Fantasy Football Overvalued/Undervalued: Week 1
When it comes to predicting fantasy performances — that’s what we do here — it’s always hard to know what to expect in Week 1. Some teams that were offensive juggernauts last season won’t be nearly as potent this year, and there will be some surprising breakout offenses, too. It’s even harder to predict team defenses from year to year.
Then there’s the fact that we got to see zero preseason games this year. NFL head coaches are notoriously secretive and don’t like to show all their cards in exhibition games, but we still at least typically get some clarity about running back and wide receiver depth charts. Not this year. This year, we are almost completely dependent on the work of beat writers. They do a great job, but we can’t expect them to detect every nuance that could have significant fantasy ramifications.
So whip out your tiniest violin, because constructing Week 1 rankings this year is more difficult than ever.
If you’re familiar with this column from last year (thank you, loyal reader!), you’ll know how this works. My over- and undervalued picks each week will be based on FantasyPros’ Expert Consensus Rankings for 0.5 PPR formats. If you love my picks, hate ’em, have a question, or just want to say hello, I’m always up for keeping the conversation going on Twitter.
Overvalued: Carson Wentz (PHI)
My Rank: QB13
Wentz has a seemingly mouth-watering matchup against a Washington defense that surrendered 35 passing touchdowns last season, but there is reason to wonder whether the Eagles will come out throwing in Week 1. As 5.5-point road favorites in a game with one of the week’s lowest projected point totals, it would only make sense for Philadelphia to come up with a more conservative, ball-control game plan. That’s particularly likely when you consider that they won’t have last year’s top wideout, Alshon Jeffery, while first-round pick Jalen Reagor will be limited by a torn labrum — if he plays at all. To be clear, I’m not off of Zach Ertz or DeSean Jackson, but this has the feel of a game where the Eagles could get off to an early lead and then take the air out of the ball.
Undervalued: Jared Goff (LAR)
My Rank: QB11
Goff had a maddeningly inconsistent 2019 season, but he still ended up as the QB13 in fantasy leagues after finishing as the QB7 the year prior. He concluded the year on a high note, as he tossed for at least 284 yards and two touchdowns in all five December contests — including a Week 15 matchup with this week’s opponent, the Cowboys. Goff’s late-season surge coincided neatly with the ascension of tight end Tyler Higbee, who gives the Rams a third potent weapon in the passing game behind Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods (just as having the trio of Kupp, Woods, and Brandin Cooks was key to Goff’s success in 2018). Kupp, Woods, and Higbee all return this year, giving Goff sneaky potential to produce QB1 numbers once again. Whether he gets there remains to be seen, but he’s certainly worth streaming in single QB leagues this week in a primetime home game with a projected point total of 51.5.
Overvalued: J.K. Dobbins (BAL)
My Rank: RB45
I don’t want to overreact to the fact that the Ravens have Dobbins listed fourth on the depth chart, but we at least need to be prepared for the possibility that he slowly gets worked into the running back rotation. After all, Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards were both highly effective last season, so there is no great need to fix what isn’t broken. I absolutely love Dobbins’ talent — he’s a slam dunk pick in dynasty leagues — but Baltimore may well have spent a second-round pick on him with an eye to a post-Ingram future, rather than envisioning a huge role for him right away. That makes Dobbins a very risky choice as an RB3/flex play for Week 1, even in a favorable matchup with Cleveland.
Undervalued: James Robinson (JAC)
My Rank: RB30
Ok, ok, I get it. The Jaguars are not a good football team. They’re more than a touchdown underdog at home against an Indianapolis defense that is an appealing streaming option in fantasy leagues. And their starting running back is an undrafted — and until recently, unknown — free agent from Illinois State.
