Fantasy football drafts signal the annual rite of fall. The NFL season is nearly upon us, and it’s time to shake the pandemic blues, bust out your tablets, do your research and plunge head-on into fantasy football on ESPN.com. Matthew Berry’s Week 1 Love/Hate column is here, with players he loves and hates at each position. Check out Berry’s full rankings here.
The year was 2012, and I was working on my book “Fantasy Life.” The book was to be about all the things that make fantasy football great: the camaraderie, the trash talk, the draft-day traditions, the weird rules, the obsessive behavior, the incredible trophies. The things that make fantasy football so much more than just a silly hobby but rather a way of life, an insane passion that keeps us coming back no matter how cruel the fantasy gods may be to us on a given Sunday.
So as I was researching the book, I wanted to do something on punishments for last place. I thought this could be a huge hook for the book and was an area of fantasy football that really hadn’t gotten a lot of attention. Sure, some leagues had them, and the sitcom “The League” had introduced the “Sacko” award for last place in its second season. But still, it wasn’t a huge thing on social media or something that got a ton of discussion compared to other aspects of fantasy leagues.
After I asked for submissions of great fantasy stories, someone sent me an article I couldn’t believe. It was from a newspaper in Nebraska about a league in Omaha where the loser had to get a tattoo.
Like, a real, rest-of-your-life, permanent tattoo.
CHOSEN BY THE WINNER.
And I was floored.
Whoa. Now THAT’S A PUNISHMENT.
When I got in touch with the guys, they had done only the one tattoo, a unicorn jumping a rainbow. I interviewed them for the book and made a deal with them: If they would not share the second- and third-year photos anywhere and could hold off until I put them in the book, I promised I would do whatever I could to promote them.
Both of us stuck to our word. They saved tattoo No. 2 (a bunch of Care Bears, one of whom is “Tebowing”) and tattoo No. 3 (a picture of Justin Bieber with the words #YOLOSWAG and #FANTASYLOSER on it) for the book. And I mentioned these guys in every article and interview I did for the book.
I did a ton of press for the book, and I found that most hosts weren’t very familiar with fantasy sports. But everyone understood humiliation. So I would highlight all the great stories in the book about punishments, starting with the Tattoo League from Nebraska. We did a video for them that has hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. Sunday NFL Countdown featured them throughout the year, and they even ended up on TV, being interviewed by Jay Leno.
As I toured the country doing book signings and events (and especially the following year, when the paperback came out), I heard more stories of other tattoo leagues. And other punishments. All sorts of punishments. Maybe it has always been there and I just really started noticing because of the book. But I felt like the Tattoo League and, frankly, the attention from the book (hey, it was a New York Times Best Seller with multiple months on the list) really brought fantasy punishments to a new level.
Suddenly, it became a THING.
It got shared much more frequently on social media, blogs would do roundups, local news would do cute features on the wacky fantasy league from in town that just had its loser punishment.
The stakes were raised. Now leagues not only had to have a punishment, it had to be ORIGINAL. They had to outdo each other. And since “Fantasy Life” came out in 2013, I believe I have seen almost every fantasy loser punishment known to man. We feature one on every episode of The Fantasy Show on ESPN+ in our segment “Don’t Be This Guy.”
I’ve seen leagues where the losers have to take the SAT or ACT or go back to school in some embarrassing fashion. I’ve seen people with embarrassing license plate holders or bumper stickers. I’ve seen folks have to display ugly and X-rated trophies or pictures in their home or office for a year. I’ve seen bad haircuts, dye jobs, leg or chest hair shaving, and guys getting piercings of nipples, belly buttons and, ahem, other places.
Performance is a big one, as I’ve seen a lot of leagues make their loser perform stand-up comedy, sing at a public park or subway (the national anthem is popular), or do beat poetry at a legit poetry performance. Three of the more original versions of this I’ve seen are people who had to play the piccolo at a subway, a guy who had to do the bongos at a park, and two guys who had to perform mime — in full makeup — on a crowded street corner. All had to keep performing until they earned somewhere between $20 and $50 in tips.
