Sit and start is relative and league dependent, so consider some of these suggestions more “fliers” and “fades” (note that some are targeted for DFS).
Good luck with your Week 1 lineups.
Start in DFS: Najee Harris ($20)
Sit: Buffalo running backs
The Steelers have a shaky offensive line and are near TD underdogs, but Harris can be safely projected for 20+ weekly touches unlike only a handful of other backs in the league. The rookie deserved to be a top-10 overall fantasy pick and has too low of a DFS salary in Week 1.
Devin Singletary and Zack Moss are likely to split work in a tough matchup against a Pittsburgh defense that ranked first in run defense DVOA last season. Buffalo led the NFL in pass-rate during neutral situations over the second half of last season and continued to play that way during the preseason, as the running game is an afterthought with this team.
New York Jets @ Carolina Panthers
Start: Elijah Moore, Terrace Marshall Jr.
Moore is coming off an unprecedented amount of summer hype and is the real deal; a lowly $12 salary in DFS might not be an option again any time soon. Jamison Crowder is out, while Keelan Cole might not play either.
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Marshall Jr. has seemingly won Carolina’s slot role, an area the Jets yielded the fourth-most fantasy points to last season. Marshall Jr. is just $11 in DFS and should enjoy a nice NFL welcoming party against one of the league’s shakiest secondaries.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans
Start: Trevor Lawrence, Brandin Cooks
Lawrence has to deal with Urban Meyer, but at least he has three nice wide receivers to throw to and gets to open his NFL career against the league’s worst roster. An already depleted Houston defense just traded the team’s top corner Bradley Roby to New Orleans, so Lawrence should get off to a nice start.
Cooks will miss Deshaun Watson but should benefit from an extremely high target share as Houston’s clear WR1 — at least until he’s likely traded. Jacksonville yielded the second-most YPA (8.1) in the NFL while recording the second-fewest sacks (18) last season.
Arizona Cardinals @ Tennessee Titans
Start: Rondale Moore, Ryan Tannehill
The rookie Moore is a deeper flier while battling Christian Kirk for the team’s WR3 role, but A.J. Green could very well be washed, and this game projects to feature a ton of plays with both teams ranking top-three in pace last season. The Titans allowed the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers last year and enter 2021 with many questions on defense.
The move from Arthur Smith to Todd Downing at play caller is a major concern for Tannehill this season, but he should have a productive Week 1 in an uptempo matchup with the second highest over/under on the slate. Arizona allowed the most rushing yards to quarterbacks last year.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Washington Football Team
Sit: Justin Herbert
Start: Logan Thomas
The Chargers upgraded their offensive line but have a tough Week 1 task with a new coaching staff traveling across the country to play an early game against one of the league’s best defenses. WFT yielded the fewest passing yards and the third-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks last season.
Thomas should continue to be the same target hog he was down the stretch last year, especially now with Curtis Samuel going on IR. Adam Humphries is a deep PPR sleeper.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Atlanta Falcons
Start in DFS: Jalen Hurts ($26)
Start: Matt Ryan
Hurts finished sixth in fantasy points per dropback as a rookie despite playing through a late hamstring injury, and he now gets a much-improved situation around him with a healthier offensive line and DeVonta Smith added at wide receiver. Indoors against an Atlanta defense that held running backs to the second-fewest rushing yards last season, Hurts is setup for a big Week 1.
Ryan remained incredibly on target last season and now gets Arthur Smith as his play caller and Kyle Pitts to throw to. Pitts is going to have a special rookie season, and Ryan will benefit.
Seattle Seahawks @ Indianapolis Colts
Start: Seahawks D/ST, Zach Pascal
These are more “fliers” for deeper leagues, with Seattle’s defense an intriguing start facing an Indy team dealing with injuries across its offensive line and a banged-up quarterback who just “led” the NFL in sacks and interceptions despite missing four games.
While Michael Pittman is Indy’s obvious WR breakout candidate, and Parris Campbell remains intriguing, it’s Pascal who may end up playing the slot with T.Y. Hilton going down. He’s a deep sleeper in PPR leagues.
Minnesota Vikings @ Cincinnati Bengals
Start: Vikings D/ST
Sit: Joe Burrow
The Vikings underperformed last season but get star edge rusher, Danielle Hunter, back and enter the season as Mike Clay’s No. 2 defensive unit. They get a Bengals team in Week 1 with an extremely shaky offensive line and a rusty Joe Burrow returning from serious surgery. Minnesota’s D/ST DFS salary is the minimum $10.
