Fantasy Football Rankings: Week 1 Matchups To Consider
The first week of the NFL season is FINALLY here and the Fantasy Footballers have their Week 1 Rankings out for your consideration. Every Thursday throughout the NFL schedule we’ll take a look at players from each position that may need a little extra attention prior to locking in your roster for the week.
As always, I want to hear from you, so drop a comment here or find me on Twitter: @KurtKnowsBest.
Joe Burrow (CIN) vs Pittsburgh
Easily the biggest discrepancy in the Ballers QB rankings for Week 1 involves Joe Burrow hosting the Steelers. Andy believes in the Bengals QB, ranking him at QB4 on the week, while Jason has him all the way down at QB-10.
Burrow managers drafted him based on the hot finish to 2021 where he posted back-to-back QB-1 overall performances during the fantasy playoffs and finished as the QB8 on the season as a whole. The biggest concern for managers will be seeing how the Bengals’ offense comes out of the gate. Cincinnati invested a lot into improving the offensive line, which should improve their bottom-10 rushing totals from 2021, but could take away from the passing opportunities Burrow has to go nuclear for fantasy teams in 2022.
Lamar Jackson (BAL) @ NY Jets
Fantasy managers hoping to see vintage Lamar Jackson may get their wish with a juicy Week 1 matchup against the New York Jets. Lamar disappointed with a QB15 finish on the year for 2021 due in part to missing five games but still was on pace for 4000 passing yards and 1000 rushing yards on the season.
The Ballers clearly still believe Lamar can be an elite fantasy QB with both Jason and Mike ranking him as their QB1 for Week 1. The matchup against the Jets can only help their thinking. New York finished bottom-5 in both passing and rushing yards allowed in 2021.
Saquon Barkley (NYG) @ Tennessee
The Giants and fantasy managers are hoping to see the Saquon Barkley of old Sunday in Tennessee. Barkley’s ability to return to the RB-1 form we saw in 2018 & 2019 has been a hot topic of debate throughout the draft season. The “Quad Father” may have his work cut out for him, with the UDK ranking the Titans as the toughest matchup for RBs in Week 1.
Andy and Jason have Barkley sitting as a back-end RB1 for Week 1, while Mike has him sitting at RB15. I agree with Mike’s caution with Barkley and would like to see how the Giants’ offense functions under new Head Coach Brian Daboll before putting my eggs in that basket.
Travis Etienne Jr. (JAX) at Washington
The NFL will finally get to see Travis Etienne Jr. on the field when he suits up in Washington after a Lisfranc sprain cost him the entire 2021 season. Andy, Mike, and Jason each have Etienne as a mid-RB-2 on the week, but I’m a bit more optimistic about his opportunity to be an RB1 out of the gate.
James Robinson is reportedly going to have a “significant role” in Week 1’s game against the Commanders despite a late-season Achilles injury in 2021. However, it’s Etienne’s expected work in the passing game with college teammate and starting QB, Trevor Lawrence, that intrigues me most about having him in my lineup.
Javonte Williams (DEN) at Seattle
Fantasy managers are hoping the Broncos’ 50-50 split from 2021 between Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon is a thing of the past. Williams only saw 75% of snaps in 2021 once and he finished as the RB1 on the week with 102 rushing yards, 76 receiving yards, and two TDs.
While we should expect to see a different Broncos offense with Russell Wilson at QB, Williams getting to take more of the workload is the type of different fantasy managers are most interested in seeing to start the year. The Broncos have a great matchup for Williams to outperform his consensus RB14 from the Ballers, with the UDK ranking the Seahawks as the 3rd best matchup for RBs in Week 1.
Keenan Allen (LAC) vs Las Vegas
A consensus WR-1 for Week 1 from the Ballers, Keenan Allen has felt like a steal in fantasy drafts for most of the draft season. Allen was 2021’s WR14 on the year and is an essential part of one of the biggest offenses in the league, but has a matchup that’s maybe tougher than first meets the eye.
Last season, Allen finished as WR58 and 49 respectively when playing the Raiders. That could be due to seeing a lot of Raiders slot corner Nate Hobbs, who PFF ranked as a top-10 slot corner after just his rookie season. I’d proceed with caution with Allen for Week 1.
Marquise Brown (ARI) vs Kansas City
It’s easy to forget that Marquise Brown started 2021 with six TDs in his first seven games before being injured in Week 10. Brown didn’t catch another TD on the year but still finished as the WR23.
A change of scenery over the off-season brings Brown back together with his college QB, Kyler Murray, and the Ballers’ 14th-ranked WR in Week 1 should have plenty of opportunity to reconnect with him on the field. Brown should see plenty of targets against Kansas City with no DeAndre Hopkins on the field for at least six weeks.
Gabriel Davis (BUF) at LA Rams
The darling of the off-season at WR was easily Gabe Davis. After putting in only two top-24 WR weeks for the entire year in 2021, Davis exploded in the Bills’ playoff loss against the Chiefs with four receiving TDs.
Andy, Mike, and Jason each have Davis ranked as WR20 in the NFL’s season-opening game against the Rams. There’s a chance that Davis sees a good bit of Jalen Ramsey Thursday night since the Rams didn’t move Ramsey to a particular receiver often in 2021. Davis’ upside comes in the red zone where he saw 28.6% of the Bills’ targets last season.
Darren Waller (LV) at LA Chargers
We’ll finally get a chance to see the new-look Raiders passing game against the Chargers in LA to start the season. None of the main targets – Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow, and Darren Waller – saw a single target through their four pre-season games. Waller barely saw a practice field either but isn’t listed on the Raiders’ injury report ahead of their debut.
Waller loves playing the Chargers. He’s been a top-10 TE in three of his last four games against the division rival, including a TE1 finish back in 2020 where he posted nine receptions for 150 yards and a TD.
The Ballers each have The Wallerus inside their top-6 TEs for Week 1, but Mike sees the light ranking him at TE3. The Chargers are expected to be without their big free agent addition to the secondary, JC Jackson, Sunday afternoon. Expect Waller to benefit from his absence.
Cole Kmet (CHI) vs San Francisco
The Bears don’t project to have a ton of fantasy production from their offense, but Cole Kmet may be a necessary option that could lead fantasy managers to a draft gem in 2022. Much has been made throughout the draft season of Kmet’s potential for positive TD regression since he finished with 2021 with 612 receiving yards and zero TDs.
If the Bears’ offense is able to take a step forward, Kmet stands to see consistent production, which is something you’re looking for outside of the top TE names. The Ballers have Kmet ranked as their consensus TE15 for Week 1, but of the TEs outside the top-12, he’s the one I wouldn’t be shocked to finish as a TE1 on the opening weekend.