Week 1 of the fantasy football season can bring true dilemmas for fantasy managers. Although your drafts have wrapped up and you may have even made a trade or two, there can be a crippling set of decisions facing you. Do you go with the more talented player against a tougher matchup or the more favorable matchup for the less talented player?
We’ve dug through the latest roster percentages to identify fantasy football players who you must either start or sit. Our four start options are currently being started at 40% or less in leagues, whereas our three sit players are at 60% or higher. We’re also looking at players owned in the vast majority of leagues.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
The fantasy community is down on Clyde Edwards-Helaire compared to previous years, but don’t buy into the Isaih Pacheco hype train quite yet. CEH is in a great position to put up the best numbers of his career in Kansas City. The Chiefs’ scheme switch to feature more inside zone runs and a varied passing game means he should be more efficient than ever.
Edwards-Helaire’s Week 1 matchup against Arizona is simply irresistible. The Cardinals are dealing with a number of significant injuries, including to J.J. Watt, Markus Golden, and Trayvon Mullen. This is one of the league’s shallowest rosters, so missing stars or having them be only 80% against this offense will simply not work.
Hunter Renfrow, WR, Las Vegas Raiders
The new-look Raiders can absolutely carry three fantasy-relevant pass catchers with Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow, and Darren Waller. This will especially be the case against the Los Angeles Chargers’ defense in Week 1. The Chargers ranked 29th in scoring defense last year and are without star cornerback J.C. Jackson for this matchup.
Renfrow already torched the Chargers’ defense last year, with 10 receptions on 13 targets for only 58 yards but three touchdowns. We’d love for our Flex starter to log at least one touchdown in any given week. Look for Renfrow to continue building upon his chemistry with quarterback Derek Carr.
Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
I know what you’re thinking here — starting Miles Sanders right now is insane. But if you have a Flex option open, Sanders is a great play this week. Facing Detroit means he’s against a defense that was 31st in points allowed to running backs in 2021, and this unit didn’t improve significantly over this offseason.
Instead, we’ll see the Lions’ pass defense much improved. There’s a ton of incentive for the Eagles to run. Sanders’ lack of touchdowns last year was somewhat intentional but also fluky. I’m predicting he gets into the end zone in Week 1 and has a solid performance.
Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Unless you have one of the top six quarterbacks in your league, you need to consider matchups heavily each week. Some rosters will have Trey Lance as their starter, but that number is surprisingly low considering how valuable a Kyle Shanahan offense can be for fantasy managers.
Facing Chicago this week, Lance is absolutely a startable piece. The Bears embraced a rebuild this offseason, meaning they swapped some of their best veterans out for young guys. This is also Matt Eberflus’ first game as a head coach. Expect him to be outclassed by Shanahan, and for Lance to shine even with George Kittle out.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Detroit Lions
A fringe starter on most rosters already, this is not the time to start Amon-Ra St. Brown. Brown’s matchup against the Eagles is one of the most difficult in the league. Philadelphia wisely bolstered their secondary this offseason, adding cornerback James Bradberry and safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. They’re one of the most complete defenses in the NFL.
The Lions have offensive talent but still haven’t announced who the play-caller will be. This is overthinking at its finest, and it’s important to remember how limited quarterback Jared Goff is under pressure or having to call the shots himself. The Eagles ranked fourth in pass-rush win rate last year and then added Haason Reddick this offseason.
Brown will suffer from the blend of great defense, added weapons around him, and uncertainty on the Lions’ offense.
DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks
For as well as Geno Smith played in the preseason compared to expectations, he’s still someone who has a history of significant accuracy and decision-making issues. Geno tends to play to the team around him, and Seattle actually has an interesting offense when Rashaad Penny is healthy. The Seahawks’ rookie tackle pairing of Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas has also impressed.
The problem for star receiver DK Metcalf is the variance he’ll face with Smith. Playing Denver is not good for that prospect, considering the Broncos have one of the finest young cornerbacks in the NFL — Patrick Surtain II — and a great safety in Justin Simmons. Expect Smith to be in over his head as the Seahawks throw the ball to stay in this game, but he struggles to keep up with Russell Wilson.
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins
While we know how talented Jaylen Waddle is, he missed a significant chunk of time throughout preseason due to a soft tissue injury. Head coach Mike McDaniel said Waddle will be fine for game day, but I don’t like the idea of playing someone who has barely practiced in an offense with a ton of new pieces in a freshly-installed scheme. There’s also the issue of who he’s facing.
The Patriots aren’t an overly talented team anymore, but they’ve continued to perform well against WRs regardless of who’s on the roster. I expect Bill Belichick to be more concerned about Tyreek Hill than Waddle, but that means Belichick will work to force Tua Tagovailoa into shorter throws that lead to few chunk play opportunities.