Fantasy Football 2021: Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em: Week 1

Written by Mikey OstrowskiI

FOOTBALL. IS. BACK!!! I don’t know about you, but words cannot express the excitement that I am feeling right now. It was almost surreal waking up this morning and starting this article because it feels like it’s been forever since I’ve gotten the opportunity to write a Start/Sit article.

With the off-season behind us and our fantasy drafts all over, it’s time to focus on the real thing and figure out who the hell we want to start every single week. While I sincerely hope this answers at least a few questions you may be having, feel free to reach out to us on Twitter (@loadedbox) with those start/sit questions ahead of game time each week and we’ll do our best to solve that dilemma you’re having!

Season-Long Record: 0-0 (100%) on Start Ems, 0-0 (100%) on Sit Ems

*All season long, I will be keeping track of all of the starts/sits I get correct. I like to keep myself honest here…*

Quarterbacks:

Start of the Week: Jalen Hurts vs ATL

Philadelphia QB Jalen Hurts lists Alabama attributes for reporters - al.com

Hurts offers fantastic rushing upside on a weekly basis, but will also get an incredibly easy matchup against Atlanta in week one. Last year, the Falcons allowed the most passing yards and I’d imagine they’ll allow a similar statistic again in 2021. There are a lot of questions surrounding the Eagles, but we know that Hurts’ upside against a terrible defense is unquestioned. There are definitely safer options out there this week, but Hurts has potential to be a top-3 QB for week one.

Start: Ryan Tannehill vs ARI

I’m a big believer in Tannehill and think that he’s going to be well within the top-10 at the position in 2021. He gets Arizona in week one, a team with a very unproven secondary in what should be a total shootout. Derrick Henry will obviously get his, but Tannehill will be relied on heavily to make sure this back-and-forth game remains in favor of the Titans. Tannehill also enters this season with arguably the league’s best receiver duo, which should only help him to improve his numbers (both in the air and on the ground).

Start: Sam Darnold vs NYJ

You have to have balls of steel if you’re going to start Darnold in week one, but I think it could have a huge payout. Is it risky? Absolutely, but it’s the revenge game! Darnold is facing off against his former team in his first ever game as a Carolina Panther. He’s going to go out there and show the Jets that if they had given him a supporting cast he could’ve been something special for them. Darnold’s supporting cast in Carolina may be one of the best units in the league… if he can’t succeed this year, then he’ll never succeed. However, I do think he’s going to have a great year and a fantastic week one.

Start: Trevor Lawrence vs HOU

There are no questions when it comes to Lawrence and there are certainly no questions about how bad the Texans are going to be this year. The only red flag is the coaching for Jacksonville, but even Urban Meyer can’t mess this one up. Lawrence is in line to have one of the best week one rookie debuts in history due to the absolute perfection of the matchup. Most of us did not draft Lawrence as our QB1 this year, but I think he’s a top-10 play for week one.

Sit of the Week: Joe Burrow vs MIN

Joe Burrow sees first game-action since knee injury in preseason finale

The Vikings aren’t the worst matchup, but it could be much better for Burrow. Between Ja’Marr Chase having a rough pre-season, question marks at the offensive line and Burrow showing hesitation in high-pressure situations over the last month, there are just too many red flags right now. I don’t have very much confidence in Burrow as a fantasy starter at the moment and I think it’s going to take a few good games before my stance changes.

Sit: Jameis Winston vs GB

Green Bay’s secondary is a tough one for Winston to open the season against. Not only that, but Winston doesn’t have very many options to throw the ball to. Michael Thomas is out for the first stretch of the season and we have still received no updates on Adam Trautman. While I think Wisnton will have plenty of QB1 weeks, there are just too many uncertainties surrounding him (and all Saints players not named Alvin Kamara) to warrant any desire to start him in week one.

Sit: Carson Wentz vs SEA

Wentz is coming off of injury as well as the COVID list. He hasn’t had a ton of practice with his new team and will draw a tougher than average matchup with Seattle. Add in the fact that T.Y. Hilton is out with injury and it creates a situation that you’re going to want to avoid at the start of the season. I highly doubt anyone drafted Wentz as their QB1, so you likely have a better option anyway, but I wouldn’t take any risks with him this week.

Sit: Ben Roethlisberger vs BUF

Big Ben is a big bounce-back candidate for 2021, but I don’t think we’re going to see anything special from him in week one. In fact, I think this game as a whole will be much lower scoring than many of us are expecting. Both of these defenses are great and have the capabilities to take over the game, and I think that’s what’s going to happen. Given the fact that Ben has no rushing upside, he’s not a guy I’d be very excited to slot in this week. The weapons around him could make him a fringe starter in 2QB leagues but I wouldn’t be excited about it this week.

