Studs, Duds and Sleepers: Week 1

September 5, 2019

It’s hard to believe, but summer is officially over, pools are officially closed, and real football officially begins tonight – and with real football, comes the return of fantasy football and the return of the most anticipated weekly fantasy advice column in the country, “Studs, Duds, & Sleepers!”

Unfortunately, with the recent trend of not playing starters in the preseason, predicting the first week of fantasy football becomes more difficult than predicting the social media posts of Antonio Brown. Either way, let’s dig in to this weeks “Studs, Duds, & Sleepers.”

Studs:
Mark Ingram II, RB, Bal:
There isn’t much I like about the Ravens offense, but I do like their ability to run the ball and I love the offseason addition of Ingram. While this may not be the best rushing team in the NFL, I don’t believe any team will focus on the run more than Baltimore and that should mean big numbers for Ingram. Over the last seven regular season games in 2018, the Ravens ran for nearly 230 yards per game, including a 296-yard day in Week 17 against the Browns, all this with running backs far less talented than Ingram. Despite turning 30 this year, Ingram should have plenty left in the tank. He has never been the featured back, never carried the ball more than 230 times in a season, and is a touchdown machine – 39 touchdowns over his last five seasons. Throw in the fact that he gets to open up against a Dolphins team that seems content with throwing in the towel before the season has even begun, and he should have a good season and come out of the gate fast in Week 1.

Ravens Defense:
Staying in the same game, if you drafted the Ravens defense, you should be happy in Week 1. While I believe the Ravens have a good defense in general, I really like the Ravens defense in Week 1, mainly because of who they play – the Dolphins – and what the Dolphins lack on offense. Over the last few weeks, the Dolphins have traded away their starting left tackle and number one receiver, and named Ryan Fitzpatrick their starter. It is completely reasonable to think the Ravens could not only pitch a shutout against the Dolphins, but pile up five or more sacks and two or more turnovers, and those numbers would serve your fantasy team well.

Kerryon Johnson, RB, Det:
Johnson is a breakout favorite in 2019, and Week 1 could be the start of a big season for the second year back. The Cardinals are a bad football team and their run defense very well may be the worst part of this bad team. The Cardinals had the league’s worst run defense in 2018, allowing nearly 155 rushing yards per game. Call me crazy, but something tells me that bringing in a Big Twelve coach isn’t going to solve the issues on defense. Bad for Cardinals fans. Good for Kerryon Johnson fantasy owners.

Seahawks Defense:
It won’t be often you get two defenses in this “Studs, Duds, & Sleepers” piece, but hey, it’s Week 1! The Seahawks couldn’t have hand picked a better opponent to start their season. The Bengals roll in to town with a rookie head coach making his head coaching debut, a rookie offensive coordinator installing a new offensive system, no A.J. Green and an offensive line that is young, injured and mostly void of quality NFL talent. Throw in the crowd noise at CenturyLink Field, and I would put the over/under sack total for the Seahawks at 5.5 (and I am taking the over).

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Duds:
Antonio Brown, WR, Oak:
It has been reported that the Raiders will suspend Antonio Brown, but even before that I had a lot of concerns with Brown in 2019, both on and off the field. On the field, Brown is joining a new team and has yet to spend much (if any) time getting reps with his new quarterback – a quarterback who is far less talented and accurate than his previous quarterback. He is also returning from quite possibly the oddest injury I have ever seen – frostbite on the soles of his feet – and while we haven’t heard much about how/if the injury might affect him this season, seeing the injury, I can’t help but think this impacts him early in the season. Off the field, his head seems anywhere but in football, and that would be a weekly concern to me as a Brown fantasy owner all year. Can you count on this guy to play each week? What if he throws another tantrum over his helmet, skips practice and gets suspended for a game by the team? And what happens if – and this is very likely – the Raiders season starts going downhill? This guy is a ticking time bomb, and as a result, Brown may find himself on this list a lot this year.

