Key Fantasy Players Out
Week 1 of the NFL season was exactly what makes fantasy football so much fun and, at the same time, frustrating. People who used their first-round pick on Travis Kelce dreadfully started the week with news that he would not play.
On the other side of the coin, the managers who took Tyreek Hill right around the same time Kelce was getting drafted got to watch the speedster tear up the Chargers' defense in a thrilling win for Miami. As someone who plays in multiple leagues, I got to experience the full spectrum of having both those players on my teams.
Even though Week 1 of the NFL regular season is in the books, Yahoo! Fantasy still has a countdown for the official start of the fantasy season. Since many fantasy leagues are drafting this week and gearing up for their first matchup, we will look at sleepers that emerged this past weekend.
Factors to Consider When Identifying Sleepers
Opportunity: Look for players poised to take on larger roles. This could be due to departures of key players or an offseason of growth and development.
Talent: Analyze a player's skills, athleticism, and football IQ. Sometimes, overlooked talents can shine when given the right opportunity.
Situation: Consider the offensive system and supporting cast a player is a part of. A talented player in a favorable situation is more likely to break out.
Track Record: While sleepers often lack a consistent track record, look for any flashes of brilliance or improvement in their previous seasons.
Preseason/Week 1 Performance: Reports out of camp and performance in the preseason should not be overlooked, but Week 1 performance is much more important.
Top Fantasy Football Sleepers after Week 1
QB Jordan Love – Green Bay Packers
There was a lot of grumbling coming from Packers fans when Green Bay drafted Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 draft. The pick seemed premature because the Packers had Aaron Rodgers, playing in his prime, who could have used some first-round talent at receiver. But now that Rodgers is in New York and done for the season, the Jordan Love pick looks pretty smart.
Love got to study the game under Rodgers the past three seasons, which is a huge luxury that most first-round QBs do not get. Love picked up where Rodgers left off by helping the Packers do what they have been doing since I can remember – owning the Bears. Love threw for 245 yards and three TDs and finished the day with 22 fantasy points. Love proved that the wait was worth it with his dismembering of the Packers' rival.
Love is a big, mobile QB with many good weapons around him. He has all the tools, but the Packers are built to run the football, play good defense, and not ask Love to do too much. As the season wears on, opposing teams will force Green Bay’s hand and make Love beat them. Love is going off the board as QB22, and it looks like he could finish the season as a top-15 QB.
RB Kenneth Gainwell – Philadelphia Eagles
Kenneth Gainwell was on my sleeper list last season, and it seems I was a year early. Gainswell was RB1 in Philadelphia's Week 1 25-20 victory over the Patriots. The third-year back had 14 rushes for 54 yards and four receptions for another 20 yards. That's a heavy workload compared to his backfield mates. RBs Boston Scott and D’Andre Swift had one rushing attempt and one catch each.
The backfield touches in Philadelphia could change as the season goes on, but as of now, Gainwell is the clear RB1, and he should get most of the goal line touches. Gainwell’s upside is held in check by QB Jalen Hurts, who ran the ball nine times this past Sunday and is always a threat to keep the ball near the goal line.
Gainwell’s value is off the charts as he is being drafted as RB49 and is the clear RB1 on one of the best offenses in the league. If he continues to get 15-plus touches a game, he will finish as a top-15 RB.
RB Tyler Allgeier – Atlanta Falcons
Tyler Allgeier was an afterthought this offseason after the Falcons used a top-10 pick to draft Bijan Robinson in this year's draft. The Falcons led the league in rushing attempts last season and are poised to do so again this year, which is why the fantasy world is especially high on Robinson. Robinson is going as RB3 in most fantasy drafts, while Allgeier is going as RB43.
Even though Allgeier ran for over 1,000 yards last season, most people did not expect the Falcons to use Allgeier as RB1 to start the season. The second-year back finished Week 1 with 15 rushing attempts for 75 yards, two TDs, and three receptions for 19 yards. Allgeier out-touched and outproduced Robinson in the Falcons 24-10 victory over the Panthers.
As the seasons grinds on, this backfield will slowly shift to Robinson getting the bulk of the carries, but Allgeier isn’t going anywhere. For now, Allgeier is RB1a, and by mid-season, he will transition to RB1b, which still has fantasy value on a team that wants to run the ball 30 times a game. Allgeier is the clear goal-line back, and if Robinson were to miss time, Allgeier would immediately be a top-10 back.
WR Puka Nacua – Los Angeles Rams
Puka Nacua gained hype this offseason as a steal in the draft for the Rams, and he backed it up in Week 1 with 10receptions for 119 yards. Matthew Stafford looked refreshed and confident in Nacua as he targeted the fifth-round rookie 15 times.
Cooper Kupp was placed on the IR with a hamstring injury last week, which elevated Nacua to WR1 in L.A. The Rams will have at least three more weeks without their star WR, granting Nacua more time to build chemistry with his QB. The BYU product runs good routes, has sure hands, and looks to be the second coming of his teammate Cupp.
Nacua proved he can deliver with high-volume usage, which should continue as long as Cupp is out. It will be interesting to see what will happen to his usage when Cupp returns to the lineup. He will move back to WR2, but he will have rapport with Stafford on what could be a good offense. His usage may dip, but he could become more efficient as opposing defenses focus on stopping Cupp.
Week 1 #ReceptionPerception charting review for Puka Nacua is up.— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) September 13, 2023
A few notes:
- Only lined up in the slot < 30% of snaps
- Played everywhere
- Comfortable running big boy routes vs. man coverage
- Specializes on in-breaking McVay staple routes
- Exactly the player I described… pic.twitter.com/Hhz2gYygR5
WR Kendrick Bourne – New England Patriots
Kendrick Bourne recorded 6 receptions on 11 targets for 64 yards and two TDs in the Patriots' loss to the Eagles on Sunday. Bourne made the most of his added opportunities with WRs Tyquan Thornton and DeVante Parker out of the lineup. Bourne could return to a third or fourth option after those two return but the reports out of camp would beg to differ.
Bourne has been impressive all off-season and showed real chemistry with QB Mac Jones. The 28-year-old receiver has produced for fantasy managers before, but this output is a bit of fool's gold. The Patriots threw the ball 54 times, which is not how Bill Belichick wants to run his offense. Even so, Bourne is someone to target because Parker has injury concerns, and Mac Jones does seem to be taking a step forward in his progress and could be leaned on a bit more than most people suspect.
TE Hayden Hurst – Carolina Panthers
Hayden Hurst paced the Panthers’ pass catchers with five catches on seven targets for 41 yards and a touchdown. It should not come as a surprise that Hurst was rookie QB Bryce Young’s favorite target because Hurst is a big, reliable target. Tight ends have always been a security blanket for QBs, especially young ones still settling into the NFL game.
The absence of WR D.J. Chark helped Hurst’s volume, but he should remain a key part of the Panthers’ passing attack when Chark returns. Hurst has been a decent fantasy TE throughout his six-year career, even though he has bounced around the league and is now on his fourth team. The Panthers offense will struggle at times this year, but with the lack of targets going to the TE position throughout the league, Hurst has top-10 written all over him.