Fantasy sit and start advice is relative and league dependent and note some players are targeted for DFS.
Good luck with your Week 1 lineups!
Start: Elijah Mitchell, Cole Kmet
Mitchell has real durability concerns but enters Sunday ready to go after missing most of the preseason nursing a hamstring injury. Jeff Wilson Jr. is the favorite for passing down work, but Mitchell totaled 1,100 yards over just 11 games while playing through multiple injuries as a rookie. He also now gets a mobile QB who helped all SF backs get 5.2 YPC when on the field last season (SF got 4.2 YPC with Trey Lance off the field). Facing a Bears defense that lost Akiem Hicks and Khalil Mack during the offseason in a game the 49ers should be extremely run heavy in (Lance is making just his fourth start since 2019, George Kittle playing is in serious doubt, and the forecast calls for rainy conditions), Mitchell should be treated as a top-12 fantasy RB this week.
As one of Chicago’s best pass-catchers, Kmet looks like the rare tight end who can be safely projected for 8+ targets, especially Sunday in a matchup against a 49ers defense likely to shut down the Bears’ run game. Kmet gets a boost in PPR formats.
Start: George Pickens, Joe Burrow
The Pickens hype train died down late this summer, but it could quickly regain steam if Diontae Johnson aggravates his shoulder or it limits him Sunday. More of a deeper league recommendation, Pickens has a low floor during his NFL debut, but Najee Harris is recovering from a Lisfranc sprain, and the Steelers should have to pass to keep up with the Bengals’ offense.
Burrow is coming off appendectomy surgery, had zero preseason action and is facing a Steelers defense that allowed the 10th fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks last season, but he should remain locked in fantasy lineups as usual in Week 1 regardless. He reportedly looks fully recovered, and Burrow got 9.3 YPA(!) over nine home games last year. Further removed from ACL surgery and with the help of Ja’Marr Chase in Year 2 and a higher Cincinnati pass rate, Burrow is about to put up an MVP season.
Sanders is a bit of a risk coming off a hamstring injury, but he sounds fully ready to go for Week 1 in a matchup facing a Detroit defense that yielded the third-most fantasy points to running backs last season. Philadelphia enters with arguably the league’s best offensive line, and the speedy Sanders has averaged 5.4 YPC during his career on turf.
St. Brown isn’t likely to see the same wild high target share he did down the stretch last season with D’Andre Swift and T.J. Hockenson playing Week 1, but he belongs in fantasy lineups anyway. Jared Goff played far better at home last season, and while the Eagles are a tough matchup having allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to outside receivers last season, it’s a good thing ARSB runs around 80% of his routes from the slot.
New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons
Start: Jarvis Landry
Start in DFS: Kyle Pitts ($16)
Michael Thomas hasn’t appeared in a game since 2020 and is questionable while dealing with a hamstring injury, while Chris Olave is a rookie making his NFL debut. That should lead to plenty of targets in the slot for Jarvis Landry, who’ll also enjoy the far easier assignment, as Atlanta’s strength on defense are outside corners Casey Hayward and A.J. Terrell.
Eight other tight ends have a higher Week 1 DFS salary than Pitts, who’s the first player at. the position to record 1,000 yards before turning 22 years old while also somehow finishing sixth (just ahead of Justin Jefferson) among all pass-catchers last season in yards per route run versus man. Pitts looks ready to explode in 2022 with a new quarterback who attacks areas of the field that’s a far better fit compared to Matt Ryan. Meanwhile, the team’s new top WR rookie Drake London is questionable and is unlikely to see a full set of snaps even if he suits up, and the Saints ceded the fewest YPC last season, so Pitts should see all the targets in Week 1.
New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins
Sit: Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki
Henry is due for major touchdown regression this season and is competing to be New England’s top tight end with Jonnu Smith far more than their ADPs indicated. In a NE offense that no one knows who’s calling plays (including possibly the Patriots themselves) that struggled as badly as any team during the preseason, Henry belongs on fantasy benches in DeVante Parker’s revenge game.
Gesicki is going to be asked to block more and run far fewer routes in new coach Mike McDaniel’s system, and he’ll be competing with two target hogs in Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill. The Patriots also allowed the fewest fantasy points to tight ends last season.
