The opening week of the NFL season is the worst week to try and make broad, statistics-based opinions for fantasy football. We can only look back at games from last year or statistics gleaned from preseason football games. Neither of these are particularly useful, but they are the starting point we all have. Here are some players to watch in Week 1 as you line up your fantasy football team against your opponent.
We will start with the many fantasy valuable players going forward in the Packers-Jaguars game starting Sunday at noon and then move into a broader base (because even the most hardened Packers fan must also have players from other teams on their roster).
Packers vs. Jaguars
Aaron Rodgers, GB, QB
The biggest issue is that Rodgers does better at home and Jacksonville in September is the time when you do not want to face the Jaguars. Still, the Jaguars addressed their defense in the offseason, adding Prince Amukamara and Malik Jackson then drafting Jalen Ramsey. Most of this was due to the Jaguars finishing with the fourth worst passing defense in football. The Packers are going to want to score and Rodgers is a no brainer. If you have him you start him.
Blake Bortles, Jax, QB
The darling of the offseason fantasy world, Bortles looked very good last year, but the thing going against him is the Packers had the sixth-best pass defense last year and brings back three of the top four cornerbacks. It might be hard to not start Bortles because you likely do not have a better option if you drafted Bortles, but you might be able to grab Kirk Cousins against the Steelers in D.C. The Steelers were the third-worst pass defense and they have an offense that will encourage Washington to throw.
Eddie Lacy, GB, RB
Jaguars were rather middle of the pack in run defense, but added Malik Jackson. Eddie Lacy has not done anything real just yet. The ADP on Lacy jumped as the preseason went on so it is possible you over-drafted Lacy unless you drafted pretty early in the preseason. Eddie Lacy should start off as an RB2 this week so hopefully you have someone else. Lacy has some high upside this week, but there is risk.
T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory, Jax, RBs
Steer clear entirely. You can run on the Packers, at least based on 2015, but who gets a majority of the carries? Yeldon might get more yards, but Ivory seems primed to get goal line carries. One might be very valuable, but good luck guessing which one.
Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, GB, WR
Cobb will be back to being the WR2, and oddly, that makes him more valuable. Jordy is a sure start, but there is always the risk involved that you did not see him go at game speed once this preseason. You start them both if you have them.
Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, Jax, WRs
Allen Robinson is a sure start, every week. He is a target monster. He is going to get his looks regardless of the defense. Hurns is more a second option and a bigger drop off than Cobb. Stay away this week is you have Sterling Shepard or Michael Crabtree (or can get them yet in your league).
The Rest of the League
Derek Carr, Oakland, QB
Carr gets to play a defense the was the second worst pass defense in the league last year. Now, this is a road game, but the Saints will be throwing all day and the Raiders will too. Carr will get a chance to roll Cooper and Crabtree out against a team that will give up yards.
Latavius Murray, Oakland, RB
Same thing because, oddly, the Saints were the second worst run defense as well.
Dak Prescott, Dallas, QB
This is an "if you are desperate" matter. Prescott gets to play the Giants and they were the worst pass defense in the league last year and also lost Prince Amukamara, while adding rookie Eli Apple. Cowboys also give the young rookie a home game to start things off.
Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland, RB
The Eagles has the worst rush defense in the NFL last year and they did nothing to address this other than resign Fletcher Cox. A road game might not help, but Hue Jackson has the touch when it comes to running backs. Look for Crowell to be the hammer of the running game with Duke Johnson being the pass catchers/change of pace. Not an every week starter, but looks good in a streaming roll this week.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit, QB
So the Colts were bottom ten in both passing defense and rushing defense last year and all they did in the first three rounds of the draft was pick up a safety, T.J. Green out of Clemson (while drafting a center and an offensive tackle). Stafford might not be a great pure quarterback, but he will throw a bunch. The Colts will likely score and the Lions will have to put up points too.