By: Jesse A. Cook (Executive Managing Sports Editor)
With quarterbacks retiring, wide receivers holding out, and key members of various defenses being suspended on their family’s cocaine charges, everything has question marks heading into the regular season. Here are some fantasy picks that are not questionable:
BEST PICK OVERALL:
I wish I could put Saquon Barkley as the top pick every week, but in journalism, variety is good. The New York Giants have no sure things when it comes to the quarterback position, so they will be going to the run game whenever possible.
Barkley is ranked number 1 overall by E.S.P.N., Yahoo, and N.F.L. Fantasy. He is projected to produce 23.1 points on E.S.P.N. and 20.98 points on Yahoo. That 23.1 points on E.S.P.N. sets him as the most productive player in the National Football League in Week One.
The Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson is playing against a weak Miami Dolphins defense. Jackson can run and the Dolphins allowed 3.9 yards per carry during the preseason and they allowed the ninth-most rushing touchdowns per game at four.
Additionally, Willie Snead IV and Nick Boyle can be sweet offensive assets, so watch for Jackson to get some points tossing lobs to Snead IV down the sideline and bullets to Boyle up the middle. E.S.P.N. is projecting Jackson to pick up a solid 18.9 points, but Yahoo sets Jackson up for a 20.2 point week.
Joe Mixon of the Cincinnati Bengals is going to have a solid season, especially because the Bengals will be without two of their top receivers, A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, for most of the season, including Week One. With a shaky situation at quarterback with Andy Dalton, look for Mixon to get a lot of carries.
Sure he’s running up against a strong Seattle Seahawks defense, but Seattle surrendered the 12th-worst in the league rushing yards per game during the preseason, 110.3 yards per game. E.S.P.N. projects the Seahawks to gain 4.7 fantasy points (eighth-worst in the league), which gives the Bengals an edge. Mixon is projected to produce an 11th-best in the league 16.2 fantasy points on E.S.P.N. and a 10th-best in the league 14.6 fantasy points on Yahoo.
If he can kick off the year with eight 100-yard games last year, the Minnesota Vikings’ Adam Thielen should be able to give your team a good run in Week One. He’s playing the Atlanta Falcons who are projected to be roughly middle of the pack during Week One, but Vikings’ quarterback Kirk Cousins was slinging during the preseason, tossing for 168 yards over limited playing time, completing for one touchdown pass, and throwing zero interceptions. E.S.P.N. projects Thielen to record 15.2 fantasy points and Yahoo sees him as producing 14.67 fantasy points.
Chris Godwin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is another dark horse pick, but with Mike Evans playing beside him, the brunt of the Dallas Cowboys defense will be sent at Evans, leaving a lot of single coverage situations for Godwin. Jameis Winston is not exactly an all-pro quarterback but count on Godwin getting open. E.S.P.N. is setting him as producing 12.6 fantasy points, Yahoo has him for 11.25.
Hunter Henry of the Los Angeles Chargers is playing the projected tenth-worst in the league Indianapolis Colts. Sure, Philip Rivers can be a little interception-prone, but he is pretty reliable when it comes to throwing for big yards in a game, and Henry will definitely catch a lot of his passes this week.
E.S.P.N. projects Henry to earn 10.0 points this week and Yahoo projects him to earn 10.51.
Gotta go with someone from the first game of the year, so Allen Robinson II of the Chicago Bears is a good pick at flex. He is going to be Mitchell Trubisky’s top target and the Green Bay Packers are ranked as the fifth-worst defense in the league. They allowed the sixth-most total yards per game in the entire league during the preseason.
Robinson II is a veteran player on a team with a strong offense and he is going to be the leader of their receiving squad. E.S.P.N. is giving him 12.4 points, 10.42 on Yahoo.
I told you to watch for Lamar Jackson and he is vitally important here. Anytime a quarterback is firing on all cylinders, his kicker is going to have plenty of opportunities to make his mark, so here comes the operatic.
Justin Tucker is a safe bet at kicker and the Ravens are going to walk all over Miami. He’s projected to produce second-best nine points on E.S.P.N. and 10.01 points on Yahoo.
This is a risk, but the Buffalo Bills have a flaky New York Jets offense and could churn up some good numbers. E.S.P.N. sets the Bills as producing 6.7 points, setting them at the projected sixth-best defense in the league during Week One. The Jets’ quarterback Sam Darnold is really hit or miss, and I guess he’ll really miss, huh.
Darnold looked alright during the preseason, completing 68.0% of his passes and throwing zero interceptions. That is good and all, but the Bills will show up with a professional defense, not an untested practice squad you might see in the preseason.