Football is back, and we all couldn’t be happier. Well, maybe not our significant others, who will now lose us for the next four months. This is a PSA to play fantasy football with your partner!
This is a special time of year. We still have hope. Our guys are THE guys, and we are on our way to fantasy football glory.
Your team will inevitably lose and suffer injuries and make you question everything, but let me offer some hope by way of the new epic, The Rings of Power, on Amazon. There is a sequence when young Galadriel speaks with her older brother Finrod, seeking his counsel. She asks, “How am I to know which lights to follow?” Finrod responds, “Sometimes we cannot know until we have touched the darkness.”
It really is that simple. We need the bad things to happen in life to understand and appreciate the good. This applies to fantasy football as well. We will need our team to change and become different in order to reach any sort of success. So keep that in mind as we move through the season when you face adversity early on.
For this article, I am using the FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings to bring you players in ranges where the start/sit conundrums exist. Your RB2, WR3, and FLEX positions. Here are the ranges in which I will try to live when writing this column each week:
QB ECR: 10-20 | RB ECR: 20-40 | WR ECR: 20-40 | TE ECR: 10-20
With that, I will bring you my confidence plays and fades for this week. My goal here is to give you plays and fades beyond just your obvious studs & duds. Good luck!
Week 1 Fantasy Football Starts and Sits
QB Derek Carr, ECR QB#13, @LAC
I want to keep it simple with Carr. For the first time in his career, I feel confident with Carr as a QB1 in most formats. He has added his former best friend and all-world wide receiver, Davante Adams, to a pass-catching corps that already included Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller. This week, Carr gets the Los Angeles Chargers in a projected shootout that sportsbooks see as a top-5 over/under. Pair all that with the fact that Carr has two or more touchdowns in three of his last four against the Chargers, and I like his odds to have a strong performance.
RB Melvin Gordon, ECR RB#36, @SEA
The Melvin Gordon/Javonte Williams split was one of the most contentious debates in fantasy football this off-season. Regardless of which side you landed on, Gordon was a solid investment based on ADP. I like his outlook against a Seattle defense that was the second-worst team against the running back position in 2021, ahead of only the Jets.
Denver projects as heavy road favorites in this Russell Wilson “revenge game.” Even if it is more of a 60/40 split for Williams and Gordon, Seattle gave up 26 fantasy points per game to the RB position in PPR formats last season. As a result, I am very interested in Gordon this week.
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, ECR RB#25, @ARI
Between all the beat writers projecting that Ronald Jones would be cut and the excessive hype on Isiah Pacheco, one thing remained abundantly clear to me in the Chiefs running back room: C.E.H. is still the guy. I imagine he will be given every opportunity to show that he has what it takes to lead this backfield, to start the year at least. Given his injury history and never returning his value on our lofty expectations since entering the league, Edwards-Helaire is primed for a strong 2022.
With Tyreek Hill’s exit and a reworked offensive line, C.E.H. could be a focus of this Chiefs attack starting as early as this week. The Chiefs have the highest team implied total in Week 1 with 29 points. They face a Cardinals defense that just last year gave up over five catches and nearly 40 yards per game on average to running backs. So look for Clyde and the Chiefs to start strong.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, ECR WR#28, @ARI
As I mentioned, the Chiefs are looking to replace Tyreek Hill’s production in this passing attack. Although it will likely be a committee approach, JuJu is a fine bet to be the WR1. More importantly, I can see him doing so as soon as Sunday against the Cardinals. Smith-Schuster recently told the media his knee issue is finally behind him. He is ready to rock against a Cardinals squad that surrendered the fifth-most points to wide receivers last season.
WR Brandon Aiyuk, ECR WR#38, @CHI
Lost in all the Jimmy G/Trey Lance bay-area drama from this offseason is just how good Brandon Aiyuk has been playing this offseason compared to last. It shouldn’t be too surprising given his strong finish to last year, scoring 12 or more PPR points in five of his previous seven games.
Reports have been fewer and further between the quarterback “controversy,” but they have been there. I also like that PFF projects Aiyuk to run most of his snaps against the Bears’ corner Jaylon Johnson who PFF labels as an excellent matchup for Aiyuk as Johnson has surrendered 1.11 yards per route run during his career. Also, reports are not good for George Kittle this week. A groin injury could cause him to miss Sunday’s action, giving me even more confidence in Aiyuk.
