You did your pre-draft research. Then you nailed the draft and talked a little smack to your friends. Now all you have to do is coach your fantasy football team to a championship.
That journey begins in Week 1, and there is a big difference between starting the season 1-0 and 0-1, at least from a psychological standpoint. There are plenty of season-defining decisions still on the horizon, like how to replace your injured running back and determining which Week 1 breakout player is worth a waiver target, so it is important to get the year started off on the right foot.
With that in mind, here are some projections for 100 players in the league. So as not to completely weight it toward quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers, we made sure to include some representatives from every position and look at a sleeper in each spot.
The “top” players were determined using ESPN.com’s preseason rankings for the top 20 quarterbacks, 25 running backs, 25 wide receivers, 10 tight ends, 10 kickers and 10 defenses.
Best of luck on the virtual field.
|Week 1 Quarterback Projections|
|1||Peyton Manning||Indianapolis Colts||320 passing yards, 3 TD|
|2||Aaron Rodgers||Seattle Seahawks||245 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 INT|
|3||Drew Brees||Atlanta Falcons||345 passing yards, 4 TD, 1 INT|
|4||Matthew Stafford||New York Giants||330 passing yards, 3 TD, 2 INT|
|5||Andrew Luck||Denver Broncos||310 passing yards, 40 rushing yards, 2 TD, 2 INT|
|6||Cam Newton||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||198 passing yards, 65 rushing yards, 2 TD|
|7||Robert Griffin III||Houston Texans||145 passing yards, 70 rushing yards, 1 pass TD, 1 rush TD|
|8||Nick Foles||Jacksonville Jaguars||285 passing yards, 3 TD|
|9||Colin Kaepernick||Dallas Cowboys||200 passing yards, 97 rushing yards, 2 pass TD, 1 rush TD|
|10||Russell Wilson||Green Bay Packers||167 passing yards, 44 rushing yards, 1 TD|
|11||Matt Ryan||New Orleans Saints||300 passing yards, 2 TD, 2 INT|
|12||Tom Brady||Miami Dolphins||220 passing yards, 4 TD, 1 INT|
|13||Tony Romo||San Francisco 49ers||310 passing yards, 4 TD, 2 INT|
|14||Philip Rivers||Arizona Cardinals||218 passing yards, 1 TD|
|15||Jay Cutler||Buffalo Bills||295 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 INT|
|16||Ben Roethlisberger||Cleveland Browns||135 passing yards, 35 rushing yards, 2 TD, 1 INT|
|17||Andy Dalton||Baltimore Ravens||215 passing yards, 2 TD|
|18||Eli Manning||Detroit Lions||183 passing yards, 2 TD, 2 INT|
|19||Carson Palmer||San Diego Chargers||190 passing yards, 1 TD, 2 INT|
|20||Josh McCown||Carolina Panthers||225 passing yards, 25 rushing yards, 2 TD|
Sleeper: Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears are going to score points, simple as that. Jay Cutler will be the quarterback engineering those long drives, and your fantasy team will benefit from having him as an option.
He finished with a career-best passer rating of 89.2 last year and should be more familiar with Marc Trestman’s offense. Oh, he also still has Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett to work with every week.
If Cutler finds a way to get the ball to the playmakers, he will score plenty of fantasy points all year.
One word of warning, though, for Week 1—the Buffalo Bills finished fourth in the NFL in opposing passing yards allowed last year and could limit his production. The question now becomes do you trust Chicago’s weapons or fear the Buffalo defense?
The thought here is that it is too much offensive firepower to ignore.