Street corners and public places are always big hits. So is walking around in your underwear (often a thong) or naked with just a sign declaring your ineptitude covering you or wearing an embarrassing costume. One twist on the being-in-a-public-place stunt: I have seen a number of people who go on a “date” with an inflatable doll of some sort.
Speaking of food, that’s always a big one. Many leagues force their losers to eat or drink something disgusting or have something even more disgusting rubbed on their face, body and hair. Or sometimes they throw the food, the league pelting the loser with tomatoes, eggs or a mixture of disgusting things. Many have to wear food but only Steven Shrout had to wear peanut butter — and only peanut butter — and go to a dog park. Google it. Hilarious.
Participation of the entire league is usually a key to these things. I’ve seen leagues where the loser has to dress as an animal of some sort and the rest of the league gets to “hunt” him with a paintball gun. I’ve seen losers have to do combine drills, jump into freezing cold lakes and oceans, run a 5K, run a 5K in a costume, run a 5K in a business suit.
Doing shot-for-shot music videos is a popular one, as is recreating famous scenes, photos or calendars. A personal fave are the leagues where the loser has to pose for their own ESPN The Magazine Body Issue shoot.
The list goes on and on, and these days it’s hard to surprise people with an original fantasy loser punishment. Hard … but not impossible.
Here are 10 punishments (in no particular order) that I’ve come across the past few years that, at least at the time I saw them, were completely original to me.
I’ve seen video of this one, but for some reason I couldn’t find it when I sat down to write this article. But I loved the creativity of this one. You know how at elementary schools the playgrounds have basketball hoops that are only 8 feet high? This league went to the playground, made the loser stand under the basket and then one by one they all dunked on him. Just posterized him.
And they filmed it, put it in slow motion, added music to it. Just awesome.
“Cats” is a massively successful Broadway play that recently was turned into a massively unsuccessful movie — well, massively unsuccessful for everyone but the league mates of Nik Ruzas. Nik finished last in his league, so he had to go see “Cats” in a movie theater. Dressed as a cat. Here he is, buying a ticket. By himself.
3. This is not how you do it
Doing an embarrassing video is nothing new for fantasy losers, but this is a version of it I had never seen. A very popular genre of YouTube videos are makeup tutorials, usually by women for women. Kyle Mischler had to do a full-on makeup tutorial on YouTube as his punishment.
4. “You’re my boy, Blue!”
An embarrassing outfit or even body paint is nothing new to fantasy losers, but I just loved this one. If you’re a fan of “Arrested Development,” you’ll like this one as well.
5. “Going up?” or “You thirsty?”
Having to perform tasks or do jobs you normally wouldn’t is another staple. I’ve seen bathroom attendant, dance instructor and school crossing guard, among others. But I’d never seen these two “jobs” before.
6. “Yes! Is very nice!”
The only thing worse than wearing a “Borat”-inspired outfit? Having to do it at a party with your friends.
7. Not exactly what the creators had In mind
Popular culture is often an inspiration for loser punishments. For Josh Fitzgerald, it wasn’t just that he had to find and wear a costume from the late 80’s sitcom ALF … he had to wear it in a Fourth of July parade in 90-degree weather.
Of course, as a #CompanyMan I have to include this one. Jason Weese sent me this video of his league’s loser having to dress as Elsa and perform all through his town’s winter parade, complete with inflatable Olaf and Sven, on his ride “Frozen in Last Place.”
And finally one of the most iconic TV shows of all time, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and one of its most famous scenes is when one of the characters (I won’t ruin it in case your still binging) has to go through town in a walk of shame as people follow behind, yelling “Shame! Shame! Shame!” behind the loser. This league had the exact same idea.
