Skip to main content

Freedman’s Favorites: Week 1 (2022 Fantasy Football)

Freedman’s Favorites: Week 1 (2022 Fantasy Football)

The best job I’ve ever had.

That’s what this is.

As I’m writing this sentence, it’s almost exactly six months to the day since I joined FantasyPros and BettingPros as the Director of Content.

What I said in my announcement tweet in February is still true: My goal at FantasyPros is to create content that would have made Mike Tagliere proud.

Mike — “Tags” to everyone who knew him or consumed his work — was a hard-working, fun-loving, football-obsessed force of nature. He was friendly. He was generous with his time. And he was sharp.

But most of all he was positive.

If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – which allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team, and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.

Freedman’s Fantasy Breakdowns

2022 will mark the seventh year that I’ve written in-season positional breakdowns as an industry full-timer. These pieces are a grind, but I’ve never taken them for granted. It’s an honor to get to do what I do. I know that. I’m lucky.

But I’ll be honest. I have endeavored over the years to make my breakdowns less of a grind (i.e., shorter, more efficient, and easier/faster for me to write and you to read).

That trend will continue this year. I figure that if you can get 70% of the information that you would’ve gotten from my pieces in previous seasons with only 30% of the time investment, that’s a win for both of us.

For the first five years, I wrote four separate weekly pieces (one for each skill-position group), but last year I consolidated and streamlined everything into one piece.

For the first four years, these were DFS-only pieces, but a couple years ago I broadened their scope to include season-long fantasy analysis. Now, they’re just general weekly fantasy pieces. How you apply the information herein — for seasonal, for DFS, for dynasty — is up to you.

And for the first three years, I exhibited the Tags-like ambition to cover as many fantasy-relevant players as possible: The players I liked … and the players I disliked.

Here’s the thing: I discovered that I don’t enjoy writing about guys I don’t think you should you have in your lineups. It ultimately felt like a poor use of time — and it wasn’t fun at all, and I mean that seriously. I realized eventually that writing negatively about players over and over and over throughout the course of a season … well, I think it had an adverse impact on my personal happiness.

And, philosophically, I’m of the opinion that people don’t like being told what not to do. “Don’t play this guy. Don’t start that guy. Don’t chew with your mouth open. Don’t fart in elevators.” The list goes on, but you get the idea.

I believe that most people would rather read about the guys they should put in their lineups than the guys they shouldn’t.

They want to read something positive.

“If You Want Something Bad Enough, You’ll Make It Happen”

In the Week 6 Primer of 2019, Tags talked about his father, who frequently pushed him to think big and work hard for his dreams.

He told me that I could do or be anything I wanted to be, provided I’d be willing to work for it: “It may take a lot of work, but if you want something bad enough, you’ll make it happen.”

And Tags made it happen. With the support of his family and the iron work ethic of a determined underdog, Tags got a full-time job in the industry — and then he became a Hall-of-Famer.

Tags started the last paragraph to the Week 6 Primer introduction with these words: “The bottom line here is that if you want something in life, go and get it. The only person who can stop you from achieving your goals is you.” Tags was right.

“The Only Person Who Can Stop You … Is You”

There’s so much negativity in the world. It’s everywhere.

Three years ago, I decided I didn’t want my fantasy breakdowns to be a source of negativity any longer.

I have no illusions about the grandeur of my occupation. I write about fantasy sports. I contribute almost nothing to society. I mean, I don’t chew with my mouth open or fart in elevators anymore. I’m not uncivilized.

But in the big picture what I do for work probably won’t make a lasting difference. (And I’m OK with that, by the way. I don’t want to be a doctor or lawyer or police officer or teacher or architect or marine biologist. I’m no hero. “The wand chooses the wizard.” The life I have is the one for which I was destined.)

And yet for reasons unfathomable to me (and probably others), I have an audience — and so three years ago I made the choice not to subject my readers to naysaying and cynicism — at least in my weekly pieces. (I save the nihilism for my offseason content.)

I decided to write about only the players I liked each week.

My favorites.

Freedman’s Favorites

The guys in this piece are, by definition, my favorites for Week 1.

What does that mean?

In the words of Elaine Benes (right before she drops Frank Costanza like a bag of dirt), “That means whatever the hell you want it to mean.”

The players in this article are — generally speaking — the guys I think I’ll like more this week than the expert consensus rankings (ECR). The guys I’m probably starting in season-long leagues. The guys with underappreciated upside. The guys with advantageous matchups. The guys I’ll have in my DFS player pool for main slates and single-game lineups for primetime slates. The guys I’d like to acquire in dynasty. The guys whose teams have player-friendly Week 1 betting odds. The guys who stand out in our unbelievably perfect BettingPros NFL Prop Bet Analyzer. The guys with Week 1 projections that catch my eye.

You know, my favorites — the guys I like for one reason or another: The guys I want to write about.

No one has ever accused me of overthinking anything.

What does it mean if I don’t highlight a player in this piece? Does that mean that I don’t like him and that I think you shouldn’t play him?

No. It just means that he’s not one of my favorites, at least this week.

If you’ve got questions about particular players — regardless of whether they’re included in the article or not — you can always hit me up on Twitter (especially during one of my “Ask Me Anything” sessions) or reach out in the FantasyPros Discord (where I have a dedicated AMA channel).

A word of warning: I won’t always be able to answer questions. I do, after all, need to spend at least a few hours each week with my wife. And the dog. But I’ll get to your questions when/if I can.

And for my most recent thoughts on players, always check out my rankings, which I’ll do my best to update in a timely manner based on news, especially after inactives are announced on Sunday morning.

