Thumbs Up of the Week: Jared Goff (v DAL)
One of the most underrated fantasy quarterbacks for the 2020 season is also one of the most underrated in Week 1, as Goff is positioned to put up big numbers against a remade Dallas secondary for the opening of SoFi Stadium. Todd Gurley is gone, but that should only slant things toward the passing attack where Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee, and others can all contribute. Assuming the offensive line will hold up, Goff is a top-seven play for me.
Thumbs Up: Derek Carr (@ CAR)
Carr and the Raiders have been extremely methodical in both season openers under Jon Gruden over the past two years, and that is a testament to the head coach’s offensive mind—particularly when given time to prepare. The efficiency of Carr (22-of-26 in last season’s opener) should be boosted by an explosive skill-position group and a cupcake matchup against a very vulnerable Carolina secondary.
Thumbs Up: Tyrod Taylor (@ CIN)
Cincinnati was looking like an improved defensive team after singing cornerbacks Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander in the offseason, but the former is out with a pectoral injury, and the latter is questionable after missing a chunk of training camp. Even without Mike Williams in the lineup, Taylor is a recommended streamer thanks to his dual-threat upside in a good matchup.
Thumbs Up: Jimmy Garoppolo (v ARI)
Whether or not the skill-position talent is fully healthy—Deebo Samuel (foot) and Brandon Aiyuk (hamstring) are both questionable—Garoppolo is in position to have a huge day versus a Cardinals defense that he ripped for 329.7 yards per game and eight scores in 2019. Arizona again projects to be a defense better attacked through the air than on the ground coming off an NFL-high 109.9 passer rating allowed last year.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Dak Prescott (@ LAR)
The weeks where Prescott isn’t a top-five option will likely be rare in 2020, but this looks like one of them as Dallas travels to take on a star-powered Los Angeles defense that surely remembers being destroyed last December when they allowed 44 points. Although Dak has enough weapons to avoid Jalen Ramsey and put up numbers, I feel better about quarterbacks like Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo in plus matchups. If you have another option, it might be wise to wait until Week 2 to start your QB1.
Thumbs Down: Daniel Jones (v PIT)
As mentioned multiple times over the summer, Jones’ early-season schedule is absolutely brutal, and it will start on Monday night against Pittsburgh—who forced a league-high 38 turnovers in 2019. It feels like the Giants could decide to be more conservative to open the year by feeding Saquon Barkley and hoping the remade defense can make it a somewhat low-scoring game. Jones falls outside the top 24 for me this week.
Thumbs Down: Joe Burrow (v LAC)
Even without Derwin James (knee), the Chargers remain very stingy on defense, so it will be a tough first test for Burrow after a non-normal offseason of preparation. Similar to what I believe will happen with the Giants, we could see Burrow operating conservatively as to not challenge Casey Hayward, Chris Harris Jr., and Desmond King at cornerback. I’d recommend looking elsewhere.
Thumbs Down: Kyler Murray (@ SF)
It will be tough to take Murray out of lineups because of the upside, and those that want to roll with him can be comforted some by his performances against San Francisco as a rookie (22.9 fantasy points per game). However, the Niners have had a full offseason to not only prepare for Arizona’s offense, but also reflect on their Super Bowl loss; I expect them to be ready for Murray on Sunday.
Thumbs Up of the Week: David Johnson (@ KC)
Johnson sounds like he has a lot to prove this season with a new team, and Thursday night will give him a shot to start off strong for a probable shootout against Kansas City. They got away from it in the postseason loss, but Houston pounded the ball when they upset the Chiefs last October, so DJ could be featured from the jump as the franchise’s best all-around back since Arian Foster. I have Johnson as a low-end RB1 for the opener.
Thumbs Up: Tarik Cohen (@ DET)
He would get a slight downgrade if David Montgomery (groin) is able to play, but Cohen should have a significant role either way with Mitchell Trubisky hoping to avoid mistakes and keep the starting job over Nick Foles. Last season, the Lions were one of the worst teams in the league against pass-catching backs, allowing an NFL-high eight receiving touchdowns and the second-most receiving yards (864). Cohen is a strong RB2/FLEX to open the year.
