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2016 Fantasy Football Rankings: Standard | PPR

It’s time to turn theory into reality.

While draft season is all about the long view, once the season starts, you need to sharpen your focus, because you only have three months to fight your way into the Fantasy playoffs this season.

Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, and Heath Cummings released their first fresh batch of in-season weekly rankings, so lets’ dive in and see what the biggest early storylines for Week 1 are.

QB

Is Cam Newton benchable?

Cam Newton QB / Carolina Panthers (Week 1 Ranks)

Jamey: QB13Dave: QB11Heath: QB12

The last time Newton faced this Denver Broncos ‘ defense, he hardly resembled the elite quarterback who dominated defenses all season long. The Broncos are expected to be among the top defenses in the league yet again this season, and Newton completed just 18 of 41 passes for 6.5 yards per attempt in the Super Bowl, with one interception, a fumble lost, and no scores. This is a tough matchup for even the best quarterbacks in the league, and Newton could certainly stumble again. Of course, if you invested in Newton early, you probably didn’t bother to grab a quality backup later in the draft, so you might just have to ride Newton and hope he finds a few times, maybe once on the ground.

Is Derek Carr a top-six quarterback?

Derek Carr QB / Oakland Raiders (Week 1 Ranks)

Jamey: QB5Dave: QB6Heath: QB6


If you ended up with Carr on your Fantasy roster this season, it was probably as one of two quarterbacks, with the idea that you would play the matchups rather than investing in one elite quarterback early. Carr was, on average, the No. 12 QB off the board this season, but he should be in your starting lineup at least for this weekend, with a tremendous matchup on the way against the New Orleans Saints . New Orleans surrendered a whopping 23.9 Fantasy points per game last season, which was the most in the league by 3.6 points per game; the 31st defense against quarterbacks was closer to No. 15 than to the Saints. There is little reason to expect much improvement from the Saints, so Carr should put up big numbers in a shootout.

Start RG3?

Robert Griffin III QB / Cleveland Browns (Week 1 Ranks)

Jamey: QB17Dave: QB21Heath: QB12


Heath is making the gutsy call of pushing Robert Griffin III all the way into his top-12, which has the be the first time that has happened in at least a few years. Griffin looked good in the preseason, hitting on big plays and averaging 8.2 yards per attempt, and gets a nice soft landing to start his Cleveland Browns career, taking on the second-worst defense in the league against quarterbacks a year ago. The Philadelphia Eagles ‘ defense totally fell apart in the second half of the season, and it’s not clear they improved much, so Griffin could get his career revival off to a very nice start. Dave and Jamey are a little less rosey on him, but both consider him worth starting at least in two-quarterback leagues.

RB

What’s up with the Kansas City Chiefs ‘ backfield?

Spencer Ware RB / Kansas City Chiefs (Week 1 Ranks)

Jamey: RB16Dave: RB23Heath: RB20


Jamaal Charles RB / Kansas City Chiefs (Week 1 Ranks)

Jamey: RB26Dave: RB14Heath: RB14

When we look at the rankings again next week, this is one situation that could change the most. Spencer Ware , drafted primarily as a handcuff coming into the season, could get a bulk of the work as Jamaal Charles ‘ recovery from knee surgery continues. This is a fantastic matchup for either Charles or Ware, as the Charges allowed the fourth-most Fantasy points to opposing running backs a year ago, and both could be worth using even if they split work. If Charles sits — or we find out he will be the workhorse immediately — don’t be surprised if Ware ends up in the top-10 at the position by the time kickoff comes around.

Start Rashad Jennings , sit Jonathan Stewart ?

Rashad Jennings RB / New York Giants (Week 1 Ranks)

Jamey: RB17Dave: RB16Heath: RB27


Jennings took a big step forward at the end of last season, rushing for 432 yards in his final four games, and hopefully he can keep building on that coming into the season. He went off the board as the 33rd running back, on average, but is ranked 20th among our three experts, against this Dallas defense that gave up the seventh-most Fantasy points to opposing running backs last season. He struggled against the Dallas Cowboys last season, rushing for just 71 yards on 18 carries in two games, but we’re expecting better things.