Running Backs:

Start of the Week: James Robinson vs HOU

James Robinson the latest example of NFL running backs not mattering

We’re really doubling down on the whole “Houston is going to be abysmal” thing but I don’t think anyone could argue with it. Robinson enters 2021 coming off of a tremendous rookie season and I believe he’s only going to build off of it with Travis Etienne out for the entire year. Sure, we have to worry about Carlos Hyde, but I don’t think he’ll take very many significant snaps away from Robinson. Robinson was a top-5 running back for fantasy last year, and given the improved offense around him… well, a top-5 finish is still in the realm of possibilities. I’d expect week one to be a bloodbath with Robinson putting up the most fantasy points for either team.

Start: Chase Edmonds vs TEN

I am a firm believer that Edmonds can finish as a top-15 running back in PPR leagues, and what better way to get the campaign started than with a shootout with the Tennessee Titans? Last year, Edmonds was a low-end RB2 while competing with Kenyan Drake, but now he’ll be handed the reins. Sure, he’s got James Conner on his heels, but Edmonds has the full confidence of the coaches and all signs point toward him having the majority role in this offense. It’s also worth mentioning that Edmonds should be heavily used in high-scoring games as well as whenever the Cardinals are trailing, which could match the game script perfectly against Tennessee. I’m all in on Edmonds and am making sure he’s in all of my lineups this week.

Start: Gus Edwards vs LV

The Gus Bus has left the station (I bet you’ve read that a hundred times already this week)! Seriously though, Edwards has virtually no competition with both JK Dobbins and Justice Hill out for the year and should be called on early and often against the Raiders, a team that is well below average against the run. Edwards should be awesome in the red zone and should handle 15+ carries on a near-weekly basis and the Raiders are a fantastic team for Baltimore to start building his confidence as the starter. At the very least, he’s going to be a volume-based, top-20 RB this week. His PPR upside is limited, but I see no reason as to why he can’t escape week one with 75+ scrimmage yards and a touchdown.

Start: Raheem Mostert vs DET

I don’t know how long it’ll take for Trey Sermon to carve out a big role on this offense, but I don’t think it’s going to come in week one, which is why I’ll happily start Mostert against the Lions (who were a top-3 easiest matchup for running backs in 2020). This is a game that the Niners should have in the bag fairly early, which means that responsibility is going to fall on the running backs to run the clock out. Mostert should see 12-16 attempts and should find himself with at least a couple of targets by the end of the game. The exciting thing about Mostert is his big-play ability. It seems like he’s good for a 50+ yard touchdown every other game and I think Detroit presents a juicy opportunity for one of those runs from him. Keep in mind that Mostert is quite literally the fastest player in the national football league… if he blows by the Lions front line (and he will at least a few times) there’s a good chance that he’s going for six.

Sit of the Week: Darrell Henderson vs CHI

Darrell Henderson's emergence gives Rams plenty to think about at RB

I just don’t want to play Henderson this week. We don’t know what his workload will look like against a tough defense and we won’t know how much work Sony Michel is going to take. I can also see them leaning heavily on Matthew Stafford this week since he has a proven track record against the Bears. Chicago is a matchup that I won’t like for most running backs this season, and Henderson is the first one to fall victim. Too many uncertainties for me to slot him in my lineup this week.

Sit: Devin Singletary vs PIT

You can substitute this with Zack Moss if you’d like, but Pittsburgh is another matchup that I won’t be excited to use a running back against. Not only is the matchup bad, but the workload is a massive question mark. Is Singletary going to lead the charge? Is Moss going to be the guy? Is Josh Allen just going to continue taking flight and dominating the ground game for Buffalo? I have no idea, but I do know one thing: I’m not nearly desperate enough in any of my leagues already to be starting Singletary.

Sit: Josh Jacobs vs BAL

Jacobs was a hard-fade for me when the Raiders went out and signed Kenyan Drake and I’m going to be sitting him this week (just kidding, I didn’t draft him in a single league, BUT I would be sitting him if I had him). This is another perfect storm. What’s the workload? The matchup sucks, the offense sucks… Even if Jacobs sees 18+ carries, the Ravens can get away with stacking the box. Combine that with Jacobs’ lack of involvement in the passing game and it’s just something that doesn’t entice me. Maybe he’ll prove me wrong, but I doubt it. Jon Gruden does not care about your fantasy team.

Sit: Javonte Williams vs NYG

Ugh, man this hurts, but it’s just too early. I’m a big fan of Williams, but I think this backfield still belongs to Melvin Gordon. It’s tough to imagine Williams having more than a 30% share of this backfield in week one despite a not-so tough opponent. I think Javonte will be well-worth-it wherever you drafted him, but I don’t think the breakout is coming in week one. I’d say Gordon is a low-end RB2 or flex play, while Williams is a “as desperate as they come” boom/bust option. I can’t see Williams receiving more than 6-8 total touches in this one and that’s not something that grabs my interest.

