IDP Start em, Sit em – Week 1 (2021 Fantasy Football)
Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season started with a bang. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys put on a show on Thursday night. The exciting game featured several noteworthy IDP storylines to dissect. Trevon Diggs has made a leap, proving that battling CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper every day can do wonders. Donovan Wilson pulled a disappearing act. The Cowboys rotated the Micah Parsons–Keanu Neal tandem with the Jaylon Smith–Leighton Vander Esch tandem. The Buccaneers still have four elite IDP players in Devin White, Antoine Winfield, Shaq Barrett, and Lavonte David. Vita Vea is an incredible people mover. And Anthony Brown is going to be a valuable IDP player in CB leagues. But enough about Thursday night. Let’s look ahead to some players fantasy managers will want to start for Week 1 and others that should stay on benches.
Zaven Collins (LB – ARI)
Zaven Collins, the Cardinals’ first round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, is set to start at middle linebacker for Arizona. Collins is a massive linebacker with excellent tackling skills and who is also a plus in coverage. Isaiah Simmons‘ frustrating usage may have left a bad taste in some fantasy managers’ mouths, but this is a new year-one where teams had a relatively normal offseason to get their prized rookies ready. Collins will be knocking on the LB1 door before long and is in an excellent spot to produce against Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans. At 6’4, 260 lbs, Collins was tailor-made to deal with fellow monster Derrick Henry. Count on the impressive rookie as an LB2 with LB1 upside for Week 1.
Kenneth Murray (LB – LAC)
Kenneth Murray battled inconsistency for most of his rookie season but is now finally ready to show the world why the Chargers made him a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Murray flashed on several occasions last year and should be ready to post consistent production with a normal offseason. Murray has no doubt LB1 upside this week against Washington. With Curtis Samuel out, Antonio Gibson and Jd Mckissic should see plenty of work which should serve to increase the sideline-to-sideline linebackers tackle count. One of the more talented young linebackers in the league, Murray is primed for a double-digit tackle count in Week 1.
Jamien Sherwood (S/LB – NYJ)
Jamien Sherwood is still listed as a safety by most providers but is set to start at middle linebacker for the Jets. C.J. Mosley will be the one mic’d up and calling the plays, but Sherwood, by virtue of being in the middle, should threaten for the team lead in tackles most weeks. The Jets get Christian McCaffrey in Week 1, so there should be more than enough tackle opportunities to give Sherwood a sneaky LB2 upside. At this point, you do not need to count on him as anything more than an LB3, but if you play in a deeper league, he is worth a start. Take advantage of his positional labeling and plug him in against New York in what appears to be a plus matchup.
Taylor Rapp (S – LAR)
With Josh Johnson now plying his wares in Las Vegas, Rapp is back as a starter for the Rams. The third-year pro frustrated in 2020 as Jordan Fuller started and saw more snaps, but as long as Rapp can hold off the talented Terrell Burgess, Rapp will be the Rams safety to roster in 2021. Rapp is a complete player who can post DB1 level tackle numbers or play deep as a ball-hawking cover man. If he has found the consistency that eluded him last season, he may disqualify himself from this column in short order. The Andy Dalton led Bears present as good of a matchup as Rapp will see all season, so lock him into lineups wherever possible.
Chandler Jones (DL/LB – ARI)
He’s back. ‘Nuff said. In all seriousness, Chandler Jones is back and is ready to explode on a front seven that improved by leaps and bounds in his absence. J.J. Watt and Jones may sound like a 2018 dream team, but Chandler has played at an extremely high level whenever he has been healthy. His presence should also allow Watt to be more productive than what we have seen in recent years. The Titans represent a plus matchup. Watt’s familiarity with the team and Chandler’s pure physicality are going to make the Cardinals defensive snaps a joy to watch, especially when Jones and Watt line up on the same side of the field. Jones is a DL1 for Week 1 and should be locked into lineups universally.
Richie Grant (S – ATL)
Richie Grant was drafted to start for the Atlanta Falcons, but if their initial depth chart is to be believed, Grant will be a backup, behind Duron Harmon, for Week 1. That listing is enough to keep him benched for Week 1. Monitor snap counts and any potential depth chart changes following the contest, but keep Grant glued to benches against Philadelphia. Grant should be starting sooner rather than later, but he is just high upside bench depth until that time.
Jevon Holland (S – MIA)
Jevon Holland is slotted behind Jason McCourty for Week 1, making him hard to trust in all but the deepest of leagues. The Dolphins defense is creative enough that Holland could still see start-worthy snaps, but until we can actually gauge his usage, he will be hard to trust despite the plus matchup against Mac Jones and the New England Patriots. Keep him stashed at all costs, but it is suggested to look elsewhere for a Week 1 starter for your fantasy lineup.
Cory Littleton (LB – LV)
Cory Littleton is set to start for Raiders in Week 1, but his snap count is in question. The Raiders have discussed using safeties Jonathan Abram and Devine Deablo in the box more often this season, which is something that could lead to a rotation in nickel packages. Littleton was a disappointment in his first season in Las Vegas, and a wait-and-see approach is recommended. He may never produce the tackle numbers he did in Los Angeles, but if he logs 80 percent or more of the snaps in Week 1, he will have LB3 appeal. For now, he is more of a deep league stash.
Alex Singleton (LB – PHI)
Singleton was a tackle machine for the Eagles during the second half of the 2020 season, racking up 54 solos, 32 assists, and two sacks in eight games. However, he may take a step back production-wise with Eric Wilson, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings, now in town to soak up some tackles. Wilson will be manning the middle as the MIKE backer, with Singleton operating as the WILL. Singleton is someone to roster due to his proven tackle upside, but a wait-and-see approach is recommended until he proves he can still be as consistent with talent beside him. Singleton has a plus matchup against the Falcons, so he will be hard to turn away from, but there are other higher floor LB3 options like Zaven Collins and Kenneth Murray that fantasy managers should consider instead.
Romeo Okwara (LB/DL – DET)
The Lions moved Okwara to outside linebacker this offseason, something that could prove to be a detriment to his IDP value. He will be asked to handle more coverage responsibilities which in turn will mean fewer pass rushing opportunities. There is a chance that more consistent tackle production helps level it out, but it would be a surprise if Okwara can match his 2020 output. Keep Okwara benched for Week 1 and reevaluate his spot on your roster in the coming weeks.
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