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Fantasy Football Week 1: Kill, Marry, Chill

Against all odds, the 2020 NFL is on. Which means so is your fantasy season. You already got our “Kill, Marry, Chill” draft advice, but now you need to know whom to play each week. Well, we also have you covered there. Each week, we’ll go through some guys that we want to “kill” (not looking to start), “marry” (locking into our lineups), and “chill” (considering as sleeper options) to help you get that coveted fantasy championship. I’m avoiding kickers in this exercise because it’s too unpredictable of a position to give any real helpful advice on. Fantasy Football Week 1 is officially on. So, here’s what you need to know.

Quarterbacks

Turns out, Mitchell Trubisky is good against the Lions. I know, I’m surprised, too. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Kill – Aaron Rodgers (@ MIN)

Rodgers is still a solid, turnover-adverse signal-caller, but Green Bay refuses to give him any helpful pass catchers outside of Devante Adams, so the 36-year-old is no more than a borderline QB1 for fantasy purposes this season. And against Minnesota’s defense in Week 1, I see him as a mid-to-low QB2. Last season, Rodgers put up a combined 22.7 fantasy points in his two games against the Vikings. It’s a new-look Minnesota defense that is missing their top three cornerbacks from last season, but they still have pro bowlers at all three levels. Don’t start Rodgers this week unless you’re in dire straits at the QB spot.

Marry – Matt Ryan (vs. SEA)

Once again, the Falcons have a quality set of skill-position players but a suspect offensive line. That played a pretty big factor in why Atlanta had another 7-9 season in 2019. Matt Ryan’s still a good quarterback, but damn does he fold like a piece of paper when the pass rush gets to him. Last season, Ryan’s PFF passing grade while under pressure was 48 points lower than his grade when kept clean, the second biggest difference in grades among all passers

That’s why I like this matchup. The Seahawks’ pass rush had the fifth-lowest pressure rate in 2019, and that was with Jadeveon Clowney. Matty Ice is balling out this week. Don’t leave those points on the bench.

Chill – Mitchell Trubisky (@ DET)

Generally speaking, Trubisky isn’t a particularly good quarterback. That edict apparently doesn’t apply to games against the Detroit Lions though. In his last three contests versus Detroit, Trubisky has averaged 26.5 fantasy points. Meanwhile, the Lions, who were 31st in total defense in 2019, don’t look much better on paper heading into this season. Especially given that the “sign guys away from the Patriots” approach has never worked out before. If you’re in a 2QB league, give Trubisky that second spot.

Running Backs

I’m going to become unbearably cocky if Chris Thompson ends up going for 15 or 20 this week. (Douglas DeFelice/USA TODAY Sports)

Kill – James Conner (@ NYG)

Conner’s healthy and leading the Steelers’ backfield in the opening week, but this is a bad matchup. The one thing this Giants defense did well last year was shut down the run game, and that should be the case once again with the defensive line remaining intact for 2020. Meanwhile, Conner’s no longer a bellcow back. He only broke 20 touches twice in 10 games last season after having six such games in 13 appearances in 2018, and Pittsburgh has three other young running backs right behind him on the depth chart.

Between Big Ben making his comeback and the logjam at running back, Conner’s touchdown-dependent in this one, especially in non-PPR leagues.

Marry – Josh Jacobs (@ CAR)

There’s probably going to be a reoccurring theme in these weekly posts about starting whichever lead running back is playing Carolina that week. I went over this more in-depth in my Panthers’ 2020 win total article, but the TL;DR of it is that the Panthers’ run defense is going to be bad this season. Really, really bad. Jacobs is coming off a great rookie season, and the Raiders didn’t add any real competition to their backfield. Derek Carr has a lot of new weapons for the passing game, but that shouldn’t stop Jacobs from getting 20 touches like he averaged last season. I love him in all formats.

Chill – Chris Thompson (vs. IND) 

I want a deep sleeper for the first running back “chill.” Look, someone is going to need to line up at running back for the Jaguars, and I like the veteran Thompson’s chances to see more snaps than either Devine Ozigbo or James Robinson, who have all of 12 career touches between them. 

I must imagine Jacksonville is going to be playing from behind for a lot of this game, which doesn’t usually go hand-in-hand with a prolific rushing attack. That’s why I’ll put my faith in their best pass-catching option out of the backfield. This a bottom-of-the-barrel PPR-exclusive option we’re talking about here, but if you’re unsettled at your flex for this week, you could do a lot worse than Thompson.

Wide Receivers

Call me a glass-half-empty kinda guy, but I don’t think 31-year-olds with multiple severe foot injuries make for good wide receivers. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)

Kill – A.J. Green (vs. LAC)

A.J. Green was really good once upon a time. Here are some other things to know about him.

A.J. Green is playing in his first live game in 21 months. A.J. Green is going to have to fight off Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Auden Tate, and Tee Higgins for passes. A.J. Green’s quarterback is Joe Burrow playing in his first career game, and no one knows whom his favorite target is yet. A.J. Green is playing against a Chargers defense that has one of the league’s best cornerback trios. Oh, and A.J. Green is nursing a hamstring injury heading into this game. 

