Week 1 Quarterback Sleepers: Playing the Matchup Game
It’s Week 1, everybody! We finally made it! Time to take all that preseason research and put it to good use. To show the world how smart you are and get off to a fast start on your way to the championship. The best way to accomplish this is to unleash your Week 1 quarterback sleepers on your unsuspecting opponent.
Virtually every NFL team’s starting quarterback will enter Week 1 at close to perfect health. But there are still sleepers to be had. There are plenty of quarterbacks who were drafted as QB2 options or worse, but who will fare much better than that this week.
Week 1 Quarterback Sleepers
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions v. New York Jets
Matthew Stafford was drafted 11th among quarterbacks, so most already consider him starter-worthy. But for those thinking about sitting him in Week 1, think again. Stafford should have plenty of time in the pocket to pick apart a Jets’ defense without much of a pass rush.
The Lions have a suspect running game, but Stafford has plenty of weapons with Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay. Stafford has massive upside on Monday night against the Jets, who allowed 30 passing touchdowns last season, tied for second-most in the NFL. Stafford also has the benefit of playing this game at home, where he had a 17:3 TD: INT ratio last season. I think Stafford can finish Week 1 as a top-five fantasy quarterback.
Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers v. Kansas City Chiefs
Philip Rivers had an ADP of QB14 this preseason, but he will be a top-10 fantasy quarterback this weekend when the Chargers face the Kansas City Chiefs. Kansas City’s defense has been absolutely torched in the preseason. While it is not always wise to put much stock into these results, Kansas City also finished 28th in total defense and allowed the fourth-most passing yards last season. This was before trading away cornerback Marcus Peters and releasing longtime linebacker Derrick Johnson in the offseason. Peters is a ballhawk who intercepted Rivers three times last year, so his absence should increase Rivers‘ confidence level in this matchup. Rivers should be able to pick apart the weakened Chiefs’ secondary in Week 1.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts
Andy Dalton was an afterthought in most fantasy drafts. He was selected 30th among quarterbacks, including being drafted behind two players who aren’t even starting Week 1! His draft stock suggests he should come with a “use only in case of emergency” label, but he has been a solid fantasy performer throughout his career. This weekend he heads to the Lucas Oil Dome to face the Indianapolis Colts. While the return of Andrew Luck will get the headlines, Dalton figures to shine in this matchup. Indianapolis allowed an NFL-worst 8.0 yards per attempt in 2017, and their secondary doesn’t figure to be much better this year. Dalton is not a sexy option (unless you have a thing for redheads), but he has a real chance to be a QB1 this week, and he’s probably the most available player of the Week 1 quarterback sleepers.
Tyrod Taylor, Cleveland Browns v. Pittsburgh Steelers
Though Taylor’s draft slot was depressed due to concerns over Baker Mayfield usurping the Browns’ starting quarterback job, those worries have since been alleviated. This makes Taylor an ideal season-long quarterback sleeper, as well as a solid sleeper pick for Week 1. Taylor does an excellent job of avoiding turnovers and making plays with his legs. These traits limit his weekly downside, but Taylor has considerable upside as well. With Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon, Taylor has two go-to receivers to go along with tight end David Njoku and running backs Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson. Taylor looks to lead his new team to an upset victory against their division rivals. I think this game has sneaky shootout potential and I envision Taylor having a big day statistically. I believe Taylor has a real shot at 15 Fantasy points in this one, which would put him in the QB1 conversation.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins
Mariota was drafted just 17th among quarterbacks, so he is likely to be considered a bench player in most leagues. However, I think he will get off to a fast start in the season-opener against Miami. The Dolphins’ defense is suspect, and Tennessee has a new offensive mastermind in Matt LaFleur. LaFleur has spent the last two seasons with Atlanta and the Los Angeles Rams, respectively. In each of those two seasons, the quarterbacks (Matt Ryan and Jared Goff) took massive steps forward. I expect a similar leap from Mariota, and it begins in Week 1 in Miami. With the recent removal of Rishard Matthews from the PUP list, Mariota should have his full complement of weapons in this game, making him one of my favorite Week 1 Quarterback Sleepers.
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