I am not the Talented Mr. Roto. Matthew Berry is one of the best writers in fantasy football. He is funny, interesting, an excellent storyteller, and a great fantasy analyst. I can aspire to be Matthew Berry, but I am not the Talented Mr. Roto.
What I am good at is writing about fantasy football. As I attempt my first in-season analysis, I will use anything and everything at my disposal to give you the upper hand. I hope you all will find this useful and that I can help you win weeks and get into the playoffs. Thank you for coming with me on this journey and putting your trust in me.
The idea behind this is weekly article is to identify guys that are not the top-end talents, your “studs”, at each position to start or sit. You really will not find those elite talents on this list. So, without further ado, here are my starts/sits for week 1.
Case Keenum vs. Seattle Seahawks
The “Legion of Boom” is long gone. Richard Sherman is in San Francisco, Kam Chancellor has retired, Earl Thomas is holding out, and Michael Bennett was traded to the Eagles. In 2017, the Seahawks ranked 13th in Football Outsiders overall defensive DVOA and 13th in pass defense DVOA. They got worse in the offseason. PFF ranks the Seahawks rush-defense, pass-rush, and secondary 24th, 18th, and 21st respectively. The Seahawks defense will not be good in 2018. Case Keenum is coming off of a career year with the Vikings. He moves to a relatively similar situation with the Broncos, with a team built around the run and defense with a top side receiver duo. Look for Keenum, Demaryius Thomas, and Emmanuel Sanders to take advantage of the Seahawks losses on defense in week 1.
Andy Dalton @ Indianapolis Colts
Andy Dalton and the Bengals had an awful season offensively in 2017. The Bengals ranked 32nd (last) in yards and 26th in points. The 2017 season started out ominously for the Bengals. After not scoring a touchdown in the first two games, offensive coordinator Ken Zampese was fired and quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor took over. Lazor has had an entire offseason to install his offense. The Bengals also made improvements on their 28th ranked offensive line by PFF. The Colts defense ranked 27th in total defensive DVOA and 32th and pass defense DVOA. PFF ranks the Colts pass rush and secondary as 21st and 32nd respectively. The Colts secondary is one of the most inexperienced in the league with 2,430 total snaps between the five top cornerbacks. Dalton and Green will feast on this inexperience in week 1.
Philip Rivers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs defense is going to be BAD this year. They ranked 30th in total defense, 23rd in pass defense, and 32nd in run defense DVOA in 2017. They then proceeded to trade their best cornerback in Marcus Peters. The Chiefs did trade for a good slot corner in the league in Kendall Fuller, but he has only played 88 snaps on the outside in his career. With safety Eric Berry coming off of a torn Achilles and Daniel Sorenson on IR to start the season, the Chiefs have question marks in the secondary. Philip Rivers is Philip Rivers. Rivers has finished as a top-10 quarterback each of the last five seasons. Tight end Hunter Henry tore his ACL, but the Chargers signed Rivers’ security blanket Antonio Gates to take Henry’s place. With most of his main pass-catchers back in 2018, expect Rivers to excel in week 1.
Derek Carr vs. Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams finished 6th in total defensive DVOA and third in pass defensive DVOA. Yet, they somehow improved on paper in the offseason. The Rams added defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. PFF ranks the Rams pass-rush and secondary fourth and third respectively. Adding the players mentioned to defensive end Aaron Donald, the Rams will have one of the better defenses in 2018. Meanwhile, the Raiders are a dumpster fire. They traded away their best player in Khalil Mack. They traded for two wide receivers and then cut one and traded one. Gruden seems to be shifting the team to a more old school, run-oriented offense. They are also the oldest team in the league. I am down on Carr for the 2018 season as a whole, but especially in week 1.
Eli Manning vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
This is going to be an ongoing theme this season. The Jaguars had the best defense in the league in 2017, and nothing will change in 2018. They have the best secondary and arguably the best pass-rush. It would be ill-advised to start really any of your receiving game assets, but especially quarterbacks against the Jaguars in 2018. I am high on Eli Manning for the 2018 season. But one of the rules I will live by in 2018 is to avoid starting quarterbacks against the Jaguars.
Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Minnesota Vikings
While the Jaguars had the best overall defense according to DVOA, this was largely due to the dominance of their pass defense. The Vikings, meanwhile, had the most well-rounded defense. They also made additions in rookie cornerback Mike Hughes, safety George Iloka, and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson that likely improves their defense. PFF ranks the Vikings pass-rush and secondary units as ninth and sixth before Iloka was signed. Jimmy G looked great last season, leading the 49ers to five straight wins to end the 2017 season. Extending his stats our for those five games out to a whole season, he would have thrown for nearly 5,000 yards but only a 19/16 TD/INT ratio. Jimmy G also lost one of his better pass-catching assets in running back Jerick McKinnon to a torn ACL. While I do think he takes a step forward this season, it won’t be against the Vikings.
