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Fantasy

STATS 2017 Fantasy Football: Week 1 Tiers

By: STATS LLC

Happy football season, everybody! I’ll be providing these tiers every Wednesday so season-long and daily players alike can gain some insight. Keep in mind that rankings within each tier are very fluid. They are essentially toss-up calls that fluctuate throughout the week with small pieces of news, while players rarely move from tier to tier due to anything but major news.

Also, please note these are for standard scoring. The numbers in parentheses are how many tiers a player moves up or down in PPR, where applicable.

Enjoy this first installment, and be sure to check out my colleague Corey Schwartz’s weekly Friday piece on our rankings outliers vs. consensus.

Quarterbacks

Tier 1

Aaron Rodgers – Packers

Rodgers opens with a less-than-ideal matchup against the Seahawks, but at least he is at home. The 27-point team total shows that it’s still OK to trust the No. 1 fantasy QB will put up solid numbers.

Tier 2

Tom Brady – Patriots

Brady’s in a similar spot as Rodgers having a tough matchup. There really isn’t another elite QB, though, with a matchup good enough in order to encroach on the top slots typically occupied by these two legends.

Tier 3

Russell Wilson – Seahawks
Marcus Mariota – Titans
Matt Ryan – Falcons
Cam Newton – Panthers
Ben Roethlisberger – Steelers

This might be the tier people spend too much time discussing this week. There really isn’t much to haggle over here, and if you have one of these QBs you are starting them. Yes, even over Drew Brees.

Tier 4

Kirk Cousins – Redskins
Dak Prescott – Cowboys
Derek Carr – Raiders

The end of the “true” QB1 class for Week 1. Dak would have been a bit higher, but with Ezekiel Elliott being cleared to play Week 1, that eats into his TD share significantly.

Tier 5

Tyrod Taylor – Bills
Matthew Stafford – Lions
Drew Brees – Saints
Sam Bradford – Vikings

This arguably is the most controversial tier for Week 1. I know I’m going to get a ton of heat for having Brees listed among Taylor and below Prescott, but this is where I stand right now. When it comes to Taylor, you really aren’t relying on passing stats, and I think he’s able to get a healthy amount of rushing numbers this week in a great matchup with the Jets.

Meanwhile, Brees is on the road facing a tough pass defense in Minnesota without one of his targets in Will Snead. That, combined with no rushing stats to fall back on, is enough for me to leave him outside the QB1 picture, although he should be back in top five next week.

Bradford gets the rare top-15 rank as he faces the Saints sieve-like pass defense at home.

Tier 6

Carson Wentz – Eagles
Carson Palmer – Cardinals
Eli Manning – Giants
Andy Dalton – Bengals

These serve as good emergency plays for people scrambling to find a Jameis Winston or Andrew Luck replacement for this week.

Tier 7

DeShone Kizer – Browns
Trevor Siemian – Broncos
Joe Flacco – Ravens
Alex Smith – Chiefs
Mike Glennon – Bears
Philip Rivers – Chargers

I wouldn’t want to be relying on any of these in a one-QB, season-long league. Kizer might be worth a dart throw in DFS, though, as he is a sneaky bet to put up huge numbers depending on how much of a force he is on the ground.

Tier 8

Brian Hoyer – 49ers
Tom Savage – Texans
Jared Goff – Rams
Blake Bortles – Jaguars

No, just…no.

Tier 9

Scott Tolzien – Colts
Josh McCown – Jets

Even worse than no.

Running Backs

Tier 1

Le’Veon Bell – Steelers
David Johnson – Cardinals

This week it’s Bell that gets the top spot due to his extremely juicy matchup against the Browns.

Tier 2

LeSean McCoy – Bills
Ezekiel Elliott – Cowboys

After the Bills decided to let go of Jonathan Williams, it seems as if they are going to ride McCoy hard this year. He is an elite play this week against the Jets. Elliott could see a massive workload this week, considering he likely isn’t going to get to play again for several weeks.

Tier 3

Jordan Howard – Bears
Todd Gurley – Rams
Devonta Freeman – Falcons

This just might be the best spot Gurley will be in all season, hence the fairly high rank Week 1. I’m not a huge fan of the “Rams suck, therefore Gurley sucks” narrative. Expectations have been set so low for him that I think he crushes them this year. The NFL has a sneaky way of regressing to the mean the following season.

