The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the lines for food at the Student Union have become unbearably long, and the NFL season is about to kick off tonight… All is well.
Welcome back to another edition of Spin’s Fantasy Factory! Now is the most exciting time to enter the factory as the 2022-23 NFL season creeps nearer and nearer. Drafts are wrapping up, fantasy managers have a solid grasp on which players made a difference in training camp, and it’s time to submit that Week 1 lineup.
Depending on how well you did in your draft this year, you may be looking at your fantasy lineup heading into Thursday night with a predicament: Should I start Player A or Player B at my WR2 spot? What about Player C or Player D at TE? Player E just had a great game, but do I really want to play him over Player F?
I’m here to shed some light on your decision as you choose which players you should start and which you should sit. For each of the three main skill positions (WR, RB, TE), I’ve listed my top choices for players you should definitely start based on matchups, projections, schemes or even just a plain hunch that I have. Whichever way, here are three players that you should start if you’re having trouble filling out your fantasy lineup this week.
Allen Robinson II, WR, Los Angeles Rams vs. BUF
It’s crazy to think that Robinson was a top 10 fantasy WR just a few short years ago, but his time with the Chicago Bears has left an undesirable taste in fantasy managers’ mouths as he’s continuously disappointed with his fantasy production. Far away from Chicago, Robinson landed with the Rams during the offseason and now finds himself in a much better position with a more efficient and well-rounded offense, with a proven quarterback in Matthew Stafford. He’s currently being selected among the mid-to-late-20s among wide receivers, a slot that he could easily outplay as the season progresses as Robert Woods and Odell Beckham Jr. each found success in Los Angeles’ offensive scheme, even with Cooper Kupp demanding targets.
Week 1 is a dream matchup for fantasy managers that took the flier on Robinson as the Rams are set to take on another high-powered offense against the Buffalo Bills. Plenty of points will be scored in this one and the ball figures to be in the air a lot, especially with the Bills missing top cornerback Tre’Davious White. With these two units going at each other, Robinson should see more than his fair share of targets as the clear-cut WR2 in the Rams’ offense. A player with weekly top 20 upside, Robinson will look to take advantage of this dream matchup and could realistically find himself inside of the top 10 at his position by the end of the week.
Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles at DET
Last season was a forgettable one for Sanders, who never visited the end zone on his 137 rushing attempts. He finished as the RB43 in standard leagues, and narrowly outscored teammates Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott in terms of fantasy points. This year will almost certainly prove to be another nightmare-ish season for fantasy managers who have dipped their toes into Philadelphia’s backfield with the team showing a willingness to utilize an RB committee while quarterback Jalen Hurts limits goal line opportunities due to his rushing upside.
Despite obstacles hindering Sanders’ fantasy production in recent seasons, the good news is that his situation can only improve as long as he doesn’t begin to perform poorly. Even in a committee, Sanders is still clearly the Eagles’ preference at RB, and he should assume the bulk of the carries when his team takes on the Detroit Lions — a team that was bottom-five in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns allowed last year — on Sunday. The fear of more inconsistency and the Eagles distributing their touches on offense have watered Sanders’ fantasy value down to that of a low-end RB2/RB3. If there’s any game for him to outperform that value, it’s this one.
Dawson Knox, TE, Buffalo Bills at LAR
Knox has been a staple in the Bills’ offense for the last few seasons, and though he hasn’t been a “top” choice among tight ends in fantasy drafts, his big-play abilities and his connection with quarterback Josh Allen have kept Knox at least relevant at the position. Though his big games are at times offset by the occasional dud, Knox has always found a way to end up near the top 10 for fantasy tight ends. Buffalo rewarded him for his play with a four-year, $53.6 million contract extension that will secure Knox’s position as the Bills’ top tight end and a focal point of their offense for the foreseeable future.
During the regular season last year, Knox led all tight ends in touchdowns (nine) and TD rate (12.3%), while finishing fourth in end zone targets (nine). On the other hand, Knox was targeted only 73 times (20th at the position), making him a weekly boom-bust candidate depending on the matchup.
In Week 1, Knox should be in a position to break out against a Rams defense that, while a solid unit, is stronger at some positions than others. Playing a middling defense in terms of yards allowed to opponents per game, Knox and the Bills shouldn’t have much trouble moving the ball downfield and creating scoring opportunities. As was the case for Robinson, the positive game script will only benefit Knox by unlocking opportunities for him to make plays with the ball and find some open space downfield. I think this is one of those weeks where Knox breaks out and torches a Los Angeles defense that will have its hands full with the likes of Allen, Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis.