Start/Sit PLUS: Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Matthew Stafford
Fantasy football is all about predicting the future. Everybody can read last season’s statistics, but the best fantasy footballers are good at predicting what will happen next. Now, unless you’re a time traveler, you’re never going to get these predictions right every time. However, with some common sense and the right knowledge, you can predict the future better than the rest of your league and win yourself that coveted fantasy belt. This article is designed to help you make that happen. This is Start/Sit, PLUS!
Let’s quickly go through the categories we’ll be covering, starting with the three categories of players you do want:
Start describes players you should have in your lineup, not just this week, but every week. These are the guys that have earned the right to play in every match-up. As the season progresses, players will move in and out of this category. Our goal is to predict the guys heading into an every-week fantasy starting role or to highlight players with a tough matchup you should start anyway.
Stream describes players you should have in your lineup, but only for the next week or two. Maybe they have a favorable matchup, maybe they have an injured teammate, or maybe they’re just not reliable to trust on a weekly basis.
Stash describes players who aren’t useful this week but could have massive value in the future. These are the guys you want on your bench now before everybody spends all their FAAB on them next week.
Not every player is on the way up. Some guys just don’t belong in your starting lineup anymore, and they’ll fall into one of these categories:
Sit describes players you should leave on your bench this week. Maybe they have a tough matchup, an injured quarterback, or are recovering from an injury. Either way, you don’t want to be starting these guys if you can help it.
Sell describes players who are likely to see a drop in value in the near future. Some are guys who are struggling that you can still sell on name value alone; others have just had a big week or two and have seen a temporary uptick in value. This doesn’t mean these players aren’t worth having, just that their value might be dropping soon.
Scrub describes the players nobody wants anymore. In most leagues, these guys should now be on waivers, and it’s time to say goodbye.
Obviously, every team in every league is different, and we can’t know your exact situation. Our goal here is to help you understand which players you should be thinking about moving around and to indicate whether they’re on the way up or down. If you have specific start/sit questions, please reach out to me on Instagram or Twitter, and I’ll be happy to help.
Editor’s Note: Ben finished No. 24 overall in 2020 in-season fantasy football accuracy and No. 3 overall in Rest of Season accuracy for 2020.
Dak Prescott (QB – DAL)
Most people would agree that Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, and Lamar Jackson are every week starters. I’d like to add Dak Prescott to that list. The Cowboys will take on a brutal Buccaneers front, but I’m starting Dak regardless, and I will do so every week this season unless his situation changes. The Cowboys are one of the favorites to be the league’s highest-scoring team this season, and Dak will be central to those plans, despite Ezekiel Elliott’s unquestionable role. While it’s possible that the Bucs totally shut Dallas down on Thursday night, I think it’s more likely that the Cowboys will lean on their running game in a shootout as they try to keep up with Tom Brady’s rampaging offense.
Mike Davis (RB – ATL)
The fantasy industry expected the Falcons to add some competition for new man Mike Davis. They couldn’t go into the season with Qadree Ollison as a backup, could they? The assumption was, of course, correct — Atlanta released Ollison and UDFA Javian Hawkins to pick up… Wayne Gallman. Yep, this is a Mike Davis backfield. While this has been a very pass-heavy offense of late, Julio Jones is gone, and it’s reasonable to expect a lot more two tight end sets with Kyle Pitts now on the roster. Davis should be the beneficiary of a surprising amount of volume, regardless of game script. That makes him an every-week starter until something changes.
CeeDee Lamb (WR – DAL)
Last season, Lamb was anything but a reliable fantasy option, failing to surpass 85 total yards in every game after Week 5. Even more concerningly, he didn’t even receive over 50 yards in seven of those games. Eeek! With the brutal Bucs pass rush on the schedule this Thursday night, that should make the sophomore wideout a possible fade. But Dak is back, and Lamb was sensational when playing with the team’s franchise signal-caller in his rookie season. This week, he’ll likely be a very busy underneath option as Dak is forced to check down all game as the team’s patchy offensive line may struggle to corral the Tampa Bay defense. Lamb is an every-week starter until we see evidence to suggest otherwise.
