- Under-the-radar starters who can help fantasy owners get a win in Week 1.
All but the luckiest fantasy owners at some point need to find the proverbial diamond in the rough—a waiver-wire or bench player capable of putting up some points in a pinch. This weekly feature is dedicated to that part of fantasy football. It's not pretty, but it's part of the game.
A good way to identify a potential spot start is to leverage 4for4’s signature strength-of-schedule metric, adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA). Many sites publish raw fantasy points allowed by position, but 4for4 goes a step further and adjusts those numbers for a defense’s relative year-to-date schedule strength. So if a defense has seen a murderer’s row of running backs, it will be reflected in the defense’s aFPA. As a ranker, I use this metric weekly when putting together our award-winning projections.
Tyrod Taylor, Browns (vs. Steelers)
In 44 games over the last three seasons, Taylor has averaged 17.5 fantasy points per game, which would have been good enough to be the No. 8 per-game average in 2017. Last season, the Steelers were on the stingy side against the pass, but the matchup is at home and Taylor has arguably the best receiving corps of his career. He gets 31% of his fantasy points as a runner, so that should raise his floor.
James Conner, Steelers (at Browns)
At press time, Le’Veon Bell has still not rejoined the team, and indications are that he’ll report on Saturday at the earliest. If that’s the case, it would make it very tough for Bell to see a big role in Week 1. That means Conner will likely carry the load. He looked good in the preseason, turning 19 carries into 100 yards (5.3 YPC) and a touchdown. He also added seven catches for 61 yards.
Mike Gillislee, Saints (vs. Buccaneers)
Jonathan Williams was supposed to play the Mark Ingram role while Ingram serves his four-game suspension, but the Saints cut him (and Boston Scott) and signed Gillislee once he was let go by the Patriots. Now, it appears that Gillislee will fill the “big back” role in the New Orleans offense in September. If that’s the case, he’s going to have RB2/flex appeal in the short term.
Kenny Stills, Dolphins (vs. Titans)
DeVante Parker is out, so Stills should see a heavy workload, and that bodes well. In the 10 games last season where Stills saw at least six targets, he averaged 4.5 catches for 73 yards and 0.4 touchdowns (on 8.5 targets per game). Ryan Tannehill didn’t play last season, so if those splits are extended to 2016, Stills averaged 4.6-76-0.6 in the five games where he saw at least six targets from Tannehill. The Titans were middle of the pack against the pass last year. Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson are good dart throws this week, as well.
For all of John's Week 1 Sneaky Starts, click here.
Chris Godwin, Buccaneers (at Saints)
Godwin enters the season as a “co-starter” with DeSean Jackson, so he should see a significant uptick in snaps. As a rookie, in the five games where he played at least 50% of the snaps, he averaged 4.2 catches for 73 yards and 0.2 touchdowns on 7.2 targets per game. He played mostly on the right side last year, so if that continues, he’ll line up opposite the Saints’ most burnable corner, Ken Crawley, for most of Week 1.
Ben Watson, Saints (vs. Buccaneers)
The last time Watson played with the Saints, he posted 74 catches for 825 yards and six touchdowns on 110 targets. While he’s unlikely to reach those numbers again, Watson will be an intriguing streaming option whenever he’s healthy.