Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 1: Opening Fantasy Football Lineup Decisions to Consider

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 9, 2017

CARSON, CA - AUGUST 20:  Melvin Gordon #28 of the Los Angeles Chargers runs the ball down field during the game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the New Orleans Saints at the StubHub Center on August 20, 2017 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)
Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

Owners could do little wrong to start the 2017 fantasy football season on Thursday when the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots collided.  

Well, most probably didn't care for Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who went on to drop 31.02 points, besting Tom Brady. But running back Kareem Hunt (40.60) and wideout Tyreek Hill (19.80) were obvious plays. 

Things get much tougher on owners Sunday, when most of the league suits up for the debut weekend. While most owners might like the results of their respective drafts, picking the best possible lineups is a different animal. Let's compare some of the top matchups at each position and break down notable start-sit scenarios based on 12-team standard Yahoo leagues. 

           

QB

Matchup ComparisonVerdict
Russell Wilson (@GB) vs. Carson Palmer (@DET)Carson Palmer
Aaron Rodgers (SEA) vs. Matt Ryan (@CHI)Matt Ryan
Marcus Mariota (OAK) vs. Andy Dalton (BAL)Marcus Mariota
Kirk Cousins (PHI) vs. Derek Carr (@TEN)Kirk Cousins
Matthew Stafford (ARI) vs. Cam Newton (@SF)Cam Newton
Author's opinion

Start: Carson Palmer (@DET)

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 26:  Carson Palmer #3 of the Arizona Cardinals runs off the field against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on August 26, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Remember Carson Palmer?  

The Arizona Cardinals quarterback disappointed owners last year, throwing 26 touchdowns against 14 interceptions—perhaps a sign the 37-year-old veteran has started to regress.

But Palmer's arm has looked good on the lead up to the season, and it is impossible to ignore his matchup with the Detroit Lions here. Not only is it likely a shootout against Matthew Stafford, that Lions defense coughed up the fifth-most points to opposing quarterbacks a year ago. 

           

Sit: Dak Prescott (NYG)

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 26: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys gestures behind the line in the first half of a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders at AT&T Stadium on August 26, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Now isn't the time to get cute with quarterbacks like Dak Prescott.  

Quarterback is the easiest position to project, so there isn't any reason to trot out an unknown like Prescott in Week 1. Yes, he looked good as a rookie, throwing 23 touchdowns against four interceptions and adding another six scores as a runner. 

But Prescott isn't going to catch anyone off guard anymore—and certainly not the New York Giants. Over two games against the Giants last year, both losses, he combined for one touchdown and two interceptions. Those Giants permitted the second-fewest points to opposing signal-callers on average. 

Prescott might have a monster season, but even a waiver add has a better outlook to start the season. 

          

RB

Matchup ComparisonVerdict
Le'Veon Bell (@CLE) vs. David Johnson (@DET)Le'Veon Bell
Lamar Miller (JAX) vs. Melvin Gordon (@DEN)Melvin Gordon
LeSean McCoy (NYJ) vs. Todd Gurley (IND)Todd Gurley
Ezekiel Elliott (NYG) vs. Devonta Freeman (@CHI)Ezekiel Elliott
Ty Montgomery (SEA) vs. Jordan Howard (ATL)Jordan Howard
Author's opinion

Start: Melvin Gordon (@DEN) 

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 04:   Melvin Gordon #28 of the San Diego Chargers runs the ball during the second half of a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers  at Qualcomm Stadium on December 4, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty I
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

It seems wild to suggest a running back against the Denver Broncos, right? 

Not when it comes to Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon. As a sophomore a year ago, Gordon didn't just rush for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns, he tagged the Broncos for 205 rushing yards over the course of two games. 

And while Denver does have a strong defense, it quietly gave up the 12th-most points to opposing backs on average. 

Keep in mind Week 1 means the Chargers are (for now) relatively healthy, too, so there should be an actual threat of a passing game to create space for Gordon to work. 

            

Sit: Terrance West (@CIN) 

Jan 1, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Terrance West (28) breaks a tackle from Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Josh Shaw (26) at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 27-10. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Owners really liked Baltimore Ravens running back Terrance West, hitting him with an average draft position (ADP) of 12.6, ahead of notables like Jonathan Stewart, Thomas Rawls and Dion Lewis. 

West, though, is both a rotational back only and in a tough matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals to start the season. 

