Fantasy Football Week 1: Position-by-Position Rankings for NFL's 1st Week

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2012

Fantasy Football Week 1: Position-by-Position Rankings for NFL's 1st Week

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    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. 


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    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. 


    Ranking Name Matchup
    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

Wide Receiver

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    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. 


    Ranking Name Matchup
    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

Running Back

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    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. 

    Ranking Name Matchup
    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

Tight End

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    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. 


    Ranking Name Matchup
    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


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    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!


    Ranking Name Matchup
    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
    15 Cleveland Browns

     vs. Philadelphia Eagles


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