Fantasy Football Week 1: Biggest Sleepers at Every Position

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonContributor ISeptember 9, 2022

Fantasy Football Week 1: Biggest Sleepers at Every Position

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    Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    Before fantasy football competitors in your league ransack the waiver wire following Week 1 action, get ahead of the curve. Standouts in season openers will see their stocks rise by Sunday evening.

    We could see some Week 1 surprises as undrafted fantasy players and back-end draft picks exceed early expectations. In the best-case scenario, you want to add players who have a chance to sustain their high level of production.

    All eight of the sleeper picks below may post solid fantasy stat lines beyond opening week, though they’re smart plug-in play starting options for immediate use. This week, we've identified two sleeper stacks in favorable matchups.

    Every player is recommended for point-per-reception scoring settings and rostered in fewer than 60 percent of Yahoo leagues as of Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET.

QB Jameis Winston at Atlanta Falcons (46 Percent Rostered)

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    Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    DraftKings DFS Price: $5,300

    Do you remember what Jameis Winston did in his 2021 season debut against the Green Bay Packers? He threw for 148 yards and five touchdowns. Sure, his passing yards total wasn’t anything to celebrate, but the New Orleans Saints signal-caller had an efficient outing and finished fourth (29.6 points) among quarterbacks in scoring for Week 1.

    Before Winston tore his ACL with damage to his MCL in Week 8, he only threw three interceptions in seven starts. Going into his eighth campaign, he’s not the same turnover-prone quarterback who led the league in interceptions (30) for the 2019 term.

    Last season, the Atlanta Falcons gave up 31 passing touchdowns and were seventh in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Winston could post big numbers with Michael Thomas, whose Week 1 status continues to trend in the right direction, Jarvis Landry and rookie first-rounder Chris Olave.

    Even though the Falcons have a potential rising star cornerback in A.J. Terrell and signed boundary cover man Casey Hayward, the Saints have too many playmakers for Atlanta’s defense with their three wideouts plus running back Alvin Kamara’s contributions in the passing game out of the backfield.

    Managers should feel comfortable with Winston in the starting lineup for Week 1.

QB Carson Wentz vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (12 Percent Rostered)

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    Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

    DraftKings DFS Price: $5,500

    Carson Wentz’s 2021 season ended on a sour note in a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars—a defeat that kept the Indianapolis Colts out of the playoffs. He may be eager to redeem himself against this particular opponent.

    Moreover, Wentz will have wide receivers Terry McLaurin, rookie first-rounder Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel on the perimeter along with J.D. McKissic catching out of the backfield. Compared to his pass-catching unit in Indianapolis that featured one established wideout in Michael Pittman Jr., Wentz has a better group in Washington.

    Cornerback Darious Williams will strengthen the Jaguars' 17th-ranked pass defense from the previous campaign, but Wentz could use Dotson's inside-outside versatility to test Tyson Campbell, who allowed a 66.7 percent completion rate in coverage and 12.4 yards per completion in 2021.

    On his third team in three years, Wentz probably understands this could be his last chance to hold a starting quarterback job in the NFL. He may come out firing with his big arm against a defense in transition under a new coaching staff.

RB J.D. McKissic vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (30 Percent Rostered)

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    Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

    DraftKings DFS Price: $5,100

    Rookie third-round running back Brian Robinson will start the season on the non-football injury list after an individual shot him in an attempted robbery. Before the incident, he split early-down snaps with Antonio Gibson, who’s going to return kicks this season.

    Though running back Jonathan Williams could handle some touches while Robinson recovers, J.D. McKissic’s role probably isn’t going to change from the previous two seasons.

    Since 2020, McKissic has served as the primary pass-catcher out of the backfield for the Commanders, hauling in 123 passes for 986 yards and four touchdowns.

    With tight end Logan Thomas’ status unclear and rookie first-round wideout Jahan Dotson trying to establish himself in the offense, McKissic may be a reliable No. 2 option in the passing game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    In 2021, the Jaguars were 10th in fantasy points allowed to running backs. McKissic has stand-alone fantasy value this week and for the entire 2022 season.

RB Mike Davis at New York Jets (28 Percent Rostered)

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    Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

    DraftKings DFS Price: $4,400

    On Monday, head coach John Harbaugh shared an update about running back J.K. Dobbins’ status for Week 1, stating there’s a chance (based on how practices) that the running back suits up against the New York Jets.

    Even if Dobbins plays Sunday, he’s unlikely to take the field at 100 percent coming off a torn ACL from August of last year. Also of note, Gus Edwards will miss the first four games on the physically unable to perform list as he recovers from a torn ACL.

    This offseason, the Baltimore Ravens signed Mike Davis and Kenyan Drake. Managers should consider the former, who signed with the team in May, over the latter, who joined the club a little more than a week ago.

