Starts of the Week: Week 1



Once the season begins, the most difficult parts of any fantasy manager’s week are the start/sit decisions. These lineup choices can make or break a week, but unfortunately, not everyone has time to sit down and read lengthy fantasy advice articles on every player. That's why I'll do the work for you, and put a list of several players at each position that I like and should have a strong performance for that given week. But I'm not going to just choose the obvious studs each week. I'll go over the guys that are in the flex-worthy range.


Quarterbacks


Start of the Week:

Ryan Tannehill (TEN) This may have been one of the best QB values of fantasy draft season. Tannehill finished QB7 last year, and the Titans have since added Julio Jones, yet Tannehill’s final ADP was QB11. In fairness, Tannehill probably doesn’t have top-five upside. The Titans offense works best with Tannehill playing off the running threat posed by Derrick Henry, using play-action to efficiently attack defenses. Tannehill in an all-out aerial blitz probably wouldn’t look as good. The Cardinals can really get after the passer, as evidenced by their 48 sacks last year, but the abrupt retirement of CB Malcolm Butler has left them vulnerable in the secondary.


Stream of the Week:

Sam Darnold (CAR) This is the revenge game for Darnold, against his former team the Jets. Plus he had lost the stank of head coach Adam Gase. Panthers head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady are the rescuers giving Darnold a home in one of the league’s QB-friendliest systems, surrounded by plenty of pass-catching talent. And, wow, what a nice way for Darnold to start off with his new team – a home game against his former employers, who happen to have one of the worst defensive backfields in the league. This is a terrific spot for Darnold.

Trevor Lawrence (JAC) A rookie quarterback, a new head coach, a mystery-box offense: I can understand why you’d have concerns about using Lawrence for fantasy this week. But, man, you couldn’t ask for a better Week 1 matchup. The Texans are a train wreck. The over/under on their 2021 win total is four games. Houston just traded its best cornerback, Bradley Roby. The Texans probably won’t be able to sustain many drives with their popgun offense, so Lawrence should take plenty of snaps in this one. And let’s not forget that Lawrence might be the most NFL-ready QB prospect to enter the league since Andrew Luck. Lawrence can make all the throws, and he’s a willing and able runner.


Fade of the Week:

Justin Herbert (LAC) This guy was mighty popular during fantasy draft season. He was taken ahead of Aaron Rodgers in a majority of drafts and would sometimes come off the board ahead of Russell Wilson. The excitement is understandable. Herbert has a big arm and runs a little bit, and he showed veteran poise last year. This is a brutal matchup for Herbert. Washington ranked near the top of the league in opponent passing yardage (2nd), yards per attempt (2nd) completion percentage (3rd), passer rating (3rd), and touchdown passes (T-2nd). Chase Young, Montez Sweat, and Co. can really get after opposing quarterbacks. Plus, Herbert will be trying to process new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s offense for the first time under live fire (joint training camp practices notwithstanding). Herbert is a full fade for me this week.



Running Backs


Start of the Week:

Raheem Mostert & Trey Sermon (SF) It will be fascinating to see how this plays out. This could be an effective thunder-and-lightning duo if 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan elects to mix and match them all season, but maybe it will be more of an either/or proposition. Perhaps we should expect to see some veteran deference to the speedy Mostert early on. But it’s Sermon’s one-cut style that has me excited. He seems like such a perfect fit for the Shanahan zone running scheme. Sermon can make sharp cuts without losing speed, and that virtue could be golden in this system. There should be plenty of carries to go around this week against a bad Lions defense. Detroit gave up a league-high 27 TD runs last season.


Co-start of the Week (and hottest waiver wire pickup):

Ty’Son Williams (BAL) It seems unlikely that the recently signed DeVonta Freeman or Latavius Murray would factor into the Ravens’ Week 1 gameplan, so it will probably be Williams and Le'Veon Bell sharing the load. Baltimore running backs averaged 117.9 rushing yards and 1.1 TD runs per game last year. Factor in the poor quality of the Raiders’ defense and this looks like a terrific spot for Williams, who should get a clear majority of the RB touches this week with Bell still getting into the hang of things.


