I do not consider myself a fantasy football expert, or even someone who thinks they know more than the average person who is playing fantasy sports. To be honest, I can't tell you the last football league that I won or even made the finals in, and I have missed the playoffs in the last two seasons of the league that I am most focused on. I did beat my boss in Week 1 this year, but lost Dez Bryant in the process. Damn you Dez!
But what I am is a passionate fan of the sport of fantasy football. And yes I said sport when I described fantasy football. In my opinion, fantasy is the main reason that the NFL has become not only the number one sport in our country, but the one thing that everyone talks about and watches from the first game of the preseason to the Super Bowl and every game in between (except the Pro Bowl, there's no need for that game).
You don't have to be a huge fan of the sport to play fantasy football, but once you start playing, you will become an even bigger fan of the game and the certain players that you "own"... and those that your opponent "owns" as well. The game forces you to root against your favorite team and root for players on your most hated rivals. I'm a huge Green Bay Packers fan, but I have Martellus Bennett from the Chicago Bears on my fantasy team. Not only did I have to root for Bennett to get a lot of catches and score touchdowns, I had to root for him while he was facing my Packers. And I hate the Bears. Luckily the Packers were up two touchdowns late, and Bennett caught a late score that had nothing to do with the outcome of the game on the field but helped me out in my matchup.
I don't understand the people that either bash fantasy football or think it is pointless to play it. I equate the importance and relevance of fantasy football to the March Madness tournament in college basketball. Regardless of your knowledge of anything that has to do with college basketball, everyone fills out a bracket for that tournament, and most people put some kind of monetary wager on it, normally in office pools or online contests. You can watch college basketball from the first tip-off to the conference tournaments and lose to people who just picked teams based on where they are located, what their jerseys look like, or if their team mascots are animals or not. Yet no matter how good or bad you did last year, or how much you watch the sport, once March comes next year everyone will be filling out a bracket because it's fun and it's a competition.
Fantasy football is the same way. You can know little about the sport, you can only follow the 53 players on your favorite team, or you can know every player on every roster, and you have about the same odds of winning a random league. In my work league, we have made fun of the players that one owner has drafted for three straight seasons, including this year's draft. He went to the finals in the first season, he won the title in the second season, and he came up a few points short of winning last week, getting defeated by a team who put up the second-most points in our league. I don't want to brag but my team but up the most points in that league. But again I'm not an expert or anything.
The booming success of fantasy football, both in a traditional year-long league like the ones I am playing in and in the extremely popular weekly leagues run by Draft Kings or Fan Duel or other online sites, has a direct correlation to the growth of the NFL. Instead of rooting for one team, you are rooting for multiple teams every week. Instead of watching one game, you are watching multiple games, or you are watching the glorious invention of Red Zone, which is the best thing that has happened to sports broadcasts that I can remember. And instead of buying one tee shirt or jersey for one player, you can buy multiple garments from multiple teams, especially if that player guides you to a championship. If you think that last sentence is a bit overboard, you should look in my closet. I am not a San Diego Chargers fan, but LaDainian Tomlinson won me some money back in his prime years, and I definitely have his jersey in my collection.
Now you wouldn't want to go pick up a jersey or a tee shirt of a top fantasy performer after one week, because there is a good chance that they will not be able to replicate those terrific performances throughout a season. But these are your Week 1 leaders in fantasy points, and my non-expert opinion considering how likely it will be for them to duplicate those numbers in the coming weeks:
Tom Brady - 27 pts, Carson Palmer - 25 pts, Marcus Mariota - 24 pts, Tony Romo - 22 pts, Alex Smith - 22 pts, Aaron Rodgers - 22 pts
Andrew Luck - 17 pts (11th overall), Drew Brees - 16 pts (12th), Peyton Manning - 5 pts (32nd out of 34 QBs)
Brady, Romo, and Rodgers should all be consistently in the top of the fantasy rankings this year. Brady has the best tight end in football and a great offense surrounding him, Rodgers is the reigning league MVP with a terrific running back and solid receivers, and Romo was very impressive on Sunday night, looking calm in the pocket without forcing any crazy throws. Luck should bounce back soon as he dealt with a strong defense in Buffalo, although he will be missing his top target in T.Y. Hilton for a couple weeks. Mariota and Smith are candidates for one-hit wonders, as the Titans rookie will see much strong defenses and Kansas City will focus on the run game with Jamaal Charles. Manning and Brees could see their fantasy numbers drop off drastically from previous seasons, with the Saints focusing more on the run without Jimmy Graham and the Broncos offense looking very poor against a Ravens defense that lost Terrell Suggs last week.
