Welcome back to the Rookie Report! Week 1 is upon us. By now you should have your team drafted and it's all about picking the right guys to fill out the lineup and get off to that all-important 1-0 start. Before the bye weeks hit, the strategy should be pretty simple: Start your studs. Unfortunately, injuries may already be derailing that if you own(ed) Jordy Nelson, Kelvin Benjamin, C.J. Spiller, Arian Foster, Mike Evans, Tre Mason, or any other player who is out or questionable for week one. Perhaps there is a rookie who could fill that void and help you get in the win column. Each week I'll break down the rookie matchups, listing which guys you should start, which ones are borderline options, and which ones you should keep planted on the pine. I'll also include a couple of sleepers each week for deep leagues who could also be cheap options for those who play daily or weekly fantasy games. So, without further ado...
(Note: Both quarterback projections are for 2 QB leagues. Both should be sitting in 1 QB format)
Rookies to Start:
QB Jameis Winston, TB (Wk. 1: vs. Ten.): Famous Jameis gets one of his easiest matchups of the year in week one. The Titans have been a mess for a couple of years now, and most of their offseason additions will help on the offensive side of the ball, not defense. The Titans did bring in long time Steelers D coordinator Dick LeBeau, and he's traditionally made life hell on rookie signal-callers with his aggressive blitz schemes, but I doubt he has the personnel to wreak the havoc he's used to. I'd project Winston for about 225 yards and 2 TDs, which should make him a solid start in 2QB leagues (don't start him if you only get one). This projection takes a minor hit if Mike Evans is a no-go.
WR Amari Cooper, OAK (Wk. 1: vs. Cin.): Things have been kind of quiet on the Amari front through training camp. There was one great highlight of him burning Patrick Peterson in a preseason game on a comeback route, but otherwise there hasn't been much buzz. He's been flying a little under the radar. That changes on Sunday when the Raiders get to break out their new toy. Derek Carr will funnel Oakland's new #1 WR with targets, and I expect at least 7 catches in a stellar debut. He should be especially solid in PPR formats.
WR Nelson Agholor, PHI (Wk. 1: @Atl.): The Falcons' defense wasn't very good against WRs a year ago, and there haven't been any substantial improvements made. J-Matt is number one in the pecking order, but he'll see a lot of Atlanta's top CB Desmond Trufant, and Zach Ertz's status is still up in the air. I'd expect a lot of volume to come Nelson's way. He has potential to be a solid WR2 in PPR leagues this week.
QB Marcus Mariota, TEN (Wk. 1: @TB): Tampa Bay is back to running Lovie Smith's Tampa 2 defense, which is a bend-but-don't-break scheme featuring a lot of zone pass defense. If there's one thing Mariota showed in college, it's that he knows how to get the ball to guys in space, and there will be some soft spots in that zone. Unfortunately for Mariota, I'd expect a pretty conservative gameplan from Whisenhunt in the first start of his career. His running ability gives him top-15 QB potential this week, but I'd have to be pretty underwhelmed by my QB2 to roll the dice on Mariota. The Bucs allowed an NFL-low 78 rushing yards to opposing QBs last season.
RB T.J. Yeldon, JAX (Wk. 1: vs. Car.): The Panthers have an imposing front 7 on paper, but they were just a middling defense vs. RBs a year ago. The Jaguars' offense is ascending, but the o-line still has a little work to do. Yeldon makes an intriguing flex option this week, but I'd be happy with 75 yards and a TD from him in his debut. If you think you have better options than that, play them. I will say, I do like Yeldon better this week than...
RB Melvin Gordon, SD (Wk. 1: vs. Det.): Let's not kid ourselves, you likely drafted Melvin Gordon to play him. He's probably your RB2, but he's only a 2-down back. He will continue to give way to Danny Woodhead in passing situations, and there might be a lot of those this week. The Lions allowed the 3rd fewest RB points last year, and yes they lost Ndamukong Suh, but they did replace him with Haloti Ngata, who was an integral part of the Ravens' defense last year. The Ravens allowed the fewest RB fantasy points. I'm not saying Ngata isn't a dropoff from Suh, just that he isn't as much of one as you might think. Temper your expectations for Gordon this week. Anything over 50 total yards would be a promising debut.
RB Tevin Coleman, ATL (Wk. 1: vs. Phi.): The Eagles did give up 20 TDs to opposing RBs last season, but the front 7 was still stout, allowing just 3.5 ypc and just the 11th most fantasy points to RBs despite allowing them the 4th most TDs. Kyle Shanahan should improve the Falcons' running game, but week one could be a dicey one. I'd expect 12-15 touches for Coleman, and he has big play speed, but you'd basically be hoping he breaks a long one or finds pay dirt if you start him.
