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Preseason is in the books, 53-man rosters are set and Week 1 is a go! Fantasy owners have spent all off-season debating players, evaluating draft strategies and agonizing over injury loss of their favorite sleeper. The wait is finally over, this the moment of the year all fantasy owners live for, the dawn of a new NFL football season. Let’s get started.
Each week QBList will be ranking the three major IDP positions for fantasy football. You will find matchups to exploit, advanced analytics by position and each article will highlight trends, player usage changes and position battles to pay attention to. For the opening weekend, it’s best to stick to your draft boards and trust the evaluations you made pre-season. While I do feel strongly about certain matchups weekly, the start of the season is even more difficult for IDP owners because we don’t know yet how coaches will deploy players in sub packages. This will be key to informing our seasons moving forward as volume and snap counts are key. This week I will look at matchups I love and in Week 2 we can dig into what we learned from the start of the season.
Defensive Lineman Notes
- I have Demarcus Lawrence, the War Daddy, as the top defender this week. He might not have a better matchup all year. Matt Kalil has been a below average tackle for years now and when you combined this with Cam Newton‘s propensity to hold on to the ball, I expect D-Law to have a big game.
- Right behind him is Miles Garrett. Garrett doesn’t have a particularly good matchup, in fact, he is going up against a strong offensive line. However, Garrett is my sleeper for defensive player of the year and I have a feeling he shows out in his first home game after a strong offseason program.
- I also love Trey Flowers this week. Houston has an awful line and Flowers is poised for a breakout year. Flowers has one double-digit sack season in his young career but still has only generated pressure on less than 8% of his rush attempts. If he can bring this number in line with more of the elite rushers in the game he shoots up in value and I expect him to reach that. Week 1 is a great matchup for him.
- Frank Clark should be started in all formats this week. He has an excellent matchup in Denver and he should see a big uptick in snaps now that his path to playing time is clear. Clark is immensely talented and he’s a player how has shown he can convert pressure to sacks. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him lead the league in sacks and the matchup is favorable.
- I am rooting for Randy Gregory. He finds his way into this week’s rankings based on his preseason showings. No one knows what will happen next but he’s a player you should find a way to get into your lineups each week until we can’t anymore.
- Linebacker is very much unchanged from our preseason rankings. Until we get through a week of play and analyze snap counts we won’t really know where the value is. Defensive Backs are in a similar situation.
- I really like Blake Martinez this week. He’s playing on a national stage, at home and his matchup is in the top 5 for fantasy points allowed to the LB position.
- I’ll be keeping an eye on several young players this week: Roquan Smith, Jarrad Davis, and Tremaine Edmunds. Davis has a great matchup this week but we saw him fade midseason. I’ll be watching to see if he can transform this defense into a weekly force we will feel comfortable starting. Smith and Edmunds are the top rookies but in very different situations. Edmunds is one of the younger players in the league, he can’t even leagally buy a beer yet. His snap count will tell us a great deal about where Buffalo feels he is in his development. With the news of a Khalil Mack headed to the Windy City, Smith is going under the radar. Having a star to take the pressure off of him could lead to big things.
- I may be too low on Alec Ogletree this week but that is only because he’s never been a force in the run game. He has the best matchup from fantasy points allowed to the position this week but he is headed to a new team. He will be a bit higher in these rankings next week vs Dallas should he show out.
- One other situation I will be reviewing Monday is Kansas City and Anthony Hitchens. All indications are this defense will be awful and I expect Hitchens to take advantage of this deficiency. He could have a break-out season and Week 1 may be the precursor to a strong season.
Defensive Back Notes
- IDP defensive back is a crazy place. Yes, we have consistent every week starters but we also have rookie corners who show out simply because they are targetted relentlessly, injuries that propel an unknown safety into the weekly spotlight and the volatility of turnovers. Each week I will look to find players you can target off the waiver to secure your playoff spot.
- I think I will be paying the most attention this week to how Houston deploys Tyrann Mathieu. The Honey Badger could make a return to his top DB status or he could be deployed in a way that isn’t very productive for our fantasy teams. He’s an electric player who I expect to be a solid player for the year, while healthy. On paper, the Texans look like a force but I still have plenty of questions, especially at linebacker and corner. But if everything clicks, he can be a top defensive back yet again.
- One situation that I will be keeping an eye on is in Pittsburgh. Morgan Burnett and Sean Davis man the middle this year but snap counts will tell us which player holds the most value this year. Ranks will change based on usage and skill packages.
- Finally, Earl Thomas doesn’t make the list this week but it’s not from lack of skill. After missing the entire preseason and rumors of a big trade to a rival, we don’t yet know how he will perform early in the year. Be cautious starting Thomas until he gets into game shape.