FANTASY PLAYS: Players to start and sit for NFL Week 1

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The start-or-sit dilemma is part of managing a fantasy football team.

Having the foresight to start the wide receiver who goes for 100 yards and a touchdown in a matchup while sitting a receiver against a shutdown cornerback is one of the keys to victory.

For this version of a start-or-sit, I’m going to be listing all relevant fantasy football players each week and placing them into tiers.

And to take some of the guesswork out of it, I’ll be leveraging thousands of slate simulations that are based in numberFire’s player projections with dynamic measures for variance, such as quarterback rushing, running back receiving, and receiver target depth.

The results will boil down to three tiers: players we should be confident about starting, players we can consider starting whenever we don’t have better alternatives, but who aren’t must-plays and players we should try to bench whenever we do have better alternatives.

These players are listed in order of frequency of hitting the stated threshold (i.e. QB12, RB24, WR24, and TE12 performances and higher on the list means more start-able).

The groupings reflect a 12-team, single-quarterback league with the following hypothetical in mind: if I had other viable options on my bench or the waiver-wire, should I start this player this week?

Players not listed should be presumed sit-worthy in a shallow or standard-sized league, and all fantasy points references and rankings reflect half-PPR scoring.

QUARTERBACKS

Start With Confidence: These players are at lest 50% likely to finish the week as a top-12 quarterback, according to the slate simulations.

— Patrick Mahomes vs. CLE (69% to finish as a top-12 QB)

— Kyler Murray at TEN (61%)

— Josh Allen vs. PIT (60%)

— Lamar Jackson at LV (56%)

— Russell Wilson at IND (53%)

— Jalen Hurts at ATL (52%)

— Dak Prescott at TB (51%)

Consider If Needed: This tier has odds between 40% and 49% to post a top-12 week.

— Tom Brady vs. DAL (48%)

— Ryan Tannehill vs. ARI (45%)

— Matthew Stafford vs. CHI (43%)

— Aaron Rodgers at NO (43%)

— Trevor Lawrence at HOU (42%)

— Justin Herbert at WSH (42%)

— Matt Ryan vs. PHI (40%)

Bench If Possible: These quarterbacks are under 40% likely (15th or worse) to net a top-12 result and aren’t in the one-quarterback-league conversation.

Jameis Winston vs. GB (37%), Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. LAC (36%), Joe Burrow vs. MIN (35%), Tyrod Taylor vs. JAC (35%), Kirk Cousins at CIN (33%), Baker Mayfield at KC (33%), Zach Wilson at CAR (32%), Derek Carr vs. BAL (32%), Sam Darnold vs. NYJ (30%), Ben Roethlisberger at BUF (27%), Tua Tagovailoa at NE (26%), Teddy Bridgewater at NYG (25%), Mac Jones vs. MIA (25%), Carson Wentz vs. SEA (25%), Daniel Jones vs. DEN (23%), Jared Goff vs. SF (21%)

RUNNING BACK

Start With Confidence: These running backs are at lest 60% likely to finish the week inside the top 24, according to the slate simulations.

— Christian McCaffrey vs. NYJ (89% to finish as a top-24 RB)

— Dalvin Cook at CIN (84%)

— Derrick Henry vs. ARI (82%)

— Alvin Kamara vs. GB (80%)

— Saquon Barkley vs. DEN (72%)

— Aaron Jones at NO (70%)

— Austin Ekeler at WSH (69%)

— Jonathan Taylor vs. SEA (68%)

— Joe Mixon vs. MIN (67%)

— Najee Harris at BUF (66%)

— Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs. CLE (66%)

— Ezekiel Elliott at TB (65%)

— Nick Chubb at KC (65%)

Consider If Needed — This tier is sitting between 40% and 65% for an RB2 week, and you’re probably starting some of them even if they’re shy of that top tier.

— Chris Carson at IND (64%)

— Antonio Gibson vs. LAC (64%)

— Miles Sanders at ATL (63%)

— D’Andre Swift vs. SF (62%)

— James Robinson at HOU (62%)

— David Montgomery at LA (59%)

— Josh Jacobs vs. BAL (57%)

— Mike Davis vs. PHI (53%)

— Darrell Henderson vs. CHI (51%)

— Gus Edwards at LV (49%)

— Javonte Williams at NYG (45%)

— Damien Harris vs. MIA (45%)

— Chase Edmonds at TEN (44%)

— Raheem Mostert at DET (42%)

— Myles Gaskin at NE (40%)

— Trey Sermon at DET (40%)

— Melvin Gordon at NYG (40%)

Bench If Possible: These backs are under 35% likely to net a top-12 result.

Kareem Hunt at KC (31%), Leonard Fournette vs. DAL (28%), Zack Moss vs. PIT (26%), Sony Michel vs. CHI (26%), Ronald Jones vs. DAL (25%), Kenyan Drake vs. BAL (24%), Ty Johnson at CAR (23%), Devin Singletary vs. PIT (23%), David Johnson vs. JAC (23%), James White vs. MIA (22%), A.J. Dillon at NO (22%), Tony Pollard at TB (22%), Jamaal Williams vs. SF (20%), Nyheim Hines vs. SEA (19%), J.D. McKissic vs. LAC (18%), Tevin Coleman at CAR (17%), Mark Ingram vs. JAC (16%), Damien Williams at LA (15%), James Conner at TEN (15%), Alexander Mattison at CIN (15%), Giovani Bernard vs. DAL (13%), Malcolm Brown at NE (12%)

WIDE RECEIVER

Start With Confidence: You’re starting these guys in a 12-team league.

