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Sleeper Starts and Duds: Week 1 (Fantasy Football)

Sep 9, 2021

Football is back! And so are tough weekly lineup decisions. Just starting the players you drafted earliest isn’t a good recipe for success in Week 1. Understanding how to play the matchups is paramount to having a successful season, although knowing which matchups are good and bad is a little difficult since we have no firm ideas about what to expect in our first taste of NFL action. You also want to stick with the athletes who will have the most opportunity. This includes RBs who aren’t mired in a committee or WRs who aren’t on a team with plenty of mouths to feed. Our featured analysts have you covered, though, as they dive into their top sleepers for the week and shine some light on which higher-ranked guys could have a rough first outing.

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Q1. Who is a player outside of our top 100 flex rankings that is a deep sleeper start and why do you think he has upside this week?

Rondale Moore (WR – ARI) 
“Rondale Moore comes in at WR63, 110th overall in the flex rankings. The diminutive receiver is dynamic with a minimal amount of space. In the Cardinals’ fast-paced offense, Moore will be getting some manufactured touches in the same vein as how Kyle Shanahan has deployed Deebo Samuel. Expect Kliff Kingsbury to creatively find ways to get the electric rookie involved early.”
– John Hesterman (Dynasty League Football)

Rondale Moore has upside for ARI in Week 1 vs. TEN. The rookie WR had a strong camp and there is a path for six or so targets in this game. He has break-away ability so that could be all he needs to be a decent flex play in deeper leagues. This should be a higher total points game considering the defenses in play.”
– Joe Pisapia (FantasyPros)

Ty’Son Williams (RB – BAL) 
“I know we don’t know exactly what to expect from Ty’Son Williams in Week 1, but I’d be willing to roll with him as a flex in deeper formats right out of the gate against the Raiders. Even if Le’Veon Bell eventually factors in (which I don’t expect), he won’t make an impact in the first week. The Ravens will lean heavily on the run as they always do, but especially so with the injuries to their wide receiver corps, and the Raiders allowed the fourth-most points to running backs last year. We would have been thinking of Gus Edwards as a flex in this matchup, so there’s no reason Williams should be off the board entirely like most are ranking him to be.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Tony Jones Jr. (RB – NO) 
“This is a player that is all the way down at 183rd in our flex rankings and there’s a strong possibility that he’s still on your league’s waiver wire. Jones Jr. now has the RB2 role locked up here in New Orleans after Latavius Murray was released and he is absolutely in the flex conversation due to this matchup. Last year, the Packers allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing RBs and we know that Alvin Kamara isn’t going to see every single carry in this offense. It’s a bit of a risky move because we don’t know definitively what his role will look like, but he’s absolutely in consideration for my starting lineups.”
– Kyle Yates (FantasyPros)

Q2. On the flip side, what player inside the top 40 flex rankings is likely to disappoint fantasy managers this week?

Ezekiel Elliott (RB – DAL) 
“Don’t be surprised if Elliott finishes outside the top-15 RBs this week due to the matchup with Tampa Bay. The Bucs’ defense only allowed an average of 13.7 fantasy points per game last season to the RB position and they could absolutely repeat with that type of dominance again in 2021. With Zack Martin out for this game, plus some other injuries on the OL in Dallas, Zeke’s got a tough matchup ahead of him.”
– Kyle Yates (FantasyPros)

Ezekiel Elliot opens the season with Dak Prescott back under center. However, it’s a matchup against a brutal Tampa Bay Buccaneers front that was the stingiest at allowing fantasy points to opposing running backs last season. Zeke will have the volume but may struggle to produce with it. At an ECR of RB13, fantasy managers should temper expectations.”
– John Hesterman (Dynasty League Football)

Mike Evans (WR – TB) 
“It’s probably a different story if Chris Godwin needs to miss or is limited in Thursday’s game against the Cowboys, but certainly, Evans is far from a sure thing. On a good day, Evans is likely to be inconsistent, just given how much Tom Brady will spread the targets around to Godwin, Evans, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, and his running backs. The spread has been climbing in favor of the Bucs without Zack Martin, so other than Brady wanting to show off a bit here in Week 1, chances are that the Bucs won’t need to pass heavily throughout the game. As always, Evans’ value is somewhat touchdown-dependent, so he’s always one of the players who is most likely to disappoint in his range.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Chris Godwin (WR – TB)
“I’m a little concerned with Godwin this week. He will be starting, but health is an issue and the Bucs have plenty of WR depth to contribute. Antonio Brown being a healthy sit from practice could be a view into how important he will be to the Bucs’ opening game plan and that Godwin could take a lesser Week 1 role.”
– Joe Pisapia (FantasyPros)

Thank you to all the experts for giving their sleeper starts and duds. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter for more great advice. Also, please check out our latest podcast episode below.

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