|Week 1 Running Back Projections|
|1||Adrian Peterson||St. Louis Rams||120 total yards, 2 TD|
|2||LeSean McCoy||Jacksonville Jaguars||195 total yards, 3 TD|
|3||Jamaal Charles||Tennessee Titans||168 total yards, 2 TD|
|4||Matt Forte||Buffalo Bills||170 total yards, 1 TD|
|5||Marshawn Lynch||Green Bay Packers||95 total yards, 2 TD|
|6||Eddie Lacy||Seattle Seahawks||80 total yards, 1 TD|
|7||Arian Foster||Washington Redskins||110 total yards, 2 TD|
|8||Doug Martin||Carolina Panthers||83 total yards, 1 TD|
|9||DeMarco Murray||San Francisco 49ers||110 total yards, 2 TD|
|10||Le'Veon Bell||Cleveland Browns||95 total yards|
|11||Zac Stacy||Minnesota Vikings||90 total yards|
|12||Alfred Morris||Houston Texans||125 total yards, 1 TD|
|13||Montee Ball||Indianapolis Colts||130 total yards, 2 TD|
|14||Giovani Bernard||Baltimore Ravens||140 total yards, 1 TD|
|15||Reggie Bush||New York Giants||100 total yards, 1 TD|
|16||Ben Tate||Pittsburgh Steelers||99 total yards|
|17||Ryan Mathews||Arizona Cardinals||75 total yards|
|18||C.J. Spiller||Chicago Bears||130 total yards, 2 TD|
|19||Frank Gore||Dallas Cowboys||105 total yards, 1 TD|
|20||Andre Ellington||San Diego Chargers||80 total yards|
|21||Toby Gerhart||Philadelphia Eagles||75 total yards|
|22||Rashad Jennings||Detroit Lions||110 total yards, 1 TD|
|23||Trent Richardson||Denver Broncos||70 total yards|
|24||Chris Johnson||Oakland Raiders||75 total yards|
|25||Joique Bell||New York Giants||40 total yards, 1 TD|
|*Ray Rice not included because suspended in Week 1|
Sleeper: C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills
C.J. Spiller may not be a sleeper in the traditional sense, but he’s not exactly a name you expect to completely go off on a consistent basis.
You can trust him in Week 1, though. The Chicago Bears defense finished dead last in opposing rushing yards allowed last year and will likely still be going through some growing pains early in the season.
Sure, they added Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston up front, but it’s difficult to forget running backs gashing the defensive every week last year. Spiller can also get involved in the passing game on screens if the Bills fall behind.
|Week 1 Wide Receivers Projections|
|1||Calvin Johnson||New York Giants||140 yards, 1 TD|
|2||Demaryius Thomas||Indianapolis Colts||130 yards, 2 TD|
|3||A.J. Green||Baltimore Ravens||98 yards, 1 TD|
|4||Dez Bryant||San Francisco 49ers||115 yards, 2 TD|
|5||Brandon Marshall||Buffalo Bills||85 yards, 1 TD|
|6||Julio Jones||New Orleans Saints||135 yards, 1 TD|
|7||Jordy Nelson||Seattle Seahawks||65 yards|
|8||Alshon Jeffery||Buffalo Bills||100 yards, 1 TD|
|9||Antonio Brown||Cleveland Browns||87 yards, 1 TD|
|10||Randall Cobb||Seattle Seahawks||70 yards|
|11||Andre Johnson||Washington Redskins||71 yards, 1 TD|
|12||Vincent Jackson||Carolina Panthers||100 yards|
|13||Larry Fitzgerald||San Diego Chargers||75 yards|
|14||Pierre Garcon||Houston Texans||55 yards|
|15||Keenan Allen||Arizona Cardinals||85 yards, 1 TD|
|16||Victor Cruz||Detroit Lions||110 yards, 1 TD|
|17||Roddy White||New Orleans Saints||60 yards|
|18||DeSean Jackson||Houston Texans||80 yards|
|19||Percy Harvin||Green Bay Packers||50 yards|
|20||Michael Crabtree||Dallas Cowboys||110 yards, 1 TD|
|21||Torrey Smith||Cincinnati Bengals||75 yards, 1 TD|
|22||Michael Floyd||San Diego Chargers||65 yards|
|23||Cordarrelle Patterson||St. Louis Rams||105 yards, 1 TD|
|24||Julian Edelman||Miami Dolphins||75 yards, 1 TD|
|25||Jeremy Maclin||Jacksonville Jaguars||85 yards, 1 TD|
Sleeper: Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton has to throw to someone this year in Carolina, which means you could land a potential No. 1 option in an offense late in your draft or for cheap in auction formats.
Kelvin Benjamin won a national title at Florida State and is more than capable of becoming an elite red-zone target in the NFL. He jumps up and gets the ball at its highest point and should score a number of touchdowns because of that ability.
Any fantasy player knows touchdowns are the key to victory.
