Fantasy Football Week 1 Rankings: Projections for Players with Top Matchups

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2014

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 03:  Running back Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates after a touchdown during the game against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on November 3, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

One monster game is all it takes to swing a fantasy football matchup. Normally, it's a skill-position player, but every now and then even a defense scores multiple touchdowns to turn the tide. The random nature of the game is a large part of what makes it so popular.

Week 1 is even more unique. The only games the players have played in for more than six months are the exhibition contests that carry minimal value for the starters. Teams don't want to put too much on display before the games begin to count.

So in most cases people stick with their top draft picks to fill out their lineup, which is usually the safest route. With that in mind, let's check out projections for the top scorer at each position and break down the matchups that should make those game-changing scores possible.


Projected Top Scorers at Each Position

Projected Position Leaders for Week 1
QBPeyton ManningDEN31
RBAdrian PetersonMIN26
WRDemaryius ThomasDEN21
TEJimmy GrahamNO19
KRobbie GouldCHI15
Based on Standard Formats

Fantasy football's top player last season—by a pretty wide margin—should get off to another strong start. Peyton Manning goes up against his former team, the Indianapolis Colts, against whom he racked up 25 points in Week 7 of last year.

Some may downgrade Manning after Wes Welker was handed a four-game suspension, but the legendary quarterback still has no shortage of weapons. Lindsay Jones of USA Today passed along comments from him about overcoming the setback.

"The players that are here, we'll stick together, raise our level of play and try to persevere," he said. "It won't be easy. It would be disrespectful to and inaccurate to say it's an easy transition to lose Wes Welker. It's a challenge and one our team has accepted and we're going to try to find way to overcome it."

All of the running backs selected in the first five or six picks of most drafts are in line for Week 1 performances worthy of that investment. The best option of them all, however, is Adrian Peterson. The Minnesota Vikings workhorse is primed for a huge season debut.

He faces a St. Louis Rams defense that ranked 27th against opposing fantasy backs last season. Question marks also remain with the Vikings' passing game with Matt Cassel at the helm, which means AP should be in for a heavy workload.

That equates to big numbers.

If Manning is going to have a big week, Demaryius Thomas is likely to follow. The Denver Broncos' top target should be in line for even more targets without Welker, and he features the big-play ability to tally points in a hurry.

For example, he only had four catches against the Colts last season. He still managed to turn them into 14 points with 82 yards and a touchdown. With a few more passes directed his way, an even better outing should be expected.

Jimmy Graham is in a class by his own at tight end to start the season. Julius Thomas moved himself into the upper echelon last season but is still a step or two below Graham. Rob Gronkowski can match Graham's production, but the injury concerns hold him back.

In turn, Graham gets the top spot comfortably as he should have his way with the Atlanta Falcons' interior defenders. He scored touchdowns in both games against them last season. As John Buccigross of ESPN notes, he dominates in scoring red-zone touchdowns for fantasy owners:

The dominance of the Seattle Seahawks meant the Carolina Panthers defense didn't get its due last year. The unit was outstanding and ranked second in fantasy points. Another big season should be expected, starting with a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have question marks on offense.

Finally, kickers are extremely volatile from week to week because it's difficult to predict how many field-goal chances they will get. Robbie Gould is the choice because the Chicago Bears should be get good field position, given EJ Manuel's struggles for the Buffalo Bills.