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Week 1 is here! Most of us have our lineups pretty much locked up, but some might need some desperate starts because of injuries, and we all need to optimize our bench. That’s my goal for this article for Week 1.

Note to keep in mind: These are players available in a majority of leagues. If they’re not listed here, they’re probably not available in a majority of leagues.

Priority Pickups before Thursday night

Tony Pollard – He shouldn’t left on the waiver wire with the Cowboys playing this Thursday night. If Ezekiel Elliott gets hurt (crossing my fingers that he doesn’t), and you don’t have him on your roster even though he was available, that will be a terrible feeling. If he’s available, don’t let someone else reap the potential rewards, and avoid spending FAAB in this type of scenario. On some platforms (e.g., Yahoo), you’ll be able to drop Pollard if you have to right after the game, and you can replace him with another high upside player from the Sunday slate of games.

Gio Bernard – He’s not as much of a priority pickup as Pollard, but pick him up if you want to play the game of having someone on your roster whose role will grow significantly if there was an injury to the Bucs backfield this Thursday. I’d really only do this if you’re able to drop Bernard right after the game on Thursday night if both Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones come out of the game unscathed. If you’re on a platform where you can’t do this, I’d leave Gio on the waiver wire.

Running Backs

Tier 1

Tevin Coleman/Ty Johnson – Michael Carter is currently running behind both of these guys. Coleman is the starter by name, and he was a healthy scratch several times this preseason, which indicates that he’s the current starter. This coaching staff is very familiar with Coleman from their time together in San Francisco, so they know what they have in him. If I had to choose one, Ty Johnson is my add – he’s someone that reminds of Raheem Mostert. He’s shorter, but bigger than Coleman, he can catch, and he is a home run threat with the ball in his hands. Target ambiguous backfields at the start of the year. Both should be rostered.

Ty’Son Williams – Gus Edwards is the unquestioned 1A in the Ravens backfield after JK Dobbins’ season-ending injury, but there will likely be a 1b in the Ravens’ run-heavy offense. My guess is that they don’t want to run Edwards into the ground, and want to save him for their playoff aspirations. There’s a chance Williams gets 40% of the RB touches, so he’s worth a pickup after looking good this preseason. Le’Veon Bell is being worked out, so Williams will have some competition, but Bell hasn’t signed yet. I’d knock Williams out of Tier 1 if Bell signs.

Alexander Mattison – He’s a potential every-down handcuff to Dalvin Cook, and that’s rare. He’s also a good RB. Whether you have Cook rostered or not, he should be rostered in the event Cook gets hurt. Avoid dropping a ton of FAAB, and allow yourself the best chance of securing the most upside of any team in your league.

Tony Jones Jr – Sean Payton called Tony Jones his #2 RB already, and he followed that up with releasing Latavius Murray after he refused a paycut. Jones is now listed among the top 3-down handcuffs.

Tier 2

James White (PPR only) – With the move from Cam Newton to Mac Jones, there are more overall targets available for this offense. It’s possible White is on the field more as a result, and he can get more targets than he would’ve had with Newton, who would tuck the ball and run more often than he’d check it down. White can provide some PPR depth and give you some production in a pinch if you need it.

Kenneth Gainwell (PPR only) – Gainwell is possibly the Eagles’ best pass-catching RB. They showed confidence in him by releasing veterans Jordan Howard and Kerryon Johnson. He was very productive at Memphis, and can potentially provide some PPR value out of the gate. He has some upside behind Sanders.

Latavius Murray – He can legitimately be a fantasy option depending on where he lands. You can wait on him, but I’m assuming he doesn’t last long in free agency after being released by the Saints.

Justin Jackson/Josh Kelley – Austin Ekeler tweaked his hamstring, and as of Wednesday night, we don’t know the severity. He didn’t practice, so that’s not good. The hope is that he’s ok, but these two backups should be on the mind of Ekeler managers if they need a fill-in. Jackson is the 1b behind Ekeler, and Josh Kelley will likely be the grinder and goal line guy. Larry Rountree did not play with the first team when both of these guys played this preseason, and Kelley played ahead of Rountree in the last preseason game.

