Fantasy Football Starts, Sits, Sleepers: Week 1

Fantasy Football Starts, Sits, Sleepers: Week 1

by September 11, 2021 0 comments

The best part about fantasy football is winning. The second best part is the draft. However, the draft has come and gone. Now fantasy owners struggle with the weekly decision about which players to start, which to sit, and which to use as a sleeper. To help with that, I will provide two starts, two sits, and two sleepers at each position every week. Be sure to reach out with any fantasy football questions you may have. Without further ado, let’s get started.

All stats are base on four-point per passing touchdown and PPR scoring.

Quarterbacks

START: Jalen Hurts at Atalanta Falcons

After taking over for Carson Wentz last season, Hurts averaged 23 fantasy points per game in his four starts, scoring 18.6 or more in three of them. Now, as the unquestioned starter in Philadelphia, Hurts gets an excellent Week 1 matchup against the Falcons. Last season, the Falcons gave up the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, giving up 23.3 per game. Not only did the Falcons give up the second-most passing touchdowns last season, but they also gave up the third-most rushing touchdowns to quarterbacks. Hurts averaged 68 rushing yards per game in his starts last year and should easily rush for over 50 yards tomorrow.

START: Kirk Cousins at Cincinnati Bengals

Last season, Cousins averaged career-high 19.1 fantasy points per game. He also averaged 2.2 passing touchdowns per game, throwing two or more in 75 percent of his games. With a healthy Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, Cousins has one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL. Last season, the Bengals ranked 22nd in points given up per game. Moreover, quarterbacks averaged 19.4 fantasy points per game against the Bengals. With a below-average defense on paper, the Bengals will struggle to slow down Minnesota’s passing attack. Furthermore, starting cornerback Trae Waynes will miss the game with an injury, leaving Eli Apple to cover Jefferson or Thielen. Expect Cousins to finish as a top-10 quarterback or better this week.

SIT: Justin Herbert at Washington Football Team

As a rookie, Herbert was almost unstoppable. He scored 23 or more fantasy points in about half of his games last season. More impressively, Herbert had more games last season with three or more passing touchdowns than games with one or fewer. However, fantasy owners should temper their expectations for tomorrow’s matchup against Washington. Last season, Washington held quarterbacks to the fourth-fewest fantasy points, giving up only 15.1 per game. Furthermore, quarterbacks averaged under 1.4 passing touchdowns against Washington. In the offseason, Washington added William Jackson and Benjamin St-Juste to their secondary. While benching Herbert might be hard, if Cousins or Trevor Lawrence is on the waiver wire, pick them up and play them instead.

SIT: Jameis Winston vs Green Bay Packers

While Winston won the starting job for the New Orleans Saints, that doesn’t make him a good fantasy option this week. Winston has thrown only 11 regular-season passes since 2019 and will be without Michael Thomas for the first six weeks of the season. Meanwhile, the Packers gave up the fifth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks last season, giving up only 15.4 per game. While Marquez Callaway has been the talk of the Saints’ training camp, he will face plenty of Jaire Alexander tomorrow. Alexander has shut down some of the best wide receivers in the NFL and he will have no trouble shutting down Callaway. With limited weapons at his disposal, Winston is nothing more than a low-end QB2 against the Packers.

SLEEPER: Trevor Lawrence at Houston Texans

Despite a less than ideal preseason, Lawrence is an excellent option to start this week. The Houston defense is one of the worse in the NFL. Last year they gave up the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, giving up almost 21 per game. They also gave up 30 passing touchdowns last season, seventh-most in the league. Meanwhile, in the offseason, the Texans made several changes to their secondary. Most recently, they traded starting cornerback Bradley Roby to the New Orleans Saints. With the return of DJ Chark and Marvin Jones, Lawrence has plenty of weapons around him. Fantasy owners shouldn’t be surprised if Lawrence has three touchdowns in his first career start.

