We’re back! Welcome to Week 1 start/sit. In this weekly column, Graham Barfield and Scott Barrett will highlight some of their favorite plays of the week and try to point out the plays you should avoid from shallow (10-teams) to deep (12- and 14-team) leagues. As always, check out our site projections for more context behind the best plays.
Start: Carson Wentz at Washington
The Eagles reshuffled offensive line may have trouble at times against Washington’s strong front-seven, but Wentz and the Eagles passing attack should still be able to take advantage of a weak secondary. Washington is replacing two starters at cornerback with former-Eagle Ronald Darby and former-Chief slot man Kendall Fuller a year after getting absolutely torched through the air in 2019. Fuller has been dealing with an injury and hasn’t practiced much at all, either. Washington allowed the third-highest passer rating and touchdown rate in the NFL last year and Wentz took advantage in his two meetings against them -- putting up 25.0 and 21.5 fantasy points.
Sit: Aaron Rodgers at Vikings
Rodgers has been a hollow mid-range QB2 for two years now and gets a tough road draw in Minnesota to get his 2020 campaign started. The Vikings overhauled half of their defense this offseason, adding DE Yannick Ngakoue and a brand new cornerback rotation that will feature 31st overall pick Cameron Dantzler. Even though there are a lot of new pieces here, shedding Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes after their terrible 2019 seasons may end up being a good thing. The Vikings defense has also done a good job at limiting Rodgers over the last few years, holding him to fewer than 16 fantasy points in four-straight meetings.
Sit: Daniel Jones vs. Steelers
Jones’ opening slate of games is absolutely brutal. After dealing with the Steelers this week, the Giants then have to go on the road and face the Bears in Week 2 followed up by the 49ers in Week 3. Unless you play in a Superflex league, you probably won’t feel comfortable dialing up Jones in your lineups until Week 4. If you play in a league with short benches and want to stash some depth -- I would probably send Jones to the waiver wire if you drafted him late as your QB2. There is just no way you can feel confident in starting him this week. After trading for S Minkah Fitzpatrick after Week 2 last year, the Steelers allowed just 10.9 fantasy points and 194.5 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks. Both of those figures would have been second-fewest in the NFL in 2019. We have Jones buried at QB19 in our Week 1 projections.
Start: Jared Goff vs. Cowboys
Cowboys-Rams is one of the premier games for fantasy in Week 1 as both offenses should dictate the flow of the game. This matchup features the second-highest over/under (51) on the slate and two offenses that ranked 2nd and 3rd in pace (seconds in between plays) last season. You’re going to want to start all of your pieces on both sides of the ball here, but Goff looks like a fantastic low-end QB1 play in particular. Dallas will be a team we want to target all season long because their offense will force opposing teams to play fast and keep up the scoring pace while the Cowboys secondary could struggle. Without Byron Jones, Dallas’ pass defense should take a step back after finishing middle of the pack in FootballOutsiders’ DVOA metrics last year (16th). Goff has also been much more productive when the Rams are forced to throw more in his career, averaging 21.5 fantasy points per game when L.A. are underdogs and 15.4 FPG when the Rams are favored to win. Dallas is currently installed as a field-goal favorite on SNF.
Start: Tyrod Taylor vs. Bengals
Hopefully, you don’t need a streamer already but if you do, Taylor makes a ton of sense. The Bengals gave up some monster rushing performances to QBs last year, allowing Lamar Jackson (19/152/1 and 7/65/1), Josh Allen (9/46), Kyler Murray (10/93/1), and Gardner Minshew (9/48) to all have success scrambling. In his three years as the Bills starter, Taylor averaged 35.8 rushing yards per game and was a top-10 QB in points per game in both 2015 and 2016.
Sit: Baker Mayfield at Ravens
Like Daniel Jones, Mayfield is a no-go for Week 1. We’ll see how much the loss of Earl Thomas impacts this secondary, but the Ravens are still running it back with all three of their CBs returning from 2019. Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey, and Jimmy Smith held opposing passers to the second-fewest fantasy points per game last year and only Patrick Mahomes eclipsed 16 fantasy points against them.
Start: James Conner at Giants
Before a shoulder injury cost him the second half of the season last year, Conner was on pace to finish as a top-12 back in fantasy. From Week 1-9, Conner was the RB8 in fantasy points per game and was still basically the same every-down workhorse, playing on 65% of Steelers’ snaps. HC Mike Tomlin called Conner the Steelers’ “bell-cow back” on Tuesday this week and obviously has a long history of preferring a clear cut lead runner. With Anthony McFarland having a completely quiet camp and Benny Snell as the only threat to take early-down work, Conner is locked in for 16-20 touches against the Giants.
Sit: Jonathan Taylor at Jaguars
How HC Frank Reich distributes his running backs touches in Week 1 will be one of the biggest storylines to watch. Reich has been saying all offseason that this will be a three-man rotation between Taylor, Marlon Mack, and Nyheim Hines and he’s repeated all summer that Mack is still the “starter.” I’m not sure how long Reich will be able to hold Taylor back, but the rookie does have a low floor at least for Week 1. In shallow Shallow leagues, you likely have better options at wide receiver for your FLEX spot than Taylor. We have Mack (RB21) ranked slightly ahead of Taylor (RB25) this week. On the flip side, if you drafted Mack late, you likely won’t have a better opportunity to start him than right now. The Jags’ had the worst run defense in the NFL last year and they won’t be much better in 2020. Mack ripped Jacksonville for 14/109/1 and 15/77/2 in two meetings last season.
