Fantasy Football Week 1: Opening Rankings, Projections, Early Waiver-Wire Tips

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 3, 2018

Aaron Rodgers should be able to assert himself in Green Bay's opener against Chicago.
Aaron Rodgers should be able to assert himself in Green Bay's opener against Chicago.Mike Roemer/Associated Press

We are in the Week 1 cycle, and the season opener between the Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday night is at hand.

The competition begins in earnest, and we are here to provide our rankings of the top fantasy players at each position and projections for their Week 1 performances.

        

Standard League, Top-10 Rankings and Projections

Quarterback

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, vs. Chicago Bears: 315 yards, 3 TDs
2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints, vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 300 yards, 3 TDs
3. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers, vs. Kansas City Chiefs: 285 yards, 3 TDs
4. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings, vs. San Francisco 49ers: 300 yards, 2 TDs
5. Tom Brady, New England Patriots, vs. Houston Texans: 280 yards, 2 TDs
6. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions, vs. New York Jets: 275 yards, 2 TDs
7. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans at New England Patriots: 240 yards, 1 TD; 70 rushing yards, 1 TD
8. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns: 250 yards, 2 TDs
9. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos: 240 yards, 1 TD; 40 rushing yards, 1 TD
10. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins: 240 yards, 2 TD

The Packers open the season at home with a Sunday night game against what could be a much-improved Chicago Bears team. The Bears acquired defensive star Khalil Mack from the Raiders Saturday, and it is the kind of move that could turn Vic Fangio's defense into a top-10 or better unit this season.

However, it will almost certainly take a couple of games for the Chicago defense to find its stride. Rodgers knows Chicago will likely have a more dangerous defense when the two teams meet for the second time in Week 15 in Chicago.

Look for the Packers QB to come out with a sharp effort and beat the Bears. Rodgers had a four-TD game against the Bears in 2017, and he could be dominant again this year.

         

Running Back

1. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Raiders: 165 rushing yards, 45 receiving yards, 2 TDs
2. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals vs. Washington Redskins: 150 rushing yards, 50 receiving yards, 2 TDs.
3. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 120 rushing yards, 60 receiving yards, 2 TDs.
4. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers: 145 rushing yards, 2 TDs
5. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers vs. Kansas City Chiefs: 115 rushing yards, 1 TD
6. Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns: 95 rushing yards, 1 TD*
7. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants: 90 rushing yards, 1 TD
8. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: 88 rushing yards, 1 TD
9. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings vs. San Francisco 49ers: 80 rushing yards
10. Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers: 78 rushing yards

*-If he ends his holdout and the Steelers allow him to play the opener.

Gurley has been the top selection on many draft boards throughout the summer, and he is a hard-working and talented back who wants to cement his status in the season opener.

The Raiders are likely to be in a depressed state of mind following the trade of Mack to the Bears, and Gurley should be able to take advantage of this weakness.

If Bell returns, we see him reaching peak form within two weeks.

          

Wide Receiver

1. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns: 10 catches, 175 yards, 2 TDs
2. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans at New England Patriots: 8 catches, 150 yards, 2 TDs
3. Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 8 catches, 125 yards, 2 TDs
4. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts: 8 catches, 115 yards, 1 TD
5. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles: 7 catches, 100 yards, 1 TD
6. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears: 7 catches, 95 yards, 1 TD
7. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers vs. Kansas City Chiefs: 6 catches, 90 yards, 1 TD
9. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: 6 catches, 85 yards 1 TD
10. Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos: 8 catches, 95 yards

Brown is the game's top receiver, and he should be prepared to put on a show in the opener against the Cleveland Browns. When Brown is on his game, there is no stopping him, and that's why he should have an impressive performance.

Hopkins has the ability to put on a show against the Patriots. New England's defense had some key problems defending the pass last year, and Hopkins should be able to exploit this issue.

          

Tight Ends

1. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots vs. Houston Texans: 8 catches, 140 yards, 2 TDs
2. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers: 7 catches, 105 yards, 1 TD
3. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers vs. Dallas Cowboys: 7 catches, 100 yards, 1 TD
4. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Atlanta Falcons: 6 catches, 85 yards, 1 TD
5. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings vs. San Francisco 49ers: 6 catches, 85 yards
6. Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals: 5 catches, 78 yards
7. Trey Burton, Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers: 5 catches, 75 yards
8. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins: 5 catches 70 yards
9. O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints: 5 catches, 68 yards
10. David Njoku, Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: 5 catches, 60 yards

Gronkowski has always been Tom Brady's best big-play target, and the Patriots may need more from their No. 1 tight end this year because the Pats appear limited at the wide receiver position. Look for Gronkowski to assert himself in New England's opener.

        

Early Waiver-Wire Decisions

While smart fantasy owners will be going to the waiver wire throughout the season, there should not be much of a reason to make a move prior to Week 1 because the top players should be in your lineup, and it is wise to give them a shot to show what they can do.

However, there is one exception that could play out. The Steelers have the best receiver in the league in Brown and the best running back in Bell. Most are expecting Bell to end his holdout very shortly and he could be in the lineup against Cleveland.

However, if he continues his holdout or the Steelers don't want to play him this early in the season, fantasy owners will need to go to the waiver wire. 

If you have handcuffed Steelers running back James Conner, he could be a one-week alternative. However, LeGarrette Blount of the Detroit Lions has been a stellar short-yardage player in his career. He scored 18 rushing touchdowns two years ago with the Patriots, and he could be a key performer near the goal line with the Lions.

Blount is an early-season waiver-wire pick up.

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