This is it.
We’re in the home stretch of the preseason. If you haven’t drafted your team yet, you really only have two nights left — I’ve got three Tuesday night alone — because games start on Thursday.
That means it’s time to stop focusing on the season-long implications of every little piece of news that comes in. It’s time to have tunnel vision. Other Fantasy sports might reward patience, but Fantasy football is the exact opposite; it’s not a marathon, it’s a series of 16 sprints. Overreacting is often rewarded, because each week takes on such outsized importance.
Which is, of course, why our trio of Fantasy experts updates their rankings for each new week.
They will be tweaked as we move forward, but it is worth taking a look at where they come in to start the week. With that in mind, I will be picking their brain every Tuesday to find the key storylines to watch out for in that week’s action.
Let’s start with Week 1.
1. Which QB drafted in the first five rounds has the biggest chance of busting in Week 1?
Dave: Cam Newton
Jamey: Cam Newton
Heath: Cam Newton
|Dave: QB11||Jamey: QB13||Heath: QB11|
We won’t have nearly this much agreement moving forward, but it’s nice to see everyone on the same page — nice for everyone who didn’t draft Newton with an early pick, at least. Newton badly struggled against the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, and the Broncos were tops in the league in Fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, at 11.8 per game. It’s not crazy to think the Broncos may take a step back this season, but it isn’t likely to come from the defensive side of the ball. This should be a top-notch unit yet again, and that is certainly a concern for those of you who drafted Cam early. You probably still can’t justify sitting him — unless Derek Carr is out there on waivers in your league — but don’t be surprised if Newton gets off to a slow start. The good news is, he gets the lowly 49ers in Week 2.
2. Which RB saw the biggest jump from your preseason rankings to Week 1 (without injuries)?
Dave: DeAngelo Williams
Jamey: Ameer Abdullah
Heath: Ryan Mathews
|Dave: RB12||Jamey: RB10||Heath: RB14|
Williams is an obvious choice here — if we thought he would be the starter all season long, he would obviously have ranked much higher than 37th on average at RB. With the injuries and suspensions leaving the Pittsburgh Steelers short early in the season, Williams figures to get a ton of work in the first three games.
|Dave: RB23||Jamey: RB19||Heath: RB22|
Abdullah was a trendy pick as a rookie, but he didn’t quite run away with the game the way we expected. However, with Joique Bell out of the picture, he should get more work this season, and he gets a nice opportunity to open the season strong against a Indianapolis Colts team that gave up the 11th-most Fantasy points to opposing running backs last season. One concern might be that the game turns into a shootout, which would benefit Theo Riddick more, but Abdullah still has a a chance to emerge as a post-hype sleeper this season, especially with the Tennessee Titans on the schedule in Week 2 as well.
|Dave: RB15||Jamey: RB15||Heath: RB13|
When ranking Mathews for season-long purposes, you have to take into account the fact that he has missed nearly one-quarter of the games he has been eligible to play in since joining the NFL in 2011. When healthy, however, he has proven to be a very effective player, averaging 4.5 yards per carry and 80.2 all-purpose yards per game. So, you downgrade him for season-long purposes to take into account the injury risk, but that is less of a concern on a game-to-game basis, where he certainly has the ability to be a high-upside No. 2 running back, especially against what could be a very bad Cleveland Browns defense in a game he should see plenty of work.
3. Would you start any RB from Baltimore, Carolina, New England, Jacksonville or Miami in a 12-team league for Week 1?
Dave: “PPR: James White . Otherwise, I wouldn’t want to.”
Heath: “Not if I could help it.”
With the exception of Carolina, these are the most unsettled running back situations around and, though there is a chance value emerges from each one as the season goes on, it is best to stay away from them in Week 1 until they do. So, Terrance West , Justin Forsett , Javorius Allen , LeGarrette Blount , James White, Chris Ivory , T.J. Yeldon , Jay Ajayi and Arian Foster ? You’ll want to sit them this week and see who emerges from the scrum.
As for the Carolina Panthers , they actually have a settled situation, with Jonathan Stewart once again expected to take on a bulk of the work if he can manage to avoid injury. However, like Newton, he faces an extremely tough matchup in Week 1, meaning you likely have better options available this week.
4. Which WR in your Week 1 top 10 has the best chance of finishing outside of the top 20?
Dave: “Only A.J. Green worries me a little.”