Kyle Pitts (TE – ATL)
I’m calling it early, Kyle Pitts is going to be an every-week starter this season. Against Philadelphia, he’s a consensus top-five option and will likely remain in that region for much of the season. Lock him and leave him there.
Matthew Stafford (QB – LAR)
Many of you will have Matthew Stafford as your QB1, but this is the week to sit him if you have the luxury. While I’m not a big fan of rostering two quarterbacks, Stafford’s matchup against the Bears is brutal. Chicago has been one of the toughest eight matchups against opposing quarterbacks each of the last four seasons, and while Danny Trevathan’s injury creates a bit of a hole, the Bears have well and truly enough quality to stop the Rams on Sunday night. This game could turn into a real slug-fest with Vegas predicting a low-scoring encounter that the Rams win. There’s not much hope of a QB1 game for Stafford in Week 1.
Zack Moss (RB – BUF) and Devin Singletary (RB – BUF)
The Bills played their starters for an entire half in their final dress rehearsal of the preseason, with the leading rusher being… Matt Breida with 16 yards on one attempt. What a mess. While Devin Singletary played the entire first quarter, he failed to register a carry, receiving two short passes instead. Zack Moss came in for much of the second frame, and he at least had four carries (for 10 yards) with a single touchdown reception. This backfield will be a total mess in an offense that managed 26 passes in the first half despite playing without Stefon Diggs. None of Buffalo’s runners are startable until we get some clarity over the backfield pecking order.
Amari Cooper (WR – DAL)
While Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb are starts this week, top Cowboys outside receiver Amari Cooper is a very easy fade. The Dallas veteran has a history of quiet games as he spends a lot of snape lined up outside, running deeper routes that won’t have time to develop against Tampa Bay’s pass rush. While he was known for his quiet games in Oakland, it’s a pattern that has continued with his new team, with three games of two or fewer receptions in each of the last two seasons. These games tend to come against teams with strong defensive lines, too. If you have a solid alternative, fade Cooper.
Mike Gesicki (TE – MIA)
It’s a tempting option with Will Fuller unavailable, but this Patriots team just doesn’t feel like a matchup that will suit Miami’s tight end. Although he is a solid player, he will probably be a matchup-dependent option this season, and it just isn’t there for him in Week 1.
Joe Burrow (QB – CIN)
Tua Tagovailoa (QB – MIA)
Javonte Williams (RB – DEN)
Allen Robinson (WR – CHI)
Kenny Golladay (WR – NYG)
Curtis Samuel (WR – WAS)
Corey Davis (WR – NYJ)
Cole Kmet (TE – CHI)
Sam Darnold (QB – CAR)
With most starting quarterbacks facing a playable matchup, it’s unlikely that you’ll need a streamer outside of deep leagues. But, if you’re feeling nervous about Joe Burrow or Tua Tagovailoa as your starter, Darnold is the perfect option for this week. He’ll be available in nearly every league, and he’s got a New York defense that has struggled to stop opposing quarterbacks for the better half of the last decade. While Robert Saleh will surely positively impact the team’s defense moving forward, it’s hard to expect him to have made that change already, given the personnel he has at his disposal. Darnold is a desperation play, and I prefer to avoid rostering a second quarterback, but he can get you through this week.
Nyheim Hines (RB – IND)
If you’re streaming RBs in Week 1, you’re in a bit of a pickle. I hope that rather than drafting Travis Etienne or J.K. Dobbins, you intentionally went Zero RB, or you’re in a Vampire league. Regardless, there are several palatable options available. Nyheim Hines tops the list, and he is the poster boy for pass-catching running backs. While there are plenty of other options, including James White, Giovani Bernard, Damien Williams, and J.D. McKissic, Hines is the best option. The Colts’ third-down back was the PPR RB15 last season, and Indy beat writers have suggested that Frank Reich’s coaching staff wants Hines even more involved this year. The Colts are likely to be chasing in a high-scoring encounter against the Seahawks this week, so pop Hines in with moderate confidence.