8. Well, it’s certainly a conversation piece
I’ve written about these guys before, but it’s still one of the most original ideas I’ve heard. The loser in Ben Probert’s league has to display a FatHead. Of the winner. In his room. For an entire year.
Last year’s loser was the first in the league to have a baby. So naturally that inspired the co-managers of the winning team to decorate the losers wall with a picture he’ll have to stare at all year long. Amazing.
9. “May I have the, um, honor?”
This one was sent to me by my buddy Joe Bryant of FootballGuys.com. It seems that Derrick Smith won his fantasy league over Tom Wiklund. As a result, Derrick got to walk Tom’s mother down the aisle at Tom’s wedding. Never seen wedding party roles be on the table in a fantasy league match.
10. “Why yes, it’s street legal. Why do you ask?”
Joel Richman sent along these photos — courtesy of Carvertise — that also went viral. It’s not just that he had to drive around in this car. It’s that he had to do it in TIMES SQUARE. Wonder how many people called him.
It’s always hard to narrow these down to just 10 with so many great submissions. But if you or your league has a great punishment and you were smart enough to take pictures and video of it and you possibly would like to see it on The Fantasy Show on ESPN+ and my social feeds, send it to [email protected]
And if you don’t have a last-place punishment for your league, I highly suggest you get one. It’s why I chose this week to do this subject. There’s still time before Sunday for your league to vote on a punishment. It can be easy (having to be subservient at next year’s draft) to really brutal (I mean, one league forced their loser to get branded. You know, like they do with cattle? An actual brand. OUCH). That part doesn’t matter as long as everyone is comfortable with the level of punishment. It just matters that you do it. Because the best part of fantasy is that it brings everyone together, and nothing is more fun than when the league all gathers for the last-place punishment, even if it’s virtually.
But for now, with the help of “The Fantasy Show’s” stat-a-pillar, Damian Dabrowski, and “Thirsty” Kyle Soppe from Fantasy Focus 06010, let’s make sure you win this week and don’t have to worry about any last-place punishments.
As always, “Love/Hate” is NOT a start/sit column but rather all about expectations. Players who are “loves” (or in others receiving votes) are players I believe will exceed general expectations (and for this week, exceed where they were generally drafted). “Hates” of course, are players who I believe will fall short. But just because Courtland Sutton is a “hate” and I put Jamison Crowder in “Others receiving votes” does not mean I am starting Crowder over Sutton. As always, please check my updated rankings (updated all the way through Sunday morning, up until kickoff. I even update during commercial breaks on “Fantasy Football Now,” which returns this Sunday at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN2).
Quarterbacks I love in Week 1
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints, vs. Buccaneers
ESPN projected points: 17.5
Brady to Bucs! Brady got in trouble at a Tampa Bay park! Brady got Gronk out of retirement! Brady is going on Howard Stern! All offseason, it was Tom Brady this and Tom Brady that while Drew Brees, if he got any attention at all, it was negative. You want stats about how good Brees is at home? I got stats about how good Brees is at home. In his six home games last year, he averaged 24.7 FPPG, 332.8 passing yards and completed 77.5%. But forget the stats. I’m going gut here. In what should be high-scoring affair — a 50.5 over-under is the second-highest of Week 1 — Brees will prove to the veteran Brady that the NFL’s younger generation can play, too. (Hey, 41 is younger than 43.)
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers, at Giants
ESPN projected points: 18.3
Sure, the Big in Big Ben was more about his stomach than height this offseason, but slimmed down and shaved now, Ben is ready to go. He just doesn’t have anyone to take him. Still available in about 40% of ESPN leagues, Roethlisberger’s ADP of QB16 suggests many forgot how productive a fantasy quarterback he was the last time he played a full season. In 2018, Big Ben was QB3, leading the NFL in passing yards and passing attempts. He also killed the “Home Ben/Road Ben” thing by averaging more than 21 FPPG at home AND on the road. So I’m not concerned about a road game against a Giants defense that gave up the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2019, yielded the fifth-most passing yards and should be even worse this season.