TE David Njoku, ECR TE#15, @CLE
This may honestly be my biggest “gamble” of the crop of players this week, but realistically that is what late-round and streaming tight ends are — a gamble. I love that Njoku is super athletic and that Cleveland gave him the bag this off-season. I see him as a decent contender to lead this team in targets, with Jacoby Brissett locked in at starter for 11 games this year. Of the tight ends in this range of the rankings, I am fine with Njoku’s upside against the Panthers.
If you have more Start Sit questions, join us tomorrow at 11 AM EST on Start Sit, Different Day. We spend an hour doing nothing but answering your most pressing lineup questions!
QB Justin Fields, ECR QB#19, vs SF
I think Fields could make me look silly this week and this year, for that matter. I just don’t trust him. Chicago will deploy a brand new offense with a brand new play-caller. They will also face what some call an elite defense in the San Francisco 49ers. Last season the 49ers gave up the eighth-fewest passing touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks. You likely drafted Fields with another quarterback. If you did, you should consider the other guy in Week 1.
Can’t start Justin Fields? Better check out our Streams of the Week!
RB Cordarelle Patterson, ECR RB#27, vs NO
Given Patterson’s ADP, I thought he was a good pick in most formats coming into 2022. However, I am not keen on his first matchup. C-Patt and the Falcons will host a Saints defense that allowed the fewest points to the running back position last year. We don’t have to look that far to see what happened the last time Patterson faced this vaunted Saints rushing defense.
It was Week 18 last year, and Patterson failed to score even five PPR points. As nearly six-point underdogs at home, one could make the case that C-Patt could make his day via the passing attack by gobbling up check-down targets in a negative game script, but I am not so confident given the correlation we see with mobile quarterbacks choosing to scramble in favor of checking the ball down. All of this makes me very skeptical of Patterson’s prospects.
RB Dameon Pierce, ECR RB#28, @IND
I have been one of the bigger Dameon Pierce fanboys all offseason, but I want to preach a bit of patience and tempered expectations here. Pierce will see his first NFL regular season action this Sunday, and the Texans will be heavy road dogs in this contest against a strong Colts defense. Yes, Marlon Mack was cut. Yes, Pierce was named the starter. However, the Texans kept Rex Burkhead as the backup.
We know coaches love his swiss-army-knife style of play, especially as a pass protector and receiving back. I think Pierce can be the featured back, but I would like to see his usage first. Especially considering Burkhead saw three or more targets in six of ten games last year and 25 receiving yards in four of his previous seven games. I have a feeling Rex will be a thorn in Pierce’s side early on this season, and that could start this week.
WR Jerry Jeudy, ECR WR#29, @SEA
Jerry Jeudy’s rollercoaster offseason and lack of healthy playing time as a starter have made him one of the hardest players to project in fantasy football this year. I am opting to stay away from Jeudy in Week 1 because after Courtland Sutton received all the hype and praise this offseason. I want to see Russ and Jeudy’s chemistry on the field first, especially given Russ’s lack of targeting the middle of the field, where Jeudy wins. Additionally, Seattle is coming off a strong showing in their secondary, allowing the ninth-fewest points to wide receivers last year.
WR Rashod Bateman, ECR WR#22, @NYJ
Like my take on the aforementioned Dameon Pierce, I love Rashod Bateman for the talent, but I want to see his role in this offense crystalize before taking the plunge with him on my roster. Last year the Jets allowed the eighth-fewest touchdowns to the wide receiver position, and they added one of the best defensive backs in the draft to their secondary in Sauce Gardner. So I am in “wait and see” mode with Bateman.
TE Mike Gesicki, ECR TE#18, vs NE
Gesicki seems to be one of those polarizing players in fantasy football circles this year. He is a fantastic athlete and a great receiver, but I am just not sure he will be on the field enough to warrant starting tight end usage. I understand that many of us want him to play the George Kittle role in this offense, but he is most assuredly not George Kittle.
Kittle is an excellent blocker, which allows him to be on the field all the time. Although the Dolphins wanted to try and turn Gesicki into a blocker this offseason, his preseason usage does not bode well. As my buddy Dwain McFarland (new lead analyst at Matthew Berry’s Fantasy Life, congrats!) points out, “Gesicki’s bid for an every-down role took a hit in Week 3. He now sits at a 65% route participation with Tua Tagovailoa this preseason…..his path to an 80% route participation is much murkier.” Therefore, I am all the way out on Gesicki until further notice.
Good luck this week. If you need additional help, we do have Weekly Rankings available to help you get that Week 1 win!