Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 1
Welcome to the intersection of “start” and “sit” here at FantasyPros! I’ll be your guide throughout the season (unless they give me the hook!) as we wade through your RB2/WR3/Flex spots. Let’s get this out of the way first: Don’t get too cute, it’s only Week 1.
I won’t tell you to start guys who are consistently in the top five at their position and you better not need anyone to tell you to avoid Nathan Peterman. I’ll use players that I’m higher or lower on (Mariano Rank) against the expert consensus rank (ECR) within a reasonable-ish range such as QB5-QB20, RB12-RB40, WR20-WR50 and TE5-TE20 with a 0.5 PPR framework to achieve balance. Feedback is more than welcome.
You may wonder why you should listen to me — good, always check your sources! I was scored as the ninth-most accurate in-season ranker in 2017 and am back to improve my standing in ’18. Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Tyrod Taylor (CLE vs. PIT): Mariano Rank: 14, ECR: 18
Never underestimate the power of a QB that can run! Also, we can’t let the excitement over this new era of weaponry for the Browns not to spill over to the fellow who touches the ball on every single play. TT and the Browns get to open at home against a Steelers team that may be without Le’Veon Bell in a game that has CLE as roughly four-point dogs with an implied team total of 21. No, that’s not great, but it does leave TyGod with plenty of game flow opportunity to connect with Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, Duke Johnson and Flash (aaa-aah) Gordon. Josh Gordon may be limited, but I think Taylor is a fringe QB1 to open ’18 against a shuffled PIT linebacking corps still looking for a leader without Ryan Shazier.
Matt Ryan (ATL at PHI): Mariano Rank: 20, ECR of 15
Some would have you streaming Ryan in Week 1 given a 14-team climate, or maybe even in a 12-teamer, but I would caution you to stay away from this road opener against the defending champs. The Eagles boast a frightful defense that can get after the passer and I can see this devolving into a slow grind of a game if Nick Foles hasn’t shaken off his preseason rust yet. Vegas has already seen the total line drop from 47 to 45.
Marshawn Lynch (OAK vs. LAR): MR: 21, ECR: 26
If there’s one thing that I feel I can trust Raiders head coach Jon Gruden to do, it’s pound the ball behind his offensive line with Lynch. Even with the Raiders sitting as 10-point underdogs and a Khalil Mack-less defense to fight the high-octane Rams, I believe Oakland won’t get away from the ground game so easily. Their O-line has the best chance of beating a relatively-weak Rams run defense that lost Alec Ogletree.
Bilal Powell (NYJ at DET): MR: 30, ECR: 34
I’m not too far out on Powell, but I do think he’s squarely in the flex conversation for those in 12-teamers that start two RBs and have a flex slot. Powell had a good preseason and stayed on the field while Isaiah Crowell didn’t impress and absorbed a concussion, and Elijah McGuire broke his foot. I think volume and a likelihood of playing from behind will float Powell’s value in Week 1.
Alfred Morris (SF vs. MIN): MR: 33, ECR: 37
Okay, this is one that I think all of us are getting right, but I really think most will want to pivot elsewhere than having Morris, who reportedly doesn’t have the full playbook down yet, stuff himself against the Vikings front seven ad nauseum. Matt Breida is the better play if you must play a Niner RB in Week 1, but I’d let him marinate on the bench and unleash him in Week 2 instead.
Kerryon Johnson (DET vs. NYJ): MR: 43, ECR: 33
Detroit has basically said “we’re going to see how Johnson grows into this offense,” which does not sound like bankable volume to me. He’s currently being ranked as a clear-cut flex play in 12-team leagues, but I’ll take some steadier touches instead. It’s possible the Lions end up dominating the Jets to the point where they can give Johnson the fourth quarter to himself, or something along those lines, but I can’t condone playing him over the likes of Chris Thompson, Matt Breida, James White or Ty Montgomery.