Baltimore Ravens @ New York Jets
Sit: All Ravens running backs, All Jets but Elijah Moore
J.K. Dobbins doesn’t sound ready, leaving Mike Davis, Justice Hill and Kenyan Drake fighting for touches in a Baltimore backfield that rarely gets thrown to. It’s possible Davis emerges as the clear leader in Week 1, but he’s almost 30 years old, averaged just 3.6 YPC last season and LT Ronnie Stanley is questionable. The Jets allowed the most fantasy points to running backs last season, but they enter 2022 with arguably a top-five defensive line.
The Ravens look like a better matchup for passing down back (and heartbeat of the Jets offense) Michael Carter than for rookie Breece Hall. Both have a tough task Sunday though against a Baltimore defense that yielded the second-fewest YPC (3.8) last season and with the Jets down to their third-string left tackle. Meanwhile, Joe Flacco led the league in YPA (11.7) when facing man coverage last year (admittedly a tiny sample), when only a few defenses played more man than the Ravens. Moore saw his yards per route run skyrocket along with his fantasy value with Flacco starting compared to Zach Wilson.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Washington Commanders
Start: Christian Kirk, Antonio Gibson
Kirk was targeted as a true No. 1 during the preseason after Jacksonville signed him to a contract paying him like a top-five receiver in the league. The Jaguars WR options behind Kirk are weak, and Trevor Lawrence could make a major leap in Year 2 with Urban Meyer gone. Washington yielded the third-most fantasy points to the slot last season, where Kirk lined up 79% of the time.
After an offseason filled with hate that included work on special teams and a demotion behind rookie Brian Robinson, Gibson suddenly is looking at 15+ touches in a plus matchup at home to open the season. Jacksonville ceded the third-most rushing touchdowns (22) last season, and Gibson is back slated for goal-line work with Robinson unfortunately sidelined for at least four weeks. It also stands to reason Washington leans more on running the ball and less on Carson Wentz in a game in which they’re favored.
Cleveland Browns @ Carolina Panthers
Start: David Njoku
Start in DFS: Christian McCaffrey ($37)
Njoku is fresh off signing a big offseason contract and is set to see a huge increase in targets with Austin Hooper gone and a quarterback in Jacoby Brissett who ranks top-three in target rate to tight ends over the last five years. New Cleveland No. 1 receiver Amari Cooper has never commanded a target share higher than 22% during his career.
McCaffrey remains in a fantasy class all by himself compared to all other players when he’s on the field. CMC enters 2022 fully healthy and not recovering from any serious offseason surgery. He’ll also get a big upgrade at QB, going from bottom-three type production to somewhere around league average with Baker Mayfield taking over. Playing at home with fresh legs, McCaffrey is somehow $3 cheaper than two other Week 1 running backs, making him a no-brainer DFS building block.
Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans
Sit: Colts D/ST
Start: Dameon Pierce
Many rank Indianapolis as a top fantasy defense this week, which makes sense given the Colts are one of the biggest favorites on the slate. But that spread has been moving down, and Davis Mills got 7.9 YPA with a 12:1 TD:INT ratio and a 109.6 Passer Rating over nine home games as a rookie. The Texans are a live dog who aren’t the plus matchup as they may appear at first glance.
Pierce will lose passing down work to Rex Burkhead, but the rookie immediately earned Houston’s starting role after a highly impressive preseason. Mills was terrific at home last season, the Texans quietly have an underrated tackle duo, and Pierce looks like the real deal. He also got a matchup boost with news that Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard will miss the game. Pierce can be treated as a top-20 fantasy back this week and moving forward (expect his role as a receiver to increase throughout the season).
New York Giants @ Tennessee Titans
Start in DFS: Saquon Barkley ($18)
Start: Robert Woods
Returning after last season’s unlucky sprained ankle and now two years removed from ACL surgery, Barkley looks ready to carry the load in Brian Daboll’s new offense. Barkley’s DFS salary as the RB20 appears to be pricing in his questionable ability to stay healthy this season, something DFS players don’t have to worry about as much with only Week 1 in mind. Barkley remains in his prime just one year older than Najee Harris, and he should be incredibly busy this week with questions surrounding all of New York’s wide receivers (Titans linebacker Harold Landry going on IR should also help).
