Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 1: Trust a familiar face

Here's who you should start this week

James Rapien
September 05, 2019 - 7:00 am
Dec 2, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon (10) reacts during the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

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CLEVELAND, OH – The NFL returns tonight, which means fantasy football is back! You’ve likely had one or multiple drafts over the past few weeks. Now it’s time to make some tough lineup and roster decisions.

Each week I’ll give you lineup advice and the names to watch on the waiver wire. This will be my sixth year writing about fantasy football and I, like you, hope to win championships this season. Once upon a time I had 12 fantasy teams. Since then, I’ve dialed it back, sort of – I’m in nine leagues this year. Feel free to send me your fantasy questions on Twitter or Instagram.

Start 'Em

Week 1 can be tough because there’s a lot of speculation with rookies and free agents who haven’t played a down for their new team. Go with the sure thing this week. Don’t swing for the fences with an unknown commodity. Make your guys earn their way into your starting lineup. Here are the players you should start in Week 1:

Russell Wilson – Wilson gets a Cincinnati defense that allowed the third most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks last season. Seattle is at home and the Bengals are expected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL. Wilson no longer has Doug Baldwin, who is someone he relied on, but that shouldn’t matter this week. He’s a top five quarterback in my rankings and is worth a look, not only in season long leagues, but daily games as well.

Lamar Jackson – There is plenty of talk about whether or not Jackson can be a franchise quarterback, but you don’t have to worry about that if you aren’t a Ravens fan. It’s impossible to deny Jackson’s upside. He ran for at least 67 yards in six of his seven starts last season.

There has been some speculation that Jackson could throw in 30 times a game. He may drop back to throw it that often, but odds are he’ll use his legs when necessary. Jackson is a QB1 this week against Miami – another team expected to finish near the bottom of the standings.

Josh Gordon – It’s hard not to love the former Browns receiver this week. Gordon is healthy, looked explosive in the preseason and gets to catch passes from the greatest quarterback of all time. The Patriots have owned Pittsburgh. The Steelers’ secondary has been questionable for years.

If Gordon is ever going to resemble the player he was in 2013, it’ll happen this season. Tom Brady doesn’t throw the ball like he used to, but he’ll be nice and rested going into Week 1. Gordon is a high-end WR2 in all formats with WR1 upside. He averaged 18 yards-per-catch last season with the Patriots and should make a few big plays this week against Pittsburgh.

Leonard Fournette – The third-year back struggled last season, averaging just 3.3 yards-per-carry. He also dealt with injuries, which helped lower his ADP to 35th overall in Yahoo Fantasy Leagues.

If you were lucky enough to land Fournette at your RB2, don’t hesitate to plug him in this week against the Chiefs. Kansas City was one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season. They allowed the third most fantasy points to opposing running backs.

The only concern is that the Chiefs start fast and get out to a big lead, but even if that happens, Jacksonville should try to get Fournette touches. He’s reportedly in a good place and feels like he can have a bounce back 2019 campaign. Fournette is a good option in daily games ($7,200 on FanDuel and $6,100 in DraftKings).

San Francisco RBs – Both Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman should be in your lineup this week. They have a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo leading the way and as good of a Week 1 matchup as you’ll get for fantasy purposes. Tampa Bay was one of the worst defenses last season. They added rookie linebacker Devin White, but 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan should have a field day with his two running backs, both on the ground and in the passing game. Coleman is the bigger name, but Breida is listed as the starter on the depth chart. Both should get plenty of opportunities on Sunday. Both players are great RB3 options with upside.

Kenny Golladay – Golladay has a great matchup this week against the Cardinals, who are without top cornerback Patrick Peterson due to suspension. Robert Alford is also going to miss this game with a broken leg. Golladay enters the contest as a WR2, but has plenty of upside and is worth considering in all formats. He had seven receptions for 114 yards Week 1 last season. Don’t be surprised if he puts up similar numbers on Sunday.

Sit 'Em

Aaron Rodgers – If you drafted Rodgers in season long leagues, then you’ll probably have to start him this week, but make sure you temper your expectations. Rodgers is in a new offense and didn’t take one snap in the preseason. The Packers are on the road in Chicago and have to deal with Khalil Mack and the Bears’ defense. Rodgers will be a QB1, but avoid him in daily leagues this week.