And, hey, why not link to a couple more pages, like our NFL news desk and NFL inactives list? Both are excellent resources — and if you see something there that 1) is published after my piece here and 2) goes against something I’ve written, then privilege the more recent analysis and/or information.

I write this piece on Monday and Tuesday, and we publish it on Wednesday morning. My thoughts on a guy can evolve throughout the week, and if on Friday afternoon we post a news blurb saying that one of my favorites pulled a hamstring in practice and is unlikely to play — or if you see on Sunday morning that one of my favorites is a surprise inactive because he tweaked his back in warmups — then don’t put that guy into your lineups. Don’t say to yourself, “Hey, this guy was one of Freedman’s favorites earlier in the week. I’m riding with him no matter what.”

I’ll update this piece when I can. I plan to do a regular update by Saturday at noon, after I’ve reviewed all the previous day’s injury reports and news items. But on Sunday morning — especially after inactives are announced — I might not have time to edit this piece.

So, again, use your judgment, and consult the Week 1 rankings before setting your lineups.

With that Pulitzer Prize-winning preamble out of the way, let’s get to the article.

Here are my Week 1 favorites.

Note: All fantasy points are half-PPR scoring unless otherwise stated. Players ordered within position roughly (but probably not precisely) according to ranking.

Freedman’s Favorite Week 1 Quarterbacks

Patrick Mahomes (KC) at ARI: “A wedding in Hawaii. Real original.” I’m highlighting Mahomes because this offseason on some platforms (such as Underdog) he was treated like a non-elite fantasy option, being selected as the No. 4 quarterback by average draft position (ADP). Since his triumphant 5,000-yard, 50-touchdown MVP 2018 campaign, Mahomes is No. 1 with 26.7 fantasy points per game (PPG), and even last year — with all his supposed struggles — he was still No. 3 in composite expected points added (EPA) and completion percentage over expectation (0.146; CPOE), and the Chiefs offense was No. 1 in success rate (51.1%; SR, per RBs Don’t Matter). Based on our FantasyPros unit power rankings, Mahomes has a massive edge over the Cardinals defense and secondary.

Rank Quarterback Offense Opp Defense Defense Rank Secondary Rank QB-Def Edge QB-Sec Edge
2 Patrick Mahomes II KC ARI 23 28 21 26

Jalen Hurts (PHI) at DET: Hurts might not be a good quarterback in reality, but he’s a great player in fantasy. Since his first start in Week 14 of 2020, Hurts is the No. 7 fantasy quarterback (23.8 PPG), and last year he was No. 1 at the position with 139-784-19 rushing, 22 carries inside the 10-yard line and 13 carries inside the five (per our Fantasy Football Stats Report and Red Zone Stats Report). With his Konami Code running ability, Hurts has a high floor/ceiling combination, and the Lions might have the league’s worst pair of perimeter cover men in CBs Jeff Okudah and Amani Oruwariye.

Tom Brady (TB) at DAL: Last year, Brady in Week 1 had 379-4-2 on 32-of-50 passing against the Cowboys, and he was No. 1 at the position with a 56% top-six weekly hit rate (per our Boom/Bust Report). Since joining the Buccaneers in 2020, Brady has been a fantasy QB1 in 64% of his games (per RotoViz).

Last year, Brady was No. 1 with 719 pass attempts, 75 attempts of 20-plus yards, 5,316 yards passing and 5,783 air yards (per our Advanced QB Stats Report and FTN) and is likely to throw frequently in a game with an over/under of 50.5 (at BetMGM).

Trey Lance (SF) at CHI: Patrick Mahomes in 2018. Lamar Jackson in 2019. Josh Allen in 2020. Jalen Hurts last year. That’s what Lance is this year … hopefully.

Last year in 10 quarters of action as the primary quarterback, Lance had 598-4-2 passing and 31-161-0 rushing with a two-point conversion. Entering his second season, he could go off with a league-winning campaign, given his elite NFL draft capital (No. 3 overall), strong arm (9.5 air yards per attempt), inventive play caller (HC Kyle Shanahan), supporting yards-after-catch playmakers (WRs Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk and TE George Kittle), preternatural youth (only 22 years old) and high rushing floor (156-1,159-14 rushing in 16 games as a redshirt freshman, excluding sacks, per Sports Info Solutions). Lance has a strong matchup against a Bears defense and secondary that were decimated with departures this offseason.

Rank Quarterback Offense Opp Defense Defense Rank Secondary Rank QB-Def Edge QB-Sec Edge
15 Trey Lance SF CHI 28 30 13 15

Lance Update (Fri., 9/9): Kittle (groin) missed practice every day this week and seems unlikely to play although he’s technically questionable. In response, the market has moved from 49ers -7 to -6.5, but I’m still enthusiastic about Lance, given his matchup and rushing ability.

Jameis Winston (NO) at ATL: In his first season starting for the Saints last year, Winston had an efficient 8.2 adjusted yard per attempt (AY/A), and now this year he has a rebuilt pass-catching corps with WRs Michael Thomas, Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry. The Falcons defense was No. 32 with a 48.2% SR in 2021, and I don’t see why it would be significantly better now. This is literally a five-star matchup.

Winston Update (Fri., 9/9): Thomas (hamstring) is questionable, but I expect him to play after practicing all three days this week (albeit on a limited basis).

Trevor Lawrence (JAX) at WAS: Last year Lawrence had a league-high 17 interceptions and was No. 32 with a 5.2 AY/A — but his circumstances have improved this year with the addition of HC Doug Pederson, WR Christian Kirk and TE Evan Engram and return of RB Travis Etienne. The 2021 No. 1 pick overall, Lawrence should experience the natural progression most quarterbacks enjoy in their second season, and last year the Football Team (now Commanders) was No. 1 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks (21.5 PPG).

