Fantasy Football 2013: Projecting Top Week 1 Producers at Each Position

Giancarlo Ferrari-KingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2013

Fantasy Football 2013: Projecting Top Week 1 Producers at Each Position

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    Ladies and gentleman, we've made it. Week 1 of the 2013 fantasy football season is here and you know what that means.

    It's time to project the top producers at each position during the first week of NFL action.

    Factoring in matchups, player stats and advanced football analysis, each of these players were carefully selected to help fantasy owners score the most points possible in Week 1.

    Without further hesitation, it's time to get your popcorn ready, start the slideshow below and check out the projected top five producers at each position for Week 1.

    *All stats courtesy of NFL.com unless noted otherwise.

Quarterback

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    In a pass-friendly league, watching quarterbacks put up monster numbers each week in fantasy football has become a regular occurrence these days.

    That's why outside of the top five projected scoring leaders listed below, guys like Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo and of course Peyton Manning, are all great plays in Week 1.

     

    1. Drew Brees

    One of the most exciting matchups of Week 1 has to be Drew Brees and his New Orleans Saints taking on Matt Ryan and his Atlanta Falcons.

    With two high-octane offenses set to do battle in the Superdome, starting the always productive Brees should be a no-brainer for fantasy owners.

    With back-to-back 5,000-yard passing seasons under his belt, there's no reason why Brees shouldn't be able to torch last season's 23rd-ranked pass defense.

    Projection: 405 yards passing, 3 TDs, 1 interception

     

    2. Matt Ryan

    Last time they met in New Orleans, Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan threw for 411 yards and three touchdowns.

    A return trip to New Orleans just means this Falcons QB is going to have another huge day. With all of his offensive weapons healthy, look for Ryan to throw for multiple touchdowns and break the 300-yard passing mark once again.

    Projection: 315 yards passing, 3 TDs

     

    3. Tom Brady

    Even though this New England Patriots offense looks completely different than it did last season, expect a vintage Tom Brady performance this Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

    With the loss of up-and-coming cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the already weak Bills' secondary is going to have an even bigger problem stopping the Patriots through the air.

    300 yards and three touchdowns later, Brady and the Patriots should roll through the Bills in a high-scoring AFC East battle.

    Projection: 300 yards passing, 3 TDs

     

    4. Andrew Luck

    Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck gets the pleasure of kicking off the 2013-14 NFL season against the Oakland Raiders this weekend at home.

    Coming off a rookie season in which he passed for a rookie record 4,374 yards, Luck should be able to take that next step as a player and improve greatly in year two.

    Thanks to his ability and the offensive talent that surrounds him, a dark-horse MVP candidate, Luck is going to tear apart the Raiders this Sunday.

    Projection: 296 yards passing, 3 TDs

     

    5. Matthew Stafford

    Did you know Matthew Stafford has thrown the football 1,390 times in the last two seasons? That's 336 more times than Aaron Rodgers has thrown for in the same time period.

    A true high-volume passer, with Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson at his disposal, Stafford should be able to throw the football all over the field against the Vikings this Sunday—racking up some serious yardage in the process.

    Projection: 340 yards passing, 2 TDs, 1 interception

     

     

Running Back

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    The bread-and-butter of any great fantasy football team, the running back position is not as deep as quarterback.

    Projecting the top five scorers for Week 1 was a blend between matchups, skill set and a player's ability to get in the end zone.

    For those who play in point-per-reception leagues, each projected stat line has catches in it as well.

     

    1. Adrian Peterson

    The most physically gifted running back alive today, talking with ESPN.com, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said he "will definitely break" Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record this year.

    Consistently putting up great numbers when he plays against Detroit—in two games last season, Peterson rushed for a total of 273 yards—fantasy general managers should feel great about playing Peterson this Sunday.

    Projection: 140 yards rushing, 2 TDs / 4 receptions, 30 yards receiving

     

    2. Jamaal Charles

    Andy Reid's West Coast offense will be on full-display when the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday.

    Benefiting from Reid's system, there's no reason why star running back Jamaal Charles shouldn't be able to find a ton of holes and put up big numbers Sunday going up against last season's 30th-worst run defense.