Fade of the Week:

Devin Singletary & Zack Moss (BUF) It’s bad enough that Moss and Singletary split work, but then add the fact that QB Josh Allen runs in a lot of touchdowns on his own. This situation could get even messier if the Bills start giving snaps to Matt Breida, making it a three-headed affair. The Steelers are sturdy against the run, so starting either Moss or Singletary this week isn’t a winning proposition.



Wide Receivers


Start of the Week:

Tyler Lockett (SEA) If Shane Waldron’s new offense does indeed emphasize quicker throws and shorter routes, as advertised, that would seem to be right up Lockett’s alley. Lockett appeared to be on the way to a career season in 2020 after blasting the Cardinals for 200 yards and three touchdowns (his second three-TD game of the year) in Week 7, and yes. He was held to 67 receiving yards or fewer in his next nine games. Lockett is going to have a solid day with Xavier Rhodes tyring to stop DK Metcalf.


Stream of the Week:

Michael Pittman Jr (IND) Is a breakout season in the offing? Matt Harmon of Yahoo, who studies receivers carefully for his Reception Perception series, raves about Pittman. T.Y. Hilton just had surgery to repair a disc injury in his neck, so Pittman is probably going to be the Colts’ No. 1 receiver (and might have been even if Hilton were healthy). The question might be whether Wentz is good enough to support a Pittman breakthrough


Deep-League Stream of the Week (Less than 50% rostered):

Elijah Moore (NYJ) The rookie from Ole Miss was the talk of minicamps and training camp. A quad injury muted the buzz in recent weeks, but there’s still a lot of excitement for Moore, who had 86 catches for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns in his final college season. Moore’s Week 1 fantasy viability could depend on the availability of Jamison Crowder, who’s been on the COVID-19 list. If Crowder is out, which he is, there will be enough targets available to make Moore flex-worthy in a lot of leagues.


Fade of the Week:

Kenny Golladay (NYG) It’s disappointing that a hamstring injury prevented Golladay from getting needed training-camp reps with his new quarterback, Daniel Jones. Golladay kept tumbling in fantasy drafts, to the point where it seemed as if people were forgetting just how good this dude has been. Golladay had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2018-2019, scoring 11 touchdowns in 2019. Golladay went off that year despite playing five games with David Blough, who was subbing for the injured Matthew Stafford. Blough is terrible, but in five games with him, Golladay was able to produce 22 catches for 398 yards and three touchdowns – which made him WR10 over that stretch. Golladay figures to be rusty and possibly not at full capacity, and he faces a tough matchup against Ronald Darby. As good as I think he is, I don’t want to have to use him this week.



Tight Ends


Start of the Week:

Tyler Higbee (LAR) Over the last five games of the 2019 regular season, Higbee had 43 catches for 522 yards and two touchdowns. That sort of pace wasn’t sustainable, of course, but expectations were high for Higbee going into 2020, and things didn’t really pan out. Higbee’s 2020 season was … fine. He had 44 catches for 521 yards and five touchdowns. But his 15-game yardage total fell short of his five-game yardage total from late 2019. Gerald Everett was hurt and out of action for the Rams in 2019 when Higbee went bonkers. Everett is now playing for the Seahawks. Maybe his departure coupled with the arrival of Matthew Stafford can ignite Higbee again.


Fade of the Week:

Dallas Goedert & Zach Ertz (PHI) In the offseason, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the Eagles would trade the disgruntled Ertz, but it never happened. Too bad, because there aren’t enough good tight ends to go around in fantasy leagues, and Goedert and Ertz throttle each other’s value, particularly on a team that probably isn’t going to post crazy passing numbers.