Welcome to the Week 1 edition of Start or Sit. While all teams start out 0-0, the decisions you make on your first weekly lineup will make the difference on whether your season starts with a win come Tuesday morning.
START: Alex Collins, RB, Ravens: A potential breakout performer, Collins faces a Bills run defense that allowed 4.49 yards per carry to opposing backs last season. He also proved to be more effective at home, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and scoring four of his six touchdowns at M&T Bank Stadium, making him a good second running back (RB2) despite having his touches curbed by Javorius Allen, who will serve as Baltimore’s running back in passing situations.
SIT: John Conner, RB, Steelers: Waiver wires went hot upon news that Le’Veon Bell would not get the start at the Browns, giving the nod to Conner, who rushed for 144 yards on 32 carries in his rookie season. Cleveland’s run defense ranked among the league’s best last year, finishing seventh in yards allowed and second only to the Broncos in yards per carry allowed (3.4). Conner looks like fool’s gold and is more of a flex option than an RB2.
START: Trey Burton, TE, Bears: Do believe the hype with Burton, who is a solid TE1 that will see more than double the 29 percent of snaps he had with the Eagles last season. Burton also caught nearly 78 percent of passes targeted to him and will thrive with new coach Matt Nagy, who helped turn Travis Kelce into a Pro Bowler when he guided the Chiefs offense. An afternoon of double-digit targets awaits Burton, who faces a Packers defense that allowed 30 touchdown passes last season.
SIT: Josh Gordon, WR, Browns: Don’t expect much from Gordon, who will be lucky to see more than 15-20 snaps against the Steelers as he gets into game shape. Temptation lies strong with him, as Gordon did average 18.6 yards per catch in limited action last season. He’ll need the reps to become a more reliable receiver considering he caught just 41.8 percent of passes targeted to him. At best, Gordon is a flex in deeper, non-PPR leagues.
START: Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots: The Texans were 30th in average yards allowed per catch and gave up 30 touchdown passes, a perfect scenario for Hogan, who will be fed extensively by Tom Brady. Hogan averaged nearly 17 yards per catch in the postseason and scored a combined seven touchdowns on his 43 receptions during the regular season and playoffs. With the Houston defense focused on slowing down tight end Rob Gronkowski, look for Hogan, a high-end WR2, to put up WR1-caliber numbers.
SIT: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers: Only seven quarterbacks put up better fantasy numbers than Garoppolo over the last five games of the regular season. Garoppolo averaged 308.4 yards per game in that span but will be hard-pressed to reach that total against an aggressive Vikings defense that gave up a league-low 13 touchdown passes while finishing second to the Jaguars in passing yards allowed per game (192). There are better options available.
START: Andrew Luck, QB, Colts: It’s easy to forget that Luck ranked among the four best quarterbacks in fantasy football three times in the previous four years prior to last season. The Bengals were eighth in passing yards allowed but Luck won’t need much time to get readjusted to firing the ball to receiver T.Y. Hilton along with benefiting from an improved running game and offensive line. He’s worth the start and will remind fantasy owners why he threw 86 touchdowns in his previous three seasons.
SIT: Chris Carson, RB, Seahawks: After holding off rookie Rashaad Penny for the starting job, Carson projects to be a sleeper play. Guess again. The Broncos can still stop the run, finishing fifth in yards allowed while leading the league with a stingy 3.3 yards allowed per carry. Carson will get his share of touches, but the thought of playing him on the road against an elite run D should be more than enough for his owners to fill their flex positions with a better option.
START: Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants: There will be some trepidation in playing Barkley against a Jaguars defense that gave up just seven touchdowns to opposing running backs last season. Barkley belongs in the lineup on Sunday because his pass-catching skills will counter any resistance he may get from running the ball, especially if New York finds itself in catch-up mode. It’s not a stretch to envision Barkley getting at least 8-10 targets, and his open field skills could lead to a big play or two.
SIT: Randall Cobb, WR, Packers: Since catching 91 passes for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2014, Cobb’s numbers have been in freefall, plummeting to 66-653-4 to go along with a career-low 9.9 yards per catch last season. The return of Aaron Rodgers could perk up his numbers, but Cobb faces a Bears defense that was seventh in passing yards allowed while giving up a modest total of 18 touchdown passes last season. At this point, Cobb is a fringe flex option that’s best off riding fantasy pine.
START: Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers: Gates decided to pause his countdown to Canton to return to the Chargers as a replacement for the injured Hunter Henry. Gates will be a red zone monster against the Chiefs and will get between 7-9 targets. At the very least, his presence will open things up for receivers Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin and Mike Williams.
SIT: Cameron Brate, TE, Buccaneers: Second-year tight end O.J. Howard continues to press for playing time, which will hurt Brate’s chances of being productive against the Saints. Brate can be productive, as his 12.3 yards per catch average in 2017 indicates, but Tampa Bay didn’t use a first-round pick on the freakishly gifted Howard to be a glorified run blocker.
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