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Sleeper Starts and Busts: Week 1 (Fantasy Football)

Sep 10, 2020

Miles Sanders’ injury should lead to a bigger role for Boston Scott

Football is finally back! It wasn’t that long ago when many thought the season would struggle to get off the ground during the pandemic. Even though this season might end up being very different than any other, you can still count on us to lend you a helping hand at every moment! Our featured experts will share their top weekly sleepers and duds in this column throughout the season. The guys we’re down on aren’t necessarily players you should bench, but you should certainly temper your expectations for them. Without further delay, here are several athletes you should consider starting or be wary of.

Q1. Who is a player outside of our top-100 flex rankings that is a deep sleeper start and why do you think he has upside this week?

Boston Scott (RB – PHI) @ WAS
“The matchup against Washington was a great one for running backs last year, as they averaged a massive 32.1 touches per game against them. That led the NFL. Washington’s front seven is loaded with talent, though it didn’t show under the previous regime, as they allowed the third-most fantasy points to running backs. If last year’s numbers are even close to what running backs will average against Washington, Scott could be in line for 12-plus touches in this contest considering Miles Sanders is expected to be on a snap count. After averaging 5.28 yards per touch in 2019, Scott might just offer last-minute flex consideration, particularly in PPR formats.”
– Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)

“Miles Sanders is labeled as ‘day-to-day’ ahead of the Week 1 opener after dealing with a lingering hamstring injury suffered during the start of camp. That said, it’s very likely his workload will be dialed back this early into the season. Boston Scott offers standalone value despite just being drafted as the Sanders handcuff. Scott produced very efficient numbers during the final four games in 2019, averaging nearly 90 yards per game. Expect that trend to continue as Philadelphia eases Sanders into a normal workload.”
– Tozzi Brothers (Legion Report)

Darrel Williams (RB – KC) vs. HOU
“I think Darrel Williams of the Kansas City Chiefs has plenty of upside this week. The fantasy community is in love with rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and rightfully so. However, I do not expect Andy Reid to suddenly turn this backfield into a one-man show, especially early on. Last season, Damien Williams averaged nearly 13 touches per game, while LeSean McCoy chipped in with 10 touches per contest. I would expect a similar split in Kansas City’s backfield, at least in the short term. The lack of preseason games could create a bit of a learning curve for Edwards-Helaire and Williams is the team’s longest-tenured halfback. He also is the best option for pass protection, which could earn him some extra playing time. Thursday’s matchup with the Houston Texans is one to exploit. Last season, the Texans allowed 1.08 PPR points per touch to opposing running backs. If Williams can secure eight to 12 touches, he could make for a decent Week 1 flex play. This game has the highest implied point total and he is a cheap way for fantasy managers to attach themselves to this potential shootout.”
– Mick Ciallela (Fantrax)

Chris Thompson (RB – JAC) vs. IND
“I’m seeing the Jags as eight-point home underdogs against the Colts. Translation: Thompson should see plenty of targets – especially on a thin Jacksonville offense. Note that Indy allowed the most catches to enemy RBs last year (109). New OC Jay Gruden also has an extensive history with Thompson, one that really bodes well in a season of added uncertainty.”
– Kevin English (Draft Sharks)

N’Keal Harry (WR – NE) vs. MIA
“I think Harry is the WR in the Patriots’ offense who benefits the most from the addition of Cam Newton. Though the second-year receiver is not the best at getting separation, Newton has been known to be more of a risk-taker than Tom Brady when throwing the ball. Going against a Dolphins defense that gave up the second-most points per week to WRs in 2019, I think Harry could put up some surprising numbers in Week 1.”
– Ryan Skolrud (SkullKing Sports)

Bryan Edwards (WR – LV) @ CAR
“If you’re looking for a deep option to roll out as a WR4 or flex option, Edwards is intriguing. He’s rostered in a very small amount of Yahoo leagues and he’s going to be a starter in this offense right away. While I would prefer to wait and see what Edwards looks like on the football field before plugging him into my lineup, you can roll him in if you’re in a pinch.”
– Kyle Yates (FantasyPros)

Q2. On the flip side, what player inside the top-40 flex rankings is likely to disappoint fantasy managers this week and why?

