Fantasy football is finally here, and Yahoo and ESPN players are scrambling to find the perfect lineup. While you may have had what you believe to be the perfect draft, every seasoned fantasy football player knows that any NFL player can steal the spotlight, at least for one week. Whether you drafted these players, or have to pull off a miracle trade to get them by the opening game on Thursday, here are the top five guys that you want in your lineup for Week 1.
QB, Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
While Brady is still among the top quarterbacks in the NFL, it is widely accepted that Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brews are better options for fantasy football. They throw for more touchdowns, more yards, and ultimately, produce more fantasy football points. If you have any of those quarterbacks, rest assured, you are going to get a great week from your quarterback. Regardless, Tom Brady may top them all. Brady is angry, motivated, and ready to stick it to the NFL, Roger Goodell, and other critics that have doubted him. He has always been a big time player, and there is no bigger stage than the Thursday night opening game, against the Pittsburgh Steelers. With a truly healthy Rob Gronkowski at his disposal, and facing the Steelers passing defense, ranked 27th in the NFL in 2014, Brady is going to have a monster Week 1. In ESPN leagues, Brady is overvalued with an average draft position of #5. In Yahoo leagues, Brady is undervalued with an average draft position of #10, according to Fantasy Pros.
RB, Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings)
Continuing our trend of angry players with a chip on their shoulder, Peterson may seem like an obvious pick for fantasy football owners. Over his eight-year career, he has rushed for 86 touchdowns and 10,190 yards, which is an elite five yards per carry. He has not played football in over a year though, after being suspended following the first game of the 2014 season. He is also now 30-years-old, which is the age where running backs are thought to begin their decline. All signs point to Peterson having to shake some rust off before really hitting his stride this season.
Peterson’s first game this year is against the San Francisco 49ers, a team he has struggled against throughout his career. In three career games against the 49ers, Peterson has 58 rushing attempts, 174 yards, and no touchdowns, according to Pro Football Reference. These are not the same 49ers though. With Patrick Willis and others Pro Bowlers no longer anchoring the defense, the 49ers are a shell of the defensive force that they once were. Expect Peterson to finish with the most points among running backs for Week 1, and possibly the entire season. In both ESPN and Yahoo leagues, Peterson is the consensus No. 1 pick, according to Fantasy Pros.
WR, Julio Jones (Atlanta Falcons)
While Julio Jones is still one of the top receiving threats in the NFL, he is sometimes forgotten in favor of Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown, and others. Coming off of a season ending injury in 2013, Jones proved that he could remain healthy for fantasy football owners in 2014. He had 104 receptions, 1,593 yards, and six touchdowns. Jones and the Falcons will host the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night. While the Eagles have improved their secondary by signing former Seahawks cornerback, Byron Maxwell, there are still a ton of questions. Last year, they were the 31st ranked secondary in the NFL. The Eagles very well may end up being a top secondary in 2015, but Jones is going to feast on them in Week 1. In both ESPN and Yahoo leagues, Jones is valued at pick #5, which is properly valued, according to Fantasy Pros.
TE, Tyler Eifert (Cincinnati Bengals)
Depending on who you talk to, Eifert is either going to have a huge game this week against the Oakland Raiders, or he is going to be a complete bust. According to a Week 1 rankings report for tight ends from CBS Sports, Eifert’s ranking ranges from top five, to not even in the top 24. Since they polled two different analysts, viewpoints were going to be different, but this is a pretty big difference in opinion regarding Eifert’s ability, and his fantasy football upside.
During the 2014 season, the Raiders finished 16th overall in passing defense. Many analysts believe Eifert can be the number two receiving option, behind A.J. Green, which should open up many opportunities in the red zone. The former 21st selection in the 2013 draft has not proven his ability in the NFL yet. After a modest rookie season where he posted 59 receptions, 445 yards, and two touchdowns, Eifert only played one game in 2014, due to an injury. According to an interview on ESPN, Eifert thinks he can be a top target for Andy Dalton this year. It all comes down to trust. Look for that trust to be there, and Eifert to finish with top three tight end numbers this week. In ESPN leagues, Eifert is undervalued with an average draft position of #18. In Yahoo leagues, Eifert is overvalued with an average draft position of No. 11, according to Fantasy Pros.
WR, Jordan Matthews (Philadelphia Eagles)
Entering his second season, Matthews is likely on his way to a monster season. Now the number one receiving option in Chip Kelly’s high scoring offense, Matthews no longer has to take a back seat to Jeremy Maclin. During the 2014 season, Matthews posted a very respectable 67 receptions, 872 yards, and 8 touchdowns. The Eagles open their season on Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons. Last year, the Falcons were ranked dead last in yards per game for their secondary. Add to the fact that the Eagles defense has their own struggles; this is going to be a high scoring game, with plenty of passing. Look for Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford to look for Matthews early and often. In both ESPN and Yahoo leagues, Matthews is valued at pick #15, which is properly valued, according to Fantasy Pros.
Since this is fantasy football, things will change on a weekly basis. The Week 1 stars could be the busts for Week 2. All current player draft rankings data was taken from Fantasy Pros. Rankings posted were taken by position, and not overall for every position. This information is subject to change, for both ESPN fantasy football leagues, and Yahoo fantasy football leagues.
[Image via Mike Lawrie/Getty Images]