Dion Lewis/Derrick Henry @ Miami Dolphins
Fantasy owners who roster Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry don’t have to worry about who will get the work in week 1. The Dolphins ranked 15th in run-defense DVOA last season. However, they lost their best run defender in Ndamukong Suh, leaving a huge hole. This is a bad combination with Titans fifth-ranked offensive line. Along with the Dolphins poor offense, the Titans should be in control of this one. Both Lewis and Henry are startable in week 1.
Alex Collins vs. Buffalo Bills
The Bills defensive strength is their pass defense. Last season, they ranked 12th in defensive DVOA. PFF ranks the Bills secondary 7th entering 2018. On the other hand, the Bills run defense is not good. Their run defense DVOA ranked 30th in 2017. They gave up the 4th most rush yards per game on the 8th worst yards per carry. The Bills offense will be led by quarterback Nathan Peterman, he of the five interceptions in one half. The Bills also lost three starting lineman from last season. Likely the Bills offense will be bad. Meanwhile, the Ravens actually add their best offensive lineman, Marshal Yanda, back to the seventh best DVOA run game. Alex Collins ranked as the third best running back in 2017 by PFF. Combined with their excellent defense, the Ravens will control this game from the get-go and lean heavily on Collins to control the clock.
Royce Freeman vs. Seattle Seahawks
It is going to seem like I am picking on the Seahawks in this article. I am. As stated above, the Seahawks defense isn’t what it once was. The only thing that will likely keep them in this game is Russell Wilson’s arm. The Broncos defense is strong, however, and will likely shut down the Seahawks offense. Freeman will likely be used to control and run down the clock. He has looked phenomenal this preseason and was finally named the starter. Look for Freeman to start his season off on the right foot.
Chris Carson/Rashad Penny @ Denver Broncos
O boy, here I go, picking on the Seahawks again. This time it is their offense. Really, its the Broncos defense. Last season, the Broncos ranked third in DVOA against the run. The Broncos allowed the fifth fewest rush yards per game and the fewest yards per carry. In the 2018 NFL draft, the Broncos added Bradley Chubb, who was the second-best run stopper at 4-3 defensive end in the draft. Last season, the Seahawks rush offense ranked 23rd in DVOA. Despite the Seahawks commitment to reestablishing the run by signing run blocking guard DJ Fluker and drafting top blocking tight end Will Dissly, PFF ranks the Seahawks offensive line 30th entering 2018. s only Seahawks running back that might have a good fantasy game is CJ Prosise. as the Broncos aren’t good at covering running backs, ranking 19th in DVOA. Avoid the Seahawks runners in week 1.
Adrian Peterson/Rob Kelley/Samaje Perine @ Arizona Cardinals
Derrius Guice’s torn ACL has left the Washington Redskins with a hodgepodge of running backs to fill the role. 33-year old Adrian Peterson seems to be leading the way, though Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine will likely see touches as well. They go up against the Arizona Cardinals defense, who ranked first overall in DVOA last season. The Cardinals gave up the sixth-fewest rushing yards per game and third-fewest yards per carry in 2017. Like the Seahawks, the pass-catching back, Chris Thompson, is likely the only fantasy viable Redskins running back in week 1.
Le’Veon Bell (if he reports) @ Cleveland Browns
Last season, Le’Veon Bell reported nine days before the Pittsburgh Steelers season opener. In 2017, the Steelers also opened against the Browns. This was Bell’s worst game of the season with only 47 yards from scrimmage on 13 touches. 2018’s opener is not any easier. The Browns finished the 2017 season as the fourth-ranked run defense according to DVOA. They also gave up the seventh-fewest rushing yards per game and second-fewest yards per carry. While I fully expect Bell to return to form, assuming he plays in 2018, he will likely start slow again. I highly recommend sitting Bell in week 1.
Emmanuel Sanders vs. Seattle Seahawks
I’ll pick on the Seahawks one more time. Even with the news that Earl Thomas will end his holdout, the Seahawks secondary is still not good. Thomas may not be up to speed for week 1 either. A lot of the reasons to start Emmanuel Sanders you can find above on why to start Case Keenum. Keenum and Sanders have shown a chemistry with a preseason. Keenum targets Sanders 14 of his 32 passes. Keenum demonstrated chemistry with his slot receiver on the Vikings, Adam Thielen, to the tune of 91 receptions on 142 targets for 1,276 yards and 4 touchdowns. Sanders took 64% of his snaps from the slot.
Nelson Agholor vs. Atlanta Falcons
Moving to the slot allowed Nelson Agholor to breakout after struggling as an outside receiver the first two seasons of his career. The Eagles would be remiss if they moved Agholor to the outside to replace their best outside receiver Alshon Jeffery, who is likely to miss the first couple weeks of the season. With Jeffery out, Agholor shifts into the WR1 role and will likely see a jump in volume. Assuming that Agholor does stay in the slot, he will avoid the Falcons best corner Desmond Trufant. With an uptick in volume and an OK matchup, start Agholor in week 1.
