We did it, people! It’s officially Week 1 of the NFL season, which means fantasy football is back. It also means it’s time to set those lineups! Week 1 is one of the most difficult times of the year to make these starting/session decisions without having live game representatives outside of preseason to guide your process.
Here I’ll break down six fades for your fantasy football teams ahead of Week 1.
As always, we need to put the term “fading” into context a bit. As you read, keep in mind that just because a player is listed as “Fade” does not mean it is an automatic seat. As the old saying goes, “Always start with your stallions.”
What a “bust” designation does This means you should consider options with higher profit potential in the flex.
Even though Aaron Rodgers is getting a lot of attention in his debut as a Jet, he’s an outlier in a tough defensive matchup against the Buffalo Bills in Week 1. The Bills ranked 29th in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks last season, despite CB Tre’Davious White (rehabbing a torn ACL) and Pro Bowl safety Micah Hyde (neck) missing most of the season.
Despite these large gaps, Buffalo’s defense bounced back, particularly in the red zone, where it allowed the second-fewest touchdowns (22) and the second-lowest red zone touchdown rate in the league – not a particularly warm welcome for the new kid in town.
This is in no way a call to remove Saquon Barkley.
I repeat: This is not a call to sit Saquon Barkley! (Please note the context surrounding the terms “bust” and “fade” in the introduction above.)
The Is a call, however, to temper expectations for Barkley in Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys. With Micah Parsons at the helm, the Cowboys have taken a leap forward and are among the top defenses in the league, from top to bottom.
In 2022, the Cowboys allowed just 16.23 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, the second fewest in the league. The disappointing fantasy production was due to a complete lack of efficiency caused by their playmakers up front, with the running backs allowing just 0.4 rushing touchdowns per game (second-fewest) while also failing in forced negatives. Rush attempts ranked in the top five (45). for an overall rate of 10.9%.
The inefficiency the Cowboys have forced on opposing rushers as a unit should prompt fantasy managers to temper expectations from the start and perhaps look for more flexible, higher-option plays to pair with Barkley for an advantage should this Cowboys defense keep Barkley in check the entire game.
Speaking of difficult defenses, have you heard that Najee Harris has the pleasure of facing the 49ers’ top-five run defense in Week 1? Unfortunately for him, the offensive line and Kenny Pickett, 49ers EDGE Nick Bosa got a record-breaking contract under wraps on Wednesday, meaning their fearless leader on defense will indeed be there to fulfill the hopes and dreams of fantasy managers destroy.
There was only one team that allowed less than 15 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, and yes, you guessed it, that team was the 49ers. This team dominated up front with Fred Warner, Nick Bosa and now this year Javon Hargrave inside.
I send peace and blessings to any running backs unlucky enough to face this defense in 2023.
Although there has been a lot of speculation that Harris might lose carries to second-year speedster Jaylen Warren, the team has been pretty vocal about the fact that this is Harris’ team. Their use of Harris (or lack thereof) during preseason and training camp caught the attention of spectators and fans, but keep in mind that all along it seemed like this might be an attempt to keep Harris fresh and ahead of the season to keep healthy. Remember, just a year ago, Harris suffered a foot injury in training camp that wiped out the first half of the season.
Expect Harris to get the bulk of the workload in Week 1, but if you have better options for flexible play, they’re probably worth considering against this run defense.
I could take the easy way out and include Marquise Brown as an “evergreen” fade in this weekly series, but instead I’ll simply use my platform here in Week 1 to send a gentle reminder that he has no place in your flex week (or most other weeks) until proven otherwise. On Wednesday, the cat came out of the bag that the Cardinals would likely start Josh Dobbs at quarterback in Week 1 (much to the dismay of HC Jonathan Gannon, who seemed willing to keep the secret with his life).
Dobbs has thrown a total of 85 pass attempts in the NFL, resulting in 456 passing yards, two TDs and three INTs.
It feels a little like the quarterback Gannon chose is being thrown to the wolves, leaving them to face the Washington Commanders. This Commanders crew enters 2023 as one of the NFL’s most underrated defenses. With a healthy Chase Young, Montez Sweat and Jonathan Allen providing pressure up front, this will likely lead to some errors from Dobbs, who has an accurate shooting percentage of just 54.2%, according to PFF.
In the four games following Kyler Murray’s torn ACL last season, Brown totaled just 14 receptions for 144 yards and zero touchdowns, a disappointing average of 5.38 fantasy points per game in half-PPR scoring formats. During those four weeks, the Cardinals ranked 27th in both points and offensive yards per game and led the league with 10 giveaways.
Gabe Davis, WR, Buffalo Bills – BUST
If you’re looking for a flexible play in Week 1, you probably won’t find the answer anywhere on the Bills depth chart. That’s not to say that Gabe Davis might be a little underrated overall heading into this season. After all, he has a career-best 48 receptions for 836 receiving yards, with six or more touchdowns in each of his three NFL seasons to date. There’s a lot to like here!
Just…maybe not in Week 1 against the New York Jets. Sorry, #BillsMafia.
With so much upside Davis has on a weekly basis, fantasy managers will do well to remember that the Jets ranked last in fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers in 2022 . That was thanks in part to 2022 Defensive Rookie of the Year Sauce Gardner, of course, but also to the performance of outside corner DJ Reed, who was probably a bit underrated thanks to the star lined up opposite him.
In Reed’s first year with the team, he ranked 10th among 120 qualified cornerbacks with a PFF coverage grade of 77.5, allowing for a catch rate of 56.6% and a passer rating of 75.7 when targeted. Simply put, it doesn’t matter which Jets cornerback is covering who — there are no great matchups for these Bills receivers. Don’t be surprised if we see immediate involvement from Deonte Harty or rookie TE Dalton Kincaid early on.
Pat Freiermuth, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers – BUST
The San Francisco 49ers are a strong defense, we’ve already discussed that. They’re pushing up front, especially with the highest-paid defensive player in history in the lineup. They added former Steelers DT Javon Hargrave at inside linebacker to further bolster the offense, with LB Fred Warner being one of the NFL’s best off-the-ball linebackers. This unit allowed opposing tight ends the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game last season, allowing less than 40 receiving yards per game and just four total touchdowns at the position all season.
While there are many reasons to be hopeful about the overall prospects of this Steelers offense, second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett has shown a willingness to distribute the ball to the various talents on offense (WRs Diontae Johnson, George Pickens). which could make for a volatile season for Freiermuth’s fantasy managers. The biggest burden on the 49ers defense this season will likely be on the outside rather than in the middle of the field, where Freiermuth will likely see the most work. Also new to the mix this year is rookie TE Darnell Washington, who should see some snaps. Although he is primarily a blocking tight end, Washington is an elite athlete who could serve as a focal point in certain packages, particularly in the red zone with his 6-foot-1, 220-pound frame.
Be careful of courage!