Fantasy Football: Decoding the Top 12 QBs for Week 1

This is now my 4th year attempting to make sense and somehow manage to sift 32 starting QBs (before bye weeks) down to selecting just 12 to be a QB1. In other words, 20 guys will not be invited to this party and leaving out a couple invitations is heart-breaking.

Because the QB position is so streamable, there are a number of good weekly options. The goal is to find the right blend of your league waiver wire QBs and some solid matchup-dependent plays. This isn’t about predicting exact order of finish, but more identifying which guys have the best shot to be among the top 12. We will organize our weekly picks in these 4 categories:

Four-Sures: Top 4 for the week and definite must-starts.
Com-Four-table: Four QBs with relatively safe floors with added upside to be a solid top-12 choice.
Four In the Door: Four QBs who could sneak into the top-12 including the Ballers “Stream of the Week” option and at least one daring dart throw.
Four-Get-About-It: Four QBs I’m fading this week and projecting to finish outside the top 12.  Often this includes some higher profile QBs with tougher matchups that could underperform.

Note: Each week I will post at the bottom the success rate of the previous week. The goal is to be transparent as well as hopefully help fantasy owners and DFSers make better decisions at the QB position. In this business of predicting matchups with untold variables, anything above a 60% mark for the season is downright unbelievable.

Check out where Andy, Mike, and Jason have their QBs ranked for Week 1.

Four-Sures

Drew Brees vs. TB
Despite whatever let-downs Brees had as your fantasy QB in 2017, he starts off 2018 in an unbelievable spot at home against the hapless Bucs. The Buccaneers defense ranked dead last in passing yards allowed and 31st in Pass DVOA last year. As 9.5 point favorites in a game with a 49.5 over/under, he is a slam dunk for a QB1 week.

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Aaron Rodgers vs. CHI
Don’t be scared of this upgraded Bears defense. He’s Aaron Rodgers at home in Lambeau as 7.5 point favorites. You drafted him as THE QB1 so don’t get cute.

Tom Brady vs. HOU
The Patriots currently have 3(!) WRs on the roster so you might be panicking that the sky is falling in Foxboro. But as 6 point favorites in Vegas’ highest over/under (51) of the week, Brady is going to have to come up big regardless of who is catching the ball. 2017’s MVP is going up against a Texans defense that allowed the most points in the league, ranked 25th in pass DVOA, and the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing QBs. He’s a top-5 play.

Cam Newton vs. DAL
Newton returned to form last year finishing as the QB2. He’s a must-start almost each week. The Cowboys ranked 25th in total defensive DVOA including 28th against pass-catching RBs and 25th against TEs. In other words, Cam’s top options (McCaffrey and Olsen) are set to be involved early and often. With the rushing ability and goal-line upside added in, you’re looking at a QB with one of the highest Week 1 floors. He is the Ballers’ consensus QB2 for the week.

Com-Four-Table

Ben Roethlisberger @ CLE
Big Ben. On the Road… Stop it. Le’Veon Bell is MIA… Stop it. Say to yourself: over the final 7 weeks of the year averaging 22.7 fantasy points, the MOST for QBs in the second half of the year. His weapons are the elite of the elite and he will have a chance to rock-and-roll against Cleveland. (See what I did there) This Browns’ defense ranked 19th in passing yards allowed and 26th in Pass DVOA but 4th in run DVOA. Bell’s ongoing saga doesn’t affect Big Ben. Start him with confidence.

Philip Rivers vs. KC
If you waited on QB and ended up with Rivers in the double-digit rounds, you are rewarded with a splendid Week 1 matchup. This Chiefs’ defense is going to be picked on all year as they ranked 29th in passing yards allowed and 23rd in pass DVOA last season. No Marcus Peters around anymore or Tamba Hali rushing the QB. With a 25 point team implied total, you can safely bet on 260+ yards and 2 TDs from last year’s passing yardage leader.

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Deshaun Watson @ NE
If you spent an early-round draft pick on Watson, you drafted him to be your starter no matter how scary a Week 1 matchup on the road in Foxboro might be. This Patriot defense was thrashed last year to the tune of ranking 31st in defensive DVOA. With the highest over/under of the week, there’s a shootout brewing between Watson and Brady. Watson is the consensus QB6 this week in the Ballers’ rankings.

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Kirk Cousins vs. SF
The new sheriff in town is a must-start Week 1 against the 49ers at home. With Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, and Kyle Rudolph, there are plentiful options for Captain Kirk to set his phasers to kill. San Francisco’s secondary ranked 22nd in passing yards allowed and 28th in pass DVOA last season. With a team implied total of 26, there are points to be scored.

Four in the Door

Matthew Stafford vs. NYJ
Stafford was drafted because his opening schedule (1st 5 weeks) is a dream. The Jets allowed the 3rd-most fantasy points to opposing QBs in 2017 and he’ll be at home as a 6.5 point favorite with a 25.8 team implied total. All of those add up to a QB1 week. Jason has him rated as high as QB3.

Marcus Mariota vs. MIA
We’ll get our first chance to see OC Matt LaFleur’s system fully implemented, which has seemed stuck in neutral during the preseason. Mariota has a chance to get on the right track against a Dolphins secondary that ranked 29th in pass DVOA and 28th against the TE position. Delanie Walker is in a position to smash as an under-the-radar stack in DFS.

Andy Dalton vs. IND
Dalton started off 2017 with a dreadful Week 1 which probably left a terrible taste in the mouths of fantasy owners. He is definitely a perfect Week 1 streaming option against arguably the worst defense in the league. The Colts ranked 28th in passing yards allowed per game and LAST in pass DVOA last year. He’s a perfect GPP-type play in DFS according to our Ben Cummins.

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Alex Smith @ ARZ
I do not endorse this pick for the faint of heart nor for anyone in redraft leagues. This is pure gut. A DFS dart throw at best. I stand alone on this island as the Ballers have him ranked as QB17. But remember this article’s task isn’t necessarily defining who are the best QBs but who could be a top-12 in any given week. Smith has been insane over the last two years on Week 1s. He was the QB1 in 2016 and 2017 during the 1st week and I welcome this matchup on the road with Arizona. I think he’ll have the attempts to stay in QB1 striking distance in a game where I’ll take the over (44).

Four-Get-About-It

Nick Foles vs. ATL
There’s Super-Bowl winning Nick Foles and then there’s what we’ve seen during the preseason: a middling backup. Despite being at home, he faces a young Falcons defense built on speed. He’s the Ballers QB23 so definitely outside starting territory.

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Jimmy Garoppolo @ MIN
It’s not the right matchup. The Vikings allowed the FEWEST fantasy points to opposing QBs in 2017. He could get there by sheer volume but this is a shutdown crew so avoid if possible. The Ballers have him at QB22.

Russell Wilson at DEN
Wilson is elite. This has nothing to do with him but more the matchup and the trajectory of this Seahawks offense. We also cannot ignore the fact that Seattle has the 3rd lowest team implied total (19.8) of the week against a Broncos that ranks 2nd best in DVOA against WR1s. Being on the road as 3-point underdogs doesn’t bode well. I don’t see the ceiling in this one so he’s a low-end QB1 at best and in my guestimation, perhaps outside the top 12.

Tyrod Taylor vs. PIT
I’m not as crazy about Taylor and this Browns offense this week. The Steelers allowed the 8th-fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs and ranked 7th best in pass DVOA last year. They also ranked #1 against the TE position. As a 4-point underdog and a low team implied total (21), I much rather side with Mike, who has him ranked as QB19 this week.


Week’s Record: TBD

2016 Overall Percentage: 56%