Last-minute fantasy football pickups for Week 1

Leonard Fournette is unlikely to be available in your league, but Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be, and he's in a good spot for Week 1 and beyond. AP

Each week of the NFL season, we sift through every position with an eye on identifying streaming fantasy options to consider. Even in this first week of the campaign you might require replacements for injured or suspended players, or you could just be dealing with depth issues after your draft. We have some great options to choose from who are available in many ESPN leagues.


Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

Quarterback is a deep position in the context of most traditional fantasy formats, but if you play in a league that requires starting multiple quarterbacks or a "superflex" spot, it could be worth looking to Dalton, who remains available in more than 80 percent of ESPN leagues. This matchup against a potentially listless Indianapolis defense proves intriguing. The Colts produced the third-lowest pressure rate on quarterbacks last season, while Dalton boasts an elite touchdown rate (a score on 5.2 percent of his attempts) across the past three seasons operating from an "unpressured" or clean pocket -- on par with Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger. -- Jim McCormick

Running back

Jordan Wilkins, Indianapolis Colts

There's not much of a reason to be looking for streaming help at running back in Week 1, but Wilkins is the main candidate for those who need it. With Marlon Mack recovering from a hamstring injury that has sidelined him for several weeks, Wilkins may be the last man standing in the Colts' backfield. Wilkins is a 6-foot-1, 215 pound back who fell to the end of the fifth round due to concerns that he is too much of a finesse style runner for his size. However, Wilkins is a capable receiver who saw more than 10 percent of his runs go for 15-plus yards despite playing in the SEC last season. If his 12 carries for 101 yards against Alabama is any indication, the Colts might have a draft-day steal in Wilkins. -- Ken Daube

Latavius Murray, Minnesota Vikings

Murray should play a busy secondary role to Dalvin Cook in the Vikings' backfield. Tea leaves from the beat suggest Murray claims some potential to consume some coveted goal-to-go touches in this role. In the final four regular-season home games last season, with the Vikings positioned as favorites in all of them, Murray averaged a robust 20.4 fantasy points thanks to a healthy workload (19 touches per game) and effective goal-line conversions (six rushing scores over this sample). While it's essentially a bet on touchdown production, there are some ingredients, including Murray's preseason snap and touch share, that suggest it's a reasonable venture for those in need. -- McCormick

Wide receiver

Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys

Rostered in right around half of ESPN leagues and likely to start in far fewer, Gallup could quite realistically pace the Cowboys in targets this season. This bold projection begins with a trip to Carolina to face a Panthers secondary that ceded 216.3 yards per game to receivers during the final eight games of last season. This was exceedingly generous; the Panthers allowed 42 more receiving yards per game than the Chiefs, the second-worst secondary against wideouts during the second half of 2017. A relatively nameless Dallas receiving corps hasn't inspired much hype this summer. We so often pay for opportunity in fantasy, but it appears the sizable target share Gallup is due is going at quite the discount. -- McCormick

Tight end

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jacksonville Jaguars

Despite missing three full games last season, and basically sitting out all of Week 17, Seferian-Jenkins still eclipsed 100 fantasy points, which makes him relevant as a tight end. In fact, adding another 33 points to equate for that time missed would have placed him in line with guys like Hunter Henry and Eric Ebron, who while not elite were serviceable replacement tight ends last season. This season, Seferian-Jenkins moves from the New York Jets to the Jaguars. The Jags' receiving corps has had a massive overhaul, with the departures of both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. With Marqise Lee suffering a season-ending injury during the preseason, Seferian-Jenkins becomes the reliable veteran option on a team filled with young question marks, making him a suitable fill-in this week in case a player like Jordan Reed doesn't start. -- Daube

Ryan Griffin, Houston Texans

The Texans are sixth in the NFL in targets to tight ends (275) during the past two seasons. Griffin just won a contentious battle for the top tight end spot in Houston, thus could earn a sizable stake of Deshaun Watson's attention this week and going forward. Early last season, Griffin posted five catches for 61 yards and a score against the Patriots in Foxborough. Essentially free across all ESPN leagues, Griffin is a viable spot starter in deeper formats (at least 12 teams) given this blend of positive usage and matchup metrics. -- McCormick

Defense/special teams

Pittsburgh Steelers

While the Steel Curtain moniker won't be used to describe this year's version of the Steelers, their Week 1 matchup against the Cleveland Browns should make them very attractive, particularly to those who drafted the Houston Texans D/ST only to realize the Texans open against the New England Patriots. Over the past decade, the Steelers have finished no worse than the 17th-best D/ST and last season their 56 sacks led the league. An improvement over the subpar 10 interceptions recorded in 2017 would obviously be welcome and would likely launch them into being usable every week. -- Daube

Detroit Lions

This defense might be covered in chalk in DFS terms, but the re-draft community hasn't yet shown appreciation for the Lions' choice initial matchup with the Jets. While Sam Darnold flashed impressive poise in the preseason, there is under upside in facing a signal-caller making his real NFL debut from a defensive perspective. The Jets, after all, are projected for just 19 points in Vegas. -- McCormick

Individual defensive players

Defensive line

DeForest Buckner, San Francisco 49ers

It's not often that we find a consistently high-floor fantasy option along the defensive line, but that's just what Buckner has become. With at least four tackles in each of his first eight games last season and some impressive flashes as a pass-rusher in the second half of the year, there is a lot to like about Buckner as your second lineman in lineups this week. The Vikings should prove balanced enough to afford Buckner several rewarding tackle opportunities on Sunday. -- McCormick


Preston Brown, Cincinnati Bengals

Brown finished his Buffalo career on a strong note, tallying 37 tackles during his final three regular-season appearances for the Bills. Now with the Bengals and available in more than 80 percent of ESPN leagues, Brown is due to man the rewarding every-down role the suspended Vontaze Burfict often served in the middle of Cincinnati's defense. This might just be the best defensive line Brown has ever played behind, which should lead to clean lanes and tons of tackle potential against the Colts. -- McCormick

Defensive back

Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers

This rookie from Florida State joins an especially talented defense and could, from the first snap, become the team's most valuable defensive fantasy asset outside of the team's tandem of elite pass-rushers. With rare freedom to approach the box on early downs or challenge receivers and tight ends in a center-field role in coverage, James could deliver a big debut against the Chiefs' likely aggressive passing agenda. -- McCormick