Editor’s note: The players listed below are NFL stars who were drafted in virtually every Yahoo Fantasy league. That said, this column is not an endorsement to bench them in Week 1. You’re in control of your roster; every league size and shape is different. What we are trying to explain is that expectations should be lowered this week compared to usual for some of the NFL’s biggest stars. Aside from examining this week’s matchups, this can also serve as a reminder not to overreact if one of your high draft picks disappoints in Week 1.
Russell Wilson @ Seattle Seahawks
At first glance, Wilson appears to be in a smash spot in a revenge game versus a shaky Seattle defense. However, there are reasons to temper expectations for Wilson in Week 1. Denver’s new staff will be coaching its first game in a Seattle night environment that won’t be so welcoming. Moreover, Wilson got 9.5 YPA with a 9:1 TD:INT ratio against man coverage last season and 7.7 YPA with an 8:5 TD:INT ratio when facing zone; no team in football played more zone coverage than Seattle last year.
In a matchup featuring a team that ran by far the fewest plays last season, it’s hard to envision Wilson getting into a high-scoring game with Geno Smith. And even if Denver rolls, it likely means a big game from Javonte Williams and/or Melvin Gordon, as Seattle allowed the second-most fantasy points to RBs last season (and just 20th versus QBs). I’m not necessarily saying you should bench Wilson on Monday night, but with quarterback as deep as ever, you might have a better option on your roster for Week 1.
Deebo Samuel @ Chicago Bears
Samuel could pick up extra targets should George Kittle’s new groin injury force him to sit Sunday, but either way he’s likely to disappoint fantasy managers who spent a second-round pick on him. The Chicago forecast calls for rainy conditions, and the 49ers are likely to use an extremely heavy run plan during just the fourth time Trey Lance will be starting a football game since 2019. In fact, no San Francisco pass catcher has an over/under of more than 50.5 yards Sunday, including a higher total for Brandon Aiyuk than Samuel!
This game also features the lowest over/under of the week (40.5 points) in a matchup that projects to be slow paced. Samuel also isn’t going to carry the ball like last season with a much healthier and deeper backfield, so some patience may be required before the 49ers eventually open the offense more over the second half of the season.
Ezekiel Elliott vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Elliott is always a threat to plunge in a TD and could benefit from a high-scoring Sunday night matchup, but it’s against a Bucs defense that ceded the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing backs and an NFL-low 63.7 rush yards per game to the position last year. Tampa Bay also added Akiem Hicks during the offseason. Elliott is approaching 2,000 career touches, struggled before suffering his PCL injury last season and has seen a dramatic decrease in production with injured left tackle Tyron Smith off the field during his career.
Tampa Bay and Dallas ranked first and second in pace during neutral situations last season, and the Cowboys enter thin on offensive weapons, but this tough matchup screams for more Tony Pollard than Elliott on Sunday night.