1. Carson Palmer, QB (Arizona Cardinals)
Quarterback Carson Palmer starts the year with one of the easiest schedules in the NFL for quarterbacks. He plays Week 1 at the Detroit Lions, who last year were ranked 30th overall in points given up to quarterbacks according to ESPN. Carson Palmer may not have been drafted in smaller leagues, but if you were one of the many who drafted Andrew Luck late, Carson would be a great fill in since Luck has already been ruled out Week 1.
2. Christian McCaffrey, RB (Carolina Panthers)
Starting a rookie running back may be considered risky in Week 1, but in this case you shouldn’t worry about starting Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey is slated to play the 32nd ranked defense in points given up to running backs. The 49ers were abysmal last year defending the run, even allowing Carolina backup running back Fozzy Whittaker to eclipse 100 yards for the first time ever in his 4 year career. He doesn’t need his own section here, but Jonathan Stewart may also be a good start in Week 1.
3. Stefon Diggs, WR (Minnesota Vikings)
This may come as a surprise, but quarterback Sam Bradford broke the single season record for pass completion percentage last year with a 71.6%. Bradford may not be the flashiest quarterback to own in fantasy, but he definitely is accurate. And this, paired with the fact that the Vikings open their season at home vs the 25th ranked defense (NO Saints) in points given up to wide receivers in 2016, is why Stefon Diggs is a start in Week 1. Diggs had 111 targets last year, and should start this year with plenty more to compete with the Saints’ massive passing attack.
4. Zach Ertz, TE (Philadelphia Eagles)
The last time Philadelphia Eagles’ tight end Zach Ertz faced the Washington Redskins he caught 10 of 13 targets for 112 yards. Another year of built up chemistry with 2nd year quarterback Carson Wentz means fantasy owners should look for the young QB to target his TE early and often in Week 1. The Redskins also ranked 27th in points given up to tight ends last season. With wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey being a newcomer and the departure of Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz is the most senior target on the Eagles.
5. Los Angeles Rams, DEF
Let’s be honest; the LA Rams were not the most prolific defense in the NFL in 2016, ranking 23rd overall in points allowed per game. However the Rams signed and drafted a lot of defensive players, so hopefully they turned their focus a bit more on the defense. The main reason the Rams are listed here is due to their Week 1 matchup against the Luck-less Indianapolis Colts. The Colts are playing in LA and bringing along their offense that seems to be in disarray. Quarterback Scott Tolzien has been serviceable in the past, but look for him to make some costly mistakes that the Rams defense can cash in on.
1. Dak Prescott, QB (Dallas Cowboys)
Quarterback Dak Prescott hopes to build and improve on his impressive rookie season in 2016, but faces a difficult task in Week 1 against division rival New York Giants. The Giants have had an increasingly better defense over the last few seasons, and gave up the 2nd fewest points to quarterbacks last year. In two games against the Giants last season, Prescott combined for 392 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. He only added 13 yards (0 touchdowns) on the ground over the 2 games as well. The only positive in this matchup is that it’s in Dallas. Stream another quarterback if possible.
2. LeGarrette Blount, RB (Philadelphia Eagles)
Philadelphia Eagles’ running back LeGarrette Blount is coming off an unheard of 18 touchdown season with the New England Patriots. The most he had previously? 7. Blount is already primed to regress hard, and the Eagles’ offense is not as high powered as the Patriots’. Blount gets the Redskins in Week 1 (gave up 6th most points to RBs), so where there is hope, Blount is coming off an abysmal preseason and is in a running back group that is still uncertain on who will start or even get the most carries. Look elsewhere for Week 1 running backs.
3. Keenan Allen, WR (Los Angeles Chargers)
Once again we find ourselves with a healthy Keenan Allen, excited to start another season in hopes he doesn’t repeat the last two years (kidney laceration and ACL tear, respectively). Fantasy owners have been excited about his return, drafting him in the middle of the 3rd round even though he hasn’t played a full season in 3 years. Unfortunately, the Chargers face the best defense in the NFL over the last few years: the Denver Broncos. The Broncos gave up the least amount of points to WRs last season. It doesn’t help that this game is in Denver as well. Fantasy owners should hold their excitement for Allen for one more week.
4. Martellus Bennett, TE (Green Bay Packers)
Fantasy owners, especially in Wisconsin, have been very excited about the signing of tight end Martellus Bennett. Bennett’s fantasy owners may have to wait another week to see the benefit however, since the Packers take on a top 5 Seattle Seahawks defense. Seattle gave up the 4th fewest points to the tight end position in 2016, so quarterback Aaron Rodgers may look elsewhere in Week 1.
5. Kansas City Chiefs, DEF
The Kansas City Chiefs have had a great defense the last few years, enough to be drafted as the 3rd overall defense according to 2017 ADP. However they have arguably the worst Week 1 opponent in the NFL: the New England Patriots. This game is in Foxborough as well, and the Chiefs will not only have to cover the newcomer Brandin Cooks, but a healthy Rob Gronkowski. If you have another option at defense, this may be a week you look to use it.