Top 50 Fantasy Football Big Board for NFL Week 1
Week 1 is upon us in the NFL, and so is the first week of fantasy football.
The Cowboys and Giants already gave us a hot-and-cold performance in the mid-week opener, so their individual players have been removed from these rankings to give a better picture for those participating on Sunday and Monday.
Here are the top 10 players at each offensive position and team defense—assuming standard scoring. But wait! If you click today, you will get double the rankings for free! Call 1-800-FANTASY to order.
Note: Do not call 1-800-FANTASY
20. Blaine Gabbert (at Minnesota)
It will be interesting to see what Gabbert can do with a full offseason under his belt and some bona fide receivers to throw to.
19. Carson Palmer (vs. San Diego)
He could toss four interceptions, but he could also throw four touchdowns. It is unlikely he hits both, but Palmer has some serious weapons in Oakland.
18. Andrew Luck (at Chicago)
Baptism by fire is on order for the top pick in the draft as he faces Julius Peppers and the Chicago defense on the road.
17. Joe Flacco (vs. Cincinnati)
As good as Flacco thinks he is, he has never been a good fantasy option. Hopefully Torrey Smith helps him dispel that notion.
16. Russell Wilson (at Arizona)
The Arizona defense is a bit underrated, but Wilson looks to extend his dazzling preseason play into the regular season. His threat as a runner puts him here.
15. Josh Freeman (vs. Carolina)
The Buccaneers like to run the ball, but Freeman should see enough opportunity passing the ball.
14. Jake Locker (vs. New England)
The Titans figure to be playing catch-up most of the day against the Patriots, meaning Locker will be dropping back to pass a good deal. He, too, can score points with his legs.
13. Robert Griffin III (at New Orleans)
See No. 14.
12. Ben Roethlisberger (at Denver)
Assuming Big Ben does not miss the game to be there for the birth of his child, this is about right considering his perennial offensive line woes.
11. Matt Schaub (vs. Miami)
The Dolphins are in the middle of a transition back to a 4-3 defense, and they traded quality cornerback Vontae Davis away at the end of the preseason. Andre Johnson is healthy. Do the math.
10. Peyton Manning (vs. Pittsburgh)
The wait is over as Peyton Manning makes his Mile High debut. It comes against a perennially stout Pittsburgh defense, but the Steelers will again be without starting safety Ryan Clark in the thin air of Denver.
Does this mean Manning will have a huge day? There is reason for cautious optimism, but he has yet to see regular-season action after a year-long layoff and is adjusting to a new team—all at 35 years old.
The Broncos do boast Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker on the outside and Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen on the inside for Manning, but they might be running the ball more often than you are used to from a Manning-led offense.
9. Philip Rivers (at Oakland)
Rivers may have had an "off" year in 2011, but he still had the second-most yards in his career and threw for 27 touchdowns.
Five of those came against the Raiders, including a 310-yard, three-touchdown performance in the final week of the season as the Chargers made a late, failed bid to make the playoffs.
His blind side might be a bit hot, as Jared Gaither will likely miss Monday's game, and Rivers got a downgrade at receiver with Robert Meachem replacing Vincent Jackson. He will still have a healthy Antonio Gates, though.
8. Matt Ryan (at Kansas City)
This is Matt Ryan's year, and it starts in Kansas City.
At least that is conventional wisdom in the fantasy realm as Ryan enters his fifth season. His arsenal keeps getting better, as Julio Jones seems to be rounding into elite form in his second season and Jacquizz Rodgers becomes a bigger threat out of the backfield. Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez look to continue their steady contribution as well.
The Chiefs will be no pushovers for the Falcons, however, as they play for defensive-minded Romeo Crennel and get some stars back from injury. Playing in Arrowhead Stadium is no walk in the park, hence the bit of water doused on Ryan's opening week.
7. Jay Cutler (vs. Indianapolis)
As the Dolphins are forgetting Brandon Marshall, Cutler is rekindling his explosive relationship with the mercurial receiver.
It begins at home against the tasty Indianapolis defense.
Chicago's offensive line might have a tough time dealing with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, but they are in the midst of a tough transition to a 3-4 defense and lack a great secondary despite the addition of Vontae Davis.