Justin Fields (CHI) vs. SF: The 49ers are without starters CB Jason Verrett (knee, PUP) and S Jimmie Ward (hamstring, IR), and over the offseason they lost starters CB Josh Norman, CB K’Waun Williams and S Jaquiski Tartt. Fields has a tough matchup overall, but the 49ers defense last year was No. 23 in dropback EPA per play (0.098), and the secondary is relatively weak. He will face consistent pressure from EDGE Nick Bosa and others, but Field — the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback as a high school recruit in 2018 — probably has the scrambling ability to escape the pocket and pick up chunk yardage on the ground, as last year he had 72-420-2 rushing, was No. 2 at the position with 3.72 yards after contact per carry (per PFF) and was No. 1 among all starting quarterbacks with 31% of his fantasy production from rushing yardage (per our Fantasy Points Distribution Report). I’m not putting too much stock in preseason performance, but Fields looked good in August with 243-3-0 on 23-of-30 passing and 4-44-0 rushing — better than all the other quarterbacks in his draft class.

As +250 underdogs (at FanDuel), the Bears should have a pass-heavy game script that gifts Fields the opportunity to accumulate garbage-time production.

Check out my Week 1 betting breakdown on Bears vs. 49ers as well as our BettingPros matchups page, where you can see the percentage distributions of spread, over/under and moneyline bets tracked in the BettingPros App.

Daniel Jones (NYG) at TEN: Jones was acceptable as a rookie (6.5 AY/A, 22.8 yards rushing per game), but he stagnated over the past two years under the “tutelage” (cough) of OC Jason Garrett. Now with HC Brian Daboll (formerly Bills coordinator for Josh Allen) and OC Mike Kafka (former Chiefs position coach and passing game coordinator for Patrick Mahomes), Jones has a real chance to improve.

The Titans have one of the league’s most unproven cornerback units with Kristian Fulton, Caleb Farley, Roger McCreary and Elijah Molden. For his career, Jones is 11-4 against the spread (ATS) as a road underdog (per Action Network). At just $5,000 on DraftKings, Jones is a viable option in Week 1 cash games.

Check out my Week 1 betting breakdown on Giants at Titans. Also, try out our DFS lineup optimizer, which is just one of our many FantasyPros DFS tools.

Freedman’s Favorite Week 1 Running Backs

Derrick Henry (TEN) vs. NYG: Henry is now 28 years old, and he missed nine games in 2021 with a foot injury, but even so he still managed to have 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns from scrimmage — and he’s the only running back to hit those marks in each of the past four years. Last season, Henry was the No. 1 fantasy back with 23.0 PPG (per our Fantasy Football Leaders Report), and it’s easy to imagine the Titans loading him up with carries in Week 1 given that they are without WRs A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. The Giants defense last season was No. 32 in both rush DVOA (2.7%) and rush EPA per play (-0.001).

I’m betting over 9.5 on Henry’s receiving yardage prop (-115 at BetMGM), which has a five-star rating in our BettingPros Prop Bet Cheat Sheet. We have him projected for 14.1 yards receiving and give this prop a 65% cover probability and 22% expected value. 

Dalvin Cook (MIN) vs. GB: Cook has back-to-back-to-back seasons with 1,300-plus yards from scrimmage, but last year he had just six touchdowns vs. 30 in the two years prior. Barring injury, Cook should score more in 2022 (per our Touchdown Regression Report).

In his five games against the Packers since 2019, he has 593 yards and eight touchdowns (with three 2-point conversions) on 93 carries and 15 targets. In Week 1 last year, Cook had a league-high 90% share of his team’s carries.

Najee Harris (PIT) at CIN: The Steelers defensive line is No. 1 in our unit power rankings, and it — or EDGE T.J. Watt and DT Cameron Heyward, specifically — could keep this contest close. After all, HC Mike Tomlin is an outrageous 19-6-2 ATS for his career as a divisional underdog. If the Steelers make a game of it, then Harris could see a Derrick Henry-esque workload: Last year, he led all running backs 307 carries and 94 targets on the year as well as an average of 57.6 snaps per game (per our Snap Count Leaders Report). Harris is one of our most undervalued Week 1 DFS plays.

Nick Chubb (CLE) at CAR: The Browns are +2.5 underdogs (at Caesars), but I don’t see them losing this game, as Panthers HC Matt Rhule is 1-6 ATS and on the moneyline as a home favorite. With QB Jacoby Brissett starting, I expect the Browns to run aggressively and effectively, given that last year they were No. 1 with an 11.5% rush DVOA and 4.85 adjusted line yards (per Football Outsiders), and their running backs have a significant edge in our unit power rankings.

Rank RBs Opp Defense DL Rank LBs Rank RB-DL Edge RB-LB Edge
1 CLE CAR 22 14 21 13

Since his first start in Week 7 of 2018, Chubb has averaged 103.7 yards on 17.2 and 2.3 targets per game.

DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average) is an efficiency metric that accounts for situation and opponent.

Check out my Week 1 betting breakdown on Browns at Panthers.

James Conner (ARI) vs. KC: Since 2018, Conner has averaged 1,062 yards and 11 touchdowns per season, and now he has the Cardinals backfield to himself thanks to the departure of RB Chase Edmonds, in whose absence last year he put up 20.6 fantasy points on 16.6 carries and 5.6 targets per game in five starts. In 2021, the Chiefs defense was No. 31 in rush SR (46.6%) and No. 26 in pass DVOA (16.9%) against running backs.

Conner Update (Fri., 9/9): Slot WR Rondale Moore (hamstring) is out, and No. 1 TE Zach Ertz (calf) is extremely questionable. And of course No. 1 WR DeAndre Hopkins (suspension) is also out. Conner could see a lot of action.

