Wide Receiver Start or Sit – Week 1
The wait? Over. Research? Done. Draft? Complete. Now all that is left to do is put the final touches on your week one starting lineup. I’m here to help you do just that.
Every week I will provide you with my recommended Start or Sit advice at the wide receiver position for that given week’s slate of games. I will not be discussing obvious must starts like Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones, etc. Instead I will be assisting in the tough lineup decisions such as Michael Floyd or John Brown? Or Jordan Matthews or Donte Moncrief? You get the idea. It is important to note that these are just recommendations and I always believe following your gut is the way to go when making a final start or sit call.
My suggestions will be based on numerous factors such as matchups, opportunities within the offense, and past performances, to name a few. All statistics provided are based on standard scoring (non PPR).
For more start or sit advice and any other fantasy football questions you may have, visit our forums where myself and all of our wonderful writers will be more than happy to help you out. You can also follow FTA on Twitter @FanTeamAdvice or myself @ajohnsonFTA.
Start of the Week: Michael Crabtree/Amari Cooper (at NO)
The Oakland Raiders offense is on the rise and week one’s matchup against the Saints will provide a perfect opportunity to showcase the young talent they possess on that side of the ball. The Saints defense allowed more than 26 fantasy points per game (ppg) to opposing wide receivers in 2015 according to pro football reference. This should allow Derek Carr and all his weapons to find plenty of success down in the Big Easy. With the game potentially turning into a shootout with Drew Brees on the other side, look for Crabtree and Cooper to lead your squad to a 1-0 start.
Bottom Line: Start Cooper as a WR1 and Crabtree as a high-end WR2.
Mohamed Sanu (vs TB)
Back in early March the Falcons released Roddy White who is the franchise leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. In that same month the team signed his projected replacement, Mohamed Sanu, to a five year contract. With superstar Julio Jones gaining all the attention from opposing defenses and a lack of any other proven targets, expect the 6’2 210lb former Bengal to see a plethora of Matt Ryan passes head his way. The Tampa Bay defense ranked in the bottom half of the league last season in fantasy points given up to opponent’s receivers with nearly 25 ppg. I project a very solid debut for Sanu in the Georgia Dome.
Bottom Line: Start Sanu as a WR 3 with upside.
Sammy Watkins (at BAL)
Despite battling multiple injuries in 2015, Sammy Watkins finished his sophomore season seventh in terms of average fantasy points per game, just 0.4 fewer than Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins. According to playerprofiler.com, the former Clemson wideout ranked first in yards per touch and second in fantasy points per target a year ago. If he can stay on the field, Watkins can improve on his 2015 numbers and become one of the better fantasy options at the receiver position. His first match up of the year comes against a Baltimore defense that, despite finishing in the top 10 in fewest passing yards allowed last season, were 30th in terms of fantasy ppg scored by opposing receivers. Wideouts on average scored 26.7 ppg when battling the Ravens defense.
Bottom Line: Start Watkins with confidence as a high-end WR 2 who should produce WR 1 numbers.
Sterling Shepard (at DAL)
It was just a few years ago when all the “experts” would advise against relying on rookie wide receivers as consistent starters in your fantasy lineups. In fact, even second-year players were often shied away from. Thanks to guys like AJ Green and Odell Beckham Jr., those days are long over. Rookie wide receivers are now producing at veteran levels and in some cases even out performing their more experienced compatriots. Heading into 2016, Giants second round pick Sterling Shepard is my favorite first year player at his position. Shepard, paired with Beckham, should make for quite an explosive passing attack in New York. The feedback out of training camp on the man they call “Shep,” has been nothing but positive. Even OBJ has said he believes Shepard could break his rookie receiving yardage record of 1,305 set in 2014. In this game, the attention will be on Beckham which should allow for Shepard to find plenty of single coverage both on the outside and from the slot. His impressive route running skills and ability to make all the tough catches underneath, over the middle, and downfield should set up this Sooner to have an immediate impact in his NFL debut.
