Welcome to the Fantasy Football Rundown: a weekly article written by yours truly in which I give at least one sentence on every single fantasy relevant player for Week 1. Starts, sits, sleepers, busts, you name it, I talk about it here. Be warned, this is a beast of a piece. If you’re looking for a specific player, I recommend using your web browser’s search function to head straight to said player. Otherwise, enjoy reading!
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans
Trevor Lawrence – Houston, we have liftoff. The Jaguars are going to start things off hot in the Urban Meyer era with a surefire pummeling of 2021’s most likely 0-17 candidate. Houston’s NCAA D-1-esque defense surrendered 4,104 passing yards and 30 passing touchdowns, both qualifying as bottom-10 marks in the league, while recording just 3 interceptions. Their 127 QB pressures were fifth-worst, and they allowed 29 of those pressures to walk out the door this off-season in the form of future Hall of Fame defensive lineman J.J. Watt. Houston also traded away their best CB, Bradley Roby, this week, making their tanking plans clear as day. Fire up rookie signal caller Trevor Lawrence as a QB1 this week. He’s a real candidate to finish top-5 at the position. As we discussed on Monday’s NerdBall Show, it would be a surprise if Lawrence didn’t score at least three touchdowns.
D.J. Chark – As documented previously, Chark should not be considered the favorite to lead the team in targets. Meyer has made clear that he is not impressed with Chark’s style of play, both by sharing that notion with the media and seemingly signing Tyron Johnson to compete with him. Chark should really only be up for DFS consideration at this point.
Laviska Shenault & Marvin Jones Jr. – Both receivers are now solidly in the WR2 conversation with either one of them liable to pop off for a huge outing. Shenault was the star of the show in training camp and may have snatched back some of the backfield work he was set to see prior to the drafting of Travis Etienne, now that the latter is out for the year (Lisfranc). Jones has been a jump ball-magnet for Lawrence throughout the preseason and there’s no reason to believe that that connection won’t continue against the NFL’s worst secondary. There was some concern over a light AC joint sprain that Jones suffered in late August but he’s been fully cleared to play. Start both excitedly.
Josh Imatorbhebhe – Although athletically enticing, rookie WR Josh Imatorbhebhe is not up for season-long consideration at this time.
James Robinson – With starting back duties locked-up, Robinson is set to feast against a notoriously soft Houston Texans’ defensive-front that allowed the most rushing yards in the league last year (2,564), the second-most rushing touchdowns (24), and ranked dead-last in run defense NEFF rating. Those who drafted Robinson ahead of the Etienne injury are set to enjoy a big, BIG game from the second-year back.
Carlos Hyde – The match-up is so good that even Jaguars’ No. 2 RB Hyde should be on the starting radar in deep, deep formats. Hyde is also a decent option in contrarian DFS lineups.
Nico Collins & Brandin Cooks – Collins’ profile is the stuff of dreams but the rookie WR is stuck catching passes from an aging Tyrod Taylor. Cooks is sure to do his downfield thing but he’s not more than a touchdown-dependent flex-flyer.
Phillip Lindsay – As the lead back, Lindsay should see 15 or so carries, which could bring him to return flex value.
Los Angeles Chargers at Washington Football Team
Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert – Herbert had a truly special rookie season last year; he set the rookie passing TD record, became the youngest player to throw at least 30 TDs, set the total TD rookie record, fell just 39 yards short of the rookie passing record—and he did all of those without any first team prep in the COVID-19-stunted off-season, while being thrust into action unexpectedly after a team doctor punctured the lung of starting QB Tyrod Taylor, minutes before kickoff in Week 2. Anyone questioning Herbert’s bonafides needs to reevaluate their process. The analytically-inclined offense that head coach Brandon Staley and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi are expected to run should be worlds better than what the Chargers were running last year, making Herbert a good bet to best both his rookie passing (4,336-31-10) and rushing stat lines (55-234-5). For season-long purposes, Herbert is likely to finish as a top-5 fantasy signal caller. In Week 1, expect something in the QB6-12 range.
Mike Williams – Chargers’ beat reporter Daniel Popper reported that Williams would be asked to play the Michael Thomas/X-receiver role that’s expected to be implemented as former Saints quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi implements his system as LA’s new OC. This quote was somewhat misunderstood by readers as meaning Lombardi had stated this. He hadn’t. He just gushed over Williams’ overall potential in 2021—and for that reason, we should expect a career-best performance out of the big-bodied downfield receiver. That said, he should be limited to a flex start for this match-up against the Football Team.
Keenan Allen – Inside/outside receiver/route running extraordinaire, Keenan Allen, should be the one to get the Michael Thomas schematic treatment. Although Allen has had some seasons for the ages, his upcoming, ninth year in the league should be his most dominant. Bill Allen for a career-high in targets and no worse than a WR12 finish, with a top 5 WR performance is reasonably within his range of outcomes. He’s a locked-in WR1 this week.
Josh Palmer – Rookie receiver Palmer so thoroughly won the No. 3 WR job that the team felt comfortable waiving Tyron Johnson late in the preseason. Expect the team to test Palmer more and more as the season progresses. Mike Williams’ contract expires at the end of this season and the fact that they haven’t signed him to an extension is a sign that they think his replacement is currently in-house. Palmer isn’t relevant in Week 1 but should be on fantasy benches in 12-team leagues.
Jared Cook & Donald Parham – The tight end position is a bit crowded in LA. The veteran Cook can still get the job done on a high-volume workload but he’s nearing the end of his career. 24-year-old Donald Parham is quietly in position to become the next great Chargers tight end. Parham dominated the XFL during its brief stint in existence and managed to parlay that performance into an NFL contract with the Bolts last season. Although he’s unlikely to fully blossom early in the season, Parham deserves to be on fantasy benches in 12-team leagues. Cook isn’t terribly interesting right now.