Aaron Jones (GB) at MIN: Last year, WRs Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling collectively accounted for 224 targets for the Packers, but they’re now gone, and in their absence the team might lean more on the running game and reallocate a portion of the available targets to Jones, who since 2018 has averaged 6.7 targets without Adams and 5.2 targets without Valdes-Scantling (vs. 3.7 and 3.9 with them). In his five games against the Vikings since 2018, Jones has amassed 585 yards and five touchdowns in total on 17.4 carries and 5.2 targets per game.

Jones Update (Fri., 9/9): LT David Bakhtiari (knee) and RT Elgton Jenkins (knee) are both questionable. Bakhtiari seemed to be progressing but then did not practice on Friday. Jenkins at least got in three limited sessions and seems likely to play. Having even just one of them would be big for the Packers. And No. 1 WR Allen Lazard (ankle) is doubtful. The Packers could really focus on the run in Week 1.

Josh Jacobs (LV) at LAC: I’m skeptical about Jacobs for the season.

But he’s highly likely to enter the season as the early-down and goal-line back ahead of rookie Zamir White. Jacobs had 26-132-1 rushing and 2-12-0 receiving on two targets against the Chargers in Week 18 last year, when they ranked No. 32 in rush defense SR (47.2%). As uninspiring as Jacobs seems to be, he has 1,200 yards from scrimmage in every year of his career.

A.J. Dillon (GB) at MIN: Both Aaron Jones and Dillon could go off in Week 1. The Packers might have a run-heavy offense early in the year as QB Aaron Rodgers adapts to his new wide receivers, and Dillon had 1,116 yards and seven touchdowns from scrimmage last year despite starting just two games. The Vikings defense was imminently exploitable in 2021, ranking No. 32 in adjusted line yards (4.87). Dillon is more than just a handcuff.

Check out our Handcuff RB Report.

Dillon Update (Fri., 9/9): See my update for Aaron Jones.

Cordarrelle Patterson (ATL) vs. NO: The matchup is brutal for the Falcons running backs, who rank dead last in our backfield power rankings.

Rank RBs Opp Defense DL Rank LBs Rank RB-DL Edge RB-LB Edge
32 ATL NO 6 5 -26 -27

Against the Saints in Week 18 last year, Patterson had just 12 yards on four carries and a target — but in Week 9 (before he suffered a season-altering ankle injury in Week 10) he had 136 yards against them on nine carries and 15 targets. For the season, Patterson had an electric 1,166 yards and 11 touchdowns from scrimmage as a Deebo Samuel-esque “wide back,” and the Falcons treated him like the lead back this preseason (limited camp participation, first snap in Week 1, only one snap in Week 2, full rest in Week 3). Patterson should be fresh for the season opener. 

Patterson Update (Fri., 9/9): No. 1 WR Drake London (knee) is questionable but seems likely to play. If he doesn’t, Patterson and TE Kyle Pitts will likely see extra opportunities.

Damien Harris (NE) at MIA: In 15 games last year, Harris had either 100 yards or a touchdown 12 times. Even though they lost LG Ted Karras and RG Shaq Mason this offseason, the Patriots still have good continuity along the offensive line with veterans LT Trent Brown, C David Andrews, RG Michael Onwenu and RT Isaiah Wynn, all of whom have started multiple seasons for the team, and they added mauling LG Cole Strange in the draft. With OC Josh McDaniels’ departure, the Patriots could run more than ever, and Harris last year was No. 1 at the position with 47.2 fantasy points per snap (per our Snap Count Analysis Report).

Check out my Week 1 betting breakdown on Patriots at Dolphins.

Harris Update (Fri., 9/9): No. 3 RB Ty Montgomery (knee) is questionable. I bet he’ll play but doubt his presence will impact Harris.

Rashaad Penny (SEA) vs. DEN: Among all backs with 100 carries last year, Penny was No. 1 with 3.1 yards after contact per carry and 1.72 rushing yards over expected per carry (per our Advanced RB Stats Report and Tej Seth’s RYOE app) — but the Seahawks have the league’s worst offensive line in our unit power rankings, and the Broncos defensive line is No. 12.

Rank Offensive Line Opp DL DL Rank Edge
32 SEA DEN 12 -20

Penny will get little support in this game, and the Seahawks are +6.5 underdogs (at BetMGM) on Monday Night Football against former QB Russell Wilson. Even so, gum-chewing HC Pete Carroll is almost certain to stick with the running game for far longer than he should. Rookie RB Ken Walker (hernia) is uncertain for Week 1 …

… and if he’s out or limited, then Penny could have a significant workload, just as he did last year in Weeks 13-17, when he had a league-winning 692 yards and six touchdowns on 92 carries and seven targets.

Penny Update (Fri., 9/9): Walker did not practice on Friday and seems unlikely to play. 

Rhamondre Stevenson (NE) at MIA: Last year Stevenson was the No. 5 back in the league with a 57% utilization rate — right ahead of teammate Damien Harris (55%) — and he could see even more usage this year, especially with No. 3 RB Ty Montgomery (ankle) uncertain with an injury he suffered in the preseason. For a guy of his size (6-0, 230 pounds), Stevenson is a smooth pass catcher (14-123-0 receiving on 18 targets last year; 18-211-0 on 24 targets in senior season), which HC Bill Belichick has noticed.

Stevenson Update (Fri., 9/9): Montgomery (knee) is questionable, and if he plays then Stevenson’s upside will be diminished.