SLEEPER: Sam Darnold vs New York Jets

Not only is this a revenge game for Darnold, but it’s an appealing fantasy matchup for his fantasy owners. Last season, the Jets gave up 19.8 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Now with the Carolina Panthers, Darnold has an impressive set of weapons. Not only does he have a healthy Christian McCaffrey in the backfield, but D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson at wide receiver. During the 2019 season, with Anderson in New York, Darnold had career-highs across the board. With Carl Lawson out for the season and a very inexperienced secondary, Darnold should have no trouble with the Jets’ defense. While Darnold likely won’t finish as a top-12 quarterback, he is an excellent QB2 in super flex leagues.

Running Backs

START: Raheem Mostert at Detroit Lions

Mostert missed eight games because of injury in 2020. However, in the eight games he played, Mostert averaged a career-high 12.5 fantasy points per game. For his career, Mostert has averaged 4.9 yards per carry. Furthermore, Mostert has averaged five or more yards per carry in each of his past three seasons. While Trey Sermon will have a role in San Francisco, Mostert is the starter and should receive the bulk of the workload this week. Meanwhile, the Lions had the worst run defense last season, giving up an average of 4.6 yards per carry and 32 fantasy points per game to running backs. The 49ers are heavy favorites to win this game, so expect Mostert to play a critical role in their blowout victory.

START: Chase Edmonds at Tennessee Titans

Last year, Edmonds had career-highs across the board. He had four receiving touchdowns last season and became a critical part of the Arizona passing attack. More importantly, the Cardinals let Kenyan Drake leave in free agency, replacing him with James Conner. During training camp, Edmonds earned the featured role with his performance and Conner missing time with Covid-19. This week, Edmonds is in a prime position to have a career game. Last season, the Titans gave up the seventh-most fantasy points to running backs, giving up 25.6 per game. They also gave up the third-most receiving touchdowns to the position. The over/under for this game is one of the highest this week, so fantasy owners should expect a shootout, with Edmonds finishing as a top-20 running back.

SIT: Darrell Henderson vs Chicago Bears

Even with Cam Akers out for the season, Henderson doesn’t have sole control of the backfield. The Los Angeles Rams traded for Sony Michel recently, and both running backs expect to have a role in the offense this season. Furthermore, Henderson scored under 10 fantasy points in 67 percent of his games last season. Meanwhile, the Bears held running backs to the ninth-fewest fantasy points last season, giving up only 20.8 per game. They also held running backs to only 4.2 yards per carry and 11 total touchdowns. The Bears were very good against the run despite defensive tackle Eddie Goldman opting out last season. With the return of Goldman, expect the Bears to make Henderson and Michel’s life difficult tomorrow night.

SIT: Mike Davis vs Philadelphia Eagles

When Christian McCaffrey missed 13 games last season, Davis stepped up. However, as the season went on, his performance declined. In his first three starts, Davis averaged 25 fantasy points per game. By comparison, Davis averaged 11.6 fantasy points per game over the final 10 games. Furthermore, Davis scored almost 44 percent of his fantasy points in three games last year. Now a member of the Atlanta Falcons, Davis is the lead back entering the season. However, he faces a tough matchup this week as the Eagles held running backs to an average of only 21.2 fantasy points per game last year. Moreover, the Eagles’ secondary comes with questions, while their front seven is one of the best in the NFL. Expect Davis to have limited fantasy value against the Eagles.

SLEEPER: Tevin Coleman at Carolina Panthers

Despite Coleman averaging a career-low 1.6 fantasy points per game and 1.9 yards per carry last season, he projects as the starter tomorrow. However, fantasy owners should expect Coleman to produce safe floor flex value this week. Last season the Panthers gave up the eighth-most fantasy points to running backs, giving up 25.5 fantasy points per game to the position. Furthermore, they allowed almost five yards per carry last season. While Ty Johnson and Michael Carter will mix in, fantasy owners can expect 12 or more fantasy points from Coleman tomorrow.

SLEEPER: Ty’Son Williams at Las Vegas Raiders

In only a 13 day span, the Baltimore Ravens lost J.K. Dobbins, Justice Hill, and Gus Edwards to season-ending injuries. While they did sign Le’Veon and Devonta Freeman to their practice squad, the Ravens added Latavius Murray to their active roster yesterday. However, the three veterans have been on the team for less than a week. While all three could play a role for the Ravens at some point this season, Williams should see the majority of the workload against the Raiders. Last season, the Raiders gave up the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs, giving up over 27 fantasy points per game to the position. Williams could finish as a top-15 running back on volume alone this week.

