Top 12 Start’em
Kevin White WR (Chi) vs Falcons- With Bears number one wideout Cameron Meredith out for the season, White will get a golden opportunity to break out in 2017. I believe that will start right away at home against the Falcons who have a mediocre defense at best. Game script plays a crucial role here as well since the Falcons should score a ton of points on a poor Bears defense, forcing the offense to play catch-up halfway through the game. Although standout cornerback Desmond Trufant will be covering White a good portion of the time, he should receive a heavy volume of targets, big play chances, and multiple red-zone opportunities due to his size.
Duke Johnson RB (Cle) vs Steelers- This is clearly projected to be one of the most lopsided games in Week 1, so once again game script will dictate a scenario in which the Browns will need to pass if they start falling behind early. Duke Johnson is the primary pass-catching RB on this team, and a very good one at that. With rookie QB DeShone Kizer slated to start this game, Duke should see a lot of targets as a safety valve, on screen plays, and in the flat. The Browns will want to give their rookie QB a chance to complete quick, high-percentage plays in the short to intermediate passing game, and if the Steelers are up by a lot they’ll leave the room to allow those plays underneath.
Davante Adams WR (GB) vs Seahawks- Against a top-notch defense like the Seahawks, the Packers’ elite offense will struggle in certain areas. Martellus Bennett will have an arduous task getting open against two of the best safeties in the NFL. Ty Montgomery will find little room to run on a stout Seahawks front seven, and Richard Sherman will lock down the left side of the field as he usually does. That leaves Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams with the best opportunities for targets and TD opportunities this Sunday, and most of the time Nelson will be lined up against Sherman, so Adams should be in for a very productive outing.
Bilal Powell RB (NYJ) at Bills- Powell may seem like an obvious start to some, but there are question marks surrounding him. With Matt Forte still around, the timeshare percentages between them is up in the air depending on game flow and the like. Also, the Jets are one of the worst NFL teams in 2017, so Fantasy production will be hard to come by for anyone. Powell is the younger, fresher, and more electrifying of the two backs. He’s also a prolific pass-catcher who’ll receive the bulk the of targets, which bodes well for him as the Jets fall behind in most games.
Sam Bradford (Min) vs Saints- Don’t hang me on this one, but although Bradford hasn’t panned out like he was supposed to when drafted first overall back in 2010, he has established himself as a game manager for a team built for one. In 2016, Bradford threw 20 TDs, five interceptions, and for almost 4,000 yards for a Vikings team that lost their starting RB after three games and had a sub-par offensive line. The additions of Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray will make a major difference for this backfield in 2017. Bradford is especially an intriguing play Week 1 at home against a bottom of the barrel Saints defense, and although the Vikings will always look to be a run-first team and manage the clock, game script suggest the Vikings will need to throw more than usual because the Saints will put up points, even against a stingy Vikings defense.
Jack Doyle (Ind) at Rams- With Andrew Luck guaranteed to be out for at least the first week of the season, the Colts will struggle mightily. On the road against an above average Rams defense will be a tall task for anyone on this Colts offense, but they will need to throw the ball for a few reasons. The strength of the Rams defense is within the front seven. Frank Gore will find it difficult to find space to run, especially considering the Rams will most likely stack the box against him with little fear of Scott Tolzien at QB. The Rams’ offense looks ready to take a step forward with some new acquisitions, they can easily take a big lead on the swiss cheese Colts defense. Doyle should see a lot of targets late in this game when they’re down by 17 and the Rams send heavy pressure. Tolzien will need to get the ball out quick in the middle of the field and that’s where Doyle will be.
Jaguars D/ST at Texans- The Jags D is young but very talented, and even on the road in Houston they should get some good production in Fantasy. QB Tom Savage will make mistakes; the question is whether the Texans will be able to run the ball well with Lamar Miller. This should be a very low scoring game since both offenses are well below average and both defenses have huge upside. I can see plenty of turnovers in this one for both sides. Just hope the Jags offense doesn’t give up amazing field position and easy scoring opportunities.