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Wide Receivers:

Start of the Week: Robby Anderson vs NYJ

Inside the Panthers: Robby Anderson is back and sees something different in  Sam Darnold – The Athletic

Maybe I’m riding the revenge game too much… NAHHHH. Anderson and Darnold are going to have themselves a GAME against their former team. Honestly, I had originally put DJ Moore here, but I figure with how high up you drafted him, you didn’t need me to tell you to start him against the Jets. Anyway, Anderson was a pleasant surprise last year and should continue to thrive in Carolina, especially after signing a contract extension to keep him around. He’s going to be leaned on heavily this season and there’s going to be an extra play or two drawn up in week one to get him in the endzone against his former team.

Start: Jerry Jeudy vs NYG

Jeudy’s breakout year is going to begin in week one and I am VERY excited. Think about it: the matchup is good, Teddy Bridgewaters skillset is going to work perfectly for Jeudy and he’s just too damn talented not to finally put it all together and show something great on the football field. Jeudy had an excellent camp and should factor in as Denver’s #1 option, even with Courtland Sutton around. Those who still believe in Jeudy are going to be rewarded this season, hell, they’re going to be rewarded this week!

Start: Deebo Samuel vs DET

I feel like Deebo has been incredibly slept-on this off-season. Whether it be the Brandon Aiyuk hype or the chorus singing for a healthy George Kittle, there’s been a constant distraction from Deebo. Honestly, Deebo is my most-drafted 49er this year because he may have the same upside as Aiyuk but was half of the cost. Samuel has shown success in the past and will have plenty of plays drawn up specifically for him. While he may see less targets than Aiyuk and Kittle, he’ll also be third on the pecking order for opposing defenses to worry about. I don’t know if you know this or not, but the Lions are a very bad team. Deebo is going to slip by the blown coverage time and time again in this one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the highest-scoring pass catcher between San Francisco and Detroit this week. He’s an incredible play at WR3/Flex against the Lions.

Start: Brandin Cooks vs JAX

Tyrod Taylor is a risky guy to bank on, but I think we can get away with it if Cooks is involved. Seriously, even if Taylor only throws the ball 20 times all game, Cooks is probably seeing 10 targets minimum. The only other receiving options are Anthony Miller and Chris Conley… I know, gross. You know how we say some running backs are “volume-based RB2s”? Well, Cooks could very well be a volume-based WR3 or even WR2 in a lot of games this season. The Jaguars aren’t overly talented on the defensive side of the ball, and while I don’t think there’s a ton of touchdown upside for Cooks, I don’t see why he can’t post a 7 or 8 catch game against them. You could do a lot worse than Cooks in PPR leagues this week.

Sit of the Week: Marquez Callaway vs GB

Chad Ochocino compares Saints' Marquez Callaway to Giants' Victor Cruz

I know you hate me for saying this, but someone has to. Callaway is the only receiver that has any sort of buzz around him for the Saints, which means that he’s going to get the veteran treatment from Jaire Alexander which means that he’s going to be rendered next to useless. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger, I know we want the guy to succeed, but it ain’t happening in week one against Green Bay. Bury the hype a bit and keep him on your bench.

Sit: JuJu Smith-Schuster vs BUF

Big Ben is a sit for me this week, which means I have a tough time believing that he’ll be able to support three fantasy-relevant receivers in this one. For me, JuJu is the odd man out against Buffalo. He just hasn’t been amazing for fantasy over the last couple of years, so unless the matchup is a positive one, I won’t be thrilled to start him in many games. JuJu is likely your WR3 at best so I’m sure there’s gotta be an alternative for you.

Sit: Ja’Marr Chase vs MIN

Chase was well within the “over hyped” category and then did a complete 180 and had his fantasy stock plummet right before draft season (the PERFECT time). Anyway, even with his ADP falling a ton in August, he was still being drafted as a WR3, which means you may be banking on him as your starter in week one. If you have a better, safer option, I’d take it. Chase couldn’t hold on to the ball in the pre-season and in camp and it’s going to be tough to trust him in his first ever NFL game. It’s also worth mentioning that my hesitancy with Burrow is an influence here… it’s just a situation that I don’t want to risk in the first week. I do have to disclose that it’s very possible that Chase has a great game, but I’m taking the safe approach here and treating him as a boom/bust player until he can prove himself on a consistent basis. It’s only week one, so you likely won’t be finding yourself in a situation where you have to play a high-risk/high-reward player like Chase.

Sit: Curtis Samuel vs LAC

Samuel hasn’t had a lot of practice time lately, and while I think he’s going to be great in Washington, I’d temper expectations in week one. This could be a very defensive battle, which means that the touchdown upside for all players is going to be limited (not that Samuel has ever been a big red-zone target anyway). At best, Samuel will likely be Washington’s third-most targeted player in week one and that just doesn’t excite me in a game that I think will be fairly low-scoring.

