Thursday night is starting to become a lot of fun.
The games selected for Thursday night haven’t always been competitive, high-scoring affairs, but that’s starting to change.
Last week we had Baker Mayfield’s debut and this week we had a shootout between the Vikings and Rams.
Jared Goff recorded the first 400-yard, five-touchdown game on three days’ rest in NFL history. He had a perfect passer rating to boot.
Here’s a look at who else you should start, and sit, in Week 4.
START THESE GUYS
Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers: He gets to face the 49ers who are in the bottom-10 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. They’ve already given up eight TD passes through three games.
Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals: Though A.J. Green is battling a groin injury, the Bengals have a good passing matchup against the Falcons. Dalton is building chemistry with Tyler Boyd, a third-year receiver looking to break out.
Case Keenum, QB, Broncos: The Chiefs have given up 1,127 yards passing, which is worst in the league. Keenum will be playing at home against a team that is second worst in points allowed to quarterbacks.
Gio Bernard, RB, Bengals: Bernard filled in well for an injured Joe Mixon last week, rushing for 61 yards and making five receptions for 25 more. He has a great matchup this week against he Falcons. They’re third worst in points allowed to running backs.
Carlos Hyde, RB, Browns: The Raiders allow 5.1 yards per carry and Hyde is on a scoring streak. Having Mayfield start could open things up even more for the running back.
Chris Carson, RB, Seahawks: The Cardinals are second worst in points allowed to running backs, allowing five rushing touchdowns to the position. That’s the most in the league. Carson eclipsed 100 yards on 32 carries last week.
Allen Robinson, WR, Bears: Facing the Buccaneers is a good thing for a guy who gets targeted as much as he does. Tampa Bay has given up 595 yards through the air to receivers. They’ve surrendered 56 receptions to receivers which is last in the league.
Geronimo Allison, WR, Packers: Randall Cobb is dealing with a hamstring injury and Allison has yielded solid production. I’m betting he gets more than four targets, like he did last week, against the Bills this week.
Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants: He’s the No. 2 wideout in N.Y. and has an outstanding matchup with the Saints. Shepard should build upon his 80-yard, TD performance last week.
SIT THESE GUYS
Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys: He hasn’t thrown for more than 170 yards in a game yet this season and he has just as many picks as he does touchdown passes. The Lions are in the top-10 in terms of limiting fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Derek Carr, QB, Raiders: The Browns are actually really good at limiting quarterbacks in fantasy scoring. They intercepted Ben Roethlisberger three times and held Drew Brees to 243 yards and two touchdowns. Those are pedestrian numbers for an elite quarterback. Carr isn’t an elite quarterback.
Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars: He was outstanding two weeks ago against the Patriots, but in his two other games he failed to eclipse 200 yards passing. Bortles faces the Jets, a team that has allowed three touchdowns while making five interceptions.
Alex Collins, RB, Ravens: Fantasy owners are pulling their hair out every time they see Javorius Allen make the most of a red zone opportunity. The back up running back is cutting into Collins’ production tremendously.
Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins: He hasn’t gained more than 53 yards rushing in a game and has put up two duds in three weeks. He’s very dependent on touchdowns at this point and the Patriots have allowed just one on the ground so far this season.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills: There’s good reason to believe the Packers will lead this game. And there’s no good reason why McCoy should be in the game while dealing with a rib injury. He’s expected to play, but you can’t trust he’ll be that productive.
Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots: Tom Brady isn’t throwing him the ball. Wait until Hogan has a decent game before you start him. Honestly, if he doesn’t perform this week, you can cut him.
Jordy Nelson, WR, Raiders: I’m not going to get fooled by his big performance last week. He had two huge gains after showing next to nothing the first two weeks. If he strings two good games together we can start thinking about inserting him into the lineup.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals: This week could be telling for him. If he can somehow be productive while nursing a hamstring and playing with a rookie quarterback, you might be able to start him again. Just don’t do it yet.
You’re obviously starting Todd Gurley, but the rest of the skill positions are worth thinking about.
Both defenses are very good, but there are definite weaknesses on both sides.
Brandin Cooks is probably the safest start in the Rams’ receiving corps. If you have to choose between Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, I would go with Woods who has been targeted at least nine times in each week. Kupp has to score in order to be worthy of a start. He has done that in two games so far, so it’s not stupid to have him in your lineup.
