Fantasy owners can finally rejoice: football is back. It took a long time to get here, and there was no preseason, but Week 1 is here. It will be tougher than usual to determine how players will fare, especially the rookies. Without having seen them play in pre-season games, these predictions are based on reports from the beat reporters and the teams. While fantasy owners know a bit of what to expect from veteran players, the rookies are all question marks. However, some of them may provide fantasy value in Week 1 and others should be left on the bench.
START These Running Backs
Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Without Adrian Peterson in the picture, the door is wide open for Gibson to step up. While J.D. McKissic is in the picture as well, it seems that Gibson will be used in more situations than McKissic, who failed to excel in Detroit last year. Washington saw enough in Gibson to feel comfortable to let Peterson walk, so fantasy owners, especially those in PPR leagues, should use him as an RB2/flex in Week 1.
James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Indianapolis Colts
Robinson was an undrafted free agent, signed by the Jaguars after the NFL draft. He apparently looked great in training camp, enough so that the team felt comfortable releasing Leonard Fournette. Ryquell Armstead is still on the COVID-19 list and won't play in Week 1. Devine Ozigbo (another undrafted free agent) is dealing with an injury as well. It may be Robinson by default, but this may be the chance for him to prove that he can earn the starting job. It's a risky fantasy start, but one that may pay off.
SIT These Running Backs
Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys
Akers was drafted in the second round, and while he may have fantasy value at some point this season, it likely won't be in Week 1. The Rams backfield will likely be a case of the "hot hand." Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson Jr. are in the picture, although Henderson is dealing with a soft tissue injury. Akers will probably be eased into game action slowly, but enough that fantasy owners are going to have a hard time trusting anyone in this backfield until a clear starter is named.
Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
It's going to be hard to trust someone who got cut (by the Jacksonville Jaguars!) and signed with another team so late in the lead up to the season. He'll have been on the team for barely a week by the time Week 1 rolls around, and while he can pick up some of the offense and he'll likely suit up, Fournette shouldn't be trusted for fantasy. The Bucs face the Saints, which were a tough defense last year. Between the Bucs wanting to showcase their new quarterback and the amount of time Fournette has spent on the team, he should remain on fantasy benches.
START These Wide Receivers
Bryan Edwards, Las Vegas Raiders at Carolina Panthers
Henry Ruggs III is another rookie wide receiver on the Raiders, and both are fantasy options for Week 1. However, it seems that Edwards is set to take over the role that was going to be filled by Tyrell Williams, who tore his labrum and will miss the entire season. The Raiders have had a lot of positive things to say about Edwards coming out of training camp, and he should have an opportunity to shine in Week 1 against the Panthers. Start him as a WR2/3.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars
Hilton should be started when he's healthy, which based on last year, was not often. He seems to be healthy heading into Week 1, so fantasy owners should take advantage. It will be interesting to see how he connects with Philip Rivers, but Rivers was able to work well with Keenan Allen, so he figures to also be able to boost Hilton's value. The Colts face Jacksonville in Week 1, which should be an opponent Hilton can exploit. He will flirt with WR1 status for Week 1.
SIT These Wide Receivers
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
In many leagues, Chris Godwin was drafted before Evans. Fantasy owners that drafted Evans knew that he ended the 2019 season on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. It's worrisome that he missed practice this week with a hamstring injury and will likely have at least a questionable tag heading into Week 1, if he's even able to play. It's going to be tough to trust him, knowing the team may hold him back (even if he is active). Fantasy owners drafted Evans as their WR1, but if they have other options, they may want to start them this week.
DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
The two Dolphins receivers drafted in most fantasy leagues (Parker and Preston Williams) are both banged up but expected to play in Week 1. Parker, as the No. 1 wide receiver in Miami, faces a tough New England defense. Reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore will likely be covering Parker, which is going to make this a tough task for a player not dealing with a hamstring injury. Parker may have a few good plays, but if fantasy owners can bench him for Week 1, they should consider doing so.
— Rankings by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.