Fantasy Football Week 1: Position-by-Position Rankings for NFL's 1st Week
The long, national nightmare of not having football to watch on Sundays is finally over. The 2012 NFL season kicks off Wednesday night, and with that comes the arrival of the world's new favorite pastime: fantasy football.
By now, your league has had its draft, smack talk has escalated, and now it's time to prove which team is the best on the virtual field.
Only one problem: you still can't figure out who to start on Sunday.
Well, luckily for you, we're here to help. Follow along as we give you the position-by-position rankings for Week 1 of the NFL season.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Top Performer: Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)
Projected Week 1 Stats: 375 passing yards, three touchdowns
With many in the media eager to write off Brees and the Saints this season, look for the offense to come out firing against the Redskins. While Washington's defense ranked 12th in the league last year in passing yards allowed, the team did little in the offseason to improve on that unit and struggled all preseason.
And even if the Redskins have a top-notch unit in the long run, Brees dominates even the strongest defenses at will most weeks.
This isn't voodoo or bad karma or whatever anyone seems to think will happen to the Saints in 2012. It's fantasy football, a game based solely on individual accomplishments. Until Drew Brees fails or gets injured, he'll be No. 1 or No. 2 in nearly all my quarterback rankings this season.
|1||Drew Brees||vs. Washington Redskins|
|2||Aaron Rodgers||vs. San Francisco 49ers|
|3||Tom Brady||@ Tennessee Titans|
|4||Matthew Stafford||vs. St. Louis Rams|
|5||Cam Newton||@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|6||Michael Vick||vs. Cleveland Browns|
|7||Eli Manning||vs. Dallas Cowboys|
|8||Matt Ryan||@ Kansas City Chiefs|
|9||Philip Rivers||@ Oakland Raiders|
|10||Matt Schaub||vs. Miami Dolphins|
|11||Peyton Manning||vs. Pittsburgh Steelers|
|12||Tony Romo||@ New York Giants|
|13||Jay Cutler||vs. Indianapolis Colts|
|14||Josh Freeman||vs. Carolina Panthers|
|15||Carson Palmer||vs. San Diego Chargers|
|16||Russell Wilson||@ Arizona Cardinals|
|17||Ben Roethlisberger||@ Denver Broncos|
|18||Andy Dalton||@ Baltimore Ravens|
|19||Andrew Luck||@ Chicago Bears|
|20||Robert Griffin III||@ New Orleans Saints|
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Top Performer: Calvin Johnson (Detroit Lions)
Projected Week 1 Stats: eight receptions, 145 yards, two touchdowns
Like Brees, expect Johnson to stay at or near the top of my rankings throughout the season, barring injury. And with an excellent matchup against the Rams, it seems likely that Megatron will be among fantasy's top scorers in Week 1.
You were starting him anyway, but don't be shocked if Johnson (and possibly Matthew Stafford if you have the connection) single-handedly win your matchup.
If you're playing anyone on the Lions? Well, hopefully you have at least one of these top-ranked guys to balance it out.
|1||Calvin Johnson||vs. St. Louis Rams|
|2||Larry Fitzgerald||vs. Seattle Seahawks|
|3||Andre Johnson||vs. Miami Dolphins|
|4||Hakeem Nicks||vs. Dallas Cowboys|
|5||Brandon Marshall||vs. Indianapolis Colts|
|6||Greg Jennings||vs. San Francisco 49ers|
|7||Roddy White||@ Kansas City Chiefs|
|8||Dez Bryant||@ New York Giants|
|9||Antonio Brown||@ Denver Broncos|
|10||Steve Smith||@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|11||Percy Harvin||vs. Jacksonville Jaguars|
|12||Victor Cruz||vs. Dallas Cowboys|
|13||Julio Jones||@ Kansas City Chiefs|
|14||A.J. Green||@ Baltimore Ravens|
|15||Marques Colston||vs. Washington Redskins|
|16||Vincent Jackson||vs. Carolina Panthers|
|17||Jordy Nelson||vs. San Francisco 49ers|
|18||Eric Decker||vs. Pittsburgh Steelers|
|19||Mike Wallace||@ Denver Broncos|
|20||Wes Welker||@ Tennessee Titans|
|21||Dwyane Bowe||vs. Atlanta Falcons|
|22||Miles Austin||@ New York Giants|
|23||Stevie Johnson||@ New York Jets|
|24||Jeremy Maclin||@ Cleveland Browns|
|25||Brandon Lloyd||@ Tennessee Titans|
|26||DeSean Jackson||@ Cleveland Browns|
|27||Anquan Boldin||vs. Cincinnati Bengals|
|28||Malcom Floyd||@ Oakland Raiders|
|29||Demaryius Thomas||vs. Pittsburgh Steelers|
|30||Torrey Smith||vs. Cincinnati Bengals|
Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE
Top Performer: LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia Eagles)
Projected Week 1 Stats: 25 touches, 150 yards, two touchdowns
I'm one of a select few people that I've seen to have McCoy as my preseason No. 1 running back, and it's been baffling all preseason. Not only was McCoy the best and most versatile runner in all of the NFL last season, he was the league's best by a wide margin.
McCoy's DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement) was an astounding 304 last season. Essentially, what that means is McCoy gained over 300 yards more than an average back would have in his spot, considering workload, strength of opposition, etc.
The next highest total on that list was the Seattle Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch. His DYAR? 201. That means, if you choose to believe Football Outsiders' metric, that McCoy was over 100 yards better than any running back in the NFL last season.