6. Cam Newton (at Tampa Bay)
If we could reliably guarantee Cam Newton would score nearly one rushing touchdown per game, he would be a lock for the top three.
Being that rushing touchdowns come and go like neighborhood cats, Newton's arm should be the primary predictor for fantasy success. He was average in the second half of last season as a passer.
That is not to say he will not score points on the ground with or without touchdowns. He did rush for 700 yards on top of his 14 touchdowns, and is a good bet to take off under pressure.
5. Aaron Rodgers (vs. San Francisco)
The reigning MVP gets a tough test out of the gate.
Rodgers plays against a fearsome San Francisco defense in Week 1, though in the friendly confines of Lambeau Field rather than Candlestick Park.
The 49ers might not be able to contain Rodgers for an entire game—heck, Rodgers might not be fazed at all by that defense—but they will do enough to knock him down a few pegs in the fantasy realm, at least for this week.
4. Michael Vick (at Cleveland)
Yes, Michael Vick was injured in each of his preseason games, but injury risk comes with the territory. When healthy, the Eagles quarterback is still one of the most dynamic players in the NFL.
Vick has DeSean Jackson back playing full bore, and a healthy Jeremy Maclin—not to mention an emergent Brent Celek and always-dangerous LeSean McCoy taking the pressure off the passing game.
Cleveland will have Joe Haden, after all, but this is a decent matchup for Vick and the Eagles.
3. Tom Brady (at Tennessee)
The last time Tom Brady faced the Titans he threw for 380 yards and six touchdowns in the snow, playing uphill both ways.
Granted, that was three years ago, but the future Hall of Famer's arsenal has not exactly gotten worse since then. The Titans have improved, though, so do not expect another six-touchdown performance from Brady.
Half that would be a nice fantasy day for him, and that is a reasonable expectation.
2. Drew Brees (vs. Washington)
Brees gets a tantalizing matchup this week against a weak Redskins secondary missing two starting safeties.
Brandon Meriweather is out two-to-four weeks with an injury, and Tanard Jackson was suspended indefinitely after testing positive for violation of the substance abuse policy.
Jimmy Graham must be licking his lips, and Brees is doing all the cooking.
1. Matthew Stafford (at St. Louis Rams)
Stafford to Johnson.
Rinse and repeat.
The St. Louis Rams were horrifically bad on defense last season, but they made strides to improve that this offseason, at least on paper. Cortland Finnegan is no Darrelle Revis, however, and Megatron will have his way against the Rams.
If the defense over-commits to cover Johnson, Stafford has a number of secondary weapons to target, from Nate Burleson to Titus Young to Brandon Pettigrew.
20. DeAngelo Williams (at Tampa Bay)
Jonathan Stewart is hurting. Williams looked pretty good in the preseason. There you have it.
19. Willis McGahee (vs. Pittsburgh)
McGahee had a resurgent season in a run-heavy offense. He will not get as many looks this year, and he didn't exactly light up the Pittsburgh defense in the playoffs.
18. Frank Gore (at Green Bay)
Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Brandon Jacobs are lurking to steal playing time and goal-line carries from Gore, who is 29-going-on-47.
17. Trent Richardson (vs. Philadelphia)
Richardson looks like a go this weekend, and he is a much better back than his cohorts in Cleveland. It could be tough sledding against the Eagles, though.
16. Darren Sproles (vs. Washington)
As usual, Sproles is a better PPR option than standard, but he still should have a nice day.
15. Fred Jackson (at New York Jets)
Jackson was having a great season before injury halted his 2011 campaign, but he had a pedestrian 82-yard, zero-touchdown performance against the Jets.
14. Marshawn Lynch/Robert Turbin (at Arizona)
If Lynch is a full go, this is a good spot for him. The same goes if Turbin starts. If Lynch is limited, though, neither is a great fantasy start.
13. Stevan Ridley (at Tennessee)
Shane Vereen is out, which means that Danny Woodhead is going to come out of the woodwork and score 25 fantasy points. Really, though, Ridley is a must-start in the short term.
12. Kevin Smith (at St. Louis)
When healthy, Smith scores fantasy points in spades. He heads into St. Louis relatively healthy, until he trips over his dog or something.
