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NFL Draft

Fantasy Football Week 1 Start/Sit

  • The Draft Network
  • September 10, 2020
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Welcome to Week 1’s start/sit column. Each week throughout the regular season, I will go over a few players at each major position and tell you whether you should make room in your lineup for them or pull them out of a starting spot.

Players labeled “starts” are non-obvious options that either have a good matchup or are trending in the right direction, ranking higher for me than consensus this week. Players labeled “sits” are ones I have concerns about leading into the week but are in a significant amount starting lineups and should not be. Highly-regarded players with bad matchups that are still ranked in the top 20 at their position (like Amari Cooper vs. Jalen Ramsey) are not considered "sits."

This article is most helpful for those in full- or half-point PPR leagues. 

As always, you should make the final call on all of your lineup decisions. This column is intended to be a piece of your research puzzle and/or a resource to highlight some specific names that may have been overlooked in my weekly rankings. Without further ado, here is Start/Sit for Week 1:

QUARTERBACK

START: Ben Roethlisberger (QB - PIT)

Week 2 of the 2019 season feels like ages ago, but it’s the last time we’ve seen Roethlisberger on a football field after suffering an elbow injury that ended his season extremely early. However, many are forgetting how good he was the season before getting hurt. Roethlisberger was the QB2 in both total points and average points per game in 2018, behind only MVP Patrick Mahomes. Over Roethlisberger’s last 18 starts (including the injury-shortened game against Seattle), he’s averaging 19.7 fantasy points per game. Last season, that average would’ve been good enough to be a top-10 quarterback. 

The Giants gave up the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks last season (21.6) and aside from the addition of James Bradbury have done nothing to significantly improve the secondary. It looks like they’ll miss the rain by playing on Monday night, so fire away with Roethlisberger as a top-eight quarterback this week.

START: Jared Goff (QB - LAR)

Let’s keep with the theme of prime time quarterbacks and head to Los Angeles. Why Goff? He’s performed quite well against the Cowboys in his two opportunities. Two games, two multi-touchdown efforts. Goff scored 17.6 fantasy points in his latest matchup with Dallas in Week 15 of last season. He had 18.1 points back in Week 4 of the 2017 season. 

Plus, the Cowboys are vulnerable in the secondary with iffy safeties and cornerback Byron Jones being replaced by a rookie. Dallas’ offense is elite, so this game could easily turn into a shootout. 

SIT: Daniel Jones (QB - NYG)

Jones was a popular sleeper pick during draft season because his overall numbers looked pretty good over his final 10 starts. However, it’s important to note that he was very up and down. He had four games with 28 or more fantasy points and five games with fewer than 12 fantasy points. That signals to me that you want to use him as a matchup play and Monday Night Football against the Steelers isn’t the place for it. The Steelers allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks last season and are poised to force multiple turnovers from the sophomore quarterback this week. 

RUNNING BACK

START: Mark Ingram (RB - BAL)

Although he didn’t find the end zone on the ground in the two meetings in 2019, Ingram ripped through the Browns’ run defense at a 6.3 yards-per-carry clip last season—plus, he caught a touchdown. Despite all the J.K. Dobbins hype, Ingram is Baltimore’s undisputed starter going up against a defense that allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to running backs last season. He’s a top-20 running back this week.

START: Tarik Cohen (RB - CHI)

The pass-catching back is an RB2 this week regardless of David Montgomery’s status. Cohen is coming off a career-high in targets and should continue to be peppered with them against Detroit with Mitchell Trubisky being named the Week 1 starter. The Lions allowed the fourth-most receiving yards and second-most receiving touchdowns to running backs last season. Cohen averaged 10.6 fantasy points per game against the Lions last season with a healthy Montgomery in the lineup. Without him, or with a banged-up version on the field, Cohen should thrive. 

SIT: Jonathan Taylor (RB - IND)

Currently starting in more than half of the total starting lineups in ESPN leagues, I don’t think you want to roll with the talented rookie right out of the gate in your RB2 spot. Marlon Mack is still the starter and Nyheim Hines will get a lot of passing down work until Taylor becomes a more consistent pass-catcher. While Taylor will eventually be the top back you want in the Indianapolis backfield and I'm preparing for a strong finish to the season, that will come in time. It’s best to find another RB2 for opening weekend. He's still a top-30 RB this week, however.

WIDE RECEIVER

START: Tyler Boyd (WR - CIN)

A player that deserves strong flex consideration, Boyd is starting in fewer than 25% of leagues right now. Joe Burrow’s NFL debut is coming against a tough Chargers secondary, but they are weak in one particular area. The Draft Network’s Trevor Sikkema laid it out:

“According to Pro Football Focus, the Chargers played 316 snaps (more than 50% of their defensive coverage snaps) in a Cover 3 look. Per Seth Walder of ESPN, that Cover 3 rate was more than any other team in the NFL. …
“The weakness of a Cover 3 tends to be the fact that it can, at times, easily be attacked in the shorter curl/flat zones since cornerbacks are naturally back off the line at the snap and the linebackers/strong safety have to cover some ground in order to occupy those areas. The Chargers defense gave up the highest completion percentage in the NFL at 70.7 percent, so that, again, is on par with their strategy. …
“What is the one thing every coach tries to do with a young or new quarterback being thrust into game action for the first time? They get them easy throws. They get the ball out of their hands quickly and into the hands of playmakers. The Bengals have two receivers who can attack short zones against a Cover 3 well in Tyler Boyd and John Ross.”

Expect the Bengals to be throwing the ball early and often, especially when losing, and Boyd to be the beneficiary of what Los Angeles’ defense gives Burrow.

START: Marvin Jones Jr. (WR - DET)

The return of a healthy Matthew Stafford will only help this underrated player succeed. Jones averaged nearly 10 fantasy points per game against the Bears last season with Jeff Driskel and David Blough throwing him the ball—he’ll exceed that total in Week 1. He averaged more than 12.3 points per game over his last five games against the Bears with Stafford and will spend some time going up against a rookie cornerback (Jaylon Johnson). He deserves strong flex consideration this week.

SIT: Marquise Brown (WR - BAL)

I know that the appeal with Brown is that it only takes one big play to be worth starting him, but in Week 1 against Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams? That isn’t the best bet. The Browns were one of the stingier teams against fantasy wide receivers last season, ranking as the ninth-best defensive unit in terms of fantasy points allowed. They shut down Brown in both matchups last year as well—the then-rookie had a combined five catches for 28 yards and no touchdowns on nine targets. You almost certainly have better, safer flex options on your bench. 

TIGHT END

START: Hayden Hurst (TE - ATL)

The new starting tight end for the Falcons has a glorious matchup this week against the Seahawks. No team in the NFL allowed more receptions and receiving yards to tight ends last season than Seattle—yes, that includes Arizona. The Seahawks allowed nearly 71 yards per game to the position (worst in the NFL) and 15.2 fantasy points per game (third worst). Hurst will fill the big hole left by Austin Hooper and will get plenty of looks against this porous Seattle secondary. He’s a top-eight tight end this week.

SIT: Noah Fant (TE - DEN)

Although he’s been a popular breakout candidate all offseason, I’m still in wait-and-see mode on Fant. In Fant’s five games with Drew Lock last season, he averaged 2.0 catches on 2.8 targets per game. That was notably lower than the  2.7 receptions and 4.7 targets per game he averaged with Joe Flacco and Brandon Allen. Fant had one big game and everyone forgot about the rest. Denver is still a run-first team, so despite the good matchup against the Titans, I suggest having Fant on the bench this week.

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