Fantasy Football

Michael F. Florio's Week 1 fantasy sleepers

Welcome to a new era of the sleepers article! Adam Rank has held down this column for 10 years and truly done an amazing job. But this year, I am taking over. It is kind of like Rank is Roman Reigns reaching his hand out and I am Seth Rollins taking a steel chair to his back. Okay, it is not like that at all, but a wrestling analogy is the best possible way I can think to honor Rank!

Week 1 can always be a little tougher to navigate than other weeks simply because we have less information than normal to look back on. Sure, we all come in with preconceived notions of how we think a team's offense will operate but seeing it on the field is a different story. But we have learned by now nothing is normal in 2020. This year we are truly heading into Week 1 blind. We have reports from training camp and scrimmages, but not a whole lot else. But that also means there may be some nice sleepers that got overlooked that you can still get into your lineup.

CeeDee Lamb was one of my favorite draft values so it should be no surprise I am leading off with him as a sleeper. While the rookie receiver was drafted everywhere, he likely ended up being the fourth wide receiver on a lot of teams. There could be some skepticism toward playing rookies in Week 1 given the lack of an offseason and I get it. But you should still be looking to get Lamb into your fantasy lineup either as a WR3 or flex against the Rams.

The Rams secondary does feature Jalen Ramsey, but it is also without Eric Weddle who played the second most snaps on defense last year. Plus, Ramsey should be expected to line up across from Amari Cooper or Michael Gallup on the outside. Cowboys' big duo was held in check last year for a combined two catches for 25 yards against Los Angeles. But reports out of Cowboys camp indicate that Lamb will see time out of the slot this season, which was a weakness for the Rams' defense in 2019. Last season the Rams allowed the ninth-most fantasy PPG to players lined up in the slot (19.5). They also allowed 12 touchdowns to players in the slot, which tied for the third most in the league. There's been reports that Lamb has been a great red zone weapon in Cowboys camp and there's a good chance we see that come to fruition in Week 1.

Let's jump into more Week 1 fantasy sleepers!

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers

If you need a streaming QB in Week 1, Jimmy Garoppolo is a name for you. He faces the Cardinals, who last season allowed a league-high 22.8 fantasy PPG to QBs. Not only was that the most any team allowed to QBs last season, but it is the second-most allowed by a team dating back to 2000. Only the 2015 Saints allowed more (23.9). It's also not a bad thing that Garoppolo's two biggest games of the 2019 season were both against the Cardinals. He scored 28.88 fantasy points against them in Week 9 and followed up with 29.66 just two weeks later. He threw four touchdown passes in both of those games. There's potential for another huge game here.

Gardner Minshew II, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars

If you waited on QB in your draft and nabbed two names later you may be deciding between Minshew and another QB. Minshew is a play I like this week against the Colts, who allowed 18.4 fantasy PPG to QBs last season, which ranked inside the top 12. Minshew only faced the Colts once last season, in Week 17, but he did have his best game of his rookie campaign. He posted 24.5 fantasy points, throwing for 295 yards and three scores. But that is not the only reason to like Minshew. First, he adds some valuable points with his legs, as he rushed for 25 yards or more in eight games last season, which ranks top five among QBs. But he also has a very poor defense meaning he will likely be playing from behind and could have a lot of garbage time points (they still count for fantasy!). Lastly, he has a new OC in Jay Gruden who has gotten the best fantasy seasons out of both Andy Dalton and Kirk Cousins -- which is just as much a reason to like Minshew this season as well as Week 1.

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Jonathan Taylor was climbing up draft boards as the summer went on, so this may not be the deepest call to some. But many are worried about playing a rookie in Week 1 given the lack of preseason games. I wouldn't worry about Taylor and would start him. The Jaguars allowed just under 30 fantasy PPG to RBs, the second-most in the NFL last year. Plus, if the Colts get an early lead, they may just want to showcase their new talent to the world. He is a safe start and has a very high ceiling in this matchup.

Zack Moss, RB, Buffalo Bills

Another rookie! Moss was drafted by the Bills in the third round to play the Frank Gore role. That means he will be used near the goal line, as Devin Singletary saw less than five touches inside the 10-yard line, while Gore saw 17. The Bills are also talking up Moss' ability as a receiver. Being used near the goal line and catching passes are two quick ways for an RB to rack up fantasy points. I like the rookie as a sleeper flex option in this divisional matchup.

Bryce Love, RB, Washington Football Team

Washington made a surprise move last week when it cut veteran RB Adrian Peterson just before the season. That clears the way for youngsters Bryce Love and Antonio Gibson to get more involved. Gibson is getting the fantasy hype but do not forget about Love. He was a stud in college who racked up over 2,100 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns in his junior year at Stanford. Gibson has a ton of potential, but he only had 33 carries in college and is making a position change from WR to RB at the NFL level. This isn't the best matchup on paper, but there could be sneaky volume for Love in the first game of the season.

Emmanuel Sanders, WR, New Orleans Saints

The Bucs secondary has been one to stream against in fantasy the past two seasons. If that carries over this year, it will bode well for the Saints newest receiver. Last season the Bucs allowed 40.89 fantasy PPG to WR, the second-most in the NFL. They also allowed the second-most fantasy points to players in the slot. Sanders should see a good amount of time in the slot in what could be a very high scoring affair. He is a WR3 or flex option.

Steven Sims, WR, Washington Football Team

This one is best saved for those in deeper leagues, but Sims has a favorable matchup to begin the season. He will be taking on the Eagles, who last season allowed the fourth-most fantasy PPG to WRs (39.38). It also doesn't hurt that Dwayne Haskins targeted Sims 11 times against the Eagles in Week 15 last season. Sims finished that game with 15.5 fantasy points after catching five balls for 45 yards and a score. If you are diving a little deep at WR, Sims is a name for you.

Noah Fant, TE, Denver Broncos

Fant and the Broncos will take on the Titans in Week 1. That is a favorable matchup for Fant as the Titans allowed nine touchdowns to TEs, which tied for the third most in the NFL. They also allowed the sixth-most fantasy PPG to TEs, at 13.85. Fant flashed his potential at times in 2019 and has a strong matchup to build off that in 2020. Plus, he plays on Monday, which is always fun if you're in a close fantasy matchup.

Chris Herndon, TE, New York Jets

This is not the best matchup on paper for Chris Herndon, as the Bills fared well against tight ends last year. But Herndon is a candidate to see sneaky volume in Week 1. The Jets receivers have dealt with several injuries in recent weeks. Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims have missed a lot of practice while even Jamison Crowder has been banged up at times. Given all of that, there have been many reports out of Jets camp that Sam Darnold has been peppering Herndon with targets. Herndon was banged up himself at one point, but he looks on track to suit up in Week 1. If he does, the volume alone makes him a top-15 TE with upside.

Eagles Defense

In Week 1, the Eagles face a Washington offense that averaged a league-low 16.6 points per game last season. Washington also allowed 50 sacks last year, which was the fifth most in the NFL in 2019. This is looking like a strong matchup for the Eagles defense in a week that is actually pretty tough to find a streaming option.

You can follow Michael F. Florio on Twitter at @MichaelFFlorio.

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