Fri Sep 6 8:37am ET
By MIKE BARNER
Mike Evans setup for big opener
While it’s sad to see the summer months come to an end, the good news is that September brings the return of football! Week 1 is comprised of plenty of exciting matchups and there is even more fun to be had with RealTime Fantasy Sports’ DFS slate. Let’s breakdown the matchups and highlight some players across the price scale to target, as well as some to avoid.
Top-tier option: Russell Wilson, SEA vs. CIN ($6,500): It’s no secret that the Seahawks like to run the ball despite the strength of their offense being Wilson at quarterback. He only attempted 427 passes last year, which was more than 100 passes fewer than each of the previous two seasons. Still, he remained productive with 35 touchdown passes, giving him at least 34 touchdowns through the air in three of the last four seasons. Look for him to get off to a hot start at home, a place where he has 101 touchdown passes and only 27 interceptions across 56 career games.
Cheap target: Jimmy Garoppolo, SF at TB: ($5,900): After an ACL injury ended his ’18 campaign early, Garoppolo had his struggles during the preseason. While some might be shying away from him in his first game back, that just presents an opportunity to differentiate your lineup. This is an extremely favorable matchup for him against a Buccaneers’ secondary that is among the worst in football.
Player to avoid: Ryan Fitzpatrick, MIA vs. BAL ($5,800): The Dolphins have the potential to be a disaster this season. They are clearly in the early stages of a rebuild and just traded away stellar offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil. Even though they have young quarterback Josh Rosen in the fold now, they will start the interception-prone Fitzpatrick in the first game of the season. With Earl Thomas now leading the Ravens’ secondary, things could get ugly in a hurry here.
Top-tier option: Saquon Barkley, NYG at DAL ($8,100): Despite a lackluster offensive line and a bad quarterback, Barkley had a spectacular rookie season with over 2,000 total yards and 15 touchdowns. With Odell Beckham Jr. now in Cleveland, Barkley is the undeniable centerpiece of the Giants’ offense. They improved their offensive line during the offseason and should give Barkley a ton of carries and targets in this game, leaving him with both a high floor and a high ceiling.
Cheap target: Chris Carson, SEA vs. CIN ($6,000): It’s going to be difficult to pass up Carson at this price. While he’ll share some carries with Rashaad Penny, there is plenty of work to go around with how often the Seahawks run the ball. The Seahawks are also heavy favorites at home, which could lead to a significant amount of carries for Carson in the second half if the team jumps out to a big lead. After scoring nine touchdowns in 14 games last season, don’t be surprised to see Carson reach the end zone in the season opener.
Player to avoid: Derrick Henry, TEN at CLE ($6,200): Yes, Henry finished with 1,059 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns last season. However, most of that came over his last four games when he had 585 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. The Browns have a strong defensive front and Carson can be had for the same price, making Henry someone to avoid.
Top-tier option: Mike Evans, TB vs. SF ($7,200): This game has the potential to be a shootout considering the 49ers’ secondary has the potential to be just as bad as the Bucs. Evans is coming off career-highs in both receiving yards (1,524) and catch rate (62.3%), leaving him with as high of an upside as any receiver for this slate.
Cheap target: John Brown, BUF at NYJ ($4,600): The duo of Brown and quarterback Josh Allen could be a match made in heaven. Allen had an average depth of target of 11.3 yards last season while Brown has averaged 15 yards per reception for his career. The Jets might have a rising star in Jamal Adams at safety, but their cornerbacks leave a lot to be desired, so Brown is someone to at least consider at this cheap price.
Player to avoid: Tyreek Hill, KC at JAC ($7,100): Two of the biggest stars at their respective positions figure to face off in this game with cornerback Jalen Ramsey expected to shadow Hill for much of the contest. When these two teams faced off last season, Hill was held to 61 yards on four receptions. Evans has a much easier matchup and is only $100 more, making it hard to justify deploying Hill.