Tier 4

Melvin Gordon – Chargers
Lamar Miller – Texans
DeMarco Murray – Titans

Miller may be forced into a huge workload this week, with both of Houston’s change-of-pace backs ailing.

Tier 5

Carlos Hyde – 49ers
Dalvin Cook – Vikings
Marshawn Lynch (-1) – Raiders
C.J. Anderson – Broncos

I was worried about Hyde’s volume this year with Hightower/Williams as his backups, but with both of them gone he seems set to be a high end RB2 to start the season.

Tier 6

Leonard Fournette – Jaguars
Christian McCaffrey – Panthers
Isaiah Crowell – Browns
Kareem Hunt – Chiefs

Three exciting rookies to watch this year and the always-overlooked Crowell. We need to pump the brakes on the Kareem Hunt hype train a bit, though. He has a bit of a tough matchup Week 1, and if he struggles, I could see people overreacting in the other direction and souring on him enough to make him a great value play for Week 2. Hopefully the more you read my work, the less “flip-flopping” you will be doing on certain players.

Tier 7

Bilal Powell (+2) – Jets
Ty Montgomery – Packers
Mark Ingram – Saints
Tevin Coleman – Falcons
Jonathan Stewart – Panthers
Ameer Abdullah – Lions
Mike Gillislee – Patriots
Frank Gore – Colts

We are now into RBBC territory, which is always a bit of a headache. These are players whom we aren’t too thrilled to be starting Week 1. That often times leads to unnecessary sit/start questions of, “Do I really have to play Ameer Abdullah? Or should I roll the dice on Wendell Smallwood instead?”

Remember, we are simply trying to increase our odds of winning by strategically playing the player with the highest chance of success. Sure, someone like Smallwood could somehow emerge as the top scoring back out of Philly this week, but you don’t get bonus points for something like that.

BOLD CALL: I like Stewart as a sneaky bet for a 1-yard vulture TD this week.

Tier 8

Rob Kelley – Redskins
Adrian Peterson – Saints
Joe Mixon – Bengals
Terrance West – Ravens
Derrick Henry – Titans
LeGarrette Blount (-1) – Eagles
Danny Woodhead (+1) – Ravens
Theo Riddick (+1) – Lions
Paul Perkins – Giants
Matt Forte – Jets
Jamaal Charles – Broncos
Eddie Lacy – Seahawks
Darren Sproles – Ealges
Duke Johnson Jr. – Browns

Ah, the “sit/start decision” tier. Quite a few of these RBs will have a big week, and quite a few will put up a dud. With Tampa Bay-Miami postponed from Week 1 to Week 11 because of Hurricane Irma, it puts a bit of added pressure on this group.

It’s tough for me to really love anyone in this tier, but this is certainly the last tier of players that I would tolerate in my starting lineup. For DFS, this is a tier loaded with high-upside PPR beasts like Woodhead, Riddick, and Duke.

Tier 9

James White – Patriots
Jeremy Hill – Bengals
Latavius Murray – Vikings
Giovani Bernard – Bengals
Shane Vereen – Giants
Chris Thompson – Redskins
DeAndre Washington – Raiders
Wendell Smallwood – Eagles
C.J. Prosise – Seahawks
D’Onta Foreman – Texans
Rex Burkhead – Patriots

Mostly a grab-bag of third-down backs who offer more value in PPR formats and some TD vultures (potentially Jeremy Hill, Latavius Murray, and Rex Burkhead).

Wide Receiver

Tier 1

Antonio Brown – Steelers

With Beckham banged up enough to be limited to “light jogging” at practice on Wednesday and the Falcons’ likely game script, AB gets Tier 1 all to himself this week.

Tier 2

Julio Jones – Falcons 

Tier 3

Odell Beckham Jr. – Giants

Tier 4

A.J. Green – Bengals
Dez Bryant – Cowboys
Jordy Nelson – Packers
Doug Baldwin – Seahawks
Amari Cooper – Raiders

Can’t go wrong with any of these studs. All are high-end WR1 plays Week 1, as usual.

