Welcome to Week 1 of the fantasy football season!
Last season, IBM introduced IBM Insights, a tool that uses its Watson technology to scan the web and parse it for fantasy football advice on a weekly basis.
For those who are looking for a tool to concentrate various web opinions into one location to help make roster moves, IBM offers Watson's Insights as an unsupervised but still quantitative supplement to the more in-depth, personalized analysis that you normally see from our ESPN analysts.
The following article points out some of the recommendations that Watson has for Week 1 of the NFL season, as of Friday.
Starting quarterback decisions
As often pointed out by our ESPN experts, quarterback is one of the more fungible positions in fantasy football. As such, the general recommendation is to wait on quarterbacks in fantasy drafts, because you can usually get one or two good ones late.
However, the flip side to that argument is that if you drafted multiple quarterbacks later, it can be difficult to decide which one to start in a given week. Generally, these decisions come down to elements like matchups, recent level of play and the fantasy manager's gut.
While the top handful of quarterbacks are likely weekly starts, here are the quarterbacks ranked seven through 15 for this week, according to IBM Watson:
7. Kirk Cousins (ranked 75th among all players)
8. Andrew Luck (77th)
9. Ben Roethlisberger (78th)
10. Matthew Stafford (90th)
11. Jimmy Garoppolo (120th)
12. Philip Rivers (123rd)
13. Patrick Mahomes (124th)
14. Alex Smith (132nd)
15. Jared Goff (138th)
Per Watson, this is a suggested hierarchy of quarterback valuation for Week 1. Thus, if you are choosing between two quarterbacks on this list, or among one of these players and another late-round option, this tool gives you one viewpoint from across the web as to who Watson believes will be the best play options.
Flex play decisions
Who should you use in your flex slot? This is another decision that many fantasy managers have to make on a weekly basis, choosing between using a third running back or a third wide receiver for often one flex slot. In standard 10-team leagues, this can be a decision between two or more good players. Here are the running backs and wide receivers ranked 21st through 26th for this week, according to Watson:
21. Marshawn Lynch (66th among all players)
22. Lamar Miller (68th)
23. Dion Lewis (72nd)
24. Carlos Hyde (89th)
25. Duke Johnson Jr. (93rd)
26. Rex Burkhead (94th)
21. Golden Tate (53rd among all players)
22. Brandin Cooks (55th)
23. JuJu Smith-Schuster (57th)
24. Marvin Jones Jr. (60th)
25. Josh Gordon (61st)
26. Chris Hogan (64th)
One trend that stands out to me is that Watson clearly expects there to be more quality depth at wide receiver than running back this week, as the 26th-ranked receiver, Hogan, is rated higher overall this week than the 21st-ranked running back.
The league is moving more and more to different passing sets, and also to more split backfields, and we saw this play out in fantasy drafts, as there were more quality receivers available later than available running backs.
For this week, at least, Watson expects this to result in wide receivers in this range producing better flex scores than similarly valued running backs.
DFS positional thoughts
While running backs and wide receivers rightly dominate season-long fantasy drafts, generally making up the entirety of the first couple of rounds of the draft and the vast majority of the first five rounds, Watson suggests that some of the lesser-drafted positions are expected to outperform value this week.
Watson has two tight ends among the top 10 players ranked for this week, with Rob Gronkowski at seventh and Travis Kelce at 10th. And despite defenses and kickers often not being picked until the last couple of rounds in drafts, Watson has the Jacksonville Jaguars D/ST ranked 27th overall and the Los Angeles Rams D/ST ranked 39th, with kickers Stephen Gostkowski (35th) and Greg Zuerlein (36th) both in the top 40 as well.
These were the top tight ends, defenses and kickers off the boards in drafts, and thus likely guaranteed season-long fantasy starters for Week 1, but these positional rankings could have DFS implications.
If a DFS owner were to weigh Watson into their decision-making, this could suggest that it might be worth paying a bit more for an elite defense or kicker, or even tight end, than to splurge more of the DFS budget on running backs or wide receivers that likely cost much more.
Watson's rankings suggest that the relative valuation of tight ends, defenses and kickers may be higher this week than they would have been when choosing for a whole season.