Austin Ekeler – Ekeler spent Wednesday’s practice working on the sidelines with a trainer due to a hamstring injury. That said, Dr. Jesse Morse of The Fantasy Doctors is not worried too about Ekeler’s Week 1 availability right now. Dr. Edwin Porras seems to advise a wait-and-see what Friday’s practice holds for Ekeler. At first glance this does not appear to be a serious injury but soft tissue strains always need to be monitored closely. If Ekeler is a go against the WFT, he’ll be a back-end RB1. It’s a brutal match-up but his top notch receiving game talents will be routinely utilized to negate Washington’s potent pass rush.
Justin Jackson – No. 2 back Justin Jackson needs to be rostered in all formats, both because he offers some standalone flex value in deeper leagues and because he’d be in line for 15 or more touches should Ekeler miss time. Were Jackson to start, he’d be a must-start flex play with an RB2 finish within his reasonable range of outcomes.
Washington Football Team
Ryan Fitzpatrick – Defensively speaking, the Football Team also has their work cut out for them this week. But for our purposes, this is a passing tree to target. The expected pace of the Chargers offense (LAC was No. 1 in the league with 70.4 offensive plays per game and Staley’s Rams were fifth with 67.2) will kick the WAS offense into high-gear. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s gung-ho style of play lands him on the QB streaming radar and thanks to the expected pace of play, this week is no different. Consider Fitz a contender to finish in the QB12-15 range. He gets a bump in six-point passing TD leagues.
Terry McLaurin – McLaurin should be on the receiving end of 10 or more of Fitzpatrick’s targets this weekend, sadly thanks to Curtis Samuel being placed on IR Friday. McLaurin was a top-15 WR by ADP but needs to be treated concretely as a top-12 play this week.
Dyami Brown & Adam Humphries – Rookie WR Dyami Brown and veteran slot receiver Adam Humphries may be even bigger beneficiaries of Samuel’s injury. Brown, the burner, is firmly in play in DFS as a downfield, long-touchdown option. Humphries could be used in deep, multi-flex full-point PPR leagues as a lesser version of Cole Beasley.
Logan Thomas – While Thomas may not finish as the third-most targeted tight end in the league again this year, with the roster additions of Brown and Humphries, but he shouldn’t fall too far from that mark. The team liked what they saw in 2020 and signed him to a multi-year extension, locking up their TE1 for the foreseeable future. He’s as good of a mid-range TE1 fantasy play as there is.
Antonio Gibson – Gibson has a matchup proof ceiling and an injury-associated floor. On the most recent episode of Dr. Edwin Porras’ Injury Prone podcast, Dr. Porras concisely explains that there’s really no reason for Gibson’s turf toe to still be an issue—my inference is that there’s got to be some unknown factor. Regardless, it appears as though he’s ready to take on whatever role the team has in store for him in Week 1—be that just lead back duties or full-on DC CMC status. Washington’s recent release of bruiser back Peyton Barber should work wonders for Gibson’s red zone workload but the pesky pass catching back J.D. McKissic is still on the roster. Treat Gibson as a back-end RB1 with top-3 RB upside until further notice.
J.D. McKissic – McKissic will have some sort of role, perhaps as a pass blocker but likely to some degree as a pass catcher. He’s only viable in full-point, deep PPR formats though as Gibson really could take over as a weekly 20+ touch back.
Jaret Patterson – Patterson must be rostered in dynasty leagues as the heir apparent to the pass-centric, change of pace role.
Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts
Russell Wilson – Like the Chargers above, the Seattle Seahawks face stiff test for their newly installed high-paced offense. Offensive coordinator Shane Waldron brings with him an uptempo style of play that should keep both Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson happy. Although there will be far too many rushing attempts, Wilson’s sharp increase in passing volume will allow him to work the magic that he wants to work. Accordingly, Wilson-drafters should remain steadfast in Wilson this week. Finishing in the QB4-QB8 range is about right.
D.K. Metcalf – Although there are cornerbacks that can make Metcalf’s workday more challenging, there are none that can truly stop him. Metcalf’s a weekly candidate to finish in the top-5 at the position, thanks to Waldron’s high-flying offensive scheme. Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes (calf) is now confirmed Out this week.
Tyler Lockett – Lockett is what Cole Beasley wishes he was: a lethal slot receiver that the coaching staff will dial up high-volume workloads for in the right situation, yet he should still see 6-8 targets even in the worst of situations. Lockett’s spiked week ceiling is no fluke, he’s one of the best route runners in the league and operates as Wilson’s primary safety blanket. PFF.com has Lockett’s expected CB match-up ranked as the ninth-softest in the NFL this week. He’s a high-floor WR2 with top-12 upside.
D’Wayne Eskridge – The 24-year old rookie has drawn positive reviews in the preseason, when he wasn’t nursing a toe injury. The speedy receiver has intrigued some but older rookie wide receivers have a long history of not panning out as grown men can easily find success in the college ranks by simplifying out-bodying 19-year olds.
Gerald Everett – Everett was Waldron main priority to sign in free agency, after Waldron and Everett spent the first four years of their careers together in LA. A high-quality athlete, Everett is in position to make some serious noise in the box score this year and Seattle’s unquestioned No. 1 receiving tight end after toiling away in a timeshare with Tyler Higbee over the last four years. Although it’s been some time since Wilson had a premier receiving threat at the position, Jimmy Graham’s 2017 was a sight to behold. Consider Everett a mid-range TE1 with a real chance to break into the position’s difference-making tier.
Chris Carson – Carson has his work cut out for him against a stout Colts defensive front-seven. A 20-touch workload in an offense that should make frequent trips into scoring position on the arm of Wilson keeps Carson in the high-end RB2 conversation.
Rashaad Penny – Penny is thought to be the No. 2 RB on the roster but issues with weight and health led to the team declining Penny’s fifth-year option. Alex Collins, Travis Homer, and DeeJay Dallas are all duking it out for backup relevance as well. It’s tough to trust any of the backs behind Carson at the moment.
