Week 1 of the 2014 NFL season begins Thursday, but fantasy football owners have been preparing for months, mulling over the latest rankings and positional breakdowns.
Whether you’re in a long-term dynasty league with friends and family or playing on a week-to-week website, it is imperative to start the players in Week 1 with the best chance to yield big points for your team.
Here is a position-by-position fantasy breakdown heading into Week 1.
|1||Peyton Manning, DEN||vs. Indianapolis Colts||28 Points|
|2||Drew Brees, NO||at Atlanta Falcons||25 Points|
|3||Aaron Rodgers, GB||at Seattle Seahawks||23 Points|
|4||Matthew Stafford, DET||vs. New York Giants||21 Points|
|5||Tom Brady, NE||at Miami Dolphins||19 Points|
|6||Andrew Luck, IND||at Denver Broncos||19 Points|
|7||Nick Foles, PHI||vs. Jacksonville Jaguars||19 Points|
|8||Matt Ryan, ATL||vs. New Orleans Saints||18 Points|
|9||Philip Rivers, SD||at Arizona Cardinals||18 Points|
|10||Jay Cutler, CHI||vs. Buffalo Bills||17 Points|
|11||Tony Romo, DAL||vs. San Francisco 49ers||17 Points|
|12||Cam Newton, CAR||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||17 Points|
|13||Colin Kaepernick, SF||at Dallas Cowboys||16 Points|
|14||Robert Griffin III, WAS||at Houston Texans||15 Points|
|15||Eli Manning, NYG||at Detroit Lions||15 Points|
The top of the quarterback rankings are easy to decipher at the start of the season. Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are all studs and will rack up big points for their respective owners.
After the top three, look for several underrated players to step up early in the season and perform well. Veterans like Tom Brady, Tony Romo and Philip Rivers all have matchups they can exploit for big statistical outcomes.
This season I am calling for SIX 5K yard passers. Brees, P. Manning, Brady, Stafford, Rodgers and Ryan. @CBSSportsRadio— John Kincade (@JohnKincade) August 31, 2014
One player not getting enough attention is Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan. With a favorable matchup against the New Orleans Saints secondary and both Julio Jones and Roddy White healthy, Ryan will be one of the best fantasy players from the first week.
|1||LeSean McCoy, PHI||vs. Jacksonville Jaguars||20 Points|
|2||Jamaal Charles, KC||vs. Tennessee Titans||20 Points|
|3||Adrian Peterson, MIN||at St. Louis Rams||18 Points|
|4||Matt Forte, CHI||vs. Buffalo Bills||17 Points|
|5||Eddie Lacy, GB||at Seattle Seahawks||16 Points|
|6||Marshawn Lynch, SEA||vs. Green Bay Packers||16 Points|
|7||DeMarco Murray, DAL||vs. San Francisco 49ers||15 Points|
|8||Shane Vereen, NE||at Miami Dolphins||15 Points|
|9||Reggie Bush, DET||vs. New York Giants||15 Points|
|10||Zac Stacy, STL||vs. Minnesota Vikings||14 Points|
|11||Montee Ball, DEN||vs. Indianapolis Colts||14 Points|
|12||Le'Veon Bell, PIT||vs. Cleveland Browns||14 Points|
|13||Arian Foster, HOU||vs. Washington||12 Points|
|14||Frank Gore, SF||at Dallas Cowboys||12 Points|
|15||Ryan Mathews, SD||at Arizona Cardinals||12 Points|
|16||Giovani Bernard, CIN||at Baltimore Ravens||11 Points|
|17||Andre Ellington, ARI||vs. San Diego Chargers||11 Points|
|18||Rashad Jennings, NYG||at Detroit Lions||11 Points|
|19||C.J. Spiller, BUF||at Chicago Bears||10 Points|
|20||Trent Richardson, IND||at Denver Broncos||10 Points|
|21||Alfred Morris, WAS||at Houston Texans||10 Points|
|22||Bernard Pierce, BAL||vs. Cincinnati Bengals||10 Points|
|23||Ben Tate, CLE||at Pittsburgh Steelers||9 Points|
|24||Toby Gerhart, JAC||at Philadelphia Eagles||9 Points|
|25||Chris Johnson, NYJ||vs. Oakland Raiders||9 Points|
The usual suspects are at the top of the rankings in Week 1. If you have LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson or Matt Forte, you are starting them each and every week until injuries or bye weeks force you to make a move. These are the best four running backs in the league.