Melvin Gordon (DEN) at SEA: Gordon hasn’t shown any meaningful signs of slowing down since joining the Broncos in 2020, and over the past half decade he has put up 6,139 yards and 55 touchdowns. As great as No. 1 RB Javonte Williams is, the Broncos backfield is likely to be more of an even committee than many fantasy players want.

Last year, the Seahawks defense was No. 3 in most fantasy points allowed to opposing backfield with 22.7 PPG (Weeks 1-17, per our Fantasy Points Allowed Report) and No. 32 in pass DVOA (42.7%) against running backs.

Dameon Pierce (HOU) vs. IND: I have long-term skepticism for Pierce, a slowish (4.59-second 40-yard dash) fourth-round rookie who never had even 800 scrimmage yards in a college season and is now on an offense likely to underwhelm. But No. 2 RB Rex Burkhead is 32 years old, and Colts LB Shaquille Leonard (ankle) is still working his way back from an injury, so Pierce could get a lot of Week 1 work against a run defense that might be vulnerable. Pierce played well in the preseason with 11-81-1 rushing on 21 snaps, and he rested with the starters in Week 2. He’s a strong DFS cash option at $5,400 on FanDuel and $4,800 on DraftKings.

Check out my Week 1 betting breakdown on Texans vs. Colts.

Pierce Update (Fri., 9/9): Leonard is out, and Pierce has been named the No. 1 back for the Texans.

James Cook (BUF) at LAR: Cook didn’t break out in the preseason (10-56-0 rushing, 3.2 yards after contact per carry; 3-17-0 receiving on three targets, 14 routes; 28 snaps), but he played well enough to earn an early-season role, and this game could be a points festival, given its over/under of 52.5 (PointsBet). With his NFL draft capital (No. 63 overall), pass-catching ability (27-284-4 receiving in final college season) and athleticism (4.42-second 40-yard dash), Cook could be an arbitrage D’Andre Swift or Travis Etienne.

Cook Update (Fri., 9/9): I wish I could go back in time and not write this blurb.

Mike Davis (BAL) at NYJ: No. 1 RB J.K. Dobbins (knee) is uncertain for Week 1.

And No. 2 RB Gus Edwards (knee, PUP) is out — and that means Davis could be the Week 1 lead back for the Ravens, who over the past three years have had a league-high 50.8% rush rate (including playoffs). Last season the Jets were No. 1 in most fantasy points allowed to opposing backfield (25.7 PPG).

Davis Update (Fri., 9/9): Dobbins is questionable. LT Ronnie Stanley (ankle) practiced on Friday but is uncertain to play.

Freedman’s Favorite Week 1 Wide Receivers

Cooper Kupp (LAR) vs. BUF: Kupp last year led the league with an obscene 191 targets and 37 red-zone targets, which he leveraged into a Triple Crown 145-1,947-16 receiving stat line (per our Advanced Wide Receiver Stats Report). In 17 games, only thrice did Kupp have fewer than 10 targets (per our Weekly Target Report). And he was No. 1 at the position with a 98% route rate, 32% target share and 30% target rate (per Andrew Erickson’s Week 1 Usage Report). Even with regression in 2022, Kupp should still be elite, given his career mark of 9.2 yards per target. I expect to rank him as my No. 1 wide receiver each week until someone actually outproduces him for a stretch of games. And against a Bills secondary lacking No. 1 CB Tre’Davious White (knee, PUP), Kupp could go off.

Check out my Week 1 betting breakdown on Rams vs. Bills.

Ja’Marr Chase (CIN) vs. PIT: The 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Chase is coming off one of the greatest first-year pass-catching campaigns ever with 81-1,455-13 receiving. A big-play machine, Chase had a league-high six plays of 50-plus yards. I like him to be Offensive Player of the Year at +3000, and the Bengals pass catchers in general have a great matchup against a Steelers secondary without 2021 No. 1 CB Joe Haden.

Rank WRs & TEs Opp Secondary Secondary Rank Edge
1 CIN PIT 23 22

Chase outright dominated last year against man coverage.

His upside is Randy Moss … and that doesn’t seem too unrealistic.

I like Chase to surpass 15.5 fantasy points this week in the No House Advantage over/under challenge.

Deebo Samuel (SF) at CHI: Last year, Samuel had a league-high 52% target share in Week 1. That kind of makes sense: He’s never going to be healthier than he is to start the campaign. With 77-1,405-6 receiving on 121 targets and 59-365-8 rushing in 2021, Samuel seems bound to regress — especially with new QB Trey Lance — but the Bears don’t have the secondary to hang with the 49ers pass catchers, based on our FantasyPros unit power rankings.

Rank WRs & TEs Opp Secondary Secondary Rank Edge
4 SF CHI 30 26

Out of all players with at least 150 targets over the past three years, Samuel is No. 1 with 10.6 yards per target.

Samuel Update (Fri., 9/9): TE George Kittle (groin) missed practice every day this week and seems unlikely to play although he’s technically questionable. If he’s out, Samuel could see extra targets.

Stefon Diggs (BUF) at LAR: Diggs is the only NFL player with 160-plus targets in each of the past two years, over which time he has 230-2,760-18 receiving, and last year he had a league-high 23 end zone targets. Without veteran WRs Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders, Diggs has a chance to push for even more than the 10.0 targets per game he has averaged since joining the Bills in 2020.

A.J. Brown (PHI) at DET: For his career, Brown has 10.1 yards per target and 1,000-plus yards receiving in two of three seasons despite never seeing more than 106 targets in any year. The Lions defense last year was No. 30 in dropback EPA per play (0.199), and perimeter CBs Jeff Okudah and Amani Oruwariye have some of the worst career marks I’ve ever seen.

Regardless of whom he’s lined up against on the outside, Brown has a massive edge this week.