Carson Wentz – The foot injury that Wentz suffered at the beginning of August is in the rear view. He’s ready to rock for Week 1. The effectiveness of the rocking remains to be seen though. Seattle’s defense is a try-hard unit that offers more depth than star power. The Colts were already working with one of the worst left tackles in the league, Sam Tevi, but his recent ACL tear thrusts Julie’n Davenport into the starting job. All-Pro LG Quenton Nelson, recovering from a foot injury, is also dealing with a back “flare-up”. The good news is that C Ryan Kelly (elbow) has managed to resume practicing. It’s not a perfect scenario for Wentz to produce but if Nelson can go, he’ll still have the best overall lineman in football working on his left side. The veteran passer is a mid-range QB2 who offers sneaky value in 2QB/Superflex leagues.
Michael Pittman Jr – The runway is clear for Pittman-liftoff in his second season operating as Indy’s X. Pittman’s rookie season was derailed by the compartment syndrome in his lower leg (an issue so serious it can lead to amputation). But he returned after getting it handled and made the most of the 2020 campaign. Something else to keep in mind; any rookie who looked halfway decent after the COVID-19-stunted preseason of 2020 could be in for a serious leap in 2021. The sophomore receiver should see even more work early in the season than initially expected now that T.Y. Hilton was placed on Injured Reserve with a neck injury. The fantasy community hasn’t been hot on the kid but he’s quietly a candidate to see double-digit targets this week. There could be some growing pains with the new QB being installed but rolling with Pittman as a flex this week could actually pay WR2 dividends.
Parris Campbell – The Colts’ slot receiver is a DFS-only guy this week, having been listed on the Injury report with an Achilles issue.
Zach Pascal – Pascal remains a touchdown-or bust play. Leave him on the bench in redraft leagues.
Mo Alie-Cox – With the tight end room as crowded as ever, none of the players are desirable for redraft. Mo Alie-Cox deserves DFS consideration, especially in any tight end-premium/bestball formats.
Jonathan Taylor – While Nyheim Hines soaks up 8-10 targets, lead back Jonathan Taylor is a good bet for 20 or more touches this week. Head coach Frank Reich will attempt to feature Taylor early in games and especially early in the season as Wentz works towards 100% health (foot). Taylor’s biggest issue is both his lack of true passing game dynamism (he’s fine but he’s no world beater) and the presence of Hines. 18-22 carries and 2-3 targets is a reasonable workload assumption. He’s a back-end RB1.
Nyheim Hines – The loss of K.J. Wright (now a Raider) could be serious for Seattle. For a decade now, Wright has been single-handedly blowing up RB screens before they have a chance to be realized. If Wentz has formed any kind of connection with stud pass catching back, the duo could be a real problem. Although billed mostly as a full-point PPR flex option, Hines should be viewed as a top-24 RB this week.
New York Jets at Carolina Panthers
New York Jets
Zach Wilson – The future looks bright in New York with head coach defensive-minded Robert Saleh preaching an analytical approach, deployed through the Shanahanian running back-centric scheme via offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. Wilson needs to be in the starting conversation for redraft leagues as the scheme, personnel, and matchup could lead to a fruitful outing. Although Trey Lance and Justin Fields have drawn the most dual threat fanfare of the rookie QBs, Wilson’s rushing ability is sneaky good. A stat line of 250 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, 30 rushing yards, and a rushing score is well within his range of outcomes.
Corey Davis & Elijah Moore – A lacking secondary led by 4th-year corner Donte Jackson and rookie JayCee Horn will be tasked with slowing WRs Corey Davis and Elijah Moore this week—and we should really bet against them. Davis was a target hog in his sparse preseason deployment and has the paycheck to prove that he will finish 2021 as NYJ’s unquestioned target leader, a total that could surpass 170. Davis is quietly a top-15 option at WR this week. The preseason hype surrounding Moore dwindled towards the end of August, thanks to a quad injury. Prior to that, he was turning heads on a routine basis. With fellow slot receiver Jamison Crowder battling COVID, Moore should have slot duties all to himself this weekend. It’s a bold call but Moore can be started as a flex play in redraft leagues this week.
Keelan Cole – Cole is a DFS-only guy for Week 1.
Jets’ Backfield – The Jets’ backfield is a pure gamble at the moment. Tevin Coleman is listed atop the depth chart but his aged legs and injuries issues don’t offer much confidence. Ty Johnson is the best pure rusher on this team at the moment and there’s been some chatter that he’s the true lead back here. Given the depth chart, starting Johnson in the flex is restricted to those with guts, who are willing to stick to the process. Rookie Michael Carter offers the most pure upside as the most capable dual threat back on the roster. Carter needs to be rostered in all leagues as he could quickly turn into an RB2 in this scheme. Until he asserts himself as such though, he’s best left as a bench hold.
Sam Darnold – Evaluating Darnold’s career to this point is difficult due to the fact that he’s been attached at the hip to the worst head coach of our generation, Mr. Adam Gase. Now free of The Awful One and starting anew in Carolina, Darnold has a chance to turn things around in a big way. OC Joe Brady dialed up the pass on 56% of first-half early-down (FH/ED) plays last year, 12th most in the league. If he was willing to do that with Teddy Bridgewater under center, there’s no reason to believe that he’ll lower that rate—if anything he’ll increase it—with 2018’s No. 3 overall pick at the helm. Although early-down defenses keep the pass in mind, many are still comprised of run-centric personnel groupings. Passing against the slower, big boys is an easy way to move the chains. Even if NYJ were to roll out coverage units early on though, play the Mina Kimes game and ask yourself if you can name a single Jets’ cornerback. You can’t. Like his opponent, Darnold is a top-15 option this week.
D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, & Terrace Marshall Jr. – Moore and Anderson can be safely started with 2020 results as their floor, where they both finished WR2s in .5PPR. Marshall has an underrated chance to leapfrog at least one of them though. As outlined here, Marshall is a phenomenal prospect and Darnold loves throwing to slot receivers. Last year, Darnold’s backup slot receiver Braxton Berrios was tied with Davante Adams and Antonio Brown for the second-highest target per snap rate in the league…
Christian McCaffrey – Run CMC is fully healthy and once again the league’s best bet to record 1,000 rushing yards, 1,000 receiving yards, and catch 100 passes. He’s the RB1 until proven otherwise.