Wide Receivers

START: Robby Anderson vs New York Jets

Not only is it a revenge game for Darnold tomorrow, but Anderson has a score to settle too. In his first year in Carolina, Anderson had a career-high 95 catches for 1,096 yards and 14 fantasy points per game. Meanwhile, the Jets gave up the sixth-most fantasy points per game last season to wide receivers, giving up 41.4 per game. In the offseason, the Jets did very little to improve their cornerback situation. All of their starters were either fifth-round picks or undrafted free agents. Furthermore, the Jets lost their top free-agent acquisition, Lawson, for the season a few weeks ago. Fantasy owners should expect a mid WR2 finish or better this week from Anderson.

START: DeVonta Smith at Atlanta Falcons

After his Heisman trophy season at Alabama, Smith should lead the Philadelphia Eagles in most receiving categories this year. Despite dealing with a knee injury during the preseason, Smith should start the season off strong against the Falcons. Last season, the Falcons gave up the most fantasy points to wide receivers, giving up 44.6 per game to the position. Furthermore, the Falcons gave up the most receiving yards and third-most touchdowns to wide receivers last year. Neither team has an average pass defense, which will help turn this game into a shootout. Smith should finish the game with double-digit targets and over 17 fantasy points.

SIT: Allen Robinson at Los Angeles Rams

While sitting Robinson might be hard to do, fantasy owners need to temper their expectations this week. He will see plenty of Jalen Ramsey, and even when not lined up against Ramsey, Robinson will face Darious Williams. Furthermore, the Chicago Bears have several injuries along the offensive line and will struggle to slow down Aaron Donald. Regardless of whichever quarterback is under center, they will be under pressure all game long. The silver lining for fantasy owners is the Rams are a heavy favorite in this game. If they pull away early, Robinson could pick up enough fantasy points in garbage time to finish as a top-24 wide receiver.

SIT: Marquez Callaway vs Green Bay Packers

Callaway has been the most hyped-up player in the preseason. While he will take over as the WR1 in New Orleans till Thomas comes off PUP, Callaway faces a tough matchup this week. The Packers gave up the third-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers last season, giving up only 30.6 fantasy points per game to the position. Furthermore, Callaway will see plenty of Alexander tomorrow, and fantasy owners should expect Callaway to lose most of those snaps. However, the Packers were one of the worst teams at defending pass-catching running backs. They gave up the fourth-most catches and second-most receiving yards to running backs in 2020. Fantasy owners should expect a big performance from Alvin Kamara and a quiet one from Callaway.

SLEEPER: A.J. Green at Tennessee Titans

Despite playing in all 16 games for the first time since 2017, Green averaged a career-low seven fantasy points per game last year. Furthermore, his seven fantasy points per game were less than half his previous career low. However, Green is healthy and in a new situation. With DeAndre Hopkins opposite of him, Green will see rarely see double-team coverage this season. Moreover, Green is in a great position to start the 2021 season with a good fantasy performance. Last season, the Titans gave up the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers, giving up 43.6 per game. Moreover, the Titans gave up the most red zone targets to the position last season. This game has one of the highest over/under totals this week, and Green should have a solid performance.

SLEEPER: Michael Pittman vs Seattle Seahawks

All offseason, Pittman was a popular sleeper option as the Indianapolis Colts lack pass catchers. That was the case before the Colts placed T.Y. Hilton on injured reserve last week. Last season, Pittman finished third among wide receivers on the team with 61 targets and 7.6 fantasy points per game. Meanwhile, the Seahawks gave up the third-most fantasy points to wide receivers, giving up over 43.6 per game. Furthermore, the Seahawks gave up a league-high 283 catches to wide receivers last season. In the offseason, the Seahawks’ top cornerback Shaquill Griffin signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Pittman could see enough targets to finish as a top-24 wide receiver this week.