Start: Antonio Gibson vs. Eagles
At only $4,000 on DraftKings, Gibson figures to be one of the chalkiest DFS plays of the entire season this week and for good reason. With basically no other pass catchers other than Terry McLaurin and Steven Sims, Gibson enters Week 1 as Washington’s No. 3 target in their passing game at worst. After being released, Adrian Peterson called Gibson“one hell of a talent” and that Washington drafted him to eventually be the“main guy”. Peyton Barber and J.D. McKissic both figure to have roles early on but all Gibson needs is 3-4 catches to make sense as a FLEX play for Week 1.
Sit: All Buccaneers backs
This is low hanging fruit but still the right call. Tampa’s backfield was a gross 3-man committee last year after Ronald Jones failed to break away and now Leonard Fournette figures to be the lead back at some point soon. Look, I don’t trust anything HC Bruce Arians says about how he’ll use his backs and we are simply flying blind about he’ll use them in the opener. Plus, this is not a good matchup for Tampa’s run game. Last year, New Orleans allowed the third-fewest yards per game and the fourth-lowest success rate to opposing ball carriers. We have Jones (RB34) and Fournette (RB40) buried in our Week 1 projections.
Start: D.J. Chark vs. Colts
As 7.5-point underdogs, the Jaguars should have to throw a ton to keep up with the Colts scoring. Especially now that Leonard Fournette is gone, OC Jay Gruden won’t be afraid to let Gardner Minshew throw it. Before hurting his ankle last year, Chark was getting true WR1 usage. In Week 1-14, Chark saw team-highs in target share (24%) and air yards (35%) in Minshew’s starts. Both figures would have been top-12 among WRs. Chark was particularly game script dependent last year, too, as he averaged 16.2 PPR points per game in the Jags’ losses but 12.7 FPG in their wins.
Sit: DeVante Parker at Patriots
Bill Belichick is one of the few coaches that lets his cornerbacks travel with opposing wide receivers across the formation and Stephon Gillmore will follow Parker this week. Last year, Parker had two polar opposite performances against the Patriots -- putting up a 0/0 donut on 7 targets in Week 2 and then he dropped 8/137 in the final game of the year. Still, this is a no-brainer matchup to avoid and you likely have enough WR depth to avoid Parker in lineup decisions this week.
Start: DeSean Jackson at Washington
You likely drafted D-Jax as your WR4 or WR5, but he should be in your lineup as a high-ceiling WR3 play where ever you have him for the opener. With Jalen Reagor (shoulder) likely out and Alshon Jeffery coming back off a foot injury, the Eagles will need to rely on Jackson early this year. And luckily for us, this is a perfect matchup for him to exploit. Washington allowed the 11th-most PPR points to boundary receivers last year and the 9th-most explosive plays in the passing game last year. There is no way Fabian Moreau or Ronald Darby can keep up with D-Jax deep. As our own Wes Huber noted, Moreau, Darby, and Fuller are all massive liabilities in coverage.
Start: Diontae Johnson at Giants
The Giants’ secondary is completely overmatched by all of the Steelers pass catchers but Johnson is in a great matchup in particular. He’ll mainly see former-Bronco Issac Yiadom in coverage, who struggled badly in Denver last year and allowed the 19th-most yards per route run among 93 qualified cornerbacks last year. Johnson battled through a calf injury in all of camp but is now healthy and drawing rave reviews from Ben Roethlisberger. This week, Big Ben said of Johnson, “the sky’s the limit in terms of actual talent with that guy. He’s fast, he’s quick, he can get open, and he’s got great hands.” Wheel’s up.
Start: Hayden Hurst vs. Seahawks
Jamal Adams’ addition will certainly help what was a bad secondary last year, but this is still a soft opening draw for the Falcons new tight end. Last year, only the Cardinals (19.5) allowed more fantasy points per game to tight ends than the Seahawks (15.2). Seattle also allowed the second-most yards (68.7) to the position. Since Atlanta doesn’t have a No. 3 target behind Jones and Ridley, Hurst is a lock for 5-7 targets in what should be a high-scoring game in Atlanta’s dome.
Sit: Rob Gronkowski at Saints
With such a limited offseason and training camp, some veterans will be put on snap counts until they get back into game shape. Gronk is very likely one of those players. Sure, the snaps he sees will be high leverage -- third downs and red-zone -- but Gronk’s Week 1 floor is fairly low. It also doesn’t help that the Saints allowed the 10th-fewest PPR points to tight ends last year. We have Gronk at just TE16 in our projections.
Start: Chris Herndon at Bills
The Bills were a brutal matchup for tight ends last season -- they allowed the third-fewest yards per game to the position -- but the Jets really don’t have many options in their passing attack other than Herndon and Jamison Crowder. Darnold and Herndon have seemingly picked up right where they left off in 2018 according to camp reports, too. Both Breshad Perriman (knee) and Denzel Mims (hamstring) returned to practice on Wednesday, but both wideouts missed a ton of time. Herndon could be No. 2 in targets for New York on Sunday and is only $3,300 on DraftKings.
Sit: Austin Hooper at Ravens
After going from Atlanta to Cleveland, one of the main concerns over Hooper this year is volume. The Falcons were one of the most pass-heavy teams in the league last season, but Browns new HC Kevin Stefanski should lean heavily on the run. Last year, Stefanski’s Vikings ran the ball 46% of the time in neutral situations (game within 7 points), which was the eighth-highest rate in the NFL. With Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry ahead of him on the target totem pole, Hooper’s ceiling isn’t very high. And, in this bad matchup -- Baltimore allowed the 2nd-fewest yards per game to tight ends last year -- Hooper didn’t come close to making our top-15 tight ends for Week 1.