Stewart will be worth at least considering as a starter this week because of workload alone — he had 12 carries the last time he faced this Denver team, and had at least 19 in 10 of his final 12 games last season, including the playoffs. Of course, he also had just 2.42 yards per carry against this Denver defense in the Super Bowl, and could struggle against what we expect to once again be the league’s best defensive unit. Hopefully you have two better running back options in Week 1, because Stewart almost certainly won’t be worth starting as a flex.

WR

What can Dez do with Dak?

Dez Bryant WR / Dallas Cowboys (Week 1 Ranks)

Jamey: WR7Dave: WR9Heath: WR14


For the most part, we aren’t really discounting Dez Bryant , especially in a matchup against a defense that allowed the 13th-most Fantasy points to opposing wide receivers last season. Dak Prescott certainly looked the part in the preseason, earning the fourth-highest grade at the quarterback position from ProFootballFocus.com, but actually translating that into a full game against an opposing defense’s best looks is a whole different animal. Bryant has struggled in his career without Tony Romo , catching just 53 of 108 targets for 692 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 games without Romo in his career. Prescott may be better than the backups he has played with in the past, and it isn’t a bad matchup, but we’re still asking a lot of Bryant to end up a No. 1 wide reciever with a backup quarterback.

What is life after Peyton like in Denver?

Demaryius Thomas WR / Denver Broncos (Week 1 Ranks)

Jamey: WR17Dave: WR20Heath: WR17


Trevor Siemian won the Broncos’ starting quarterback job in the preseason, but he didn’t really play all that well overall. He completed 62.7 percent of his passes in the preseason, but averaged just 6.6 yards per attempt on them, with one touchdown and two interceptions. The Broncos didn’t exactly get great play from their quarterbacks last season, so we know Demaryius Thomas can lift up mediocre quarterbacks enough to be a starting-caliber Fantasy option. And the Carolina Panthers ‘ pass defense is likely to take a step back this season given the departure of Josh Norman in free agency. Thomas is a risky start with a QB making his first career NFL start.

TE

Could Gronk disappoint?

Rob Gronkowski TE / New England Patriots (Week 1 Ranks)

Jamey: TE3Dave: TE1Heath: TE1


The reason you draft Rob Gronkowski with one of your first two picks is precisely so you don’t have to worry about the tight end position. However, Gronk did finish five games last season with single figures in Fantasy scoring, including two with less than five points, so he isn’t a total sure thing every week. The Arizona Cardinals were a middle-of-the-pack defense against tight ends last season, rankings 14th in Fantasy points allowed, and it’s hard to say exactly what the impact Jimmy Garoppolo ‘s presence will have on Gronkowski’s value. Garoppolo could lean on Gronkowski more given his inexperience, but the dropoff in talent from Tom Brady to him could make life more difficult on Gronkowski. At the very least, Gronk is riskier over the four weeks without Brady, and Garoppolo could be in for a long week against Arizona’s blitz-heavy defense (they blitzed on more than half of their defensive snaps last season, per ProFootballFocus.com).

DST

New York Giants , Buffalo Bills , 49ers worth streaming?

  • The Giants get to take on a rookie quarterback making his NFL debut, which is always a fertile opportunity for Fantasy DST’s. If Prescott whithers under the bright lights, this could be a good opportunity for a bad unit to make some noise.
  • The 49ers aren’t getting a rookie in their primetime matchup, as Jared Goff is currently third on the Los Angeles Rams ‘ depth chart. The good news is, Case Keenum has experience, and most of it is bad; he has just 15 passing touchdowns in 15 starts, with a 6.6 yards per attempt overall.
  • The Bills have a more proven opponent, in Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens , but it could still be a good opportunity for Rex Ryan’s defense to begin their bounceback campaign in style. The Ravens have no semblance of a running game right now; Flacco is returning from a torn ACL; and two of his top targets, Breshad Perriman and Steve Smith , are returning from injuries of their own. The Ravens might find some life later in the season, but the Bills could be catching them at a very opportune time.


Source: CBS Sports / Fantasy Football Week 1 Rankings: Derek Carr moves up; Cam Newton seriously a sit?