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills, vs. Jets
ESPN projected points: 19.9
Excluding Week 17 last season when he played just one drive, Allen has one passing touchdown, four interceptions and three lost fumbles in two career games against the Jets. “So shouldn’t he be in your Hate section, Berry, ya bald dummy?” No, he shouldn’t. And to be clear, I’m bald-ING. There’s an ING in there, damn it. Not fully bald yet. No need to be rude. Anyway, get this: Allen also has at least nine rush attempts and a rushing touchdown in both of those Jets games. That provides a high floor — and it comes with a high ceiling, especially since this offseason the Jets’ defense lost C.J. Mosley and Jamal Adams while Allen added Stefon Diggs to the passing attack. Giddy up.
Others receiving votes: For those in deeper leagues or searching for DFS bargains, the Rams-Cowboys opener features two of the top three highest-ranked offenses in 2019. Expectations for a high-scoring game means expectations for a big Jared Goff game should follow: He averages 20.5 FPPG for his career in games in which the Rams score 25-plus. Very quietly Goff ended last season strong: QB5 from Weeks 13-17. I like him to start strong this season. … Running ability gives Tyrod Taylor a high weekly floor, but this is mostly about playing the Cincinnati Bengals’ defense, an NFL offense’s best friend. Last season, Cincinnati’s defense gave up the most yards per play, the most yards per completion and the sixth-most QB points allowed. I have more bad stats, but space limitations, don’t cha know. … Carolina’s Teddy Bridgewater era is primed to get off to a strong start thanks to a dreadful Oakland pass defense that gave up 33 passing touchdowns in 2019, fourth worst in the league, and was seventh worst in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs. Yes, there’s a new offensive coordinator in Carolina, but the Panthers should still be a high-volume passing attack and Week 1 sets up well for Bridgewater’s Carolina debut.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 1
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, at Vikings
ESPN projected points: 16.2
Rodgers has been all over my preseason Hate lists and, well, many of my Hate lists from last year, too. I mean Rodgers was QB22 over the final quarter of the 2019 season. He earned it. So it shouldn’t be a surprise he’s on the Hate list to start the season, especially considering he has a particularly brutal matchup in Week 1. Mike Zimmer traditionally has Rodgers’ number. In A-Rod’s past four games against the Vikings, he has four passing touchdowns total and has eclipsed 220 passing yards only once. The last time Rodgers threw multiple TD passes IN Minnesota? Nov. 22, 2015. That’s so long ago a guy named Jordan Love was a high school quarterback in Bakersfield, California.
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals, vs. Chargers
ESPN projected points: 14.4
The lack of preseason games will hurt Burrow more than any other player in the NFL. His next NFL pass will be his first NFL pass. His next NFL pass also will be against a very good pass defense. The Chargers gave up the seventh-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2019 and held opponents under 250 passing yards 13 times, tied for best in the NFL. They also have one of the league’s fiercest pass rushes, and I expect Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram III to welcome Burrow to the NFL in their own way early and often. Love Burrow (and the Cincy offense) long term, but I’ll root for him on my bench this week.
Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans, at Broncos
ESPN projected points: 14.8
Denver’s defense will take a hit without Von Miller — #analysis — but don’t forget how dominant the Broncos’ D was at home last year: just 12.9 FPPG to opposing QBs, 205.3 passing yards per game allowed and just 1.1 passing TDs a game. So while Tannehill was incredibly efficient and a fantasy star down the stretch last year, I’m not running out to start him this week. Speaking of running (bad segues already in midseason form), my expectation is Tennessee remains a run-first team, especially in a road game against a tough defense: The Titans were third in rush percentage since Tannehill became a starter in Week 7. With an O/U of 41 (second lowest of Week 1) this is not a game to target for borderline fantasy starters.
