BITTER BIRDS
Week 1 NFL Fantasy Rankings
By James Worthington The NFL season has finally arrived, and for most football fans, that also means fantasy football is upon us! As you and your friends battle it out throughout the season, I will be posting my rankings at each position every week. These rankings reflect standard scoring leagues, and should not be used for PPR leagues, or other types of scoring. They take heavily into account matchups, and thus should not be used to value players for an entire season. My analysis will go into certain players’ outlooks for both this week and for the season as a whole. Quarterbacks: 1. Russell Wilson, Seattle 2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay 3. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis 4. Drew Brees, New Orleans 5. Matthew Stafford, Detroi t6. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh 7. Derek Carr, Oakland 8. Eli Manning, New York Giants 9. Cam Newton, Carolina 10. Kirk Cousins, Washington 11. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville 12. Carson Palmer, Arizona 13. Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo 14. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay 15. Philip Rivers, San Diego 16. Brock Osweiler, Houston 17. Dak Prescott, Dallas 18. Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets 19. Matt Ryan, Atlanta 20. Alex Smith, Kansas City 21. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia 22. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati 23. Robert Griffin, Cleveland 24. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee 25. Jay Cutler, Chicago Analysis: You may notice something odd about the top five quarterbacks for this week: no Cam Newton. I love him for the rest of the season, but the panthers have a brutal matchup against a Broncos defense that absolutely slaughtered him in the Super Bowl. I believe the Panthers win the game, but it will be a low scoring affair. Cam gets his man Kelvin Benjamin back, but do not forget about the broncos corner backs. Harris Jr. and Talib may be the best duo in the league. Matthew Stafford is ranked fifth this week, in large part due to the matchup with the Colts. Indianapolis did not do much to improve a horrible defensive unit, and I expect them to be very fantasy friendly to quarterbacks this season. Stafford is someone who I am very high on this season, and it boils down to one reason: Jim Bob Cooter. After Cooter took over as offensive coordinator last season for the Lions in week 9, he was the fourth best fantasy quarterback for the remainder of the season. Yes, he lost Megatron, but the offensive line has improved, and I expect an improved Eric Ebron. Also, the acquisition of Marvin Jones was huge and takes some attention away from Golden Tate. This offense will put up serious numbers this season. Derek Carr and Eli Manning have great matchups this week as well, with Oakland squaring off against New Orleans, and New York facing Dallas. Yes, both are traveling to their opponents’ stadiums this week, but I believe Carr and Manning will light it up. Expect an improved running game in Oakland, which will open up things downfield for Carr to hit Cooper, Crabtree, and tight-end Clive Walford, who is an excellent sleeper this season. If and when Amari Cooper takes the next step into the top-tier of wide-outs, Carr will also take another step forward. Eli Manning had a sneaky good season last year for New York. He ranked tenth in overall fantasy points among quarterbacks, and has posted back to back solid campaigns. The Giants added Sterling Shepard in the draft, and he has been nothing short of stellar in training camp and the preseason. With the return of Victor Cruz, and a commitment to Rashad Jennings as a bell-cow back, look for Eli to post another solid season, starting Sunday in Dallas. Running Backs 1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota 2. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles 3. Lamar Miller, Houston 4. Deangelo Williams, Pittsburgh 5. Ezekiel Elliot, Dallas 6. David Johnson, Arizona 7. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay 8. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta 9. Mark Ingram, New Orleans 10. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay 11. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo 12. Spencer Ware, Kansas City 13. Latavius Murray, Oakland 14. Ryan Mathews, Philadelphia 15. Frank Gore, Indianapolis 16. CJ Anderson, Denver 17. Rashad Jennings, New York Giants 18. Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 19. Matt Forte, New York Jets 20. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina 21. DeMarco Murray, Tennessee 22. Jeremy Langford, Chicago 23. Christine Michael, Seattle 24. Ameer Abdullah, Detroit 25. Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati 26. Melvin Gordon, San Diego 27. Arian Foster, Miami 28. Justin Forsett, Baltimore 29. Danny Woodhead, San Diego 30. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnat 31. LeGarrette Blount, New England 32. Matt Jones, Washington 33. Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland 34. Duke Johnson Jr., Cleveland 35. Thomas Rawls, Seattle 36. Derrick Henry, Tennessee 37. James White, New England 38. Chris Ivory, Jacksonville 39. TJ Yeldon, Jacksonville 40. Terrance West, Baltimore 41. Charcandrick West, Kansas City 42. Charles Sims, Tampa Bay 43. Bilal Powell, New York Jets 44. Theo Riddick, Detroit 45. Jay Ajayi, Miami 46. Tevin Coleman, Atlanta 47. Darren Sproles, Philadelphia 48. Shane Vereen, New York Giants 49. James Starks, Green Bay 50. Javorius Allen, Baltimore Analysis: Ranking third this week is Houston’s Lamar Miller. Not only am I extremely high on him this week, as the Texans face a Chicago defense that allowed over 120 rushing yards a game last season, but I am very high on Miller for the entire 2016 season. Miller finished last year as fantasy’s number six running back despite only averaging just over 15 touches a game and playing behind an average, if not below average, offensive line. The Texans other options at running back are the unimpressive Alfred Blue and rookie Tyler Ervin, so I expect Miller to be the workhorse back this season, getting anywhere between 20-25 touches a game. Miller should have a phenomenal game, which puts him right on the heels of Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley. After the top five running backs, things get a little less clear for this week. I love David Johnson for the season, but Arizona faces a solid New England defense. While I believe the Cardinals will win, Johnson may struggle some. However, following a great rookie season in which Johnson averaged just over 18 points per game over the last five weeks, he is a must start in week one. Next up are Doug Martin, Devonta Freeman, and Mark Ingram, all of which I expect to regress some this season. They fall into a similar category of David Johnson; while not in the same tier as Johnson, they are must starts considering their 2015 seasons. None of their matchups are enticing, but none are terrible either. Two backs in the RB2 category with great matchups are Spencer Ware and Latavius Murray. Ware, filling in for injured Jamaal Charles, is expected to receive the boatload of carries in a usually heavy Kansas City rushing attack. Adding to his fantasy appeal this week, Ware faces a San Diego defense that allowed the sixth most rushing yards in 2015. Expect Charcandrick West to vulture some carries and handle most of the passing downs, but Ware is a solid play. Latavius Murray gets a great matchup against New Orleans, one of the most fantasy-friendly defenses of past seasons. If you haven’t guessed yet, I am starting most Oakland Raiders players this week. Although Murray disappointed last season in what many thought would be a break-out campaign, he has all the physical skills necessary to be a star in the NFL. I fully expect a solid showing from the Oakland tailback on Sunday. One last note; in general, I avoid starting any running backs in 60/40 or 50/50 carries splits, unless there is a great matchup. A lot of coaches will go with the hot hand, and it is impossible to tell who that will be before the game starts. Obviously if you drafted someone likeDeMarco Murray, he is most likely your RB2, and you pretty much have to start him. However, I generally avoided all running backs in running-back-by-committees in my drafts this year unless one fell late and there was tremendous value. If you do have Murray, but have a lesser feature back with a solid matchup on your bench, consider benching DeMarco given the Titans tough test against Minnesota. Wide Receivers 1. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh 2. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants 3. Julio Jones, Atlanta 4. Deandre Hopkins, Houston 5. Allen Robinson, Jacksonville 6. Amari Cooper, Oakland 7. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay 8. Brandon Marshall, New York Jets 9. AJ Green, Cincinnati 10. Dez Bryant, Dallas 11. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay 12. Sammy Watkins, Buffalo 13. Brandin Cooks, New Orleans 14. Keenan Allen, San Diego 15. Alshon Jeffrey, Chicago 16. TY Hilton, Indianapolis 17. Randall Cobb, Green Bay 18. Doug Baldwin, Seattle 19. Demaryius Thomas, Denver 20. Golden Tate, Detroit 21. Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis 22. Jeremy Maclin, Kansas City 23. Eric Decker, New York Jets 24. Michael Crabtree, Oakland 25. Marvin Jones, Detroit2 6. Julian Edelman, New England 27. Emmanuel Sanders, Denver 28. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona 29. Jarvis Landry, Miami 30. Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina 31. Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia 32. Sterling Shepard, New York Giants 33. John Brown, Arizona 34. Tyler Lockett, Seattle 35. Michael Floyd, Arizona 36. Desean Jackson, Washington 37. Willie Snead, New Orleans 38. Tavon Austin, Los Angeles 39. Allen Hurns, Jacksonville 40. Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay 41. Corey Coleman, Cleveland 42. Stefon Diggs, Minnesota 43. Pierre Garcon, Washington 44. Torrey Smith, San Francisco 45. Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh 46. Michael Thomas, New Orleans 47. Kamar Aiken, Baltimore 48. Will Fuller, Houston 49. Devin Funchess, Carolina 50. Terrell Pryor, Cleveland AnalysisThe top three wide receivers will most likely only shuffle in order throughout the season, barring injury. Brown, OBJ, and Julio Jones were basically the consensus top 3 players in drafts,and I fully expect them to live up to the hype as they are practically matchup proof. Donte Moncrief is a sneaky play this week, as the Colts face-off against Detroit. I expect this one to be a shoot-out, and am starting T.Y. Hilton, Moncrief, Golden Tate, and Marvin Jones without hesitation. All are solid WR2s Tate having borderline WR1 upside. Also, as I mentioned earlier, start both Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree as both should have major performances against a soft New Orleans defense. One receiver I am avoiding this week, unless there is simply no other feasible alternative is Julian Edelman. Edelman is without Tom Brady, and is facing a stingy Cardinals defense. TheCardinals only allowed 230 passing yards per game last season, and Edelman will most likely be blanketed by Patrick Peterson all game. Even when he is lined up in the slot, the Cardinals’ linebackers are more than capable in zone coverage, and while he poses a miss-match against a linebacker in man coverage, the Cardinals will not get caught in that scenario too often. Edelman also has to worry about Tyrann Mathieu at safety, and thus faces a brutal matchup this week. He will see his targets however, and the Cardinals also must worry about Martellus Bennett, but he is a borderline WR2 for the opening week of the season.As for the Cardinals receivers, I believe all are solid flex/WR3 plays this week, with Fitzgerald leading the way. A lot of people expect him to regress this season given his age and a potential breakout of Michael Floyd and/or John Brown. The Patriots defensive backs are talented, however, so tamper expectations in week one for all three. On a weekly basis, it may be frustrating seeing Floyd go off one game, then Fitzgerald the next, and Brown in another. This is similar to the running-back-by-committee issue I addressed above. I tried to avoid Cardinals receivers in drafts unless there was value at a certain pick. Palmer spreads the ball out fairly evenly to his three main targets and running back David Johnson, so any given game one of the three wide-outs could be a stud or a dud. If I had to choose one for the season, I expect John Brown to be the best of the bunch. His stats in his first three seasons are eerily similar to Antonio Brown, and while I do not expect John to turn into Antonio, I believe a breakout season is on the horizon. Tight Ends 1. Jordan Reed, Washington 2. Greg Olsen, Carolina 3. Travis Kelce, Kansas City 4. Coby Fleener, New Orleans 5. Martellus Bennett, New England 6. Delanie Walker, Tennessee 7. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia 8. Gary Barnidge, Cleveland 9. Julius Thomas, Jacksonville 10. Antonio Gates, San Diego 11. Jimmy Graham, Seattle 12. Clive Walford, Oakland 13. Zach Miller, Chicago 14. Eric Ebron, Detroit 15. Jason Witten, Dallas 16. Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis 17. Jesse James, Pittsburgh 18. Charles Clay, Buffalo 19. Virgil Green, Denver 20. Vance McDonald, San Francisco 21. Jared Cook, Green Bay 22. Richard Rodgers, Green Bay 23. Jordan Cameron, Miami 24. Larry Donnell, New York Giants 25. Jacob Tamme, Atlanta Analysis:One major name is missing from the top of this list: Rob Gronkowski. Sadly for those who drafted him, he did not travel with the Patriots to Arizona, and thus is out for Sunday’s game. This propels teammate Martellus Bennett into the top five for this week. New England loves to target their tight ends, and even with Garoppolo at quarterback, I believe he is a solid play. Bennett is available in many leagues, so those looking for a Gronk replacement should start with Bennett. If he is not available, Clive Walford most likely is, and you can do much worse than Oakland’s young tight-end. Many people are lower on Jimmy Graham this week than I am, considering his poor season in 2015 and the injury he is returning from. However, he will be on the field for Seattle, and I expect them to put up points at home against Miami. Russell Wilson threw the ball more than ever last year, and with a full offseason with his tight-end, I expect Graham to bounce back this season. He will most likely never put up the numbers he was once known for again, but double digit touchdowns is not out of question for this season. I believe Graham gets off to a good start this weekend. One last name to remember for this season: Jesse James. The former Penn State standout is Pittsburgh’s starting tight-end with Ladarius Green out of the lineup. James possesses all the physical tools to excel in Pittsburgh’s offense in a role similar to what Heath Miller had. It was reported Green was considering retirement early this summer, so if James gets off to a good start,expect him to keep the job. He is worth monitoring in these early weeks of the season. Defense 1. Seattle 2. Carolina 3. Houston 4. Los Angeles 5. Denver 6. Minnesota 7. Kansas City 8. Green Bay 9. Arizona 10. Cincinnati 11. New York Jets 12. Philadelphia 13. Buffalo 14. San Francisco 15. New England 16. Baltimore 17. Pittsburgh 18. New York Giants 19. Tampa Bay 20. Oakland Analysis: Seattle leads the way this week, and most likely will be a top five unit throughout the season. At home against the Dolphins, this unit should thrive. I also expect the Texans, another highly drafted DST to generate a lot of turnovers at home against Chicago this week. Jay Cutler is known for his bad decision making, so expect J.J. Watt and company to thrive. I am extremely high on the Rams this week, not because of their talent, but because of the matchup. Chip Kelly’s offensive system is known to be a killer for DSTs in fantasy, however, the 49ers have little talent on that side of the ball, starting with their Quarterback. I do like Carlos Hyde, but besides Hyde and Torrey Smith, this offense puts no fear into opposing defenses. Also, Tavon Austin is an explosive returner, and thus, this unit is a top five option this week. If you are one of the people that stream DSTs, there are some solid plays this week. I believe the Eagles defense will be much better this season under new coordinator Jim Schwartz. Most of the players last season were 4-3 guys playing in a 3-4, but now with Chip Kelly gone, the Eagles have returned to a 4-3 defense which better suits their talent. Yes, the corners are putrid, but the rest of the unit is solid. Against a Browns offense which is starting RG3 after he rode the bench all of last season, I believe the Eagles have sleeper potential this week. Kickers Ks 1. Steven Hauschka 2. Adam Vinatieri 3. Mason Crosby 4. Stephen Gostkowsk i5. Justin Tucker 6. Chris Boswell 7. Dan Bailey 8. Chandler Catanzaro 9. Blair Walsh 10. Matt Prater 11. Graham Gano 12. Nick Novak 13. Cairo Santos 14. Matt Bryant 15. Brandon McManus 16. Sebastian Janikowski 17. Roberto Aguayo 18. Randy Bullock 19. Caleb Sturgis 20. Dustin Hopkins Analysis: There is little to analyze here. Kickers vary little in points per game, so start who you drafted. I like Hauschka, Vinatieri, and Crosby because I expect their offenses to move the ball and put up points. I am also higher on Chris Boswell than others because of how good the Steelers should be offensively. Gostkowski’s value will suffer some while the Patriots are without Tom Brady, but he is the best in the business, so do not get fancy and start him!That’s it for this week, good luck to everyone and look for my rankings for next week!