Chuba Hubbard – Hubbard should be rostered in all formats, especially if you don’t have CMC. It’s totally reasonable for a CMC drafter to have Hubbard as well, but when doing so, you’re tying up two roster spots for one starter (albeit one who produces at a rate of two starters). If you don’t have CMC, add Hubbard! If CMC misses time, you’ve only allocated one roster spot to one potential starter and that potential starter, Hubbard, would immediately vault into the top-12 discussion.
Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals
Kirk Cousins – While Vikings’ 50% FH/ED passing rate leaves a lot to be desired, there’s still value aplenty in such a condensed passing tree. And lucky for Kirk Cousins the primary options are all tops in the game. Cincy’s defense totaled the lowest league marks in QB hurries (39) and sacks (17), while leaping up to second-worst in the QB pressure column (111). The front office then decided to let pass rushers Geno Atkins and Carl Lawson walk, replacing them with 2020-NOLA breakout DE Trey Hendrickson and dominant run defender Larry Ogunjobi. While those two will have fine seasons, it’s unlikely that Cincy is able to improve much on a team-performance scale. As a result, Kirk Cousins makes for a solid high-end QB2 streaming option.
Justin Jefferson & Adam Thielen – The Vikings receivers make for studly, respective WR1 and WR2 duo.
Tyler Conklin & Chris Herndon – Both tight ends render each other irrelevant for fantasy purposes.
Dalvin Cook – While at a high risk of re-injury, Cook enters week one as one of the two most likely men to take overall RB1 honors away from Christian McCaffrey against a hapless Bengals’ defensive front. The dual threat bellcow is virtually guaranteed 25 or more touches.
Alexander Mattison – Mattison needs to be rostered across all formats.
Joe Burrow – This is going to be a rough outing for Burrow. Burrow should be able to play but his 2020 knee injury was a serious one. Many players who fully tear their ACL, MCL, PCL, and suffer meniscus damage never take the field again so just because Burrow takes the field, it does not mean that he’s 100% healthy. He’s likely to be rehabbing through much of the 2021 season and the slight rushing floor that he once boasted has all but evaporated. The Vikings’ defensive line is also significantly better than it was last year, thanks to the signing of DT Dalvin Tomlinson and opt-out-return of DT Michael Pierce. Fade Joe Burrow outside of deep 2QB/Superflex leagues.
Tyler Boyd, Ja’Marr Chase, & Tee Higgins – The Bengals’ slot receiver is the best bet to return early season flex value, especially in full-point PPR leagues as his quick-hitting routes should be the primary option for many of Burrow’s dropbacks. Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins could be started in the flex if necessary but Chase has had a slow start to his career and Higgins’ physical limitations should keep him playing second fiddle to Chase, even with the latter’s initial slow-go.
Auden Tate – Tate is only up for DFS consideration.
Thaddeus Moss – Moss and Burrow are once again reunited as teammates after playing together in college at LSU. Moss is both the son of Hall of Famer Randy Moss and Burrow’s best friend. Although veteran TE C.J. Uzomah is on the roster, Moss is the far more intriguing Bengals tight end for fantasy purposes. Don’t expect anything from the latter yet but he’s absolutely worth a bench stash.
Joe Mixon – Given the dearth of injuries that the Bengals have suffered during the Zac Taylor era, we’ve got a pretty good idea of how he’ll alter the play-calling. Mixon should see a 25-touch workload for the duration of Burrow’s ramp up period as the latter fully rehabs his knee injuries. Mixon’s this week’s RB7.
Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans
Kyler Murray – The Titans are fielding one of the worst defenses in football this year, despite having a couple of household names like Janoris Jenkins and Harold Landry. Behind their stars, it’s a cadre of men who would be fighting for a roster spot elsewhere. Accordingly, Kyler Murray is firmly in play to finish as the QB1 this week.
DeAndre Hopkins – The biggest thing working against Hopkins is his unvaccinated status. Should he test positive late in a week, he may end up being required to miss two games. He’s testing negative for now though so fire him up as an elite WR1. Fewer than 10 targets would be a surprise.
Christian Kirk & Rondale Moore – The passing tree behind Hopkins is far less confusing than it appears. Christian Kirk was drafted to operate as the team’s No. 1 slot receiver three years ago and was unable to unseat an aged Larry Fitzgerald. Rondale Moore was drafted with an early second-round pick in this year’s draft and profiles best as a primary slot receiver who has the ball carrying ability to be utilized out of the backfield from time to time. Moore’s preposterously athletic profile is something that Kirk just can’t compete with either. Fire up Moore as a flex play who has a chance to finish as a top-24 WR this year.
A.J. Green – Green hasn’t looked good in years but should be locked to the perimeter regardless. Ignore Green for fantasy purposes.
Chase Edmonds & James Conner – Both backs are both middling flex plays. Against this defense, one could find the end zone but neither one are what one would consider proficient, or highly talented.
Ryan Tannehill – The Titans want to operate as a Derrick Henry-centric/play-action deep shot team. It’s unlikely they’ll be able to play clock-control ball as much as they’d like to with their paper towel of a defense. Unknowns do exist; the all-star offensive coordinator of the past few seasons, Arthur Smith, parlayed his successes into a head coaching gig in Atlanta and tight ends coach Todd Downing has been promoted to take his place. Downing had mixed results when calling plays for Oakland in 2017 and it’s unclear as to how much free reign he’ll be given. Utilizing play-action passing at an unbelievable rate last year (55% of dropbacks) bore fantastic results and it’s unlikely that head coach Mike Vrabel will allow Downing to abandon that tactic. Bet on Ryan Tannehill to maintain his sterling proficiency and finish this week somewhere between QB10-QB14.