T.Y. Hilton – Hilton’s fantasy value took a hit when Andrew Luck retired. The Colts’ speedster could still end up being a WR2 this season, but it’s hard to trust him in Week 1. The Chargers’ defense held opposing wide receivers to fifth fewest fantasy points last year. They’ll be without safety Derwin James, but it’s hard to imagine Jacoby Brissett instantly clicking with Hilton. It could take a few weeks for them to get in sync, which makes Hilton a boom-or-bust WR2 in Week 1.

Matt Ryan – Ryan was likely drafted as a QB1, but his season starts with a tough matchup in Minnesota. The Vikings allowed the fewest passing touchdowns (15) in the NFL last year. Avoid Ryan in daily leagues and consider benching him if you have another option at quarterback.

Devin Singletary – The rookie is a big reason why the Bills released LeSean McCoy, but that doesn’t mean you should plug him into your Week 1 lineup. The Bills are on the road against the Jets and will likely ease the rookie into action. Singletary has plenty of potential, but it’s unrealistic to expect Buffalo to give him 20 touches this week.

T.J. Yeldon and Frank Gore are also on the roster. The Bills will likely start the season giving all three backs an opportunity. I drafted Singletary in multiple leagues and love his upside, but taking the wait-and-see approach is the way to go this week.

Antonio Brown – Brown might’ve found a new helmet he likes, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be the fantasy star we’re used to seeing on a weekly basis. Brown will likely be shadowed by Chris Harris, who’s one of the top corners in the NFL. Combine that with the fact that Brown is in a new offense and a new quarterback in Derek Carr and it’s easy to see why he’s no longer a top ten fantasy wide out. Brown is as talented as any receiver on the planet, but don’t be surprised if he gets off to a slow start with Oakland.

Robby Anderson – Anderson has plenty of fantasy appeal going into the season, but he should be on your bench this week. Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White is expected to shadow him. White is one of the best young corners in the game. Anderson is also dealing with a calf issue. The Jets’ roster is improved and Anderson should be a factor this season if you have him on your team, but this isn’t the week to plug him into your lineup.

Sleepers

DeSean Jackson – The veteran speedster got off to a scorching start with Tampa Bay last season. He had at least 112 receiving yards in three of his first four games. Jackson’s speed and ball skills should fit in well with Carson Wentz and the Eagles. Combine that with a matchup against the Redskins and you have a sneaky WR3 with plenty of upside.

John Brown – Brown is another speedy wide receiver with a quarterback who can throw it downfield. The Bills play the Jets, who allowed the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers last season. Brown had an impressive camp with Buffalo. He’s a high-upside flex option with plenty of appeal in daily leagues.

Vance McDonald – With Antonio Brown no longer in Pittsburgh, the Steelers need McDonald to take on a bigger workload. He’s extremely athletic and capable of having a big year. The Patriots’ secondary is expected to be as good as it’s been in years, which means Ben Roethlisberger might have to rely on someone not named JuJu Smith-Schuster or James Conner. McDonald is the next best option. Don’t be surprised if a breakout Week 1 is just a sign of things to come for the veteran tight end. 

Tyler Eifert – The Bengals have a tough matchup with the Seahawks, but someone has to catch passes in their offense. Seattle will do everything they can to take Tyler Boyd out of the game with A.J. Green injured. Eifert has good chemistry with Andy Dalton and is healthy, which means there’s a chance he gets off to a solid start on Sunday.

Tony Pollard – Ezekiel Elliott signing his contract extension on Wednesday means he’ll be available this week, but the Cowboys would be wise to give Pollard plenty of work. There’s a chance he gets double-digit touches against a weak Giants defense. Pollard is a plug-and-play flex option with some upside in Week 1.

Rashaad Penny – If Penny is going to have a breakout game, it could be this week against the Bengals. Cincinnati allowed the most fantasy points to opposing running backs last season. They only have four linebackers on the roster and aren’t going to scare anyone up front, especially a physical team like the Seahawks. Chris Carson will get most of the work early on, but Penny should still finish with 10 or more touches, especially if Seattle has a big lead.