From there, things get a little cloudy. Eddie Lacy and Marshawn Lynch are top players as well, but they square off on Thursday night in a showcase that may feature more passing than rushing. DeMarco Murray is also facing a tough test against San Francisco this week.
Despite tough matchups, the three previously mentioned backs are worth starts, but that’s not the case for every top player at the position. Montee Ball could struggle against Indianapolis, and Arian Foster could easily falter against Washington.
One player not getting the attention he deserves is Trent Richardson. He has struggled at points over the last year, but with a better understanding of the team’s game plan and more confidence, Richardson is a smart flex play with RB2 potential.
|1||Calvin Johnson, DET||vs. New York Giants||18 Points|
|2||Demaryius Thomas, DEN||vs. Indianapolis Colts||18 Points|
|3||Dez Bryant, DAL||vs. San Francisco 49ers||16 Points|
|4||A.J. Green, CIN||at Baltimore Ravens||16 Points|
|5||Brandon Marshall, CHI||vs. Buffalo Bills||16 Points|
|6||Julio Jones, ATL||vs. New Orleans Saints||14 Points|
|7||Antonio Brown, PIT||vs. Cleveland Browns||14 Points|
|8||Andre Johnson, HOU||vs. Washington||14 Points|
|9||Jordy Nelson, GB||at Seattle Seahawks||14 Points|
|10||Larry Fitzgerald, ARI||vs. San Diego Chargers||12 Points|
|11||Victor Cruz, NYG||at Detroit Lions||12 Points|
|12||Alshon Jeffery, CHI||vs. Buffalo Bills||12 Points|
|13||Roddy White, ATL||vs. New Orleans Saints||12 Points|
|14||Vincent Jackson, TB||vs. Carolina Panthers||11 Points|
|15||Keenan Allen, SD||at Arizona Cardinals||11 Points|
|16||Marques Colston, NO||at Atlanta Falcons||10 Points|
|17||Torrey Smith, BAL||vs. Cincinnati Bengals||10 Points|
|18||Pierre Garcon, WAS||at Houston Texans||10 Points|
|19||Julian Edelman, NE||at Miami Dolphins||10 Points|
|20||Cordarrelle Patterson, MIN||at St. Louis Rams||9 Points|
|21||Randall Cobb, GB||at Seattle Seahawks||9 Points|
|22||Mike Wallace, MIA||vs. New England Patriots||8 Points|
|23||Michael Floyd, ARI||vs. San Diego Chargers||8 Points|
|24||Percy Harvin, SEA||vs. Green Bay Packers||8 Points|
|25||Jeremy Maclin, PHI||vs. Jacksonville Jaguars||8 Points|
|26||Reggie Wayne, IND||at Denver Broncos||8 Points|
|27||Kendall Wright, TEN||at Kansas City Chiefs||7 Points|
|28||Michael Crabtree, SF||at Dallas Cowboys||7 Points|
|29||DeSean Jackson, WAS||at Houston Texans||7 Points|
|30||Eric Decker, NYJ||vs. Oakland Raiders||7 Points|
|31||Sammy Watkins, BUF||at Chicago Bears||6 Points|
|32||Brandin Cooks, NO||at Atlanta Falcons||6 Points|
|33||Terrance Williams, DAL||vs. San Francisco 49ers||6 Points|
|34||Emmanuel Sanders, DEN||vs. Indianapolis Colts||6 Points|
|35||DeAndre Hopkins, HOU||vs. Washington||6 Points|
|35||Cecil Shorts, JAC||at Philadelphia Eagles||6 Points|
Arguably the most important position in fantasy football is wide receiver. Whether your league has three WR slots or a flex spot allowing you to start three, finding the right player at the position could result in blowout victories or heartbreaking losses.
The first tier of wideouts should be considered locks. Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall and Julio Jones are all good for a hefty chunk of points in Week 1 and, honestly, every week they are healthy and on the field.
One player who hasn’t been given any love since the New York Giants struggled throughout the preseason is Victor Cruz. He is still the top receiver on the team and will be the top target for Eli Manning. Consistency in the offense will be an issue, but he could easily rack up over 100 yards and a touchdown against Detroit.
On the other hand, fantasy owners should be staying away from Washington Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson. Robert Griffin III and the entire Washington offense failed to develop any rhythm or chemistry, and that will result in subpar numbers for the former Philadelphia star.