A.J. Brown & Julio Jones – It’s tough to overstate how juicy of a match-up both Brown and Jones have on their hands this week:
With CB1 Malcolm Butler's retirement, it looks like this 4th-rounder will be starting on the perimeter against A.J. Brown and Julio Jones in Week 1. Both offenses top-3 in neutral offensive pace, too. #Titans home eruption incoming. pic.twitter.com/QfaZvxUZeU
— Hayden Winks (@HaydenWinks) September 6, 2021
Brown is a top-5 WR this week, at worst. Julio made positive strides in his quest to play this week. He’s been dealing with a lower leg injury, as is likely to be the case all year. If he gets the green light, as expected, he’s WR2 with easy WR1 upside.
Josh Reynolds & Anthony Firkser – Ancillary pass catchers like Reynolds and Firkser saw too little desirable preseason usage to be deployed outside of contrarian DFS lineups.
Derrick Henry – The Cards had a sturdy, yet often banged up defensive front last year but should largely be in full form come Week 1 kickoff. That won’t matter for Derrick Henry though. The NFL’s back-to-back rushing champion has a good shot at hitting the three-peat this season as no back is guaranteed more carries than he. As always, Henry’s a top-5 play at the position.
Darrynton Evans – As the Titans primary backup running back, Evans should be rostered in all formats.
San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions
San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy Garoppolo – The only thing working against the Niners’ fantasy relevant players is the speed with which they’ll kill the clock. Kyle Shanahan frustratingly listed Jimmy Garoppolo atop the QB depth chart for Week 1 so Jimmy G warrants streaming consideration against one of the league’s weakest defenses. It’s entirely possible that he only attempts 15 or so passes though so he’s not a great bet for gaudy numbers. Trey Lance deserves serious consideration in high-stakes DFS tournaments as the ultimate contrarian option at the position.
Brandon Aiyuk – The Niners’ No. 1 WR will square off with second-year CB Jeff Okudah, but in the words of the great Matt Harmon “[Aiyuk] is the next great alpha receiver in the NFL that is ready to take that step”. Fire him up as a top-15 WR play this week.
Deebo Samuel – Deebo kicked the 2021 season off with yet another injury scare but he’s expected to play this week. Samuel has posted monstrous Yards After Catch per Reception marks in his two NFL seasons (min. 25 targets) finishing 2019 at 8.5 (third-most) and 2020 at 12.2 (the most). He’s a weekly flex option until he’s not.
Trent Sherfield – The downfield receiver deserves DFS consideration but his outlook would be significantly enhanced with Trey Lance at the helm.
George Kittle – Last year’s runner-up to Travis Kelce in the Yards per Route Run category (Y/RR: 2.84) and 2019’s co-King of the position’s .5PPR PPG (12.9), can be expected to thoroughly dismantle any and all Lions’ defenders who try to stop him. He’s an elite TE1.
Raheem Mostert & Trey Sermon – As outlined in this thread by Will Brinson, the Niners are intent on splitting the backfield workload primarily between Raheem Mostert and rookie Trey Sermon, although Kyle Shanahan has publicly noted that they also frequently utilize their third RB at a league-high rate. It’s tough to say how touches will be divided. San Fran chucks it to RBs on 24% of the FH/ED passes, tied for sixth most in the NFL, and Mostert’s been efficient as a receiver yet a terror as a rusher. Sermon was billed as one of the best rushers in this year’s class and saw a little work in the preseason passing attack as well. Expect both to see 15-18 touches, with the trusted veteran Mostert likely to see more work in the passing game than Sermon. They are both rock-solid RB2 starts, regardless, against last year’s most fantasy friendly defense to opposing RBs.
Update: Trey Sermon is a surprise healthy scratch. Raheem Mostert is an immediate RB1. Elijah Mitchell and JaMycal Hasty are going to rotate in behind Mostert but the extent to which is unclear. Mitchell is ranked ahead of Hasty as he’s likely to see RB work and return work.
Jared Goff – Goff is not a fantasy factor this week.
Tyrell Williams – Williams could be deployed in DFS and deep, deep multi-flex redraft leagues.
T.J. Hockenson – Hockenson is the best bet to lead the team in targets. Hock has the table set for him to eat his way to the position’s elite. He still has to actually do it though.
Amon-Ra St. Brown – St. Brown is a solid dynasty asset.
D’Andre Swift & Jamaal Williams – Swift is reportedly not going to be on a snap count (groin) this week which is great news. Anthony Lynn’s Classic ‘A’ Back, Jamaal Williams, is also ready to rock this week and the duo should perform as a fruitful pair. While the two may knock each other into the flex realm, both should have ironclad RB3 floors. Both do have a shot at RB2 production, Swift via gobs of passing game usage and Williams as a goal-line bruiser, though each is more than capable in their respective manners.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills
Ben Roethlisberger – Big Ben has an awfully wide range of outcomes, with the uncertainty surrounding his elbow’s ability to hold up for a full year. If he’s good to go, drafters got a premium discount on a top-12 option. If not, he’ll be tough to start outside of 2QB/Superflex leagues.
Chase Claypool & Diontae Johnson – Both are top-30 WRs who can easily leap up to the WR1/2 borderline on a given week. Claypool’s physical dominance is as good as it gets and Johnson’s route running should be studied by young receivers across the league.
JuJu Smith-Schuster – Smith-Schuster was effectively treated as a cross between a tight end and a pass catching running back last year. Knee issues surely played a part but his 5.8 average intended air yards were the fourth-lowest mark in NextGenStats’ 2020 database. JuJu can only be started in multi-flex full-point PPR leagues at this time.
Pat Freiermuth – The rookie looks like the next stalwart Steelers tight end. He’s likely to take a couple years before blossoming into a reliable fantasy weapon though, as is the case for most players at his position.
Najee Harris – Steelers’ ownership intervened in the draft process, demanding that the front office use their first-round draft pick on Harris last spring. So you can guess who’s going to get all the work he can handle this weekend. Given the Bills’ pass-happy preseason, one has to wonder if Josh Allen and Co. are actually (hopefully!) going to increase their FH/ED passing rate from their already-excellent from last year (64%, second-most). If that’s the case, PIT is going to have to play “huck it, chuck it FOOTBALL” to keep pace, which could lead to a season-high in targets for Harris right out of the gates. He’s the RB6 this week
Anthony McFarland – McFarland is a pure backup and won’t see much usage with Harris available.
