Week 1 is one of the most difficult weeks to project in fantasy football. Here is a comprehensive start/sit list heading into Week 1 in 2020. The Fantasy Authority’s Kevin Steele and Cody Kutzer also went into depth on a number of other players in our weekly start/sit live stream on YouTube here.
@Clubber_Lang83 – Cam Newton – QB – New England Patriots vs. MIA
Superman brings his services to New England this year after a messy divorce from the Carolina Panthers, where he started his career and played for nine years. With Carolina, Newton was a three-time Pro Bowler, first-team All-Pro, and the 2015 NFL MVP. This season, the 31-year-old will not have the weapons at his disposal that he had in Carolina. Behind Julian Edelman, there are a lot of young, unproven players, but the Patriots have never had a mobile quarterback like Newton. Future Hall of Famer Tom Brady was a pocket passer, but he was never truly given a compliment of receivers who fit his style.
With the speed of New England’s deep running back depth and some young, quick receivers like Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Edelman, and a big bodied receiver in N’Keal Harry, Newton’s scrambling ability will extend plays and allow those receivers to get open. And since the Bill Belichick era started in New England, they are 17-3 against the Dolphins at home. It is Week 1 and there is a lot of uncertainty with teams, but Cam seems to be highly motivated and very grateful for the opportunity New England is giving him. I think we see him go off in his return to the NFL.
@JeffDonovan_FF – Jonathan Taylor – RB – Indianapolis Colts @ JAC
I’m usually pretty hesitant with rookie running backs early on in fantasy, but Taylor is one of the exceptions. Coming in as my RB20 in my personal Week 1 rankings, Taylor gets a luscious matchup against one of the worst teams in the NFL. Jacksonville allowed the 2nd-most fantasy points per game to running backs in 2019. The two interior free agent additions during the offseason Al Woods (opt-out) and Rodney Gunter (heart condition) are both absent for 2020. Yannick Ngakoue was traded, and a number of other losses due to Covid have left the defensive side of the ball absolutely barren in 2020.
The big question heading into Week 1 for Jonathan Taylor will be his usage. Marlon Mack is “listed” as the starter, but I’m not buying it. Even a 50/50 split in carries with Mack and minimal third-down snaps won’t keep Taylor from taking advantage of a porous defense. Game script will be on their side as Jacksonville was 32nd in 2019 in time trailing with an astonishing 37:23. Marlon Mack converted four of eight attempts into touchdowns from inside the five yard line in 2019, but I still believe Taylor has the edge in short distance situations. Fire up Taylor as an RB2 with RB1 upside in one of the best matchups of the week.
@JeffDonovan_FF – DeSean Jackson – WR – Philadelphia Eagles @ WAS
Jackson comes into 2020 as a top candidate to greatly out-produce his ADP (WR50). The Eagles 53-man roster includes seven WRs, four of which have been drafted over the last two seasons (J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Jalen Reagor, John Hightower, Quez Watkins). The others? DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, and Greg Ward. Jeffery is not ready for Week 1, though avoided the PUP list. Jalen Reagor is out with a shoulder injury and could make it back for Week 2. That leaves Jackson in a prime spot against the Washington Football Team to start off the season.
DJax has absolutely smashed WFT over the course of his career with nine total touchdowns and an average of 61 receiving yards per game over 13 games. Washington ranked 27th in defensive DVOA in 2019 and did not go to great lengths on the back-end of the defense in free agency after cutting safety Montae Nicholson, losing Josh Norman to Buffalo in free agency and trading Quinton Dunbar to the Seahawks. Washington added CB Kendall Fuller (PFF #35), CB Ronald Darby (PFF #113), and S Sean Davis (55 defensive snaps w/ Pittsburgh 2019), while bringing back Troy Apke (PFF-unranked) and Landon Collins (PFF #38).
With limited experienced pass-catching options at wide receiver, I expect the Eagles to continue their league-leading 12-personnel usage (52%) early on in the season. I have Jackson ranked as the WR24 in Week 1 with definite WR1 upside.
@CKutzerFF – Chris Herndon – TE – New York Jets @ BUF
Big surprise, right? The same reason I’ve been screaming about Herndon all offseason still holds true here in Week 1. Who else is Sam Darnold going to throw to outside of Jamison Crowder? Sure, Le’Veon Bell will be involved, but there’s no reason to think Herndon can’t see 7-plus targets against Buffalo. With the Jets defense in shambles, Darnold and company are going to have to turn to the passing game early and often if they have any hope of staying within striking distance in this one (and the rest of the year, honestly).
@JeffDonovan_FF – Melvin Gordon – RB – Denver Broncos vs. TEN
This one is pretty easy for me. When so much is up in the air as far as usage is concerned in Week 1, targeting low-scoring games is not my preferred method. This matchup opened as the 2nd-lowest point total in Vegas at 42.5. Not ideal. Many reports out of Denver are stating that Phillip Lindsay is pushing this backfield to 50-50 or even a hot hand approach. Denver ranked 27th in red zone scoring opportunities per game in 2019 (2.6) and 28th in offensive yards per drive at an abysmal 29.02. Right tackle Ju’Wuan James opted out of the 2020 season leaving the Broncos offensive line well below average. This backfield situation is just something I want clarity on before throwing Gordon into the lineup if you have better matchups at the position.
@Clubber_Lang83 – Odell Beckham Jr. – WR – Cleveland Browns @ BAL
Oh, the puns I could crap out right now, but I will just flush those thoughts away. It is Week 1 which mean this is the Browns’ year! Or so that is how it always starts. 4for4 has OBJ as WR14 to start the season and the matchup could not be much tougher. The Browns go up against a solid Ravens defense in Baltimore. Though I am not sure there will be much of a home-field advantage for NFL teams to start the season as Baltimore will not allow fans to attend this game.
The Ravens defense has been marked by several experts as a top three defense entering this season. They added veterans Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe on the defensive line and drafted a great linebacker in Patrick Queen. I foresee Baker having a long day being under constant pressure. OBJ will be matched up with either Marlon Humphrey or Marcus Peters, both are All-Pro cornerbacks who the Pro Football Network rank as the #4 and #11 cornerbacks in the league entering 2020. I would expect Browns new head coach Kevin Stefanski to run a lot with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt until he gets his feet wet. This is a good week to sit OBJ.
@JeffDonovan_FF – A.J. Green – WR – Cincinnati Bengals vs. LAC
It’s been a long time coming on A.J. Green’s return from the ankle injury that kept him out of the 2019 season. There was some concern with the “minor” hamstring injury he sustained in practice a few weeks ago as well, but it appears that Green is ready to roll in Week 1. Here’s the problem, though. Green hasn’t played a full NFL game since 10/28/2018.
The Chargers also have a solid secondary despite losing safety Derwin James to a knee injury. Cornerbacks Casey Hayward (PFF #4), Desmond King II (PFF #29), and free agent addition Chris Harris (PFF #36) make up an above average trio that I would like to avoid considering it is Joe Burrow’s first career start. Due to Green’s injury uncertainty his ADP was pushed down to a low-end WR3 (WR32 – 4for4), so most should have a number of other options at the wide receiver position to start. Wait it out and see how Green fares in his return.
@CKutzerFF – Evan Engram – TE – New York Giants vs. PIT
While the Giants project to be playing from behind like their neighborly brethren, I’m not as confident in Engram’s target floor. Engram has to contend with Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, and Saquon Barkley all vying for targets. With Devin Bush in his second year and Terrell Edmunds floating around, the Steelers may have the pieces to neutralize Engram.