RICHMOND, Va. — The 2018 NFL season has arrived. Now it’s time to fine tune your roster and set your Week 1 lineup. The draft you recently had is just one piece of the fantasy football puzzle. Each week of the fantasy football season, I will provide prize waiver wire selections and players who should or should not be counted upon in your starting lineup.
Your top draft picks such as Todd Gurley and Antonio Brown are every week starters, so the column will focus on players who are more fringe fantasy starters on a week-to-week basis.
Top waiver pickups for Week 1
Alfred Morris and Matt Breida
These two San Francisco running backs are listed together for a specific reason. They will form a near even split in touches as they replace Jerick McKinnon, who is done for the year after a torn ACL.
Morris, who was signed during training camp, has reunited with San Francisco Head Coach Kyle Shanahan, having played for him in 2012 and 2013 with the Washington Redskins.
Those two seasons were the most productive of Morris’s six-year career, totaling 2,888 rushing yards with 20 touchdowns during that span.
Before those rushing totals get you too excited, realize that he was thrust into this position by default. While he does now have value in all fantasy formats, his upside is capped by the presence of Breida.
Breida had been set to be the primary backup to McKinnon. A rookie last season, he had been averaging about 10 carries per game over the last five games of the season.
That trend should continue and he will see an uptick in the passing game, as that has not been a characteristic of Morris’ skill sets. Morris has never had more than 17 catches in a season.
While neither will have the same efficiency that McKinnon could have had, both need to be on fantasy rosters.
Marlon Mack had been expected to start, but has missed most of the preseason with a hamstring injury and still has not practiced as of Monday.
Wilkins now could be the opening week starter at running back for the Indianapolis Colts against the Cincinnati Bengals. Wilkins, a rookie from Mississippi, has the tools to be an every down back in the NFL.
Fellow rookie running back Nyheim Hines fumbled four times in preseason games so he may not be trusted to receive any playing time.
Veteran Christine Michael is also in the mix, but Wilkins is the preferred choice due to his season-long upside.
Stafford, 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2017, has had a solid preseason and has three talented receivers to throw to in Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay.
The New York Jets were tied for the third most touchdowns allowed to quarterbacks last season with 28. The Jets ten interceptions were tied for eighth lowest in the NFL.
Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis
Both Tennessee Titans running backs are primed for large workloads in what will be a plus match up against a poor Miami Dolphins’ defensive front.
The Dolphins tied for 22nd worst in the league in 2017 surrendering 14 rushing touchdowns. They were among the middle of the pack in rushing yards allowed, but that number should be significantly worse after losing top run-stopper Ndamukong Suh in the offseason.
Lewis and Henry will both be given plenty of opportunities to carry and catch the ball.
Crowder has had a quiet preseason, but he will be in store for plenty of opportunities versus the Arizona Cardinals.
Crowder works primarily as the slot receiver for the Redskins. He will work the short to intermediate routes, which has always been a comfort zone for the Washington Redskins’ new quarterback Alex Smith.
He has a plus match up as he will be covered on most snaps by Budda Baker, who was ninth worst among all NFL defensive backs in fantasy points allowed per route covered in 2017, according to Pro Football Focus. The Cardinals top cornerback, Patrick Peterson, will be focusing his attention on outside receivers Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson.
NOTE: Austin Seferian-Jenkins is dealing with an unknown injury to his core. Monitor his progress throughout the week. If he cannot play Sunday, consider Eric Ebron this week.
Seferian-Jenkins was signed this offseason to be the Jacksonville Jaguars starting tight end. Last season, he had a career-high 50 catches on 74 targets for the New York Jets.
A common strategy among fantasy players last season was to stream tight ends against the New York Giants. Jacksonville plays then Giants on Sunday and he should receive a solid target share.
The Giants allowed a league-high 11.3 fantasy points per game to tight ends last season, 1.4 more per game then the second worst team against tight ends.
Garoppolo closed out the 2017 season leading the San Francisco 49ers to five straight wins, but he has a tough 2018 opening match up at the Minnesota Vikings.
Garoppolo, who had seven touchdowns and five interceptions in those five starts, should have a decent yardage total against the Vikings, but it will be a challenge finding his receivers in the end zone against a defense that allowed a league-low 11 receiving touchdowns in 2017.
Carson won the starting running back job for the Seattle Seahawks, but he will find little rushing room against the Denver Broncos. Denver allowed just five rushing touchdowns last season, third fewest in the NFL.
The Broncos also added Bradley Chubb in this year’s draft adding to a defense that is already one of the more formidable ones in the league.
Carson may also cede some work to backfield mates Rashad Penny and CJ Prosise. Penny, who is recovering from a broken finger and should play, is a first-round draft pick that will see more work as the season progresses. Prosise is a pass catching back who will work in as a change of pace option.
Cooper will have a tough time rebounding from a down season when the Oakland Raiders open their 2018 campaign against the Los Angeles Rams. Cooper had a career-low 48 catches for 680 yards in 2017.
Cooper will see two of the top corners in the league covering him in Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. Both defensive backs were offseason acquisitions by the Rams, whose eight touchdowns allowed to wide receivers were tied for third fewest in 2017.
Kittle was the recipient of a lot of offseason hype as a breakout tight end candidate in 2018. Kittle, who has nursed a shoulder injury this preseason is expected to play in the San Francisco 49ers opener against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings tied for a league-best two touchdowns allowed to tight ends in 2017. They also allowed just 535 receiving yards to the position, which was second fewest.
Brad Wilson is the Chief Photojournalist at CBS 6 News. He has a decorated career, winning 10 Emmy awards for his work.
But, that’s not the only hardware that sits atop his mantle.
Wilson has been an avid fantasy football player for 12 years, winning numerous fantasy championships.
In the past three years, Wilson competed in eight leagues winning four of them, finishing in the top three in six and making the playoffs in all.
WTVR.com has called upon Wilson to bring its fans some unique insight into fantasy football. Look for his Fantasy Football Chief columns to drop every Tuesday through the football season. Click here to ask him your fantasy football questions.