Bottom Line: Shepard is a WR 3/FLEX option at very worse with top 15 potential vs Dallas.
Others with favorable matchups: Marvin Jones/Golden Tate (at IND), Corey Coleman (at PHI), Randall Cobb (at JAX)
Sit of the Week: DeVante Parker (at SEA)
Dolphins second year WR DeVante Parker is actually one of my favorite sleeper candidates heading into the 2016 season. However, I view him as a boom-or-bust player who will provide more bust than boom in week one. Parker and the Dolphins will head cross-country to Seattle to face off against the vaunted Seahawks defense. In 2015 the Legion of Boom ranked among the top three best in the NFL in passing yards allowed, passing touchdowns allowed, and fantasy points per game against wide receivers. Richard Sherman and company are known for their physical, press coverage style. Parker, on the other hand, has been knocked for his inability to beat press coverage. In fact, according to NFL.com author/editor Matt Harmon’s “Reception Perception” article, Parker had a success rate below 40% against press coverage in his rookie campaign. The NFL average is 68.6%. Take a moment to let that sink in. This very possibly may end up being a breakout season for the Louisville product, but we will likely have to wait until at least week two before seeing that come to fruition.
Bottom Line: Keep Parker on your bench unless desperate.
Larry Fitzgerald (vs NE)
Larry Fitzgerald finished as a top 10 scorer among fantasy wide receivers in 2015. He caught 109 passes for 1,215 yards with 9 touchdowns. So why is he listed as a week one sit? The age, right? He’s old now. Actually that’s not the reason. Let’s take a closer look at some numbers. Over his final five regular season games last season, Fitzgerald failed to earn more than 55 yards in any contest. In his last seven, he scored double digit fantasy points just once (11.5 week 17). His career versus Bill Belichick’s defense? An average of 3 receptions, 47 yards and found the end zone once in the fourth quarter of a 47-7 blowout loss. Those are far from impressive numbers. If I were a Fitz owner I would be very skeptical of putting him in my week one starting lineup.
Bottom Line: I would start both of his teammates John Brown and Michael Floyd over Fitzgerald. He’s at best a WR 3/FLEX starter this week. Try to find other options if possible.
Kelvin Benjamin (*Thursday Night Football* at DEN)
Kelvin Benjamin makes his return Thursday night after sitting out the entire 2015 season with an ACL tear. In his first game back, Benjamin will be challenged by the Denver defense which dominated its way to a Lombardi trophy in Super Bowl 50. Last year, the “no fly zone” led the NFL in pass defense, while also giving up the fewest fantasy points to both quarterbacks and receivers. Cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr., both 2015 pro bowlers, will be matched against Benjamin on the majority of the Panthers offensive snaps, making his return that much more difficult. In the super bowl, the Panthers were held to 197 pass yards, while Cam Newton was sacked six times and sported an abysmal passer rating of 55.4. I expect Benjamin to struggle to get open consistently enough to make much of an impact on the stat sheet. Try to find other options this week if you can.
Bottom Line: Benjamin is a risky Flex start week one. Remember he plays on Thursday night so make lineup decisions accordingly.
Jeremy Maclin (vs SD)
The Chiefs will kickoff their season against the division rival San Diego Chargers, a team they beat twice a year ago. While the team may have done well vs the Bolts, top receiver Jeremy Maclin did not experience the same success, at least from a fantasy perspective. The reason for Maclin’s struggles against the 4-12 Chargers was the fact that he was tasked with the challenge of matching up with one of the league’s best young cornerbacks, Jason Verrett. In their two battles, Verrett held the veteran to 3 catches for 29 yards in week 11 and 6 catches for 68 yards in week 14. Maclin also failed to find the end zone and hauled in only one reception of more than 20 yards (21).
Bottom Line: Maclin is no better than a WR 3 this week. Start him with caution.
Others with difficult matchups: AJ Green (at NYJ), Mike Evans (at ATL), Keenan Allen (at KC)