Brown Update (Fri., 9/9): Brown (bee sting, not joking) will play this weekend. The football gods are merciful.

Michael Pittman (IND) at HOU: The Colts are slate-best -7 favorites against the Texans, so they might not need to throw much — but when they do air it out, Pittman will be the intended recipient most often, given that no other wide receiver on the team (or tight end, for that matter) has ever had a season with even 50 targets. Last year the Texans defense was No. 32 in dropback SR (52.5%).

Terry McLaurin (WAS) vs. JAX: McLaurin has 1,030 yards receiving per season for his career, and he has done that with QBs Taylor Heinicke, Dwayne Haskins, Case Keenum, Alex Smith, Kyle Allen, Colt McCoy and Garrett Gilbert. Say whatever you want about Carson Wentz, but he’s an upgrade on that collective cohort, and the Jaguars defense last year was No. 32 in pass DVOA (32.8%) against No. 1 wide receivers.

Mike Williams (LAC) vs. LV: No disrespect to Keenan Allen … but Williams might be the No. 1 wide receiver on the Chargers.

In Week 18 last year, Williams went off with 9-119-1 receiving on a slate-high 17 targets against the Raiders, who are without CBs Casey Hayward, Brandon Facyson, Desmond Trufant and Trayvon Mullen — their top four perimeter cover men last year.

Brandin Cooks (HOU) vs. IND: Cooks is the only established wide receiver on the Texans, and he has gone over 1,000 yards receiving in every season in which he has played 15-plus games.

This offseason the Colts lost starting perimeter CBs Xavier Rhodes and Rock-Ya Sin, starting SS Khari Willis, starting FS Andrew Sendejo and DC Matt Eberflus (now Bears head coach). They could struggle in the secondary early in the year.

D.J. Moore (CAR) vs. CLE: On the one hand, this is a bad matchup. Browns No. 1 CB Denzel Ward has the athleticism (4.32-second 40-yard dash) and overall ability (0.88 yards per coverage snap, 6.0 yards per target for career) to challenge Moore on every play. On the other hand, I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with Moore’s upside.

Bottom line: Matchup matters some, but volume matters most — and last year Moore had 9.6 targets per game and a minimum of seven in each contest. I have a bet on Moore to lead the league in receiving yards at +3500.

Amari Cooper (CLE) at CAR: In looking at our Dissenting Opinions Report, I see that I’m way above the consensus on Cooper. I get it: He’s not exciting. But he has averaged over 1,000 yards receiving per season across his seven-year career, and he’s competing for targets with guys (Donovan Peoples-Jones, David Bell and Anthony Schwartz) who haven’t done anything yet. The Panthers defense last year was No. 27 in pass DVOA (16.4%) against No. 1 wide receivers.

Amon-Ra St. Brown (DET) vs. PHI: St. Brown entered the league last year as a Day 3 pick with elite recruitment status (4.5) and a freshman-year breakout (No. 1 on team 60 receptions, No. 2 with 750 yards receiving). The last Day 3 receiver to check those two boxes before St. Brown was Stefon Diggs — and he had a Diggs-like stretch (51-560-5 receiving on 67 targets in six games) in Weeks 13-18 to lead fantasy teams to eternal glory. He’s unlikely to see 10-plus target per game this year, but he enters the season as the No. 1 wide receiver on a team that’s an underdog at home in a dome. The Lions could have a pass-heavy game script in Week 1.

Gabriel Davis (BUF) at LAR: In Week 1 of the preseason, Davis rested with the starters. In Week 2, he played on 100% of QB Josh Allen‘s snaps and ran a route on 100% of his dropbacks, one of which turned into this touchdown.

And then in Week 3 Davis once again rested with the starters. He’s the locked-in No. 2 wide receiver in this offense, and for his career he has 9.9 yards per target and a 12.1% touchdown rate (including the playoffs, when he went off for 8-201-4 receiving on 10 targets in the Divisional Round). Just 23 years old, Davis is highly undervalued.

Rashod Bateman (BAL) at Jets: In the absence of former No. 1 WR Marquise Brown, Bateman is primed for a second-year breakout thanks to his draft capital (pick No. 27), athletic profile (6-0, 210 pounds, 4.41-second 40-yard dash) and college production (96-1,691-13 receiving in 18 games in his final two seasons). Last year the Jets defense was dead last in pass DVOA (29.0%) and dropback EPA per play (0.259), and the addition of first-round rookie CB Ahmad Gardner probably won’t be enough to make the Jets not horrible in pass defense in Week 1.

JuJu Smith-Schuster (KC) at ARI: For the past three years, Smith-Schuster has been hamstrung (pun intended) by injuries and the diminishing ability of former QB Ben Roethlisberger, but in his first two seasons he amassed 2,343 yards receiving, which puts him No. 4 on the all-time receiving list for players under the age of 23, behind only Justin Jefferson, Randy Moss and Josh Gordon. Turning 26 in November, Smith-Schuster is still young, and WRs Tyreek Hill, Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson have vacated 260 targets. The Chiefs have a slate-high implied total of 30 points in our FantasyPros DFS Cheat Sheet.

Drake London (ATL) vs. NO: London (knee) suffered an injury in Week 1 of the preseason, but he’s expected to be ready for the season opener, and he oozes upside with his size (6-4, 219 pounds), age (21 years old), NFL draft capital (No. 8 overall) and college production (88-1,084-7 receiving in eight games as a junior). With his attributes, he could be the next Larry Fitzgerald or Mike Evans, and even as a rookie he should easily top the Falcons wide receiver depth chart. As +5.5 underdogs (at DraftKings), the Falcons could have a pass-heavy game script. Of all the first-year receivers, he’s my favorite.

