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Week 1 Optimal Flex Plays: Eyes on OBJ, Montgomery

Montgomery among Berry's top mid-round targets
Matthew Berry, Jay Croucher and Connor Rogers review tiers three and four of Berry's 2023 running back rankings, highlighting why David Montgomery is a smart mid-round draft target.

We are back baby! It’s been a while huh? It’s Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season and we’re already scrambling to see who we’ll put in our flex spots. The uncertainty of players like Cooper Kupp and Travis Kelce has left fantasy managers feeling like they’re in the middle of the ocean without a life vest. Those types of players cannot be replaced, but you can slot in certain players to get you by for the week (you’d hope).

Optimal Flex Plays are not the obvious players you’d throw in your flex spot (for example: Devonta Smith if you went receiver-heavy in drafts). These types of players can change throughout the year depending on how their status fluctuates. If Cam Akers performs like he did during the last five weeks of the season in 2022 (which was good), then you won’t see him here much. If he performs like he did in the beginning of last season (not good) and I see a certain matchup he may be able to exploit, you’ll see him here. Let’s “flex up” and get to it.

RB David Montgomery - at Chiefs

As fantasy football managers we tend to sway more toward the players like Jahmyr Gibbs (well, because of PPR) and for good reason, because he’s going to ball (he’s my RB7). We cannot, however, fade the man with whom he’ll be sharing a backfield with in David Montgomery. The top three running backs for the Lions last season (Jamaal Williams, D’Andre Swift and Justin Jackson) who are no longer with the team, left behind a whopping 475 touches. Expect Montgomery to start and be used heavily out of the gate in a game against the Chiefs that has the highest total of any Week 1 game at 53 points. While Gibbs will be in most people’s Week 1 lineups, Montgomery will not. Fix that mistake and get him in yours.

RB Jerick McKinnon - vs. Lions

In the same game, why not go with the do-it-all running back in McKinnon? With Kelce’s uncertainty, the Chiefs will definitely be looking for extra playmakers to pick up the slack. McKinnon may not see more than five carries, but the Chiefs trust him a great deal in pass protection which has led to him getting opportunities in the past (primarily in the passing game). He’s an efficient player who does the most with his touches. In a game that could turn into a shootout against last year’s (but improved on paper) worst defense, McKinnon could be in for a solid workday. I’d take a shot at him hitting over his 25.5 receiving yards, too.

RB Raheem Mostert - at Chargers

Despite now being 31 years old, Mostert is coming off a career-high season that saw him gain 1,595 all-purpose yards that included (also a career-high) 891 rushing yards. Last season against the Chargers he did not fare well, gaining just 37 yards on 11 carries, but the game seemed to get away from the Dolphins early even though the score was close. Jeff Wilson is already set to miss the first four games so Mostert (and to some degree De’Von Achane) will be heavily relied upon. When he is at his best, Mostert is efficient in both the running and receiving game with his cut-and-go ability. He may not be the most shifty back, but still possesses elite speed and will get the opportunities in an explosive offense.

WR Donovan Peoples-Jones - vs. Bengals

DPJ is here to stay and he’ll be fine against a tough Bengals team. He posted a line of 61-839-3 last season, good for second on the team behind Amari Cooper. The Browns traded for Elijah Moore this offseason, but all signs point toward DPJ as the team’s current WR2. In two games against the Bengals last season, he went (four targets) 4-81-0 and (12 targets) 8-114-0. Those games were with Jacoby Brissett and Deshaun Watson, respectively. With Watson beginning the year as a starter after a full offseason, Peoples-Jones will have even more chances to thrive this season. It’ll start Week 1 in Cleveland.

WR Odell Beckham Jr. - vs. Texans

Outside of the matchup against the Texans who were by all accounts the NFL’s worst in 2022, Beckham Jr. comes into the season as the Ravens’ WR1. Lamar Jackson actively recruited the veteran to join the Ravens and the two have since built great chemistry on and off the field. OBJ sitting out the preseason is a full indicator that the Ravens plan to use him as a top option. With Mark Andrews a little banged up coming into the season, look for Jackson to lean on OBJ, who’s the most experienced pass catcher on the team. By now you’ve heard a million times about what new offensive coordinator Todd Monken will bring to the offense and well, it’s true. The new, using all areas of the field passing offense will work wonders for OBJ and others. Beckham Jr. could have a day against the young Texans’ defense.

WR Courtland Sutton - vs. Raiders

Sutton could possibly progress from being a flex play to a bona fide WR2 in fantasy. For now, we’ll get him in the flex spot against a Raiders team that doesn’t look like a playoff team of any sort. Jerry Jeudy is coming into the season with a hamstring injury, making Sutton more indispensable. While Russell Wilson and the Broncos need to right their own ship, they’ll face a Las Vegas defense that finished with the league’s fourth-worst passing mark in 2022. Furthermore, Sutton will get to face one of the more younger and inexperienced defensive backfields with Marcus Peters sprinkled in. Courtland might all of a Sutton be the man in Denver.