Fantasy Football Week 1: Biggest Sleepers at Every Position
Every week in fantasy football is important, but Week 1 is the perfect opportunity for fantasy managers to set the tone for the season by getting a win.
While most fantasy managers stick with their early-round picks out of the gate, sleepers abound in Week 1 as well. If one of your star players has a difficult matchup, it may be better to go with the lesser-known option.
Unheralded players will break out and become must-have fantasy options in the coming weeks, and some of them may be on this list of sleepers for Week 1. Certain players will be thrust into starting roles due to injuries, while others may finally live up to their potential.
For now, a handful of players with good matchups and ideal situations within their own teams are appealing sleepers to start for Week 1.
Kyler Murray vs. San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers may have one of the most intimidating defenses in the NFL, but don't tell that to Kyler Murray. In two games against the 49ers as a rookie last season, Murray threw for 391 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions while adding another 101 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Although the Arizona Cardinals lost both of those games, Murray and head coach Kliff Kingsbury had a strong offensive game plan. Now, Murray is heading into his second season with a better grasp on Kingsbury's playbook and a brand-new weapon in former Houston Texans superstar DeAndre Hopkins.
The 49ers are 6.5-point favorites in this game, but a negative game script would mean plenty of passes from Murray, which could result in a potentially big fantasy outing to start the 2020 season.
Ben Roethlisberger vs. New York Giants
There are a lot of question marks surrounding Ben Roethlisberger, who is 38 years old and returning from a season-ending elbow injury. Fortunately for Steelers fans, it looks like the future Hall of Fame quarterback is healthy and ready to make a run for the Comeback Player of the Year award.
An easy Week 1 matchup should help Roethlisberger start this season on the right foot. The New York Giants gave up the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks last season, and they didn't add any players this offseason who are likely to completely turn the defense around overnight.
There is still the risk of Roethlisberger shaking off some rust, but with a strong matchup and a ton of weapons at his disposal, it could be a great first week back for the Steelers quarterback.
Tyrod Taylor vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The Los Angeles Chargers took quarterback Justin Herbert with the No. 6 overall pick of the 2020 NFL draft, but veteran Tyrod Taylor will get the starting nod in Week 1. Even if Taylor eventually loses the starting gig to Herbert, the season opener against the Bengals should be an enticing fantasy matchup.
Historically, Taylor has been a respectable journeyman. He is a relatively efficient passer who is also capable of making plays with his legs, which is always an added bonus in fantasy.
Taylor will be going against a defense that gave up over 20 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks last year. With weapons like Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry at his disposal, he might have one of the better fantasy outings of any quarterback in Week 1.
Antonio Gibson vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The surprise release of Adrian Peterson has opened up the competition for the Washington Football Team's starting running back. Rookie Antonio Gibson is firmly in the driver's seat to establish himself as the team's premier back.
Predominantly a wide receiver at Memphis, Gibson saw limited touches in the backfield in college. However, that didn't stop him from posting 1,104 yards and 12 touchdowns from scrimmage while averaging an absurd 11.2 yards per rushing attempt this past season.
Peterson was quick to praise Gibson for his work in training camp. That, along with limited competition between guys like Bryce Love and J.D. McKissic, points to Gibson being the team's starter in Week 1.
Washington is a 5.5-point underdog against Philadelphia. Despite going against a formidable run defense, Gibson should be able to put up enough points to warrant a start, especially in PPR leagues with him likely to get a fair share of targets.
Phillip Lindsay vs. Tennessee Titans
The Denver Broncos made a big move at running back by signing Melvin Gordon III in free agency. However, incumbent back Phillip Lindsay could have the bigger Week 1 performance against the Tennessee Titans.
After going undrafted and making the Pro Bowl his rookie season, Lindsay quietly had another solid season in 2019. He finished his sophomore campaign with 1,011 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, averaging a solid 4.5 yards per carry.
Gordon has come into Denver expecting to be the starting back, but training camp hasn't been particularly kind to the former Chargers star. He even admitted to struggling with Denver's altitude in camp, which could lead to a larger workload for Lindsay, at least early on.
Fantasy owners shouldn't be reaching for Lindsay in any drafts, but if you have him, it might be worth starting him in deeper leagues in Week 1 as Gordon works to get more comfortable with the Broncos.
Tarik Cohen vs. Detroit Lions
Tarik Cohen disappointed last year after a strong 2018 campaign, but he might have the opportunity to get off to a better start in 2020.
Cohen ran the ball only 64 times last season, picking up 213 yards without a touchdown on the ground. However, he thrived in the passing game, where he caught 79 passes (on 104 targets) for 456 yards and three touchdowns.
The 5'6" running back should remain a fixture in Chicago's passing attack, but he may get some extra carries early on as well. Fellow running back David Montgomery suffered a groin injury during practice two weeks ago, and while he still might play Week 1, it's unlikely that he'll be at 100 percent if he does.
That should mean a bigger workload for Cohen early on, which is great news for him going against a Detroit Lions team that gave up the third-most fantasy points to running backs last season. Fantasy managers in a PPR league should start Cohen, both for his targets and likely increased carries.
Boston Scott vs. Washington Football Team
While Boston Scott may not have a long-term featured role with the Philadelphia Eagles, he should get a good number of touches in Week 1 against the Washington Football Team.
