Most Fantasy owners don’t need sleeper options for Week 1. For the most part, the team you drafted is likely the team you’re going to use for your starters.
But there are exceptions, and the size of your league and format certainly are factors. And then there are the owners who like to be creative with matchups, even during the first week.
Those are the owners who typically win their leagues.
We also have plenty of scenarios where Fantasy owners have to replace a suspended ( Tom Brady and Le’Veon Bell ) or injured ( Jamaal Charles or Thomas Rawls ) starter, or they want to avoid someone who could struggle ( Jeremy Langford , Jeremy Maclin or Antonio Gates , among others).
With that in mind, here are some sleepers who might help you. Some of these guys were drafted as bench options, but their matchups in Week 1 are juicy. And some of these guys might be on the waiver wire, so you could add them just for this week.
You never know, they could be the difference maker in a victory for your team in Week 1.
Editor’s Note: Projections are provided by CBSSports, not Jamey Eisenberg. For all your must-start guys, check out Start ‘Em and Sit ‘Em.
Ryan had a miserable season in 2015 with just six games with at least 20 Fantasy points, but he was consistent in one matchup, which was against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home. He has a great track record against Tampa Bay in Atlanta with at least 26 Fantasy points in his past three meetings, including an average of 27.7 points in a standard league over that span. There were nine quarterbacks to score at least 20 Fantasy points against the Buccaneers last year, and Ryan is a good option in two-quarterback leagues.
It looks like the Chicago Bears will have their top three corners available for the season opener at Houston with Tracy Porter , Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan all able to practice in some capacity Tuesday. But that shouldn’t mean Osweiler will struggle in his first home game for the Houston Texans . He played well in the preseason with 27 of 39 passing for 297 yards, two touchdowns and one interception over three games, and his top targets in DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller should make some plays in this matchup. I’m starting Osweiler over Philip Rivers this week in one league since Rivers has a tough matchup at Kansas City. Osweiler also faced the Bears last year with the Denver Broncos and passed for 250 yards and two touchdowns.
I’d feel more comfortable with Griffin if Josh Gordon (suspended) was playing, but this should still be a good opportunity for him to play well. Griffin has a good track record against the Philadelphia Eagles having averaged 24 Fantasy points in a standard league in five career games against them. Most of that came during the early part of his career when he had success with the Washington Redskins , but Griffin has flashed some of that ability in the preseason with the Cleveland Browns . He completed 22 of 38 passes for 313 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, and he also had five carries for 40 yards. His receiving corps should still be serviceable even with Gordon out, and the Eagles allowed 12 quarterbacks to score at least 20 Fantasy points last year. Griffin is not worth starting in one-quarterback leagues, but he is a good option in 2-QB formats.
Cousins has the chance to get off to a good start this week against the Pittsburgh Steelers , who allowed nine quarterbacks to score at least 20 Fantasy points in a standard league last year. And Cousins was great to close the season, especially once DeSean Jackson was healthy. He had at least 24 Fantasy points in six of his final eight outings, and Washington could struggle to run the ball in this matchup with Matt Jones (shoulder) at less than 100 percent. I’m skeptical of Cousins being an elite Fantasy quarterback this year, but he is a solid replacement option for Tom Brady (suspension) this week.
There are plenty of negatives for Gore this season, and most of them are valid. He’s 33 and coming off a down year, and the Indianapolis Colts offensive line and game flow aren’t going to do him many favors. But he actually did OK when Andrew Luck was healthy last season, and he averaged 9.6 Fantasy points a game in a standard league in the seven outings he played with Luck. Three of those games came against Denver, Carolina and New England, and he had at least eight Fantasy points in all three matchups. For this week, expect a lot of points for both teams, and Gore should have the chance to score. The Detroit Lions were third in rushing touchdowns allowed to running backs in 2015.
