As a general rule, you stick with your studs. Especially in Week 1, where we have to evaluate matchups differently. Our Fantasy Football Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em Week 1 looks at some players to target and others to avoid in an always unpredictable opening week.
Let’s take a look at some under-the-radar starts and less obvious sits in our Fantasy Football Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season.
Quarterbacks Start ‘Em
Trey Lance (San Francisco 49ers) – Lance was drafted as a borderline QB1 but this is the kind of game you take that reward part of risk/reward. Looking at our Week 1 projections, Lance is projected to go off versus a fading Bears defense. Additionally, it remains to be seen if Chicago can mount any kind of offense at all. If the Bears struggle to move the ball, the 49ers will get a ton of opportunities to challenge a secondary that allowed 36 total scores to QBs last season.
Matt Ryan (Indianapolis Colts) – Ryan was drafted as a starter and the Colts are sure to test Houston’s weak run defense. But that will set up play-action opportunities against an inexperienced Texans secondary that surrendered the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in 2021. Look for Ryan to be a sneaky pick to deliver QB1 numbers in Indy’s season opener.
Running Backs Start ‘Em
Antonio Gibson (Washington Commanders) – Much-maligned this summer, Gibson should get the majority of touches against a suspect Jaguars run defense this Sunday. With Brian Robinson sidelined, Gibson looks like a good bet to approach 20 touches. He’ll be in a good position to post top-15 fantasy numbers.
Nyheim Hines (RB) Indianapolis Colts – Last week, an ESPN report opined that Hines will be in a good position to post a career-high in receptions. And that makes sense with the Colts breaking in two new wideouts and a new starting tight end. Hines also gets a juicy matchup against a porous Texans defense that allowed an NFL-worst 2,067 rushing yards to enemy running backs in 2021.
Wide Receivers Start ‘Em
Elijah Moore (New York Jets) – While targeting Baltimore’s secondary isn’t normally advised, there’s a good chance Moore goes off this week. Moore is clearly New York’s No. 1 wideout and has built up an excellent rapport with QB Joe Flacco. The Ravens struggled to stop the pass last season due to injuries but our projections think Moore can still exploit this matchup and deliver a huge opening week performance.
Julio Jones (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – The Buccaneers have the fourth-highest implied total in Week 1, and it’s a prime-time Sunday night matchup with Tom Brady. Chris Godwin is still recovering from a severe knee injury and Russell Gage missed a couple of weeks with an injured hamstring. Jones could very well command 8-plus targets in his Tampa debut.
A.J. Green (Arizona Cardinals) – This is a bit of a flier because Green is likely available on your waiver wire. Arizona hosts the Chiefs this week in a game that has the highest over/under in the entire slate. With Deandre Hopkins suspended, Rondale Moore out, and Zach Ertz looking very iffy, Green could be in for a surprising target share on Sunday.
Tight Ends Sit ‘Em
David Njoku (Cleveland Browns) – Cleveland’s offense isn’t a unit to target with Jacoby Brissett under center. However, Brissett’s lack of downfield ability should lead to a ton of opportunities for Njoku underneath. The Browns are implied to score 21 in Week 1. If they come close to approaching three TDs, we like Njoku’s odds of getting one.
Quarterbacks Sit ‘Em
Mac Jones (New England Patriots) – New England’s offense looked like a potential disaster this preseason. Worse, we still don’t know who is legitimately calling plays or in charge of the offense. Miami also was solid against quarterbacks last season, allowing the seventh-fewest points to the position. In his two starts against the Dolphins, Jones averaged 271 passing yards but only threw a single score in each game. Jones is nothing more than a mediocre QB2 in Superflex formats until we see some signs of life from the Patriots O.
Running Backs Sit ‘Em
Dameon Pierce (Houston Texans) – Pierce became one of the hottest fantasy commodities in the league after a blistering preseason. However, his first taste of the regular season could be rough. Houston is the biggest home dog of Week 1 and hosts a Colts defense that ranked third against fantasy running backs last season. While the Colts will be missing Shaquille Leonard, it remains to be seen if Houston can keep this game close enough to continue to feature the run. Also, Rex Burkhead could be Houston’s primary pass-catching back. Pierce doesn’t rank very highly in our projections and could well be one of Week 1’s biggest trap plays.
Nick Chubb (Cleveland Browns) – Carolins was surprisingly effective against running backs in 2021. The Panthers allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing rushers and allowed the third-fewest overall yards per play. The ‘revenge game’ narrative for QB Baker Mayfield could also factor in if the Panthers get out to a sizable lead and force the Browns to try to pass the ball with Jacoby Brissett. Chubb also doesn’t catch a ton of passes, so his upside is rather muted. He’s more of a middling RB2 than a locked-in starter.
Wide Receivers Sit ‘Em
Drake London (Atlanta Falcons) – Another rookie who could struggle in his first pro outing, London is set to be paired off with elite New Orleans CB Marshon Lattimore. London has also been hampered by a knee injury that could further limit his upside. Fantasy managers would be advised to look for safe options rather than forcing London into a WR2 slot because of his draft status.
Amari Cooper (Cleveland Browns) – Clearly we’re avoiding the Browns this week. There are just too many questions for this team to open the season. Cooper is clearly Cleveland’s No. 1 wideout but there are concerns with the passing attack. Plus, Cooper is likely to see plenty of CB Jaycee Horn, who missed most of his rookie campaign. View Cooper as a mediocre flex option or WR3/4. Certainly not a player to feel obligated to start.
Tight Ends Sit ‘Em
Noah Fant (Seattle Seahawks) – Only three teams are projected to score fewer points than the Seahawks. It will be an entirely new offense in Seattle and QB Geno Smith is a significant downgrade. A matchup against the formidable Denver Broncos and former QB Russell Wilson is also problematic. Fant was acquired by the club in the Wilson deal but his first game in his new digs will be a challenge. Denver allowed a league-low two touchdowns to tight ends in 2021.
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