Week one: Fantasy football start or sit

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (19) hauls in a long pass against Philadelphia Eagles safety Marcus Epps (22) during the first quarter of an NFL football game at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Arlington.

Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News/TNS

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (19) hauls in a long pass against Philadelphia Eagles safety Marcus Epps (22) during the first quarter of an NFL football game at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Arlington.

You’ve finished your draft and your week one team is set. Now the only issue is filling in the holes on your team. Every league has that one team who dominates up until bye weeks start, then they fall apart. Do not be that team this year. Week one is all about learning how your players perform, and what role they will play on your team. But it is also about building the future of your fantasy franchise. The key to a winning team is having depth behind your starters.

Once the first bye week rolls around, don’t be caught lacking without a backup quarterback, or replacement wide receivers. Although big name stars seem to be the ones who win games, fantasy football is about the yard eaters and heavy receivers, who don’t get as noticed as they should. This week, I am going to help you find some players to help improve the future of your team.

Quarterbacks:

Even if you have the game’s best passers, like Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes, or Baltimore Ravens Lamar Jackson, they still need to sit one or two weeks a year. When that happens, your bench needs to be prepared. If you are lucky, you may have a star quarterback on your bench, but most of us don’t. Most fantasy managers need to pick up a free agent quarterback before sitting their starters. You need to make sure you’re picking the right ones.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is only rostered in 78.6% of ESPN Fantasy leagues, and he is a complete steal for a backup quarterback while he’s still available. Burrow is projected to score 17.6 points per game in 2021, compared to number one ranked quarterback Mahomes’s 22.4 projected points per game.

For the less fortunate managers, who aren’t able to jump on Burrow, Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is rostered in less than half of leagues, and is still projected for 16.0 points per game. Although not the most efficient source of points for a quarterback, Tagovailoa is a great second option for you.

List of players you should start, or sit, this week on your fantasy teams.

Running backs:

Knowing who to have on your bench for quarterback is the easiest part of fantasy football. Having enough running backs to win games is the hardest task. Every NFL team has their starting running back: the Saints have Alvin Kamara, the Panthers have Cristian McCaffrey and the Titans have Derek Henry. Everyone has their star, but what if you didn’t draft a Pro Bowl player? You will still need a good point scoring running back.

As the backup to Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys running back Tony Pollard would be a perfect option for pickup as a free agent. In 2020, Pollard averaged 4.3 points per game as a rookie. But this season, Dallas coaching is looking to bring Pollard forward in the depth chart, hoping to get him twice as many rushes as he had last year. Since Pollard is a second stringer in the shadows of his pro bowl counterpart, he hasn’t been rostered in almost two-thirds of all ESPN fantasy leagues.

 

Heading over to the Bay, San Francisco’s second string running back, Trey Sermon, is looking like a strong candidate for the starting role soon this year. With injury-prone Raheem Mostert starting for the 49ers this season, the odds of Pollard getting more snaps than other backups in the league are fairly high. Pollard would be an excellent option for a free agent bench player that can start one or two weeks this year.

 

Wide receivers and tight ends:

In the NFL, tight ends are a very limited position, and having a good point-scoring athlete in the “big man slot” is key to success. If you struggled to get a decent tight end in your draft, Chicago Bears tight end Cole Kmet is only rostered in 18% of ESPN fantasy leagues. Picking up Kmet would be a smart move for a backup, as his projected average is 4.4 fantasy points per game.

For wide receivers, it can’t hurt to have depth. And in today’s NFL, speed is key for a good wide out. Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver two is a dangerous speed threat and is a force to be reckoned with. And no, it isn’t Tyreek Hill. Mecole Hardman, who is only rostered in 60% of leagues, has finally made his way into the Chiefs second slot. Now that Hardman is higher on the depth chart, he will be seeing more targets than a normal year, leaving him very underrated for this upcoming season.

Lastly, Jacksonville’s finest pass catcher, Laviska Shenault Jr. is a monster on the field. Although he is the highest rostered player on this list, at 86.7%, Shenault Jr. would be a great pick up if he is available. With the fifth easiest schedule in the NFL, and emerging as a great young talent in the league, the wideout has been named the biggest breakout name to look out for this year by CBS Sports. If Shenault Jr. isn’t available as a free agent in your league, I’d still recommend any Jaguars receivers, due to the toughness of their schedule.

 

Now that your lineups are set, and you have your bench prepared, it’s time to get the season started. Good luck in all of your leagues, and come back next week for more Fantasy Football advice.

 

*All stats, percentages and rankings found using ESPN Fantasy Football.*

*All player/team profiles and stats are found on NFL.com.*