Running backs I love in Week 1
Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders, at Panthers
ESPN projected points: 18.2
Riding my 2019 Ride or Die right into 2020, Jacobs opens with a fantastic RB matchup against Carolina. Last year, the Panthers gave up the most fantasy points to opposing running backs, were league worst in both yards per carry against AND yards after contract. They also gave up 31 rushing touchdowns — also worst in the NFL. Oh, and all that was WITH Luke Kuechly still in uniform. Viva Las Vegas.
Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers, at Bengals
ESPN projected points: 15.6
If Jacobs has the easiest RB matchup in Week 1, Ekeler is a close second. Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s not true. Crazily disrespected in early season drafts, the Eck (as only I call him) once again will be the focal point of former NFL RB and now Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn’s offense. Getting lots of work against a Bengals squad that surrendered the most rushing yards in the NFL last season and also allowed the sixth-most yards per running back reception? That works. While I expect Cincy’s offense to take big steps forward this year, I’m still out on their defense. There’s usually a lot of regret during a Bengals game, but this week it’s from those who passed on The Eck early in drafts. (Oh yeah. I’m going to make The Eck happen at some point. And yes, I know there’s no “c” in his last name. Don’t care. That’s how it’s pronounced.)
Todd Gurley II, Atlanta Falcons, vs. Seahawks
ESPN projected points: 15.5
The reason Gurley fell in fantasy drafts is the same reason he’s on Atlanta this year on a one-year, prove-it deal. Health is a concern and maybe he has lost a step. Fine. But you know what? He’s healthy now and with all due respect to Brian Hill and Ito Smith, volume isn’t going to be a concern for Gurley in this one. He should get a lot of work in a game with an over-under of 49. High-scoring game and it’s Gurley’s first game back in the state of Georgia (where he went to college), I like his chances of getting into the end zone here. Since 2017, Gurley leads the NFL in both red zone and goal-to-go points, while a Seattle defense that seems on paper to be worse than last year comes into Atlanta after being bottom seven in red zone and goal-to-go defense last season. Oh, and they gave up 22 rushing touchdowns — last season, third worst in the NFL.
Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks, at Falcons
ESPN projected points: 14.8
I have a lot of Carson this year. A LOT. I think the talk of Carlos Hyde and DeeJay Dallas cutting into his workload is just that — talk. Oh sure, maybe Hyde gets a series or two but whatever. Carson is still going to get high double-digit touches and all the opportunities when they get in close. Even if they want to #LetRussCook they still need to set up play-action, and sending Carson between the tackles against a Falcons defense that gave up the fifth-most yards per rush after first contact last season is a good place to start. Carson was fourth among running backs last year in yards per rush after first contact and just like I had with Gurley above, I like RBs who will get the majority of carries in high-scoring games.
Others receiving votes: Who can forget Raheem Mostert‘s late-season 12 touchdowns in nine games including playoffs binge last year? Definitely not Packers fans. While I’m not predicting four touchdowns this week, I do like Mostert running behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines against an Arizona run defense that gave up the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing RBs last season. I have a ton of Mostert this year (on my preseason “Love” list) and as I said on Twitter, he has a wide range of outcomes this year. But one of those is this year’s Derrick Henry. … With Damien Harris on IR and Sony Michel getting eased back in, James White should see heavy usage early on. And you love the matchup here as last season the Dolphins gave up six receiving TDs to opposing RBs, tied for third most in the league. Not for nothing, White has scored in four of his past five games against Miami. … Was Chris Thompson‘s name appearing here occasionally in the past a homer pick? HOW DARE Y– OK, maybe. But now on the Jaguars, Thompson is no longer a homer pick but rather the guy most likely to benefit, PPR wise at least, from Leonard Fournette’s absence. Indianapolis allowed the most receptions to opposing running backs last season. … Tarik Cohen deserves consideration for the same logic as Thompson. David Montgomery’s status opens up more touches running the ball than we expected a few weeks ago and, as a pass-catcher, Cohen should do well against a Lions defense that last season gave up a league-high 10.4 yards per reception to opposing RBs. … Same game and with D’Andre Swift banged up and Adrian Peterson having just gotten to Detroit, there might not be a better game all year to start Kerryon Johnson, who might see his heaviest workload of 2020 in Week 1. … Finally, Malcolm Brown had five touchdowns on 15 red zone touches last season. With Darrell Henderson Jr. (as of this writing) looking as if he will miss the game and Cam Akers being a rookie, Brown should get more work than folks think in what should be a high-scoring game against the Cowboys. They trust Brown in the red zone, no small thing for a team that was among the league leaders in red zone rushing attempts last year.
