Fantasy NFL Week 1: Le'Veon doesn't answer the Bell so step up James Connor
In a new weekly column for betting.betfair, our fantasy expert Neil Monnery runs the rule over who to bench and who to pick up ahead of your week one match-ups...
With the Le'Veon Bell situation still up in the air at the time of writing, if you have the dynamic Steelers running back then picking up James Conner seems to be a slam dunk.
In my fantasy NFL draft on Sunday, I went down and got Deshaun Watson. In week one he faces a New England defence bedding in a new coordinator following the departure of Matt Patricia in the off season. With the former Clemson Tiger back to full fitness, I like him to have a big season.
His last outing before his injury was a thrilling 402 yards display at Seattle. Maybe I've just been intoxicated by that. However with the likes of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller V to throw the ball deep to, he could be in for a big day.
Two other players who I think outperform their rankings on opening weekend are Andy Dalton and Philip Rivers. Both have been around for an awfully long time but the former looked strong in preseason and faces a dicey Indianapolis defence where as the latter takes on a revamped Chiefs D that no-one is sure of.
He was dire against them in both games last season but the turnover on that side of the ball in Kansas City has been quite breathtaking. I would expect them to take time to bed in.
A couple of big dislikes this week includes Andrew Luck. Until he has shown himself to be healthy and somewhere near his pre-injury best, it is best to park his behind on the bench. For Jimmy Garoppolo it is primarily based on his opponent. Unless you have the likes of Brady or Rodgers, taking on the Minnesota D is a tough ask.
With the Le'Veon Bell situation still up in the air at the time of writing, if you have the dynamic Steelers running back then picking up James Conner seems to be a slam dunk. Even if Bell returns to practice, there is no guarantee that he'll be ready for the first game. One to monitor closely as game time draws near.
Elsewhere the rookie running back who may surprise isn't Saquon Barkley but more Royce Freeman. The Broncos have announced that the former Oregon Duck will get the start and has shown he's the best back on their roster throughout preseason. It looks likely he'll play all three downs and against the decimated Seahawks, a chance to really get his career off to a good start.
If you are going to be Tom Brady's top target then it stands to reason that you'll be a fine fantasy prospect. Chris Hogan is priced up and being taken as a WR2 in a lot of drafts and that is crazily late.
Having only spent a year playing football having spent his collegiate career on a Lacrosse scholarship at Penn State, the 30 year-old has bounced around but found a home in New England. TB12 trusts him as a deep threat and this should be his breakout year. He went for 128 yards and a Touchdown in the Super Bowl.
This might be the year that New Orleans finds out that they are allowed to actually play defence. However I wouldn't be putting the mortgage on that just yet. This week they face Tampa Bay who have three good players at this position who could bring in a huge haul of points. Mike Evans is being drafted early but both DaeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin are out there on waiver wires. Grab the latter over the former if possible.
Tyler Eifert is the man who provides value at this position this week. Injuries have slowed him down recently but when healthy, he's been a touchdown hog and one of Andy Dalton's most trusted receivers in the end zone. The Colts defence isn't to be respected and the Bengals QB looked impressive in preseason. A must target for anyone struggling in that position.
One player not to rush out and grab however is Antonio Gates. The 38 year-old has returned to the Chargers following the season-ending injury to Hunter Henry. In his pomp, Gates was one of the very best but age has been catching up with him for a while. He has the name recognition but that is about it.
Defence & Special Teams
Outside the likes of the Jaguars, Vikings and the Rams, this position is a mix and match one. Taking on rookie or inexperienced Quarterbacks is always a good place to start. With Sam Darnold making his first NFL start on Sunday, picking up Matt Patricia's Detroit Lions D/ST seems like a very wise investment.
Nathan Pederman has won the starting job in Buffalo and memories of his five interception first half against the Chargers last year are all too fresh in the mind. His takes on the Ravens defence on Sunday and the outcome is unlikely to be pretty.