The NFL Season is finally upon us, with the first game of the year kicking off last night. We have a full slate of opening weekend games on tap, including 14 games on Sunday. With all those options, there are plenty of questions about who is the best one to start. Each week I’ll be offing one Sit and one Start from each position—QB, RB, WR, and TE—to help guide you in the right direction.
For the sake of transparency, we’ll be keeping score, too. So, check back next week to see how I did for opening week. But, without further ado, here are this week’s Sit/Start recommendations.
Start: Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
Opponent: at Kansas City Chiefs
My Week 1 Ranking: QB9
About: Look, I get it. The Browns are a run-first team, and Baker succeeded last year as more of a game manager than a gunslinger. But I think this will be one of the higher scoring games of Week 1, Odell Beckham, Jr., is back in the lineup, and Baker is finally in the second year of an offensive system for the first time in his career. The Chiefs’ defense is fine, but I don’t think it’s incredible. I like the return of OBJ, along with Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper, and Kareem Hunt in the passing game. The Browns will run, but I think they’ll have to throw, too, in order to keep up. I have Baker as a QB1 this season and I think it begins this week.
Sit: Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
Opponent: vs. Minnesota Vikings
My Week 1 Ranking: QB19
About: I like Burrow. I think he’s going to have a good season, and he’s still high up on my board when it comes to dynasty. This Week 1 matchup with the Vikings doesn’t scare me a lot, either, but I’m urging caution when it comes to Burrow, especially in Week 1. Burrow was lost for the season in Week 10 last year with a brutal knee injury. While he’s worked back to game readiness and should start, we didn’t see him test much during the pre-season. Reports from the camp were mixed as well. All that leads me to believe that Burrow will be working himself into game shape during the season’s first few games. I suspect the Bengals will use a heavy dose of Joe Mixon in the running game, and this won’t be a high-scoring affair. Burrow will be fine this season, but I’m not pushing him into my lineup in Week 1.
Start: James Robinson
Opponent: at Houston Texans
My Week 1 Ranking: RB10
About: No player had more of an up-and-down off-season than Robinson. He finished as RB7 in 2020 after being an undrafted signee for the woeful Jacksonville Jaguars. Robinson went through a coaching change to Urban Meyer and plenty of speculation about whether he’d continue to be the lead back in Jacksonville. When the Jaguars spent a First Round pick on Clemson back Travis Etienne, it appeared Robison’s role would diminish. Then Etienne hurt his foot and had Lisfranc surgery, ending his season. So, Robinson is again the unquestioned lead back in Jacksonville, which this week breaks in a rookie quarterback and a recovering receiving corps against the woeful Houston Texans. Meyer has typically favored run-heavy offenses, as has Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell. That bodes well for the second-year back, which is used to carrying the load for the Jaguars. Even better, I think the Jaguars should win the game, likely meaning they’ll want to grind out the clock. I expected a big day for Robinson.
Sit: Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Opponent: vs. Denver Broncos
My Week 1 Ranking: RB19
About: Saquon is a great talent, and I think he’ll have a strong season. In his career, he’s never finished lower than RB10 when he’s played in 15 or more games in a season. Season-long, no sweat. But this is Week 1. Barkley is returning from a knee injury and has been treated cautiously by the Giants. He’s had few practice reps and little contact, not appearing in any pre-season games. He seems on track to play Sunday, but I suspect he’ll be battling a combination of rust and caution from the Giants. He’s also playing a strong defense in the Broncos and playing with a quarterback in Daniel Jones that doesn’t move the needle for me. I still have him ranked as a low-end RB2, but I don’t feel confident. I also suspect many are banking on him carrying their team, and I don’t think that happens in Week 1.
Start: A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans
Opponent: vs. Arizona Cardinals
My Week 1 Ranking: WR3
About: Brown has been great since coming into the league. In 2020 he finished as WR12, catching 70 passes for 1,075 yards and 11 TDs. This year the Titans added veteran Julio Jones to the lineup opposite Brown. Some might be concerned that Julio will eat into Brown’s production, but not me. Better still, Brown gets a Cardinals team in Week 1 that saw Patrick Peterson depart in free agency and Malcolm Butler, his replacement, retire. So, the Cardinals don’t exactly have a robust secondary. I think this could be one of the highest-scoring games of the week, and I suspect Brown will have a huge role to play.
Sit: Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals
Opponent: vs. Minnesota Vikings
My Week 1 Ranking: WR35
About: Chase falls into the same category as Burrow this week. I like Chase as a prospect, and I think he’ll have a decent season. He was a top selection in rookie drafts, and many are likely counting on him as part of the starting lineup this season. But Chase sat out the 2020 college season and has shown some signs of rust during the pre-season and Training Camp. That combined with a pass offense that will likely need some time to come together, and I’m looking elsewhere this week.
Start: George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
Opponent: at Detroit Lions
My Week 1 Ranking: TE2
About: When healthy, Kittle is a beast. He seems healthy to start the season and gets a Detroit defense that doesn’t scare anyone. The 49ers still have questions at quarterback as the team plans some split with Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance. I’m not bullish on this being a high-scoring game, but I think Kittle will be good to go.
Sit: Chris Herndon, Minnesota Vikings
Opponent: at Cincinnati Bengals
My Week 1 Ranking: NA
About: It seems like every season, we enter Week 1, hoping it will be Herdon’s time. Maybe 2021 will be that year after he was traded from the Jets to the Vikings. I thought Irv Smith, Jr., would be in for a good season, and he’s out now. So, there’s a possibility. But I don’t see that coming this week. The Vikings have Tyler Conklin, and at a minimum, I think he splits time. Herndon is likely still learning the Vikings’ offense and building rapport. He might be a good option at some point, but not in Week 1.