The narrative is kind of writing itself with the assumption that Rawls might not play much if at all as he continues to come back from last year’s ankle injury. And the Seattle Seahawks would be smart to lean on Michael this week after a strong preseason in what should be a winnable game against the Miami Dolphins at home. Miami is considered the biggest underdog of the week, and if the Seahawks are up in the second half, we could see Michael killing the clock against the Dolphins, who allowed the most Fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2015. With Rawls out for most of the preseason, Michael worked as the starter and had 26 carries for 157 yards (6.0 yards per carry). I like Michael as a Top 20 running back this week, with Top 10 upside.
No team allowed more receptions to running backs last year than the Atlanta Falcons , which bodes well for Sims if the Buccaneers continue to push the pace offensively like we saw in the preseason and give Jameis Winston more responsibility. That doesn’t mean bad things for Doug Martin , who is clearly a must-start running back in this matchup, but both could be productive this week, especially in PPR leagues. They had four games last year in standard formats where both scored double digits in Fantasy points, and Atlanta allowed 13 running backs to catch at least four passes in a game last season. Sims only had five catches for 45 yards receiving against the Falcons in two games, but he makes for a solid flex option in PPR leagues this week.
The expected breakdown of this game should be the Green Bay Packers building a lead early and the Jacksonville Jaguars chasing points. It’s the NFL and it’s Week 1, which means nothing goes as planned, but Yeldon still feels safer in this matchup than Chris Ivory because he’s the better receiver. And in the preseason, he was also the better runner with 11 carries for 75 yards (6.8 yards per carry) compared to Ivory, who had 16 carries for 55 yards (3.4 yards per carry) and a touchdown. Yeldon also had four catches for 20 yards and a touchdown, while Ivory had two catches for 10 yards. Now, Ivory has the better chance to score at the goal line, but Yeldon could see more playing time if the Jaguars are behind, which is what I expect to be the case in this game.
The Eagles defense is going to be better this year than it was in 2015 just on the fact that the unit won’t be as tired from Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense. They were on the field more than necessary, and that will change under new coach Doug Pederson. But the Eagles run defense was atrocious last season and allowed the most rushing yards to opposing running backs, and Crowell could be good this week if given enough work. He had seven games last season with at least 12 carries, and he scored double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league in five of them. He did that in three of six games in 2014, and the Browns can actually win this game on the road. If Cleveland does have a lead on Philadelphia, look for Crowell to help kill the clock, and he should easily reach his 12-carry threshold. I like him as a flex option in Week 1, especially in deeper leagues.
This should be a game where White gets plenty of involvement with Jimmy Garoppolo starting for the suspended Tom Brady. New England will likely be chasing points, and Garoppolo will have plenty of check-down passes to White, who had four games with at least four catches in his final five regular-season games in 2015. The Arizona Cardinals also allowed nine running backs to catch at least four passes last year, including Mark Ingram , Theo Riddick and Giovani Bernard each catching at least eight passes. White is almost a must-start option in PPR leagues, at least as a flex option.
I like Ameer Abdullah this week, but Riddick has the chance to make plenty of plays in the passing game against the Colts. And this game should be a track meet, with plenty of offensive explosion. Riddick is locked into his role as the passing-downs guy in Detroit’s backfield, and he had 10 games in 2015 with at least five catches, including four on the road. Like White and Sims, you should hopefully find a way to use Riddick as at least a flex option in PPR leagues this week.
Jackson is the No. 1 receiver for the Redskins, and he played well in 2015 with Cousins when he was healthy. He had double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league in four of his final six games, and he had at least five catches in three of those outings. The Steelers allowed the third-most Fantasy points to opposing receivers last year, including the most yards to the position, and No. 1 receivers did plenty of the damage. There were 11 receivers who qualify as the No. 1 option on their respective teams last year who scored double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league. We expect Jackson to do the same in this matchup.