As far as the Vikings go, both Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs should have productive outings. The team is due a bounce back after last weekend and they’re facing a team that’s without its starting cornerbacks. That makes Kirk Cousins a decent start as well.
Dalvin Cook was limited at practice Wednesday and he’s a risky start in my opinion as he’s dealing with a hamstring injury.
Matchups are having a big impact on this week’s rankings. Make sure you are aware of who your usual starters are up against. You may have to switch things up in Week 4. Also, bye weeks start. The Panthers and Redskins are off so plan accordingly.
All of a sudden the Cleveland Browns look like they’ve got a few options to start on your fantasy squad. Baker Mayfield entered Thursday night’s game against the N.Y. Jets and led the Browns to their first win since Dec. 24, 2016. With Mayfield inserted into the lineup, Jarvis Landry and Antonio Callaway get an increase in value. Landry should remain the top target for the rookie QB, but Mayfield also had a nice rapport with fellow rookie Callaway in the preseason. The trio will deserve to be started in the near future. Here’s a look at who else should start, and sit, in Week 3.
START THESE GUYS
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers—Yes, he’s on the road, and yes Antonio Brown threw a fit this week. Big Ben should be fine, however, as he takes on the Buccaneers. They’re in the bottom 10 in fantasy points given up to quarterbacks.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buccaneers—Ride the Fitzmagic wave as long as you can. Not only does he get to face the Steelers, second-worst in points allowed to quarterbacks, but his defense isn’t great. Both quarterbacks in this matchup should be productive.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions—The Lions will have to score points in order to keep up with Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots. New England is in early-season, beatable mode. Kenny Golladay looks like another solid option for the veteran signal caller.
Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons—It’s a simple rule, really. If Devonta Freeman is out, start Coleman. He’s coming off a game in which he gained 125 yards on 20 touches. The Saints have been good at limiting running backs, but they faced Peyton Barber in one of their best defensive efforts against a rusher.
Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals—He’ll fill in for Joe Mixon and has the skill set to stay on the field for the most part. The Panthers aren’t good at limiting running backs in terms of yards per carry.
Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins—He’s getting double digit touches per game but he’s only had one good week. Facing Oakland should yield a productive day out of Drake, who is sharing carries with the unsinkable Frank Gore.
Nelson Agholor, WR, Eagle—With the return of Carson Wentz, Agholor might have even better results. So far he’s caught eight passes in each of the first two games. Agholor should remain the top target Sunday, especially with Mike Wallace out.
Will Fuller, WR, Texans—The Giants are third-best in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers, but those numbers have come against the Jaguars and Cowboys. Tavon Austin scored on a big play last week against N.Y. Fuller’s speed makes him a danger to defenses if his hamstring is healthy enough to play.
Allen Robinson, WR, Bears—Chicago is moving the receiver all over the field to make sure he’s involved. The Cardinals are decent at limiting wideouts’ fantasy points, but that’s mostly due to their first-week success against Jamison Crowder and Paul Richardson. Last week they gave up 159 yards to Brandin Cooks.
George Kittle, TE, 49ers—Last week’s performance will scare you, but he should bounce back against a Chiefs squad that got torched by Pittsburgh’s tight ends.
SIT THESE GUYS
Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers—I hate sitting Rivers, but he’s got a very tough matchup this week as he faces the Rams’ league-best defense in limiting quarterbacks in fantasy points.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans—He’s already dealing with an odd injury that is giving him tingling in his throwing hand. Even if he were fully healthy, I would sit him against the Jaguars’ pass defense.
Derek Carr, QB, Raiders—Carr hasn’t been a good fantasy player this season yet, though he had a great completion percentage in Week 2. It would be a big surprise if he managed to be productive against a good Miami defense on the road.
Peyton Barber, RB, Buccaneers—He’s highly inefficient, gaining just 91 yards on 35 carries through two weeks. He also has just one reception for seven yards. The Steelers are a tough matchup and the game should be a passing affair anyway.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills—Not real sure there’s anyone in Buffalo that could start on your fantasy team at this point. McCoy is dealing with a rib injury that he may not even play through. He faces a tough Vikings defense to boot.
Colts running backs—A tough Eagles defense that allowed just 74 yards rushing to the Falcons and 43 yards to the Bucs won’t let any one Indy rusher have much success.
Seahawks receivers—Doug Baldwin is out and the Cowboys have been good at limiting receivers with the help of a solid pass rush. Nobody for the Panthers gained more than 45 yards receiving while Odell Beckham had just 51 yards last week against Dallas.