Josh Allen – Last year’s overall QB1 has an excellent shot at repeating the feat again this season. 2020 was another year under his belt, another year for his genius offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to refine the playbook, and another year building cohesion with his bevvy of pass catchers. He’s a top-3 play against the Steelers’ staunch defense, at worst.
Stefon Diggs – Diggs is firmly in contention for the NFL’s Route Running Crown and he’s the best bet to do battle with Davane Adams for overall WR1 honors on a weekly basis. This week is no different.
Cole Beasley, Gabe Davis, & Emmanuel Sanders – Slot receiver Beasley offers a concrete flex-floor in full-point PPR formats while both Gabe Davis and Emmanuel Sanders can be started in multi-flex leagues of all formats.
Zack Moss & Devin Singletary – The Bills’ backfield is a complete toss up and may be best approached from a wait-and-see standpoint. Zack Moss is far more talented than Devin Singletary but Moss has been banged up (hamstring) for a portion of camp and wasn’t able to play all that well upon his return. They could be started flex plays if need be.
Update: Zack Moss is a surprise healthy scratch. Devin Singletary moves to the RB2/3 borderline. Matt Breida goes from being unranked to the RB3/4 range.
Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons
Jalen Hurts – Atlanta was not able to meaningfully overhaul their defense this off-season which bodes very well for the young Eagles’ offensive squad. ATL surrendered a league-high 4,697 passing yards last year while also getting carved up for 21.6 QB rushing yards per game, ninth-most in the NFL. The dual threat Philly passer, Jalen Hurts, should have no issue producing mid-range QB1 numbers against such a lacking group.
DeVonta Smith – The rookie receiver has put his MCL sprain behind him and has looked great in practice as of late. Last year’s most dominant college receiver should operate as Hurts’ go-to pass catcher, resulting in high-floor/high-ceiling flex viability.
Quez Watkins – Watkins and his 4.35 jets should cause problems for the Falcons’ ho-hum secondary. He’s a sneaky flex start.
Zach Ertz & Dallas Goedert – With Ertz maintaining a roster spot, all hope for a breakout season from fellow TE Goedert has gone down the drain.
Miles Sanders – Sanders is unlikely to see much passing game usage with the scramble-happy Hurts under center and pass catching backs Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell taking up the RB2 and RB3 spots on Philly’s roster. There is hope, however, for a career-year in Sanders’ rushing department. The attention that front-sevens must pay to Hurts’ scrambling ability will hugely benefit Sanders. Through two NFL seasons, Sanders has averaged 4.9 yards per carry and although he’s got a shot a smashing that mark with Hurts in the fold, if we extrapolate that on a workload of 250 carries, we’re looking at a 1,225 rushing yard season. He’s an easy RB2 this week.
Matt Ryan – Gallons of ink have been spilled, explaining why QB Matt Ryan, WR Calvin Ridley, TE (read WR) Kyle Pitts, and RB Mike Davis are all in line for a tremendous fantasy showing in 2021. At this point, you’ve already made up your mind as to what you have on your hands as the most pivotal of the bunch was whether or not Pitts warranted a fourth round pick (he did). But to cover all bases; Ryan is an easy peasy top-15 option at the position. The raw totals might not be there for an elite fantasy season but the efficiency will be glorious. He won’t lose you a week but in a week like this one, he might win it for you.
Calvin Ridley – With no wide receiver of note on the depth chart behind him, Ridley could toy with 200 targets this year. He’s an elite WR1 this week who could take the No. 1 spot when the dust settles.
Kyle Pitts – If you’ve got Pitts, start him confidently. 10 targets or more are on their way.
Mike Davis – Davis will go beastie as the focal point of Arthur Smith’s back-to-back rushing champion run game. He’s a rock-solid RB2 with multi-TD upside.
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs
Baker Mayfield – Cleveland will look to avenge their 2020 playoff loss in Week 1, but they’ll be armed with Odell Beckham Jr. prowling the deep this time. Consider QB Baker Mayfield a high-floor QB2 with the chance to vault into the QB1/2 fringes if Chiefs’ FS Tyrann Matheiu, who is currently battling a case of COVID-19, is unable to play this week.
Odell Beckham Jr. – Beckham is a flex play right now, but were Mathieu to miss the game, he would spring to a start with serious potential to turn a long ball into a long score. Update: Beckham (ACL recovery) is now a game time decision. This comes with some risk.
Jarvis Landry – Landry and his Energizer Bunny-like ability to get open in the short-to-intermediate areas of the field has his roots firmly planted in the top-30 of the position.
Donovan Peoples-Jones – while too volatile for a season-long start, DPJ is a money making proposition for DFS purposes.
Austin Hooper – Hooper is no slouch but 2020 draft pick Harrison Bryant should turn heads this year as the long term answer at the position. Along with David Njoku, they are DFS-only guys.
Nick Chubb & Kareem Hunt – Kansas City bolstered the run defense in the off-season by bringing in stud DT Jarran Reed and drafting LB Nick Bolton. It’s mighty tough to stop the Cleveland backfield, cruising behind the league’s premier offensive line though. Nick Chubb can safely be billed for top-12 production as the straw that stirs the Browns’ drink. No. 2 back Kareem Hunt is a must-start RB2 with top-12 upside as he could see upwards of six targets should this one turn into a shootout.
Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes & Travis Kelce – Keeping it simple here. Patrick Mahomes is a top-3 QB. Travis Kelce is the No. 1 TE in fantasy and will compete in overall scoring with the top-5 WRs and RBs.
Tyreek Hill – Hill has developed into a lethal route runner and is at top-5 WR at worst.
Mecole Hardman & Demarcus Robinson – The stocks of both receivers has been elevated with the departure of veteran receiver Sammy Watkins but neither are “safe” flex plays.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire – CEH looks to have put his ankle injury behind him. He’s the RB16 this week.
Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers & Davante Adams – The Saints boosted their cornerback depth by trading for former first-round pick, Texans CB Bradley Roby, a good move with Ken Crawley (hamstring) and Marshon Lattimore (knee) ailing. Although Roby’s presence will help, it won’t be enough to keep Aaron Rodgers out of the QB1 ranks this week. Same goes for All-Pro WR Davante Adams, who enters the week, as always as the projected overall WR1.
Robert Tonyan – Tonyan should operate as the No. 2 passing game target and with any luck, might maintain his gaudy touchdown rate from 2020.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling & Allen Lazard – Both receivers are flex plays but with the additions of rookie WR Amari Rodgers and veteran WR Randall Cobb, there are quite a few mouths to feed.
Aaron Jones & A.J. Dillon – Jones should feast in the post-Jamaal Williams world. He’s this week’s RB5. A.J. Dillon could offer standalone value but should only be viewed as a handcuff until he proves otherwise.
New Orleans Saints
Jameis Winston – Winston can’t be started as anything more than a mid-to-low QB2 but his range of outcomes warrants DFS consideration. An interception machine in Tampa Bay, it’s unclear how much his poor eyesight and Bruce Arians’ scheme contributed to his scattershot passing. We’d all feel better about his prospect with Michael Thomas in the fold but that won’t happen anytime soon.
Marquez Callaway – The star of the preseason, Callway should efficiently man the X-receiver post until Thomas’ return, at which point the duo should provide a lethal 1-2 punch. For now, Callaway should be considered a top-30 WR who could finish in the high-end WR2 range.
Adam Trautman & Juwan James – With tight end Adam Trautman being asked to put his hand in the dirt, TE Juwan James may end up walking into the No. 1 receiving TE role this year. Somewhat of an unknown, he’s got the athletic makeup to deliver decent results. Roster him in deeper leagues.
Alvin Karama – With the lack of a supporting cast in the receiving game and the cutting of Latavius Murray, Kamara is potentially in for the largest workload of his life, solidifying his status as the RB2 for season-long purposes. Kamara is this week’s RB3.
Tony Jones Jr. – Jones brought enough elbow grease to training camp that the team felt confident in naming him the No. 2 back and sending Murray packing. What 2021 holds for Jones Jr. is unclear but he’s absolutely worth a roster spot in case he assumes some sort of 10-12 touch role as many No. 2 NOLA backs have in the past.
Denver Broncos at New York Giants
Courtland Sutton & Jerry Jeudy – While Teddy Bridgewater is unlikely to be relevant outside of 2QB/Superflex leagues, both WRs Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy are firmly on the fantasy radar. Concerns over Sutton’s confidence in his surgically repaired knee cast a shadow over the fact that he was progressing perfectly through his ACL rehabilitation timeline all along. Once the mental side clicked, as it reportedly has, he was always going to be ready to rock. Fire Sutton up as a WR2 this week and Jeudy as a high-floor flex.
Tim Patrick & K.J. Hamler – Both receivers aren’t likely to be too fantasy relevant in season-long leagues but Hamler’s speed should bring good fortune in specific DFS scenarios down the road.
Noah Fant – Fant (knee) is on track to play this week and should hang around in the back-end TE1 ranks.
Melvin Gordon & Javonte Williams – Both backs are mid-range flex plays this week. Although the drafting public is hot on the rookie Williams, it’s very rare for a second-round rookie to completely oust a 1,000-yard/10 touchdown incumbent. Even if Williams were to conquer the rushing work, Gordon’s too proficient of a pass catcher to be removed from the flex conversation.
New York Giants
Daniel Jones – Jones’ chaotic arm and wishy washy legs render him a risky QB2/Superflex proposition for season-long leagues.
Kenny Golladay – Unfortunately for the Giants’ new No. 1 WR, Jones’ pass style is a poor fit and Golladay is unlikely to return more than flex value on a weekly basis. Against the fearsome Vic Fangrio-led defense, this week is no exception. Making matters worse, Golladay is nursing a hamstring injury.
Evan Engram – Engram is battling a calf injury and has been unable to practice this week. He’s a long shot to play.
Sterling Shepard – Shepard stands as the biggest beneficiary of Engram’s misfortune as they both compete for slot reps/targets on a weekly basis. Shepard is quietly in play as a flex option this week.
Darius Slayton & Kadarius Toney – Both receivers bring plenty of real-life intrigue but it’s tough to see either panning out in fantasy land with Jones at the helm and the definitively inept Jason Garrett calling plays.
Saquon Barkley – If you’re concerned about Saquon Barkley’s health, stop what you’re doing and read The Medical Case For Saquon Barkley by Dr. Edwin Porras of FantasyPoints.com. Barkley will likely be on a snap/touch count because he was unable to fully participate in the preseason and data shows that a ramp up period is necessary when moving to live NFL game action, in order to prevent soft tissue injuries. Given that Barkley had his ACL repaired, he’s naturally at a slightly elevated risk for hamstring injuries. The responsible thing for the Giants to do is to take things slowly with him in Weeks 1 and 2. What might that mean? Consecutive touch-counts in the neighborhood of 15-18 touches and 18-20 touches, before a classic 25-touch workload in Week 3. He’s this week’s RB13.
Devontae Booker – Booker may see some change of pace work but really isn’t relevant in redraft leagues.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
Tua Tagovailoa – Tua is in for a rough Week 1 date with the Patriots’ opt-out-rejuvenated defense. Life may improve in Week 2, when X-receiver Will Fuller returns from suspension but until then, Tua is best left to 2QB/Superflex leagues. The Dolphins offensive line will be a problem all year.
DeVante Parker – With stud CB Stephon Gilmore on IR, Parker has a chance to return flex value.
Jaylen Waddle & Mike Gesicki – Waddle and Gesicki—who totaled the 16th-most slot snaps between tight ends and wide receivers last year (319)—will be duking it out for the primary slot receiver gig this year and Waddle seemingly has a leg up at the moment. Gesicki has been solid as a pro but the team wasn’t impressed enough with his play that they felt compelled to extend his contract past it’s expiration date at the end of this year. Waddle, meanwhile, was drafted with the sixth pick in this year’s draft. While hopes are high for Waddle, it might be tough for him to produce reliable flex-worthy numbers with Gesicki still on the roster this year. Likewise, Gesicki is not a TE1 candidate in Week 1.
