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

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2019

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson warms up before a preseason NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

It's finally here, folks. Week 1 of the 2019 NFL season has arrived, which means, of course, the official start of fantasy football season.

If you haven't already completed your fantasy draft, you will in the coming days. It's time to look past big boards and sleeper picks and at your best matchup options for Week 1. Just because you drafted a top player at a position, it doesn't mean he's your best starting option this week.

Here, we'll examine the top 10 players at each skill position—quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end—along with stat projections and some Week 1 waiver-wire tips.


Standard League, Top-10 Rankings and Projections


1. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints: 300 yards passing, 60 yards rushing, 3 TDs

2. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars: 320 yards passing, 20 yards rushing, 3 TDs

3. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks vs. Cincinnati Bengals: 300 yards passing, 40 yards rushing, 2 TDs

4. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns vs. Tennessee Titans: 300 yards passing, 15 yards rushing, 2 TDs

5. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings vs. Atlanta Falcons: 285 yards passing, 10 yards rushing, 2 TDs

6. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Chargers at Carolina Panthers: 285 yards passing, 2 TDs

7. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington Redskins: 275 yards passing, 2 TDs

8. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints vs. Houston Texans: 270 yards passing, 2 TDs

9. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings: 265 yards passing, 2 TDs

10. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers vs. Indianapolis Colts: 260 yards passing, 2 TDs

Matt Ludtke/Associated Press


Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is still the top fantasy quarterback heading into Week 1. For Week 1, however, he isn't the top dog. He'll be on the road against a Jacksonville Jaguars defense that is still quite good—it allowed an average of just 311.4 yards per game last season.

Mahomes is still worth the start, unlike Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers will also be on the road, against a brutal Chicago Bears defense (just 17.7 points per game allowed last season) and playing his first game in Matt LaFleur's offense. Rodgers is not a top-10 quarterback for Week 1.

Look for Deshaun Watson to take the top spot this week, as his combination of rushing and passing ability will provide bonus points. He'll also be largely responsible for carrying the Texans offense against the New Orleans Saints.

Duke Johnson has traditionally been more of a third-down back than a starter, while Carlos Hyde only came to the team over this past weekend.


Running Backs

1. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys: 175 total yards, 2 TDs

2. Christian McCaffrey vs. Los Angeles Rams: 165 total yards, 2 TDs

3. Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals" 140 total yards, 2 TDs

4. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints vs. Houston Texans: 130 total yards, 2 TDs

5. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns vs. Tennessee Titans: 125 total yards, 2 TDs

6. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals vs. Detroit Lions: 145 total yards, 1 TD

7. Le'Veon Bell, New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills: 140 total yards, 1 TD

8. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars: 130 total yards, 1 TD

9. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams at Carolina Panthers: 125 total yards, 1 TD

10. James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots: 120 total yards, 1 TD

Steven Senne/Associated Press


New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley doesn't have the easiest matchup this week, but he should produce the most due to his role in the Giants offense. The vaunted Dallas Cowboys defense will corral him at times, but Barkley is likely to get the ball on the majority of New York's offensive plays.

With few reliable receiving options, Eli Manning will be handing off and dumping off to Barkley a lot.

For the Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott would be to-10 running back this week if he were suiting up. There's a possibility that he might, as Elliott and the Cowboys have made progress on contract talks, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter:

Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter

Here's the news Dallas has wanted: Talks between the Cowboys and RB Ezekiel Elliott are intensifying, with both sides aiming to wrap up a new deal this weekend, league sources tell ESPN.

For now, though, we're not counting Elliott as a viable option.


Wide Receivers

1. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints: 160 yards, 2 TDs

2. Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints vs. Houston Texans: 145 yards, 2 TDs

3. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. San Francisco 49ers: 140 yards, 2TDs

4. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings: 160 yards, 1 TD

5. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots: 150 yards, 1 TD

6. Antonio Brown, Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos: 130 yards, 1 TD

7. Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings vs. Atlanta Falcons: 125 yards, 1 TD

8. Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland Browns vs. Tennessee Titans: 115 yards, 1 TD

9. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers vs. Indianapolis Colts: 110 yards, 1 TD

10. Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks vs. Cincinnati Bengals: 110 yards, 1 TD

Bill Kostroun/Associated Press


As previously mentioned, Deshaun Watson should carry the bulk of the Texans offense in Week 1. This should mean great things for managers who have rostered wideout DeAndre Hopkins.

Hopkins has long been the focal point of Houston's passing attack, by a large degree. He's now entering his second (hopefully) full season with Watson and is hungry to be the best receiver he can be.

"He wants to win. He’s a team-first guy. Winning is paramount," receivers coach John Perry said, per ESPN's Sarah Barshop.

Starting Watson will give you a good chance of winning your Week 1 fantasy matchup.

Other target-heavy wide receivers—like Michael Thomas, Mike Evans and Julio Jones—will also be top options this week. Though Seattle Seahawks wideout Tyler Lockett isn't traditionally a target-hound in Seattle's run-based offense, he has a tremendous matchup this week.

No team allowed more passing yards than the Cincinnati Bengals (275.9 per game) last season.


Tight Ends

1. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington Redskins: 125 yards, 1 TD

2. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars: 120 yards, 1 TD

3. O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. San Francisco 49ers: 120 yards, 1 TD

4. George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers: 115 yards, 1 TD

5. Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints vs. Houston Texans: 95 yards, 1 TD

6. Evan Engram, New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys: 90 yards, 1 TD

7. Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers vs. Indianapolis Colts: 85 yards, 1 TD

8. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns: 80 yards, 1 TD

9. Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots: 75 yards, 1 TD

10. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings vs. Atlanta Falcons: 70 yards, 1 TD

Matt Dunham/Associated Press


If you have any of the league's elite tight ends—Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce or George Kittle—you can start them with confidence in Week 1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard also cracks the upper echelon this week due to a favorable matchup with the San Francisco 49ers.

San Francisco had the NFL's 28th-ranked defense last season (346.6 yards per game allowed) and will be traveling across the country for their opener.

While the addition of pass-rusher and second-overall draft pick Nick Bosa should give the 49ers defense a bit of a boost, Bosa is only now returning from an ankle sprain:

Cam Inman @CamInman

#49ers John Lynch on Nick Bosa for Week 1: "He'll be ready for practice on Monday. ... At his position, you play against big bodies and have to be able to turn. He'll be able to practice Monday and see where it goes from there."

A questionable defense and a long journey make San Francisco a favorable matchup for anyone involved in Tampa's passing attack.


Waiver Wire Tips

Realistically, you shouldn't have a need to work the waiver wire in Week 1. You should already have your tip options on your roster, and if you have perused the waiver wire, you likely did so right after your draft.

There are exceptions, of course. If you drafted Elliott or Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, you may need a back for Week 1. 

If any of the Cowboys or Chargers handcuffs are available—Tony Pollard, Austin Ekeler or Justin Jackson—they should be fair targets for your starting lineup.

Otherwise, it's best to give players some time to see how they function in their respective offenses before choosing to make roster cuts or waiver-wire additions.

This is, however, a great week to scout potential waiver-wire pickups. Pay attention to the roles guys are filling in Week 1, look out for any injuries that may push a player into a starting job and determine if any of your own players are worth dropping.