Writing with the strength of the early schedule in mind
It’s been over a few weeks since the NFL released the full 18-week schedules for the 2022 season. The strength of the schedule will always have a huge impact on your fantasy team’s success in your league. In DFS football, there is no worry about scheduling runs throughout the season, unlike revamped leagues. Every weekend you choose your brand new team, trying to exploit the best matchups and racing with them. It’s not so easy in leagues where you have to select your team before the season starts.
Even so, early soft SOS should definitely be considered when drafting your team, or at least when it comes to making late picks or snatching free agents from the waiver wire for start the year. While often overlooked, picking players expected to put in huge performances in Week 1 and early games can be key to locking in a playoff berth. The more you hesitate to put a player in your starting XI, the worse it is. You need to be ahead of the competition whenever you can.
That’s what I’m doing here today. I’m highlighting a few teams with favorable Weeks 1-5 schedules and the players who can benefit the most from this first round of games so you can move on and clear any doubts you have about drafting them, or in the case of those with “less” value, go ahead and pick them for free before any other fantasy GMs. Let’s go!
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Teams with flexible and early schedules that are worth pursuing
Sweetest Games: Week 1 and Week 2
The Colts open the season with the fourth-best game (at Houston) for all of their offensive positions by SOS and have another top-eight game in the second week of the year (at Jacksonville). All things considered (W1-W5 matchups), Indy has the best SOS in the NFL, topped only by Cleveland’s figure.
With two cupcake games to start the year and everyone healthy and ready to start the season with a solid outing, the Colts’ best units to target are QB and RB. That means betting on Matt Ryan and Jonathan Taylor/Nyheim Hines. It’s going to be tough to find Taylor available late in your draft (he’s the #1 overall pick these days with a ridiculous 1.1 ADP) but Ryan comes off the draft boards near the 145th overall pick and as QB21. This means that fantasy GMs are do not write Ryan at all in most leagues, even the deep ones.
You always want to draft a QB and then have some depth in your reserve, so if you throw a legit QB1 in your draft and choose to draft your quarterback late, be sure to add and deploy Ryan from WW in the first few weeks. of the season because the calendar cannot look better. The same goes for Indianapolis RB2 Nyheim Hines. Hines’ ADP of 132nd overall (RB45) will make him a WW target in many leagues, or at the very least a 12th-15th round pick. Hines has enough appeal to consider him a very viable option no matter what, but this early season boost calls for action if you want to get some tasty FP to kick off your season given the fantastic SOS which he will face soon.
Las Vegas Raiders
Sweetest Games: Week 2 and Week 3
The first game of the season is not the one you want to target using Las Vegas players. Other than that, the schedule gets very soft in Weeks 2 and 3. The Raiders have the second-best SOS for QBs, third-best for RBs, and fifth-best for TEs in Week 2. They also have second-best for WRs in Week 3. Put it all together and you have the five best matchups for all four offensive positions in that first two-game period.
The Raiders are a very heavy team, so it’s not that there will be a lot of cheap/WW opportunities to be extracted from Las Vegas. The most attractive targets might be QB Derek Carr (often overlooked and currently with an ADP of QB14) and WR Hunter Renfrow (not cheap at a 73rd ADP/WR31 overall but worth the price). The thing with these kind of good not great players is that you can take advantage of their early soft schedules by taking advantage of these cupcake matchups, increasing their values, and then trading them at their peak.
Carr and Renfrow (the latter mainly due to the arrival of WR1 Davante Adams) might be difficult to move if they fail in the first few weeks, but if they explode through the gates, that could change and help you land some players with better mid- and late-season matchups in exchange for a few Raiders doomed to regress in later games. Waller is the TE5 off the draft boards and a season-long bet, so there’s not a lot of early value to extract from him that wasn’t already there. Kenyan Drake (RB62) is a legitimate WW target (206th overall ADP, undrafted in most 12-team leagues) with an advantage to explode early as Las Vegas dominates these early weeks and gives him more touches than he would usually get.
New Orleans Saints
Sweetest Games: Week 1 and Week 3
Needless to mention how you must write Score Ingram II before it’s too late. In addition to Alvin Kamara being suspended for the first six games, the Saints have one of the top five SOS schedules to start the 2022 season with their best matchups arriving in the first three weeks of play. Week 1 in Atlanta is third-best for RBs in terms of SOS for the Saints. With the exception of Week 5, Ingram will play above-average SOS situations for the first four games of the season.
QB Jameis Winston (QB22 ADP / 151st overall pick) is likely a season-long backup in most fantasy leagues, but has top-six matchups in Weeks 3 and 5 and another good one at during week 1. He might be a good option to deploy early if you can catch him from WW, and an even better proposition if you can somehow trade him in after that five matches if he makes good outings – at the end of the day, you’d trade a player acquired for free in exchange for more valuable assets down the road.
Despite being undrafted in 99% of the fantasy leagues, TE Adam Trautman has an SOS top-four schedule through the first five weeks of the season with his best games scheduled in W1 and W5. If you throw to a top tight end and choose to spread the position, be sure to land Trautman with an ultra-late pick or through the WW. He could have his best games early and Winston is still going to provide great chances – while also getting an early SOS boost.
Sweetest Games: Week 4 and Week 5
The Texans have the “worst” Peak-SOS game among the five teams highlighted in this column. That will come in Week 5, but even then it’s only the eighth-best game of the week for all four offensive positions on average. The thing about Houston’s early schedule, however, is how nice it is when averaging all matchups from W1 through W5, ranking fifth with the second-smallest gap in positive SOS (that’s means no game is so good that it’s an outlier that tilts the overall results).
Houston has a rough, below-average SOS in Week 1, but after that the Texans should have a clear path to racking up fantasy points for four straight weeks. Only WR Brandin Cooks (ADP of WR27 / 63rd overall) is drafted ahead of the 122nd overall pick, with QB Davis Mills currently exiting the board as QB28 or 181st overall pick. Marlon Mack (185th) and Dameon Pierce (122nd) are the Texans’ second- and third-best rookies and they’re left out in the WW of many 12-team leagues.
QB Davis Mills is projected for his easiest games in W4 and W5 and one of the top three SOS in the W1 to W5 period. The running back unit has a top-five game in Week 5, but not a great start to the season. WRs and TEs, however, should have the the absolute best SOS in the first five games (get cheap shares from Nico Collins/Chris Conley/John Metchie) and second-best SOS, respectively. This means under-the-radar tight ends such as Brevin Jordan and Pharaoh Brown could turn into TE1/TE2 options to stream throughout the first third of the year while being available for free in virtually every league.
Green Bay Packers
Sweetest Games: Week 4 and Week 5
Green Bay is a glamorous team and that means no player in the pack will be available for a very cheap ADP. In fact, of the eight players projected by PFF to reach over 140 PPR points in GB’s roster, only WR Sammy Watkins and Randall Cobb have PPRs beyond the 179th overall pick. Ultimately, though, this latest development is one we want to take advantage of at the start of the season.
The Packers have the fifth-best SOS for wide in the W1-W5 span with the top two games coming in W2 and W4, sandwiching a very tough W3 outing. In other words: ask WW’s Sammy/Cobb to use them in W2 and W4, and if you can’t but they come out of a putrid W3 and are available on the WW/trade-block heading to W4, so go ahead and get some stock. You probably won’t regret it.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers won’t have any real soft play going into W4 and W5, but those two should be above average chances for him with Week 5 a top-eight game for Rodgers. The Green Bay running backs also have top-10 games in four of the first five weeks (all games except W3) and the second-best game in Week 5 when they host the Giants.
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