Tier 3

Salvon Ahmed – This is currently a somewhat ambiguous backfield. Myles Gaskin seems like the lead as of now with his new offensive coordinator, but Ahmed was very involved with the first team this preseason. It’s possible Ahmed is preferred on early downs at some point, with Ahmed relegated to being the primary pass-catcher. He has some upside in this offense, but is a speculative add if you want to take a shot on some upside.

Phillip Lindsay – He’s the starting RB on what’s going to be a bad offense. David Johnson will be the passing down back, and Lindsay will likely share the load with Mark Ingram. I’m not interested personally, but have to mention any RB who might see 15 touches/game.

Tier 4 – Keep an eye on these guys

Duke Johnson – Johnson was signed to the Jaguars’ practice squad, which can potentially fill a passing down and third down role. This would make James Robinson TD dependent, so he would lose value. Johnson hasn’t been elevated to the active roster yet, but it’s possible that happens soon. This can remain a 3-man committee, so Johnson might not have much fantasy value. Keep an eye on him through the first few weeks of the season.

Le’Veon Bell – Bell is being worked out by the Ravens, and it’s possible he can position himself to eventually be the 1b behind Gus Edwards, and ahead of Ty’Son Williams. Keep an eye on whether the Ravens end up signing him. He’s a prospective add in a 12-team or larger league, but he doesn’t have tremendous upside. Update: He was signed to the Ravens practice squad, so Baltimore didn’t want to release anyone just yet. It’s very possible he gets promoted to the active roster soon.

Wayne Gallman – Gallman gives Mike Davis some competition for touches. It’s hard to pull Davis off the field considering their former options, but Gallman played pretty damn well in Saquon Barkley’s absence at times over the past couple of seasons. This hurts Davis, and it’s possible Gallman sees 3-down work at some point if Davis were to ever get hurt. Keep an eye on him for some deep RB value.

Wide Receivers

Tier 1

Elijah Moore – He should not be on waivers. He has a chance to explode in Year 1. He’s had a really good camp before he got hurt, and he’s healthy now. When a rookie has the type of ability he does, there’s an opening to be a team’s WR1, and he’s free, add him.

Bryan Edwards – He didn’t play all preseason, so they’re keeping him under wraps. The John Brown release didn’t affect him at all, because Brown was playing with the 2nd team the entire time, and Edwards was given that first team role a long time ago. He’s a big sleeper for me this year, and I’m not letting him be on any waiver wires in any leagues I’m in. He can easily be up there in targets right behind Darren Waller.

Rashod Bateman – Bateman is in Tier 1 if you have an empty IR slot. Won’t cost you anything to leave Bateman in your IR until he’s back. He’s an extremely talented rookie, and regardless of your opinions of what a WR can do on this offense, the talent can win out in his case.

Rondale Moore/Christian Kirk – There’s some ambiguity over who the primary slot WR is for the Cardinals, and it could be either of these guys. My guess is that it will be Kirk, and if that’s the case, he’ll likely be the more valuable WR… that’s his natural position. If Moore ends up being that guy, he’ll have a ton of value, given the fact that he’ll also be given more bubble screens and carries out of the backfield. He was very involved in the first team offense, but the Cards didn’t have all of their WRs playing. I’m picking up Kirk, and hoping that if Moore is the guy, that he doesn’t blow up in Week 1.

Parris Campbell/Zach Pascal – I have a Parris Campbell truther, and I think he can flourish in this offense out of the slot if he stays healthy. There is solid word out of Indy that Zach Pascal is the guy these coaches like, and that he’s the guy to target between the two. Pascal has also been playing ahead of Campbell in camp and preseason out of the slot. I still think Campbell has more upside, so he’s the one I’m targeting. But if Campbell is already rostered, Pascal is a solid pickup. There’s even some chance that these guys are first in the pecking order in terms of targets over Michael Pittman.

Tier 2 – Lineup plugins

Sterling Shepard – Kenny Golladay is back in practice, but he might not be trustworthy right away. He hardly got any practice time in with Daniel Jones, and they’re 6 days away from playing. Shepard can easily be the #1 target this week if you need a desperate start, especially in PPR.

Emmanuel Sanders – Sanders is a legit flex option this week. Sanders has been the WR2 all camp long, and that seemed to be confirmed this preseason based on where Josh Allen was going with the ball. Sanders can’t be trusted all season long because of his age and injuries, but he can still contribute in this pass-heavy offense… and it looks like he’ll get targets.