Kendall Wright (Chi) vs Falcons- Wright is a solid slot receiver and now with Cam Meredith on the shelf, he should play a key role in the offense. A lot of the defensive attention will be on Jordan Howard and Kevin White, the two most talented big play threats on the Bears’ offense. Glennon isn’t safe by any means, but he will look to target Wright underneath and in short yardage third downs quite often. He’s a better PPR play because he’ll be the go-to possession receiver. The Falcons defense is middle of the road and the game script favors the Bears playing catch-up. There will be plenty of passes to go around and Wright is the most reliable target.
Marquise Goodwin (SF) vs Panthers- Goodwin is an intriguing sleeper in 2017. He has speed to blow past most defensive backs and the Panthers’ secondary was one of the worst in 2016. Not much has changed in their secondary and the 49ers could struggle in the ground game because of the Panthers’ stout front seven. The 49ers defense is young and vulnerable, so the Panthers will put up points. All signs points to the 49ers eventually switching to a pass-happy approach, and Goodwin is the perfect player to give you a home run and win you the week.
Jonathan Stewart (Car) at 49ers- As previously mentioned, the 49ers defense is well below average and these 2017 Panthers should put up good numbers against them. Fellow RB Christian McCaffrey is an obvious must-start, especially in PPR formats, but Stewart is a nice standard league and DFS play. He’s reliant on TDs and will lose touches to McCaffrey, but the Panthers should run the ball early and often, and should have a relatively easy time doing so. Stewart should find himself in at least a few goal-line opportunities and a healthy number of yards.
Danny Woodhead (Bal) at Bengals- Health is the one big issue with Woodhead in terms of season-long Fantasy, but we’re talking Week 1 and he looks ready to go. The Bengals defense has some quality players on it, but it’s an overrated unit. Terrance West is the early down workhorse by default, but Woodhead has the most talent in this backfield with Kenneth Dixon out for the season. Woodhead is a PPR play, however, so in standard formats his value declines heavily. There have been high praises about him from the Ravens, and I believe Joe Flacco will showcase his value right away. Expect a high volume of targets for Woodhead, making him a great cash game play in DFS with a safe high-floor Flex play in season-long for Week 1.
David Njoku (Cle) vs Steelers- The Browns rookie TE Njoku is in an advantageous position to have a great first season. DeShone Kizer’s been named the starter for Week 1, and historically, rookie QBs use their TEs as safety valves in the short to intermediate passing game, and Njoku is no average TE. He was a first round pick, has the size and athleticism to become a great dual-threat TE in the NFL. As I’ve mentioned earlier, game script will dictate a second-half of high volume passing for the Browns to keep up with the Steelers’ prolific offense. The Steelers will look to key on the run and Isaiah Crowell behind the strength of the offense, the offensive line. Take a chance on the rookie. He’s boom or bust but the risk is worth the reward.
Top 12 Sit’em
Dak Prescott (Dal) vs Giants- With Zeke Elliot prepared to start Week 1, Prescott’s value goes up some in this game. Still, the Giants have a great defense and have the Cowboys’ number as well. The Cowboys will look to pound the ball all day with Elliot knowing the Giants secondary will have Dez Bryant and Co. locked up. Prescott might not do bad in terms of efficiency, but he won’t be lighting up his receivers all over the field. There’s just very little upside in this match-up for Prescott, so look elsewhere for a QB this week.
Mark Ingram (NO) at Vikings- The Vikings have one of the best defenses in the NFL, and they have multiple talented players at every level. Their defensive line is especially solid, so the Saints may struggle to run. However, even if they don’,t Ingram is in a timeshare situation with Adrian Peterson and rookie Alvin Kamara will most likely see a lot of third-down work. The Saints are also a pass-heavy team, shrinking the opportunity for quality volume even more. Unless Ingram sees a respectable number of targets through the air in PPR formats, it’s difficult to trust him. I’d take a wait and see approach, see what type of timeshare they use this week and act accordingly.
Frank Gore (Ind) at Rams- See Jack Doyle above. Gore is 34 years old and clearly not the same player he once was. The match-up is tough, on the road, no Andrew Luck to take pressure off… all signs point to an inferior performance for Gore.