London Update (Fri., 9/9): London (knee) is questionable but seems likely to play. That said, even if he plays he’ll likely be limited. I still love his upside but anticipate moving him down my rankings when I update next.

Robert Woods (TEN) vs. NYG: It’s not that I actually want to like Woods, but he was on his way to a fourth consecutive 1,000-yard campaign last year before suffering a season-ending injury in November, and with the Titans he’s expected to open Week 1 as the No. 1 receiver. This offseason the Giants lost No. 1 CB James Bradberry and S/CBs Logan Ryan and Jabrill Peppers, so their secondary could struggle to coalesce early in the year.

Kadarius Toney (NYG) at TEN: Toney (knee, leg) was hampered much of last season with various injuries and ailments, and this preseason he has missed time because of multiple issues — and that makes me nervous about his long-term viability — but his single-game ceiling is as high as anybody’s, and he seems to be healthy enough right now.

In his four games last year with eight-plus targets, Toney averaged 83.75 yards and 13.5 fantasy points. Given his recent success with the Bills, new HC Brian Daboll could use Toney in a Stefon Diggs-esque fashion.

Julio Jones (TB) at DAL: At times, I’ve gone overboard with my enthusiasm for Jones this offseason.

But Jones over the past two years has averaged an elite 10.4 yards per target, and in his 13 games with a snap rate of more than 50% (including playoffs) he has 72-1,071-4 receiving on 101 targets. Like Antonio Brown before him, Jones won’t need to play every snap with the Bucs (and that will help him stay fresh and diminish his chance of injury), but he’ll still be used heavily as a pass-catching specialist when he’s on the field — and now with QB Tom Brady he has the best pure passer of his career.

Jones Update (Fri., 9/9): WR Chris Godwin (knee) is a game-time decision while WR Russell Gage (hamstring) is a hopeful questionable after practicing limitedly all week. If one of them misses the game, Jones could have extended playing time.

Isaiah McKenzie (BUF) at LAR: Is it egregious of me to highlight a third Bills wide receiver? Maybe. Do I care? No. Is it wrong of me to ask a third rhetorical question for apparently no reason? Again, I don’t care. McKenzie (groin) has practiced fully in consecutive days, and HC Sean McDermott is optimistic about his Week 1 availability.

Expected to be a full-time player for the first time in his NFL career, McKenzie has tantalizing upside. In his two career games with a snap rate of at least 80%, he has 17-190-3 receiving on 21 targets (with a punt return touchdown). Is that a small and likely unrepresentative sample? Thrice, I tell you I don’t care.

Jahan Dotson (WAS) vs. JAX: In Week 1 of the preseason, Dotson played 100% of QB Carson Wentz‘s snaps and ran a route on 100% of his dropbacks. In Week 2, he tied No. 1 WR Terry McLaurin with a position-high 18 first-team snaps and 10 first-team routes. And then in Week 3 he rested with the starters. He’s the locked-in No. 2 receiver for the Commanders, and he has the NFL draft capital (No. 16 overall) and college production (2,084 yards, 21 touchdowns in 21 games in two final seasons) to be a fantasy-relevant receiver right away. Last year the Jaguars defense was No. 31 in pass DVOA (27.2%) and dropback EPA per play (0.226).

Rondale Moore (ARI) vs. KC: No. 1 WR DeAndre Hopkins (suspension) is out, and TE Zach Ertz (calf) has been dealing with an injury since early August. Slated to inherit departed WR Christian Kirk’s slot snaps, Moore could enjoy inflated target volume in Week 1. Despite his meme-inducing rookie-year usage as a screen-heavy gadget player …

… Moore I believe has the athleticism (4.30-second 40-yard dash) to play effectively downfield. He will likely be popular on DraftKings at $4,000.

Moore Update (Fri., 9/9): Moore (hamstring) suffered a soft-tissue injury on Thursday and is out. In his absence, WR Andy Isabella (8.7 yards per target) might randomly find fantasy glory just one more time.

Marvin Jones (JAX) at WAS: With the exception of his rookie season, Jones has had at least 800 yards receiving or eight touchdowns in every year in which he has played 10-plus games, and over the past half decade he has finished as a fantasy WR1 in 23% of his contests.

Jones is a classic boom/bust receiver, and I expect him to have an exposure rate of less than 2% in large-field DFS tournaments. The Commanders defense last year was No. 32 in pass DVOA (36.5%) against No. 2 wide receivers.

Sammy Watkins (GB) at MIN: Presumed No. 1 WR Allen Lazard (undisclosed) could be limited if he plays this week …

… and second-round rookie WR Christian Watson (knee) has barely practiced, so Watkins — who got the starter treatment in the preseason (i.e., he didn’t play a snap) — has a shot to be the No. 1 receiver for QB Aaron Rodgers against the Vikings, who last year allowed a league-high 26.9 fantasy PPG to opposing wide receivers. The most Watkins thing ever would be a 5-120-2 Week 1 performance followed by outrageous Week 2 waiver wire action … and then nothing for the rest of the year.

(Hat tip to Pat Fitzmaurice for bringing this inevitability to my attention.)

Watkins Update (Fri., 9/9): Lazard (ankle) is doubtful. The stars are aligning.

Romeo Doubs (GB) at MIN: Is two Packers wide receivers too many?

Randall Cobb (GB) at MIN: What about three?

Freedman’s Favorite Week 1 Tight Ends

Mark Andrews (BAL) at NYJ: Last year, Andrews was the No. 1 tight end with 153 targets and a 25.8% target share (per our Advanced Tight End Stats Report), and he could enjoy even more target volume without former No. 1 WR Marquise Brown. The Jets defense last year was No. 31 in pass DVOA (26.7%) against tight ends.