Terrace Marshall – I’m still surprised Marshall is available in so many leagues after having a pretty impressive preseason. I get it though – CMC, DJ Moore, Robby Anderson likely ahead of Marshall in terms of targets. But it’s also possible that the targets are spread out enough where Marshall gets his with efficiency and end zone targets. He’s also the primary slot WR, and we know Sam Darnold has targeted the slot a ton throughout his career.

Russell Gage – If Gage is available, he can be used this week as the WR2 for the Falcons. We don’t know that Kyle Pitts will be the 2nd target to Calvin Ridley, even though we all project that to be the case, but it’s possible that Gage’s rapport with Matt Ryan to continue into the early part of this year.

Tier 3

Gabriel Davis – Davis is a stash. If Sanders were to get hurt at some point, Davis would be elevated to a WR3 in a pass-heavy offense. He has that potential in him, and we saw what he was able to do with some volume from Josh Allen this preseason.

AJ Green – Green has apparently had a good camp, and has built a rapport with Kyler Murray. His contract and good vibes in camp has to indicate that he still has some left in the tank. He’s a decent pickup if you don’t need upside on your bench. Desperate flex option at some point.

Quez Watkins – There’s some upside here. The Eagles don’t have an establish set of WRs behind Devonta Smith, so this is a situation to target. Watkins is a playmaker, and has a Tyreek Hill-like skillset. Jalen Hurts has shown willingness to target Watkins deep in camp and pre-season, so there’s some upside here as the potential WR2.

Tier 4

DeSean Jackson – There aren’t too many plug in and pray type of players, but D-Jax is one of them. He’s paired with a big arm, with Sean McVay, and he’s likely starting in 3 WR sets on the outside. McVay is a master at scheming his WRs open, so D-Jax will be no exception, even at his age.

KJ Hamler – Hamler should be considered in deep leagues as a potential 3rd target in Denver. It could be him, or it could be Noah Fant. But Hamler has upside, probably moreso with Drew Lock, but he’s a good route runner and a speedster.

Tight Ends

Tier 1 – Comfortable enough playing in Week 1

Gerald Everett @ Indianapolis – Enough of a rapport with Russell Wilson according to beat reporters, and will be the primary pass-catching tight end on a great offense.

Jonnu Smith vs Miami – They signed him for a reason, and with more pass attempts to go around with Mac Jones as the starter, these TEs can easily be very fantasy relevant. I’d take a shot on Jonnu before Hunter Henry.

Zach Ertz vs Falcons – Ertz is going to be involved, regardless of Dallas Goedert being the better player. He started over Goedert this preseason, and rotated with him. Jalen Hurts seems to really favor his TEs, so Ertz has a chance to finish as a TE1 in PPR this week.

Tier 2 – Interested in long term

Blake Jarwin/Dalton Schultz – Whoever the primary TE for the Cowboys is, they will be a TE1. Jarwin is coming off a serious injury, but he’s back. Hopefully this doesn’t continue as a rotation.

Juwan Johnson – Johnson seems to be the clear route runner in the Saints TE room. If last year, camp, and preseason was any indication, Adam Trautman will primarily be a blocking TE, while the former WR Johnson will be the one running routes.

Donald Parham – Jared Cook is in front of him, but Parham has been impressive. I don’t trust Cook to hold onto job or stay healthy at his age, and he didn’t look particularly good last season. Parham is young and athletic, and can take Cook’s job at some point. Would look out to see what the splits are in Week 1 between the two.

Quarterbacks

Week 1 Streamers/shaky season long assets

Ryan Fitzpatrick vs LAC – Potential high scoring game between Fitz and Justin Herbert, despite this potentially turning into a defens

Jameis Winston vs GB – This is set to be a high scoring game, with the over/under set at 50.5 points. Winston has shown a ton of fantasy upside in the past, despite being turnover prone.

Sam Darnold vs NYJ – Revenge game! Off the bat! He has a ton of weapons, he has a great offensive coordinator. He can make a turnaround, and it can start against his former team at home.

Potential Season Long assets

Tua Tagovailoa – tough matchup against the Patriots, but great vibes from him in camp and preseason. He has weapons, and it seems like he’s taken a step forward.

Zach Wilson – Not a bad matchup against the Panthers, but he is a rookie in his first start of his NFL career.