LeSean McCoy, RB, KC:
McCoy is a big name and has carried many teams to fantasy glory in years past, but, at 31 years old, and with 10 NFL seasons, more than 2,300 carries and 475 receptions under his belt, he is no longer the player he once was and is on the backside of his career. Look, I understand the excitement about his reunion with Andy Reid and his potential in this high-powered Chiefs offense, and maybe he does have a big year – I took a late round flyer on him for this very reason – but I wouldn’t count on it, especially not in Week 1 with less than a week of practice under his belt.

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dal:
What? He is signed and back practicing in Dallas, right? He is quite possibly the best running back in the NFL, why is he on the Dud list? Well, here is why. Elliott will likely play on Sunday, but after missing all of camp, how much can we reasonably expect him to play? With only a few practices under his belt, it is unlikely Elliott will see his normal workload and will most likely be on some sort of a snap count. Elliott owners are in a tough position here in Week 1. You have to start him – he has the potential to put 30 points on the board for you even if he gets limited touches – but as well as Tony Pollard played in the preseason, how much will Elliott play? 20-25 snaps, maybe 10-15 touches? If that is the case, you have to hope he has a touchdown because otherwise you are probably looking at a single digit week, and less that double digit points from your RB1 would be a dud no matter how you slice it.

Any Cincinnati Offensive Player:
As a Bengals fan, it pains me to write this, but I wouldn’t be playing any Bengals players in Week 1, and the reason is twofold: 1) the offensive line, and 2) the matchup. We touched on both of these above, but the Bengals have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, open on the road in Seattle, with a rookie head coach and rookie offensive coordinator installing a new system and no A.J. Green. Joe Mixon is not going to have any running holes and Andy Dalton is going to be running for his life the entire game. As a result, starting any Bengals players in Week 1 means you are hoping for garbage time points.

Sleepers:
Jordan Reed, TE, Wash:
I know, I know, he can’t stay healthy – and as I type this, he is still in concussion protocol – but if he gets clearance to play (and it sounds like he will), someone on the Redskins has to catch passes right? If we go with the assumption that Case Keenum is likely to complete 15-20 passes on Sunday, who are those passes going to? Paul Richardson? Trey Quinn? Derrius Guice? I don’t know about you, but I like the odds that 5 or so of those go to Reed. If you get five catches and 50+ yards out of a guy who most see as a TE2 at the moment, that is a win.

Dion Lewis, RB, Ten:
Sure, Lewis is the clear number two back in Tennessee, but here is why I like him, especially in Week 1. Derrick Henry is a big, bruising back who is coming off the best season of his career, but he also suffered a calf strain about a month ago, and a calf strain, for any NFL player is a big concern. For a running back, especially one who relies on power and explosiveness like Henry, it is a huge concern…which is where my optimism for Lewis comes in. Lewis is always a threat in the passing game (67 receptions in 2018), and with a calf strain, Henry is unlikely to see a full load in Week 1 and therefore Lewis should not only keep his role in the passing game, but pick up more of the running roll and therefore have real value as a RB3 and borderline RB2. Not bad for a guy you probably picked up in the 10 round or later.

Will Dissly, TE, Sea:
Unless you are a Seahawks fan, I know what you are saying right now: “Who the hell is Will Dissly?” I don’t blame you for not knowing the name. The second year tight end was a fourth round pick in 2018 and had a whopping eight catches for 156 yards…but, here’s the catch! He only played in four games as a rookie before tearing his ACL and two of those catches went for touchdowns. In his last two games of 2018, Dissly caught six passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns against two good defenses (Chicago and Denver). All indications are Dissly is healthy and has looked good and he gets a matchup against a Bengals team devoid of linebacker talent. I expect Dissly to have a big game against the Bengals linebackers.

*Don’t set your Week 1 lineups without checking out our GSI Cheat Sheet by Dan Clasgens.

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