2021 Season: Week 1 Boom/Bust (PPR)

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Herms (@HermsNFL)
The Lateral Chief Editor

Malcolm McMillan (@McLateralFF)
The Lateral Writer

For those of you who read The Lateral Boom/Bust last year, welcome back. For those who are new, the point of this article is simple. Find some players not currently ranked as starters that will finish above expectations (booms), and some players currently ranked as starters that will fall short (busts). That is all there is to it.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The FantasyPros ECR projected points listed are those at the time of writing. They may change as the week progresses and are dynamic by nature.]

Week 1 Boom/Bust (PPR)

Week 1 Booms

Quarterback (QB)

Herms: Carson Wentz [Indianapolis Colts] (16.2 projected points)

Say what you will about Carson Wentz's 2020 season with the Philadelphia Eagles, but this old face finds himself in a new place (Indianapolis Colts) going up against the Seattle Seahawks. The latter did not do a ton in the way of upgrading the secondary in the offseason and boasts (mostly) the same defense that allowed the sixth-most points to the QB position last year. Being without WR T.Y. Hilton on IR does not help, but can we honestly say the Colts' group of pass-catchers are all that much better or worse than what Wentz dealt with in Philly? And hell, the offensive line protecting him now is lightyears better as well but that is a low bar to clear. Deeper league 1QB streamers and superflex managers alike, you can feel decent about Wentz in your lineup this weekend. Ending up in the ballpark of a cool 20 points feels manageable. 

McLateral: Kirk Cousins [Minnesota Vikings] (18.1 projected points)

The Cincinnati Bengals have a terrible defense. They gave up a whopping 6.1 yards per play last year, and this year probably will not see a significant improvement in that metric. With tight end Irv Smith Jr. now out, the Minnesota Vikings are basically left with three options: run with running back Dalvin Cook, throw to wide receiver Justin Jefferson or throw to wide receiver Adam Thielen. In two of those three instances, Kirk Cousins scores fantasy football points. He is an easy play for me in daily fantasy sports (DFS) or as a streaming option in Week 1.

Running Back (RB)

Herms: James Conner [Arizona Cardinals] (8.4 projected points)

Though the Arizona Cardinals are going up against a middle-of-the-pack Tennessee Titans' red zone run defense from a year ago, Conner profiles far better as a goal-line back than the incumbent RB Chase Edmonds. Per Pro Football Reference, former Cardinals/current Raiders RB Kenyan Drake saw 56 red zone rushing attempts in 2020 (fourth-best in the NFL) to Edmonds' 13 red zone carries. All that needs to be said here is that Conner is likely more valuable than his RB36 ADP per 4for4 would suggest should he be filling the shoes of Kenyan Drake in the Arizona offense, a player that finished RB16 overall in PPR scoring last year. Just throwin' that out there. This is more of a reminder that James Conner is good when healthy than anything else. 

McLateral: Trey Sermon [San Francisco 49ers] (9.2 projected points)

Last year, the Detroit Lions gave up the most fantasy football points to running backs of any team in the NFL. This year, they will probably still give up a ton of points to running backs. That is great news for the San Francisco 49ers, who plan to establish the run early and often. Asa major part of their rushing attack, Trey Sermon should see plenty of opportunities to carve up the Lions' defense. 10+ rushing attempts would make him a lock to beat his projections, and that number should easily be within reach for the rookie running back.

Wide Receiver (WR)

Herms: Elijah Moore [New York Jets] (8.5 projected points) 

WR Jamison Crowder is out for tomorrow's game. Rookie QB Zach Wilson will have to throw the ball to someone besides WR Corey Davis at some point. Simple logic here: the targets have to go somewhere and this seems like a good place to find cheap WR3/flex value potentially as discussed in the Week 1 preview episode of The Lateral Show

McLateral: Marquez Callaway [New Orleans Saints] (11.0 projected points)

I wrote about the New Orleans Saints' new top wide receiver over at BallBlast Football earlier this week, so I recommend checking that out for more on Marquez Callaway. Suffice to say, you should be playing him unless you are absolutely stacked at wide receiver. A touchdown feels inevitable with Jameis Winston at QB, making him likely to outperform his expectations.

Tight End (TE)

Herms: Jordan Akins [Houston Texans] (6.5 projected points)

Can I cheat and claim that I saw TE Rob Gronkowski going off coming? Sheesh.

Anyway, the cheap move here is Akins. The Jacksonville Jaguars were horrendous against the TE position last year, it is tough to find any defensive improvements from the offseason that make anyone feel any better about that changing, and who else does QB Tyrod Taylor have to throw to besides WR Brandin Cooks that we have confidence in? There are worse hills to die on. Akins is an extremely desirable deep league streamer this week.

McLateral: Zach Ertz [Philadelphia Eagles]
 (7.5 projected points)

The Atlanta Falcons were one of the best matchups for tight ends last year. Luckily, the Philadelphia Eagles have two good ones in Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz. They are both listed as TE1 on the Eagles' depth chart. So why cannot Ertz be the lead target in Philadelphia? He was the leading tight end target last season and was quarterback Jalen Hurts's favorite target in training camp this year. A touchdown would be enough to hit 7.5 projected points in PPR scoring, and any further targets would just push him closer and closer to fantasy football top-12 tight end territory.

Defense/Special Teams (DST)

Herms: Carolina Panthers (7.2 projected points)

Look, I'll admit I do not have a ton of stat-based evidence to back this up, but I think the Panthers' defense looked good toward the latter half of 2020 and they're going up against a rookie QB. Ask @JordanVanekDFS about how he feels about this. 

