Every week, at least one player becomes my fascination of whether he’s worthy of a fantasy football start as a streamer. 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. Be sure to check out our newest piece, Streamers of the Week, from the talented Kevin Hickey.
The best fantasy football gamble for Week 1
Tracking my predictions: 0-0-0
Win: Player produces ≥ 75% of projected fantasy points
Loss: Player produces >75% of projected fantasy points
Tie: Player is ejected, leaves with an injury, or lands on COVID-19 list after publishing
2021 record: 8-9-1
2020 record: 5-10-1
It’s finally here! Week 1 is a glorious time of the year. Fantasy footballers have starry eyes and hopeful hearts as everything starts fresh.
In an opening week with few injuries of consequence (shocking, I know!), streaming or a gambling on a player with a great matchup has the feel of “getting too cute” about it. There’s a fine line between taking an education chance and flippantly starting someone on a whim. Emotions run high. Competitiveness can get the best of anyone. If you’re in position to take on a calculated risk, streaming at tight end, kicker and defense tend to be the best places to start, but this week we’ll live on the edge … sort of.
I say “sort of” because the risk here isn’t so much the player as it is the situation and his position. It takes a good deal of gumption to stream a quarterback in a week without bye weeks nor injuries forcing one’s hand. It takes even more to trust one with limited weaponry.
While I personally have a hard time thinking of Rodgers as a streaming option, his draft placement and a good number of questions I’ve received about starting him this week suggests John Q. Public doesn’t share my sentiment. Even our resident rankings creator, David Dorey, does not have a high opinion of A-Rod’s fantasy outlook in Week 1.
With an average draft position ranging from QB9 to QB11, Rodgers — the reigning, back-to-back league MVP, mind you — was viewed as a fringe No. 1 fantasy quarterback after the loss of star receiver Davante Adams. Green Bay cobbled together an eclectic blend of rookies and veterans in an effort to replace the now-Las Vegas Raider.
Rodgers enters the 2022 season with as much pressure his shoulders since the day he replaced Brett Favre. He has flopped in recent playoff appearances, made controversial statements on popular podcasts, was embroiled in a COVID-related scandal in 2021, wavered on returning to the team in 2020 before agreeing to return on a reworked a king’s ransom pact, and now has to put this team on his Canton-bound right shoulder with suspect targets and Super Bowl expectations.
Whew. That’s enough to make anyone wander into the jungle and take psychedelics.
From a historical perspective, Rodgers has a mixed bag statistically the Vikings with a dichotomous boom-or-bust profile. Most recently, he obliterated Minnesota in the Twin Cities to the tune of 385 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and 21 rushing yards on his way to a 37.4-point fantasy outburst. In Week 17, playing in Green Bay, Rodgers was extremely efficient by completing 76.3 percent of his throws (29-for-38) and accounting for a modest 23.2 but serviceable fantasy points.
Go back to 2020. Rodgers shelled the Vikes for lines of 365-4-0 and 291-3-0. The prior season wasn’t filled with such success. Minnesota also boasted a much better defensive grouping from a personnel perspective, and the previous coaching staff hadn’t yet alienated its own roster into despair.
While history can be a helpful indicator, it’s far from a guarantee to translate into the present. In 2022 present time, Minnesota has a new regime, different personnel in many regards, and renewed hope. Green Bay has two strong running backs, an injured tight end working his way back, no clear WR1, an iffy starter (Allen Lazard) trying to get right a week after being stepped on in practice, and a cast of merry misfits being asked to step up out of the gates.
It’s not all rosy this time, and I’m not here to convince you otherwise. It is, however, a storyline ripe for the picking in fantasy: Aging star quarterback in turmoil lifts his unheralded receiving corps to unforeseen levels of greatness.
That takes a leap of faith on our part and a little bit of imagination. Minnesota should be much better against the run than vs. receivers. Rodgers makes players around him better. Sammy Watkins has a history of blowing up in Week 1, and Randall Cobb has crazy chemistry with No. 12. Amari Rodgers is a year further into his maturation. Rookie deep threat Christian Watson is nearing full strength and trending in the right direction (you can’t teach his kind of speed, folks). Both reserve tight ends have been in the system for several years now, and that assumes Robert Tonyan (knee) isn’t going to play — he still has a chance. Both running backs can catch the ball and are part of the aerial game plan inside of the red zone. Rookie Romeo Doubs has drawn consistent praise all summer, including from his quarterback — a man who notoriously avoids rookies, let alone brags them up.
Minnesota is switching to a 3-4 defensive alignment, which typically takes time to translate into success. Cornerback Patrick Peterson one day will join Rodgers in the Hall of Fame, but age and injuries have taken an obvious toll on his play. A shaky third-year corner and a rookie will be asked to hold up in coverage for a defense that needs all the help it can get rushing the passer.
In many cases, Rodgers was drafted as an owner’s presumed starter, so this doesn’t apply if that’s you, but all too many gamers chose the 38-year-old in tandem with a high-upside option, such as a Trey Lance, Justin Fields, Tua Tagovailoa, or Trevor Lawrence type. Some of us chose Rodgers and immediate backed him up with a safe veteran who can jump into a lineup should the star finally lose his luster or get injured. Regardless of your situation and despite the injuries as well as loss of Adams, Rodgers warrants a start with such an exploitable matchup.
My projection: 303 yards, 3 TDs, 0 interceptions (27.15 points)