Melvin Gordon (RB – DEN) vs. TEN
“Gordon is a player who I am not expecting much from this week. Denver inked the former Charger to a two-year deal this offseason, but they still have Phillip Lindsay in tow. He has posted back-to-back 1,000-plus yard rushing seasons and has never fumbled the ball in nearly 500 touches. Despite the contract, I do not believe Denver will run Gordon into the ground while Lindsay wastes away on the sidelines. I foresee a relatively even split, which would limit Gordon’s upside. This week’s matchup with the Tennessee Titans doesn’t figure to do him any favors. This game should be one of the lowest-scoring matchups of the week and is also the final game on the slate. The Titans allowed the ninth-fewest rushing yards to opposing running backs last season and just added Jadeveon Clowney to their defensive front. He should see limited snaps in Week 1, but he has always been an outstanding run defender. I think there are too many factors working against Gordon to consider him a must-play in this spot.”
– Mick Ciallela (Fantrax)

“All we’ve heard out of Broncos camp is that they may be regretting their decision to pay Melvin Gordon all that free-agent money as Phillip Lindsay has looked like the better back. It’s not surprising to those who’ve watched Lindsay over the last two years. There have been just nine running backs who’ve totaled 2,000 rushing yards over the last two years: Ezekiel Elliott, Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, Christian McCaffrey, Chris Carson, Saquon Barkley, Joe Mixon, Todd Gurley, and Lindsay. It’ll be interesting to see if this is a true 50/50 timeshare under Pat Shurmur. Add in the fact that Gordon has reportedly had issues dealing with the Denver altitude, and you have a recipe for a letdown performance.”
– Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)

Mike Evans (WR – TB) @ NO
“Evans is filled with extreme risk heading to New Orleans in Week 1. Not only will he face top CB Marshon Lattimore, but he’ll do it with the addition of a hamstring injury (Evans also finished 2019 on IR due to a hamstring injury). Despite this reoccurring ailment, Lattimore and the Saints still seem to have Evans’ number. Last season, Evans totaled just four catches for 69 yards in two games against the Saints. In fact, Evans has only scored 12+ fantasy points against the Saints twice in his previous six games!”
– Tozzi Brothers (Legion Report)

Calvin Ridley (WR – ATL) vs. SEA
“Though Ridley could find himself having a huge season in 2020, I believe it may get off to a rocky start in Week 1. The Seahawks were middle of the road in 2019 in giving up fantasy points to the WR position, but added Quinton Dunbar and Jamal Adams to the defensive backfield. With questions about the Seahawks’ defensive line and Seattle giving up the fourth-most points to TEs in 2019, Ridley’s new teammates Todd Gurley and Hayden Hurst may find a more prominent role in the Week 1 gameplan.”
– Ryan Skolrud (SkullKing Sports)

Le’Veon Bell (RB – NYJ) @ BUF
“Perhaps Bell sneaks his way into four to five catches; this Jets roster pales in comparison to the Bills’ and figures to put them in catch-up mode. But where’s the upside? Buffalo held Bell to only 101 yards on 33 carries last season. The Bills remain stout upfront – even after losing DT Star Lotulelei – while the Jets bring zero continuity along the offensive line. Frank Gore represents yet another fantasy obstacle for Bell.”
– Kevin English (Draft Sharks)

David Johnson (RB – HOU) @ KC
“Aside from Melvin Gordon, Johnson is most likely to disappoint fantasy managers this week. The last time that we saw DJ on the field, he looked like he was completely done. While a full offseason to get healthy could have changed that, it’s hard to trust him right away this year. There’s a wide range of outcomes for DJ this week, and when looking at the other options on this list, he’s the one that stands out as someone who could disappoint people in Week 1.”
– Kyle Yates (FantasyPros)


Thank you to the experts for giving their sleeper starts and duds for Week 1. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter if you’re not already doing so and check out our latest podcast below for more great advice.


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