By Justin Edwards, 4for4
Special to Yahoo Sports
One of the best tools we have available to us here at 4for4 is our aFPA (adjusted Fantasy Points Allowed) Tool, and it can be incredibly helpful for figuring out which players are going to have some easy matchups to begin the season. By ensuring a solid start to the year beginning 3-1 or 4-0, we can vastly increase our odds to make it to the fantasy promise land in the cold months of winter; the playoffs. What better way to kick things off than by being forward-thinking and digging into easy matchups before we even begin the draft, as opposed to the normal fantasy manager who won’t even consider them until they are setting their lineups on Sunday morning.
Below I will be picking out some players who have particularly “easy” schedules in the first month of the season who we might boost up our draft boards a few spots because of their likelihood to produce early.
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
2019’s Fantasy MVP starts off the 2020 season against four very giving defenses and a possible high-scoring tilt with the Kansas City Chiefs, doesn’t seem fair, does it?
The worry with Jackson is the impending touchdown regression that is sure to hit at some point during this season. His 9.0% touchdown rate from last year is completely unsustainable and is likely an aberration due to the lack of passing attempts, not to mention the team’s 35% touchdown rate per offensive drive is bound to come down as well. The first month-plus of the season should look a lot like last year but once the tougher defenses start rolling in things may not be as pretty.
As any grizzled veteran in the fantasy football streets is well aware of, White is a PPR monster and derives a majority of his usefulness from his efficiency in the passing game. Standard league scoring mavens ought to keep scrolling.
The typically robust New England backfield depth chart is in (relative) turmoil at the moment, with the Patriots having to go out and sign free agent Lamar Miller amidst questions about Sony Michel’s foot, Damien Harris’ NFL talent, and the opt-out of Brandon Bolden. The only sure thing they’ve got going for them is a running back who has received 218 targets over the last two seasons. Tom Brady has moved south to Tampa Bay but let us not forget that Cam Newton was the quarterback who helped create one Christian McCaffrey.
If one of Michel, Harris, or Miller doesn’t emerge right away, White could also be in line for some extra carries early in the season against a giving group of opponents.
The Indianapolis Colts not only have a great early season schedule —they don’t face a top-10 unit versus the run until Week 9 (Baltimore)— they have the best schedule in aFPA to running backs for the full season as well. Things get even sweeter when you factor in that the Colts ran the ball at the second-highest rate in neutral game script last season and new quarterback Philip Rivers’ Chargers led the league in running back touch share.
Indianapolis’ fourth-ranked offensive line will kick things off in Week 1 against a Jaguars team that allowed six different 100-yard rushers last season. Two of those 100-yard rushers came from the same game; Week 11 against Indianapolis (Marlon Mack and Jonathan Williams). An awkward offseason could make Jonathan Taylor’s ascent to lead running back more difficult than it would have been in a regular year but I’m willing to buy his fantasy upside in hopes that he gets a piece of the pie in the early going.
D.J. Chark, Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars win total (via Bet MGM) is currently set at 5, among the lowest total in the NFL. The books are expecting the Jaguars to be seeing a lot of snaps while playing from behind, which is good news for Chark, who led the team with a 20.9% target share last season. After a couple of difficult match-ups against the Colts and Titans to start the year, Chark will square off against the suspect secondaries of the Dolphins, Bengals, Texans, and Lions before a Week 7 bye.
The back half of the schedule is a brutal stretch (and is a big reason why they’re expected to win less than five games), so get your Chark exposure through the first six weeks while the gettin’ is still good.
Greg Olsen, Seahawks
It has never been about talent with Olsen, but as he gets up there in years, it has been about health. Olsen hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2016. This is why having a relatively easy beginning of the season is so important if we’re going to find any fantasy value in using aging, oft-injured players. Get the good games out of the way before the body starts to break down.
The first four games on the Seattle Seahawks calendar are teams in the bottom half of aFPA, including a Week 3 game against the Cowboys who rank 28th. Because of the rotating cast of tight ends in Seattle, no one has been a target-hog in the Pacific Northwest since the days of Jimmy Graham, but a cursory glance at the type of talent that has been in-and-out of a Russel Wilson huddle at the position will help you understand why that’s the case. If Olsen can return to 80-plus target form then he will be useful in fantasy, especially in plus-matchups.
For another five players set to start the season fast, be sure read the original story, published on 4for4.com.
Follow Justin on Twitter @Justin_Redwards
More analysis from 4for4: Players to Avoid in Every Round of Fantasy Football Drafts
Justin has been playing fantasy sports since he booted up a Sandbox Fantasy Football league on his Gateway computer in Middle School. After nearly two decades in the restaurant industry, he's focusing his attention on making a living inside of the sports industry.