Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em Week 1
As the 2021 fantasy football season begins this week, that means Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em returns for yet another season! The long-awaited football season is finally upon us once again and that means we can talk about all the fantasy football we want. As we look into week 1, we will look at the players who you should be sure to have in your starting lineups and those who should be riding some pine this weekend. As a helpful hint, you can always find me on Twitter (@DMooreNFL) for any additional start/sit questions not answered in this piece. Without further adieu, let’s get into it!
- Scoring and stats are based on half-point per reception scoring and come from fantasydata.com
- Start percentages originate from ESPN.com
- Start options range from 0-60%
- Sit options range from 50-100%
The following are my Start’em Sit’em Week 1 recommendations:
Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em Week 1 QB’s
Eagles vs. Falcons
ESPN Starting Percentage: 47.4%
As polarizing of a player as Hurts is when talking about NFL quarterbacks, there is no denying his fantasy football upside. Over his final four games last season, he had 300+ yards passing in two of them, 63+ yards rushing in three of them, and three total rushing touchdowns. He may not be a threat to put up 300+ yards passing every week but he is clearly a huge threat with his legs. He now has a new head coach in Nick Sirianni, which can be viewed as an upgrade over Doug Pederson. The Eagles also invested a top-10 pick in Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith at wide receiver as well. He has a tasty matchup with the Falcons, who gave up the second-most fantasy points per week to opposing quarterbacks last season. Hurts has top-five upside in what could be a high-scoring affair.
Titans vs. Cardinals
ESPN Starting Percentage: 44.9%
Tannehill now enters his second full season as the Titans franchise quarterback and has been a terrific option in fantasy since taking over. He was QB7 last season and was actually QB5 over the last three weeks of the fantasy season in 2020 (weeks 14-16). For all of the talk around losing offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, wide receivers Corey Davis and Adam Humphries along with tight end Jonnu Smith, Tannehill still has a strong supporting cast. He now has one of the best wideouts in the league in Julio Jones alongside A.J. Brown, an above-average offensive line, and all-world running back Derrick Henry. Tannehill still has plenty of upside with his legs (scored five rushing touchdowns from weeks 15-17 last season) and is smart with the football. He faces a Cardinals team that lost Patrick Peterson and now Malcolm Butler at cornerback. Tannehill will now have an Arizona secondary consisting of cornerbacks Tay Gowan, Byron Murphy, and Marco Wilson to contend with. This is an appetizing match-up for the entire Titans passing offense.
Chargers vs. WFT
ESPN Starting Percentage: 73.3%
For all of the fans of Herbert out there, I am just as big of one as the next person. And him being listed as a “sit” this week has more to do with his matchup than his play. Washington’s defense is no joke as they held opposing quarterbacks to 16.74 fantasy points on average last season, good for third-fewest in the league. Herbert has an improved offensive line and a strong wide receiver/running back combo in Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler. But beyond them, there are questions at tight end with Hunter Henry gone and who else will step up at wide receiver between Mike Williams and Josh Palmer, perhaps. Washington’s defense is going to be a shy-away matchup in fantasy and with this being the first game under head coach Brandon Staley, that’s just another reason to sit Herbert this week.
Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em Week 1 RB’s
49ers vs. Lions
ESPN Starting Percentage: 44.1%
Mostert’s starting role with the 49ers came into question when the team drafted Trey Sermon in the third round in this past NFL Draft. But as we have seen this preseason, it appears Mostert’s role is pretty secured in what could be a 1A-1B situation between him and Sermon. In a run-heavy offense, Mostert could still easily see 10-15 touches per game. That should be more than enough for fantasy owners to cash in against a lowly Lions defense. Arguably one of the worst in the league, the Lions gave up the most fantasy points per game (30.00) in half-PPR scoring to opposing running backs last year. In what could be a blow-out, we could see the 49ers rely on the run game even more in a game like this. We could easily see Mostert go for 100+ yards from scrimmage and/or a touchdown to start the season.
Cardinals vs. Titans
ESPN Starting Percentage: 56.6%
In another 1A-1B backfield between Edmonds and James Conner, Edmonds appears to have a slight edge against Conner for more work in this offense. While we can expect to see Conner be more involved in short-yard and goal-line situations, Edmonds will get plenty of early-down work and also a lot of third-down snaps. Plus, with new signee Conner missing time during training camp/preseason, it only helps Edmonds case especially in the early part of the season. As mentioned above, we could see a high-scoring affair between two of the higher ceiling offenses but below-average defenses. Besides DeAndre Hopkins, there is a lot of questions around who will be featured heavily in the offense between Rondale Moore, A.J. Green, and Christian Kirk. Edmonds could easily become a top passing option for the Cardinals. And with the Titans having given up the seventh-most points to opposing running backs in fantasy last year, this could be the perfect time for Edmonds to take advantage.