Jamaal Williams (RB – DET)
This is mostly a desperation option for those of you in deep leagues. There are real question marks around D’Andre Swift’s health, so Williams may be busier than most expect in Week 1. The matchup isn’t great, but the situation suggests that Williams could sneak more work than usual until Swift is back to full speed.
Deebo Samuel (WR – SF)
It’s unlikely that San Francisco’s WR2 is still available on waivers in your league, but if he is (or he is on your bench), consider sliding him into your lineup against a horrible Lions defense that was already one of the worst against receivers in 2020. Unlike his teammate Brandon Aiyuk, who will likely be a start most weeks, Deebo should spend most of the season on your bench. However, this is the perfect week to start him.
Tyler Boyd (WR – CIN)
I will admit that I’m higher on Tyler Boyd than most, but he is a very obvious start this week against a Minnesota defense that just begs quarterbacks to throw to their receivers. Boyd will likely be busy as Cincinnati tries to keep up, and with Ja’Marr Chase struggling in the preseason, Boyd should benefit come Sunday.
Antonio Brown (WR – TB)
The Cowboys have had a mediocre secondary for some time, so the Buccaneers will likely throw more often than most leading teams. With Chris Godwin already struggling through a quad injury, AB could find himself very busy on Thursday night. He is an easy flex option, though of course, you should play him in your wide receiver slot to give yourself options at flex on Sunday.
Kyle Rudolph (TE – NYG)
You’d have to be pretty desperate to go this route, but the Giants are a bit of a mess at the moment. Evan Engram is out, Saquon Barkley isn’t fully healthy yet, and Kenny Golladay is still pretty iffy. That moves Kyle Rudolph into the desperation streamer region.
Justin Fields (QB – CHI) and Trey Lance (QB – SF)
This nearly doesn’t need to be said, as Fields and Lance are rostered in most leagues. So I will take the opposite approach and encourage you to avoid stashing quarterbacks if you can help it. Quarterback is a very deep position, so unless you’re very weak at it, Fields and Lance are both unlikely to start for you any time soon. Maybe they never will. Stash if you have space, but it may very well not pay off.
Tony Pollard (RB – DAL) and Alexander Mattison (RB – MIN)
This is very simple. Every season, a top runner gets hurt, and their backup comes in and immediately plays like a fantasy RB1. Mike Davis was the prime example last year, while Kareem Hunt was also a top starter while Nick Chubb was injured. Latavius Murray, Jamaal Williams, Dare Ogunbowale, Devontae Booker, and Wayne Gallman all had boom weeks after their starters went down. This happens every year, and you want that guy on your roster. But you don’t want just any guy. If Mike Davis goes down this year, Wayne Gallman won’t suddenly turn into a fantasy stud. No, you want the quality guys who will jump straight into a high-volume workhorse role. Pollard and Mattison are the big names here, though Tony Jones, A.J. Dillon, James Conner, Sony Michel, Rashaad Penny, Damien Williams, Devontae Booker, Jamaal Williams, Rhamondre Stevenson, and Kenny Gainwell are all viable bench stashes. Devin Singletary isn’t going to win you your league, but one of these guys might.
Gabriel Davis (WR – BUF)
Gabriel Davis will likely start the season as the Bills WR4 behind Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, and Emmanuel Sanders, but he’ll get some chances when Buffalo goes four wide, and he’ll eventually be too talented to leave out. You can either stash him to start him later in the season or wait for a boom week to sell him.
Curtis Samuel (WR – WAS)
Samuel has struggled to get going since his move from Carolina in the offseason, with injuries plaguing him. He’ll likely start the season slowly, but he is good enough to sit on your bench until he gets up to speed and moves into a clear WR2 role behind Terry McLaurin. However, it won’t happen this week against a solid Chargers secondary, so leave him on your bench for now.
Gerald Everett (TE – SEA)
The Seahawks have a tough matchup against the Colts. The matchup will prove especially tough for starting tight end Gerald Everett. But the former Ram will have a massive role this season, especially in the red zone, and is a great stash for the coming weeks. Stick him on your bench, and thank me later.