Alshon Jeffery (Phi) at Redskins- Redskins defensive back Josh Norman isn’t the shutdown corner he was with the Panthers a couple years back, but he’s still a very good one. The Redskins secondary overall is solid as well. Eagles QB Carson Wentz is still growing with the offense and Jordan Matthews is gone. Jeffery is new and has been banged up throughout his career. He’s clearly a big and strong quality receiver, so if you have no other choices, start him. But, if you do have another option around the same level with a better matchup then I recommend sitting him. There are a lot of question marks here. Jeffery’s health and condition, the chemistry between Wentz and Jeffery, and even just seeing how this fresh look Eagles offense will mesh together overall are all things I’d like to see in action before I fully trust anyone on this offense.
Donte Moncrief (Ind) at Rams- Playing along with the Rams beating up on the Colts without Andrew Luck, Moncrief is also a sit. Simply put, without Luck behind center the only must-start on the Colts is TY Hilton because you just can’t bench him. He’s an elite level WR1 who drops to a WR2 with Tolzien at QB. I believe Jack Doyle is the better PPR play. Moncrief will need a TD to make him worthwhile, otherwise the volume and yards won’t be enough.
Robert Woods (LAR) vs Colts- The Rams will look to rely heavily on Todd Gurley against the Colts. They know if they can prevent any mistakes from happening they’ll win against a “Luck-less” Colts team. If there’s a receiver to own here it’s Sammy Watkins, but even Cooper Kupp could vulture targets in this offense, and Goff is by no means a reliable QB… yet.
Martellus Bennett (GB) vs Seahawks- Most people won’t have a better option but if you do, I’d roll with him. The Seahawks can be stifling to TEs because of Bobby Wagner and their two veteran safeties, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. Although not in their primes anymore, they’re both still great and intelligent at the position. The Packers have a bunch of weapons. Rodgers won’t force it to Bennett when Cobb and Adams might be open. This is another situation to watch and see how often the Packers target Bennett.
Coby Fleener (NO) at Vikings- Like Bennett, Fleener will up against a formidable secondary. Fleener was an overall letdown in 2016, but many believe a bounce back campaign is in order. The Saints will throw the ball as they always do, but even without Willie Snead this week, Fleener has a low floor.
Cardinals D/ST at Lions- For the overall season I’m high on the Cardinals defense, but not against the efficient Lions offense that’s improved over the offseason. In most match-ups, the Cardinals will be a great Fantasy defense, causing a lot of turnovers with playmakers in the secondary. I just don’t see more than one turnover this game. The Lions will incorporate more of a rush with Abdullah healthy and an improved offensive line.
Seahawks D/ST at Packers- It’s a lot to ask sitting one of the best defenses in the NFL, but the Packers are a Top 3 offense and possibly number one. They’ve added even more weapons this offseason and there’s really nothing you can do but limit the damage against them. These Seahawks are a top-notch defense, but they’re not at that elite level they were at a few years back. If this game was in Seattle it would make a significant difference.
Leonard Fournette (Jax) at Texans- Everyone wants to ride the Fournette wave and most Fantasy owners aren’t going to bench their star RB in Week 1. It’s not a bad play considering the volume Fournette will receive, but this offense is dreadful otherwise, and the Texans’ defense poses a daunting Week 1 task for the rookie. In PPR especially, I recommend sitting him because he’s not a prolific pass-catcher and TJ Yeldon will take third down work. Don’t be afraid to sit Fournette if you have a solid RB3 with a good matchup on your bench.
LeGarrette Blount (Phi) at Redskins- Blount has looked bad in pre-season. He’s a big, slow bruiser who doesn’t catch passes. So, in PPR he’s extremely reliant on touchdowns. The Skins have a solid overall defense and the Eagles have already indicated backups Smallwood and Sproles will see their fair share of touches as well. Sproles will see mostly passes and if they fall behind by a good margin, Blount becomes almost unusable. Substitute one of your bench players in a good match-up for Blount because he should be no more than a Flex play in 2017.
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