11. Reggie Bush (at Houston)
Bush is the Dolphins' best weapon, and they will use him in a variety of ways.
10. Michael Turner (at Kansas City)
Turner might be on the decline, but don't let him know.
The 30-year-old got off to a fast start in 2011, and he is motivated to perform after rampant speculation that his role would be severely reduced this season. The Chiefs have a good defensive front but lack a dominant nose tackle, which is to Turner's advantage.
Of course, Jacquizz Rodgers will be in the game more than he was last season, and the Falcons might be passing more than they have in recent years.
9. Jamaal Charles (vs. Atlanta)
He may be on the comeback trail from an ACL injury, but Charles has shown no ill effects of that this preseason. He is a bit of a risky fantasy start because the Chiefs might want to ease him back into regular-season action, but his explosiveness is undeniable.
Charles will likely give way to Peyton Hillis a fair amount—particularly in goal-line situations—but he averages over six YPC for his career.
8. Doug Martin (vs. Carolina)
This is a lofty ranking for a rookie running back, but Doug Martin has earned it.
He won the starting job over incumbent LeGarrette Blount this preseason, and he will have the lion's share of playing time in a run-heavy offense.
The Panthers have Ron Edwards back at defensive tackle and a good linebacking corps, but Martin can also catch some passes.
7. Steven Jackson (vs. Detroit Lions)
He might have more mileage on his legs than Michael Turner, but Steven Jackson has been a consistent fantasy producer when healthy over the years.
The Rams might take to the air early against Detroit, but Jackson has always been a part of the passing game for St. Louis.
With Isaiah Pead seemingly the latest pretender for the throne, Jackson has little competition for serious playing time.
6. Matt Forte (vs. Indianapolis Colts)
The Bears offense is going to be fun to watch if everyone can stay healthy, and Matt Forte could be a big beneficiary.
He was a great producer at the position in recent years despite a passing game that lacked great options, and he now has Brandon Marshall taking defensive attention away from the running game.
His main issue is Michael Bush, who will be vulturing goal-line carries.
5. Chris Johnson (vs. New England)
He says he is back to being CJ2K. Should we trust him?
Chris Johnson gets a good test against Vince Wilfork and the Patriots this week. It might be tough-sledding on the ground, and the Titans are likely to be playing from behind.
Johnson's value as a pass-catcher will come into play in that situation, though, so he should still produce rather well.
4. LeSean McCoy (at Cleveland)
Shady McCoy has been one of the more consistent fantasy scorers over the past couple of seasons, and there is no reason to believe that will change.
He might not be on track for 20 touchdowns, but McCoy is the main man in the Eagles backfield.
The dynamic running back can and will kill the Browns, who gave up the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs last season.
3. Arian Foster/Ben Tate (vs. Miami)
This ranking is on shaky ground.
Arian Foster has become a game-time decision after injuring his knee. The Texans could limit his workload if he does play, but Ben Tate could be in for a huge game if Foster is ruled out.
This is rather unfortunate if you spent big money on Foster, and extremely fortuitous if you spent a mid-round draft pick on Tate.
Of course, this could all be much ado about nothing, and Foster could very well start. This is one of the more important injury issues to follow on Sunday morning.
2. Ray Rice (vs. Cincinnati)
Last season Rice totaled 346 yards and four touchdowns against the Bengals in his two meetings against the divisional rival.
It is safe to say he will have a productive day against Cincinnati this Sunday.
1. Darren McFadden
There is surprisingly little data on McFadden against the divisional rival from America's Finest City. He has played just one game against them in the past two seasons, turning in a respectable 97-yard, one-touchdown performance.
That means relatively little nearly two years later as the Raiders welcome the Chargers in a game that figures to feature Run DMC.
Oakland's receivers are a bit gimpy heading into the season, and McFadden looks like the beast he was during the first half of the season last year.
With no Michael Bush to vulture goal-line work, McFadden is going to have a fine fantasy day.
20. Brandon Lloyd (at Tennessee)
Lloyd and Tom Brady might still be working on their chemistry, but defenses are going to have their hands full trying to deal with Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker. Sure, this sounds familiar to the story of a mythological man named Ochocinco heading into 2012, but Lloyd's story will have a happier ending.