If you are looking for a flex player or a WR3, use the above list and simply start the higher-ranked player.
|1||Jimmy Graham, NO||at Atlanta Falcons||17 Points|
|2||Rob Gronkowski, NE||at Miami Dolphins||17 Points|
|3||Julius Thomas, DEN||vs. Indianapolis Colts||15 Points|
|4||Jason Witten, DAL||vs. San Francisco 49ers||13 Points|
|5||Jordan Cameron, CLE||at Pittsburgh Steelers||11 Points|
|6||Vernon Davis, SF||at Dallas Cowboys||10 Points|
|7||Greg Olsen, CAR||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||10 Points|
|8||Martellus Bennett, CHI||vs. Buffalo Bills||10 Points|
|9||Dennis Pitta, BAL||vs. Cincinnati Bengals||9 Points|
|10||Jordan Reed, WAS||at Houston Texans||8 Points|
|11||Heath Miller, PIT||vs. Cleveland Browns||8 Points|
|12||Kyle Rudolph, MIN||at St. Louis Rams||8 Points|
|13||Antonio Gates, SD||at Arizona Cardinals||6 Points|
|14||Delanie Walker, TEN||at Kansas City Chiefs||6 Points|
|15||Charles Clay, MIA||vs. New England Patriots||6 Points|
New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is the best player at his position this year. Hands down. After him, though, the focus shifts to New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski. With Gronk cleared to play in Week 1, via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, he is the second-best option until he proves he is the same player he was before the knee injury.
Rob Gronkowski has done something neither Calvin Johnson nor Jimmy Graham have ever done… Catch 17 TDs in a single season.— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) September 1, 2014
Unlike Gronkowski, a player who is falling down many fantasy boards is San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. With quarterback Colin Kaepernick struggling throughout the preseason and Davis drawing coverage from the top defenders, expect Davis to struggle against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1.
|1||Cincinnati Bengals||at Baltimore Ravens||14 Points|
|2||Seattle Seahawks||vs. Green Bay Packers||13 Points|
|3||Carolina Panthers||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||13 Points|
|4||Kansas City Chiefs||vs. Tennessee Titans||12 Points|
|5||New England Patriots||at Miami Dolphins||11 Points|
|6||Denver Broncos||vs. Indianapolis Colts||11 Points|
|7||Philadelphia Eagles||vs. Jacksonville Jaguars||10 Points|
|8||New England Patriots||at Miami Dolphins||10 Points|
|9||New York Jets||vs. Oakland Raiders||10 Points|
|10||St. Louis Rams||vs. Minnesota Vikings||9 Points|
|11||Chicago Bears||vs. Buffalo Bills||9 Points|
|12||Pittsburgh Steelers||vs. Cleveland Browns||8 Points|
Finding the right team defense to start in Week 1 seems like an afterthought, but it could make a difference early in the season when no players are on bye. If you spent an early-round pick on a defense, here is the time to benefit from your educated risk.
Teams like the Seattle Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals and the Carolina Panthers have the perfect combination of talent on the roster and favorable matchups to make them a must-start in all fantasy formats.
One team to avoid this week is the San Francisco 49ers. With several injuries and suspensions leaving gaping holes in the pass rush and the run defense, the Dallas Cowboys should be able to rack up yardage and points against San Francisco.
|1||Stephen Gostkowski, NE||at Miami Dolphins||11 Points|
|2||Matt Bryant, ATL||vs. New Orleans Saints||11 Points|
|3||Phil Dawson, SF||at Dallas Cowboys||10 Points|
|4||Justin Tucker, BAL||vs. Cincinnati Bengals||10 Points|
|5||Brandon McManus, DEN||vs. Indianapolis Colts||10 Points|
|6||Steven Hauschka, SEA||vs. Green Bay Packers||10 Points|
|7||Blair Walsh, MIN||at St. Louis Rams||9 Points|
|8||Adam Vinatieri, IND||at Denver Broncos||9 Points|
|9||Mason Crosby, GB||at Seattle Seahawks||9 Points|
|10||Nick Novak, SD||at Arizona Cardinals||8 Ponts|
|11||Dan Bailey, DAL||vs. San Francisco 49ers||8 Points|
|12||Robbie Gould, CHI||vs. Buffalo Bills||8 Points|
There are many differing opinions on when you should draft a kicker in your fantasy league, but the top stars are respected by all fantasy players. Look for perennial juggernauts like Stephen Gostkowski, Matt Bryant, Phil Dawson and Justin Tucker to dominate the position once again in Week 1.
The point difference between the No. 1 kicker each week and the rest of the players at the position is normally small, so fantasy owners should ride with the kicker they drafted until a better option surfaces on the waiver wire.
*Stats via NFL.com.