Sam Bradford, QB, MIN - A healthy Stefon Diggs, an expanded role for efficiency monster Adam Thielen, and the drafting of rookie RB Dalvin Cook gives Bradford some minor upside over the whole season. Specifically in Week 1, Bradford is the best streaming target. It’s as simple as playing a horrific Saints defense that bleeds fantasy points to the QB position. Last year in standard leagues, opposing QBs averaged 18.3 fantasy points per game against the Saints. For reference, 18.3 points per game for a QB would have been good enough to finish sixth among all QBs last season.
Philip Rivers, QB, SD - According to 4for4.com, the Broncos defense allowed the least amount of adjusted fantasy points per game to the QB position last season. The Broncos have also ranked first in pass defense DVOA for two straight seasons. The Broncos run defense did fall off last season. Expect the Chargers to try and exploit that, which could hurt Rivers’ volume. Couple average volume with a low team total and expected inefficiency, and there’s no reason to start Rivers this week, even if you drafted him as your first QB.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, CAR - McCaffrey is an explosive player, that will wreak havoc on any opposing linebacker trying to cover him out of the backfield. According to PlayerProfiler.com, McCaffrey has a 97th percentile agility score and had a 98th percentile College Dominator rating (percentage of team’s total yards and TDs).
Christian McCaffrey, a "running back," runs better routes than most receivers.pic.twitter.com/mgHeJrWAmD
— Rob Lowder (@Rob_Lowder) August 16, 2017
While McCaffery’s rushing upside is capped by the presence of Jonathan Stewart and the goal line usage of Cam Newton, his big play potential and role in the passing game make him an every week starter in fantasy, especially when the Panthers have one of the highest implied team totals of the week, as they do against a bad 49ers team.
Interestingly, McCaffrey makes for a better start in seasonal formats than in DFS formats. DFS salary cap games in Week 1 come with huge opportunity cost at the RB position, and the hype around McCaffrey could over inflate his ownership in tournament formats.
Joe Mixon, RB, CIN - Mixon, like McCaffrey, has a ton of athletic upside. He may actually have a higher fantasy ceiling for this season as well if he’s able to emerge as a featured back in Cincinnati. The issue for the moment, though, is the presence of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. Hill will steal rush attempts and goal line usage. Bernard will steal passing down work. Add it all up, and Mixon doesn’t have the requisite volume against a Ravens defense that was Top 10 in limiting fantasy points to running backs last season
Wide Receiver/Tight End
The Saints - More specifically, Coby Fleener and Ted Ginn. The efficient and high volume Saints passing attack finished sixth in Football Outsiders’ Pass DVOA last season. The trade of Brandin Cooks and suspension of Willie Snead opens up a lot of volume for other targets this season.
Fleener was in New Orleans last year and struggled with consistency, but his market share of targets and TDs will rise, particularly with Snead out of the picture for a few weeks. At just $2,900 on DraftKings, he’s an excellent source of salary cap relief if trying to pay up for expensive starting RBs like Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson.
Ginn is a big play receiver, who averaged 13.9 yards per catch last season and 16.8 the year before that when he hauled in 10 TD passes. Playing with Drew Brees, Ginn’s efficiency should revert back to his 2015 form, and the hole that Brandin Cooks left should allow Ginn to approach 100 targets for the third straight season. Cooks was the big play guy for the Saints last year, averaging 15 yards per catch, nearly 2.5 more yards than any other Saints receiver. Ginn can fill this role to an extent. He is particularly viable as a backend WR in standard or half PPR leagues, where his yardage and TD contributions outweigh a lower catch rate.
The Ravens - This is admittedly a risky call, but I think Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace finish outside the Top 30 WRs in Week 1. Generally, volume trumps efficiency in fantasy football, and the good news for Maclin and Wallace is the Ravens project to have a high amount of pass attempts relative to the rest of the league in Week 1. The bad news is the Ravens spread out their pass attempts all over the place. Last season no Baltimore receiver received more than 17.6% of the team’s targets over the season. While there are some injuries on the defensive side for Cincinnati, Pro Football Focus projects them as an above average pass coverage unit. Additionally, the Ravens carry a low implied team total Week 1.