I’ve rebranded the classic fantasy football start/sit column into “Roasts & Ghosts”. A roast is a player who is not only a clear start, but is in for a monster game. A ghost meanwhile is a player who could just be a typical sit, but also might be a star player who gives you less than you were expecting. I have a roast and a ghost for each position to help you set your best lineups for Week 1.
Roast: Trevor Lawrence vs Houston Texans
I, along with all of Duval county, have high expectations for the No. 1 pick this year and my money is on Lawrence living up to the billing in his first NFL regular season action. In his final preseason game, Lawrence casually went 11 for 12, throwing for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns in less than 2 quarters of action. The preseason more or less continues for the Jacksonville Jaguars as they face the Texans in Week 1.
Houston’s secondary got torched last year and got torched during the preseason, so there’s little reason to think it’s not going to get torched during the regular season. With all the weapons Lawrence has to throw the ball to, it’s hard not envisioning him finishing with at least 250 passing yards and 3 touchdowns.
Paddi Cooper is right here with me, ranking Lawrence as his QB10 this week. Week 1 is primed to be a glorious debut for Duval’s golden Adonis.
Ghost: Dak Prescott vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
One of the reasons I love using “roast” and “ghost” is it lets me talk about a player like Dak in the traditionally sits part of the article. You’re not going to bench Prescott as chances are you spent a high draft pick to make him your QB1. I think you were wise to do so as he easily has the potential to finish the QB1 this year. However, 2021 might get off to a rocky start for the Dallas Cowboys’ signal caller.
For starters, Prescott hasn’t played game-speed football since he broke his ankle back in October last year. I trust that the ankle is healthy and ready to go, but there’s likely to be some cobwebs to shake off given how long it’s been since Dak last took the field.
Facing off against the Buccaneers’ defense is also no small task. It’s especially hard when your best offensive lineman is likely unable to suit up. The Bucs allowed the fifth-fewest passing yards to opposing quarterbacks last year and with the team looking basically exactly how it did in 2020, I wouldn’t expect that to change this season.
Unless you are loaded at quarterback, you’re not going to bench Dak this week. Just don’t be surprised if he doesn’t live up to his high draft value right away.
Roast: Joe Mixon vs Minnesota Vikings
Whether or not you believe in Joe Mixon, the Cincinnati Bengals running back is about to step into the largest workload of his career. With Giovani Bernard down in Tampa Bay and unable to siphon work in the passing game, Mixon is primed to see bare minimum 25 touches per game this year. His Week 1 matchup against the Vikings is a juicy one as Minnesota struggled to stop the run last year.
The Vikings had the 27th ranked run defense last year (per NEFF), allowing the sixth most rushing yards and third most rushing touchdowns to backs. All this led to Minnesota giving up the sixth most fantasy points to running backs. With Joe Burrow still making a full recovery from his ACL injury, the Bengals could go with a ground-and-pound approach Sunday which just means more opportunities for Mixon to feast.
I also would like to quickly make note that the ever-amazing San Francisco 49ers ground game is facing off against the Detroit Lions this week. If you have stock in the Niners’ backfield, start ‘em.
Ghost: Miles Sanders vs Atlanta Falcons
I am wildly curious to see what Miles Sanders does this season. Coming off his best year as a rusher and playing alongside Jalen Hurts, Sanders could prove to be a draft day steal if things break in his favor. Unfortunately. it feels like we were saying the same things last year and ultimately were underwhelmed by the fantasy year Sanders put forward.
Be warned Sanders managers, as the start to 2021 might feel worryingly a lot like 2020. While the Falcons pass defense ranked towards the bottom of the league in NEFF rating last year, Atlanta’s run defense was sneaky good, finishing top-6. That’s also where they placed fantasy-wise, allowing just 20 points per game to opposing backfields. It might be a slow start to the season for Sanders.
Roast: Antonio Brown vs Dallas Cowboys
The Buccaneers’ passing arsenal is going to be on full display Thursday night. The Cowboys ranked dead last in touchdowns allowed to opposing wide receivers and surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points to the position. The broad advice here is if you have a member of the Bucs’ passing game, you start them and you start them with all your heart.
With Chris Godwin suddenly dealing with a quad injury, Brown has a chance to absolutely go off in Week 1. Even if Godwin does take the field Thursday night, we know Tom Brady wants to get the ball in Brown’s hands. It’s why Davante Adams was the only wide receiver to have higher receptions per snap rate last year. I have Brown ranked as a sure-fire WR2 this week.
Ghost: Allen Robinson vs Los Angeles Rams
As someone who’s heavily invested in Robinson across all my fantasy leagues, I don’t love that his Week 1 matchup is against Jalen Ramsey and the Rams. LA allowed just five touchdowns to wide receivers last year which of course set them up to be the best fantasy defense against the position. While Robinson has made a name out of putting up stats regardless of how shitty his situation is, catching passes from Andy Dalton with the best cornerback in football draped all over you isn’t exactly how I’d want to spend my Sunday.
I have A-Rob ranked as my WR18 this week which likely will be the lowest he’ll be ranked this season. He’s certainly not a name to target in DFS and a name I’d prepare to have a lackluster Week 1 showing.
Roast: Tyler Higbee vs Chicago Bears
On the flipside of the Bears vs Rams matchup, Tyler Higbee is primed for a smash week. The Bears’ defense allowed the third-most catches, fourth-most yards, and second-most touchdowns to tight ends last year. Only the New York Jets gave up more fantasy points to the position. When you’re almost as bad as the 2020 Jets at anything, that’s not a good sign.
With Gerald Everett now out in Seattle, Higbee is the lone tight end standing in Los Angeles. We’ve seen Higbee put together elite fantasy outings in the past—most recently his Week 2 performance last year in which he caught three touchdowns—and I’d safely bet he puts forward another top-5 fantasy showing to start the new NFL season.
Ghost: Logan Thomas vs Los Angeles Chargers
I’ve been worried about Logan Thomas throughout the off-season, seeing him has a prime regression candidate. It’s not going to be an easy start to the season as the Washington Football Team takes on a finally healthy Chargers defense, led by Derwin James. It’s been two years since we last saw James on the field for the Chargers but that year, LA allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to tight ends. James is an absolute playmaker at safety and could easily take Thomas completely out of Washington’s game-plan.