NFL

7 Players to Target and Avoid in Fantasy Football Due to Their Early-Season Schedules

There's a lot of year-over-year variance in the NFL, so putting any effort into schedule analysis may seem unnecessary.

But, as we enter a new season, it's not as though we have zero idea as to which teams will be good. And from a fantasy football perspective, we're not using a player's schedule as the sole reason to draft him. It's an added bonus, or maybe even a tiebreaker.

There's an easy argument to make that the early portion of a player's schedule is most important for fantasy purposes. If you're someone who streams quarterbacks, for example, then you'll want cakewalk matchups during the front part of a passer's schedule. You also just want your fantasy team to get off to a hot start. If it doesn't, and if your players are suffering as the result of some bad matchups, then you'll begin questioning the true worth of those players.

Just like anything you invest in, you want the value of that thing to rise immediately after purchase. If there's a tough schedule, there's a better chance for that to not happen.

So which players should you look at a little differently this season based on their early-season schedules?

Favorable Matchups

Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys

The quarterback position is deep in fantasy football -- even deeper than last year and the year before that and the year before that -- which means streaming is an even more applicable strategy than usual. And if you're going that route, Dak Prescott could be your man.

Not only does Prescott have intriguing upside now that the Cowboys have Amari Cooper (he averaged about three more fantasy points per game when Cooper joined Dallas), but the start to his season is pretty soft. The Cowboys open up the year against New York (Giants) at home, and then they'll face Washington and Miami. According to FanDuel Sportsbook, those three teams have three of the lowest win totals heading into the 2019 season. That'll give Dak and the Cowboys a nice positive game script. And, per Pro Football Focus, those three teams have bottom half secondaries personnel-wise.

Mark Ingram, RB, Baltimore Ravens

On a run-first team like Baltimore, you'd ideally like to see the team in plus game flow situations. Last regular season, after Lamar Jackson took over, the Ravens ranked third in running back attempts. All the while, they ran the fifth-fewest plays in the NFL while trailing. In other words, positive game scripts helped fuel -- at least to some degree -- the rushing volume.

To kick off the season, the Ravens are facing the Dolphins (on the road) and the Cardinals (at home). FanDuel Sportsbook has the over/under win total for Miami and Arizona at 4.5 and 5, respectively. There's a good chance that Baltimore is 2-0 to start the season, and if that's the case, they'll be in a good position to run the football with their free agent back.

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers

If you miss out on Dak Prescott as a quarterback streamer, you could always look at Jimmy Garoppolo. And the simple reason is because the 49ers will start their season against Tampa Bay, who have arguably the worst secondary in football. The game currently has a 49-point over/under (yes, it's July, and we're talking about Week 1 betting lines), and the Bucs are just one-point home favorites. As a late-round quarterback option, you could do far worse than Jimmy G.

Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As I just noted, there's at least some chance that we see a shootout in Week 1 with the Buccaneers and 49ers. That should benefit Chris Godwin, who's going to be Tampa Bay's number-two pass-catching option behind Mike Evans this year. But there's more: after the 49ers, the Bucs will face the Panthers and Giants. The Carolina pass rush may end up giving Tampa Bay some trouble, but the secondary is far from good, coming in as a bottom-10 on over on Pro Football Focus. And New York's isn't much better.

Unfavorable Matchups

Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson, RB, Washington Redskins

It's sort of hard to get really excited about the Washington backfield this year because the offense itself is projected to be pretty mediocre. That has a strong correlation to overall success at the running back position in fantasy football.

On top of that, though, Washington will face Philadelphia in Week 1, Dallas in Week 2, and then Chicago in Week 3. The Eagles, Cowboys, and Bears are all projected to be playoff contenders with solid defenses. So it's safe to say that Washington will probably face negative game scripts in those matchups. That makes Guice and Peterson tough bets to start the year.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

After a season with just a 4.2% touchdown rate (his career average is 6.2%), Aaron Rodgers is looking to rebound in 2019. And with a coaching change and more experience from some of his wide receivers, he should.

Just don't expect the world from him in Weeks 1 and 2. Green Bay opens the season up in Chicago, and then they'll be at home against Minnesota in Week 2. So Rodgers will be going up against arguably two top-10 secondaries over the first couple of weeks of the season. You shouldn't be drafting your quarterbacks early in single-quarterback formats, but this is another reason to shy away from Rodgers.

Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta could surprise fans this season given the additions they've made this offseason and the simple fact that they'll be healthier than they were a season ago. Or they should be.

After missing 14 games last year, of the players who's looking to stay on the field this season is Devonta Freeman. Projection-wise, Freeman looks to have the right floor-ceiling combination: there's an easy case to be made that he's been undervalued in drafts this offseason.

With that being said, Atlanta's first two matchups of the season are against Minnesota and Philadelphia, with the Eagles playing in Atlanta. Pro Football Focus has those two teams ranked in the top-11 at stopping the run entering the year. You likely can't and won't sit Freeman in most leagues, but there's at least some chance that he's a buy-low candidate once Week 2 is over.