    Projection: 110 yards rushing, 1 TD / 6 receptions, 51 yards receiving, 1 TD

     

    3. C.J. Spiller

    The supremely talented Buffalo Bills starting running back C.J. Spiller is in a good situation heading into Week 1.

    With rookie QB EJ Manuel back at practice, there's a good chance this young Bills offense could get cooking early. A proven commodity, thanks to his ability to run the football and catch passes, expect Spiller to see a heavy workload against the Patriots.

    Projection: 96 yards rushing, 1 TD / 5 receptions, 43 yards receiving, 1 TD

     

    4. Marshawn Lynch

    The beast is back and ready to get rolling against the Carolina Panthers. The star running back in a run-heavy Seattle Seahawks offense, Lynch carried the football 315 times last season for 1,590 yards and 11 rushing TDs.

    Having defined himself as an elite running back over the last two seasons, entering Week 1 Lynch is healthy and looking to continue his trend of terrorizing defenses.

    Although Carolina finished last season with the NFL's 14th-best run defense, Lynch still found a way to rush for 85 yards against them the last time these two teams met.

    Projection: 108 yards rushing, 1 TD / 3 receptions, 26 yards receiving

     

    5. Stevan Ridley

    Expecting big things from the entire New England offense, starting Patriots running back Stevan Ridley is another player who could put up big points for fantasy owners in Week 1.

    In two games against the Bills last season, Ridley rushed for 106 and 98 yards respectively, scoring three touchdowns in the process.

    With the Patriots looking to establish the run early on, Ridley should get a solid amount of carries. While backup running back Shane Vereen will also see the field, when it comes to running the football—especially in goal-line situations—Ridley is still New England's main man.

    Projection: 104 yards rushing, 1 TD / 1 reception, 6 yards receiving

Wide Receiver

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    A position that runs as deep as the Mariana Trench, sometimes projecting the top-five scoring wide receivers on a weekly basis can be tough.

    Outside of the names who made this list, look for guys like Andre Johnson, Dwayne Bowe, Roddy White and Marques Colston to also have big weeks for fantasy owners.

     

    1. Calvin Johnson

    This week expect Megatron to be, well, Megatron. Fresh off a record-setting season where he managed to rack up 1,964 yards receiving on 122 catches, there's no reason to think Johnson isn't going to have another big campaign with the Lions in 2013.

    Outside of his ability, one thing you have to like about Johnson is the guy is a target machine. Racking up 25 targets in his two appearances against the Vikings last season, nothing is going to change when these teams meet up Sunday at Ford Field.

    Seeing Johnson ranked as the No. 1 wide receiver is going to be a recurring theme this season. At 6'5", there really isn't a defensive back in this league who can slow him down.

    Projection: 8 receptions, 140 yards receiving, 1 TD

     

    2. Dez Bryant

    There's a real possibility that Dallas Cowboys standout Dez Bryant could end up finishing this fantasy season as the No. 2 ranked wide receiver.

    The ultra-talented Bryant will look to get out of the gate fast when he lines up against the New York Giants in Week 1.

    Facing last year's 28th-ranked pass defense, thanks to his physical attributes and connection with quarterback Tony Romo, nothing is going to be able to stop Bryant from putting up big numbers this week.

    Projection: 7 receptions, 126 yards receiving, 1 TD

     

    3. Julio Jones

    Keeping with the theme of talented wide receivers, Atlanta Falcons superstar Julio Jones is going to have a big Week 1.

    Facing the New Orleans Saints and their leaky pass defense—last season the Saints ranked 31st against the pass—nothing will stop Jones from having a monster game.

    Possessing all of the skill and potential in the world, the only problem with Jones is his inconsistency in terms of fantasy football scoring.

    According to Tristan H. Cockcroft of ESPN.com, last season, Jones was the biggest boom-or-bust wide receiver in all of fantasy football.

    Regardless, Jones is about to take his place in a classic offensive shootout this Sunday. Playing indoors against the Saints and their questionable defense makes him a smart play for any fantasy GM.