Snead fit right in with the New Orleans Saints last year because he was great at home. He played in seven games in the Superdome and averaged 9.3 Fantasy points in a standard league, with at least eight points in four outings. And this is a great game to trust the New Orleans players at home against the Oakland Raiders . This should be one of the highest-scoring games of the week, and Snead remains the starter opposite Brandin Cooks and ahead of rookie Michael Thomas . Snead is a high-upside No. 3 Fantasy receiver this week.
Fuller is dealing with a hamstring injury that is worth keeping an eye on prior to Sunday, but it sounds like he’s expected to play. And it’s a good matchup to trust him as a potential No. 3 Fantasy receiver against the Bears, especially with Chicago’s secondary a little banged up. This is the first home game for Osweiler and Fuller, and the Texans could take some shots down the field. Fuller had a strong preseason with eight catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns, and we hope that production carries over the regular season in Week 1.
I’m not overly high on Matthews for this week, but he should be considered a No. 3 Fantasy receiver in this matchup. He’s playing his first game with rookie quarterback Carson Wentz , and hopefully Wentz is ready for this moment despite limited preseason action (39 snaps) due to a rib injury. But it’s a good matchup for Matthews since the Browns allowed the most Fantasy points to opposing receivers last year, and they might struggle again even though Joe Haden is healthy this season. There’s a chance Matthews and Zach Ertz end up as both being quality starts this week as the only pass catchers of note in Philadelphia.
Jackson has scored as least seven Fantasy points in a standard league in each of his past five games against the Falcons, with four touchdowns over that span. He has the chance to be a solid No. 3 Fantasy receiver in this matchup, especially if Winston tries to avoid standout Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant , who will likely shadow Mike Evans . I’m still starting Evans, but Jackson was productive in 2015 when he was healthy, which hopefully will carry over to this year. He had six games last year with at least five targets, and he scored at least seven Fantasy points in a standard league in five of those outings, including three with at least 11 points. I like Tampa Bay’s passing attack in this matchup on the road, and Jackson should end up as a significant contributor.
Reports coming out of Detroit are positive for Boldin, both for the season and this week. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said Boldin will be heavily involved in the offense, and he could become a valuable weapon for Matthew Stafford this year and against the Colts. The Indianapolis secondary is banged up, and we can see Stafford leaning on all his targets in this matchup. The Colts had eight games last year where two receivers scored at least eight Fantasy points in a standard league, and Boldin could end up with better production than Marvin Jones or Golden Tate . I’m more confident in Jones and Tate, but Boldin is a sneaky option in daily leagues for this week based on a low price and likely low ownership.
Dorsett is in a similar situation to Boldin as the third receiver in a potentially explosive passing game against the Lions. We know Dorsett is behind T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief in terms of expected targets, but we could see Dorsett have the chance for positive production with the Colts likely throwing a lot. We’re going to see more three-receiver sets for the Colts this year with Coby Fleener gone, and Dorsett should dramatically improve from his poor rookie production of 18 catches, 225 yards and one touchdown. Like Boldin, he’s also a sneaky play in daily leagues.
The highest point total for the week is the Saints and Raiders at 51 points, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see that score go over. And Walford could play a prominent role since the Saints were miserable against tight ends in 2015 and could struggle again this year. We already saw Steelers tight end Jesse James score against New Orleans in the third preseason game, and the Saints allowed the most Fantasy points to opposing tight ends in 2015, including 11 touchdowns. Walford is a risky Fantasy option to trust in Week 1, but his matchup makes him worth it in what should be a high-scoring affair.
Witten was always a favorite target for Tony Romo , but we know Romo is out for this game with a broken back. Rookie Dak Prescott will start in Romo’s place, and hopefully that rapport will continue. We saw Prescott and Witten connect for a touchdown in the third preseason game at Seattle after Romo got hurt, and we could see a good performance in Week 1 against the New York Giants . Witten has a tremendous history against the Giants with 52 catches, 474 yards and seven touchdowns in his past eight meetings with New York, and the Giants allowed the second-most Fantasy points to opposing tight ends in 2015. Witten is worth a flier in PPR leagues this week.