Myles Gaskin – Gaskin is a proficient dual threat operator out of the backfield but the team still felt the need to sign veteran, do-it-all guy Malcolm Brown this off-season and Salvon Ahmed played well in the preseason. Phrasing this one way: Gaskin is the lead back in Miami and should largely hog passing game work. Phrasing it another way: three-headed backfields are the stuff of fantasy football nightmares. Given Gaskin’s role as a receiver, it’s totally possible he returns flex-value on a routine basis, but he’s highly unlikely to be the RB2 that many drafted him to be.
New England Patriots
Mac Jones – McCorkle “Mac” Jones won the QB battle with Cam Newton so resoundingly that Bill Belichick sent Cam packing. Some dismiss preseason performances as irrelevant, but those people are fools. Mac turned in PFF’s second-best passing grade (92.2) in the entire league. The kid’s ready, and although his scheme might not lead him to immediate fantasy success, he should be rostered across all formats.
Jakobi Meyers – Meyers hogged a 68% slot route snap share this preseason and may very well be the next great New England slot man. Meyers’ Week 1 outlook is promising; he’ll be squaring off against lackluster slot corner Justin Coleman, with N’Keal Harry is on Injured Reserve and Nelson Agholor is battling an ankle injury. Count on Meyers to lead the team in targets, en route to a stat line a la five catches 60-70 yards and a shot at a score.
Kendrick Bourne – Bourne was a favorite of Kyle Shanahan in SF and could turn in a useful day should Agholor be unable to go.
Jonnu Smith & Hunter Henry – Smith and Hunter will either be the most dynamic TE duo since Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez or they’ll mostly vulture each other’s fantasy relevance to pieces. Given that the former is within their range of outcomes, both players need to be owned in all formats. Henry might see the higher snap share as he’s a capable receiver and blocker. Bill Belichick’s been raving about Smith’s after-the-catch abilities for years though and Smith was recently seen taking handoffs in practice. It’s probably best to bench both for this week but keep an eye on them. One, or both, could break out in a big way.
Damien Harris – With RB Sony Michel in LA, freeing up pass blocking duties, and Newton cut, clearing the way for goal-line rushing duties, Harris garners fringe RB2/3 respect for this contest. As always, James White is a full-point PPR flex-factor.
Sunday Night Football: Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams
Andy Dalton – Dalton produced a Completion Percentage Above Expectation (CPAE) of 0% while starting nine games for Dallas last year, perhaps best explaining where Bears’ QB1, Andy Dalton is at in his career. Dalton will get you exactly what is open for him—literally no more, and no less.
Allen Robinson – Fantasy managers shouldn’t be too concerned with Robinson’s impending shadow coverage from the league’s best CB Jalen Ramsey. Robinson, still in his prime, is one of the league’s elite route runners and Dalton should have no trouble finding him open again and again. In fact, Robinson averaged 2.3 yards of separation at the catch point last season, eerily similar to the trio of WRs that Dalton played with last year; Amari Cooper averaged 2.5, Michael Gallup averaged 2.7, and CeeDee Lamb averaged 3.0. Robinson is firmly in the WR1 conversation this week.
Darnell Mooney – Mooney is more of a DFS play than season-long this week. The dynamic downfield receiver may be able to get the job done under Dalton but the cannon-armed rookie QB Justin Fields, who’s currently waiting in the wings, will be the one to truly unlock Mooney’s abilities. The latter’s Week 1 outlook is also hampered by the team’s signing of FA WR Breshad Perriman. Perriman isn’t likely to produce fantasy value on his own but he may do enough to hurt Mooney for the time being.
Cole Kmet – Kmet could be in for a breakout season after running cardio behind the aged Jimmy Graham last year. It will take a truly inspiring performance for the coaching staff to plant Kmet ahead of Graham on the depth chart so Kmet is just a bench stash for now.
David Montgomery – The Rams surrendered the third-fewest rushing yards last year (1,460) and T-fourth fewest rushing touchdowns (12) and the only significant difference in their front-seven from that bunch to this one is the replacement of Michael Brockers with A’Shawn Robinson (knee), who’s trending towards playing. Montgomery will get the job done on pure volume but he’ll have to work for it. He’s this week’s RB20.
Damien Williams – The Bears’ No. 2 back needs to be rostered in all formats. The dude was a straight baller with Kansas City just two years ago.
Los Angeles Rams
Matthew Stafford – The Matthew Stafford/Sean McVay era begins with a date against a depleted Rams’ defense. The team cut CB Kyle Fuller in the off-season to save cash, placed LB Danny Trevathan on IR a week and a half ago, and DL Eddie Goldman has been unable to practice this week. Expect Stafford to pick apart the waning unit en route to mid-to-low QB1 numbers.
Robert Woods – Woods is set for a career year, no longer slowed down by the backup-level starter at QB, Jared Goff. Woods can be safely plugged in as a top-15 play at the position.
Cooper Kupp – Kupp needs to drop down to the flex realm until we see otherwise. Kupp is a strong route runner in his own right but his slot routes always drew the eye of Goff because it was the easier pass to complete. We don’t yet know how often Stafford will check down to him.
DeSean Jackson – Jackson is available and can be fired up in multi-flex leagues as a boom/bust flex option. You know the drill with the aging speedster by now.
Tyler Higbee – Higbee is no longer going to have to share time with stud pass catching TE Gerald Everett. Rookie TE Jacob Harris made some noise in training camp but he’ll take some time to really develop. For now, bet on Higbee as a breakout player this year—a real breakout player.
Darrell Henderson & Sony Michel – Both backs are flex plays at the moment as their expected usage is an unknown beyond them sharing the load. Henderson was expected to be the change of pace back before Cam Akers suffered an Achilles rupture and might have had access to a significant passing game role. Michel may take that job from his though as the fourth-year back has been a studly pass blocker out of the backfield over the last two years. Expect roughly 15 touches for each of them.