    Projection: 5 receptions, 110 yards receiving, 1 TD

     

    4. Demaryius Thomas

    With all of the talented WRs in the NFL today, sometimes it's easy to forget about Denver Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas.

    Although the Broncos will battle the always tough Baltimore Ravens to start their season, all the signs for Thomas to find success are still there.

    According to The Denver Post, Thomas is coming off one of his best training camps. Whether we're talking about his progression as a player or the amazing chemistry he shares with QB Peyton Manning, either way you slice it, Thomas is going to have one great fantasy football season.

    Even with Wes Welker and Eric Decker on the field, the fact remains, Thomas is still the biggest and most talented target Manning has out there.

     Projection: 5 receptions, 96 yards receiving, 1 TD

     

    5. A.J. Green

    Grading out as the third-most consistent WR in fantasy football last season, per ESPN.com, Cincinnati Bengals third-year stud A.J. Green is always a player who manages to put up great numbers.

    Even though he has a tough matchup against the Chicago Bears—the Bears finished last season with the 8th-best pass defense in the NFL—Green's amazing talent gives him the edge any player needs when taking on a strong defense.

    According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Green finished last season as the 8th-best wide receiver in the NFL. Now with more experience,  Week 1 against the Bears is going to kickoff a huge 2013 fantasy football season for Green.

    Projection: 5 receptions, 88 yards receiving, 1 TD

Tight End

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    Friendly faces, longtime fantasy studs and some new guys make up the top-five projected scorers for the tight end position in Week 1.

    While they don't score as many points as wide receivers do, having a good tight end in your starting lineup can be the difference between a win or a loss.

     

    1. Jimmy Graham

    The most physically gifted tight end in the game right now, New Orleans Saints big man Jimmy Graham should kick off his 2013 fantasy season with a bang.

    With a Week 1 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, as discussed earlier, this game is going to be a high-scoring affair.

    Talking with Jim Corbett of USA TODAY about his connection with quarterback Drew Brees, Graham said, "Drew and I are already in mid-season form...Right now, we're more dynamic offensively than we've ever been."

    If this proves to be true, Graham is not only going to have a huge Week 1, he's also going to have one heck of a 2013.

    Projection: 8 receptions, 102 yards receiving, 1 TD

     

    2. Jared Cook

    One of the newest addition to the St. Louis Rams, tight end Jared Cook is a prime-time candidate for a breakout fantasy campaign in 2013.

    A serious mismatch for opposing defenses, Peter King of TheMMQB.com called Cook the "single-best player" he saw on his training camp tour this past summer.

    Although he faces a tough matchup going up against the Arizona Cardinals—who finished last season with the 6th-best pass defense—Cook's unique skill set should allow him to see a ton of targets from QB Sam Bradford all game long.

    Projection: 6 receptions, 70 yards receiving, 1 TD

     

    3. Tony Gonzalez

    Forget about age, the 37-year-old tight end for the Atlanta Falcons is still going to produce at a high level this season.

    Surrounded by a ton of offensive talent, with Matt Ryan throwing him the football, Gonzalez should be able to get off to a fast start Week 1 against the Saints.

    Considering last season Gonzalez scored in both games he played against the Saints, finding the end zone this Sunday should pretty much be a lock for the Falcons tight end.

    Start Gonzalez with confidence and watch as he and the rest of the Falcons offense shred the Saints down in New Orleans.

    Projection: 5 receptions, 65 yards receiving, 1 TD

     

    4. Vernon Davis

    The only reliable target left in the San Francisco 49ers passing game is tight end Vernon Davis.

    With Michael Crabtree injured and a group of unproven wide receivers on the roster, 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick should make a habit out of throwing the football to Davis whenever he's out there on the field.

    Even though playing against the Green Bay Packers isn't the best matchup for the 49ers tight end—the Packers finished the 2012 season with the 11th-best pass defense—due to the fact that he has chemistry with Kaepernick, this Sunday, Davis should see the majority of passes thrown his way.