Top Running Backs:
Standard Leagues: Carlos Hyde - 29 pts, Matt Forte - 22 pts, Chris Ivory - 21 pts, Bishop Sankey - 20 pts, Danny Woodhead - 18 pts, Jeremy Hill - 18 pts
PPR (Points Per Reception) Leagues: Carlos Hyde - 31 pts, Matt Forte - 27 pts, Chris Ivory - 22 pts, Bishop Sankey - 22 pts, Danny Woodhead - 22 pts, Jamaal Charles - 20 pts
Eddie Lacy - 15 pts (standard)/17 pts (PPR), Demarco Murray - 13 pts (standard)/17 pts (PPR), DeAngelo Williams - 12 pts (standard)/13 pts (PPR), Adrian Peterson - 5 pts (standard)/8 pts (PPR)
Hyde and Forte are poised to have huge seasons, with the Niners and the Bears focusing their offenses on the two backs. Charles, Lacy, and Ivory should be towards the top of the rankings every week, with all three backs picking up the large majority of carries in their first game. Williams has a shot to have another solid week this Sunday, but will be replaced by the suspended Le'Veon Bell in the starting lineup in Week 3. Woodhead is a valuable player in PPR leagues, as he has been a consistent pass-catcher for the Chargers when he has been healthy, but will probably not duplicate his rushing numbers from Week 1. Murray and Peterson struggled mightily, as Murray's numbers were only inflated with his two touchdowns (one rushing and one receiving). Darren Sproles and Ryan Matthews had more rushing yards for Philly, with Murray gaining just nine yards on the ground against the Falcons. Peterson had only 31 rushing yards against a strong Niners defense, but looked rusty and lacked explosiveness in his first game in almost one year.
Top Wide Receivers:
Standard Leagues: Julio Jones - 26 pts, DeAndre Hopkins - 23 pts, Antonio Brown - 19 pts, James Jones - 17 pts, Kendall Wright - 16 pts
PPR Leagues: Julio Jones - 35 pts, DeAndre Hopkins - 32 pts, Keenan Allen - 31 pts, Antonio Brown - 28 pts, James Jones - 21 pts
Julian Edelman - 9 pts (standard)/20 pts (PPR), Randall Cobb - 9 pts (standard)/14 pts (PPR), Alshon Jeffery - 7 pts (standard)/12 pts (PPR), Demaryius Thomas - 6 pts (standard)/13 pts (PPR), Odell Beckham Jr. - 4 pts (standard)/9 pts (PPR)
In standard leagues, touchdowns are do or die for receiving stats. Those players that hit the end zone like Julio and James Jones, along with Hopkins and Brown, are at the top of the standings. Julio, Hopkins, and Brown are consistent scorers and number one options on their teams. James Jones should be a solid play for at least a few more weeks, as Cobb is still dealing with a shoulder injury and was limited in his targets. Allen had a huge game, along with his teammate Stevie Johnson, picking up 15 catches for 166 yards without hitting the end zone. The Chargers fell behind quickly and had to throw the ball more, but that offense should be pass-friendly in all situations, with Allen poised for a breakout season. Jeffery is dealing with an injury, and with Matt Forte looking terrific in Week 1, the Bears may not look to throw as much as in recent years. There are big concerns with both Thomas and Beckham Jr., who were both high draft picks. Thomas' quarterback Peyton Manning played very poorly on Sunday, and Beckham was targeted eight times but just picked up 44 yards against an average secondary in Dallas. There is lots of potential for both Thomas and Beckham to turn it around in the coming weeks, but there is a lot of doubt surrounding both offenses after just one week of play.
Top Tight Ends:
Standard Leagues: Rob Gronkowski - 27 pts, Austin Seferian-Jenkins - 23 pts, Tyler Eifert - 22 pts, Travis Kelce - 22 pts, Jason Witten - 18 pts
PPR Leagues: Rob Gronkowski - 32 pts, Tyler Eifert - 31 pts, Travis Kelce - 28 pts, Austin Seferian-Jenkins - 28 pts, Jason Witten - 26 pts
Ladarius Green - 13 pts (standard)/18 pts (PPR), Jimmy Graham - 11 pts (standard)/17 pts (PPR), Greg Olsen - 1 pt (standard)/2 pts (PPR)
Tight ends were huge in Week 1, with Gronkowski scoring the second-most points overall in standard leagues (tied for second-most in PPR leagues). Gronk, Eifert, and Kelce could realistically put up 20+ points in any week, as they are clearly the red-zone option for their teams and have the potential to break off huge plays regardless of where the ball is on the field. Witten should get a huge bump in production now that Dez Bryant is out with a foot injury, as he clearly has the complete trust of his quarterback. Seferian-Jenkins had a great game with his new QB Jameis Winston in Week 1, but will get fewer looks once top receiver Mike Evans hits the field. Graham and Olsen should have stronger performances in the near future, with Graham settling in with his new team and Olsen surprisingly only targeted three times on Sunday. Green is a great add for the next three weeks while Antonio Gates is serving a suspension, and could see a boost in playing time even when the future Hall of Famer gets back into the lineup.
I hope you enjoyed my first fantasy football piece. Yes I know it was a little long I'll try to be less wordy in future posts. And in case you were wondering, fantasy football is always better than reality. Especially when you're a Chiefs fan. Hopefully you weren't a Chiefs fan and had Jamaal Charles on your fantasy roster. If so, I'm really sorry about last night.