Week 1 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Fantasy Football Stars to Play and Bench

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 23:  Running back Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers carries the ball against the Atlanta Falcons during a game at Candlestick Park on December 23, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Thursday marks the official start of the 2014 NFL regular season, and fantasy owners are already focused on which players to start and which duds they must bench.

The first week of fantasy football is the hardest to decipher due to the secrecy around depth charts and how much certain stars will play, but owners must make educated guesses based on the latest rankings and projections.

Here are the top start ‘em and sit ‘em rankings for Week 1 of the fantasy football season.


Start ‘Em

Top 5 Start 'Em Players for Week 1
RankPlayerWeek 1 OpponentProjected Points
1Nick Foles, QB, PhiJacksonville25
2Frank Gore, RB, SFDallas22
3Jason Witten, TE, DalSan Francisco18
4Andre Johnson, WR, HouWashington18
5Victor Cruz, WR, NYGDetroit17

There are many ways for a fantasy owner to go in Week 1, but the old adage says dance with the one who brought you. If there was ever a week to simply start the top players you drafted and have faith in your drafting ability, it would be Week 1.

Owners can begin playing matchups and start the players making the most noise in Week 2, but the best fantasy stars ride with their top draft picks to start the season. There will be plenty of time for second-guessing as the season progresses.

For the owners still split on which players to start, here are a few ideas. At quarterback, Nick Foles of the Philadelphia Eagles was a popular pick this season, but he was also selected by many owners with a backup like Matt Ryan or Philip Rivers close behind. With a favorable matchup against a terrible Jacksonville Jaguars team, start Foles over any quarterback not named Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers.

For the owners looking for the running back gem, the San Francisco 49ers have you covered with Frank Gore against the Dallas Cowboys. With Sean Lee gone for the season with an injury and Rolando McClain possibly getting the start at linebacker, according to Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com, expect Gore to run through Dallas all day.

Two good start ‘em players at the wide receiver positions are Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans and Victor Cruz of the New York Giants. Neither man had a very good preseason, but each is their team’s primary target through the air and should be in line for a heavy dosage of receptions. There is a risk with Johnson and Cruz, but their upside outweighs the danger.

Another player worth a start is Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. With NaVorro Bowman injured and Aldon Smith suspended, expect Tony Romo to find Witten early and often as the Cowboys will be forced to play from behind.


Sit ‘Em

Top 5 Sit 'Em Players for Week 1
RankPlayerWeek 1 OpponentProjected Points
1Colin Kaepernick, QB, SFDallas13
2DeSean Jackson, WR, WasHouston6
3Eric Decker, WR, NYJOakland5
4Trent Richardson, RB, IndDenver5
5Jared Cook, TE, StLMinnesota4

Sitting players in Week 1 is tough. Teams have been hiding their game plans all preseason, and owners are forced to speculate on which players will start the season fast and which will struggle out of the gates.

Just like Foles, fantasy owners who drafted Colin Kaepernick likely added his backup within the next few rounds. While I advocate with starting the higher pick in Week 1, Kaepernick and the San Francisco offense were putrid enough to make me reconsider. Dallas has a mediocre secondary, but the 49ers’ air attack failed to build any momentum and will struggle once again.

The sit ‘em players continue with the wide receivers. DeSean Jackson and Eric Decker have been two of the most dangerous players at their position over the last two years, but a change of scenery has uncertainty surrounding each. Jackson is buried on the depth chart in an offense that showed little progress this offseason, and Decker went from hauling in passes from Peyton Manning to learning how to deal with Geno Smith’s inconsistency. Sit them both.

If you’re looking for a running back to sit, look no further than Trent Richardson of the Indianapolis Colts. His struggles last season were well documented, but a matchup against a tougher Denver Broncos defense and the likelihood of the Colts playing from behind hurts Richardson’s stock.

For tight ends, there are many worth sitting this week, but none are getting more fanfare than Jared Cook of the St. Louis Rams. The injury to Sam Bradford likely means more targets for Cook as a checkdown option, but he excels at deeper routes, and Shaun Hill may not have the strength and accuracy to utilize him fully.


*Stats via NFL.com.