Fantasy Football Week 1 Cheat Sheet for Opening Rankings, Waiver and Projections

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2017

Aaron Rodgers is at the top of our fantasy football QB rankings.
Aaron Rodgers is at the top of our fantasy football QB rankings.Stacy Revere/Getty Images

After a very long offseason, the NFL is about to kick off in earnest when the Kansas City Chiefs travel to New England to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots Thursday night.

Nobody is happier about the start of the season than fantasy football owners, who have been preparing for their season since the Patriots completed their miraculous comeback in Super Bowl LI to beat the heartbroken Atlanta Falcons.

Fantasy owners never completely lose touch with their team, and even though most leagues have completed their draft and are in the countdown mode for Week 1, early moves are under consideration and trades are being made.

Here's a look at our cheat sheet for opening top-10 rankings at each position, along with waiver-wire recommendations and projections.

       

Quarterbacks

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
2. Tom Brady, New England
3. Drew Brees, New Orleans
4. Matt Ryan, Atlanta
5. Kirk Cousins, Washington
6. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee
7. Derek Carr, Oakland
8. Cam Newton, Carolina
9. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay
10. Dak Prescott, Dallas

While many will go with Brady over Rodgers, the Packers quarterback does not have the options at running back that the Patriots quarterback does. As a result, Rodgers will be putting the ball in the air more often than Brady, and he has the edge at this point.

Brees is not slowing down even at the advanced age of 38, and he will continue to provide the Saints with a dynamic passing game. Cousins may not have a long-term contract, but he can make every throw and is the key to Washington's season.

If Winston can step up with the Bucs, they have a chance to make a lot of noise this year, and he could make fantasy owners very happy.

      

Running Backs

1. Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh
2. David Johnson, Arizona
3. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo
4. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers
5. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta
6. DeMarco Murray, Tennessee
7. Jay Ajayi, Miami
8. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas
9. Jordan Howard, Chicago
10. Marshawn Lynch, Oakland

Bell has returned from his summer-long holdout and says he is ready to have 30 touches in Week 1 as the Steelers prepare to face the Cleveland Browns, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, and we believe him. The question is whether head coach Mike Tomlin is in concurrence.

Johnson is a brilliant combination of speed and power, and he will get it done as a runner and receiver. McCoy may be the best combination running back-receiver in the league.

Gordon had a big season in 2016, and that's his jumping-off point. Murray was a strong fit in Tennessee, while Ajayi came to the forefront in Miami. However, some fantasy owners may wonder if he is a one-year wonder.

Elliott shifts to the top of the list when he returns from his suspension. Beast Mode returns, and he will be a short-yardage touchdown machine for the Raiders.

       

Julio Jones is in a position to have a huge game against Chicago in Week 1.
Julio Jones is in a position to have a huge game against Chicago in Week 1.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Wide Receivers 

1. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh
2. Julio Jones, Atlanta
3. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay
4. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay
5. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants
6. Michael Thomas, New Orleans
7. Doug Baldwin, Seattle
8. Dez Bryant, Dallas
9. Brandin Cooks, New England
10 Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers

Brown is probably the best player in all of fantasy football, as he excels in all areas of the game. He is at his best when the game is on the line, and he is a remarkable athletic talent with wonderful football skills.

This is the year that Evans steps up and becomes an elite receiver, while Nelson is a game-changing player with superior skills and athleticism. No player has worked harder to become a star than Seattle's Baldwin. Much is expected from Cooks in New England, while Allen can be a game-changer if he remains healthy for the Chargers.

      

Tight Ends

1. Rob Gronkowski, New England
2. Greg Olsen, Carolina
3. Jordan Reed, Washington
4. Travis Kelce, Kansas City
5. Delanie Walker, Tennessee
6. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia
7. Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati
8. Jimmy Graham, Seattle
9. Julius Thomas, Miami
10. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota

Gronkowski is a dynamic, game-changing force with skills, speed, size and strength. The only issue is whether he can stay healthy. Olsen is one of the most dependable players in the game, and the Panthers have to be thrilled with him.

Reed has tremendous receiving skills, but he also has a hard time staying in the lineup. Ertz should be in a wonderful position with Philadelphia's emerging offense. Graham has finally started to fit in with the Seahawks.

Thomas could emerge as a big-time contributor with the Dolphins if quarterback Jay Cutler is smart enough to look his way.

Matt Prater has proven to be an excellent long-distance FG kicker.
Matt Prater has proven to be an excellent long-distance FG kicker.Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

      

Place-Kickers

1. Stephen Gostkowski, New England
2. Matt Bryant, Atlanta
3. Justin Tucker, Baltimore
4. Wil Lutz, New Orleans
5. Dan Bailey, Dallas
6. Matt Prater, Detriot
7. Mason Crosby, Green Bay
8. Caleb Sturgis, Philadelphia
9. Cairo Santos, Kansas City
10. Steven Hauschka, Buffalo

Gostkowski had a few misses last year that he normally will not have, but we expect a return to near-perfection. Bryant will get a slew of opportunities for the defending NFC champions.

Lutz is one of the most underappreciated weapons at the position, and Bailey has been a consistent performer for the Cowboys.

Prater may be the best long-distance kicker in the league, while Hauschka will go through a shock as he moves from the Seahawks to the Bills.

       

Waiver-Wire Pickups

Jacquizz Rodgers is basically a third-down running back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he will take on a bigger role for the team in the early part of the season as a result of Doug Martin's suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. Rodgers is likely to get the bulk of the running back touches, and he could turn out to be an explosive option.

Rodgers has been added to 7,930 Yahoo rosters in the last 24 hours as of 10 a.m. ET, according to the website.

Darren McFadden should be in the same boat as Rodgers. Ezekiel Elliott faces an NFL-imposed suspension, and McFadden is first in line to take his place. McFadden is a solid veteran who knows how to run behind his blockers, and he has been added by 3,861 fantasy owners.

Austin Carr had a solid summer while with the New England Patriots and showed he could catch anything he could get his hands on. Carr was not drafted by the Patriots, and he did not make the team as an undrafted free agent.

The New Orleans Saints noticed what the former Northwestern wideout did with the Patriots and claimed him after he was cut. Carr won't have a long time to prove himself, but if he gets a legitimate opportunity, he will become a key contributor Brees can fall in love with. He has not been claimed on many rosters, but we love Carr as a waiver-wire pickup.

John Brown is a fine receiver with the Arizona Cardinals, and he faces a favorable matchup in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions. Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are the primary fantasy performers for head coach Bruce Arians, but we like Brown as a solid pickup.

         

Projections

Here's our look at the top performers at each individual fantasy position for Week 1:

QB Marcus Mariota, Tennessee vs. Oakland: 315 passing yards, three TDs; 60 rushing yards, one rushing TD.

RB Devonta Freeman, Atlanta vs. Chicago: 115 rushing yards, two TDs; 45 receiving yards.

WR Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland: 10 receptions for 132 yards, two TDs.

TE Jordan Reed, Washington vs. Philadelphia; eight receptions for 110 yards, one TD.

PK Mason Crosby, Green Bay vs. Seattle; four FGs, three extra points.