Our long wait has ended. The seemingly interminable preseason is over. Week 1 has arrived. It’s time to plant our first flags of the regular season with our Week 1 rankings.
We’re going to do something a little different this season. Before getting into the weekly rankings this year, 4for4’s John Paulsen and I will have a quick series of debates about a few players on whom our rankings differ for the week ahead. Rankings are great, but you should have the thinking behind them, as well. We’ll give you that every week to help you make your decisions this season.
If you want just want to get straight to the rankings, they are immediately after the debates.
Matt Ryan, Falcons (Paulsen: QB17, Beller: QB11)
Paulsen: Despite my ranking, I’m not super down on Ryan this week. He plays pretty well on the road and all of his weapons are healthy, so he should produce decent numbers in Philly on Opening Night. However, the matchup isn’t good, so his ceiling seems low. Last season, the Eagles were 25th in fantasy points allowed per pass attempt, they yielded the third-lowest yards per attempt and were fifth in interceptions. Ryan offers next to nothing as a runner, so he’s not going to be able to score fantasy points if his receivers can’t get open.
Beller: For me, this comes down to a belief that the Falcons are going to win this game. Now, of course, quarterbacks can play poorly in a team win, especially from a fantasy perspective. I don’t think that’ll be the case on Thursday, though. Ryan’s a pretty clean quarterback, and he has the right weapons to counteract the Eagles’ strong YPA stats from a year ago. I like him as a low-end QB1 this week, and would roll with him confidently if I drafted him to be my regular starter.
Peyton Barber, Buccaneers (Paulsen: RB22, Beller: RB31)
Paulsen: Despite their improvements on defense, the Saints still yielded 4.4 yards per carry last year and gave up 11 rushing touchdowns. Barber is going to get the bulk of the touches after being named the starter during the preseason. He produced in that role last year, turning an average of 18.0 touches for 84 total yards in the final five games of last season, including 19 touches for 89 yards and a touchdown against the Saints in Week 17.
Beller: John, I totally hear what you’re saying on Barber handling a full workload against the Saints. Chances are if I drafted him, I’d be playing him this week. I just wouldn’t be all that confident. Again, this comes down to my expected game result, which is a comfortable Saints win. They’re favored by 9.5 points at press time, and I think the Buccaneers are going to struggle to keep it near that number, let alone within it. Barber is a fine player capable of holding off Ronald Jones all year, but game script is going to be his enemy in this one. The Buccaneers won that Week 17 game from last year that you mentioned. They’re not going to win on Sunday.
Robert Woods, Rams (Paulsen: WR29, Beller: WR39)
Paulsen: Woods posted a top 20 per game average and surprisingly became the clear No. 1 target for Jared Goff in 2017. Including the playoffs, he averaged 5.0 catches (on 7.6 targets) for 71 yards and 0.38 touchdowns per game. That works out to 14.4 PPR fantasy points, which would be good enough to finish in the top 12 when prorated over a full 16-game season. Yes, Brandin Cooks is likely to gobble up more targets than Sammy Watkins did, but a great Week 1 matchup against the Raiders means that fantasy points should be easy to come by.
Beller: I agree that the Week 1 matchup with the Raiders is a great one, and I don’t think Woods is a total stay-away. I just think there are more unknowns that most Woods or, for that matter, Cooper Kupp drafters want to admit. Look at what the Rams did with Brandin Cooks this year. They traded a first-round pick to get him, and then signed him to a huge extension before he played a down for the team. Forget about last season. This team is going to have more of a No. 1 than it did at any point last year, and it’s not going to be Woods or Kupp. That will bring down the weekly floor those two enjoyed last season.