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Quick Grades Week 1 (Fantasy Football Start or Sit Advice)

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Sep 10, 2021

And here we are – Week 1! We’ve arrived. After another long offseason (seriously, it felt like forever!), we finally have NFL football. After a marquee matchup between the Bucs and Cowboys to open the season, I’m looking ahead to the bulk of this week’s games. Thanks so much for joining me for a second year of Quick Grades! I love writing this article every week, and I hope you enjoy reading it and find it useful when setting lineups. Your continued support means so much!

I did this just a couple of times last season, but I feel like it’s appropriate to open this article with some personal thoughts and a dedication. I’m taking a page out of Mike Tagliere’s The Primer (still praying for you, Tags!) and offering a lengthy introduction for this edition of Quick Grades. Bare with me here as this will be a long one. I promise we’ll get to the grades!

I lost my Dad a couple months ago in July after a long battle with heart complications and over two years bed-bound at home. Back in late 2018, he ended up in the hospital with heart issues, two years after a major valve-replacement surgery. He was sent home on Hospice a month later and given two weeks to live because another surgery was deemed too risky. Dad turned those two weeks into 30 months and made the most of his borrowed time.

Dad’s family came from the boonies of southern Virginia, but he grew up in Baltimore, where his mom was a teacher and his dad was a carpenter. He rooted for the Baltimore Colts and Orioles and went to see them frequently at Old Memorial Stadium. He hated the Colts and Ravens because in his words “the Colts were stolen from Baltimore in the middle of the night.” Needless to say, he was not a fan of John Elway, either. He continued to support the O’s and rooted hard for the Oakland Raiders, Miami Hurricanes, and Johns Hopkins Lacrosse. He and my mom met while they were both working for the Social Security Administration in the ’80s.

Dad played lacrosse and soccer in high school, and the quote in his senior yearbook said his future plans included “governor of Virginia.” He had a big personality (for better or worse) and never met a stranger. He could strike up a conversation with anyone and was known around our small town at the convenience stores he frequented for his morning paper and a pack of Pall Mall Reds. He endeared himself to the staff at Burger King where I worked as a teenager, and more than 10 years after I quit working there, some of them still knew him by name. He was a simple man by nature and loved reading, doing the daily crossword, and spending time with my mom, his kids, and grandkids.

One of the greatest gifts my dad gave me was a lifelong love of music and a taste for rock and heavy metal. Some of my favorite memories of him include riding around in his car and listening to Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Black Sabbath, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles. His taste in music is the reason I have a Jimmy Page-inspired tattoo on my right arm. When I decided I wanted to learn the guitar at 13, dad bought me my first acoustic guitar, and after getting better, he bought me a beautiful maroon Gibson-style electric guitar. Dad loved that I was interested in playing music and was always happy to shuttle me around in high school when a couple buddies and I formed a band. We definitely bonded on those many car rides, and I think about him a lot when I listen to ’60s and ’70s rock.

While I was looking through the Week 1 schedule, it dawned on me that the first Monday Night Football game of the season is being played between the Raiders and Ravens. I can’t help thinking how poetic that matchup is for a guy who loved the black and silver and hated his hometown team after they moved to Indianapolis. He certainly would have had a few choice words to say about the matchup. I’ll be rooting like hell for the Raiders.

This article’s for you, dad.

Once the season begins, the most difficult parts of any fantasy manager’s week are start or sit decisions. These lineup choices can make or break a week, but unfortunately, not everyone has time to sit down and read lengthy fantasy advice articles. That’s where Quick Grades comes in. Each week of the football season, I’ll be providing a condensed and easily digestible chart of grades for over 250 fantasy-relevant players based on the following four criteria:

Fantasy Ability
Dalvin Cook is a week-winner due to his big-play ability and proficiency as a receiver out of the backfield

Expected Volume
Travis Kelce is always heavily targeted as one of Kansas City’s top pass-catching options

David Montgomery finished 2020 as an RB1 thanks to a highly-favorable end-of-season schedule

Surrounding Talent
Sam Darnold has a strong group of skill-position players around him now that he’s in Carolina

Each of those criteria will be graded on a scale of 1-25, with the cumulative total resulting in a final grade (A+ to F) and a recommendation based on that grade. The criteria are weighted differently based on position, so it’s not a direct 1-for-1 conversion. Surrounding talent refers to offensive line for RB, quarterback play for WR and TE, and skill-position talent for QB.