19. Vincent Jackson (vs. Carolina)
This ain't San Diego, and Josh Freeman is no Philip Rivers.
18. Torrey Smith (vs. Cincinnati)
Smith looked great in the preseason, and he should start the year off right against a banged-up Cincinnati secondary.
17. Jeremy Maclin (at Cleveland)
Joe Haden will be shadowing DeSean Jackson, which is a good thing for Maclin.
16. Demaryius Thomas (vs. Pittsburgh)
Thomas ended Pittsburgh's season last year. Will he turn into Steel Town's demon? Eric Decker has looked better in the preseason, but Thomas is still the bigger, faster receiver.
15. Antonio Brown (at Denver)
Mike Wallace may be ready for the opener, but he might be on a reduced workload. Brown should have a nice day regardless, but this could change dramatically if Ben Roethlisberger does not play.
14. Marques Colston (vs. Washington)
Washington's secondary is beat up, and Colston has Drew Brees throwing the ball to him. Were it not for Jimmy Graham, Colston might be in the top five.
13. Greg Jennings (vs. San Francisco)
San Francisco has a tough defense, but it will be difficult to keep Jennings down for an entire game.
12. Percy Harvin (vs. Jacksonville)
The Vikings might be without Adrian Peterson—at least a fully healthy version—so they will lean heavily on their best weapon.
11. Jordy Nelson (vs. San Francisco)
See No. 13.
10. Wes Welker (at Tennessee)
As usual, Welker is a much better PPR option, but he should still have a nice game in standard leagues.
The problem for Welker is that the Patriots simply have too many options. Perhaps defenses will forget about him as they deal with Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Stevan Ridley, but the likelihood is that New England will spread the ball around even more.
9. Roddy White (at Kansas City)
White is not quite the PPR stud that Welker has been, but he does come close.
Julio Jones might be Ryan's new favorite target, but White still got his in the preseason.
8. Steve Smith (at Tampa Bay)
Smith got off to a blazing start in 2011, but fell off as the season wore on. Some of that had to do with defenses keying on him, but they will have their hands full with this offense.
With a good rushing attack and Greg Olsen and Brandon LaFell there to take the pressure off, Smith will get off to another good start.
7. Dwayne Bowe (vs. Atlanta)
Dwayne Bow averaged 80.7 yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game last season before Matt Cassel was knocked out for the season and he had to deal with Flotsam and Jetsam at quarterback.
Cassel is back, and the Chiefs figure to have an offensive fight on their hands. This should be a nice night for the big receiver.
6. A.J. Green (at Baltimore)
A.J. Green might be facing the Baltimore Ravens defense, but he is approaching Megatron levels of uncoverability.
He should have a great game as Cincinnati's main option in the passing game.
5. Andre Johnson (vs. Miami)
The Texans play against a Dolphins defense that just traded away a quality cornerback (Vontae Davis) and is in the midst of a transition back to a 4-3. The Dolphins will not have Sean Smith, their biggest and best defensive back, shadow Andre Johnson.
Unless Gary Kubiak is dense, this means a lot of Johnson versus Richard Marshall, who does not look like he is up to the task.
4. Larry Fitzgerald (vs. Seattle)
Yes, Larry Fitzgerald has Moe throwing him the ball with Curly backing him up, but he has performed well regardless of poor quarterback play. That will not change against the Seahawks, as the Cardinals will lean on their best player often.
John Skelton may not be Aaron Rodgers, but he knows where to withdraw money.
Larry Fitzgerald is Skelton's ATM.
3. Brandon Marshall (vs. Indianapolis)
Whether it's against Jerraud Powers or former teammate Vontae Davis, Brandon Marshall will have a field day against the Colts.
Remember, Marshall went for over 1,200 yards the last time he had Cutler behind the wheel of his offense. The two are older, wiser and better since the fateful night Josh McDaniels got on Cutler's bad side.
This is a great matchup for Marshall. As Borat would say, "It's nice."
2. Julio Jones (at Kansas City)
The Falcons are already reaping the benefits of trading a king's ransom for Jones at the 2011 draft.
He had a good rookie season, but Jones has looked fantastic thus far in the preseason. While it only counts in the regular season, he has seemingly surpassed Roddy White as Matt Ryan's favorite target.
