The Hard Bargain: A Week 1 Party

An Unexpected Party

I spent the final weekend before NFL football in Oregon with my parents in-laws. My daughters, “The Sneaky Girls” were excited to have a long weekend with their grandparents. While I was content sitting on the couch watching golf and college football with my father-in-law, the Sneaky Girls got busy making other plans.

Enlisting the help of their mother and grandmother, they planned a surprise party. They wrote songs to perform. They made decorations and hung them around the yard. Their mother prepared hors d’oeuvres while their grandmother ensured that neither Grandpa nor I walked in on their preparation and spoiled the surprise.

Once all the arrangements were in place, the party began. The Sneaky Girls each performed the songs they had written. We feasted and drank. A family friend arrived with a coconut cream pie. They even got their grandfather, a professional musician, to get out his guitar and play a few tunes while they joined him on percussion with a tambourine and piece of plastic pipe. Partygoers were required to dance, a request we happily obliged. The party was such a success that they did it again the following day. They just wanted everyone to enjoy themselves. 

It was truly a wonder to see my children taking such pride and delight in making everyone else’s day a little brighter. I had a very proud dad moment, as teaching them empathy and leading them to think of other people has been a consistent priority in my parenting endeavors. A little empathy goes a long way. If we all cared a little more about the next person’s experience, we would have a greatly improved world. 

Kicking Off The Week 1 Party: Deeper League Plays

As we head into Week 1 of the NFL season, I am certain most of us are brimming with excitement. A huge football party 7 months in the making has been prepared while we have eagerly waited in anticipation, and we are the guests of honor.  Now, sadly, we are all on our own for party food, but I trust you will come up with something.

While I can’t help you with the party food, one thing I will help you with is a sneaky play at each position for your larger (16-teams plus) or deeper leagues.

Heading into Week 1, I would think that most of you are fairly set with your starting lineups. Hopefully, you have not been bitten too badly by the injury bug at this point. However, If you rostered Cam Akers, J.K. Dobbins, Travis Etienne or Irv Smith, Jr., among others, or if your draft just didn’t turn out the way you had hoped, you might be scrambling a bit to piece together your winning lineup.

As the focus of these picks is on deeper and larger leagues, you won’t find any quarterbacks or tight ends inside the top 16 in consensus rankings below, nor will you find running backs and wide receivers inside the top-32 consensus ranks. My recommendations below will be for those who are digging deeper to unearth a quality starter.

Sam Darnold (QB, Carolina Panthers)

You read that right. I am calling for the revenge game. Sam Darnold is now under center for Carolina, welcoming his former team, the New York Jets, to town in his Panthers debut. In Joe Brady’s offense, Darnold finds himself surrounded by talent far superior to what he had in New York. He has arguably the best running back in the league behind him in Christian McCaffrey and he also reunites with a favorite target from his Jets days in Robby Anderson.

Anderson was a top deep target for Darnold in N.Y., as Darnold averaged over 15 yards in average Depth of Target (aDot) when targeting him. The Jets have a known weakness at cornerback and Darnold should be able to take advantage. He looked comfortable and capable of guiding this offense in the Panthers’ preseason matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers, leading me to expect serviceable fantasy points in Week 1.

Tevin Coleman (RB, New York Jets)

I promise that not all of my recommendations for the week will come from a single game, but I am staying in the same game for my running back selection, and for good reason. Tevin Coleman appears to have won the starting job, or at least the first crack at it, for the Jets. Head coach Robert Saleh chose Coleman to come to New York with him following their time together in San Francisco and, as such, Coleman has the trust of the coaching staff.

He also has great speed and quickness and is an asset in the passing game. Coleman’s familiarity with the system of offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, who has coached him both in Atlanta and San Francisco, should allow him to flourish in this offense. Carolina gave up one of the league’s highest Yards Per Carry (YPC) to running backs in 2020 and does not seem to have gotten a lot better in that area heading into this season. If you are needy at running back, Coleman might be you guy. He could even be on the waiver wire, even in deeper leagues.

Brandin Cooks (WR, Houston Texans)

Brandin Cooks may be the brightest spot on an offense that looks meager in talent, and that’s putting it nicely. Something else that should be nice, however, is Cooks’ target share. Last season, he had an impressive 7.4 targets per game. He is in line for significant targets again as the Texans turn to veteran journeyman Tyrod Taylor at quarterback.

With a career average of 14.2 Yards Per Reception (YPR), Cooks can build up the fantasy points in a hurry. He also has the good fortune of facing off with a dreadful Jacksonville Jaguars defense that allowed 8.1 YPR in 2020. That mark ranked them second in the NFL behind only Detroit:  Not an enviable accolade, to say the least. Expect Taylor to look for Cooks early and often in to get this offense moving against one of the league’s weakest defenses.

Blake Jarwin (TE, Dallas Cowboys)

Here is an early treat for you in the first game of the Week 1 NFL slate. The high-powered Dallas offense returns Blake Jarwin, along with quarterback Dak Prescott, to restore some juice to what should be a strong passing attack.

Tight end is a frequently-used position in the Dallas offense. Following Jarwin’s ACL tear last year, Dalton Schultz stepped up and finished the season as a top-11 tight end in PPR scoring. Now that Jarwin is back, he should see plenty of targets from Prescott. The matchup against the reigning Super Bowl champions is difficult overall; there is not much doubt about that as the Buccaneers return their entire starting defense from 2020. However, defending tight ends was not one of their most successful areas last season. Tampa Bay gave up the 12th most fantasy points to tight ends in the NFL. This should be an area that Dallas will look to make their mark by targeting Jarwin, who has a 75.6% career catch rate.

Party Favors

So, there you have it my sneaky deep league picks for Week 1 to help bring a little more enjoyment, and victory, to your Week 1 watch party. I hope these picks have given you some ideas if you have a weak spot in your lineup, as I want you to win your fantasy football matchups. But, what I want most is for you to enjoy the party that is the opening week of football season. I hope you have a smile on your face and a cold drink in your hand watching your fantasy team pile up points. Enjoy the games! 


Life is hard, but it gets a little easier when we learn to lean on each other. Find me on Twitter @DaveFantasy for more life and fantasy sports content.