Dan Harris’s Week 1 Fantasy Football Guide (2021)
Fantasy analysts get a lot of questions each and every week, and although we all wish we could answer every one, time constraints almost always prevent us from reaching that goal. So, this is the next best thing I can give. Most of my weekly fantasy football thoughts wrapped up in one tidy bow.
Rankings. Projections. DFS recommendations. Players who experts are conflicted on. The works. And if you bookmark this page, my rankings here will update every time I make a change.
A quick word on the projections. First, you will occasionally see players projected for slightly higher point totals ranked lower than those projected for lesser point totals. I use projections as a guide to create my initial rankings, but I don’t blindly follow them. I rank players so they are consistent with the decisions I would make as a fantasy manager, even if they aren’t always 100% supported by projections.
Second, my projections are generally conservative. I often mention on our podcasts how Kyle Yates projects to the 100th percentile of outcomes. I try to project to the 50th percentile of outcomes. So, try not to get mad when I don’t project every player to put up a massive game.
Finally, I round my projections for this article because I think it’s more accessible to the reader. Travis Kelce isn’t actually projected to score a touchdown. Instead, he’s projected to score 0.8 touchdowns. If it’s over 0.5 touchdowns in my projections, I round up. If not, I round down. Nothing to get too worked up over. But it’s another reason why the projections you’ll see don’t always match the rankings exactly.
Oh, and also, I left my projections in for the Thursday game. Probably should have projected Amari Cooper higher, I’m not gonna lie.
And with that, I present your weekly fantasy football guide for Week 1 of the 2021 season. Enjoy.
My Top 12 Quarterbacks
QB Matchups to Target
- Kirk Cousins (MIN) at CIN: 269 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 1 interception; 1-8-0 rushing
- Trevor Lawrence (JAC) at HOU: 260 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns; 4-25-0 rushing
- Sam Darnold (CAR) v. NYJ: 255 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns; 2-9-0 rushing
QB Matchups to Avoid
- Justin Herbert (LAC) at WAS: See above
- Tua Tagovailoa (MIA) at NE: 233 passing yards, 1 passing touchdown; 3-14-0 rushing
- Derek Carr (LV) v. BAL: 261 passing yards, 1 passing touchdown; 2-6-0 rushing
QB DFS Dos and Don’ts
- DO: Ryan Tannehill (FD: $7700, DK: $6500)
- DON’T: Justin Herbert (FD: $7600, DK: $6700)
- DO: Jalen Hurts (FD: $7600, DK: $6400)
- DON’T: Ben Roethlisberger (FD: $7100, DK: $6100)
Lightning Rod of the Week
Trevor Lawrence (JAC)
High Ranking: 8
Low Ranking: 25
Standard Deviation: 2.6
Lawrence makes his NFL debut against a Texans team that allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and should only be worse this year. Still, a road start for any rookie QB is daunting, regardless of the opponent.
VERDICT: Start. Lawrence makes a startable option if you’re in a pinch in single-QB leagues.
My Top 24 Running Backs
24. Josh Jacobs (LV) v. BAL: 13 carries, 50 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdown; 1-6-0 receiving
RB Matchups to Target
- Raheem Mostert (SF) at DET: See above
- Chase Edmonds (ARI) at TEN: 9 carries, 36 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdown; 4-40-0 receiving
- Ty’Son Williams (BAL) at LV: 13 carries, 59 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdown; 1-7-0 receiving
RB Matchups to Avoid
- Josh Jacobs (LV) v. BAL: See above
- AJ Dillon (GB) at NO:: 8 carries, 36 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdown; 1-7-0 receiving
- Devin Singletary (BUF) v. PIT: 8 carries, 34 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdown; 2-18-0 receiving
RB DFS Dos and Don’ts
- DO: James Robinson (FD: $5900, DK: $6400)
- DON’T: Austin Ekeler (FD: $6900, DK: $7000)
- DO: Raheem Mostert (FD: $6100, DK: $6800)
- DON’T: James Conner (FD: $5500, DK: $4500)
- DO: Antonio Gibson (FD: $7000, DK: 5900)
- DON’T: Tevin Coleman (FD: $5400, DK $4900)
Lightning Rods of the Week
Michael Carter (NYJ)
High Ranking: 31
Low Ranking: 74
Standard Deviation: 6.6
Carter is a talented running back taking on an easily beatable Panthers run defense. But he was listed as the fourth option in the Jets’ first official depth chart, and may take several weeks before he sees significant carries.
VERDICT: Sit. Carter should not be started under almost any circumstances. There will be a game where he outshines Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson, but it’s hard to see it being his first professional game on the road.
Raheem Mostert (SF)
High Ranking: 6
Low Ranking: 30
Standard Deviation: 4.3
Mostert, like he has for most of his San Francisco career, will split carries, notably here with Trey Sermon. But the Lions allowed the second-most fantasy points to running backs last year, and Mostert should excel whenever he touches the ball.
VERDICT: Start with a bullet. This should be a monstrous game for Mostert. Then sell high.
My Top 24 Wide Receivers
21. Brandon Aiyuk (SF) at DET. Projection: 4 receptions, 76 yards, 0 touchdowns
WR Matchups to Target
- Brandon Aiyuk (SF) at DET: See above
- D.J. Moore (CAR) v. NYJ: See above
- Adam Thielen (MIN) at CIN: See above
WR Matchups to Avoid
- Allen Robinson (CHI) at LAR: See above
- Kenny Golladay (NYG) v. DEN: 4 receptions, 49 yards, 0 touchdowns
- Jakobi Meyers (NE) v. MIA: 4 receptions, 51 yards, 0 touchdowns
WR DFS Dos and Don’ts
- DO: Marquez Callaway (FD: $5200, DK: $3400)
- DON’T: Mike Williams (FD: $5700, DK: $5500)
- DO: Laviska Shenault (FD:$5600, DK: $5000)
- DON’T: Sterling Shepard (FD: $5500, DK: 5100)
- DO: Rondale Moore (FD: $4900, DK: $3000)
- DON’T: Randall Cobb (FD: $5400, DK: $3900)
Lightning Rods of the Week
Marquez Callaway (NO)
High Ranking: 22
Low Ranking: 84
Standard Deviation: 11.7
Callaway emerged as a preseason hero, taking advantage of both Michael Thomas‘s and Tre’Quan Smith‘s injuries to become Jameis Winston‘s most reliable target. He gets a difficult matchup, though, against a tough Packers secondary.
VERDICT: Start. Other than Alvin Kamara, Winston has nowhere else to go with the ball in a game where the Saints will need plenty of points. Smith is battling a hamstring injury and may not play.
Tyrell Williams (DET)
High Ranking: 41
Low Ranking: 97
Standard Deviation: 8.3
Williams is one of the few “legitimate” pass-catchers left in Detroit once the team cut Breshad Perriman. He doesn’t have a good matchup against the 49ers but other than T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift, Jared Goff has nowhere else to go with the ball.
VERDICT: Sit. I am more intrigued than others by Williams’ potential on the season, but there’s no chance you can start him in this matchup in Week 1.
My Top 12 Tight Ends
1. Travis Kelce (KC) v. CLE. Projection: 7 receptions, 90 yards, 1 touchdown
2. Darren Waller (LV) v. BAL. Projection: 6 receptions, 79 yards, 0 touchdowns
3. George Kittle (SF) at DET. Projection: 6 receptions, 73 yards, 0 touchdowns
4. Mark Andrews (BAL) at LV. Projection: 5 receptions, 63 yards, 0 touchdowns
5. Kyle Pitts (ATL) v. PHI. Projection: 5 receptions, 54 yards, 0 touchdowns
6. T.J. Hockenson (DET) v. SF. Projection: 5 receptions, 46 yards, 0 touchdowns
7. Logan Thomas (WAS) v. . Projection: 4 receptions, 52 yards, 0 touchdowns
8. Noah Fant (DEN) at NYG. Projection: 4 receptions, 41 yards, 0 touchdowns
9. Tyler Higbee (LAR) v. CHI.Projection: 3 receptions, 36 yards, 0 touchdowns
10. Dallas Goedert (PHI) at ATL. Projection: 4 receptions, 42 yards, 0 touchdowns
11. Robert Tonyan (GB) at NO. Projection: 3 receptions, 36 yards, 0 touchdowns
12. Jonnu Smith (NE) v. Mia. Projection: 3 receptions, 35 yards, 0 touchdowns
TE Matchups to Target
- Austin Hooper (CLE) at KC: 3 receptions, 34 yards, 0 touchdowns
- Dallas Goedert (PHI) at ATL: See above
TE Matchups to Avoid
- Mike Gesicki (MIA) at NE: 2 receptions, 31 yards, 0 touchdowns
- Gerald Everett (SEA) at IND: 3 receptions, 29 yards, 0 touchdowns
DFS Dos and Don’ts
- DO: Kyle Pitts (FD: $6000, DK: $4400)
- DON’T: Hunter Henry (FD: $5300, DK: $4700)
- DO: Logan Thomas (FD: $5600, DK: $4600)
- DON’T: Eric Ebron (FD: $5200, DK: $3900)
Lightning Rod of the Week
Austin Hooper (CLE)
High Ranking: 8
Low Ranking: 32
Standard Deviation: 2.8
Hooper was a massive disappointment last season, but has a good matchup against a Chiefs team that struggled against tight ends last year. The game has a high point total, and Kansas City generally contains wide receivers, leaving potential production for Hooper.
VERDICT: Start (in deeper leagues). Hooper isn’t a season-long option but as a streamer, he’s fine in this spot where he should get enough looks to matter.