The NFL is finally beginning and that means fantasy football is back! Every successful fantasy season has an element of predicting the future. Which players are one-week wonders and which players are starting off slow but might come on later?
Sleepers & Fades For Fantasy Football Week 1
Let’s start by defining what I mean by each of these terms. Sleepers are players that I am seeing a world where they pop but that could never come to fruition. While there may be some week-specific ones, I also will give some long-term sleepers to watch. Fades are players that I believe you should look to phase out of your lineup. Whether you trade them or simply drop them altogether, I do not see a world where these players are productive throughout the season.
Sleeper: WR Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With Baker Mayfield at the helm, I don’t feel confident in Evans for the entire season. However, he is a sleeper because he is a trade candidate. Last year, Christian McCaffrey went from Carolina to San Francisco and his fantasy football value skyrocketed. Let’s say hypothetically Evans gets traded to the Buffalo Bills. He immediately becomes a top wideout option. If you can buy low on Evans now, it might pay dividends later on.
Fade: WR Jameson Williams, Detroit Lions
The six-game suspension to start the season means that many are getting Willaims late in their drafts and hoping he can win the league for them late in the season. I simply don’t see it this year. Here are Willaims’ NFL career stats. A reception for 41 yards and a touchdown and one rushing attempt that went for 40 yards. That’s it. Williams could be great long term but he is going to go through some growing pains. He already is having problems with drops and I think will disappoint this season.
Sleeper: WR Skyy Moore, Kansas City Chiefs
When this season is over, I think that Moore is going to be the leading receiver not named Travis Kelce. Last season when JuJu Smith-Schuster got hurt, Moore led all Chiefs wide receivers in targets. Patrick Mahomes loves the slot position. Per PFF, since 2021 Mahomes has led all active quarterbacks in slot targets at about 9.1 per game. Moore has a year under his belt and plays in a position that is heavily targeted by the best quarterback in the game.
Fade: RB Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers
Harris comes into the 2023 season as the featured back. By the end of the season, I don’t think he will be. Jaylen Warren looked good in the preseason and I don’t think it is going to take that much to overtake Harris. The former first-round pick had an abysmal 3.9 yards per carry last year. For context, that ranked 36th amongst running backs. Kenyan Drake and Latavius Murray had a better yards per carry average than Harris. If Warren is able to get chunk plays, Harris could lose carries.
Sleeper: QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers
Right now, running quarterbacks are the best in fantasy football (unless your name is Patrick Mahomes). Don’t sleep on Pickett being a top quarterback by the end of the season. From Weeks 12-18, Pickett was PFF’s highest-graded quarterback. He also added 235 rushing yards which puts him in a good threshold for your fantasy football quarterback. George Pickens and Diontae Johnson are two great pass catchers and the offensive line is improved. Watch out for Pickett this year.
Fade: WR DJ Moore, Chicago Bears
There is a lot of hype around Moore and I’m curious why. He ranked 28th in expected fantasy points last season behind Brandin Cooks (who was on the Texans) and Jakobi Meyers. Supporters will say that he had poor quarterback play but now he goes to Justin Fields. The Bears produced an NFL-low 15.4 catchable targets per game last year! While the expectation is that Fields is going to pass more the fact is Fields has to make a huge leap for Moore to be a top fantasy option. Fade Moore and pick up a more promising option.
Those are my sleepers & fades for fantasy football going into week 1. Each week I’ll come back with another list to help you navigate the fantasy football season.