Corey Davis, WR, Titans—Mariota isn’t a slam dunk to play and Davis faces a big challenge against the Jaguars.
Redskins receivers—The Packers should have a decent day holding down Washington’s receivers. They were torched by Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen last week, but Richardson and Crowder are definitely a lower-tier group.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals—I keep thinking he’ll turn it around now that he’s healthy. He’s had minimal success thus far and the Panthers are middle of the road in defending the position.
A.J. Green may have already won the week for you (or dealt you a loss) by catching five passes for 69 yards and three touchdowns Thursday night, but it’s never over until it’s over. So have a look at who I think should have strong games, and who you should avoid, in Week 2.
START THESE GUYS
Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers—The Chargers had a good offensive game against the Chiefs last week and that should continue against the Bills. Rivers threw for over 400 yards and three scores in Week 1 and gets to face a defense that allowed three TD passes last week.
Alex Smith, QB, Redskins—If you’ve got a nice advantage over your opponent this week, starting Smith could be a nice safe play. He threw two touchdowns last week and should be able to take advantage of the Colts pass defense.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers—He faces the Lions who made Sam Darnold look like a first-ballot Hall of Famer after his first pass. Garoppolo had a rough game in Week 1, but that was against a tough Vikings defense. He’ll be productive enough to start.
James Conner, RB, Steelers—Le’Veon Bell is not walking through that locker room door. And until he does, Conner is an RB1. He gets to face a Chiefs defense that gave up 166 total yards to Melvin Gordon in Week 1. Conner should match that in addition to probably finding the end zone.
Lamar Miller, RB, Texans—He’s had good success against the Titans while playing for the Texans. The amount of touches he’s guaranteed weekly is very valuable for fantasy.
Chris Thompson, RB, Redskins—I still don’t think he’ll be able to sustain his efficiency over the season, but he’s doing his best to prove me wrong. He rushed for 65 yards on just five carries last week against the Cardinals. Thompson was a big part of the winning formula last week so there’s no reason to change.
Jarvis Landry, WR, Browns—Landry is getting targeted downfield now that he’s with the Browns. He wasn’t just a short route receiver in the first week. Now he gets to face the Saints, who gave up 361 yards and four touchdowns to the Buccaneers.
Nelson Agholor, WR, Eagles—The Buccaneers gave up a league-high 23 receptions to wide receivers last week. Agholor caught eight passes in Week 1, albeit for just 33 yards. That total should rise against the third worst team at limiting fantasy points to wideouts.
Kenny Stills, WR, Dolphins—He’s a big-play receiver, but he caught just four passes last week. Luckily, two of those receptions went for touchdowns. I like him as a flex play this week if you are looking for a high-ceiling option.
Jack Doyle, TE, Colts—He was targeted 10 times in Week 1 and the Colts with Andrew Luck still throw way more than they run. Washington held tight ends to just 19 yards in Week 1, but that was against a bad Cardinals passing attack.
SIT THESE GUYS
Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans—Without Delanie Walker in the mix, I don’t think Mariota plays well against the Texans. Add to that he’s dealing with an elbow injury. The Texans allowed three touchdown passes last week, but that was against Tom Brady.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buccaneers—Fitzpatrick was outstanding in Week 1, but that wasn’t against a Super Bowl caliber defense. That’s what he faces this week against the Eagles. Philly didn’t allow a touchdown pass to Matt Ryan last week and will be tough to score on.
Sam Darnold, QB, Jets—The rookie had a strong debut after making a mistake on his first throw against the Lions. It should be a different story against the Dolphins, who haven’t allowed more than one TD since Tom Brady threw four against them in Nov. of last year.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Lions—The Lions threw passes on over 3/4 of their plays in the first week. That’s not a winning formula for Blount. I would even stay away from rookie Kerryon Johnson as the Lions face the 49ers. San Francisco allowed just 82 yards rushing to running backs last week.
Duke Johnson, RB, Browns—Though Cleveland faces a Saints defense that gave up a lot through the air last week, they allowed just one reception to a running back.
Jordan Wilkins, RB, Colts—The Redskins held David Johnson to 67 yards from scrimmage last week and Wilkins will share time with Nyheim Hines. Marlon Mack, might even play after practicing on a limited basis this week.