Tight Ends

START: Dallas Goedert at Atlanta Falcons

Goedert averaged a career-high 10.6 fantasy points per game last year. However, he played in a career-low 11 games as he dealt with injuries. All offseason long, everyone expected the Philadelphia Eagles to trade Zach Ertz, opening a featured role for Goedert. However, the Eagles and Ertz made up, and the veteran tight end will stay in Philadelphia this season. Tomorrow, Goedert and Ertz have a juicy matchup against the Falcons. Last season, Atlanta gave up the fifth-most fantasy points to tight ends, giving up 14.2 per game to the position. Moreover, the Falcons gave up the most catches to the tight end position last season. With limited experienced pass catches around him, Goedert should see enough targets to finish as a top-five tight end.

START: Tyler Higbee vs Chicago Bears

After his impressive five-game stretch to close out the 2019 season, Higbee was a popular sleeper last year. However, Higbee averaged only 8.5 fantasy points per game in 2020. Moreover, Higbee scored more than nine fantasy points in only three games. In those games, Higbee scored 45 percent of his fantasy points for the season. However, Higbee is an appealing streaming option this week against the Bears. Last season, the Bears gave up the second-most fantasy points to tight ends, giving up 15.6 per game. Furthermore, they gave up the third-most catches and second-most touchdowns to the position last year. With Gerald Everett in Seattle, Higbee should see an uptick in snaps and targets this season, starting tomorrow night.

SIT: T.J. Hockenson vs San Francisco 49ers

If you drafted Hockenson, you likely didn’t select a second tight end. While benching Hockenson might not be an option, fantasy owners need to temper their expectations this week. Last season, Hockenson had career-highs across the board and finished as a top-five tight end, averaging 11 fantasy points per game. After completely redoing their wide receiver core in the offseason, Hockenson is the favorite to lead the team in all receiving categories this year. However, Hockenson has a tough matchup this week. The 49ers gave up the fewest fantasy points to tight ends last season, allowing only 8.9 per game. Hockenson will have an excellent 2021 season but expect it to start slow against the 49ers.

SIT: Mike Gesicki at New England Patriots

Last season, Gesicki had a career-high 53 catches for 703 receiving yards, six touchdowns, and 10.6 fantasy points per game. However, Gesicki finished as a top-12 tight end in only four games last year. With the new additions at wide receiver, his target share will decrease. This week, Gesicki faces a tough matchup against the Patriots. Last season, the Patriots gave up the fifth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends, giving up only 10.9 per game to the position. Moreover, the Patriots gave up a league-low three touchdowns to tight ends last season. This game features two impressive defenses, which should limit Gesicki’s upside as a streaming option.

SLEEPER: Dan Arnold vs New York Jets

No team gave up more fantasy points to the tight end position than the Jets last season, as they averaged 17.4 fantasy points per game against New York. Moreover, tight ends scored a league-high 14 touchdowns against the Jets. While as a member of the Arizona Cardinals last season, Arnold averaged only six fantasy points per game and had a 12.9 percent touchdown rate. Part of his limited fantasy success was due to playing only 43 percent of the snaps. However, reports all training camp long were about Darnold and Arnold’s connection in the red zone. Expect Arnold to score at least once Sunday against the Jets.

SLEEPER: Tyler Conklin at Cincinnati Bengals

After the season-ending knee injury to Irv Smith Jr., the Minnesota Vikings traded for former New York Jets tight end Chris Herndon. However, Herndon has been anything but consistent since his rookie season. Moreover, he has been on the team for less than two weeks and is still learning the playbook. Last season, Conklin had career-highs across the board. However, most important of all, Conklin picked up his play when Kyle Rudolph missed time. In the four games without Rudolph last season, Conklin scored seven or more fantasy points in all four, averaging 9.5 per game. Furthermore, the Bengals gave up an average of 14.4 fantasy points per game to tight ends last season. With Smith out for the season, Conklin will be a popular streaming option this year.


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Mike Fanelli is the Editor in Chief and fantasy football expert for Prime Time Sports Talk since 2018. He is a featured writer for FantasyPros. Follow him on Twitter @Mike_NFL2 and reach out anytime with any fantasy football questions.

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