Kyler Murray – It’s hard to consider Murray a sleeper, especially when his ADP skyrocketed over the past few weeks. It’s also tough to trust a rookie QB making his first start in the NFL. Fantasy owners should feel comfortable starting Murray against the Lions, who leave plenty to be desired defensively. Detroit should put up points on offense, which means Murray will throw it a ton and could rack up plenty of rushing yards.

Jimmy Garoppolo – Garoppolo was being taken late in the 13th round (Yahoo) in fantasy drafts. He has a plus matchup with Tampa Bay this week. The Bucs allowed the fourth most points to fantasy quarterbacks last season. Garoppolo is worth starting in two quarterback leagues and in daily games this week.

Get Them Before They’re Gone

Now that drafts are over, the quickest way to improve your roster is the waiver wire. Here are some players to consider adding in free agency before they have breakout performances:

Justin Jackson (37%) – Jackson should be on all fantasy rosters in 12-team leagues as long as Melvin Gordon continues his holdout. He averaged 4.0 yards-per-carry as a rookie last season and is the primary backup to Austin Ekeler. Jackson has flex appeal in Week 1, but he could blossom into much more than that if you add him before he has a breakout game.

Justice Hill (31%) – Hill’s role could expand if Mark Ingram were to miss any time with injury. The Ravens are going to be a run first team with Lamar Jackson at quarterback. Hill should be on your radar and is worth stashing on your bench.

John Ross III (4%) – A Bengals wide receiver has to emerge with A.J. Green still in a walking boot. Ross could be that guy. The former ninth overall pick has had trouble staying healthy, but is in a new offense and is expected to have an expanded role. Ross didn’t play in the preseason. His numbers and usage are worth monitoring this week, just in case he flashes in Zac Taylor’s offense.

Demaryius Thomas (24%) – Thomas is still flying under the radar with Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon being drafted much higher than him, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t worth adding to your roster. If Thomas earns Tom Brady’s trust, then he will get plenty of opportunities in the Pats’ offense. He’s a red zone weapon that’s worth adding in most leagues.

Rashard Higgins (4%) – Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry get the attention, but there’s no denying that Baker Mayfield has great chemistry with Higgins. He went undrafted in most leagues, but he’ll get plenty of chances to succeed as the third wide receiver with Antonio Callaway suspended for the first four games. If you have an extra roster spot, you can do much worse than stashing Higgins on your bench.

DK Metcalf (35%) – Metcalf has dealt with injuries, but should get a real shot at having a successful rookie campaign. He has a great quarterback in Russell Wilson. He’s playing next to a speedster in Tyler Lockett and Seattle has a competent running game that should set up the deep ball well.

Marquise Brown (29%) – The Ravens drafted Brown in the first round because they think he can be a game changer. If Lamar Jackson can throw it like the team says, the rookie speedster should have a big role in the offense.

Jamison Crowder (46%) – Crowder has dealt with injuries, but has a chance to finish with 80 receptions in the Jets offense. He’s a WR4 with upside and is worth adding in 12-team leagues.

Tyrell Williams (37%) – The Raiders signed Williams in free agency. He’s a big, physical wide receiver who wins with his speed and size. He should face plenty of one-on-one matchups with Antonio Brown lining up on the other side of the field. Williams is worth adding if you’re looking for upside at wide receiver. 

Darren Waller (25%) – Waller has a chance for a breakout season with Jared Cook no longer in Oakland. Fantasy owners should stash him on their bench in hopes of consistent production.

Chris Herndon (16%) – Herndon had 39 receptions for 502 yards and four touchdowns last season. He’s suspended for the first four games of the season, but is worth stashing on the bench. It’s realistic to expect TE1 numbers from him once he returns to the field.

Josh Allen (33%) – Allen ran for 90 or more yards four times last season. Combine that with his improved weapons and he has a legitimate chance to be a surprise in fantasy leagues. He’s proof that the quarterback position is extremely deep this year and is worth adding as a QB2.

Ownership percentages from Yahoo Fantasy