Top-tier option: George Kittle, SF at TB ($6,500): If I like Garoppolo, of course I like his top receiving option in Kittle. Even without his number one quarterback last year, Kittle shined with 1,377 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Look for him to lead the team in targets not only in this game, but for the entire season.
Cheap target: Evan Engram, NYG at DAL ($4,100): Engram might be the best value on the slate. Tight ends who will cost more than him include Jason Witten ($4,500) and Tyler Eifert ($4,300). Need I say more? When healthy, Engram is one of the top receiving tight ends in the league. With Odell Beckham Jr. gone and Golden Tate suspended, Engram should be relied upon heavily in this contest.
Player to avoid: Eric Ebron, IND at LAC ($5,500): Ebron was one of the most pleasant surprises in fantasy last year, racking up a whopping 13 touchdowns and 750 receiving yards on 110 targets. However, there were two major differences last year than what we are looking at for Week 1. First, he had Andrew Luck as his quarterback, who has since retired. Second, fellow tight end Jack Doyle only appeared in six games due to injury. With Doyle now healthy and Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, Ebron is way too risky at this price.
Mike Barner has been covering fantasy sports since 2007. His work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, Yahoo, SportsLine and RotoWire. Mike was also a finalist for the 2018 FSWA Basketball Writer of the Year award. Follow Mike on Twitter @rotomikebarner.
Free-agent WR Antonio Callaway (Browns) signed with the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL Thursday, Jan. 16.
Kansas City Chiefs RB LeSean McCoy (illness) remained out of practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: McCoy played just one offensive snap in last week's Divisional Round game against the Houston Texans. He's clearly behind RB Damien Williams and is no longer worth starting.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Matt Moore (illness) and DT Chris Jones (calf) didn't participate in practice Thursday, Jan. 16. DT Khalen Saunders (knee), CB Morris Claiborne (shoulder), CB Kendall Fuller (knee), DE Tanoh Kpassagnon (neck), C Austin Reiter (wrist) and G Andrew Wylie (ankle) practiced in full.
Green Bay Packers DL Kenny Clark (back), TE Marcedes Lewis (non-injury), LB Preston Smith (ankle), FB Danny Vitale (knee) and CB Tramon Williams (non-injury) were limited participants in practice Thursday, Jan. 16. S Adrian Amos (chest), OT Bryan Bulaga (non-injury), WR Ryan Grant (non-injury), LB Blake Martinez (hand) and OL Billy Turner (ankle) practiced in full.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (knee) remained limited at practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: Kelce earned a light practice week while catching 10 of 12 targets for 134 yards and three touchdowns against the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round. He's the week's top tight end option once against this week so long as he takes the field.
Tennessee Titans LB Jayon Brown (shoulder), LB Rashaan Evans (foot), WR Adam Humphries (ankle), CB Adoree' Jackson (foot), WR Cody Hollister (ankle) and OT Jack Conklin (shoulder) were limited in practice Thursday, Jan. 16. CB Logan Ryan (illness) and LB David Long Jr. (knee) participated in full.
Green Bay Packers WR Geronimo Allison (illness) was limited in practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: It's an upgrade for Allison after he missed Wednesday's practice. He's likely to be limited for much of the week but should ultimately suit up for Sunday, Jan. 19's NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers. He made just one catch for 11 yards last week against the Seattle Seahawks and isn't worth much more than a desperation flier.
Green Bay Packers TE Jimmy Graham (non-injury) was a limited participant in practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: Graham has caught seven of 11 total targets across his last two games, recording 49 receiving yards in each game. He hasn't found the end zone since Week 7 and doesn't possess much touchdown upside, but the Packers have few better options in the passing game outside of WR Davante Adams. He could be a sneaky play at a thin position.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (elbow) practiced in full Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: It's Coleman's second straight full practice, and he should be good to go for the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 19. He's coming off one of his best games of the season, and he'll be worth starting once again in all formats.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert (calf) was a full participant in practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: Mostert's on track to play in the NFC Championship Sunday, Jan. 19. He took a back seat to RB Tevin Coleman in the Divisional Round game against the Minnesota Vikings, but he was still able to rack up 58 yards and 12 carries. He's worth starting, but Coleman should be viewed as the better option.
