage you want, let me know in the comments. Have an awesome week and best of luck!