The Eagles signed Scott off the New Orleans Saints' practice squad in 2018, and he has kept a job ever since. He played in 11 games last year, running for 245 yards and five touchdowns while adding another 204 receiving yards.
Those aren't viable numbers for a long-term fantasy running back, but for Week 1, Scott could be an interesting sleeper. Starting running back Miles Sanders is currently dealing with a hamstring issue that may limit his workload early in the season, which should mean more carries for Scott. Paired with a friendly matchup against Washington, that makes Scott a potentially high-reward sleeper.
John Brown vs. New York Jets
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen is expected to make a big jump in his third NFL season, which is great news for fantasy managers who are high on the team's wide receivers.
John Brown should be in line for a big season, even with the arrival of Stefon Diggs. He had a career year with in his first season with the Bills last year, racking up 72 receptions for 1,060 yards and six touchdowns.
Diggs will likely be Allen's primary target, but that doesn't mean he'll completely ignore Brown, who he developed a legitimate connection with last season. The Bills will be going against a weak New York Jets secondary to start the season, which should give Brown the opportunity to put up big numbers to start the year.
Anthony Miller vs. Detroit Lions
Mitchell Trubisky underwhelmed last year, but the Chicago Bears will start the 2020 season with him back under center. That might scare off a lot of fantasy owners from most Bears players, but wide receiver Anthony Miller could be in line for a big outing to start the year.
The Bears traded up in the second round in 2018 to take Miller, and he's carved out a staring role since. Despite starting only seven games last season, he finished with 52 receptions on 85 targets, 656 yards and two touchdowns.
The Detroit Lions are still trying to figure out their defensive identity after trading away star cornerback Darius Slay, so Miller should have the chance to get his 2020 campaign off on the right foot. That's great news for fantasy managers with him on their rosters.
Diontae Johnson vs. New York Giants
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson had perhaps one of the most overlooked breakout rookie seasons in 2019. With Ben Roethlisberger back under center, Johnson has the potential to become an even bigger name this season.
Johnson finished his rookie year with 59 receptions for 680 yards and five touchdowns despite mostly catching passes from Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. He made waves in training camp this year, with Big Ben even calling him an "incredible talent."
In Week 1, the Steelers have an appealing matchup against the New York Giants. Although Roethlisberger may have to shake off some rust in his first game back, Johnson's big-play ability makes him a great flex option against a secondary that could be exposed by the Steelers' vertical passing attack.
CeeDee Lamb vs. Los Angeles Rams
The new-look Dallas Cowboys offense has the chance to dominate this season under head coach Mike McCarthy. There will be plenty of touches to go around in the offense, and rookie first-round pick CeeDee Lamb has the chance to make the most of his opportunities.
In his three seasons with the Oklahoma Sooners, Lamb racked up almost 3,300 receiving yards and 33 total touchdowns. Despite already having Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, the Cowboys didn't hesitate to take Lamb in the first round to give their offense yet another weapon.
It's unclear how big of a role Lamb will have right away, but McCarthy figures to find creative ways to get him involved, even with rushing attempts. The Cowboys have even been trying Lamb out as a punt returner to maximize his skill set.
The Rams defense will have to game-plan around the Cowboys' strong running attack and a dangerous top receiver in Cooper. That could create the opportunity for some big plays from Lamb.
Noah Fant vs. Tennesse Titans
It can be tricky to find a fantasy tight end outside of the top few options, but Noah Fant has serious upside both in Week 1 and for the rest of the 2020 season.
The Denver Broncos tight end played in all 16 games as a rookie last year, catching 40 passes for 562 yards and three touchdowns. Fant's athleticism and ability to pick up yards in bunches will make him a great safety blanket for second-year quarterback Drew Lock.
A Week 1 matchup against the Tennessee Titans, who have premier pass-rushers in Harold Landry and Jadeveon Clowney, will likely force Lock to find his checkdown options more often than usual. That could mean plenty of catches for Fant to start the season.
T.J. Hockenson vs. Chicago Bears
While Fant had a promising rookie season, his college teammate T.J. Hockenson struggled to put everything together. The Detroit Lions tight end now has a chance at redemption, and that will start with a decent matchup in Week 1 against the Chicago Bears.
Hockenson, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft, struggled to make much of an impact in the passing game as a rookie. He played in only 12 games, catching 32 passes for 367 yards and two touchdowns.
A full offseason to get healthy and work on his game likely did Hockenson a lot of good, especially with the opportunity to work out with another former college teammate in George Kittle. The Bears linebackers may struggle to match up with Hockenson in Week 1, so for those who still believe in the former Iowa Hawkeye, this week would be a good opportunity to start him in fantasy.
Tyler Eifert vs. Indianapolis Colts
Injuries have derailed Tyler Eifert's once-promising career. Perhaps a new start with the Jacksonville Jaguars could be exactly what he needs to become one of the NFL's most dominant tight ends once again.
Eifert played all 16 games with the Cincinnati Bengals for the first time in his NFL career last year. In the three seasons prior to 2019, injuries limited him to only 14 total games.
Although Eifert only racked up 436 yards and three touchdowns last season, he could become one of the focal points of Jacksonville's offense. The Jaguars have shipped off most of their offensive talent outside of DJ Chark Jr., leaving Eifert with a chance to own the middle of the field and catch plenty of passes from Gardner Minshew II.
The Colts defense might not be ready for a heavy dose of Eifert in Week 1,. That could lead to a big outing for fantasy owners looking for a deep sleeper at tight end.