RB Ameer Abdullah, DET (Wk. 1: @SD): After Joique Bell missed the entire preseason, I'd expect a decent sized role for Abdullah in week one. He should be solid flex option in PPR leagues, and I'd expect him to pull in 5+ receptions. The Lions know what a special playmaker AA can be, and they should look to get him involved. Don't go crazy here, we're still likely only talking about 10-12 touches, but there is upside in PPR formats.
Rookies to Sit:
RB Duke Johnson, CLE (Wk. 1: @NYJ): Johnson was just cleared to resume practice Wednesday after suffering a concussion in the only game that he played in the preseason. Yes the Browns only have 2 running backs on the roster after trading away Terrance West, but I'd expect the bulk of the work to go to Isaiah Crowell. Johnson looks to be the 3rd down and receiving back for the Browns, but only 3 teams allowed fewer catches by RBs last season than the Jets, and new head coach Todd Bowles's Arizona team allowed just 3 more RB receptions than those Jets.
RB David Johnson, ARI (Wk. 1: vs. NO): The Saints were among the worst in the NFL against RBs a season ago, and things didn't get better when they released Junior Galette and lost Curtis Lofton in the offseason. Unfortunately for Johnson, there's no real telling what his role in the offense will be. He looked to be the clear number 2 to Ellington early on in preseason, but the addition of Chris Johnson has muddled the picture somewhat, especially after CJ looked good in the final preseason game. This is a situation best left avoided for week 1.
WR Devin Funchess, CAR (Wk. 1: @Jax.): The Panthers still won't commit to Funchess as a starter despite the Kelvin Benjamin injury. They have him listed with the second team, and will likely employ a conservative gameplan against a Jags team that was sieve-like against the run last year. With that said, I think the Jacksonville defense quietly came together late last year and will bump up to the middle of the pack of NFL defenses this season. I expect Funchess to disappoint in week one. Unless you're in a pretty deep league, you should have better options this week.
WR Breshad Perriman, BAL (Wk. 1: @Den.): He seems unlikely to play this week, so that should make the decision easier on you, but after limited practice time in camp, he's a poor bet to produce even if he's in the lineup. It's not a good week for him to be hurt. This should be a pass-happy week for the Ravens as they try to keep pace with Denver.
WR Devante Parker, MIA (Wk. 1: @Was.): I love Parker's upside this year, and it's very encouraging from a health standpoint that DeVante played at all in the final preseason game, but I expect him to be eased into regular season action with Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings playing more snaps early on. I could regret this recommendation given who the 'Phins are playing, but I don't think Miami will need much help from Parker to vanquish the Redskins.
WR Phillip Dorsett, IND (Wk. 1: @Buf.): At this point, the Colts' wide receiver depth and gameplan are way too uncertain to play Dorsett. All indications are that he beat out Donte Moncrief for the 3rd WR spot (Moncrief is listed as the starting return man), but we still don't know for sure if the offseason talk of the Colts running more 3 & 4 WR sets and less 2 TE sets was just talk or not. There's a very real chance Dorsett puts up a goose egg.
TE Maxx Williams, BAL (Wk. 1: @Den.): I know, the Ravens have to throw to somebody, why not Williams? While I think he's easily the best rookie TE in this class, at 21-years old, the sheer physicality of playing tight end in the NFL will take him some getting used to. There's a reason rookie tight ends typically don't produce in year one. Look for Crockett Gillmore to open the season at the number one TE, and for Williams to work his way into that role as the season progresses.
Deep League & DFS Sleepers:
RB Matt Jones, WAS (Wk. 1: vs. Mia.): Things could get really ugly this year for the Redskins. They'll be playing from behind a lot. Alf Morris is essentially a zero in the passing game, and his yards per carry average is 1.25 yards lower with anyone other than RG3 under center. Add in that the coaching staff has been singing Jones's praises, and Morris is in the final year of his contract, and it adds up to the torch being passed to Jones before the end of the year. I think he'll have a big role before that happens, and it starts week one. Look for close to a 50-50 split of touches between Alf and Jones, and look for Jones to be more impressive with them.
WR Dorial Green-Beckham, TEN (Wk. 1: @TB): DGB has impressed thus far in camp and the preseason, and the Titans are carrying just 4 wide receivers on the roster into the opener (Kendall Wright, Harry Douglas, Justin Hunter & DGB). Green-Beckham is easily the toughest cover of the group with his freakish size and athleticism, and I don't think anyone on the Bucs is big enough to cover him. He's the best bet of any Titans' pass catcher to score a TD in the opener.
That's all I've got for this week. Hopefully it helps. Week one is always an unpredictable one for the rookies, so play it safe where you can, and go get a week one win. Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun...It's just a game.