Fantasy Football Sleepers Week 1
Coming off of an unprecedented offseason, I am happy to say that not only will we have an NFL season in 2020, but it is finally here. Week 1 is upon us, which means I am here to bring you my Fantasy Football Sleepers column for the fourth-consecutive season here at Gridiron Experts. And while we don’t know what this season will bring with COVID-19 hanging over our heads, I am happy to be here to help guide you to another fantasy football championship.
If you are new to my Fantasy Football Sleepers column, here is a quick rundown of what you should expect from me on a weekly basis. And if you a returning reader, welcome back. Let’s go get it again.
In my column, you will find players with a low-start-percentage at ESPN Fantasy. While some of these players may already be stashed on your bench for a rainy day, there will also be player options that you can find lingering on the waiver wire as well. You won’t find the obvious starters either. This way, you know the right players to pivot to if you are in a bind.
Last-minute injury-inactive? I’ve got you covered too. I make my column available for a Friday publish so I can have the latest injury updates ready and waiting for you to get the most up-to-date and relevant information that you need to set a winning lineup. What’s more, if one of my sleepers is ruled out after this article is published, there is a good chance, barring the unforeseen, that I will publish an update with a new player write-up immediately so you are not stranded.
Now without further ado, here are my 2020 Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 1.
Disclaimer: This is where you will normally find my weekly full-disclosure. A weekly disclosure is a breakdown of the top overall fantasy producers from the week that was as well as the point totals of my sleeper picks. This way, we can keep track of my hits as well as my shortcomings. What can I say, I try to keep it as real as I can. You can find an example of what this will look like here.
Don’t enter Week 1 wondering who the top players are to start in your fantasy lineups. Take a plunge into Doug Moore’s Week 1 Start/ Sit column right here.
Week 1 QB Fantasy Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 7.4
Jared Goff has been flying In fact, he is only being rostered in 42.2-percent of leagues at ESPN, which is absurd for a quarterback playing on a fast-paced offense, coached by boy-wonder Sean McVay, surrounded by big-pop weapons and a regressing defense. Set-up for garbage time and shoot-outs, it is mind-blowing that Goff, who has finished as the QB11, QB6, and QB13 in each of the past three seasons, is a forgotten man.
Entering Week 1, Goff’s start-percentage is not much better. Being used in a mere 7.4-percent of leagues at ESPN, Goff is my top sleeper quarterback entering the opening weekend. While he is getting a Cowboys defense that allowed the 13th-fewest FPPG to QBs last season (16.9), the Dallas secondary lost top blanket-corner Byron Jones in free agency and is a young unit. Their pass-rush is expected to be improved, but Goff will challenge the Cowboys secondary early and often, likely picking on second-round rookie starter Trevon Diggs. Putting-up at least 20.7 fantasy points against the Cowboys in 2-of-3 career games, this Sunday night primetime opener is set-up to be another fruitful outing for Goff as it sits with a 51.5-point O/U total. Start Goff. Take the over. Cash-in.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 3.4
If you need to start Derek Carr at all this season, this is the week. Not only is he is getting on of the youngest defenses in the NFL in a road matchup against the Panthers, but it is a game that has shoot-out potential written all over it with its 47.5-point O/U at Fanduel.
While the Panthers only gave-up the 11th-fewest FPPG to enemy QBs last season (16.2), defensive guru Ron Rivera is no longer there holding down the fort. In fact, new defensive coordinator Phil Snow has been out of the NFL since 2008 and the Carolina defense is set-up for seven rookies to garner significant playing time. The under-rated Carr should feast in Week 1 and why not? He has new toys to show off in the form of Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards. While Josh Jacobs could ultimately limit Carr’s ceiling, if the Carolina offense can get going and force the Raiders to throw, you should get enough out of Carr so he won’t lose you the week. I feel safer starting Carr against the Panthers than I do going with Daniel Jones at home against the vaunted Pittsburgh defense.
Week 1 RB Fantasy Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 17.8
Although David Montgomery (groin) practiced in full on Thursday, an upgrade over his limited status earlier in the week, there is still a chance the Bears will limit his touches in the season opener. After-all, there was a time that it looked like Montgomery could miss multiple games due to his groin injury suffered at a training camp practice in August. And with only the unknown Ryan Nall left on the depth chart, it looks like Tarik Cohen could lead Bears running backs in touches in Week 1.