San Francisco 49ers LB Kwon Alexander (pectoral) and DL Dee Ford (quadriceps, hamstring) were limited in practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Free-agent WR Antonio Brown (Patriots) had his relationship with agent Drew Rosenhaus conditionally terminated Thursday, Jan. 16, until the wide receiver seeks counseling, per a source.
Fantasy Spin: While the talent remains alluring, it's become clear Brown is going to have to make some personal changes before he gets a chance to play again the league.
San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle (ankle) was a full participant in practice Thursday, Jan. 16, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Fantasy Spin: Great news for Kittle after he sat out Wednesday's workouts with the nagging ankle injury. Unless we hear of any kind of setback later this week, count on him being good to go for Sunday afternoon's NFC title tilt.
Updating previous reports, Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald's one-year contract for 2020 will include a base salary of $11 million and will have $500,000 in roster bonuses and $250,000 in incentives.
Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. is the subject of a simple battery arrest warrant issued by the New Orleans Police Department after Beckham appeared to slap a police officer's buttocks in the LSU locker room Monday, Jan. 13 following the College Football Playoff championship game.
Fantasy Spin: While this isn't the most serious of incidents, OBJ continues to make more headlines off the field than on it following his disappointing 2019 debut with the Browns (74 catches-1,035 yards-4 TDs). And if the trend continues, will the new Browns regime say enough is enough for a player brought in by the previous administration?
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has been accused of simple battery after an incident in the locker room following LSU's national championship win over Clemson on Monday night. Beckham was caught on video spanking a police officer on the backside during the post-game locker room celebration. New Orleans police have issued a warrant for Beckham's arrest following the incident. The Browns have since released a statement that they are aware of the issue and that they have been in contact with Beckham and his representatives. This is the second issue to stem from Beckham's attendance at the game on Monday night as he was also caught on camera apparently handing money to LSU players on the field after the win. Neither situation is likely to impact Beckham from a fantasy perspective but it's just another issue for the Browns organization to contend with this offseason.
Tennessee Titans CB Logan Ryan (illness) is expected to return to practice Thursday, Jan. 16, after sitting out the previous day with an illness.
Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry rushed 23 times for 188 yards and two scores in Week 10 against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Titans will take on the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game Sunday, Jan. 19.
Fantasy Spin: The Titans won that game 35-32 in Patrick Mahomes' first game back from his knee injury. The Chiefs could neutralize him by scoring early and often, but Mahomes threw for 446 yards and three scores, and the Titans remained in it. Henry is arguably the best running back in fantasy remaining in the playoffs.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (ankle) missed practice on Wednesday ahead of the NFC Championship showdown against the Green Bay Packers. The All-Pro chipped a bone in his left ankle earlier this season and aggravated it during the third quarter of the Divisional Round. A proven warrior, head coach Kyle Shanahan remains optimistic, but Kittles practice regimen the rest of the week should be telling. Used as a blocker last Sunday, Kittle amassed only three touches for 16 yards. Its improbable the injury will sideline him for the biggest game of his career, but wideouts Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders would see a bump in targets if Kittle cant go.
New Orleans Saints RB Alvin Kamara could hold out in hopes of securing a long-term contract extension, in the opinion of ESPN.com's Mike Triplett, who notes that the team's other top contributors from the 2017 draft class can have their fifth-year options picked up, whereas Kamara is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2020 season. Triplett also mentions that valuing Kamara may be difficult because despite his versatility he only plays about two-thirds of the team's offensive snaps.
Fantasy Spin: This is pure speculation at this point, but Triplett lays out a compelling case for a contractual impasse. It's just something to file away and keep an eye on once the offseason kicks into high gear.