Travis Kelce (KC) at ARI: In QB Patrick Mahomes’ four years starting for the Chiefs, Kelce has averaged 99.3 receptions, 1,276.5 yards and 8.75 touchdowns receiving on 141.3 targets per season. That’s top-tier wide receiver-caliber production — at tight end. Last year, Kelce led the position with 60% top-six and 73% top-12 production rates on a week-to-week basis, and he could dominate even more this year without former No. 1 wide receiver Tyreek Hill.

Kyle Pitts (ATL) vs. NO: The guy is a wide receiver in a tight end’s body.

Given his NFL-best draft capital for a tight end (No. 4 overall), elite athleticism (4.44-second 40-yard dash), rookie-year production (68-1,026-1 receiving on 110 targets) and youthful age (turns 22 in October), Pitts is destined for an eventual breakout of epic proportions. It’s almost impossible to give too much to get him in a dynasty trade.

Pitts Update (Fri., 9/9): No. 1 WR Drake London (knee) is questionable but seems likely to play. If he doesn’t, Pitts and RB Cordarrelle Patterson will likely see extra opportunities.

Check out our updated dynasty trade value chart.

Dallas Goedert (PHI) at DET: In his 10 games last year without TE Zach Ertz (Weeks 7-17), Goedert was No. 2 at the position with a 23.9% target share, which he leveraged into an explosive 10.8 yards per target. The Lions are No. 32 in our off-ball linebacker power rankings. In the words of Jim Morrison: “The future’s uncertain, and the end is always near.”

David Njoku (CLE) at CAR: Last year he averaged 9.0 yards per target, and in Week 1 of the preseason he played on 100% of the first-team snaps before resting in Week 2 and then seeing 22 of 23 first-team snaps in Week 3. The main issue with Njoku in previous seasons was his paltry playing time, but with his preseason treatment and the offseason departure of TE Austin Hooper, it’s safe to say that Njoku will get all the playing time he needs this year.

Njoku right now looks like the No. 2 receiver for the Browns.

Irv Smith (MIN) vs. GB: Smith (knee, thumb) missed all of last year with a leg injury and most of the preseason with a hand injury, but he’s trending to play in Week 1 and should be a full-time player without TEs Kyle Rudolph and Tyler Conklin. In his four season-closing games without Rudolph in 2020, Smith averaged 11.0 fantasy points on five targets per game. The Packers last year were No. 28 in pass DVOA (20.2%) against tight ends.

Brevin Jordan (HOU) vs. IND: In Weeks 1-3, the second-year breakout candidate played on 50 of 63 first-team snaps and ran a route on 27 of QB Davis Mills’ 30 dropbacks. Jordan is the clear No. 1 receiving tight end for the Texans and could end up being the overall No. 2 pass catcher for the team.

Jordan Update (Fri., 9/9): TE Pharaoh Brown (hamstring) is questionable. If he’s out, Jordan could play almost every snap.

Isaiah Likely (BAL) at NYJ: Likely is an unimpressive athlete (4.83-second 40-yard dash), but he otherwise intrigues. As a senior, he had 59-912-12 receiving in 13 games. In Weeks 1-2 of the preseason, he had a perfect 12-144-1 on 12 targets and ran a route on 75% of the Ravens’ first-team offense — and then he rested with the starters in Week 3.

It’s rare for rookies tight ends to make much of an impact, but Ravens tight ends had a league-high 29.1% target share last year (per our Team Targets Distribution Report), and Likely should get playing time in multi-tight end sets. The Jets defense was No. 5 last year in most fantasy points allowed to tight ends (9.5 PPG). Likely could be the No. 3 receiver in the offense after TE Mark Andrews and WR Rashod Bateman.

Trey McBride (ARI) vs. KC: If No. 1 TE Zach Ertz (calf) ends up missing Week 1, then McBride could be a viable DFS punt play at $2,900 on DraftKings and $4,200 on FanDuel. With 90-1,121-1 receiving in 12 games last year, the second-round rookie has real NFL talent.

McBride Update (Fri., 9/9): Ertz (calf) is extremely questionable and WRs DeAndre Hopkins (suspension) and Rondale Moore (hamstring) are out. If Ertz is out, the Cardinals could use a lot of two-tight end sets.

SubscribeApple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | SoundCloud | iHeartRadio

If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.

More Articles

Who Should I Start? Sam Howell, Zack Moss, Pat Freiermuth (2023 Fantasy Football)

Who Should I Start? Sam Howell, Zack Moss, Pat Freiermuth (2023 Fantasy Football)

fp-headshot by Tyler Greenawalt | 2 min read
Who Should I Start? Kyler Murray, Devin Singletary, Juwan Johnson (2023 Fantasy Football)

Who Should I Start? Kyler Murray, Devin Singletary, Juwan Johnson (2023 Fantasy Football)

fp-headshot by Tyler Greenawalt | 2 min read
9 Fantasy Football Bold Predictions: Week 13 (2023)

9 Fantasy Football Bold Predictions: Week 13 (2023)

fp-headshot by FantasyPros Staff | 3 min read
Fantasy Football Week 13 Rankings, Grades & Start/Sit Advice (2023)

Fantasy Football Week 13 Rankings, Grades & Start/Sit Advice (2023)

fp-headshot by FantasyPros Staff | 15+ min read

About Author

Current Article

time 15+ min read

Who Should I Start? Sam Howell, Zack Moss, Pat Freiermuth (2023 Fantasy Football)

Next Up - Who Should I Start? Sam Howell, Zack Moss, Pat Freiermuth (2023 Fantasy Football)

Next Article   arrow-image