Thumbs Up: Joshua Kelley (@ CIN)
Rookies could be at a disadvantage this season, but running back is a position that usually has an easier transition to the next level, and Kelley might immediately be the 1B to Austin Ekeler with Justin Jackson working back from a toe injury. I think the former UCLA standout could handle double-digit carries in his debut and is worth considering as a FLEX play for a Los Angeles team that wants to be balanced.
Thumbs Up: Darrel Williams (v HOU)
Although Clyde Edwards-Helaire will undoubtedly be the guy in Kansas City, we shouldn’t overlook Williams as a possible contributor—particularly early in the season. It’s worth noting that the 25-year-old was actually the preferred option for Andy Reid’s offense on third downs last season before Damien Williams took over down the stretch, and CEH might need to prove himself as a pass protector. It’s not a bad idea to roll with Williams in deeper leagues ahead of a high-scoring matchup.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Nick Chubb (@ BAL)
You aren’t benching Chubb—a first- or second-round pick in most leagues—but he could have a slow start against a Baltimore defense that limited him to 15 carries for 45 scoreless yards in their second matchup last season (after being stung for 165 yards and three scores earlier in the year). Consider Chubb more of a solid RB2 in a matchup with a stout front that added All-Pro Calais Campbell in the offseason.
Thumbs Down: Kenyan Drake (@ SF)
Drake is another player that played great in the first matchup versus a tough defense last year (162 total yards and a score versus San Francisco on Halloween) before being contained just a couple of weeks later against them (3.6 yards per touch on 22 touches). The matchup combined with returning from a foot injury leaves Drake as more of a low-floor, low-end RB2 for Week 1.
Thumbs Down: Ronald Jones II (@ NO)
I am high on Jones II for the season and think he can hold off Leonard Fournette if given a fair shot, but the matchup is definitely tough to start things off against a New Orleans defense that allowed the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game in 2019. If the Bucs immediately give Fournette the goal-line looks and LeSean McCoy a chunk of the receiving work, Jones II could find it difficult to return RB2 value between the 20s.
Thumbs Down: Detroit RBs (v CHI)
You probably don’t need me to tell you, but it might be a good idea to completely avoid the Detroit backfield due to the matchup and overall uncertainty about touches between Kerryon Johnson, D’Andre Swift, and Adrian Peterson. I like Kerryon to emerge from the group if he can stay healthy, but he’s just my RB40 this week.
Thumbs Up of the Week: A.J. Brown (@ DEN)
I had Brown as my “Thumbs Up of the Week” before news broke about Von Miller’s ankle injury that will likely knock him out for the year, and Denver’s worsened pass rush will only boost the matchup for him and the Tennessee offense. If Vic Fangio wants to sell out to stop Derrick Henry like they did last season, Brown should have plenty of space to catch-and-run at the second level. He’s a top-six play for me.
Thumbs Up: Keenan Allen (@ CIN)
Perhaps the most insightful part of Hard Knocks this year was Anthony Lynn saying he tells the offensive staff to “feed Keenan Allen” every day, and LA’s top wideout should be a target monster early in the season with Mike Williams (shoulder) out of the lineup. Again, the Bengals have a very attackable cornerback group, and it will be a challenge to contain one of the game’s best route runners.
Thumbs Up: DeSean Jackson (@ WAS)
Jackson almost seems too obvious as an upside play in Week 1, but making a point to eliminate the deep ball (which Ron Rivera will certainly do) and actually stopping it on the field are two different things. In last year’s opener, Jackson went off for a 8/154/2 line on nine targets against Washington, and he will be Philly’s undisputed No. 1 wideout with Alshon Jeffery (foot) and Jalen Reagor (shoulder) out.
Thumbs Up: Henry Ruggs III (@ CAR)
Does anyone think Jon Gruden will be able to contain his excitement about Ruggs III after several months of imagining the fit in his offense? For those who don’t know, the rookie is much more than a one-trick deep threat, and I don’t see the Carolina defense slowing him down. I already have Ruggs III ranked as a high-upside WR2 with blowup potential.