Anthony Miller @ Green Bay Packers
Probably a little risky putting a rookie in his first NFL regular season game on this list. But the Bears will likely have to throw to keep up with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Miller has been one of Mitchell Trubisky’s favorite targets in the 2018 offseason and has shown big-play ability in the preseason. Meanwhile, fellow wide receiver Allen Robinson only played 11 preseason snaps with zero receptions. No one really knows what Robinson will look like coming off of an ACL tear in a new offensive scheme. PFF ranks the Packers secondary 27th entering 2018, largely because of the inexperience. The Packers could start two rookies at cornerback. Last season the Packers ranked 27th in pass defense DVOA. With the Bears likely needing to pass to keep up combined with a poor and inexperienced Packers secondary, Miller could be in for a great NFL debut in week 1.
Sterling Shepard vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
We have already talked about how good the Jaguars pass defense is above. Really, you could seriously consider benching Odell Beckham Jr. as well, but you should “start your studs”. The Jaguars have the best duo of cornerbacks in the league and both can be considered shutdown corners. While you will probably start OBJ, you should sit Shepard in week 1 as he, Manning, and the rest of the Giants offense are likely in for a long day.
Jordy Nelson vs. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams ranked third in DVOA last season in pass defense. They somehow got better by trading for Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib as well as signing Ndamukong Suh. PFF ranks the Rams secondary and pass-rush third and fourth entering 2018 respectively. No one really knows what Jon Gruden is doing in Oakland. He traded for two wide receivers and then cut one and traded one away. It seems as though Gruden wants a run-first offense. Really, I would largely be avoiding the Raiders offense as a whole this season. While one could consider sitting Amari Cooper, the volume is too enticing. Instead, Jordy will likely be shut down in week 1.
Kenny Stills vs. Tennessee Titans
The Titans secondary could prove to be one of the best secondaries in the league in 2018. While the Titans pass defense ranked 24th last season, PFF ranks the Titans ninth going into the 2018 season. This improvement is largely due to the addition of cornerback Malcolm Butler. Though his 2017 wasn’t his best season, Butler has shown the ability to be a shutdown cornerback in the past. Butler starting across from up-and-coming cornerback Adoree Jackson allows Logan Ryan to move to slot corner where he has excelled in the past. Safety Kevin Byard is one of the best young safeties in the league. The Miami Dolphins are going to be bad. Stills is likely their best receiving option, but not in this game. I expect the Dolphins passing game to be shut down in week 1.
Austin Sefarian-Jenkins vs. New York Giants
This one is kind of a gimme. Last season the Giants gave up 965 yards and 13 touchdowns to opposing tight ends. This includes a 10 game stretch to start the season where they gave up one or more touchdowns to tight ends. Newly acquired linebacker Alec Ogletree has struggled to cover tight ends in the preseason as well. If you are streaming tight ends this season, the Giants may be your main target, but start ASJ in week 1.
Nick Vannett vs. Denver Broncos
The Broncos are also not good at covering tight ends. Last season they ranked 31st in DVOA against tight ends, allowing 1,022 yards and 9 TDs. They tried to rectify the situation by trading for safety Su’a Cravens, but he was put on IR to start the season. They did draft linebacker Josey Jewell who is good in coverage, but he is behind starter Todd Davis. With relatively the same personnel, the Broncos will continue to struggle against tight ends. The Seahawks have over 200 targets vacated, including 31 red zone targets between departed wide receiver Paul Richardson and tight end Jimmy Graham. At 6’6″ and 250 lbs, Vannett can fill that red zone role. The Seahawks will likely be playing from behind and throwing a lot. Start Nick Vannett.
Delanie Walker @ Miami Dolphins
Delanie Walker also faces a team in the Dolphins that aren’t good at covering tight ends. In 2017, the Dolphins ranked 28th in DVOA against tight ends. They gave up 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns as well. Quarterback Marcus Mariota likes to target Delanie Walker, who has led the Titans in targets over the last three seasons. Though the Titans will likely be in control of this game from the get-go, it will be partially due to the Mariota-Walker connection.
David Njoku vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers ranked first in DVOA against tight ends. They gave up 21. 5% fewer fantasy points per game than league average. This includes 4 catches for 58 yards over two games by Njoku. With the Browns’ upgrades at the skill positions, they will likely look elsewhere in the passing game. Njoku looks to be on the verge of a breakout, just not in week 1.
George Kittle @ Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings have an all-around good defense. Last season they ranked second against tight ends in DVOA. They also gave up 23.5% fewer fantasy points to tight ends than average. Not much has changed on the defensive side of the ball entering 2018 for the Vikings. The 49ers will be hard pressed to score in this one. Avoid the 49ers in week 1.
OJ Howard/Cameron Brate @ New Orleans Saints
This is another game that could get ugly quickly. The Saints saw a much better defense last season. This includes a sixth-ranked DVOA against tight ends and only 577 yards and 6 touchdowns given up. Buccaneers tight ends combined for only 6 catches for 63 yards and 0 touchdowns last season against the Saints. They won’t fair better with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick leading the way. Sit your Bucs tight ends.
Thank you for reading. Until next week, good night and good luck.
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