Tier 5

DeAndre Hopkins – Texans
Demaryius Thomas – Broncos
Brandin Cooks – Patriots
Michael Thomas – Saints

Nearly every single WR in this tier has a less-than-ideal matchup this week, but they remain in the WR1 class simply due to volume.

Tier 6

Michael Crabtree – Raiders
Stefon Diggs – Vikings
Alshon Jeffery – Eagles
T.Y. Hilton – Colts
Larry Fitzgerald (+1) – Cardinals
Kelvin Benjamin – Panthers
Martavis Bryant – Steelers
Emmanuel Sanders – Broncos
Pierre Garcon – 49ers
Tyreek Hill – Chiefs
Allen Robinson – Jaguars
Keenan Allen – Chargers
Terrelle Pryor Sr. – Redskins
Davante Adams – Packers
Brandon Marshall – Giants
Golden Tate – Lions
Adam Thielen – Vikings

Maybe the biggest takeaway from this tier is the fact I have Garcon slightly ahead of Pryor. I really think they are a coin toss this week. This is not to say, “No doubt about it, 100 percent, you have to start Garcon over Pryor,” if you are in that spot. However, I definitely would not call you crazy if you do.

Also note that TD-dependent guys like Benjamin and Bryant drop a bit in the rankings, while the opposite is true of PPR guys like Allen and Tate.

Tier 7

Kevin White – Bears
Jamison Crowder – Redskins
Ted Ginn Jr. – Saints
Marvin Jones Jr. – Lions
Sammy Watkins (-1) – Rams
Eric Decker – Titans
Tyrell Williams – Chargers
Chris Hogan – Patriots
Kenny Britt – Browns
Randall Cobb – Packers
Corey Coleman – Browns
Kendall Wright – Bears
Rishard Matthews (-1) – Titans

I do not like using Week 1 to sway my overall opinions/projections for players. However, Kevin White may have the highest leverage of any player in terms of how I’ll feel about him going forward based on this week. We still have no idea really what to expect from a third-year player who has barely seen the field in his career. On top of that, he really should see a ton of volume by default now that Cam Meredith is out for the season.

I’m a bit low on Watkins this week, as he still needs to learn the playbook and develop chemistry with Goff. I realize Vontae Davis is out which should help his matchup on paper, but with Luck out and the Rams favored, they may be able to rely on Gurley a bit more this week.

Tier 8

Mike Wallace – Ravens
Jeremy Maclin (+1) – Ravens
Jordan Matthews – Bills
Donte Moncrief – Colts
Sterling Shepard – Giants
Zay Jones – Bills
Corey Davis – Titans
Robby Anderson – Jets
Tyler Lockett – Seahawks
Cole Beasley – Cowboys

I urge extreme caution with a few guys in this tier, who will typically be a bit higher up most weeks. Matthews is banged up and still learning the playbook, so I don’t expect enough volume in a game the Bills should dominate. Moncrief is going to be nearly unplayable until Andrew Luck returns, which I’m guessing will be Week 4. Robby Anderson was going to offer fantasy value by default until the Jets made a flurry of moves the past couple weeks to add enough WR depth for me to really sour on Anderson. I know I was touting him on a “sleepers” podcast a few weeks ago, but I have completely changed my take on him with the personnel moves (Not being stubborn helps out in making accurate projections!).

Tier 9

Marquise Goodwin – 49ers
John Brown – Cardinals
Brandon Coleman – Saints
Devin Funchess – Panthers
Torrey Smith – Eagles
Mohamed Sanu – Falcons
Paul Richardson – Seahawks
Tavon Austin – Rams
Taylor Gabriel (-1) – Falcons
Marqise Lee – Jaguars

The shot-in-the-dark play here is Goodwin. He is much more likely to put up a dud, but I think he will see enough snaps in Week 1 to really make him a high-reward play in GPPs.

Tight Ends 

Tier 1

Rob Gronkowski – Patriots

With Julian Edelman out for the season, a lot of attention has been placed on Cooks, Hogan, White, and Allen seeing extra targets. What I think is being overlooked: This may just make Gronk a league-winner if he can stay healthy.