Others: Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman (v HOU)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Amari Cooper (@ LAR)
Cooper’s weekly ceiling is among the best in the game, but everyone knows by now that it comes with basically a bottomless floor—and Jalen Ramsey tends to bring out the worst in opposing receivers. Even if Ramsey stays on one side of the field, Cooper will see enough of him to downgrade significantly; I’d rather play an upside target in a better matchup if possible.
Thumbs Down: DeAndre Hopkins (@ SF)
The “Thumbs Down” options are receiver are absolutely loaded with star players this week, but if there is a spot where defenses much have the upper hand early in the year, it might be when they have a lockdown cornerback. Now, Richard Sherman isn’t going to shadow Hopkins, but Arizona’s new receiver hadn’t been on the field much over the summer, and I don’t think Kyler Murray will force it early. I have Hopkins outside my top 25 wideouts.
Thumbs Down: Odell Beckham Jr. (@ BAL)
He found the end zone with a late score in their second meeting, but Beckham Jr. was mostly bested by star cornerback Marlon Humphrey in 2019 (two receptions for 20 scoreless yards in the first meeting), and we don’t know what kind of volume will be there in Kevin Stefanski’s offense. As always, it will take just one play for OBJ to be worth a start, but he’s my WR30 right now—and even that might be a couple of spots too high.
Thumbs Down: Mike Evans (@ NO)
Those who use our draft rankings know that we view Chris Godwin as the No. 1 fantasy wideout (and a top-three real-life receiver), but the Saints have historically used Marshon Lattimore to shadow Mike Evans, and that’s expected to continue on Sunday. Outside of a monster game from Tampa Bay’s offense in the 2018 opener, Evans has totaled 223 yards and zero scores in five games against New Orleans since Lattimore was drafted.
Others: DeVante Parker (@ NO), A.J. Green (v LAC)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Eric Ebron (@ NYG)
A new coaching staff could lead to the Giants being much better against opposing tight ends than they were in 2019, but their personnel is still a question mark at linebacker, and Ben Roethlisberger will likely be looking to exploit that with Ebron on Monday night. In particular, I think we’ll see Ebron’s size used in scoring territory when matched up against a smallish secondary; I have him as a top-eight option.
Thumbs Up: Jonnu Smith (@ DEN)
The Broncos are hoping to be more athletic at linebacker to help in pass coverage this year, but again, selling out to stop the run should help create space for the weapons in Tennessee’s passing attack—including Smith, who Bill Belichick called the best tight end in the league when the ball is in his hands. I’m not worried about a one-catch performance in last year’s matchup, as this is a completely different offense than it was early in 2019.
Thumbs Up: Jordan Akins (@ KC)
If you’re going with a desperation play for some reason, you can’t go wrong with one in the game with the highest over/under of the week (54.5). Akins sounds like the top tight end for Houston this year, and he should see some favorable coverage with the Chiefs needing to defend field-stretchers Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, and Kenny Stills.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Mike Gesicki (@ NE)
Gesicki could absorb a bunch of targets this week after head coach Brian Flores said the players coming off injury (DeVante Parker and Preston Williams) might be limited, but that could just mean Bill Belichick will be able to focus on stopping the third-year tight end. Knowing how the Patriots will switch the game plan depending on opponent, I’m expecting to see the big-bodied Joejuan Williams used to take away Gesicki.
Thumbs Down: Rob Gronkowski (@ NO)
I don’t think it will take long for Gronk to be viewed as a top-five option at tight end by the consensus, but for Week 1, the matchup is reason to hold back, as All-Pro linebacker Demario Davis won’t make things easy on Tampa Bay’s tight ends. The touchdown upside just barely keeps Gronkowski in the TE1 ranks for his NFL return.
Thumbs Down: Austin Hooper (@ BAL)
The Ravens allowed by far the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends last season (6.3), and first-round pick Patrick Queen’s athleticism at linebacker should help that stinginess continue in 2020. I’m expecting a quiet Cleveland debut for Hooper before his outlook improves for a quick turnaround against Cincinnati next Thursday night.