Jamey: Brandon Marshall
Heath: Mike Evans
|Dave: WR10||Jamey: WR12||Heath: WR5|
Darrelle Revis may not be the best corner in the NFL anymore, but he is still a very effective coverage option, coming off a season where he ranked third among all corners who played at least 50 percent of their teams snaps with a 57.1 passer rating on passes thrown his way, per ProFootballFocus.com. Green won’t have much help in the Cincinnati Bengals ‘ passing game early on in the season, so the New York Jets can focus Revis on Green, while tilting the rest of their coverage his way as well. Green should get plenty of work, but this is a tough way to open the season.
|Dave: WR11||Jamey: WR10||Heath: WR15|
On the other side of that game, Marshall has to face Adam Jones and a Bengals defense that ranked eighth in Fantasy points allowed to wide receivers last season. There is already plenty of room for the Jets’ passing game to regress coming off Ryan Fitzpatrick ‘s career-best season, and Marshall has a high degree of difficulty for his season opening matchup.
|Dave: WR4||Jamey: WR5||Heath: WR9|
Evans is primed for a big bounceback season, after dropping from 12 to just three touchdowns in his second season in the league. However, he will have his work cut out for him against Desmond Trufant and the Atlanta Falcons , who allowed the second-fewest Fantasy points to opposing wide receivers a year ago. Trufant surrendered just two touchdowns in coverage last season, and opposing wide receivers had just seven against the Falcons all season. Evans did have one of them, and finished his second matchup with the Falcons last season with 12 Fantasy points in standard scoring, but this is still a tough matchup for the third-year breakout candidate.
5. Which WR outside of your top 30 will be the one everyone is rushing to add next Monday?
Dave: Tajae Sharpe (“Of course.”)
Jamey: Will Fuller
Heath: Mohamed Sanu
|Dave: WR36||Jamey: WR43||Heath: WR48|
Sharpe has become a favorite of Dave’s so this comes as no surprise. The rookie out of UMass put together a solid preseason and shot up to the top of Tennessee’s depth chart, but is still just 56 percent owned heading into the week. A good game against a stout Minnesota Vikings ‘ defense could send that skyrocketing.
|Dave: WR31||Jamey: WR35||Heath: N/A|
Fuller is another rookie who put together a nice preseason, racking up 144 yards on just eight receptions, as he proved very difficult to cover down the field. With Lamar Miller catching passes out of the backfield and DeAndre Hopkins coming off one of the best seasons in the league, Fuller may not be a focal point for Houston. However, he does give them a much-needed dynamic, and he has a fantastic matchup to open the season, against a Chicago Bears defense that gave up 18 touchdowns to wide receivers last year.
|Dave: N/A||Jamey: N/A||Heath: WR44|
Sanu is the elder statesman of the group at 27, and he might not have the big play potential of his younger peers here. However, the Falcons badly need someone to step up as the second option to Julio Jones , and they paid Sanu $32.5 million this offseason to be that guy. Against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense that ranked 25th in Fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers a year ago, Sanu has a chance to get off to a good start.
6. If you were streaming a tight end, which would you pick up?
Dave: Jesse James (“The more I think about James, the more I like him.”)
Jamey: Clive Walford
Heath: Clive Walford
|Dave: TE24||Jamey: TE11||Heath: TE18|
Walford is clearly all about picking on the matchup. The New Orleans Saints weren’t just the worst pass defense in the league last season — though they certainly were that; their 45 passing touchdowns allowed were the most in NFL history. And they allowed the most Fantasy points in the league to opposing tight ends last season. Walford certainly has an opportunity here coming off a decent rookie season, and he could begin to tap into some sleeper potential here.
|Dave: TE21||Jamey: TE21||Heath: N/A|
James had just eight receptions for 56 yards last season, but it is worth noting, he was a very young rookie; James was 21 for all of the 2015 season after being selected with a fifth round pick. Playing behind Heath Miller , he didn’t get many opportunities, but he could have a big one in Week 1 against Washington, with Ladarius Green on the PUP list. With Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell joining Green on the sideline, James has an opportunity here.
7. If you were streaming a DST, which would you pick up?
Dave: Philadelphia Eagles (“I am not a believer in the Browns offense at this point.”)
Jamey: New York Giants
The Browns looked decent in the preseason, as Robert Griffin connected on a bunch of big plays with a receiving corps filled with downfield threats. However, he still has a propensity to take sacks, going down six times on 46 dropbacks, and might need time to gel with a receiving corps light on NFL experience. Dave had them 16th coming into the season, and they move up a few spots to 14th for the week.
The Giants and 49ers also have opportunities to take advantage of good matchups, though only the Giants get a rookie quarterback in Dak Prescott . Prescott showed off in the preseason, even doing some damage against first-team units after Tony Romo ‘s injury, but he could still be prone to shaky moments to start off. As for the 49ers, they don’t get a rookie quarterback in Week 1, but they do get Case Keenum , which is almost as good.
For my money, however, I think the most interesting DST option of the week is the Browns, who get to take on Carson Wentz in his very first NFL game. The Browns’ defense may not be any good, but Wentz is making the jump from FCS to the Eagles’ starting job after taking just 38 snaps in the preseason. If anyone is going to need time to get up to speed this season, Wentz seems like the logical choice.