The Titans had the most vacated targets this offseason with A.J. Brown leaving for Philadelphia, and Woods enters Week 1 as the team’s clear WR1 with rookie Treylon Burks likely to have a much bigger impact over the second half of the season. The Giants also defended the run far better than the pass last season and have some offensive weapons that could make this game higher scoring than expected.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Arizona Cardinals
Start: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, A.J. Green
While Kansas City’s leading receiver is likely going to be tough to predict on a weekly basis, Sunday the Chiefs get an Arizona defense that was gashed for the fourth-most fantasy points by WRs last season and enter 2022 with arguably the worst cornerbacks in football. Skyy Moore could develop into the team’s WR1 by the end of the season, but MVS opens the year ahead of the rookie and Mecole Hardman on a KC depth chart that also features declining TE Travis Kelce. In a matchup indoors with the highest over/under (53.5 points) of the week, pretty much start Everyone!
With Rondale Moore out because of an injured hamstring, DeAndre Hopkins suspended, and Zach Ertz unlikely to be 100% if he plays at all, newcomer Marquise Brown and the veteran Green are suddenly in store for a ton of targets in a game with the highest total of the week. Kyler Murray typically plays far better when he’s fully healthy in the first half of seasons, and he’s had terrific success against KC type defenses in the past, making Green a fantasy option in deeper formats.
Las Vegas Raiders @ Los Angeles Chargers
Start: Josh Jacobs, Gerald Everett
Jacobs has plenty of concerns long-term in Las Vegas, but he should be the Raiders’ feature back in a Week 1 matchup against a run-funnel Chargers defense that yielded the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs last season.
The Chargers held Everett out the entire preseason along with other starters, and Donald Parham has missed practice this week with a hamstring injury, so he could have a big role Sunday in a game with the second-highest total (52.5 points) of the week. The Raiders also allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends last season.
Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings
Start: Sammy Watkins, Kirk Cousins
While wary of falling for the narrative of Watkins putting up massive games in Week 1 (when he’s scored a whopping 10% of his career fantasy points!), the veteran wideout unquestionably looks set up for a nice season debut yet again. Davante Adams is gone, presumed new WR1 Allen Lazard is doubtful to play, and Robert Tonyan will be limited if he does suit up returning from ACL surgery. Meanwhile, Randall Cobb is 32 years old, and Aaron Rodgers has stated he trusts his veteran WRs more than rookies Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson at this stage. Although Doubs is another sneaky Week 1 fantasy start playing indoors against a Vikings secondary that was gashed for the most fantasy points by wide receivers last season.
Cousins will benefit from a huge coaching upgrade and should be treated as a weekly top-12 fantasy option this year, with Week 1 no different. He got 9.7 YPA versus the Packers last season, when Green Bay allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Dallas Cowboys
Sit: Chris Godwin
Start in DFS: CeeDee Lamb ($25)
Go ahead and use Leonard Fournette in DFS, but fantasy managers would be wise to play it safe and bench Godwin, who looks like a game-time decision Sunday night. Godwin suffered a torn ACL late last season (Week 15) and only recently shed his knee brace, so fantasy managers need to be prepared to be patient.
Lamb is set to see a ton of targets with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, James Washington and Blake Jarwin all gone or unlikely to play Week 1, as Noah Brown enters the season as Dallas’ WR2. With big splits with Cooper off the field and playing at home against a Bucs defense that’s sure to stuff Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys run game without LT Tyron Smith, it would be an upset if Lamb doesn’t see at least a dozen targets in Week 1, yet six other receivers have a higher salary.
Denver Broncos @ Seattle Seahawks
Sit: Russell Wilson
Start: Rashaad Penny
Sitting Wilson is relative, but at such a deep QB position, you might have a better Week 1 alternative. Game flow, the specific defensive matchup and a tough Seattle environment under a new coaching staff could lead to a letdown in what many expect to be a smash spot during Wilson’s revenge game in primetime.
There are obvious concerns about Penny’s durability, but he enters Week 1 fully healthy and without Kenneth Walker competing for carries. Penny was the No. 1 scoring fantasy back over the final six weeks of last season, so he should be treated as a top-12 RB this week.