Our Week 1 sleepers features under-the-radar players that are not being started in a majority of fantasy football leagues. These players could produce good fantasy numbers this week due to a favorable matchup, injury, or other circumstances. With that in mind, here are our top fantasy football sleepers for Week 1.
Big Ben is not your typical sleeper caliber candidate, but he’s a fringe Top 10 NFL QB. With Martavis Bryant back in the wide receiving corps to accompany arguably the best wide out in the game in Antonio Brown, this offense is as potent as any in the league. In addition, Le’Veon Bell was able to steer clear of the Roger Goodell’s ignorance towards the medicinal benefits of cannibus and avoided another start to the season suspension. Expect some play-action roll outs to Bell out of the backfield. The Steelers offense should be ready to roll in this inter-division match up with the Browns. While the Browns should be an improved bunch this season this defense could be victimized many times by Big Ben’s accurate arm Sunday. Don’t sleep on Ben and the Steelers’ offensive weapons this Sunday.
Mariota was a popular sleeper draft pick according to fantasy experts coming into this season. Mariota should start delivering on those expectations out of the gate in this home matchup against Oakland. The Raiders have a solid run defense anchored by Khalil Mack, so while the Titans strength is their O-line and pounding the football on the ground, they will be forced to put the ball in the air. Mariota should be up to the task to do damage to the Raiders secondary with his arm and his legs. Athleticism is not something Mariota lacks and while he’s a risk to last all 16 games this season, he should start 2017 on a good foot.
Raise your hand if you are all in this season on Carolina’s No. 1 draft pick. Yes, McCaffrey will be a breakout star in the Panthers’ offense this season. He has the speed (4.4 40 yard dash), vision and versatility that make him every fantasy football player’s dream as a pass catching running back in any PPR league. Expect him to line up in the backfield with Jonathan Stewart and even out of the slot receiver position, just like when in a blink of the eye he took a slant route to the house in the Rose Bowl against Iowa. The San Francisco 49ers welcome a new season under the general management of John Lynch. While he was a defensive stud in his prime, his team is far from star-studded on that side of the ball. Look for the new look Panthers to get out to fast start with their new speedster running back in McCaffrey.
The Vikings long-term replacement for Adrian Peterson is Dalvin Cook. Make no mistake about it, the signing of Latavius Murray does not change that at all. As long as Cook avoids the fumbles, drops and missed blocks he should be on the field for goal line situations and enough in a run-heavy offense to put up big numbers. When you think about playing New Orleans you don’t think about defense. Monday night should be no different. Get accustomed to the fine Cooking for Minnesota this season.
The sophomore slump is over for Gurley. The Rams’ second season with Goff under center should produce much better results for the offense as a whole. The expectation is that Goff will improve from his rookie struggles last season, which should produce less than a seven in the box defensive front centered on stopping the running game. Gurley showcased his talent as a rookie and his third season should be a throwback to 2015 instead of a repeat of 2016. Indianapolis’ defense is not the same as it was when Peyton Manning was the sheriff in town. The Colts gave up at least 100 yards rushing in 10 games last season. This should be the start of their first time with an opponent eclipsing that milestone. Gurley has big-time sleeper potential in Week 1.
Have you heard about the Redskins mass exodus at the wide-receiver position from last season? Insert Jamison Crowder into an expanded role in a pass-heavy offense under Jay Gruden’s game plan to have Kirk Cousins air it out. Crowder showed his potential as a big-time pass catcher last season when defenses focused on DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed (when healthy). Crowder should become a safety valve for Captain Kirk, a Santana Moss type of play maker, who regularly sees a healthy amount of targets. There will be new faces with the likes of Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson joining the offense. Crowder is one of the most experienced receivers in this offense and Cousins will trust him to make big plays this season.
The undrafted second year receiver out of Temple will start the season as the New York Jets’ No. 1 receiver. He sounds like a no-name that’s migrated up the depth chart due to the Jets’ attrition and Enunwa’s injury. The volume of targets will be there for Anderson, regardless of who the Jets waltz out as their starting QB. Josh McCown will be looking Robby’s way to get rid of the ball against the strong pass rush of the Bills. While Anderson is someone that your league might have slept on during the draft, he could be a solid pick up after Week 1 so grab him now.
New surroundings might be exactly what Maclin needs to find his groove again. In Kansas City’s offense Maclin was never the focal point he should have been with Andy Reid’s designed running game. In Baltimore, the Ravens have been starving for a reliable wide receiver and the retirement of Steve Smith Sr. should pave the way for Maclin to be the No. 1 guy in charm city. Flacco will start the season healthy and Maclin should be able to find ways to navigate through the Bengals secondary without a suspended Vontaze Burfict to deal with across the middle.
There’s a tight end in the Chargers’ offense not named Antonio Gates who has sleeper potential written all over him this season. Hunter Henry finished 2016 with eight touchdowns and has Philip Rivers’ trust when he’s being rushed out of the pocket. Speaking of which, the Chargers will be going against a staunch Bronco’s defensive front that should be applying plenty of pressure early and often to Rivers. So while saying the “Los Angeles” Chargers sounds extremely weird, Rivers to Henry should become a common theme season.
Eifert starts the season healthy, or as healthy as he can be for the first week and that means playing him in your lineup. Dalton loves finding Eifert around the red zone and using his tall frame to make those jump ball catches in the end zone. Touchdown Eifert was not a sleeper a couple of seasons ago, but this season coming off an injury riddled 2016, he should be back in the fold as a top tier tight end. Baltimore’s secondary cannot stop the athleticism of Eifert and expect the Bengals to exploit that on Sunday.
When picking your defense always, always, always consider the matchup. The New York Jets could be the worst team in NFL since the 2008 Detroit Lions went 1-15. We could look at last year’s Cleveland Browns team who was the worst in the NFL, but odds are that they were more competitive than this year’s Jets team looks to be this season. The Bills have a strong pass rush and McCown will be on his butt more often than not Sunday. McCown is a journeyman backup in the NFL and the Bills should have a good chance of making a couple of interceptions as well as a handful of sacks. Double-digit Defense/Special Teams points are in order for this sleeper.