The explosive receiver will continue to make good on that promise this week against the Chiefs.
1. Calvin Johnson (at St. Louis)
Megatron begins his Madden curse-busting campaign against the Rams.
There is nobody better at this position. Granted, the Rams have much better personnel in the secondary by virtue of free agency and getting healthy, but how many cornerbacks can cover Johnson?
He is the best in the game and Matthew Stafford's binky, and that is enough to peg him as the No. 1 receiver from week to week until further notice.
20. Coby Fleener (at Chicago)
Andrew Luck will find his college buddy a few times on the road this week.
19. Dustin Keller (vs. Buffalo)
18. Scott Chandler (at New York Jets)
Chandler was a throw of the dice whenever fantasy owners decided to start him last year. He should have a bit more consistency in 2012, but it is difficult to bet on a big game from him until he proves it.
17. Kellen Davis (vs. Indianapolis)
Davis is the top tight end in Chicago, and he no longer has Mike Martz to undermine the position.
16. Kyle Rudolph (vs. Jacksonville)
Rudolph is primed for a breakout season. It begins against Jacksonville, a relatively stingy defense.
15. Owen Daniels (vs. Miami)
The Dolphins have not covered tight ends well over the years, including Daniels.
14. Jared Cook (vs. New England)
Is he finally going to make good on his sleeper status?
13. Greg Olsen (at Tampa Bay)
Olsen is finally free from Mike Martz and serious competition for playing time. He looked like a great seam target for Cam Newton in the preseason.
12. Jermaine Gresham (at Baltimore)
The Ravens were the second-best defense against tight ends from a fantasy perspective last season. Well, this is a new year.
11. Jacob Tamme (vs. Pittsburgh)
The hype has died down for Tamme in recent weeks, but he still figures to be a big part of the passing offense in Denver. Manning did target him 10 times per game in 2010 after Dallas Clark went down for the year.
10. Tony Gonzalez (at Kansas City)
The Ageless Wonder continues his journey through the NFL.
Gonzalez continues to play at a high level at the age of 36 for the Falcons, giving Matt Ryan a nice safety blanket. It helps that defenses must contend with the likes of Roddy White and Julio Jones.
Kansas City has some nice linebackers and safeties to track Gonzalez, though, so his fantasy output could be limited.
9. Jermichael Finley (vs. San Francisco)
Through the years, Finley has been a model of inconsistency.
He has the size and speed to dominate in the passing game, but he has not put it all together for a full season for the Packers. Injuries have been a culprit, but Finley heads into the season healthy.
Unfortunately, he goes up against a ferocious San Francisco defense.
8. Aaron Hernandez (at Tennessee)
The hype is at an all-time high for Aaron Hernandez going into 2012, but will he be able to keep up with the Gronkses?
Hernandez is as versatile as they come, but he is not the big red-zone target that Rob Gronkowski is. He should see a good number of targets and yardage, but the touchdowns will likely belong to others on the offense.
7. Brandon Pettigrew (at St. Louis)
When you don't have Calvin Johnson to throw to because he is somehow covered—it happens from time to time—Brandon Pettigrew is a nice, big alternative to target.
The fourth-year receiver has seen his production increase in each of his first three years in the league, and he could be a breakout candidate.
With so many players garnering defensive attention on this Lions offense, Pettigrew could be in line for a breakout himself.
6. Brent Celek (at Cleveland)
Celek was quietly the ninth-best fantasy tight end at the end of the season, and he got there on the wings of a top-five second half.
He has really come on and gained the consistency he lacked earlier in his career. A big red-zone target, Celek will be in line for plenty of looks near the goal line with defenses keying in on LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick.
The Browns were in the middle of the pack in terms of fantasy points allowed to tight ends last season. Celek should get them started off on the wrong foot in 2012.
5. Vernon Davis (at Green Bay)
What does Randy Moss do for the 49ers?
He opens up the middle and bottom of defenses when he takes the top off. The biggest beneficiary of this should be Vernon Davis, who thrives down the seam.
Davis was the sixth-best tight end in the second half of the season last year after a slow start as he adjusted to a new offense. Adjustment achieved.
4. Fred Davis (at New Orleans)
Fred Davis had the antithetical season to Brent Celek, placing in the top five during the first 12 games before a suspension due to knuckle-headery ended his season.
