Written by Anthony Reimer, Writer and Contributer, @reimeras on Twitter and @mrmeseeks on the Fantasy Life App
It’s finally here! Football is upon us! In less than a weeks time we’ll get to see real live football that matters. Since you’re reading this column, you more than likely have listened to the FLAFFL House podcast and followed their rankings and will be celebrating a decisive victory, rather than licking your wounds and overreacting to a week 1 loss.
Now, if you’ve listened to the podcast and read many of the columns on this very site, than you most likely waited on QB, DEF and TE as me and many of my fellow writers advise. Hopefully, you drafted those positions in the later rounds with an eye on Week 1, knowing that you had a great matchup to start.
However, if you didn’t and ended up with someone with a bad matchup like Marcus Mariota vs. Minnesota or Virgil Green vs. Carolina, let me walk you through the waiver wire to give you some guys owned in less than 50% of ESPN leagues that could be worth picking up and starting. This is not a start/sit column, always consult the FLAFFL House rankings before making lineup decisions, this is rather players I think will give you solid production.
Matt Ryan (ATL) vs. Tampa Bay owned in 42.2% of leagues.
I know Matty Ice isn’t the sexiest quarterback in fantasy. Hell, he’s about as sexy as Bill Belichick at the beach, but he’s going up against a defense that allowed the eighth most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in 2015. In two games vs. Tampa Bay last season Matt Ryan went 67/90 for 666 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Tampa was middle of the pack overall in defensive DVOA vs. number 1 receivers, but Julio Jones is no normal number 1 and was able to get 20 catches for 255 yards against them. Tampa ranked dead last in DVOA vs. number 2 receivers, and the addition of Mohammed Sanu should allow Ryan to exploit that weakness more than Leonard Hankerson and the ghost of Roddy White did last year. I like Ryan to get somewhere between 15-18 points, and while that isn’t exactly the highest upside, I feel like he is one of the safest week 1 quarterbacks.
Dak Prescott (DAL) vs. New York Giants, owned in 48.4% of leagues.
Hype train! Everyone get on board with the Dak Attack! I know what you’re thinking; am I really suggesting you start a 4th round rookie quarterback in week 1 of the fantasy season? You’re damn right I am! Last season the Giants were the 31st ranked defense in adjusted DVOA and allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing QBs. The Giants were particularly bad against the tight end ranking 27th in DVOA and allowing Jason Witten to get 14 catches for 164 yards and 2 touchdowns against them last season.
Historically, a sure handed tight end is a rookie quarterback’s best friend so I expect Dak to feed Witten early and often. While I understand that Prescott is completely unproven, given what we have seen in the preseason I think we can safely assume he falls somewhere between Tony Romo and Matt Cassell in terms of quarterback ability, well if you combine those two’s performance against New York last season, you get a line of 53/72 for 583 yards and 4 TDs. While Dak has a lower floor than some quarterbacks due to his lack of experience, the match up and lack of game tape gives him potential top 5 upside, making him a great risk/reward play in week 1.
Deep League Dart Throw:
Robert Griffin III (CLE) @ Philadelphia owned in 18.9% of leagues.
I know, RG3? As my starter? Is it 2012? I get it, hell even typing his name is gross, but he has a very good matchup and has looked competent in the preseason. The Eagles were the third worst defense vs. opposing quarterbacks in 2015 allowing 36 touchdowns through the air and 3 on the ground, RG3’s specialty. Philadelphia was the 19th ranked defense against TE’s last year so Barnidge should get a heavy workload and allow RG3 to have a productive game.
I know Griffin hasn’t played a regular season game since 2014, but he is finally in a situation with a coaching staff that supports him and the last time Hue Jackson was a head coach he made Jason Campbell look like a competent quarterback. I think RG3 is worth a look in 14+ man leagues and could emerge as a real number 1 quarterback for the 6 games that he is healthy this year.
Clive Walford (OAK) @ New Orleans owned in 19.1% of leagues.
If you awoke from a coma and missed the 2015 season, let me fill you in on a little secret: The Saints defense is terrible. They ranked dead least in almost every defensive category you can think of including fantasy points vs. tight ends, allowing 1290 yards and 11 touchdowns to the position.
While Oakland’s passing game is still very much the Crabtree and Cooper show, New Orleans was the 30th ranked defense in both deep passes and passes thrown to the middle of the field, both of which are Walford’s specialty. I’m starting every Raider I can get my hands on and I expect Walford to be a top 10 tight end this week and one of the hottest waiver wire pickups next week.
Dwayne Allen (IND) vs. Detroit owned in 36.2% of leagues.
Football isn’t the only thing that’s back, Andrew Luck is as well! Indianapolis fans can now go back to rooting for one of the best players in the league and act like 2015 never happened. One person that isn’t back in Indy however is Coby Fleener as the Colts elected to let him move on in free agency instead signing Allen to a four year $29.4 million deal.
In week 1 Allen gets the chance to live up to their faith in him by facing the 29th ranked defense in DVOA against the tight end. The Lions were the only team that allowed more touchdowns to tight ends than New Orleans last season, and Allen is a big body who should create advantageous mismatches in the red zone for Luck. Though Allen’s upside may be somewhat limited due to his skill as a blocker, this should be one of the higher scoring games this week and I think he has as good of a chance as any tight end not named Gronkowski to catch a touchdown.
Deep League Dart Throw:
Vance McDonald (SF) vs. Los Angeles, owned in 5.1% of leagues
Blaine Gabbert on Monday night vs. a top 10 defense doesn’t exactly spell success for anyone in the San Francisco passing game, right? Not when you have offensive genius Chip Kelly as your head coach! Seriously though, while Los Angeles was the number 8 ranked pass defense in DVOA last year, they were only number 16 against opposing tight ends, allowing 962 yards and 8 touchdowns against the position. Gabbert is a pretty awful quarterback, but I think his skill set fits Chip Kelly’s system well and Chip has shown the desire to get the tight end involved.
After Gabbert became the starter in week 9, Vance emerged as one of his favorite targets, averaging about 6 targets per game in the ultra conservative passing attack. In what will most likely be a low scoring matchup, Vance’s upside is obviously limited, but he should lead the team in targets as LA was 2nd and 6th in DVOA vs. number 1 and number 2 receivers last season and if Gabbert throws a touchdown my money is on McDonald to be the one who catches it.
Los Angeles @ San Francisco, owned in 47% of leagues
ESPN really knows how to give us a thrilling opening night Monday Night football game huh? While I like McDonald as a deep league play, there aren’t many other people on the 49ers offense worth consideration this week. Los Angeles was the number 8 pass defense last year in DVOA and the number 9 rushing defense.
With Case Keenum at quarterback, Jeff Fisher should employ an ultra conservative offensive game plan and rely on his defense to win him the game. This will most likely be the lowest scoring game of week 1, so I have little doubt the Rams will get you positive points this week. They also have decent upside as Gabbert has shown a tendency to throw interceptions when pressured up the middle and Aaron Donald will begin his bid for defensive player of the year by eviscerating Pro Football Focus’s 27th ranked offensive line.
Deeper League Dart Throw:
Tennessee vs. Minnesota, owned in 1.5% of leagues.
Minnesota is starting Shaun Hill at quarterback. Shaun Hill is so bad at quarterback that he convinced the Vikings they needed to give up a first round pick for Sam Bradford. That alone is the only motivation I need to start Tennessee in deep 16+ man leagues.