Fantasy Football: 5 Things to Watch For in Week 1

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Football is finally here! All the pre-season draft prep is about to be thrown out the window when we’re all shocked by Week 1. It happens every year; we head into the first round of games feeling like savants, knowing we made all the necessary changes from our mistakes last year, only to be smacked back to reality by the time the afternoon slate kicks off. Things will happen that are completely unexpected. Other instances will play out exactly as we all planned. The key is not to go on tilt and start dropping your 2nd and 3rd Round draft picks chasing the random 2-TD game by Ted Ginn.

This year, I’ll be writing this weekly column focused on a few key things to be on the lookout for heading into the weekend’s slate of games. Week 1 is difficult, but there are a few key things to look at for fantasy success in 2018. Here are my top five things to watch for in Week 1!

Make sure you check out the Week 1 matchups on Thursday’s podcast.

1. Le’Veon Bell Watch

I cannot skip over the elephant in the room. Owners are pulling their hair out, myself included, over what to do with this Le’Veon Bell holdout. Will he sign last minute, will he sit for the majority of the season? If you selected Le’Veon Bell in your league, take a deep breath and relax. Let this thing play out for a week or two. Let’s not forget what Bell did in 2016 when he missed the first three games due to a suspension: 261 carries, 1,268 yards and 7 TDs, with another 2 receiving TDs from his 75 receptions and 616 receiving yards. He was the RB3 for the year, and lead all players in Points Per Game. Hopefully, you’ve rostered James Conner to get you through the first couple weeks.

If you’re not a Bell owner, don’t be afraid to hit-up the Bell owner after Week 1, especially if they lose. You just might be able to acquire Bell at a discount, like the owners who drafted him in the second and thirds rounds of 2016 and road him to a championship. Bell is a game changer and paying anything under market value is an interesting proposition.

2. Rookie RBs

There are many exciting rookie RBs in the NFL this year. While Saquon Barkley is fully expected to be a top-tier RB for the season, the hype for many of the other rookies faded through August. Rashad Penny and Sony Michel missed time due to injuries and look to be early season committee members. Kerryon Johnson is going to be worked into the role and will likely be limited in the first few weeks as the Lions roll with the “hot hand” approach. Royce Freeman was named the starting RB for the Broncos, but due to being listed behind Devontae Booker all pre-season, his stock was lowered a little throughout the draft season. Lastly, Ronald Jones has absolutely fallen off the map with a terrible pre-season.

But Rookie RBs are often a difference maker in Fantasy Football and Week 1 is an important week to see where they stand. If you own any of these rookies, it’s going to be crucial to be patient. Be on the lookout for panicking owners dropping them after Week 1 if they don’t have a big game or have limited touches.  Remember: Last year, Alvin Kamara was listed as the 3rd RB on the Saints depth chart and had just 10 carries for 58 yards and 10 receptions for 76 yards, with 1 rushing TD through his first three games. He was RB27 averaging under 10 points per game. He was not being started in most leagues when he had a big Week 4 performance prior to their Week 5 bye. Kamara went on to finish as the RB3 from Weeks 6-16. Be patient with your rookie RBs and if someone drops one of them, it’s a wise idea to consider scooping them up off the waiver wire.

3. Faces in New Places

Every year we see players changing teams during the off-season and Week 1 is always an exciting time to see how they have meshed with their new coaches and teammates. 2018 seems to be the year of QB changes and many of them will have dramatic impacts on our fantasy football teams. It will be exciting to see how Kirk Cousins distributes targets between Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Kyle Rudolph, while former Viking QBs Case Keenum and Sam Bradford find themselves as the new starters in Denver and Arizona, respectively. What improvements will Keenum bring to Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and what does Mr. Checkdown Sam Bradford due to the outlook for Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson? In Washington, Kirk Cousins’ replacement, Alex Smith, finds himself with an interesting new cast of pass catchers. Does he bring along his fear of turnovers, or did 2017 open up his confidence in chucking it downfield? Who is the beneficiary of these targets?

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4. Salty Old Veterans

Fantasy Football owners are well known to be enamored with the shiny new toy and live off the mantra of “what have you done for me lately?”. Every year “boring” veterans are pushed down ADP ranks as owners reach for the next big player in hopes of hitting the lotto. Oftentimes, the most successful owners have a great mix of upside and known commodities to create a balanced team that is built for the long haul.

Some of these salty old veterans changed teams (Jordy Nelson, Frank Gore, Adrian Peterson), while others found the status-quo pushing their ADP down (Lamar Miller, Marshawn Lynch, Drew Brees, Randall Cobb).

Week 1 is often the slap in the face that says “Hey, you, over there – don’t forget about me!” While many owners chase the upside of the next best thing, we forget that they still need to get past the former best thing.

5. The Cleveland Browns

I couldn’t write this article for Week 1 without talking about the Cleveland Browns. There has been so much change in Cleveland as 59% of their roster has changed from 2017 to 2018. The amount of buzz and excitement around a team that went 1-31 over the past two seasons and has won just 4 games in the past three seasons is amazing. Everyone wants to see if they can finally turn it around. The roster looks great on paper. New QBs in Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield are at the top of the list of changes. When he takes the field Sunday, Tyrod will be the 29th different starter for the Browns since they re-entered the league in 1999 – a 19-season stretch of QB purgatory. But the team also has an impressive supporting cast on both sides of the ball. 2013’s WR1 Josh Gordon, is playing in his first Week 1 game since 2012. Newly signed free agent WR Jarvis Landry is looking to remove the “contagious” loser mentality from the locker room. The team also brought in Carlos Hyde and drafted Nick Chubb to form a formidable three-headed monster backfield with Duke Johnson. Exciting sophomore TE David Njoku has the look of a breakout candidate and future Pro Bowl candidate.

Don’t sleep on the defense, either. The 2018 unit is well-stocked with exciting first-round draft pick playmakers like Myles Garrett, Jabril Peppers, and Denzel Ward. Don’t be shocked when the Browns Defense is recommended as a top streaming option multiple times throughout this year. They may even become an every week starting unit.