Jordy Nelson, WR, Raiders—Targeted just four times in Week 1, Nelson hauled in three passes for 23 yards. I don’t expect him to fare well in Denver either.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Chiefs—Keep him on your bench until he starts clicking with Pat Mahomes. Watkins had just three catches for 21 yards in Week 1 when Tyreek Hill was going off.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Bills—Josh Allen will get his first start and you shouldn’t feel comfortable starting any Bill at this point.
Austin Hooper, TE, Falcons—The Panthers allowed just 18 receiving yards to tight ends last week. Hooper isn’t a solid start after catching just three balls for 24 yards in Week 1.
The Baltimore Ravens travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals to kick off Week 2 of NFL action.
There are some easy calls in this one on the Bengals side. You’ll want to start A.J. Green and Joe Mixon, of course. I’d look for a better option over Andy Dalton this week, though. This will be a nice barometer for seeing if he is a viable fantasy option this season. Dalton had a good week against the Colts to open the season, but Thursday night will be a tougher test.
Tyler Eifert has a lot of talent and is healthy, but the Ravens have been historically good at limiting fantasy points for tight ends. You’ll need him to score a touchdown for him to be worth the start.
On the Ravens side, I’d be comfortable starting Alex Collins. Kenneth Dixon took some work from Collins in Week 1, but Dixon is out for the year with a knee injury. That solidifies Collins’ role with the team. Javorius Allen could get more opportunities as a result of the injury as well. He could be a decent flex play at this point.
I don’t like starting both receivers for the Ravens and it depends on what you face in your matchup this week. If you’re favored to win, you may want to go with Michael Crabtree who has a better history of scoring. Also, Crabtree is a good red zone target. If you need big performances this week as an underdog, go with John Brown. He’s a deep threat and could eventually become the clear No. 1 for Joe Flacco by season’s end.
As for Flacco, is he a new man with the rookie Lamar Jackson lingering over his shoulder? I’d like to see more consistency out of Flacco before starting him. I have him ranked No. 16 on my QB rankings for this week. I’ve got players like Tyrod Taylor, Andrew Luck and Jimmy Garoppolo ranked higher.
Finally, I think both defenses are decent starts Thursday.
What a first week of NFL action. Huge performances highlighted the first week of the fantasy football season. Let’s look forward to Week 2 and try to get you to 2-0. Or if you had a rough start, here’s how you’ll right the ship. Without further ado, here are my Week 2 fantasy football rankings.
The first week of NFL action kicked off with a replay of last seaon’s NFC divisional playoff round. Once again it came down to a red zone possession for the Falcons, and once again they couldn’t get into the end zone to defeat the Eagles. At least this time Julio Jones caught the pass from Matt Ryan, though he was out of bounds. Jones was an easy start for fantasy owners this week, catching 10 passes for 169 yards. Here are more players you can be confident to start, and some you should avoid in Week 1.
START THESE GUYS
Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings—It will be his first start with his new team and I think it will be a good one. Cousins has developed a rapport with Stefon Diggs already and had a great game the last time he faced the 49ers.
Update: Weather is having me second guessing Ben Roethlisberger and Tyrod Taylor this week. Plan accordingly as rain could be a big factor in Cleveland Sunday. If you have to play Big Ben, I’m a little more optimistic about him over Taylor in the bad weather. Two possible replacements are Marcus Mariota (at Miami) or Andy Dalton (at Indianapolis).
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers—The home-road disparity in Roethlisberger’s fantasy scoring has always been a concern, but it wasn’t that bad last season. He faces the Browns and without Le’Veon Bell he should utilize Antonio Brown a great deal.
Tyrod Taylor, QB, Browns—Call it Hard Knocks hype if you like, but all signs point to Taylor having a nice outing. He turned the ball over just six times last season and scored 18 touchdowns through the air and on the ground. The pass catchers he has in Cleveland are a big upgrade from what he had in Buffalo.
Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals—Mixon showed great athleticism in preseason that we all expected to see in his rookie campaign. He gets to face a weak Colts defense in the season opener.
Alex Collins, RB, Ravens—Collins is expected to be the workhorse for Baltimore and he faces a Buffalo defense that gave up the most fantasy points to running backs last year.
James Connor, RB, Steelers—With Bell out, Connor could give the Steelers a glimpse of life without the All Pro. He gets to face the Browns this week and Pittsburgh may have to run due to weather conditions.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals—He faces a Washington defense that was decent against the pass last year, but lost its slot corner Kendall Fuller in a trade with the Chiefs. Fitz feasts in the slot and Sam Bradford will want to get the ball to him.
Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots—I think this is the year Tom Brady and the Patriots drop off a bit, but I like Hogan in the first week. He faces the Texans, who were sixth worst in points allowed to wideouts last year.
Broncos receivers—Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are not facing the Legion of Boom. Richard Sherman is in San Francisco and Earl Thomas isn’t happy. Last season Seattle was merely middle of the road in limiting wide receivers. Case Keenum is a major QB upgrade as well.
Ricky Seals-Jones, TE, Cardinals—Washington was in the bottom six teams in defending the tight end. Seals-Jones has a big opportunity here with Jermaine Gresham recovering from last year’s Achilles injury.
SIT THESE GUYS
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers—The hype surrounding Garoppolo is based on a solid end to last season. He can turn in some QB1 weeks this year, but this shouldn’t be one of them as he faces the Vikings pass defense led by All-Pro Harrison Smith.
Eli Manning, QB, Giants—He has Odell Beckham Jr. back and three, maybe four, solid targets to throw to, but he faces a tough Jaguars defense. Jacksonville has possibly the best defensive backfield in the league.
Derek Carr, QB, Raiders—The Raiders have had a rough preseason and I see that carrying over to the opener against the Rams. Add to that, Carr is facing a defensive backfield comprised of Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. Not to mention Aaron Donald joined the Rams in time to harrass the Raiders QB.
Rex Burkhead, RB, Patriots—I don’t really understand the hype around him, but it probably has to do with the eight touchdowns he scored last season and the fact that Dion Lewis is now in Tennesse. James White, a pass-catching maven, is still in town, though.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Redskins—Some owners can’t help but get excited about having Peterson on their team. They have to realize he’s not the same running back he was a few years ago. He faces the Cardinals this week and they were fifth best in limiting running backs’ fantasy scoring last season.
Chris Carson, RB, Seahawks—I do think he’ll have some weeks when he could be a solid start, but this most likely won’t be one of them. He faces the Broncos and the Seahawks’ offensive line isn’t much better than last year.
Marquise Goodwin, WR, 49ers—I like Goodwin over the course of the season, but Sunday’s matchup has him covered by Xavier Rhodes. That’s a tough matchup with a strong Vikings defense.
Buccaneers tight ends—This decision is based on not knowing which one will lead the team at the position, Cameron Brate or O.J. Howard. Wait until it’s clear which one becomes the favorite.
You can take many routes to fantasy football success. You can conduct dogged research and statistical analysis. You can watch a lot of preseason action, trusting the eye test over all. Or you can go with your gut. Ideally, your preparation is a well-rounded mix, but there’s a lot to be said for that gut feeling. With the NFL season a week away from kicking off, here are 18 gut predictions for the upcoming fantasy football year.
1. David Johnson will rush for 1,000 yards and gain 1,000 yards receiving. I led off with this prediction last year, but things didn’t break the right way, so to speak. Johnson was out after the first game as a result of breaking his wrist. He was the consensus first pick in fantasy last year and an argument could be made that he should still be No. 1. It’s not like he had to deal with an injury to one of his wheels. Recovery from a broken wrist isn’t as dicey as coming back from a torn ACL for example. Johnson possibly could have played at the end of last season had the Cardinals been alive in the playoff picture.
2. Matt Breida will make 50 receptions. Jerick McKinnon was lost for the season Saturday before he had a chance to be featured by Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Last season Carlos Hyde, who hadn’t caught more than 27 passes in a single season in his career, was targeted 87 times and hauled in 59 of those. Shanahan’s offensive philosophy is what made Hyde a passing weapon and it’s what will allow Breida to post a career high in receptions.
3. Saquon Barkley will make it three straight rookies to lead the NFL in rushing yards. Two years ago Ezekiel Elliott was a bit of a surprise selection by the Cowboys, but he turned out to be worth the pick. He led the league with 1,631 yards. Last season when Spencer Ware was injured in preseason, rookie Kareem Hunt shot up draft charts and ended up leading the league with 1,327 yards. It’s Barkley’s turn. We haven’t seen much of him this preseason, but what we did see was outstanding. The Giants have turned into a sneaky pick for some to surprise a lot of people. The passing game should be much improved with a healthy Odell Beckham Jr., helping keep the pressure off of Barkley.