It’s safe to expect a slow start to Burrow’s season after he suffered a torn ACL and MCL with damage to his PCL and meniscus. He unsurprisingly looked rusty during the preseason during his recovery and has a tough Week 1 task against a dominant Minnesota front seven.
San Francisco 49ers @ Detroit Lions
Start: Trey Sermon
Sit: Jamaal Williams
Raheem Mostert has major durability concerns but should be treated as a top-12 fantasy RB as SF’s clear starter and against a Lions defense that was gashed for the most fantasy points by running backs last season. But Mostert has eclipsed 19 touches in a game just once in his career, and the rookie Sermon has emerged as the team’s No. 2 back with an impressive preseason. There should be plenty of carries to go around Sunday with the 49ers more than touchdown favorites. SF’s D/ST at just $12 is awfully intriguing as well, as struggling rookie Penei Sewell is being forced to make his NFL debut at left tackle with Taylor Decker out.
Williams should have plenty of fantasy value this season, but D’Andre Swift is ready for Week 1 without limitations. The Lions face a 49ers front seven that looks to be one of the toughest to run against in the league in Week 1.
Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs
Start: Baker Mayfield, Mecole Hardman
Mayfield should be forced to throw more than usual as near-TD underdogs to Kansas City, and he gets Odell Beckham Jr. back in a favorable matchup. Mayfield will benefit from having arguably the league’s best offensive line and in a game with this slate’s highest over/under.
Hardman looks good to go after returning to a full practice Thursday and enters the year as KC’s new No. 2 receiver. The Chiefs have Week 1’s highest implied team total.
Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots
Start in DFS: Jaylen Waddle ($13)
Start: Jakobi Meyers
New England enters with a big mismatch up front, but Waddle is still intriguing with Will Fuller suspended (and Stephon Gilmore out) in a game Miami figures to struggle mightily when trying to run the ball. Waddle really came on strong down the stretch of the preseason.
Meyers emerged as New England’s No. 1 WR this summer and is in store for a nice year in the team’s slot role. Mac Jones ($21) at the near minimum DFS salary is also a nice alternative for those looking to save on the QB position in Week 1.
Denver Broncos @ New York Giants
Start: Broncos D/ST, Sterling Shepard
Denver sports arguably the best defensive roster in football and gets to face a Giants offensive line that PFF ranks last entering the year with a QB who’s committed 29 fumbles over 27 career games.
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With Evan Engram questionable to play Week 1 (and rookie Kadarius Toney will be limited if he suits up), Shepard will continue to be an underrated source of targets (he quietly ranked top-25 in target share last season). He’s reportedly looked terrific throughout the preseason and will also benefit from a limited Saquon Barkley in Week 1.
Green Bay Packers @ New Orleans Saints
Start: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Marquez Callaway
All the Marquezes.
MVS has received nothing but praise throughout summer, including from Aaron Rodgers. Valdes-Scantling has burned fantasy managers repeatedly in the past, but he’s Green Bay’s WR2 and a real 2021 sleeper.
Callaway is anything but a sleeper after seeing his ADP rise more than any other player in August. He led all receivers in yards per route run during the preseason and enters the year as New Orleans’ clear WR1 with Michael Thomas on IR. With Jameis Winston winning the QB job, it’s a role that makes Marquez well worth starting in fantasy leagues even in a potentially tough matchup against Jaire Alexander (although it’s worth noting the star corner rarely shadowed while lining up on the same side of the field 80% of the time last season).
Chicago Bears @ Los Angeles Rams
Sit: Darnell Mooney
Start: Tyler Higbee
Mooney is a major breakout candidate and has a real bright future ahead of him (especially once Justin Fields takes over), but he’s a risky Week 1 fantasy start after recently missing practice with back spasms and having to face a Rams secondary that allowed the fewest fantasy points to perimeter receivers last year.
Higbee should benefit in a big way from Gerald Everett leaving and Matthew Stafford taking over at QB, and he also gets a Chicago defense Sunday night that ceded the second-most fantasy points to tight ends last season.
Baltimore Ravens @ Las Vegas Raiders
Start: Ty’Son Williams
Sit: Henry Ruggs
Latavius Murray only recently signed, so Williams should lead Baltimore’s backfield Monday night with everyone else injured or washed. Las Vegas had the No. 28-ranked run defense in DVOA last season.
The Raiders will surely feed Ruggs targets after hearing all the criticism about drafting him ahead of CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Justin Jefferson and Brandon Aiyuk, but there’s a real chance Bryan Edwards emerges as the team’s WR1. And Week 1 features a tough matchup against a Ravens secondary that yielded the second-fewest YPA (6.4) last season (although they did just lose Marcus Peters for the season).
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