WEEK 1: Starts of the Week + Caution Plays
Updated: Sep 10, 2021
FOOTBALL IS OFFICIALLY BACK!! With week 1 right around the corner, we're at the height of draft season and most of you may already have your rosters locked in and ready to roll. With your draft day in the rear view, you're now ready set your sights on the official matchups of week 1 in hopes of getting off to that 1-0 start. Today I'm going to break down two players at each position that you should either throw in to your lineup with confidence or proceed with tempered expectations. Keep in mind I will not be featuring the every week starters like CMC or Davante Adams.
That being said, let's kick it off with my bonafide starts of the week.
JALEN HURTS - PHI
Hurts is being given an opportunity to start and prove himself this year. After taking over the starting role in the final 4 games of 2020, he put up an impressive 25.4 points a game. Kicking off 2021, fortune has blessed him with a prime matchup against a bleak Falcons defense who allowed more fantasy points to opposing QB's last year than any other team. Expect Hurts to come out of the gates hot this year.
JIMMY GARROPOLO - SF
A lot of fantasy owners are riding the Trey Lance hype train, stashing him and waiting for the opportunity to roll him out to (hopeful) fantasy prosperity. Unfortunately for the train passengers, that's not likely to happen soon considering the 49ers kick off the season against the Lions who, in 2020, were the second worst defense on paper. The Lions gave up 284 yards through the air last season and the second most fantasy points to opposing QB's. This gives Jimmy G a great opportunity to lead this team to a 1-0 start and fantasy owners should be able to start him with confidence. Aiyuk, Samuel, and Kittle should feast this Sunday and Jimmy will be their benefactor.
JAMES ROBINSON - JAX
With Etienne heading to IR, Robinson not only looks to take the bulk of the teams backfield work but he does so with a very appealing matchup in week 1. In 2020, the Texans had the worst rushing defense in the league, allowing a mind blowing 160.3 rushing yards per game! Couple that with Robinson, who averaged 17 carries a game and 4.5 yards a carry, and you have a matchup that screams 100+ yards.
RAHEEM MOSTERT- SF
Raheem Mostert is a dynamic back who's arguably the fastest player at his position in the league. While he's been faded due to constant injury concerns, he's healthy and starting week 1 against a Detroit Lions defense who gave up over 2,100 rushing yards last season (28th) and the most fantasy points to opposing RB's at 26.6 points/game.
Over the last two seasons ,when healthy, Mostert put up top 15 fantasy finishes 8 times including a few of them in the top 5. I think the writing is on the wall and the pieces are in place for him to have a hot start against a putrid Lions defense. Throw him in your week 1 lineup without hesitation.
DEVONTA SMITH- PHI
Smith is an absolute dominate athlete. After racking up 1,511 receiving yards in 2020 he became the first WR to win the Heisman since 1991. Now it's time to translate those talents to the NFL level and what better way to do that than going to a team where he'll be the clear target leader and his first matchup is against a horrendous Falcons secondary who allowed opposing teams to average 293 air yards per game last year. This is a dream first matchup for Smith owners.
LAVISKA SHENAULT JR - JAX
It's going to be hard not to just gravitate towards whoever is playing Houston this year but Shenault should be a great play against the leagues worst defense. The Texans were giving their opponents 549 yards a game last year and 250 of that came through the air. Shenault really came alive in the last 5 games of the season last year, averaging 12.4 points a game and this week 1 matchup should be the perfect setting for him to continue that trend. HONORARY MENTION: MARVIN JONES JR: The WR4 from weeks 8 on last year, MJJ is being seriously overlooked and could have even more upside in this matchup than Shenault. I'd confidently start both JAX receivers this week.
LOGAN THOMAS - WAS
Logan Thomas was the late round gem last year at his position, finishing as the TE6 on the season. Owners should be pretty excited that he not only has a big upgrade at QB in Ryan Fitzpatrick but a juicy week 1 matchup against a Chargers team who gave up the 7th most fantasy points to the TE position in 2020. With Curtis Samuel fighting injury, Thomas will should have more target share opportunity heading his way and I foresee a strong week 1 start.