But I can’t help but feel that the fantasy industry groupthink against Robinson has gone a bit too far. He’s impressed the Jaguars’ coaches this preseason, leading offensive coordinator Jay Gruden to rave that: “He can handle the workload. He’s tough. He’s strong. He’s got great vision. He can explode through holes. We’ve been impressed with him.” Yes, Jacksonville is going to use Chris Thompson in obvious passing situations, of which there could be many in the second half. But Robinson still seems like a good bet to see around 15 touches, and he’s also the clear favorite for any goal-line opportunities that may arise. The Jaguars simply don’t have another early-down back on the roster now that Devine Ozigbo has landed on IR. Plus, there’s always the potential that Robinson really is good and keeps Jacksonville in the game. Add it up, and it seems like more than enough to put Robinson into RB3/flex territory, particularly in standard and 0.5 PPR formats.
Overvalued: Keenan Allen (LAC)
My Rank: WR22
As an obvious target hog, I don’t hate Allen this week by any means — I’ve got him in the WR2 range just like ECR does. But I do think it is prudent to take a wait-and-see approach with the Chargers’ revamped offense, and that is reflected in my ranking for him.
I’ve already spoken about some of my concerns with Austin Ekeler’s outlook, and the same issues apply to Allen, too. LA’s defense should be much improved this season, even with the loss of Derwin James, and this week they’ll be facing a rookie in his first career start (albeit a highly-impressive one in Joe Burrow). This game should be much slower-paced and lower-scoring than most of the Chargers’ games were last year, and that could limit the entire passing game. While Philip Rivers liked to hurl the ball all over the yard, Tyrod Taylor has been in the league for nearly a decade and never topped 3,035 yards or 20 touchdown passes in a season. Allen’s volume gives him a relatively high floor, but he feels like more of a low-end WR2 until proven otherwise.
Undervalued: Tyler Lockett (SEA)
My Rank: WR11
If you drafted Lockett, you’re probably already planning to start him. But I’m here to tell you that you should do so enthusiastically, with a legitimate shot at WR1 numbers as your reward.
With an over/under of 49, the Seahawks-Falcons game currently has the third-highest projected total on the Week 1 slate. The Seahawks are only 2.5-point favorites, so it should be a back-and-forth affair. We all know the Seahawks run the ball more than Russell Wilson enthusiasts would like, and there’s no real reason to believe that will change this year. But that didn’t stop Lockett from finishing as the WR14 in 2019 thanks to his almost telekinetic connection with Wilson. One of Lockett’s better games came against the Falcons’ below-average secondary, who he burned for 100 yards on six catches. He’s got a real shot to again reach the century mark this week.
Overvalued: Noah Fant (DEN)
My Rank: TE17
There are plenty of reasons for long-term optimism about both the Broncos passing attack generally and Fant specifically, but there could be some growing pains. In the five games that Drew Lock started last season, Fant saw a grand total of 14 targets. In three of those games, he failed to top 10 receiving yards. 10! It’s true that Lock and Fant have had an entire offseason to work on their connection, but it’s been abbreviated by COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the Broncos beefed up their receiving corps by spending a first-round pick on Jerry Jeudy and a second-rounder on K.J. Hamler. So even if top receiver Courtland Sutton’s sprained AC joint keeps him out this week, it won’t necessarily be Fant that benefits (Tim Patrick is still around, too). The Broncos’ opponent this week, the Titans, weren’t great at covering tight ends last season, but they are a very solid defense overall. With Denver as 2.5-point underdogs in a game with the second-lowest over/under of Week 1, I would look elsewhere than Fant for a low-end tight end streamer.
Undervalued: Eric Ebron (PIT)
My Rank: TE11
With Ben Roethlisberger back under center, I firmly believe that just about every Steeler skill position player is being underrated in fantasy circles, and Ebron is no exception. The Steelers have spent all offseason talking up Ebron as an integral part of their offense, and now we’ll finally get to see what they have planned. It apparently involves frequently flexing him out wide and peppering him with targets, which should immediately capture fantasy owners’ attention.
Remember, the last time that Ebron had a top-tier quarterback throwing him the ball (Andrew Luck in 2018), he hauled in 13 touchdowns. Last year, the Giants had one of the worst pass defenses in the league and gave up the tenth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, so the matchup is plenty favorable, too.
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