Eagles vs. Falcons
ESPN Starting Percentage: 88.1%
You could call me the President of the Miles Sanders fan club through the first two years of his NFL career. I was as high on Sanders as anyone else was in fantasy football. But between his inconsistent scoring output and ugly drops, I have a lot of questions about Sanders in this new offense. He played very well with Hurts under center but the new coaching staff doesn’t seem keen on a lead back and we could see a lot of rotations between Sanders, Boston Scott, and rookie Kenneth Gainwell. On top of that, the Falcons also were one of the toughest matchups for opposing running backs last season, giving up the sixth-fewest fantasy points (17.92) in half-PPR leagues. Between the less-than-stellar matchup and questions about Sanders’ role in the offense, I’m going to shy away to start the season.
Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em Week 16 WR’s
Bengals vs. Vikings
ESPN Starting Percentage: 48.5%
From weeks three to 10 last season, Higgins saw at least seven targets and had 75+ receiving yards and/or a touchdown in all but one game. He was on a torrid pace as he was gelling with fellow rookie Joe Burrow. When Burrow suffered his season-ending knee injury in Week 11, Higgins still had a solid rest of the season but nothing like what it was with Burrow under center. Now that he is back, Higgins’ 2021 outlook is strong even with the addition of Ja’Marr Chase at wide receiver. He should operate as a top-two/three target in an offense that will be in plenty of pass-heavy situations. He also is facing a Vikings defense that gave up the fifth-most fantasy points (34.43) to opposing wide receivers last year. Higgins should easily be able to return top-24 numbers in week one and throughout the season.
Panthers vs. Jets
ESPN Starting Percentage: 41.5%
As a disclaimer, yes, I am a believer in #RevengeGame for Anderson. As one of several former Jets players under Adam Gase’s coaching, Anderson has flourished ever since signing with the Panthers. He is now reunited with his former teammate Sam Darnold, with whom Anderson was starting to develop strong chemistry prior to his departure. While Christian McCaffrey is back in the fold and will understandably see a lot of targets, the potential downgrade there offsets the departure of Curtis Samuel in the Panthers’ offense. Plus, Anderson is due for positive touchdown regression after scoring only three last season. The Jets defense as a whole shouldn’t be expected to put up much of a fight, especially with their lackluster secondary. Anderson should be in for a big game.
Steelers vs. Bills
ESPN Starting Percentage: 45.1%
So this is a little bit of a rule bend but the truth is, there isn’t a lot of poor matchups for the top wide receivers in week one. Smith-Schuster has a lot of questions surrounding him this season after he somewhat surprisingly chose to re-sign with the Steelers in the offseason. Fellow standout wide receivers Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson have much higher ceilings and the team has indicated they want to become more balanced after drafting running back Najee Harris in the first round of this past NFL Draft. He also has the Bills on tap for week one, who gave up the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers last season. I’d resist playing him this weekend with so many questions surrounding this offense.
Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em Week 16 TE’s
Rams vs. Bears
ESPN Starting Percentage: 23.5%
The entire Rams offense got a big bump in value this offseason when they traded away quarterback Jared Goff and acquired Matthew Stafford. He is viewed as a much better overall quarterback than Goff and we could finally see the Rams perform closer to their 2018-2019 record-setting season. After Cam Akers’ season-ending injury, the offense can be expected to rely a little bit more on the passing game despite having a very capable back-up in Darrell Henderson. Outside of the wide receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, the Rams have questions on who else could be featured in their offense. Higbee looks primed to be a featured option with a better quarterback. Along with that, he has a plus matchup against the Bears in week one, who gave up the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends (12.95) last season. Higbee can easily be viewed as a top-eight to 12 option to start the season.
Packers vs. Saints
ESPN Starting Percentage: 54.6%
Tonyan came out of nowhere last season to finish as a top-five tight end in fantasy. It didn’t hurt that he had the NFL MVP in Aaron Rodgers throwing to him but this was a true breakout season for Tonyan. He finished with 11 touchdown receptions on only 59 targets, which has him primed for negative regression this year. Despite that, Tonyan appears set-up to be a featured option in this high-powered Packers’ offense. So even if he won’t have an 11-touchdown season, he could be a top-three option in a passing offense that can put up a lot of points. He also faces a Saints defense that still gave up over 10 points per game to opposing tight ends last season in fantasy. Tonyan may have a little more volatility with him but he has an extremely high ceiling at such a shallow position.
Broncos vs. Giants
ESPN Starting Percentage: 61.2%
Fant had a strong 2020 season with 62 receptions and 673 yards but only three touchdowns. However, he is due for some regression as Courtland Sutton is back after suffering a season-ending injury early last season. On top of that, the Broncos may be leaning more towards a run-heavy offense after trading up to select Javonte Williams in the second round of this past NFL Draft. With Sutton back in the mix along with second-year wideout Jerry Jeudy, Fant is a candidate for negative target regression especially with Teddy Bridgewater under center. Bridgewater’s style of the play may not be as conducive as Drew Lock’s and could benefit someone like Jeudy more. Fant also has a tough matchup against the Giants, who gave up the 11th fewest fantasy points per game last season to opposing tight ends. In addition, Fant is coming into this game less than 100% as he has been nursing a leg injury as well.
Doug Moore is a fantasy football writer for Gridiron Experts. He has previously written for sites such as ESPN, SBNation, FFToday & Inside The Pylon. He also was the co-host for the highly-rated fantasy football podcast Overtime Ireland for several years. You can find him on Twitter at @DMooreNFL