While Cohen’s normal role is as Chicago’s primary receiver out of the backfield, he will also be in line for additional carries if Montgomery is, in fact, ruled out or limited on Sunday. Cohen is also getting a terrific matchup facing a Lions defense who was gashed for the third most FPPG to RBs in 2019 (23.2). And although Detroit added pieces to improve — LB Jamie Collins, IDL Danny Shelton, amongst others — it could take some time for them to gel. Cohen has scored a touchdown against the Lions in 4-of-6 career games while hauling in at least four passes in all six of those contests. If you have Cohen, he should be in your starting lineup in the RB2 or Flex spot. I’m employing him over Montgomery and Lions RBs in Week 1.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 4.6
Devin Singletary had a training camp to forget with ball-security issues which means we could see a greater role out of rookie third-round pick Zack Moss in the season opener against the Jets. And while the Jets defense was shockingly stingy against the run last season, allowing the 10th-fewest FPPG to RBs (16.1), key losses up the middle of their defense at the second and third level including Jamal Adams and C.J. Mosley should open things up for enemy backs.
I’m not saying Singletary won’t have a role, I’m just not a Singletary guy. He doesn’t pass the eye test for me and clearly, the Bills weren’t sold on him either as they did spend third-round draft capital on a new back. Not to mention the fact that they brought in Lamar Miller for a visit recently, for what that’s worth. If I’m going with a Buffalo back this week, I would trust Moss, who contrary to Singletary, garnered rave reviews at practice and per beat writer, Joe Buscaglia, will “be a factor on passing downs,” which raises his floor in PPR. I’m starting Moss as a Flex in Week 1.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 1.5
I’ve been uber-bullish on Boston Scott this offseason. He’s actually one of my most-rostered players across a fantasy team count that is well into the double-digits for me. While many view him as a pure handcuff to Miles Sanders, Scott has standalone value in the Philly offense. Deemed as the new Darren Sproles, Scott will be a factor in the passing game on an Eagles offense with question marks in their wide receiver room.
Entering Week 1, starter Miles Sanders is nursing a minor hamstring injury suffered a few weeks ago at camp. And while HC Doug Pederson is suggesting Sanders could be on a limited touch-count, I like Scott to be a factor no matter what the outcome is for Sanders.
Not only is he getting a plus matchup facing a Washington defense that surrendered the fourth-most FPPG to RBs in 2019 (22.6), but Scott showed-out in the final quarter of the season with Sanders healthy and producing in his own right. Scott managed at least 13.5 PPR points in three of the final four games in 2019 (24.8, 13.5, 7.9, 35.8) including an RB2 finish back in Week 15 against Washington. While the Washington defense will be improved under new HC Ron Rivera and DC Jack Del Rio, it could take some time for them to get on track due to the fallout of the offseason. I’m all-in on Scott in 2020 and in the season opener.
Week 1 WR Fantasy Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 9.2
It is a crime that DeSean Jackson is only being started in 9.2-percent of leagues at ESPN in the season opener. Not only is D-Jax playing off the revenge-game narrative, but he played extremely well against Washington throughout his 11-year career. In 13 career games against the Washington Football team, Jackson averages 10.5 FPPG. He also balled-out in last year’s season opener against Washington for 35.4 points on an 8/154/2 line on 10 targets and finished as the overall WR2 that week. With Alshon Jeffery out, Jalen Reagor banged up and question marks in the Philadelphia wide receiver room, Jackson enters Week 1 as the Eagles clear-cut WR1 and Caron Wentz’s most-reliable target at the position. There are no guarantees that Jackson can remain healthy for the duration of the year, but when he is, he will be Wentz’s top deep threat to take the top off the defense. I’m all-in on Jackson in Week 1 and you should be too.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 8.3
Sometimes in my sleepers article, you will see me stack a quarterback and his pass-catchers in a prime matchup. You will get that here. Only being started in 8.3-percent of leagues at ESPN, I love the first wide receiver taken off the board in the 2020 NFL Draft, Henry Ruggs, in the season opener against the Panthers. I had already mentioned above in the Derek Carr write-up that the Carolina defense is young and rebuilding, and that should only help the rookie speedster get-going in his NFL debut.