A.J. Green is nothing more than a flex in deeper leagues this week.

Marry – Terry McLaurin (vs. PHI)

Great moments are born from great opportunity, and boy will F1 McLaurin have great opportunities to put up numbers all season long. I really think he has a chance to become the sixth player to get 200+ targets in a season. He’s that good, and all the other skill-position players in Washington are that bad.

He’ll start off against the Eagles, whom he torched last season with a 10/255/2 slash line in his two games against them. Philly’s new cornerback Darius Slay will probably shadow him for most or all of this game, but McLaurin put up a respectable 72 yards on five catches when he played against Slay and the Lions last year. No chance McLaurin isn’t a top-20 WR this week.

Chill – Anthony Miller (@ DET)

Following up on the Trubisky chill, I like Miller’s chances to get a lot of looks this week. In his most recent game against the Lions, in Week 12 last year, the third-year wideout put up a single-game career-high 140 yards on nine receptions. Here’s the kicker though: The Lions have a good 1-2 punch at their outside corner spots in Jeff Okudah and Desmond Trufant. But Miller mostly lines up in the slot, which means he’ll see a lot of Justin Coleman instead. According to Pro-Football-Reference, last season, Coleman gave up 6 touchdowns and a passer rating of 103.3 on 103 targets as the closest defender in coverage. 

I see Miller as a WR2/3 this week in all formats. If you’re in 12- or 14-team league, I’d even call him a must-start.

Tight Ends

If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this article, it’s that you should already have Tyler Higbee on your team. (John McCoy/Getty Images)

Kill – Austin Hooper (@ BAL)

The Browns made Hooper one of the richest tight ends in the game this past offseason and he’s coming off two strong seasons with the Falcons, but new Head Coach Kevin Stefanski loved to use two tight ends as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator last season. In 2019, the Vikings’ top tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith got 48 and 47 targets, respectively. Hooper figures to split looks with David Njoku this season after Cleveland brushed off Njoku’s trade request and picked up his fifth-year option.

When you combine all that with the little problem of Baltimore giving up the fewest fantasy points per game to tight ends last season, Hooper shouldn’t even be sniffing your lineup this week.

Marry – Tyler Higbee (vs. DAL)

I already professed my love for Tyler Higbee here, and now, it’s time for him to prove me right. No, he won’t keep up the absurd productivity he had over the last five weeks of 2019, but the Rams aren’t about to relegate him to a supporting cast member, either. 

I’m also high on his chances to see the endzone frequently this season. Higbee was tied with Travis Kelce for the most redzone targets among tight ends last season at 19. He should maintain that share of short-field work, if not see it increase, now that Todd Gurley is gone and the Rams’ running back situation is in flux. 

The Cowboys had some trouble stopping tight ends last season, and the safety situation is starting to look dicey after they cut Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Meanwhile, Xavier Woods is dealing with a groin injury. 

Expect Higbee to score this week. Start him.

Chill – Eric Ebron (@ NYG)

The Giants might have the worst off-ball linebacker group in the league. And if Blake Martinez’s foot injury keeps him out of Monday’s game, they’ll throw out the worst pair of starting inside linebackers I’ve ever seen, highlighted by seventh-round rookie Tae Crowder. On the next level up, safeties Julian Love and Jabrill Peppers are pretty meh in coverage.

Point is, this is a tight end’s dream matchup. Ebron’s new to this Pittsburgh offense, and we don’t know how the Steelers will split time between him and Vance McDonald. Ebron’s the much better receiver of the two though, so he figures to get a healthy number of snaps on passing downs. He’ll be a mismatch for this Giants defense.

Unless you have one the elite tight ends, don’t be afraid to give Ebron a shot this week.

D/STs

Kill – Las Vegas Raiders (@ CAR)

The Raiders invested in their defense heavily this offseason, which included using a first-round pick on cornerback Damon Arnette and signing linebackers Corey Littleton and Nick Kwiatkowski. I still don’t think they did enough to make them a viable option for fantasy purposes. This was a bottom-of-the-barrel pass defense last season, they forced just 15 turnovers, which was the second-fewest in the league, and they were in the bottom 10 in sacks.

I think the Panthers’ offense has a chance to be good this season. They’re definitely good enough to beat up on this Vegas defense. 

Marry – Buffalo Bills (vs. NYJ)

Anything can happen in divisional matchups, but last season, an elite Buffalo defense took care of business against a horrendous Jets offense. In their two contests, the Bills gave up a combined 29 points and 494 total yards of offense, sacking Sam Darnold a total of five times and forcing two turnovers.

The Bills’ D/ST only had one touchdown last season, but the 23 forced turnovers and 51 sacks were more than respectable. This is a high-floor option.

Chill – New York Jets (@ BUF)

Nice transition, right? Jamal Adams is gone, but I don’t think that’ll make this unit bad after they were seventh in total defense last season. More importantly for this game, they locked down the Bills’ offense in both of their 2019 contests. 

One of those was in Week 17 when the Bills were resting most of their starters, but in last year’s Week 1 matchup, Gang Green forced four turnovers and gave up just 17 points. The Bills aren’t going to have any prolific offense this year, so the Jets are a good option for that D/ST slot.