With a cushy matchup against the Browns this week, it seems foolish to me for McCoy to be anywhere other than atop the rankings.
|1||LeSean McCoy||@ Cleveland Browns|
|2||Arian Foster||vs. Miami Dolphins|
|3||Ray Rice||vs. Cincinnati Bengals|
|4||Chris Johnson||vs. New England Patriots|
|5||Darren McFadden||vs. San Diego Chargers|
|6||Steven Jackson||@ Detroit Lions|
|7||Matt Forte||vs. Indianapolis Colts|
|8||DeMarco Murray||@ New York Giants|
|9||Marshawn Lynch||@ Arizona Cardinals|
|10||Kevin Smith||vs. St. Louis Rams|
|11||Doug Martin||vs. Carolina Panthers|
|12||Jamaal Charles||vs. Atlanta Falcons|
|13||Fred Jackson||@ New York Jets|
|14||Ahmad Bradshaw||vs. Dallas Cowboys|
|15||Michael Turner ||@ Kansas City Chiefs|
|16||Darren Sproles||vs. Washington Redskins|
|17||Frank Gore||@ Green Bay Packers|
|18||Reggie Bush||@ Houston Texans|
|19||Toby Gerhart||vs. Jacksonville Jaguars|
|20||DeAngelo Williams||@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|21||Rashad Jennings||@ Minnesota Vikings|
|22||Isaac Redman||@ New York Giants|
|23||Shonn Greene||vs. Buffalo Bills|
|24||Evan Royster||@ New Orleans Saints|
|25||Stevan Ridley||@ Tennessee Titans|
|26||Beanie Wells||vs. Seattle Seahawks|
|27||Willis McGahee||vs. Pittsburgh Steelers|
|28||Donald Brown||@ Chicago Bears|
|29||C.J. Spiller||@ New York Jets|
|30||Maurice Jones-Drew||@ Minnesota Vikings|
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Top Performer: Jimmy Graham (New Orleans Saints)
Projected Stats: 10 catches, 125 yards, one touchdown
If you haven't noticed yet, I'm all-in on the Saints this week, and Graham should be Brees' No. 1 target against the Redskins.
And while most will have Rob Gronkowski atop their rankings, I expect a reversion this year for the New England tight end. Not because of any erosion of skill, but simply because 17 touchdowns is unsustainable and Aaron Hernandez isn't going away anytime soon.
On the other hand, Graham should be in-line for a repeat performance, barring injury. There is no new No. 1 wideout in New Orleans, nor is there a second talented tight end to usurp targets. And barring an injury to Brees, Graham should continue to see plenty of balls thrown his way.
Since 2008, no quarterback has thrown to his tight ends more often than Drew Brees (per ESPN's Matthew Berry). And with Graham being the most talented tight end he's ever had (save for Antonio Gates), there's no reason to think that will stop anytime soon.
|1||Jimmy Graham||vs. Washington Redskins|
|2||Rob Gronkowski||@ Tennessee Titans|
|3||Antonio Gates||@ Oakland Raiders|
|4||Aaron Hernandez||@ Tennessee Titans|
|5||Vernon Davis||@ Green Bay Packers|
|6||Fred Davis||@ New Orleans Saints|
|7||Tony Gonzalez||@ Kansas City Chiefs|
|8||Brandon Pettigrew||vs. St. Louis Rams|
|9||Jermichael Finley||vs. San Francisco 49ers|
|10||Jared Cook||vs. New England Patriots|
|11||Jacob Tamme||vs. Pittsburgh Steelers|
|12||Dustin Keller||vs. Buffalo Bills|
|13||Owen Daniels||vs. Miami Dolphins|
|14||Greg Olsen||@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|15||Kyle Rudolph||vs. Jacksonville Jaguars|
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Top Performer: Philadelphia Eagles
Projected Stats: 10 points allowed, four sacks, three turnovers created, one touchdown
Projecting defensive performance in Week 1 is always a tricky proposition. You can study the rosters, check the matchups and scour all the information you want, but until you see the unit on the field, it's essentially a shot in the dark.
Take the Eagles, for instance. On paper, they have top-notch corners and are playing a rookie quarterback who could be Chris Weinke 2.0 in Brandon Weeden.
That should be a recipe for disaster.
Nevertheless, the defensive unit is still being coached by the same man (Juan Castillo) who tried to turn Nnamdi Asomugha into Charles Woodson last season.
If you have the Eagles on your roster, jump on starting them. Odds are that the game will get ugly really quick. Just don't fully count on Philadelphia or any defense until we actually get some game film.
As always is the case, play your chances and hope for the best. Good luck in Week 1!
|1||Philadelphia Eagles||@ Cleveland Browns|
|2||Seattle Seahawks||@ Arizona Cardinals|
|3||Houston Texans||vs. Miami Dolphins|
|4||New England||@ Tennessee Titans|
|5||Minnesota Vikings||vs. Jacksonville Jaguars|
|6||New York Jets||vs. Buffalo Bills|
|7||Detroit Lions||vs. St. Louis Rams|
|8||Chicago Bears||vs. Indianapolis Colts|
|9||Green Bay Packers||vs. San Francisco 49ers|
|10||Buffalo Bills||@ New York Jets|
|11||Atlanta Falcons||@ Kansas City Chiefs|
|12||San Diego Chargers||@ Oakland Raiders|
|13||Oakland Raiders||vs. San Diego Chargers|
|14||New Orleans Saints||vs. Washington Redskins|
vs. Philadelphia Eagles
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