    In offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s run-heavy offense, Davis could have a big role in Week 1 against the Jets, who gave up the fourth-most yards on the ground, most rushing touchdowns (28) and the most fantasy points to running backs last season.

WR Jarvis Landry at Atlanta Falcons (41 Percent Rostered)

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    AP Photo/Derick Hingle

    DraftKings DFS Price: $5,000

    Among the New Orleans Saints’ top three wideouts, Jarvis Landry is the safest fantasy option. Unlike Michael Thomas, he doesn't have an uncertain game-day status, and the five-time Pro Bowler has a major edge in experience over rookie first-rounder Chris Olave.

    While Olave may need time to adjust at the pro level, Thomas could have some rust in live game action.

    Thomas battled a hamstring injury in August and though head coach Dennis Allen said he's "progressing," the two-time All-Pro wideout hasn't played since January 2021.

    As Olave learns the NFL ropes and Thomas ramps back up to regular-season form, Landry could become quarterback Jameis Winston’s clear-cut top perimeter target for a short period. Because of his work in the slot, he may avoid cornerbacks A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward on the outside and consistently win his matchup against Mike Ford or Dee Alford, who will fill in for injured nickelback Isaiah Oliver.

WR A.J. Green vs. Kansas City Chiefs (8 Percent Rostered)

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    DraftKings DFS Price: $4,600

    Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins will serve a six-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury said tight end Zach Ertz (calf) is “day-to-day this week.”

    Wideout Marquise Brown, whom the Arizona Cardinals acquired during the draft, will try to rekindle his collegiate connection with former Oklahoma teammate Kyler Murray. However, the Cardinals' passing attack should have more targets to go around with Hopkins on the sideline and Ertz at less than 100 percent if he suits up.

    Though A.J. Green is past his prime, he had a decent 2021 term, hauling in 54 passes for 848 yards and three touchdowns in Year 1 with Murray. They can build on their connection in the upcoming campaign.

    Green will likely open the season as the No. 2 option in the Cardinals' passing game over second-year wide receiver Rondale Moore, who played mostly out of the slot in 2021, recording 54 catches for 435 yards and a touchdown.

    The Kansas City Chiefs lost their top cornerback in Charvarius Ward via free agency, and rookie first-round cover man Trent McDuffie could see a lot of action in the secondary along with Rashad Fenton (11 career starts) and L’Jarius Sneed (21 career starts).

    With that cornerback group, the Chiefs may be vulnerable on the back end, and Green should have some opportunities to capitalize on a young unit’s inexperience.

TE Austin Hooper vs. New York Giants (43 Percent Rostered)

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    AP Photo/John Amis

    DraftKings DFS Price: $3,700

    Managers who prefer or plan to stream tight ends throughout the season should take a look at Austin Hooper.

    According to ESPN’s Turron Davenport, Hooper emerged as “one of [Ryan] Tannehill's preferred options in the passing game” during organized team activities. Last month, in a joint practice between the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the two-time Pro Bowler caught seven passes, which indicates he could see a steady volume of targets this year.

    With wideout Robert Woods coming off a torn ACL from last November and rookie first-round wide receiver Treylon Burks’ slow start plagued with absences, Hooper could open the season as a top option in the Titans’ aerial attack.

    Hooper has a history of high production in a prominent role, racking up at least 71 catches and 660 receiving yards for the 2018 and 2019 campaigns with the Atlanta Falcons.

    Though Tennessee has employed a run-heavy attack that features running back Derrick Henry, Hooper can make a decent Week 1 contribution with a handful of targets. The New York Giants may start Tae Crowder, who allowed a 79.7 percent completion rate, a 103.0 passer rating and four touchdowns in coverage last season, or rookie fifth-rounder Micah McFadden at linebacker.

TE Evan Engram at Washington Commanders (26 Percent Rostered)

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    Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images

    DraftKings DFS Price: $3,500

    Apparently, the Jacksonville Jaguars have big plans for Evan Engram. Why else would they pay a tight end $9 million on a one-year deal?

    With new head coach Doug Pederson calling the plays on offense, quarterback Trevor Lawrence should make second-year strides. Pederson helped Carson Wentz put together a Pro Bowl campaign in 2017 (3,296 yards, 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions).

    Lawrence’s potential development bodes well for his pass-catchers, including Engram, who caught at least 44 passes in each of his five years with the New York Giants.

    The Jaguars may look to exploit a matchup between Engram and linebacker Jamin Davis, who went through growing pains in his rookie campaign, specifically in coverage, allowing an 85.7 percent completion rate and a 107.1 passer rating coverage. Fellow Washington Commanders linebacker Cole Holcomb isn’t a reliable cover defender either—he permitted a 74.1 percent completion rate, a 95.7 passer rating and three touchdowns in coverage last year.

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    Fantasy points scored against statistics are provided by FantasyPros.

    Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.


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