Danny Woodhead's presence means West will come off the field on passing downs more often than not. And while those Bengals only ranked in the middle of the pack a year ago in terms of points allowed to backs, West ran for all of 66 yards on the unit over two games on limited attempts a year ago. 

West should have a strong season overall, but owners need to be aware of his role and matchup-based status. 

             

WR

Matchup ComparisonVerdict
A.J. Green (BAL) vs. Antonio Brown (@CLE)Antonio Brown
Sammy Watkins (IND) vs. Doug Baldwin (@GB)Sammy Watkins
Odell Beckham (@DAL) vs. Jordy Nelson (SEA)Odell Beckham
DeAndre Hopkins (JAX) vs. Adam Thielen (NO)Adam Thielen
Julio Jones (@CHI) vs. Kelvin Benjamin (@SF)Julio Jones
Author's opinion

Start: Adam Thielen (NO) 

Jan 1, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Bears 38-10. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Thielen was one of fantasy football's better breakout stories a year ago, though he was overshadowed by the resurgence at running back. 

The Minnesota Vikings wideout tallied 967 yards and five touchdowns in a Sam Bradford-led passing attack most owners likely left for dead. 

No need to do so in Week 1 this year. The Vikings added Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray in the backfield and Stefon Diggs is healthy, meaning Thielen should have more room to work than a year ago just in time for a collision with a shaky New Orleans Saints defense that surrendered the 12th-most points to opposing wideouts last year. 

Game flow could hurt him if the Vikings get ahead and favor the run, but against Drew Brees, odds are Bradford will take to the air for most of the day. 

              

Sit: T.Y. Hilton (@LAR)

Jul 31, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) runs with the ball after catching a pass during training camp at the Indiana Farm Bureau Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Owners who drafted Indianapolis Colts wideout T.Y. Hilton likely want to roll with him no matter what this weekend. 

Unfortunately, it's not the best move, as the Colts hit the road to take on the Los Angeles Rams without Andrew Luck

Yes, Hilton has four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and at least five touchdowns in each over that span. And yes, the Rams coughed up the sixth-most points to wideouts on average last year. 

But no Luck means, well, exactly what it sounds like. Owners can do much better than relying on Scott Tolzien to magically push the ball down the field instead of leaning on his running backs and tight ends in a low-scoring affair. 

           

TE

Matchup ComparisonVerdict
C.J. Fiedorowicz (JAX) vs. Jimmy Graham (@GB)C.J. Fiedorowicz
Jordan Reed (PHI) vs. Tyler Eifert (BAL)Jordan Reed
Zach Ertz (@WAS) vs. Greg Olsen (@SF)Zach Ertz
Martellus Bennett (SEA) vs. Charles Clay (NYJ)Charles Clay
Delanie Walker (OAK) vs. Eric Ebron (ARI)Delanie Walker
Author's opinion

Start: Charles Clay (NYJ)

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 24:  Charles Clay #85 of the Buffalo Bills reacts following his touchdown reception against the Miami Dolphins during the fourth quarter at New Era Field on December 24, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York. The Miami Dolphins defeat
Rich Barnes/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills look like a fantasy wasteland for anyone not named LeSean McCoy, but such an idea lets tight end Charles Clay fly under the radar as a matchup-based play. 

Such a status means Clay is a go against the equally unimpressive New York Jets in Week 1. A year ago, Clay had another solid outing with 552 yards and four scores. While he didn't have major days against the Jets a year ago, the Bills certainly tried to work him in with 14 total targets over two games. 

Those Jets allowed the eighth-most points to tight ends on average last year. A weak defense and surefire usage, if not an uptick after Sammy Watkins' departure, means Clay could have a breakout game to start the year. 

            

Sit: C.J. Fiedorowicz (JAX)

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 27: C.J. Fiedorowicz #87 of the Houston Texans is tackled by Dwight Lowery #20 of the San Diego Chargers and Craig Mager #29 at NRG Stadium on November 27, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Owners who helped Houston Texans tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz hit an ADP of 14.5 likely think they have a sleeper on their hands. 

And they do—but not in Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

Fiedorowicz went for 559 yards and four scores a year ago and could be even better this season. But Week 1, in particular, looks rough as he keeps working his way back from a concussion and faces a Jacksonville defense that allowed the 12th-fewest points on average to tight ends and seemingly improved again this offseason. 

               

All scoring info, points-against info and ownership stats courtesy of Yahoo standard leagues. ADP courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator.

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