GAMEDAY UPDATE: In a surprise move, the 49ers have declared RB Trey Sermon INACTIVE as a healthy scratch.
Every week, at least one player becomes my fascination of whether he’s worthy of a fantasy football start or bench. The decision can be a mental wrestling match, but for the purpose of brevity, only one player can be chosen as the fantasy football gamble of the week.
The best fantasy football gamble for Week 1
RB Trey Sermon, San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions
I’ve been banging the Sermon drum ever since he was drafted by the Niners last spring, and he will come out of the gates firing on all cylinders. San Fran is in a perfect situation to feed the rookie rusher in tandem with Raheem Mostert.
The 49ers are one of the most prolific rushing teams in the league, and they also love to share the touches — sometimes to the detriment of fantasy owners.
San Francisco finds its two primary wide receivers coming back from injuries this offseason. Both Brandon Aiyuk (hamstring) and Deebo Samuel (glute) are healthy. Neither missed practice as of Wednesday, which is almost always the day anyone remotely iffy to play will sit. Furthermore, tight end George Kittle is ready to rock-n-roll. While gamers love him for his downfield work, he’s among the league’s top blockers at the position.
In 2020, the Lions allowed running backs to average 115.9 rushing yards (5th most), 48.1 receiving yards (most), 32.2 PPR points (2nd most), and a rushing touchdown every 21.1 attempts (third-highest frequency). One in 7.9 catches by the position went into the end zone — no team surrendered touchdowns at a higher clip.
But that was 2020, you may be thinking, and we’re starting a new season, fresh as a daisy. In most situations, that is how we should be thinking. Yes, the Detroit defense has possibly improved since we last saw them play meaningful football … it is a new coaching regime, employing a new defensive alignment, after all. But there’s also only so much one should expect in the first game under an incoming staff. Switching to a 3-4 base leaves many questions to be answered in ways only done by seeing the on-field product, and that kind of transition rarely is an expeditious one. They’re NFL coaches … not miracle workers here.
Detroit is actually built to be better vs. the pass than the run from a personnel perspective, although that’s not saying a heck of a lot to the secondary’s credit. Now faster on the outside at linebacker, it should work against the Lions. This defense will struggle to contain inside runs this year, especially early on. The nature of San Francisco’s zone-blocking system will pit their own leverage against the quickness gained by the boys in Honolulu blue, creating cutback lanes on outsize zones and setting up misdirections. This is evidenced as the Kyle Shanahan offenses ranking inside of the top 10 for counters and powers during the past two years.
Detroit will have its hands full. This offense as a whole is as dangerous as it has been in recent memory, the fullback is a beast, and the offensive line is among the game’s best. Expect massive holes for the rookie in his pro debut.
My projection: 14 carries, 67 yards, 2 TDs, 2 receptions, 18 yards, 0 TD (22.5 PPR points)