5 must-read stats: Dalvin Cook set for fantasy stardom

Happy Week 1!!!

Each week I'll be giving you five stats to think about as you make your fantasy roster selections. I am also going to give you three high ceiling picks at each position (QB, RB, WR, TE) and a kicker and defense that might be available to stream. I am trying to go outside the top few at each position and find some picks that could deliver exceptional value based on their matchup and opportunity (volume, game plan, projected final score). I'm going to try to avoid listing the players who are too obvious. So pretty much, I doubt I'll be talking about David Johnson in this article. Unless it's his bye week (Week 8) when I will try to help you make up those points somewhere. Hopefully.

My goal is to help you think about edging out your opponents with a strong floor and exceptional upside picks. It should also be noted that these projections will be more solid in a few weeks after we've seem some actual football that counts. So the "rules" for this article:

  1. Not super obvious.
    1. As exclusive as possible to this article.
    2. You give me feedback and we evolve it together. Twitter (@cfrelund) is the best for this, unless you are creepy then just stick to rules 1 and 2.

Got all that? Let's go!!!

1. 58.4

That was the Eagles' passer rating allowed when opposing QBs targeted a tight end last year, the lowest (best) in the NFL. The Eagles' defense -- especially their front seven -- improved in many areas last season under defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz. This one is a key to monitor this season, especially for fantasy purposes. Does this mean to bench Jordan Reed? Probably not, but it limits his upside so this week he's outside of my top 5 TEs overall and has a lower-than-normal floor.

BONUS: The TE on the other side of the field, Zach Ertz is not someone that has a risky ceiling, or floor, or median ... for this week. Feel me?

2. DAL 27-20

That's my projected Week 1 final score in Dallas. There are a lot of cool stats in this game and it has a lot of fantasy value, so here goes:

NYG offense: LT Ereck Flowers has allowed Eli Manning to be pressured the most of any LT in the NFL over the past two years (4.3 pressures allowed per game, 0.7 penalties per game) and Giants were 32nd in the league at rushes of 4-plus yards on first down last season. Meaning ... Eli Manning is my No. 15 QB due to increased odds of turnovers. If you play in single-week format or didn't get a top 10 tight end, Evan Engram would be a smart risk. Watch out for injuries in the wideout corps, since Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall have both appeared on the injury report.

NYG defense: Allowed the lowest passer rating to opposing QBs targeting WRs last season (71.1). Also allowed the lowest passer rating to opposing RBs who were targets as well. This was the No. 1 red zone defense last year and projects to be better this year. Red zone defense refers to limiting opposing teams from scoring touchdowns. Meaning ... this limits the ceiling for Prescott and Bryant. While both have solid median projections, my estimation of playing from ahead combined with unfavorable matchups limits their upside. Dan Bailey is my No. 2 kicker this week.

DAL offense: Here's my Zeke median projection: 20 carries for 91 rushing yards, three receptions for 18 yards and a TD. What matters more is the ranking ... RB3 in BOTH median and upside and RB9 in floor. Dak is QB No. 14 (median), Dez is WR6 (median).

3. 32nd

That's where the Vikings ranked in rushing plays of 10-plus yards last season. The league average was 46 over the course of 16 games and the Vikings had 24 all year. They also ranked 24th in percentage of rushing plays called. With Dalvin Cook starting, the Vikings' play calling will likely be more balanced and their overall efficiency will increase. Cook is my preseason favorite for offensive rookie of the year and I think the Vikings make the playoffs. As for this week against the Saints, Cook is my No. 12 overall RB, with RB6 upside. Bradford is QB12 with a safe floor and Diggs no lower than WR20 in median, upside and floor.

4. ATL-CHI and SEA-GB

Those are the games where I believe there will be the most total offense. Adjust your search for value to those games if you are looking for which players have the most opportunity.

5. My preseason value list

I don't know how deep your bench is, but some potential value options I have my eye on (for future weeks) based on potential opportunity: Chris Carson, John Ross, Cooper Kupp, Zay Jones

High ceiling

QB: Carson Wentz, Carson Palmer, Matthew Stafford
RB: Frank Gore, Ameer Abdullah, Ty Montgomery
WR: Terrelle Pryor, Golden Tate, Jamison Crowder (*two of my favorites will be featured on Friday's NFL Fantasy LIVE ... not listed here)
TE: Hunter Henry, Austin Hooper, C.J. Fiedorowicz
K: Matt Prater
DEF: Atlanta

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