The Los Angeles Rams have been one of the better teams at defending tight ends in the Jeff Fisher era, and I’m not sure I want to trust McDonald in standard leagues. Only five tight ends had double digits in Fantasy points in standard formats last year, and McDonald only had three touchdowns. But in PPR leagues, I would consider McDonald a potential starter or even a flex option. With Blaine Gabbert under center, we should see plenty of check-down passes, and McDonald could lead the team in receptions. He had three games with at least four catches in his final six outings with Gabbert last year, and the Rams allowed 12 tight ends to catch at least five passes in 2015. McDonald might prove to be the most reliable pass catcher for the San Francisco 49ers this year.
You’re probably noticing a theme here with the Lions and Colts game that I like most of the receiving options in this matchup, and Ebron would be higher in my rankings if I knew he was 100 percent healthy. He’s coming off an ankle injury in the preseason, but he’s expected to play against the Colts after practicing in full for most of the week. We’ll see how many targets he gets from Stafford, especially with Jones, Tate and Boldin higher on the pecking order, as well as Riddick. There are only so many passes to go around, even in this high-volume attack, but Ebron can easily find the end zone with enough yards to make him relevant as a starter in deeper leagues.
FanDuel lineup for Week 1
- Tyrod Taylor (at BAL) – $7,200
- Adrian Peterson (at TEN) – $8,200
- Spencer Ware (vs. SD) – $5,400
- Antonio Brown (at WAS) – $9,300
- Julio Jones (vs. TB) – $9,000
- DeSean Jackson (vs. PIT) – $6,600
- Clive Walford (at NO) – $4,700
- Mason Crosby (at JAC) – $4,700
- Texans D (vs. CHI) – $4,900
I went after some high-priced options in Peterson, Brown and Jones, but I expect them to be worth it given their matchups this week. Ware will be popular in a lot of lineups, but having him allows you to spend at other positions and still get a standout running back. I like the outlooks for Taylor and Jackson this week, and Walford is a sleeper as noted above. And Crosby and the Texans D should be solid options at their respective positions.
You should absolutely sell high on Ware after he plays well against the San Diego Chargers . Jamaal Charles isn’t out for the season, and he should return as the No. 1 running back when he’s 100 percent from last year’s torn ACL. The Kansas City Chiefs schedule also gets much tougher over the next three games with Houston, the New York Jets and Pittsburgh before a bye in Week 5. By that point, Charles should be back as the starter in Kansas City.
I would start Osweiler over Rivers and Andy Dalton . The matchup is definitely in his favor, and we’ll see if the Bears have a healthy secondary this week. Rivers has a terrible history at Kansas City, and Dalton should struggle at the Jets in his first start without Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu and an injured Tyler Eifert (ankle).
These are the streaming DST options I like in order: Giants (at DAL), Jets (vs. CIN), Buffalo Bills (at BAL), Eagles (vs. CLE) and 49ers (vs. LAR). The Giants might struggle against the run, but they should be able to force Prescott into a mistake or two in his first NFL start in the regular season.
Washington has some sleeper appeal for this week because if the Raiders get into a shootout with the Saints we could see him playing on passing downs. He’s a great handcuff option for Latavius Murray , and he would be worth starting in all leagues if Murray suffered an injury that forced him to miss any time. I love stashing Washington in the majority of leagues.
I would start Cook with confidence this week against the Jaguars, and I like Cook as a streaming option early in the season with matchups upcoming against Minnesota in Week 2, Detroit in Week 3 and the Giants in Week 5 following Green Bay’s bye in Week 4. The Jaguars were among the worst teams at defending tight ends in 2015, and Cook should benefit with Jordy Nelson potentially having a limited snap count in his comeback from last year’s torn ACL.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Fantasy Football: Week 1 sleepers, DFS advice and mailbag