    Projection: 5 receptions, 60 yards receiving, 1 TD

     

    5. Jason Witten

    Aside from Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten could be the most talented player on this high-powered offense.

    Finishing last season with 110 catches for 1,039 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns, Witten proved he could still get it done.

    An absolute reception machine, Witten is an even more dangerous weapon in point-per-reception leagues.

    Going up against the Giants, expect Romo to look for Witten often throughout the course of the game.

    Projection: 8 receptions, 77 yards receiving

     

     

Team Defense

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    1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are playing the New York Jets this Sunday. Just think about that for a second.

    With the return of Darrelle Revis and the horrendous quarterback situation that's unfolding in New York, let's just say things aren't going to be pretty for the Jets this Sunday at Metlife Stadium.

    Projection: 10 points allowed, 2 interceptions, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble

     

    2. Houston Texans

    Taking on the San Diego Chargers in a Monday Night Football showdown, there's no doubt about it, the Houston Texans will get back to their stingy defensive ways early and often.

    With J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing and Brooks Reed all out there ready to go, it's safe to say that Chargers QB Phillip Rivers is going to be in serious trouble all-night long.

    Projection: 10 points allowed, 2 interceptions, 5 sacks

     

    3. Seattle Seahawks

    One of the top defenses in the NFL last year, allowing just 15.3 points per game, the Seattle Seahawks should be able to terrorize those poor Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

    Sure Cam Newton is an athletic freak, but last season when these two teams met, the Seahawks held Newton to a career-low 141 yards passing.

    Look for tons of pressure, physical play and plenty of carnage from this Seattle defense in Week 1.

    Projection: 12 points allowed, 1 interception, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble

     

    4. Pittsburgh Steelers

    Did you know, for all their struggles, last season the Pittsburgh Steelers led the NFL in team defense allowing just 275.8 yards per game?

    At home taking on Jake Locker and the Tennessee Titans, with the crowd roaring behind him, the Steelers should be able to create enough havoc to keep the Titans off balance throughout the course of the game.

    Projection: 14 points allowed, 1 interception, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble

     

    5. Indianapolis Colts

    The Colts aren't a top-flight defense by any stretch of the imagination—last season the Colts ranked 26th in total defense—but they land on this list because, well, any defense who gets to play against the Oakland Raiders has a real chance to put up a ton of fantasy points.

    Projection: 14 points allowed, 1 interception, 4 sacks

     

Kicker

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    1. Matt Bryant

    If you've read any of the slides in this article you know that the Saints and Falcons are going to score a lot.

    With both teams set to ignite the scoreboard, Falcons kicker Matt Bryant should be able to rack up a significant amount of fantasy points.

    Projection: 3 field goals made, 4 extra points

     

    2. Phil Dawson

    With David Akers now in Detroit, the San Francisco 49ers brought in longtime Cleveland Browns kicker Phil Dawson.

    Converting on 29 of 31 attempts last season, thanks to his accuracy, there's no reason why Dawson shouldn't succeed not only in Week 1 but throughout the 2013 fantasy season.

    Projection: 3 field goals made, 2 extra points

     

    3. Blair Walsh

    Last season Minnesota Vikings rookie kicker Blair Walsh led the NFL as a rookie with 35 field goals made—six of those field goals came against the Detroit Lions.

    Playing against those same Lions in Week 1, Walsh should be able to take advantage of his thunderous leg, knocking a few more field goals in to start his fantasy year off the right way.

    Projection: 3 field goals made, 2 extra points

     

    4. Stephen Gostkowski

    One of the most consistent kickers in the league today, Stephen Gostkowski led the NFL last year with 153 points.

    Going up against the Bills and benefiting from a great New England offense, Gostkowski is going to put up nice numbers once again.

    Projection: 2 field goals made, 4 extra points

     

    5. Garrett Hartley

    The second kicker who is going to benefit from a great offensive matchup this week is New Orleans Saints kicker Garrett Hartley.

    The classic kicker in a great situation, Hartley could be a consistent source for cheap points each week he's out there for the Saints this season.

    Projection: 2 field goals made, 4 extra points