The fantasy football season is finally here. Preseason is over, most drafts are wrapped up, and rosters are just about finalized. Now we look ahead to the games that matter, and start playing the matchups. Welcome to Week 1.
For the most part, you’ll want to stick to your drafted lineup this early in the year. The season opener is not the time to get cute or try out weird experiments. With that said, you will want to keep a heavy eye on the waiver wire, which will come into play much earlier than you might expect.
We’re already seeing some injury implications in Week 1, particularly at the quarterback position. Andrew Luck is almost certainly out, while Tyrod Taylor is still in the concussion protocol. Fantasy owners can’t count on those players right away, so they’ll have to make some adjustments. Here are the best available options, owned in 50 percent or less of Yahoo! fantasy leagues.
Jay Cutler, Miami Dolphins (32 percent)
At age 34, Cutler is always going to have his bad habits, but his aggressive play could be a nice change of pace for the Dolphins after years of Ryan Tannehill’s risk-averse style. Fantasy owners who use him will have to put up with the mistakes and turnovers, but if healthy, Cutler will offer streaming appeal more weeks than not. His first Dolphins game is against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week.
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs (18 percent)
Smith’s fantasy ceiling has been well-established by now. He’s barely usable in standard 12-team leagues and even two-QB owners will be hard-pressed to get excited about him. He also has Patrick Mahomes looking over his shoulder this season. Smith won’t be starting in many leagues, but he has occasional upside, such as this Thursday night’s opener with the New England Patriots. If there was a week for Smith to take chances and keep up with Tom Brady, this is the time.
Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings (18 percent)
Bradford has settled in as the Vikings’ version of Smith — you’ll never be excited to start him but will rarely regret it. Minnesota could double down on the run game with Dalvin Cook this year, which would significantly reduce Bradford’s ceiling. That said, a quarterback who racks up empty yards and avoids mistakes (five interceptions) is useful in deeper leagues. Bradford also has a friendly matchup with the New Orleans Saints, an opener with shootout potential in a dome.
Brian Hoyer, San Francisco 49ers (13 percent)
We’ve been down this road with Hoyer before. He has stretches of competence before a massive meltdown, but can be a surprising fantasy asset during those hot stretches. In Kyle Shanahan’s offense, Hoyer probably won’t do anything more complicated than hand off to Carlos Hyde and target Pierre Garcon a million times, which is fine for a rebuilding offense. He’s a last-minute dart throw option with the Carolina Panthers first on deck.