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Start 'em, Sit 'em Week 1: Saquon Barkley and Other RB/WR Fantasy Advice

Fantasy Football Injury Recap: Saquon Barkley

Saquon Barkley is expected to be back in Week 1 but that doesn't mean he should start in fantasy

In some ways, Week 1 is the hardest week to make start/sit decisions in fantasy football, and in other ways, it is the easiest week. It's the hardest because we have zero regular-season NFL games to make our decisions. However, it also is the easiest because we drafted the way we did for a reason. Of course, that doesn't mean we are right!

But allow me to lay out the rules for this column. I will not be suggesting to start any WR or RB who is a "consensus" RB1 or WR1 (i.e. typically a player in the top 12 for his position that week). Likewise, I will be not suggesting that you sit an RB or WR who is not typically in the top 30 at either position. Any other rules you want me to follow, go ahead and send 'em my way (@MarkStrausberg). If enough of you want to be stricter, looser, or whatever you suggest, I will adjust my approach accordingly.

With the ground rules out of the way, let's get to the Week 1 start/sits!

Week 1 Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Raheem Mostert, San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions

I like Trey Sermon to be a fixture in the NFL, but can everyone just slow their roll for a moment? The issue with Mostert is not a lack of talent, but simply the inability to remain healthy. Well, it's Week 1 and Mostert is healthy.

Mostert has been a stud when healthy and averaged five yards a carry last season. He also averaged two catches a game and nearly 10 yards per reception. Besides the talent to excel, Mostert is getting a primo matchup this week against the Lions. The Lions gave up a league-worst 30-plus fantasy points per game to running backs last year. That's a lot of points and we know the 49ers love to run the ball. Twenty-plus fantasy points might be a conservative estimate for Mostert this week.

Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts

I'll admit it, I changed my opinion on Carson almost every time the weather changed. But Carson is another one that when he gets work, he produces. Some see a changing of the guard in the Seattle backfield, but I don't. As I began to research Carson, I also uncovered that he has improved his receptions per game every season. He is coming off a career-high in receiving TDs, but anything he gives you through the air is gravy. Start him because he averaged 4.8 yards per carry last year. Indianapolis had to defend fewer than 25 rushing attempts per game last year. But let's assume Carson sees just two-thirds of that number. In the eight games last season in which Carson had at least 14 touches, he averaged 16.7 fantasy points per game. You don't need to be Carnac the Magnificent to see that this Carson is the answer as to who to start this week.

SIT These RBs

Saquon Barkley, New York Giants vs. Denver Broncos 

If I'm galactically wrong on any pick, this will be the one. But Barkley slipped into the second round this fantasy draft season for a number of reasons. The Giants' offensive line is average at best. Barkley will likely see at least eight men in the box and maybe more if Daniel Jones can't keep defenses honest. And do you really want to bet on that happening? Furthermore, there are some questions as to how many snaps Barkley will actually see:

I can see this game getting away from the Giants so they might not even have a choice but to try and throw the ball. If you drafted Barkley, you most likely need to start him. But there are a ton of red flags here and if you have two other strong options at RB, you might want to leave Barkley on your bench.

David Montgomery, Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams

This is an easy one. The Rams' defense? It's pretty good. They allowed fewer than 100 rushing yards per game last year. They were sixth in the league in rushing TDs allowed. They allowed just four yards per carry, good for fifth in the league.

The Montgomery supporters like to mention how strong he finished. However, take a close look at the teams he played in Weeks 12-17. In addition to the aforementioned Lions, the Bears played Green Bay twice, Houston, Minnesota, and Jacksonville. All of these teams were in the top six in terms of most fantasy points allowed to RBs last year.

Plus, at that point in the season, he had no competition for touches. There is no way he sees 91.4 percent of the RB carries this year, and his 74 percent snap share is likely to decline as well. Expect Damien Williams to be a headache for Montgomery owners this year and it will start early.


DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons 

I could understand if you are reluctant to start a rookie this week, but of all the rookie WR options, I like Smith the most in Week 1. First off, most of the rookie WRs will not be catching passes from a quarterback they caught passes from in college. Smith and Jalen Hurts played together at Alabama (2017-18), so they entered training camp with some chemistry.

Furthermore, most rookies will not have the luxury that Smith has of facing the Atlanta secondary. The Falcons were the most generous team when it came to giving up fantasy points to WRs last season, allowing a whopping 42.97 per game! Smith makes for a very promising WR3 or Flex play this week.

Jerry Jeudy/Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos at New York Giants 

Let me start by saying I like Jeudy more than Sutton this week, but either one should put up some decent numbers, despite the matchup. Because a quick look at the numbers shows that the Giants allowed the 11th-fewest fantasy points to WRs this year. But that's because teams didn't need to exploit their weaker secondary as they often were running out the clock on them. The Giants were middle of the pack in yards per attempt and actually allowed the ninth-highest completion rate.

That all bodes well for the Denver passing attack. And we should expect Teddy Bridgewater to try and make a statement that he deserves to be an NFL starting quarterback. Expect him to connect early and often with his uber-talented WR corps.

SIT These WRs

Ja'Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Minnesota Vikings

I said I would start DeVonta Smith, but given WRs of a similar level, there is no way I would be starting Chase over any of them. Based upon the preseason, we have absolutely no reason to think that Chase suddenly leapfrogged either Tyler Boyd or Tee Higgins. That makes him a WR3 at best. I do like his long-term outlook. But I'm not expecting too much from Chase in his first regular-season game.

I know the matchup looks good as Minnesota gave up a ton of passing yards along with the 30 TDs through the air. But the Vikings were actually weaker against the run last year. It is why teams attempted the ninth-fewest passes against them last season. I don't foresee Bengals head coach Zac Taylor wanting to get into a shootout this week and my guess is we see a heavy dose of Joe Mixon. Even if the Bengals do take to the air, expect Joe Burrow to look for Boyd or Higgins first. Chase had way too many drops this preseason to make the second-year QB comfortable, even if they put up huge numbers together at LSU.

Kenny Golladay, New York Giants vs. Denver Broncos 

Okay, I might be dipping a little beyond the WR3 route here depending on where you look. But given that Golladay is just a year removed from finishing as the ninth-best fantasy WR, I don't think we're digging too deep here. Plus, as you can probably tell I'm not real high on the Giants' chances this week.

Some of that might be because I'm not even sure Golladay plays this week. He did get in a limited practice on Wednesday, but he refused to say he would play this week. Despite being on a new team, Golladay has had only limited snaps during the preseason. He might be absolutely fine later in the year, but that is not a recipe for success early in the year.

Furthermore, the Denver defense will have Bradley Chubb and Von Miller on the field at the same time come Sunday. In addition to a scary front seven, the Broncos added Alabama cornerback Pat Surtain II with their first pick, along with six other defensive players to help restore what was not too long ago a lock-down defense. Either way, it's good enough for me to make Golladay an easy fade this week. 

— Written by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.