4. Royce Freeman will be the second-highest scoring rookie running back. Freeman has been productive in the preseason and signs point to him carrying it over to the regular season. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry and scored in each of the first three presason games. Freeman has to fend off Devontae Booker who has been a disappointment in his career thus far, despite having ample opportunity. Booker has a career average of 3.6 yards per rush attempt. Freeman will have competition from fellow rookies Kerryon Johnson and Rashaad Penny, but I give Freeman the edge.
5. Sammy Watkins won’t catch more than 60 passes. Eight touchdowns last season hid the fact that Watkins caught just 39 passes for 593 yards. He didn’t miss a lot of action either, playing in 15 games. Tyreek Hill will be the leading wide receiver in Kansas City, and I don’t think it will be close. Travis Kelce will be a red zone target, but Watkins may have some success for the Chiefs. He’ll have to, if fantasy owners will enjoy a productive season out of the fifth-year receiver. If Watkins doesn’t find the end zone on a consistent basis, his workload won’t be enough to be a legitimate starter for you.
6. Marshawn Lynch will eclipse 1,000 yards rushing this season. Jon Gruden wants to run the ball. Lynch has looked better this preseason than he did last year. He rushed more than 200 times last season, proving he could still carry a good load. Lynch broke off a 60-yard score during the preseason, but the play was called back due to penalty. He was running away from the safety in the effort. It’s possible he has a bounce-back year and he won’t have to worry about Doug Martin taking away many touches.
7. Latavius Murray will frustrate Dalvin Cook owners by scoring eight rushing touchdowns. Murray is a solid goal-line back and there’s no reason why the Vikings wouldn’t use him in that role. I think their offense could be outstanding this season, with weapons like Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, not to mention reliable tight end Kyle Rudolph. Cook should lead the team in rushing if he’s the running back he was before tearing his ACL last season, but I see Murray turning into a touchdown vulture this year.
8. Rex Burkhead, though a fantasy expert darling all offseason, won’t finish as a top 24 running back. This could be the year. It could be the year the Patriots finally start to fall off. Tom Brady is 41 and father time has to catch up to him eventually. There’s not a clear standout running back on the team. Burkhead has gotten quality touches as a Patriot, but I’m thinking he ends up outside RB2 status. James White is still a pass-catching expert and I don’t see New England giving Burkhead more than 12 carries a game.
9. Dion Lewis will outscore Derrick Henry in the Tennessee backfield. Lewis, a former teammate of Burkhead, has flashed in previous seasons but finally put it all together last year. He rushed for 896 yards and six touchdowns while catching 32 passes for 214 yards and three more scores. Lewis was especially good in the last part of the season, scoring seven times in the final eight games. I think he takes the lead role in Tennessee this year. Henry had a couple of big games last season, but he averaged just 2.3 yards per carry in his final four games.
10. Keelan Cole is the wide receiver to own for the Jaguars. With Marqise Lee going down, Cole will lead the Jaguars in receiving this season. He has competition in Dede Westbrook and Donte Moncrief, but Cole has been trending in the right direction. He ended last season with 42 receptions and 748 yards. I’d guess he scores more than three touchdowns this year. Cole caught 20 passes for 426 yards and two scores in the final four games of last season. I see him continuing to be productive with the run-first offense.
11. Nelson Agholor will be the wide receiver to score the most fantasy points for the Eagles. I was already thinking this was going to happen before news broke that Alshon Jeffery was going to miss at least two games to start the season. Jeffery has missed games in three of the six seasons in which he’s played. He played in 16 games just twice in his five years with Chicago. Jeffery started off right with Philly, playing in all 16 contests and helping the squad win its first Super Bowl last season. It’s important to note, however, that Agholor actually caught five more passes than Jeffery. Agholor also finished with 768 yards and eight touchdowns, just 21 yards and one touchdown shy of Jeffery’s numbers. If healthy, Agholor should be the most productive wide receiver.
12. Peyton Barber will outscore rookie Ronald Jones in the Buccaneers backfield. Jones is struggling in the passing game with Tampa Bay. He hasn’t been productive in that aspect of the game in his entire football life. Peyton Barber is ahead of him on the depth chart and Jones hasn’t looked good in the preseason. Though Barber won’t be too special, he’ll do better than Jones by virtue of staying on the field, getting more touches than the rookie.
