Fantasy Football Week 1 Cheat Sheet: Waiver, Rankings, Projections and More

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2014

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 23:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos throws against the Houston Texans during a preseason game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on August 23, 2014 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

As draft season around the world of fantasy football nears its conclusion, the focus shifts toward getting a lineup ready for Week 1. While most fantasy owners will stick with their top draft picks at the outset, that isn't always the best option available.

Even in the opening week, matchups should be taken into account. If one of your late-round selections is facing the Dallas Cowboys defense while a mid-round fringe starter is going against the Seattle Seahawks, don't automatically default to the higher draft pick.

Since the regular season only lasts 13 or 14 weeks in a majority of leagues, every game is important. With that in mind, let's check out some tables to get prepared for Week 1 along with some players worth watching as potential waiver-wire additions for Week 2.


Top 5 Skill-Position Rankings

Fantasy Football Week 1 Rankings
1Peyton ManningAdrian PetersonDemaryius ThomasJimmy Graham
2Drew BreesLeSean McCoyBrandon MarshallVernon Davis
3Andrew LuckJamaal CharlesA.J. GreenRob Gronkowski
4Russell WilsonMarshawn LynchCalvin JohnsonJulius Thomas
5Colin KaepernickMatt ForteVictor CruzJason Witten
Based on Standard Scoring

Although Russell Wilson doesn't generate much attention as a fantasy commodity, he finished eighth in scoring at the position last season. Add in the fact he's going up against a shaky Green Bay Packers secondary, and he deserves to rank among the main options for Week 1.

The running backs are pretty straightforward. The names listed were drafted early in virtually every draft because they are the most reliable choices at a position where that trait is fading. LeSean McCoy in particular is expecting to put together a monster season:

Victor Cruz is probably the only surprise among the wideouts. He's coming off a season where he left many fantasy owners frustrated, but the New York Giants have reformatted their offensive attack, and it should allow him to shine against a weak Detroit Lions secondary.

Vernon Davis is a top option for the opening week because he's facing a Dallas Cowboys linebacker group that will struggle to contain him. He might not be an every-week starter, however, because there are so many weapons in San Francisco, and the 49ers are still a run-first team.


Sleeper Projections

Fantasy Football Week 1 Sleepers
QBBen RoethlisbergerPIT18
RBDarren SprolesPHI14
WRKendall WrightTEN13
TEJared CookSTL10
KNick FolkNYJ12
Based on Standard Scoring

Concerns about the receivers at Ben Roethlisberger's disposal (aside from Antonio Brown) limit his overall potential. That said, he's still a solid matchup play. A good one is on tap in Week 1 against a Cleveland Browns defense that will likely take a few weeks to settle in with some new pieces.

Sproles isn't going to see a ton of work on the ground behind the aforementioned McCoy. Expect him to get heavily involved in the passing game, however, which will keep his fantasy value up. Adam Rank of expects him to assume much of the load DeSean Jackson carried:

Kendall Wright is the clear top target for Jake Locker, who looked ready to take the next step in his development during the preseason. The wideout's big-play ability should be on display in a game with sneaky high-scoring potential between the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs.

By now, most fantasy owners have moved past Jared Cook after a couple straight years where he failed to live up to the hype. While he might not produce consistently enough to become a regular starter, he's worth taking a chance on against the Minnesota Vikings this week.

Streaming kickers and defense on a weekly basis has become a popular strategy for fantasy owners who wisely pass on those positions until the later rounds. Nick Folk and the Philadelphia Eagles defense are the best bets to start with for that approach.


Waiver-Wire Targets

Fantasy Football Potential Additions
QBCarson PalmerARZ
RBAhmad BradshawIND
WRMarkus WheatonPIT
TELadarius GreenSD
Owned in less than 50% of ESPN leagues

Keep close tabs on the Arizona Cardinals' offense. If Andre Ellington can provide some much-needed stability on the ground, it should open up passing lanes for Carson Palmer. That could lead to big numbers with both Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd to target.

The Indianapolis Colts are going to give Trent Richardson another chance to prove he was worth the investment. It's hard to imagine him suddenly turning things around, though. Ahmad Bradshaw should watch his role steadily grow in the weeks ahead.

Opponents are going to key in on Brown, which should open up plenty of opportunities for Markus Wheaton as Pittsburgh's second option in the passing game. See how involved he is in the opener before using a claim on him.

The only reason Ladarius Green wasn't ranked higher during the preseason is the continued presence of Antonio Gates. But with Green on the ascent and Gates on the decline, the Louisiana-Lafayette product could be in line for a breakout season.