Justin Fields (QB – CHI) and Trey Lance (QB – SF)
Yes, you’re reading this right. These are the same names that kicked off the stash category. It’s possible that one of Fields and Lance will get the starting role in the next couple of weeks and is an absolute stud, but there are way more negative possibilities. It’s possible they don’t get the role for weeks and waste a valuable roster spot for half the season. Or even worse, it’s possible they suck. Lance hardly screamed consistent QB1 in the pre-season, and he has only played one competitive game since 2019. Meanwhile, Fields will enter a Bears offense that hasn’t had a fantasy QB1 in the last decade (heck, they’ve only had three QB2s). Their value is unlikely to ever be higher, so switch them out for anything of value you can get and focus on winning now.
Michael Carter (RB – NYJ)
Within a week, there’s a very real chance Michael Carter will be on waivers around the league. Carter has been the clear RB3 in New York, and while he is probably the most talented runner on the roster, both Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson are obviously ahead of him on the depth chart. Usually, the plan here would be to stash Carter and wait for him to jump into a starting role. That may happen eventually, but it could look very ugly until then. To make life worse, once he gets that job, will it even be worth much? Robert Saleh seems to intend to follow the 49ers’ committee approach that he has years of experience with. That is unlikely to offer the rookie out of North Carolina many favors in this low-scoring Jets offense. If you can get something for him, sell him before it’s too late.
Michael Thomas (WR – NO)
If your league doesn’t have an IR spot, it’s time to sell Michael Thomas. You won’t see him any time soon, and bench spots are just too valuable. He is better off taking up space on somebody else’s bench so that you can focus on winning now. You’ll need a pretty loaded roster — or a long bench — to make carrying him for half the season the best option.
Rob Gronkowski (TE – TB)
Gronk is still a big name, and people may be willing to pay up for one of the game’s great tight ends. While he remains still a solid TE2 option, some are expecting bigger things. But the Bucs now have three great receivers and a strong receiving back in Gio Bernard, plus O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. Gronk’s value just isn’t that high anymore.
Deshaun Watson (QB – HOU)
Drafting Deshaun Watson was a viable preseason tactic, but the time has come to let him go. There is little reason to leave him on your bench with the Texans clearly committed to tanking 2021. Drop him and use that roster spot on a high-upside gamble from our Stash section.
Chuba Hubbard (RB – CAR)
Smart fantasy managers roster backup running backs who will become studs if the starter is injured (see the Stash section). Searching for the next Mike Davis, many of you smartly rostered Chuba Hubbard in case Christian McCaffrey couldn’t handle his mammoth workload again. Sadly, the Panthers picked up in-demand running back Royce Freeman off waivers. While Freeman is unlikely to play much while CMC is healthy, he does limit the upside of Hubbard, who will likely split snaps with the former Denver third-rounder if the Panthers stud goes down again. You can drop Hubbard and pick up a back with more upside.
Breshad Perriman (WR – CHI)
For some reason, fantasy managers are still drafting this guy. Now in Chicago, he isn’t guaranteed to earn a WR3 role running go routes all game. With Andy Dalton at the fore, where is the value there? There are simply better options in most leagues.
Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR – DET)
St. Brown has been a hot commodity all offseason, but I have no idea why. Best case scenario, St. Brown is a slot receiver who spends half the game on the bench as the Lions use two-wide sets to enable their run game. It’s now becoming apparent that he isn’t even guaranteed that bit-part role! Listed as the WR6 on the very unofficial Lions depth chart, he currently sits behind such household names as Kalif Raymond, Quintez Cephus, Trinity Benson and KhaDarel Hodge. Plus, the top pass-catcher in Detroit is clearly T.J. Hockenson. What are you doing? Let Amon-Ra join his brother Equanimeous on waivers and pick up someone with more upside instead.
Pat Freiermuth (TE – PIT)
For reasons I don’t understand, people are drafting the Pittsburgh rookie as an upside stash. He doesn’t have any upside that will appear this season; most rookie tight ends don’t. Use that spot on someone else.
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