13. Trey Burton will be a top-4 tight end. Once Burton got out of Zach Ertz’s shadow in Philadelphia, fantasy owners everywhere took notice. Whenever Burton filled in for Ertz last season, Burton more than pleasantly surprised. In the Eagles’ 43-35 win over the Rams last year, Burton stepped in to catch five passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns. I think that was a sign of things to come as a starter. He’ll be a nice safety blanket for second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky as the apparent go-to guy in Chicago.
14. Kenyan Drake will rush the ball 205 times and top 1,000 yards. Last season Drake had to split carries with Jay Ajayi, understandably. Ajayi is a talented back who is now in Philadelphia. Drake rushed the ball 133 times for 644 yards and scored three times. The Dolphins will have 138 carries (the number Ajayi had last year) to dole out this season. Though Frank Gore is now in Miami, I think Drake gets the majority of those carries, giving him at least 200 rushes. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry so he’ll cross the 1,000-yard mark if he stays healthy.
15. John Brown will outperform Michael Crabtree. Brown has had a pretty outstanding training camp and preseason. He’s already connected on a touchdown with Joe Flacco and is looking like he could be the No. 1 wideout in Baltimore. In 2015 he caught 65 passes for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns. The year before that he scored five times as a rookie. Brown has had a couple of disappointing years related to his health, but he looks great now. Crabtree rejuvenated his career once already, but I don’t know that he’ll be able to do it with the Ravens.
16. Kenny Golladay will double his receptions and touchdowns from last season. Golladay had a decent rookie campaign, catching 28 passes for 477 yards and three touchdowns. Matt Stafford can support two 1,000-yard receivers like he did last season with Marvin Jones and Golden Tate. That could repeat, but Golladay has a shot and digging into some of Jones’ numbers. Also, Eric Ebron and his 86 targets are no longer on the team. Those will be redistributed among the three wideouts.
17. Christian McCaffrey will top 250 touches. The second-year running back had 197 touches last season and gained over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. With Jonathan Stewart now with the Giants, I think McCaffrey takes on a bigger role. He just needs 16 touches per game to get to 250, and his offensive coordinator has talked about getting McCaffrey 25-30 per contest. I don’t think he gets 400 touches, which is what 25 per game would total, but he’ll definitely see more action on the ground this year.
18. Mike Williams will replace Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry as an effective red zone target, catching 6 touchdowns.Williams has already out-muscled a defender for a touchdown in the preseason. Expect to see more of that as the Chargers are in need of a big red zone target after losing Hunter Henry. Gates just rejoined the team but Williams will carve out that role.
There are just two weekends left before the NFL starts the regular season. Thousands of fantasy football leagues will be drafting soon. Through Saturday I’ll share my rankings for each position. I started with quarterbacks Tuesday, followed by running backs Wednesday, wide receivers Thursday and tight ends Friday. We’ll close out with defense rankings. This year I’ve added tiers to better help you prepare for your draft.
Not much has changed for the top two teams in this tier, so they should be very good once again. The Jaguars had the best pass defense in the league and the Vikings gave up the least amount of points. Additions to the defensive backfield and in the trenches can help the Rams take a step forward. The defending Super Bowl champs led the league in rushing yards allowed per game. They’ve had some changes up front, but they should remain solid.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
2. Minnesota Vikings
3. Los Angeles Rams
4. Philadelphia Eagles
The pass rush of the Chargers is enough to make fantasy owners excited about drafting them in the 11th round. That pass rush coupled with a good defensive backfield is a recipe for creating turnovers. The first surprise in these rankings is the Saints at No. 6. They aren’t the same Saints you’re used to, sacking the quarterback 42 times (tied for 7th in NFL) while making 20 interceptions (3rd) last season.
5. Los Angeles Chargers
6. New Orleans Saints
7. Denver Broncos
8. Houston Texans
9. Baltimore Ravens
The Cardinals have last season’s sack leader in Chandler Jones. He led the league with 17 of the Cardinals’ 37 sacks. They forced 18 fumbles and intercepted 15 passes while allowing 22.6 points per game. The points allowed doesn’t sound outstanding, but the offense was in shambles without David Johnson and Carson Palmer. Johnson is back and Sam Bradford, though an injury risk, should be a decent steward of the offense. That could help the Cardinals’ defense stay fresh for longer.
10. Arizona Cardinals
11. Carolina Panthers
12. New England Patriots
13. Pittsburgh Steelers
14. Atlanta Falcons
15. Chicago Bears
16. Seattle Seahawks