Your lists have been made, your fantasy team has been drafted and finally, after far too much waiting, the 2016 NFL Fantasy Football season is here!
The Buccaneers travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons in Week One and both teams boast fantasy options who can be cornerstones for your team throughout the season. Before you set your final lineup for Sunday, let's dig a little deeper into some fantasy stars from this NFC South division rivalry who can get you a "W" in Week One.
The Curious Case of Jameis Winston
Pictures from Jameis Winston's 2016 photo shoot.
If you read through any of the hundreds of expert preseason quarterback rankings, something a little strange might have jumped out at you. Jameis Winston's ranking is all over the place!
Last season, he finished with 261 fantasy points, good for 14th-most among all quarterbacks and just 18 points shy of cracking the Top 10. Reasonably, many of his preseason rankings this year hover around the 14th quarterback selected – others have him a bit lower – and yet some experts have included him in their Top 10. Ultimately, he is owned in 60% of ESPN leagues.
Naturally you may be assuming a bit of homerism on our part, but there is definitely a case for him to be ranked higher and viewed as a huge sleeper this season. Here's why:
If you look through last season's numbers, you will not find a more consistent quarterback than Jameis Winston. Winston scored 12 fantasy points three times last season, not a spectacular number for sure. What is spectacular is that was the lowest point total he put up in a single game all season. Let's put that in perspective. The only other two quarterbacks to score 10 or more points in every game last year were Cam Newton and Russell Wilson.
Of course, you have already drafted, and if you picked up a top fantasy QB like Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers, it would be silly of you to be starting a still largely fantasy-unproven player like Winston instead of them. But for the drafters who stuck to RBs and WRs early and waited for the later rounds for their quarterback, Jameis Winston should be on your team strictly for the matter of his consistency.
Let's look at some of those other later-drafted quarterbacks that you might have starting for you instead of Winston. Redskins' QB Kirk Cousins had some great games last year, most notably four games with 28-plus points. He also had five games where he scored fewer than 12. Lions' Matthew Stafford: four games under 12 points. Giants' Eli Manning: four games. Chargers' Philip Rivers: four games.
Jameis Winston practically guarantees you at least 12 points per game (average 16.3 ppg.) from the QB spot to complement your star stable of players at other positions. And using that strategy of drafting big names at other positions first, consistency should be your strategy at quarterback. We're not saying that Winston will be a better fantasy player than the aforementioned later-round QBs week-in and week-out (we're not saying he won't either), but we are saying that if you waited on quarterbacks, Winston should be on your radar, if not on your roster.
The Best of the Rest
I probably don't have to tell you that this game has a lot of fantasy points ripe for the taking. The Buccaneers' Doug Martin and Mike Evans should be starting in every league, every format. Same goes for Falcons Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones.
You want some stats, for them? OK, here's some numbers. Freeman led all running backs in fantasy points last year thanks to 14 total touchdowns, which tied for the NFL lead. He was a top-10 fantasy running back pick in drafts this year and should make your lineup. However, it is important to note that in two games against the Bucs last season he had just 21 total points as the Buccaneers were able to keep him out of the end zone.
Julio Jones on the other hand has some great games against the Buccaneers (and pretty much every other NFL team for that matter). He had the second-most points of any fantasy receiver with 29 of his 231 points coming in two games against the Bucs. In the first game in Atlanta, Jones had 12 catches for 162 yards and a score (20 points), however, he was much quieter (fantasy-wise) in the second game, staying out of the end zone and ending the day with nine points.
Doug Martin had 20 points in two games against the Falcons, with 71 rushing yards for seven fantasy points in the game in Atlanta and 95 rushing yards and a score in his home game against them. Martin was another high-drafted running back this season thanks to finishing last year with the second-most rushing yards in the league and the third-most RB fantasy points. He should be in your lineup every week if you have him.
Finally, Mike Evans, who many experts have as a monster breakout fantasy performer this season. Because he found the end zone only three times, Evans had just the 27th-most fantasy points for WRs last year despite having the 11th-most receiving yards. Fantasy experts are ready for another 1,200+-yard season from Evans, but this time with eight-plus scores.
Fantasy Week 1 is not the most popular time to roll with an unknown commodity in your starting lineup, but certainly this game has some possible fantasy sleepers.
For the Buccaneers, many fantasy owners like Charles Sims in PPR formats. Despite being the backup on the team, Sims finished last year with the 22nd-most fantasy points of any running back. He had 51 catches, four receiving touchdowns and over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. It is unknown how much work he'll get against Atlanta, but he's a viable flex starter in PPR leagues.
WR Mohamed Sanu is the Falcons' new second receiver behind Julio Jones. With plenty of attention being given to the all-pro Jones, Sanu could see a lot of single-coverage and get a good amount of looks from Matt Ryan in his first game as a Falcon. With very little fantasy history to go on, he is definitely a risky play in this game.
To address the tight end position, you likely own a more reliable fantasy tight end than any who will suit up in this matchup on Sunday, but that isn't to say that there is no fantasy talent there. The Buccaneers look to split a lot of tight end action between Cameron Brate and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, which just makes it difficult to predict which TE will have the better game. Bucs' TEs last season finished with 106 fantasy points; only seven of those points came in the two games against the Falcons.