Running backs I hate in Week 1
Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets, at Bills
ESPN projected points: 13.2
Thanks to reader Adam Gase of New York for submitting this Hate. OK, that’s not true … but it seems as if it could be. It certainly seems as if it is. You know who doesn’t hate Le’Veon Bell? The Buffalo Bills. They held him to just 101 yards in two games last year on 33 (!) carries, a 3.1 yards per carry average for the math impaired. Buffalo is psyched to see Bell on the field this week. Now, a lot of Jets pass-catchers are banged up so you’re gonna have to hope they use Bell a lot in the passing game to help keep him afloat, but a running back on the outs with his coach behind a new offensive live and possibly splitting time with former Buffalo RB Frank Gore (who do you think gets the goal-line carries here?) is not a recipe for fantasy success.
Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos, vs. Titans
ESPN projected points: 12.4
Two first names, always a crowd pleaser. Except when he doesn’t get work. Rumors of a timeshare with Phillip Lindsay are concerning, as is the matchup. Tennessee was top 10 in yards per carry against last season, including an early season game where it held Gordon to 29 yards on 18 touches. Not a misprint.
Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills, vs. Jets
ESPN projected points: 11.4
Maybe it’s Josh Allen, maybe it’s Zack Moss, but either way, Singletary has competition for carries, especially in close. For all the struggles of the Jets’ defense, they actually play the run tough, giving up the second-fewest rushing yards and the second-lowest yards per carry in 2019.
Pass-catchers I love in Week 1
Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears, at Lions
ESPN projected points: 14.9
“Wait? Allen Robinson? The guy who is getting stuck with Mitchell Trubisky again?” You heard me. A-Rob is QB proof, but make no mistake: This isn’t an endorsement of Trubisky, it’s a statistical roast of the Detroit Lions’ pass defense:
second-most fantasy points allowed to receivers in 2019;
second-most receiving yards allowed;
fifth-most receptions allowed;
most deep receptions allowed;
18.6 FPPG allowed to Robinson;
And that all was with Darius Slay on the roster. Quietly the eighth-best WR in fantasy last year with Trubisky, Mitch can’t possibly be worse than he was last year … right? Whatevs. Massive target share coming in a great matchup. I’m in.
Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions, vs. Chicago
ESPN projected points: 13.6
A lot has changed in 2020. I mean … A LOT. But in this wild, mixed-up world there’s one thing you can count on: Golladay against the Bears. He has a touchdown or 90 receiving yards in four straight games against Chicago, including a 158-yard, one-touchdown game last year in which the football was thrown to him by David Blough. Yeah, David Blough.
Jamison Crowder, New York Jets, at Bills
ESPN projected points: 12.0
Expect Buffalo to contain Le’Veon Bell and the run game (see: RB Hate list) and do its usual job of limiting deep throws: 6.6 air yards per opponent target last year was second lowest in the NFL. Not to mention that Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims are banged up. What does that leave? Crowder across the middle. He had 22 catches on 27 targets last year in two games against the Bills and should have another high floor game.
Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers, at Giants
ESPN projected points: 11.7
From Weeks 14 to 17 last year, Johnson was the 12th-best wide receiver in fantasy. And that was with Duckon Hodgedolph throwing him passes. Johnson gets a big boost with Ben Roethlisberger under center — and arguably an even bigger boost against a porous Giants pass defense that got worse this offseason after a year in which they were top six in the NFL in most receiving touchdowns allowed, receptions and fantasy points.
Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams, vs. Cowboys
ESPN projected points: 10.2
From Week 13 on last year, Higbee had the eighth-most fantasy points of ANY player at ANY position. Can he keep it up? I’m pro Higbee this year, and in a high-scoring game I like his chances of staying hot against a Dallas defense that was worst in receptions allowed to TEs in 2019 and third worst in TE fantasy points surrendered.
Others receiving votes: With Amari Cooper being a bit banged up and shadowed by Jalen Ramsey, Michael Gallup should get even more love from Dak Prescott and will show you guys why I’ve been screaming his name all offseason. … DeSean Jackson gets a mention simply because there’s not much else for Carson Wentz to throw to and Jackson has averaged 15.9 PPG in his past nine games with five or more targets. Oh and it’s a revenge game against Washington. D Jax will go off this Sunday. … Jacksonville is gonna need to throw and throw some more on Sunday, and when the Jags throw, it’s going to DJ Chark Jr., who averages 19.6 points a game when he gets eight-plus targets. … With Mike Evans suddenly dealing with a soft tissue injury (and a shadow from Marshon Lattimore awaiting him), you could do a lot worse for a DFS dart throw than preseason camp fave Scotty Miller. … Hayden Hurst is Atlanta’s shiny, new TE toy and he should have a memorable unboxing thanks to a Seattle defense that allowed the second-most fantasy points to tight ends last year. … The last time we saw Mike Gesicki, he put up 13.4 fantasy points in Week 17 against the Patriots. Now he gets them again with the same QB. With Stephon Gilmore draped all over DeVante Parker and Preston Williams potentially not 100%, Gesicki should get even more end zone looks after he tied for the NFL lead among tight ends in end zone targets. … I bet Logan Thomas is used more than you think on Sunday. Do with that what you will, deep leaguers and DFS tourney players.
Pass-catchers I hate in Week 1
Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos, vs. Titans
ESPN projected points: 14.2
Only three receivers scored more than 18.5 fantasy points against the Titans in 2019: Mike Evans, Tyreek Hill and Michael Thomas. I love Sutton’s talent, but he’s not yet in that echelon of receiver. We just don’t know what this offense will look like with a new coordinator, an inexperienced QB in Drew Lock and added weapons in Jerry Jeudy and Melvin Gordon. Remember, with Lock as his QB last year, Sutton failed to finish as a top-35 receiver even once over the final four weeks.
DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins, at Patriots
ESPN projected points: 12.5
I get it. I do. He absolutely waxed Stephon Gilmore last year in Week 17. So does that mean Parker has his number? Or that Gilmore remembers that and will shut him down, as he has in many previous starts? I’m betting on Gilmore this week as Parker’s splits last year with Preston Williams on the field (11.5 with Williams on the field, 19.3 with him off) are very different. Williams is playing this week.
Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals, vs Chargers
ESPN projected points: 11.7
You already know I’m out on Burrow for Sunday, so it makes sense Boyd should be downgraded here as well. Then you add Boyd will be shadowed by Chris Harris Jr. and an O/U of 42 that is tied for third lowest on the Sunday slate and well, you probably have better options.
Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns, at Ravens
ESPN projected points: 8.1
I love Hooper as a player and as a person, but his Week 1 opponent shut down tight ends in 2019: fewest fantasy points allowed, fewest receptions allowed, only three TE touchdowns total allowed (second fewest). Considering Hooper will need some time to work his way into a new — and very crowded — offense as is, it feels as if you’d be better streaming the position this week (Blake Jarwin anyone?) than rolling Hooper out there.
Matthew Berry, The Talented Mr. Roto, cannot actually believe we finally get football this week.