The players are sorted by grade in descending order with the highest grades at the top and the lowest at the bottom. The highest-graded players receive A+ (Must start), and the lowest receive F. However, there are varying degrees of the F grade, and some players with this grade are flex plays, desperation plays, Hail Mary plays, or should remain on your bench, depending on the grade and position.

I’ll also include DST grades, and just like the skill-position players, there will be four criteria used for grading on a scale from 1-25, and final grades will be from 1-100. The four criteria for a DST grade are: Matchup, Turnovers, Sacks, and Points Allowed.

The link to the original Quick Grades Google Document can still be found below. In addition to the player grades, I’ll provide:

  • Start of the Week: A player outside of the elite, weekly must-starts who could have a big week
  • Stream of the Week: The best player who will likely be available on your waiver wire
  • Deep-League Stream of the Week: The best player who is less than 5% rostered in Yahoo leagues
  • Fade of the Week: A notable player who could be in for a let-down performance

Link to Full Quick Grades Document

It’s easy to see that an ‘A+’ or ‘A’ grade makes a player a must-start, but it might not make sense at first glance why some players are rated ‘C’ or worse and still have ‘Start,’ ‘Strong Start,’ or ‘Flex’ attached to their names. Because of all the different variables that go into a player’s performance in any given week, only those players with the absolute highest potential, best matchup, and strongest talent get ‘A+’ or ‘A’ grades. Therefore, even solid plays will earn grades that may appear sub-optimal on the surface, but it’s all relative from position-to-position. The hard cutoff is 50 for every position, as grades lower than this will earn a ‘Desperation’ or ‘Hail Mary’ tag in every situation.

Now that I’ve covered the basics, let’s get to the grades. Best of luck in all your matchups this week, and if you have any questions, please hit me up on Twitter @ZaktheMonster.

Note: As always, remember to check back on FantasyPros ahead of kickoff to get the latest injury news. I’ll provide “what-if” grades in the event that an injured player doesn’t suit up, but otherwise, these grades assume full health at the time the article is published on Friday morning. 

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Running Backs

Start of the Week: Raheem Mostert

Co-start of the Week (and hottest waiver wire pickup): Ty’Son Williams

Fade of the Week: Devin Singletary


Wide Receivers

Start of the Week: Tee Higgins

Stream of the Week: Russell Gage

Deep-League Stream of the Week: Zach Pascal 1% rostered

Fade of the Week: Jarvis Landry



Start of the Week: Carson Wentz

Stream of the Week: Sam Darnold

Fade of the Week: Jameis Winston


Tight Ends

Start of the Week: Dan Arnold

Stream & Deep-League Stream of the Week: Jordan Akins 0% rostered

Fade of the Week: Dawson Knox



Start of the Week: Miami Dolphins

Stream of the Week: Carolina Panthers D/ST

Deep-League Stream of the Week: New York Giants D/ST

Fade of the Week: Seattle Seahawks D/ST


Player Search, Find

Running Back

Wide Receiver


Tight End


  • Los Angeles Rams A+ Must Start
  • Miami Dolphins A+ Must Start
  • Washington Football Team A Must Start
  • San Francisco 49ers A Must Start
  • New York Giants B Must Start
  • Carolina Panthers B Must Start
  • Denver Broncos C+ Strong Start
  • Green Bay Packers C+ Strong Start
  • Indianapolis Colts C+ Strong Start
  • Baltimore Ravens C+ Strong Start
  • Pittsburgh Steelers C+ Strong Start
  • Los Angeles Chargers C+ Strong Start
  • Buffalo Bills C+ Start
  • Jacksonville Jaguars C+ Start
  • Philadelphia Eagles C Start
  • New England Patriots C Start
  • New Orleans Saints D+ Desperation
  • Minnesota Vikings D+ Desperation
  • Kansas City Chiefs D Desperation
  • Cleveland Browns D Desperation
  • Atlanta Falcons D Desperation
  • Arizona Cardinals D Desperation
  • Chicago Bears F Hail Mary
  • Tennessee Titans F Hail Mary
  • Seattle Seahawks F Hail Mary
  • New York Jets F Hail Mary
  • Cincinnati Bengals F Hail Mary
  • Detroit Lions F Hail Mary
  • Houston Texans F Hail Mary
  • Las Vegas Raiders F Hail Mary

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Zachary Hanshew is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Zachary, check out his archive and follow him @zakthemonster.

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