ZACH ERTZ / DALLAS GOEDERT - PHI
The wounds have mended between Ertz and the Eagles. He wants to stay in Philly and I have no doubt they'll keep him and Goedert both involved. With Raegor disappointing last year and showing up to camp out of shape, I think it's safe to say the TE's will be the #2/3 receiving options on the team and they face off against the Falcons in week one who were the 3rd worst team against TE's last year, surrendering 10.4 points a game to the position. If there was a week to roll the dice on Ertz, it's week 1 and Goedert should be a solid starter this week.
CAUTION -- QUARTERBACKS
MATTHEW STAFFORD - LAR
I love Stafford this year and I think he's going to see a revitilization now that he's out of Detroit. Unfortunately for Stafford, he has quite a challenge to start the season off against a tough Bears defense that only allowed 17 fantasy points a game to the QB position last year, the fourth best in the league. I love his situation compared to Detroit but I don't like this particular matchup and I would caution owners to temper their expectations for his first game as a Ram.
JUSTIN HERBERT - LAC
Herbert was explosive for fantasy owners last year and had a sensational rookie season. That success had him drafted among the higher tier QB's this year in leagues but I would advise you not to expect a big performance to start week 1. As much as I love Herbert for fantasy, he faces the Washington Football Team who are dominant in every aspect on defense. 3rd against QBs, 5th against RB's, and 3rd against WR's in 2020, the WFT locks down every position outside of TE and with a new coach and system to learn, this is going to be a challenging week 1 for the 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year.
CAUTION -- RUNNINGBACKS
DAVID MONTGOMERY - CHI
Montgomery is a great RB and finished as the RB4 last year after an incredible second have stretch of the season. Unfortunately, the Bears face the Rams who have arguably the best defense in the league from every angle. Last year the Rams were 1st against the run and with all their pieces remaining in place, that stout front 7 should continue to shut down the position. If you have other viable options, I'd consider them this week.
MILES SANDERS - PHI
The Falcons may be absolutely horrible against the pass but if there's one area they excelled it was against the run. They finished just behind the Bucs and Rams in fewest fantasy points allowed to the RB position. With a new HC and scheme to learn, this could be a trap play for Sanders owners. It wouldn't surprise me if the Eagles game plan around a passing attack and Sanders ends up being a minimal contributor.
CAUTION -- WIDE RECEIVERS
TYLER LOCKETT - SEA
Lockett is an explosive playmaker who can win you your week any given Sunday. He's also very volatile and inconsistent which gives him an inherent risk when he's in your starting lineup. Last year he had 9 games where he finished the WR47 or worse and he starts this year against a tough secondary in the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts were the 4th in fewest fantasy points allowed to the WR position and with Locketts boom or bust history, I'm going to be a little nervous heading in to Sunday if he's in my lineup.
ALLEN ROBINSON - CHI
There's no denying that A-Rob is a solid WR1 and will have a huge target share on this team but I look at the situation on paper: Andy Dalton + Robinson against Ramsey = Risky Robinson had 9 games last year as the WR31 or worse and the pieces are all in place for him to have a disappointing start to the season.
CAUTION -- TIGHT ENDS
JONNU SMITH - NE
Smith is a talented Tight End who's going to have good weeks for fantasy owners this year but I don't see week one being one of them. The Dolphins defense may not be daunting but they're exceptional against the pass, particularly the TE spot. Last year, Miami was the second best team in points allowed to the Tight End position. They locked the spot down, allowing only 6.4 total points to TE's a game. On top of acclimating to a new team and offense, this whole situation has me steering clear of Jonnu week 1.
AUSTIN HOOPER - CLE
Hooper is one of my sleeper picks this year. The Browns are tied with the Chiefs for the highest passing target share to the TE position and Hooper finished the last 3 games of 2020 averaging 12 points a game and was the TE6 during that stretch. As high as I am on him for the season, I'm looking to sit him for the first week. The Browns have a tough matchup against KC who are the 4th best against TE's, allowing only 8 points a game to the position. Last year, the Chiefs held Hooper to 2 catches for 16 yards in their divisional matchup and this Sunday could good bring similar results.