Even the NFL pointed out that Benjamin is a top-notch rookie in fantasy football:
|Week 1 Tight End Projections|
|1||Jimmy Graham||Atlanta Falcons||120 yards, 1 TD|
|2||Julius Thomas||Indianapolis Colts||95 yards, 1 TD|
|3||Rob Gronkowski||Miami Dolphins||80 yards, 2 TD|
|4||Vernon Davis||Dallas Cowboys||75 yards|
|5||Jason Witten||San Francisco 49ers||60 yards, 1 TD|
|6||Jordan Cameron||Pittsburgh Steelers||90 yards, 1 TD|
|7||Greg Olsen||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||55 yards|
|8||Dennis Pitta||Cincinnati Bengals||40 yards|
|9||Kyle Rudolph||St. Louis Rams||70 yards|
|10||Jordan Reed||Houston Texans||55 yards|
Sleepers: Kyle Rudolph
We can’t all have Jimmy Graham at tight end, so keeping an eye out for sleepers is important.
Opponents should stack the box against the Minnesota Vikings all season to stop Adrian Peterson, so the passing game should be open for Matt Cassel and his weapons. However, the St. Louis Rams are loaded along the defensive front and will likely blitz Cassel throughout the Week 1 contest.
That means he will need a security blanket at tight end, which is where Kyle Rudolph should step up. He won’t score three touchdowns a game and make dynamic athletic moves like Graham, but he will be consistent every week in an offense that needs reliable options.
He is definitely worth a look in Week 1.
|Week 1 Kickers Projections|
|1||Stephen Gostkowski||Miami Dolphins||2 FG, 5 XP|
|2||Justin Tucker||Cincinnati Bengals||3 FG, 2 XP|
|3||Mason Crosby||Seattle Seahawks||2 FG, 3 XP|
|4||Steven Hauschka||Green Bay Packers||1 FG, 3 XP|
|5||Phil Dawson||Dallas Cowboys||1 FG, 4 XP|
|6||Nick Novak||Arizona Cardinals||2 FG, 2 XP|
|7||Adam Vinatieri||Denver Broncos||3 FG, 2 XP|
|8||Blair Walsh||St. Louis Rams||1 FG (50+), 2 XP|
|9||Dan Bailey||San Francisco 49ers||5 XP|
|10||Nick Folk||Oakland Raiders||1 FG, 1 XP|
Sleeper: Robbie Gould
Let’s not overthink things here.
The more the offense scores, the more points your fantasy kicker will score as well. We already talked about the Bears potent offense, which means Robbie Gould will have plenty of opportunities to rack up easy points.
Yes, getting in the end zone too often takes field goals off the board, but you need an offense that consistently gets in scoring position. Chicago certainly will.
|Week 1 Defense Projections|
|1||Seattle Seahawks||Green Bay Packers||24 points allowed, 2 sacks, 1 INT|
|2||Carolina Panthers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||21 points allowed, 5 sacks|
|3||San Francisco 49ers||Dallas Cowboys||35 points allowed, 3 sacks, 2 INT|
|4||Denver Broncos||Indianapolis Colts||23 points allowed, 1 sack, 2 INT|
|5||Cincinnati Bengals||Baltimore Ravens||23 points allowed, 3 sacks|
|6||St. Louis Rams||Minnesota Vikings||17 points allowed, 6 sacks, 1 INT, 1 TD|
|7||Arizona Cardinals||San Diego Chargers||20 points allowed, 1 sack|
|8||Kansas City Chiefs||Tennessee Titans||14 points allowed, 2 sacks, 2 INT|
|9||New England Patriots||Miami Dolphins||21 points allowed, 1 sack|
|10||New Orleans Saints||Atlanta Falcons||20 points allowed, 3 sacks, 2 INT|
Sleeper: Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns were a top-10 defense against the pass last year, have Joe Haden anchoring the unit as one of the NFL’s elite corners and added a number of key pieces on the defensive side of the ball.
Rookie Justin Gilbert and safety Donte Whitner will help against the pass, and newcomer Karlos Dansby makes the linebacking corps much more stout. As for Gilbert, he discussed his learning curve, via Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today: “I just soak it all in, not getting emotional about anything that’s being thrown my way. Any information that is being told to me is something positive, most of the time. I’m just trying to take in the moment.”
Fantasy owners certainly hope Gilbert uses that information to develop into an elite corner across from Haden.
Follow me on Twitter: