The long-awaited lineup decisions finally are here with the return of fantasy football coinciding with Week 1 of the NFL season.
Many fantasy mangers likely will keep their starting lineup the same as what it was on draft night, however that might not always be the best idea. Top draft selections, after all, don’t always have the best Week 1 matchups.
Here are four players worth starting and four worth sitting in your fantasy football opener:
Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers veteran receiver has something that many big-name wideouts don’t have entering the 2021: established chemistry with their quarterback. Williams is well-acquainted with potential MVP candidate Justin Herbert, and it should help him immensely to start the season. Let’s not forget Williams was WR4 in total scoring through the first six weeks of the 2021 season before finishing WR12 in half-point leagues, per Sportradar. Managers will be hoping he maintains that pace entering his sixth season. The Chargers are a 3.5-point favorite against the new-look Las Vegas Raiders with Williams ranked Yahoo’s WR16 entering the slate.
A.J. Brown, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
So many decisions for fantasy owners this week will come down to talent over experience. Perhaps that experience relates to rookies in their first NFL game of well-known commodities playing in a new system. Brown, following an offseason trade to Philadelphia, falls into the latter. Nevertheless, Brown has a favorable Week 1 matchup with the Detroit Lions and should be started without question. He’s more than capable of connecting with quarterback Jalen Hurts right off the jump. The Eagles are a 3.5-point favorite against the Lions while Brown is viewed as Yahoo’s WR9 entering the season opener.
Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson undoubtedly will command the majority of attention before his debut with the Denver Broncos, but the Seahawks running back might be in for a big night, too. Penny is likely to see a lion’s share of the backfield after Kenneth Walker was out multiple weeks following hernia surgery. Walker has yet to be ruled out, though Seahawks coach Pete Carroll didn’t sound overly confident in his status. The fact that the Seahawks will be starting Geno Smith behind center makes Penny’s potential workload even greater. Penny and the Seahawks are a 6.5-point underdog entering “Monday Night Football,” though he’s ranked Yahoo’s RB19.
Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Commanders
Gibson’s rocky preseason might have turned fantasy football managers away from the third-year running back, but he jumps back into starting lineups with the unfortunate circumstances of Brian Robinson. Gibson compiled 1,300 yards of offense during his sophomore season and should see the majority of work with Robinson sidelined for at least the first four weeks. Gibson and the Commanders are a 2.5-point favorite ahead of their season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He is ranked Yahoo’s RB16 this week.
Dameon Pierce, RB, Houston Texans
There might not be more hype for a rookie fantasy contributor than there is with Pierce. The Texans running back benefitted from Houston cutting expected backup Marlon Mack last week with veteran Rex Burkhead now behind him for touches. Pierce, however, has a tough NFL debut against the Indianapolis Colts and some managers might like to have his backfield load confirmed before throwing him into the starting group — especially given owners probably were able to draft Pierce in the mid-to-late rounds. Pierce is ranked Yahoo’s RB24 ahead of Houston’s clash with the Colts, who are a 7-point favorite in Week 1.
Derek Carr, QB, Las Vegas Raiders
We’re of the belief the Raiders signal-caller will be a solid starting option during the majority of the season. He has too many weapons around him to not succeed. In Week 1, though, Carr might face some obstacles. Josh McDaniels is coaching his first game for the Raiders, Davante Adams is playing his first game for the Black and Silver and tight end Darren Waller is expected to return after missing the majority of training camp with a hamstring injury. Oh yeah, and Carr will face a Chargers’ pass rush featuring Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack. Carr is viewed as Yahoo’s QB14 this week while the Raiders are a slight underdog.
Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Pollard might turn out to be the top running back handcuff in all of fantasy football behind starter Ezekiel Elliott. And while Pollard is expected to see many more touches this season compared to those past, managers might want to roll with more of a sure thing in Week 1 and see how it works out. Pollard and the Cowboys face a tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense with some of the best linebackers in the league, too. Pollard sits at Yahoo’s RB33 entering “Sunday Night Football” with the Cowboys a 2.5-point home underdog.
DeVante Parker, WR, New England Patriots
The beloved redemption game won’t apply to Parker this week. The Patriots have far too many questions on the offensive side of the ball and Parker will have some competition for touches given New England’s receiver room, at least as it currently appears, is built more on depth than a high-level talent. Parker also might be the one to draw Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard on the outside, which will present some difficulties in itself. He ranks Yahoo’s WR55 entering Week 1 while the Patriots are a 3.5-point underdog entering South Beach.