Tier 2

Travis Kelce – Chiefs
Greg Olsen – Panthers
Jimmy Graham – Seahawks
Jordan Reed – Redskins
Kyle Rudolph – Vikings

Kelce is banged up just enough to not get his usual 2nd tier all to himself.

Tier 3

Delanie Walker – Titans
Tyler Eifert – Bengals

Tier 4

Zach Ertz – Eagles
Martellus Bennett – Packers
Jason Witten – Cowboys

Tier 5

Eric Ebron – Lions
Hunter Henry – Chargers
Coby Fleener – Saints
Jack Doyle – Colts
Austin Hooper – Falcons
Zach Miller – Bears

Miller gets a sneaky boost with Meredith out. The Bears have approximately nine active TE on their roster, but Miller should see most of the routes they run out of the position.

Tier 6

Jared Cook – Raiders
Charles Clay – Bills
C.J. Fiedorowicz – Texans
Antonio Gates – Chargers
Evan Engram – Giants
George Kittle – 49ers

Although he is just off of the fantasy football relevance map, George Kittle is underrated this week. He’s much more of a GPP dart throw in DFS than anything else, but it’s worth noting the 49ers don’t have many options in their passing game, and they recently unloaded McDonald and Bell. This leads me to believe they like what they see in Kittle, and he could surprise this week.

Note: Kittle apparently twisted a hammy at practice, adding to his risk, but you’re not starting him in season-long or rostering him in cash anyways.

Tier 7

David Njoku – Browns
Dwayne Allen – Patriots
Vernon Davis – Redskins
Tyler Higbee – Rams
Jesse James – Steelers
Jermaine Gresham – Cardinals

These are nothing more than potential DFS trolls, whom I will surely be cursing if any of them put up big games and/or score this week.

Kickers 

Tier 1

Stephen Gostkowski – Patriots
Matt Bryant – Falcons
Dan Bailey – Cowboys

Tier 2

Graham Gano – Panthers
Mason Crosby – Packers
Matt Prater – Lions
Phil Dawson – Cardinals
Kai Forbath – Vikings

Tier 3

Blair Walsh – Seahawks
Chris Boswell – Steelers
Justin Tucker – Ravens
Sebastian Janikowski – Raiders
Caleb Sturgis – Eagles
Brandon McManus – Broncos
Dustin Hopkins – Redskins
Adam Vinatieri – Colts
Ryan Succop – Titans
Ka’imi Fairbairn – Texans
Wil Lutz – Saints

Tier 4

Randy Bullock – Bengals
Stephen Hauschka – Bills
Cairo Santos – Chiefs
Greg Zuerlein – Rams
Aldrick Rosas – Giants
Younghoe Koo – Chargers
Robbie Gould – 49ers
Connor Barth – Bears 

Tier 5

Jason Myers – Jaguars
Zane Gonzalez – Browns
Chandler Catanzaro – Jets

Defenses

Tier 1

Pittsburgh Steelers
Houston Texans
Los Angeles Rams
Denver Broncos
Buffalo Bills

The Steelers get to face a Browns rookie QB making his debut. The Texans defense will be fired up in what I’m sure will be an emotional game for them, plus they get to face Blake Bortles. The Rams get to face Scott Tolzien behind a rookie UDFA starting at C. The Broncos are a top defense and are at home against a turnover prone QB. The Bills are facing a potential 0-16 team at home. Usually I’m a bit cautious Week 1 when it comes to touting defenses, but these are all fantastic options this week.

Tier 2

Carolina Panthers
Cincinnati Bengals
Green Bay Packers
New England Patriots 

Tier 3

Atlanta Falcons
Dallas Cowboys
Arizona Cardinals
Los Angeles Chargers 

Tier 4

Minnesota Vikings
Jacksonville Jaguars
Baltimore Ravens
Indianapolis Colts
Washington Redskins
Detroit Lions
San Francisco 49ers 

Tier 5

Philadelphia Eagles
Tennessee Titans
New York Giants
Oakland Raiders
New York Jets
New Orleans Saints
Cleveland Browns
Chicago Bears
Seattle Seahawks 

Tier 6

Kansas City Chiefs