He is back, and he no longer has Chris Cooley to contend with. (Granted, Cooley could wind up re-signing with the Redskins.)
For this week, at least, Davis is free and clear of serious competition at his position, and he will be helping RGIII play catch-up to the Saints.
3. Rob Gronkowski (at Tennessee)
The buzz has surrounded Aaron Hernandez this preseason, and Gronkowski will be hard-pressed to repeat his record-breaking performance from a year ago.
Still, he is one of Tom Brady's favorite targets—particularly in the red zone—which makes him a highly valuable fantasy commodity, regardless of regression.
The Buccaneers have an upgraded secondary, but Gronkowski is hardly coverable.
2. Antonio Gates (at Oakland)
Antonio Gates has spent much of the past two seasons dealing with nagging injuries, but he is healthy heading into the 2012 season.
Gates was the third-best fantasy tight end after he came back from injury last year. He continues to be a reliable target for Philip Rivers.
That is bad news for the Raiders.
1. Jimmy Graham (vs. Washington)
See the Drew Brees slide. Graham is in for a fantastic fantasy day.
15. San Diego Chargers (at Oakland)
Interceptions tend to fall into the hands of defenders against Carson Palmer.
14. New England Patriots (at Tennessee)
Jake Locker is good, but he is also prone to mistakes in his second season. Look for the Patriots to capitalize.
13. New Orleans Saints (vs. Washington)
The Saints will be fired up on defense after the offseason they had.
12. Detroit Lions (at St. Louis)
Will the Lions see an offense that continues to be anemic? The Rams gave up a ton of fantasy points to opposing defenses last year. Even if the Rams improve, they are not exactly going to light up the scoreboard.
11. New York Jets (vs. Buffalo)
The Jets have a great defense, but the Bills are looking to usurp their place in the AFC East.
10. Green Bay Packers (vs. San Francisco)
The Packers intercepted the most passes in 2011, and Alex Smith threw the least last season. Something has to give, right?
Green Bay looks to get back to 2010 form on defense, and moving Charles Woodson to safety could make them even more dangerous in the turnover battle.
9. San Francisco 49ers (at Green Bay)
The 49ers tied the Packers for the most takeaways last season, but they face an elite quarterback who leads a dynamic offense into gridiron battle.
San Francisco is also good in the return game, though Ted Ginn Jr. might not be available to return punts this week.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars (at Minnesota)
The Jaguars are an underrated defense, and they go up against a Minnesota offense with a second-year quarterback likely without his top running back (at least not in top shape).
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (at Denver)
Pittsburgh has been a top defense since the dawn of history, but they could fall off a bit this season due to injury.
The Steelers get a tough test in Denver against Peyton Manning, and they will have to do it without safety Ryan Clark.
To kick them out of the top 10 already seems premature, but they could be in for a long day.
6. Seattle Seahawks (at Arizona)
The Seahawks are another underrated defense, and they are going up against a shaky starting quarterback in John Skelton.
Chris Clemons, Jason Jones and Co. figure to put the heat on Skelton and the Cardinals, who have an offensive line that resembles a shooting-range target.
5. Buffalo Bills (at New York Jets)
Mario Williams is in town.
While he had a quiet preseason, Williams and Mark Anderson will terrorize a terrible offensive line, harassing Mark Sanchez into some turnovers in the process.
Of course, it helps that Buffalo's secondary should be improved, while the Jets lack reliable receiving options outside of Santonio Holmes and perhaps Dustin Keller.
4. Baltimore Ravens (vs. Cincinnati)
The Ravens had quite a stingy defense when it came to fantasy football last year.
A defensive touchdown or two are always a threat when Ed Reed steps on the field.
3. Houston Texans (vs. Miami)
J.J. Watt is licking his chops to go up against a Miami Dolphins offense that features a rookie quarterback and a JV wide-receiving corps.
They also have an offensive line that rivals the Jets' ineptitude on the right side—unless rookie Jonathan Martin has a dramatic turnaround.
2. Chicago Bears (vs. Indianapolis)
Speaking of playing against rookie quarterbacks, the Bears get to play against one themselves—though Andrew Luck is a horse of a different color.