Every Wednesday during the regular season, I will release “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down” to highlight certain players I am higher or lower on for that particular week. Since I just did the draft version of the article, this will be an abridged version for Week 1. And of course, you should simply follow our rankings—and get Fantasy Consigliere—for the best advice possible; “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down” will just give the detail that our rankings don’t. [Note: check the rankings for updated start/sit decisions, as weather is expected to impact the Steelers-Browns game this Sunday.]
Thumbs Up of the Week: Jared Goff (@ OAK)
The triggerman of Sean McVay’s offense on Monday Night Football against a defense that just traded their best player? Sign me up. Goff is a top-five play and could make some people either very happy or very upset about staying up late to watch the game.
Thumbs Up: Andy Dalton (@ IND)
It looks like Indianapolis will be a secondary to target all year, and Andy Dalton gets first crack at them. The Bengals looked very good in their dress rehearsal, so we’ll see if that carries over into the season opener. The top four corners for the Colts (Kenny Moore II, Nate Hairston, Pierre Desir, and Quincy Wilson) will have a tough time stopping A.J. Green and company.
Thumbs Up: Tyrod Taylor (v PIT)
Pittsburgh runs a bunch of zone coverage, and Tyrod has been better against zone than man throughout his career as a conservative passer that likes to wait for holes to open up in the defense. I wouldn’t be worried about Josh Gordon supposedly not starting.
Thumbs Up: Sam Bradford (v WAS)
It really doesn’t matter what defense is played against Sam Bradford if he’s given time to throw, and I think that will be the case against Washington. Something close to last year’s season opener for Bradford (382 yards and three touchdowns) wouldn’t be surprising.
Others: Mitchell Trubisky (@ GB), Derek Carr (v LAR)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Alex Smith (@ ARI)
I think the Redskins upgraded at quarterback this offseason with Alex Smith, and he should have a strong season in 2018. However, the Cardinals defense looks like it could be a top-five unit, so Smith might be better left on the bench or waiver wire to open the year.
Thumbs Down: Jimmy Garoppolo (@ MIN)
It’s a matchup league, and no one drew a worse matchup than Garoppolo this Sunday, as he will need to travel to Minnesota to face the NFL’s best defense and secondary (in my opinion, at least). Avoid Jimmy G with several other options to choose from.
Thumbs Down: Andrew Luck (v CIN)
I have Luck as a low-end QB1, but there’s no denying that he might be a risk, particularly early in the season. While Cincinnati isn’t an overly imposing matchup, it would be wise to see the former No. 1 pick uncork a deep ball before he’s inserted into fantasy lineups.
Thumbs Down: Nick Foles (v ATL)
All these guys that are “Thumbs Down” could easily put up a QB1 performance, and that includes Foles, who started slow last year (similar to this preseason) before catching fire in the playoffs. That said, the Super Bowl LII MVP will be without Alshon Jeffery against a defense that held them to 15 points in January.
Others: Ben Roethlisberger (PIT), Patrick Mahomes (@ LAC)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Derrick Henry (@ MIA)
I’ve been excited about this matchup for nearly a month, as Miami’s bottom-tier run defense will have a difficult time keeping Derrick Henry from getting to the second level. The monster runner is an easy top-ten play for me.
Thumbs Up: James Conner (@ CLE)
If you’re reading this and James Conner is still somehow available in your league, pick him up immediately, as Le’Veon Bell’s contract dispute with the team is seemingly getting uglier by the minute. For at least this week—and potentially until Week 11 or even the entire season—, you should have the cheapest RB1/RB2 option imaginable.
Thumbs Up: Tevin Coleman (@ PHI)
In Atlanta’s playoff loss to the Eagles, Tevin Coleman handled 11 touches for 93 yards, and the rematch, he will get a chance to pickup chunk yardage on the ground and through the air with cover linebacker Nigel Bradham suspended. He’s a high-upside RB2.
Thumbs Up: James White (v HOU)
Including this Sunday against the Texans, look for James White to be involved early and often with Julian Edelman out of the lineup for the first four games of the season. For PPR owners in particular, I’m expecting a lot of short passes to New England’s top receiver out of the backfield.
Others: Joe Mixon (@ IND), Jalen Richard (v LAR)
Thumbs Down of the Week: LeSean McCoy (@ BAL)
The Bills made the right choice in starting Nathan Peterman over Josh Allen with a tough slate of games in September, but it’s probably bad news for McCoy, as a mobile quarterback typically keeps defenses a little more honest. That, combined with poor interior blocking and a matchup with the Ravens, makes Shady a low-floor FLEX.
Thumbs Down: Devonta Freeman (@ PHI)
In the aforementioned playoff loss to Philly, Devonta Freeman actually did more damage as a receiver (five receptions for 26 yards and a touchdown) than backfield mate Tevin Coleman. Tomorrow night, though, I think Atlanta will want to take advantage of Coleman’s speed and downfield skills with Bradham out, so Freeman could struggle if he’s mostly limited to work on the ground against a stingy front (ten carries for seven yards in January).
Thumbs Down: Isaiah Crowell (@ DET)
Despite Bilal Powell operating as the clear starter in preseason action (before and after Crowell’s concussion), the consensus still believes that Cleveland’s former starter will have the same role in New York. Maybe that will end up happening if the Jets were just holding him back in August, but I think Powell is simply the guy. Sit Crowell until we know for sure.
Thumbs Down: Ronald Jones II (@ NO)
The hate on Ronald Jones II has gone way too far, but he is just and end-of-bench flier right now, as both Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers are ahead of him on the depth chart. There’s a chance he isn’t even involved in the Week 1 gameplan, and he’d probably need a big run to be worth even considering.