While fellow rookie Bryan Edwards is getting all the hype coming out of training camp practices as well as in the fantasy football community, he was a third-round pick. One would assume the Raiders would want to get their first-rounder going early to save face. Ruggs has draft capital on his side as well as ridiculous speed and burst to take the top off of a young secondary that is expected to start fourth-round rookie Troy Pride Jr at cornerback. If Ruggs is matched-up against Pride, the smart money is on Ruggs to win that battle most of the time. Look for Carr to take a few deep shots with Ruggs and if they connect, the rookie wideout could be in line for a big game in his pro-debut.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 1.3
Anthony Miller is only being used in 1.3-percent of leagues at ESPN this week, which is an absurdly low number for a player who exploits his matchups against the Lions. In four career games against Detroit, Miller has put up at least five receptions for 122 yards twice with a 14-PPR-point floor in two of those outings, including a 9/140/0 line on 13 targets in their last meeting in November 2019. And for what its worth, lame-duck QB1 Mitchell Trubisky also balls out against the Lions, which is outstanding news for Bears skill position assets. Trubisky averages 25.3 FPPG in five career games against Detriot. Miller is in the WR3/ Flex conversation in PPR scoring formats for Week 1. I’m starting him over Darius Slayton and Christian Kirk.
Week 1 TE Fantasy Sleepers
ESPN Start-Percentage: 6.6
If you are looking for target-upside, Jack Doyle is your guy. Although he is only being used in 6.6-percent of leagues at ESPN this week, I would confidently start Doyle without hesitation. Not only is he getting a matchup with a rebuilding Jaguars defense that surrendered the 10th-most FPPG to TEs in 2019 (8.1), but he will also be playing his first game with an upside passer since Andrew Luck. With Philip Rivers under center, Doyle gets a quarterback who notoriously featured the tight end position for the better part of his 16-year career. With Eric Ebron no longer in the mix — he departed for the Steelers in free agency — plus, an injury to free-agent acquisition Trey Burton, who landed on IR, Doyle is the only reliable tight end on the Colts. While Doyle hasn’t exactly had the greatest success in his career against Jacksonville, the Jaguars’ defense was once their strength. Now, it is their glaring re-tooling weakness. Let’s also consider the fact that outside of T.Y. Hilton, Doyle is Rivers’ most-reliable veteran pass-catcher. You’re chasing opportunity if you start him this week. Look for Doyle to return a double-digit PPR point floor in the Week 1.
ESPN Start-Percentage: 3.7
While Blake Jarwin is only being started in 3.7-percent of leagues at ESPN heading into the season opener, I believe this will be a coming-out party for the new Dallas TE1. Not only is Jarwin playing on a high-octane Dallas offense that will air the ball out, but this is a game, as I suggested in the Jared Goff blurb above, with heavy shoot-out potential (51.5-point O/U). While the Rams allowed the 12trh-fewest FPPG to TEs last season (7.4), they surrendered a touchdown to a tight end in each of their final three games to end 2019, including a score to then, Cowboys starting tight end Jason Witten in Week 15.
Although the Los Angeles secondary is a strength, they will be busy trying to contain the Cowboys’ muscle, which is their wide receivers. There will be opportunities for Jarwin, who will create mismatches with his size and versatility. Jarwin lined up as a big slot 19.5-percent of his snaps in 2019, which will trend upwards now that he is the defacto TE1. Jarwin brings a high-floor in PPR but could end the week as a TE1 if he scores.
Anthony Cervino is a lifelong NFL enthusiast, especially of the Dallas Cowboys. He has been infatuated with the game since childhood and was introduced to fantasy football as a young teen. Back then, the league commissioner typed out the weekly newsletter and used the Daily News to tally scores. In a statistic-driven game of fantasy football, Anthony believes that sometimes you have to rely on that good ole gut instinct. Anthony resides in New Jersey where he lives with his wife, son and a pomeranian that is named Roman (after Tony Romo). When Anthony is not immersed in the NFL or fantasy football related activities, he enjoys bodybuilding and spending time with his family. Anthony is committed to giving you his best analysis and most accurate statistics to help you win championships. Don’t hesitate to tweet Anthony @therealnflguru about anything NFL or fantasy-related topics. He will always respond in a timely fashion.