Emmanuel Sanders (DEN vs. SEA): MR: 24, ECR: 28
For those of you debating whether Sanders can stand as your second WR in Week 1, I say yes. Sanders’ style of play aligns closely with Adam Thielen’s, which is perfect considering Sanders’ new QB, Case Keenum, just came from fueling Thielen’s breakout 2017. The Seahawks are no longer an imposing opponent and Sanders should help control the middle of the field as well as the occasional breakout route on the outside. Perhaps he sees less gritty work in between the numbers later on as Jake Butt gets comfortable in the offense, but for now look for Manny to party up.
Ted Ginn (NO vs. TB): MR: 51, ECR: 62
For all of the hype that Cameron Meredith and Tre’Quan Smith have combined to generate throughout the offseason and preseason, Ginn’s still the No. 2 WR on this team. Yes, I love Alvin Kamara as a receiver and I believe Benjamin Watson is severely undervalued entering the 2018 season, but Ginn will be on the field often. The Buccaneers secondary is nothing to fear — there’s a reason this game opened in Vegas with a 52-point total with the Saints favored by more than a TD — and Ginn could very well break a big one.
Marquise Goodwin (vs. MIN): MR: 37, ECR: 32
Once again, this boils down to the opponent. Just as I don’t love Alf slamming himself into Minnesota’s front seven, I don’t love Goodwin trying to outrun Xavier Rhodes and/or Trae Waynes. It’s no stretch to say that I hate the entire SF offense and trusting anyone against Mike Zimmer. I don’t doubt that he can shake free here and there, but I see little reason to bank on it if you have another flexy option.
Sammy Watkins (at LAC): MR: 42, ECR: 35
Watkins is set to be shadowed by Casey Hayward to open the season, so that sucks for him. Not to mention that Sammy and Patrick Mahomes didn’t show much in the way of chemistry in the preseason, with some throws looking like Watkins is due to be decapitated over the middle. I won’t be shocked if Watkins is able to make value with a TD — especially if he leaves Hayward’s shadow — but this seems like a silly battle to force your team to fight in the season opener.
Jack Doyle (IND vs. CIN): MR: 8, ECR: 11
Doyle and Andrew Luck have looked to be on the same page throughout the preseason and the Colts don’t have a sizable rushing attack even if Marlon Mack were to play. New head coach Frank Reich made a name for himself by utilizing the tight end well in Philly and it’s hard to imagine them getting away from that here. We still haven’t seen Luck uncork a deep ball to T.Y. Hilton post-shoulder surgery, but I can trust that intermediate ball finding Doyle (and Eric Ebron if you’re in deeper waters).
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (JAC at NYG): MR: 12, ECR: 16
When in doubt, start the tight end who’s facing the Giants. Maybe Big Blue’s defense spent this offseason learning that opponents have tight ends, but I won’t believe it until I see it. If you’re already in a league where roughly 16 or so TEs are deployed per week, then give the athletic ASJ a shot. The Jags don’t have another big body in the red zone outside of perhaps Donte Moncrief.
Evan Engram (NYG at JAC): MR: 13, ECR: 10
While the Giants don’t guard the tight end well, Jacksonville guards most everything well. It’s possible that they use Engram as a safety valve when the pressure gets hot on Eli Manning, but even then, we need to see that Engram has cleaned up his hands after leading all TEs in drops with 11 last season. The Giants also have a lot more toys to play with now that Saquon Barkley and a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. are in the fold. So I’ll pass on putting Engram in my top-12 right now.
O.J. Howard (TB at NO): MR: 23, ECR: 15
This could stand for Howard or Brate — I dislike both of them going against the Saints in Week 1. Part of that is because I don’t think the Bucs are going to be able to sustain both of them and this situation could be a truly headache-inducing one for fantasy owners moving forward, but also because the Saints were the sixth-best defense against opposing TEs per FootballOutsiders’ DVOA stats. Howard (and Brate) will have their games, but it’s unlikely to come against this unit with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm.
Others I’m lower on: George Kittle (at MIN): MR: 20, ECR: 17.