Tight Ends:

Start of the Week: Tyler Higbee vs CHI

Tyler Higbee to be game-time decision for Rams vs. 49ers

Higbee is my personal favorite “C-Tier” tight end this year and I love the matchup against the Bears. That defensive line is going to be going after Stafford early and often, which means that a handful of quick plays should be drawn up for Higbee. Higbee is also one hell of a red-zone target, and with Cam Akers out for the year, I think he’s going to be the go-to guy in the middle of the field in all short-down situations. With the upgrade at quarterback and the departure of Gerald Everett, it’s very possible that Higbee inserts himself into the same conversation as TJ Hockenson, Mark Andrews and Kyle Pitts.

Start: Logan Thomas vs LAC

Remember when I said Samuel likely would be the third-most targeted Football Team player? Well, that’s because I think Thomas is going to be ahead of him in the pecking order. They recently extended him on a nice contract, which means he’s firmly in their offensive plans moving forward. He was the TE3 overall in 2020 and there’s no reason to believe that he won’t remain within the top-10 at the position. The Chargers are a tough matchup, but that could be a very good thing for the tight end.

Start: Zach Ertz vs ATL

Before you ask: yes, I’m starting him over Dallas Goedert. Ertz is only one season removed from FOUR consecutive top-5 finishes at the TE position in fantasy. I’m chalking 2020 up as a total dud for the entire Eagles’ organization, but I think they’ll be looking like a real football team again in 2021. While I don’t think Ertz will be a top-5 TE this season, I think he’s going to offer major streaming appeal in plus-matchups. Atlanta is one of the most plus-matchups that I can think of and I’d put Ertz firmly in my top-10 tight ends for week one. If he’s still on your waivers, you’re going to want to grab him because he is going to have a ton of value after week one is over.

Start: Rob Gronkowski vs DAL

Want a prop bet? Gronk is going to be the first touchdown scorer of the NFL season. The volume with Gronk isn’t there with Tampa, but he’s as sure of a bet as anyone to find the endzone in this one. I could see a stat line of around 3-35-1 as a realistic possibility for Gronk against the Cowboys, and I’d gladly take 12.5 points from my tight end.

Sit of the Week: Austin Hooper vs KC

Austin Hooper fantasy football start/sit advice: What to do with Browns TE  in the Wild Card round - DraftKings Nation

I’m not sure how many people are still chasing Hooper’s days as a Falcon, but I’m here to tell you to stop it. Hooper is buried on the depth chart. Sure, he’s the TE1 there, but there’s at least three receivers and one running back that will receive more targets than him this season. A game against Kansas City is going to force the Browns to bring their A-game, and Hooper just doesn’t seem like the type of guy that they’ll call on during crucial moments in the game. Like I said, I don’t know how many people were planning to start him, but it’s tough to find relevant TEs as sits for week one. Regardless, Hooper is my biggest semi-relevant fade for the week at tight end.

Sit: Hunter Henry vs MIA

Henry is on track to play in week one, but I wouldn’t trust him just yet. He hasn’t had a chance to gain a rapport with Mac Jones and I don’t want to bank on that magically clicking in the first game of the season. Not only that, but I also just don’t want to bank on a rookie quarterback for my receiver options in fantasy anyway (at least for week one). Jones and Henry will develop a nice connection at some point this season, but it’s far too risky to start (either one of them) against Miami this weekend.

Sit: Noah Fant vs NYG

Fant is coming back from injury and should likely be ready to go for week one, but this Denver offense is so unproven right now that I’m afraid to touch it (with the exception of Jeudy mentioned above). It’s tough because Fant was being drafted as a top-8 TE in many leagues, but I think there are going to be better options in week one. Like I said with Henry, I’d like to see Fant gain a rapport with his new quarterback before I’d feel comfortable slotting him into my lineup.

Sit: Anthony Firkser vs ARI

Firkser gained a decent amount of hype after Jonnu Smith left, but hasn’t really been talked about much since the Titans brought in Julio. Admittedly, Firkser is owned in less than 20% of leagues out there, so I’m not sure who this is helping… it’s just really, really difficult to name relevant week-one tight ends that you shouldn’t start since all of our TEs are healthy at the moment *knock on wood*. While I think that this game is going to be a shootout, I just don’t see Firkser being targeted enough to be relevant. You can pass on him.

Be sure to check out the latest episode of the Loaded Box Podcast as we provide our 2021 NFL season predictions and our favorite over/under win total bets!

Mikey Ostrowski is a blogger for the Loaded Box Podcast. Check out his article archive and find more from the Loaded Box on Twitter & Facebook

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