— Tyreek Hill vs. CLE (73% to finish as a top-24 WR)

— Calvin Ridley vs. PHI (66%)

— Davante Adams at NO (65%)

— DeAndre Hopkins at TEN (65%)

— Stefon Diggs vs. PIT (63%)

— DK Metcalf at IND (56%)

— AJ Brown vs. ARI (54%)

— Justin Jefferson at CIN (53%)

— Terry McLaurin vs. LAC (48%)

— Mike Evans vs. DAL (48%)

— Tyler Lockett at IND (47%)

— Amari Cooper at TB (46%)

— Keenan Allen at WSH (44%)

— Allen Robinson at LA (43%)

— Chris Godwin vs. DAL (43%)

— Robert Woods vs. CHI (43%)

— Tee Higgins vs. MIN (43%)

— Julio Jones vs. ARI (42%)

— Odell Beckham at KC (42%)

— CeeDee Lamb at TB (40%)

The two names that probably jump off as a little unusual when it comes to “must-start” territory would be Tee Higgins and Odell Beckham, both of whom have average draft positions outside the top 20 (23 for Higgins and 28 for Beckham).

Higgins, though, fits the upside checklist of playing at home and holding a high average depth of target (aDOT). The Vikings also rank just 16th in PFF’s preseason secondary rankings.

Consider If Needed: These players are more matchup dependent for Week 1 than the tier above, but are likely where we are looking for a lot of our WR2, WR3, and FLEX plays this week.

— Adam Thielen at CIN (40%)

— Chase Claypool at BUF (39%)

— Kenny Golladay vs. DEN (38%)

— Cooper Kupp vs. CHI (38%)

— DJ Moore vs. NYJ (36%)

— Marvin Jones at HOU (35%)

— Brandon Aiyuk at DET (34%)

— Ja’Marr Chase vs. MIN (33%)

— Jerry Jeudy at NYG (33%)

— Corey Davis at CAR (33%)

— Diontae Johnson at BUF (31%)

— Tyler Boyd vs. MIN (30%)

— Henry Ruggs vs. BAL (30%)

— Robby Anderson vs. NYJ (30%)

— Tre’Quan Smith vs. GB (29%)

— DeVante Parker at NE (28%)

— Marquise Brown at LV (28%)

— Brandin Cooks vs. JAC (28%)

— DeVonta Smith at ATL (27%)

— Laviska Shenault at HOU (27%)

— Tyrell Williams vs. SF (26%)

— Michael Gallup at TB (26%)

— Jaylen Waddle at NE (26%)

— Marquez Callaway vs. GB (25%)

— Deebo Samuel at DET (25%)

Bench If Possible: These players finished as a WR2 or better under 25% of the time.

Curtis Samuel vs. LAC (24%), Mecole Hardman vs. CLE (23%), D.J. Chark at HOU (23%), Jarvis Landry at KC (23%), Antonio Brown vs. DAL (23%), Mike Williams at WSH (22%), Rondale Moore at TEN (22%), Jalen Reagor at ATL (21%), Courtland Sutton at NYG (21%), JuJu Smith-Schuster at BUF (20%), Elijah Moore at CAR (20%), Michael Pittman Jr. vs. SEA (18%), Nico Collins vs. JAC (18%), Darnell Mooney at LA (18%), Parris Campbell vs. SEA (16%), Russell Gage vs. PHI (16%), A.J. Green at TEN (15%), Terrace Marshall Jr. vs. NYJ (15%)

TIGHT END

Start With Confidence: These guys are the big five.

— Travis Kelce vs. CLE (86% to finish as a top-12 TE)

— George Kittle at DET (75%)

— Darren Waller vs. BAL (75%)

— Kyle Pitts vs. PHI (61%)

— Mark Andrews at LV (58%)

Consider If Needed: You’ll likely be starting these options if you don’t have a top-five tight end.

— T.J. Hockenson vs. SF (46%)

— Tyler Higbee vs. CHI (45%)

— Logan Thomas vs. LAC (43%)

— Dallas Goedert at ATL (42%)

— Noah Fant at NYG (38%)

— Mike Gesicki at NE (38%)

— Zach Ertz at ATL (34%)

— Robert Tonyan at NO (33%)

Bench If Possible: These tight ends aren’t in the starting conversation in 12-team leagues.

Blake Jarwin at TB (29%), Jonnu Smith vs. MIA (29%), Anthony Firkser vs. ARI (28%), Rob Gronkowski vs. DAL (27%), Eric Ebron at BUF (27%), Jordan Akins vs. JAC (26%), Gerald Everett at IND (26%), Jared Cook at WSH (26%), Hunter Henry vs. MIA (25%), Austin Hooper at KC (25%), Cole Kmet at LA (21%)

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https://www.numberfire.com

Brandon Gdula , The Associated Press

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