Skip to main content

Dan Harris’s Week 1 Fantasy Football Guide (2021)

by Dan Harris | @danharris80 | Featured Writer
Sep 10, 2021
Fantasy Football Week 1 Guide

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.

Quarterbacks

My Top 12 Quarterbacks

1. Patrick Mahomes (KC) v. CLE. Projection: 324 passing yards, 3 passing touchdowns; 3-17-0 rushing

2. Lamar Jackson (BAL) at LV. Projection: 218 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 1 interception; 10-67-1 rushing

3. Josh Allen (BUF) v. PIT. Projection: 261 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 1 interception; 7-42-1 rushing

4. Kyler Murray (ARI) at TEN. Projection: 255 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 1 interception; 8-49-0 rushing

5. Tom Brady (TB) v. DAL. Projection: 312 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns; 1-1-0 rushing

6. Russell Wilson (SEA) at IND. Projection: 288 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns; 5-31-0 rushing

7. Aaron Rodgers (GB) at NO. Projection: 291 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns; 3-15-0 rushing

8. Ryan Tannehill (TEN) v. ARI. Projection: 274 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns; 3-22-0 rushing

9. Jalen Hurts (PHI) at ATL. Projection: 232 passing yards, 1 passing touchdown, 1 interception; 9-51-1 rushing

10. Dak Prescott (DAL) at TB. Projection: 301 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 1 interception; 4-14-0 rushing

11. Matthew Stafford (LAR) v. CHI. Projection: 290 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns; 2-11-0 rushing

12. Justin Herbert (LAC) at WAS. Projection: 255 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 1 interception; 3-16-0 rushing

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

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.

__________

Running Backs

My Top 24 Running Backs

1. Christian McCaffrey (CAR) v. Jets. Projection: 20 carries, 84 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown; 5-44-0 receiving

2. Dalvin Cook (MIN) at CIN. Projection: 20 carries, 93 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown; 4-30-0 receiving

3. Alvin Kamara (NO) v. GB. Projection: 12 carries, 55 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown; 6-56-0 receiving

4. Derrick Henry (TEN) v. ARI. Projection: 22 carries, 100 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown; 2-11-0 receiving

5. Joe Mixon (CIN) v. MIN. Projection: 18 carries, 74 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown; 3-27-0 receiving

6. Jonathan Taylor (IND) v. SEA.  Projection: 18 carries, 70 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown; 2-13-0 receiving

7. Aaron Jones (GB) at NO. Projection: 13 carries, 58 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown; 3-21-0 receiving

8. Nick Chubb (CLE) at KC. Projection: 15 carries, 80 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown; 2-17-0 receiving

9. James Robinson (JAC) at HOU. Projection: 15 carries, 69 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown; 3-25-0 receiving

10. Antonio Gibson (WAS) v. LAC: Projection: 15 carries, 62 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown; 2-18-0 receiving

11. Najee Harris (PIT) at BUF. Projection: 17 carries, 73 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown; 3-21-0 receiving

12. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC) v. CLE. Projection: 15 carries, 60 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdown; 3-30-0 receiving

13. Austin Ekeler (LAC) at WAS. Projection: 10 carries, 50 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdown; 4-33-0 receiving

14. Ezekiel Elliott (DAL) at TB. Projection: 16 carries, 58 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdown; 4-28-0 receiving

15. Chris Carson (SEA) at IND. Projection: 13 carries, 59 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdown; 3-24-0 receiving

16. Saquon Barkley (NYG) v. DEN. Projection: 11 carries, 58 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown; 3-29-0 receiving

17. Raheem Mostert (SF) at DET. Projection: 12 carries, 64 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown; 1-11-0 receiving

18. Mike Davis (ATL) v. PHI. Projection: 14 carries, 57 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdown; 3-24-0 receiving

19. David Montgomery (CHI) at LAR. Projection: 14 carries, 57 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdown; 3-27-0 receiving

20. Miles Sanders (PHI) at ATL. Projection: 13 carries, 60 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdown; 3-21-0 receiving

21. D’Andre Swift (DET) v. SF. Projection: 10 carries, 42 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdown; 3-31-0 receiving

22. Darrell Henderson (LAR) v. CHI. Projection: 13 carries, 55 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdown; 2-19-0 receiving

23. Myles Gaskin (MIA) at NE. Projection: 12 carries, 50 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdown; 3-26-0 receiving

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

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.

__________

Wide Receivers

My Top 24 Wide Receivers

1. Davante Adams (GB) at NO. Projection: 8 receptions, 100 yards, 1 touchdown

2.Tyreek Hill (KC) v. CLE. Projection: 6 receptions, 94 yards, 1 touchdown; 1-14-0 rushing

3. Calvin Ridley (ATL) v. PHI: Projection: 7 receptions, 92 yards, 1 touchdown

4. Stefon Diggs (BUF) v. PIT. Projection: 7 receptions, 91 yards, 1 touchdown

5. DeAndre Hopkins (ARI) at TEN. Projection: 7 receptions, 90 yards, 1 touchdown

6. A.J. Brown (TEN) v. ARI. Projection: 6 receptions, 84 yards, 1 touchdown

7. D.K. Metcalf (SEA) at IND. Projection: 6 receptions, 92 yards, 0 touchdowns

8. Justin Jefferson (MIN) at CIN. Projection: 6 receptions, 88 yards, 0 touchdowns

9. Terry McLaurin (WAS) v. LAC. Projection: 6 receptions, 78 yards, 0 touchdowns

10. Keenan Allen (LAC) at WAS. Projection: 7 receptions, 70 yards, 0 touchdowns

11. Julio Jones (TEN) v. ARI. Projection: 5 receptions, 82 yards, 0 touchdowns

12. Tyler Lockett (SEA) at IND. Projection: 6 receptions, 70 yards, 0 touchdowns

13. Robert Woods (LAR) v. CHI. Projection: 6 receptions, 68 yards, 0 touchdowns; 1-11-0 rushing

14. Cooper Kupp (LAR) v. CHI.Projection: 6 receptions, 60 yards, 0 touchdowns

15. Adam Thielen (MIN) at CIN. Projection: 5 receptions, 71 yards, 0 touchdowns

16. CeeDee Lamb (DAL) at TB. Projection: 5 receptions, 71 yards, 0 touchdowns

17. Mike Evans (TB) v. DAL. Projection: 4 receptions, 70 yards, 0 touchdowns

18. Chris Godwin (TB) v. DAL. Projection: 5 receptions, 65 yards, 0 touchdowns

19. Amari Cooper (DAL) at TB. Projection: 5 receptions, 65 yards, 0 touchdowns

20. D.J. Moore (CAR) v. NYJ. Projection: 4 receptions, 76 yards, 0 touchdowns

21. Brandon Aiyuk (SF) at DET. Projection: 4 receptions, 76 yards, 0 touchdowns

22. Tee Higgins (CIN) v. MIN. Projection: 5 receptions, 68 yards, 0 touchdowns

23. Diontae Johnson (PIT) at BUF. Projection: 5 receptions, 65 yards, 0 touchdowns

24. Allen Robinson (CHI) at LAR. Projection: 5 receptions, 64 yards, 0 touchdowns

 

WR Matchups to Target

WR Matchups to Avoid

WR DFS Dos and Don’ts

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.

__________

Tight Ends

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

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

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.


Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | SoundCloud | iHeartRadio

Dan Harris is the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyPros. For more from Dan, check out his archive or follow him on Twitter at @danharris80.

Featured, Featured Link, NFL