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Fantasy Football Tiers for Week 1 of the NFL Season

From the ‘sure things’ to the sleepers, who could impact your early season fantasy fortunes?

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Buffalo Bills Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Each week here at Bucs Nation I’m going to do my best to help you figure out just where you should trust your fantasy football fate! We’re going to do this in a tiered format.

Tier 1 are the guys you need to roll out without hesitation. If they’re reasonably available, put them on your team. Think a little more obvious, but best-of-the-best type of situation.

For the second-tier, we’re looking at guys who have good situations entering the week. Maybe it’s a volume play, maybe it’s a match-up thing. These are guys you may not be automatic starts every week, but could bring home some nice points for you this week.

Lastly, we’ll have the third tier. Guys who will take some guts to throw out there. Think, ‘boom or bust’. Cheap in daily formats, but for a reason. No risk it, no biscuit. Right that down.

So that’s how we’re doing this in 2020. Let’s get to it!

TIER 1

NFL: Super Bowl LIV-Kansas City Chiefs Champions Parade Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs (vs Houston Texans)

Again, pretty obvious right? However, among the league’s best quarterbacks in fantasy football, Mahomes is the top of the list entering Week 1. Super Bowl Champions have a tendency to fall off in the season following, but I fully expect Mahomes to come in on Thursday Night ready to kickoff the repeat campaign with plenty of offense, and plenty of points. Well worth top dollar in weekly and daily formats.

Running Back: Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers (vs Las Vegas Raiders)

It’s Teddy Bridgewater’s team in Carolina now, but really, it’s Christian McCaffrey’s. No shade to Bridgewater, but McCaffrey is the man that makes the Panthers offense hum, and if he’s not doing well nobody is. Opening the year at home in a season nobody expects the team to do much of anything makes the Panthers an early trap-game for a Raiders team hoping to get started right coming out of their new city. CMC has been the first pick in just about every fantasy draft I’ve witnessed, for a reason.

Wide Receiver: Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints (vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

How do you go against a guy that put up the numbers he did in 2019 without Emmanuel Sanders on the other side of the field? Thomas could mess around and get you 20 points in a full ppr league without even scoring a touchdown. Until defenses show they can stop the quick-slant game Thomas has been taking flak for, the Saints will continue to exploit it. Don’t fix what isn’t broken.

Tight End: George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers (vs Arizona Cardinals)

George Kittle has had at least five receptions in each of his past three games against this division rival. He finally got his first career score against the Cardinals defense in his last game, last October. He’ll get at least five catches and a score or my name isn’t Gil Arcia.

Defense/Special Teams: Buffalo Bills (vs New York Jets)

The only team in New York hosts the Jets, and if you’re not excited about the points Tre’Davious White and company could put up against these out-of-staters, I don’t know what to tell you. Except that I promise not to pick the defense facing the Jets every week. Maybe.

TIER 2

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback: Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills (vs New York Jets)

Back-to-back Bills? Crazy times we live in. Josh Allen isn’t the best or most polished quarterback in the NFL, but don’t let reality ruin a good fantasy football starting opportunity. Outside of this week’s Top-5 (most expensive) quarterbacks in the league, Allen may get you more points, which equals better value, than some of them. In fact, it may not even be close given the fact some of those passers are facing defenses looking to make a statement in Week 1.

Running Back: Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders (@ Carolina Panthers)

My first road pick of the week, Josh Jacobs is a guy many believe could enter the conversation among some of the top running back names in fantasy football this year. Well, he isn’t there yet, and I’m taking advantage. Until the Raiders prove they actually believe in Derek Carr, go with the best offensive option they have against one of just two defenses to surrender more than 500-points against opposing running backs on DraftKings.

Wide Receiver: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers (@ New York Giants)

Who knows how long Ben Roethlisberger will actually stay healthy this season. After a disappointing (putting it lightly) campaign in 2019, I wouldn’t blame anyone who was gun-shy about playing a wide receiver who experienced an almost 900-yard drop in production and scored four fewer touchdowns than the year prior. Smith-Schuster is talented though there’s no doubt about it, and with his starting quarterback in the fold again, take advantage of it while you can.

Tight End: Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers (@Cincinnati Bengals)

Tier 2 is shaping up to be the road-crew. The Bengals were actually surprisingly good against opposing tight ends in 2019 giving up just 181.5 points on DraftKings compared to 317.8 points surrendered by the Arizona Cardinals and 127.2 by the Baltimore Ravens. However, it isn’t because the Bengals are just world-beaters against tight ends, and I expect Tyrod Taylor to get his involved early and often especially if Mike Williams doesn’t play in Week 1.

Defense/Special Teams: Tennessee Titans (@ Denver Broncos)

I think the Denver Broncos have a good thing going, but starting the season on Monday Night Football is going to play a factor. People can say, ‘it’s just another game’ all they want, but it’s not. Opening in Primetime just has a different feel. Without Von Miller, the Broncos defense is going to have a tough time keeping points off the board. This means more pressure on Drew Lock, and more opportunities for the Titans defense to tee off.

TIER 3 (Where the real fun begins)

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback: Cam Newton, New England Patriots (vs Miami Dolphins)

Was it the coach, or was it the quarterback? Bill Belichick gets his chance to answer that question starting in Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins with Cam Newton leading his offense. We’ve seen Newton with a running back capable of taking receptions a long way before, and now he inherits James White who would also like to prove it wasn’t all Tom Brady. Julian Edelman is a nice quick option for Newton as well, and when the defense clears out of an area, believe the flashy quarterback can still make them pay for it.

Running Back: Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles (@ Washington Football Team)

Chase Young is going to be a monster in the NFL, but he’s not going to beat the entire league by himself. Guys like Miles Sanders can make aggressive defenses suffer for their own aggression. Do you think the third-worst defense against fantasy football running backs has gotten better? Even if they did, how much better, and how long will it take to get it all together? I’m guessing longer than Week 1, making Sanders and intriguing - albeit risky - investment this weekend. Of course, as with all players, make sure you check up on his status on the injury report as we get closer to the weekend.

Wide Receiver: Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks (@ Atlanta Falcons)

Looking for big play opportunities here, and volume helps. Russell Wilson targeted Lockett six times against the Atlanta Falcons last season, so it’s reasonable to expect similar targets this season. As improved as the Falcons defense got in the back half of 2019, they still had moments of inconsistency and bad play. They’ll be susceptible to the same in 2020, and if the Seahawks capitalize, it could be where Lockett’s big play ability truly shines.

Tight End: O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ New Orleans Saints)

Who’s brave enough to roll out with one of the most dissapointing tight ends of the 2019 fantasy football season? I don’t know, but if you do, you’ll be putting a starting tight end in play. With many looking at the arrival of Rob Gronkowski as a near death sentence for Howard’s 2020 fantasy outlook, it could actually be just part of a rehabilitation program which could find the former Crimson Tide star in many advantageous situations against Saints linebackers and safeties this Sunday afternoon.

Defense/Special Teams: Indianapolis Colts (@ Jacksonville Jaguars)

The Jacksonville Jaguars offense (team) is in shambles it seems. There’s still some talent there, but the players in that franchise can’t feel comfortable or all too confident entering the season. Seems like a solid situation for the Colts’ defense to cut their teeth in Week 1. However, big play options still live in Jacksonville, so if it goes bad for Indy, it’ll go really bad.

Who are your favorite fantasy football starts in Week 1 of the NFL season? Got a sneaky sleeper you think will hit big? Or a star who needs to sit out the first week for your team? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and good luck with all your fantasy football endeavors!