McLateral: Miami Dolphins (6.5 projected points)

The Miami Dolphins were my recommendation at defense/special teams for this week's waiver wire article. The case for a boom performance is laid out pretty clearly there, so I recommend reading that to see why the Dolphins feel like a good play this week.

Kicker (K)

Herms: Evan McPherson [Cincinnati Bengals] (7.0 projected points)

I dunno, he was the only kicker taken in the 2021 NFL Draft for a reason. Picking kickers without a proper sample size of data is not the easiest thing to do, but I figure the Bengals offense may stall out a few times given this is the first time we'll see QB Joe Burrow in meaningful action since the nasty knee injury [if you don't want to see the video, don't click] he suffered last season.

McLateral: Chris Boswell [Pittsburgh Steelers] (7.1 projected points)

Buffalo has a good enough defense to get some stops against Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is good news if you need to play Chris Boswell. Every Bills red zone stop means another field goal opportunity for a kicker that has been pretty consistent in the past. Three field goals would beat this project, so any extra points (there will be extra points) are just gravy for fantasy managers.

Week 1 Busts

Quarterback (QB)

Herms: Russell Wilson (20.9 projected points)

Calling a Week 1 "bust" is not exactly the most enjoyable act, so let us revisit an old, often used disclaimer from column's past: what is being said here is "don't be surprised if ____ falls short" NOT "you should bench this player,"

Now that that has been addressed, despite losing S Malik Hooker in the offseason, the Colts secondary is still quite stout and is a unit that presented the 11th-toughest matchup for opposing QBs in 2020. On a loosely related note/to the team's credit, Seattle acquiring G Gabe Jackson from the Las Vegas Raiders goes a long way in bolstering an offensive line that did not exactly excel in the "keeping Russell Wilson upright" department. This should serve Wilson well, but this is a tough matchup out of the gate regardless. Not to mention Pete Carroll himself said in so many words he is not looking to see Russ cook as much this year. This blurb meanders a bit admittedly, but that kind of highlights the point made at the beginning. 

McLateral: Justin Herbert [Los Angeles Chargers] (19.3 projected points)

The Washington Football Team had one of the best defenses in terms of fantasy football points allowed to the quarterback last year. Since they did not noticeably get worse (in fact, they look pretty good) a similar level of performance in 2021 would not be illogical. Throw in Justin Herbert maybe missing a key weapon due to running back Austin Ekeler's hamstring injury, and the red flags start flying. Even if the Los Angeles Chargers win, this could be a defensive battle in Washington, DC (well, Landover, Maryland).

Running Back (RB)

Herms: Saquon Barkley (16.7 projected points)

This is a chalky pick but hey, the man is coming off of a torn ACL and is said to be limited by the team. You're likely going to need a score from Barkley in order for him to crack the 16.7 projection, and while that is certainly possible, the lack of volume makes him a lower-end RB2 play this week rather than the RB1 he'll end up being as the season goes along.

McLateral: Austin Ekeler (16.6 projected points)

Speaking of Austin Ekeler, here he is again. Typically, I avoid injured players as "busts" because their injury status already tilts them in that direction. However, I think that the matchup against a tough defense combined with the potential for re-aggravating an already problematic hamstring injury merits mentioning here. Ekeler was likely to be dependent on his receiving volume for this matchup, and that may not be enough. It certainly will not be enough though if he goes down mid-game.

Wide Receiver (WR)

Herms: Allen Robinson II (15.3 projected points) 

QB Andy Dalton is starting and they're facing Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles Rams aka the single toughest matchup for QBs and WRs from a season ago. Granted the team did lose CB Troy Hill and S John Johnson III in free agency to the Cleveland Browns, but nonetheless this is not going to be pretty for the Bears offense.

McLateral: Terry McLaurin (16.7 projected points)

Okay, maybe I just really want you to avoid this game for fantasy football purposes. Both the Los Angeles Chargers and Washington Football Team are pretty good defenses. Los Angeles in particular was fairly effective against wide receivers in 2020. Yes, Terry McLaurin is incredibly talented, and Ryan Fitzpatrick should be an upgrade for McLaurin and the Washington Football Team. But if Los Angeles plays well, they could contain McLaurin. 

You are still going to have to play him though.

Tight End (TE)

Herms: Mike Gesicki (9.1 projected points)

I like Gesicki a lot this year as my TE12 in my preseason draft rankings, but not so much this week against the tough New England Patriots matchup. I'm good on this one.

McLateral: Mike Gesicki (9.1 projected points)

Look, I get it. You wanted two names here. Well, guess what? Tough.

Seriously though, Gesicki is the clear choice for a bust at tight end. Between a bad matchup against the New England Patriots and a new competitor for targets in Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, this is a stay away.

Defense/Special Teams (DST)

Herms: Seattle Seahawks (6.7 projected points)

Apply the logic for my QB Carson Wentz boom pick from above here.

McLateral: Baltimore Ravens (7.0 projected points)

This team just has some bad juju. The Ravens already made some moves that raised some eyebrows in the offseason, such as letting Matt Judon go to the New England Patriots. Still, this team always finds the next man up, or makes a shrewd move, and finds a way to be excellent on the field. Especially on defense. But with players now dropping like flies, including cornerback Marcus Peters, I just want to stay away. Especially against a Las Vegas Raiders team that liked to play up to its level of competition last year.

Kicker (K)

Herms: Robbie Gould (8.7 projected points)

[copy homework mode]

McLateral: Robbie Gould (8.7 projected points)

Will the San Francisco 49ers score plenty against the Detroit Lions? Yes. Will it be mostly touchdowns? Also, yes. That means lots of opportunities for Robbie Gould that are only worth a point instead of three (or more).

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