Others: Alfred Morris (@ MIN), Matt Breida (@ MIN)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Larry Fitzgerald (v WAS)
Similar to Derrick Henry against Miami, this has been a matchup that I’ve been looking forward to for a while, as Washington doesn’t have anyone that can cover Fitzgerald in the slot. He’s a top-eight option in both standard and PPR leagues with Bradford under center this week.
Thumbs Up: Allen Robinson (@ GB)
Green Bay’s secondary should take a huge leap this year after adding Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson, and Tramon Williams at cornerback, but I think Robinson is being undervalued as a player and fantasy option to begin the 2018 season. Chicago’s new No. 1 receiver is a high-end WR2 in a potential primetime shootout.
Thumbs Up: Chris Godwin (@ NO)
Godwin is also undervalued as a fantasy option, and I think Tampa Bay will have a difficult time keeping him off the field after impressing as a rookie. This week, the Penn State product should mostly avoid reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore.
Thumbs Up: Phillip Dorsett (v HOU)
If you want a lottery ticket to hit big in Week 1, there are actually quite a few options, but Phillip Dorsett stands out above the rest. The former first-round pick is a top-two receiver with Edelman suspended, and Houston has long been susceptible to speedsters on the outside.
Others: Sammy Watkins (@ LAC), Devin Funchess (v DAL)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Odell Beckham Jr. (v JAC)
Jalen Ramsey versus Odell Beckham Jr. will be must-see TV based solely on the fact that anything can happen. I mean, seriously, we’ve seen OBJ missile into a cornerback and propose to a kicking net before, and I think a clash with Ramsey has an alarmingly high chance to turn into an all-out fistfight. Even if not, Beckham should be downgraded to WR2 status in this matchup.
Thumbs Down: Mike Evans (@ NO)
As mentioned, Chris Godwin will avoid Marshon Lattimore, and that means Evans will be the one to draw the standout cornerback’s coverage. Last year, Evans ran most of his routes on the left side of the formation, and Lattimore mostly lined up at right cornerback; in two matchups, the big-bodied wideout was held to a combined six receptions for 68 scoreless yards.
Thumbs Down: Marquise Goodwin (@ MIN)
Goodwin is set to be Jimmy Garoppolo’s go-to target in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, but that label might be unpopular with Xavier Rhodes’ shadow potentially following him around. The former track star is probably better left on the bench.
Thumbs Down: DeAndre Hopkins (@ NE)
DeAndre Hopkins is obviously not better left on the bench, and he’s still a WR1 for me, but expectations should be kept in check against Bill Belichick’s defense, as New England typically tries to take away the top option for opponents. Avoid Hopkins in daily fantasy.
Others: Doug Baldwin (@ DEN), Robby Anderson (@ DET)
Thumbs Up of the Week: David Njoku (v PIT)
In limited action versus Pittsburgh last year, Njoku caught four passes for 58 yards, and I think he could keep that yards-per-reception average while increasing the raw numbers with more playing time and an improved quarterback situation.
Thumbs Up: George Kittle (@ MIN)
It will be difficult for Minnesota to move the ball outside the numbers on Sunday, so Kyle Shanahan could be dialing up Kittle’s number as perhaps the best matchup of the week for San Francisco. He’s a top-15 play.
Thumbs Up: Mike Gesicki (v TEN)
As stated in the draft version of “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down” Gesicki is six-foot-five and ran a 4.54 40-yard dash with a 41.5-inch vertical. He’s a walking touchdown threat in the mold of Jimmy Graham, and Tennessee could struggle with his size in scoring territory.
Thumbs Up: Austin Hooper (@ PHI)
Again, with Nigel Bradham out for Philadelphia, the Eagles could be more susceptible to receiving production from Atlanta’s backs and tight ends. Thursday night could be the start of a breakout for Hooper, who might be getting overlooked in a loaded offensive attack.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Evan Engram (v JAC)
Engram was my “Thumbs Down of the Year” at the position, too, and a matchup with one of the fastest linebackers in the league (Telvin Smith) could cause problems on Sunday, especially since his game is built mostly on speed.
Thumbs Down: Austin Seferian-Jenkins (@ NYG)
Based on the Giants being awful against tight ends last year, people seem to be overvaluing Seferian-Jenkins for Week 1. That’s a mistake, as New York has a whole new defensive scheme (and personnel) under James Bettcher. ASJ will be more of a blocker than receiving threat.
Thumbs Down: Eric Ebron (v CIN)
Indy will probably run a lot of two-TE stets this year, but I would much rather play one of the “Thumbs Up” options over Ebron until we see how exactly he is utilized behind Jack Doyle.
Thumbs Down: Cameron Brate (@ NO)
Brate could be a forgotten man in Tampa Bay, as Evans, Godwin, DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard, and Adam Humphries could all be ahead of him for targets. Plus, for the first three weeks of the season, he will be without Jameis Winston, and the pair has shown great chemistry that’s unlikely to be replicated with Ryan Fitzpatrick.
For defense and kicker advice—and all your start/sit decisions—go to our full Week 1 rankings.
My #1 fantasy go to since last year. I got Derrick Henry cause of you.
I drafted Henry in my league as well. A few months ago I felt he would be the sleeper of the year, although now I am skeptical with the addition of Dion Lewis (especially with the contract they gave him). What are your thoughts? Will Henry live up to his potential?
I think so, Ralph. The Titans have one of the league’s best offensive lines, and Dion Lewis struggled to stay healthy before last year. Most importantly, Henry is a monster that will be tough to keep off the field, as he’s dominated with extended touches. Hopefully a big game on Sunday will allow him to carry the momentum through the entire season.
Conner isn’t close to Bell.