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The 20 players to start Week 1 of fantasy football

History tells us these are the guys to start in opening week.

Getty Images/Peter Rogers Illustrations

So here we are, your draft is in the books and you’ve made your last minute roster adjustments. Now the only question is who should you be starting in week 1? I’ve had a look at the players who historically get off to a fast start as a guide to who might be worth a spot start to get your season going with a win.

I’ve taken standard scoring data from week 1 for the last five years and I’ve given you five players by position who have performed well in the season opener who you may want to consider in your lineups. I’ve excluded players being drafted in the first couple of rounds as let’s face it, if you need telling to start Antonio Brown, Gronk and Zeke Elliot, you’re beyond the help of the entire Fake Teams staff.


Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts - 25.2 points per game

He’s back and ready to roll. The Colts are going to be behind in a lot of games this year and that only adds to Luck’s fantasy value. Week one against a fiery Bengals defensive front he’ll need all his skills but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Luck overcome the odds and ball out.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions - 23.0 points per game

Stafford is a no brainer starter in fantasy, finishing as the QB7 in 2017. Up against the Jets in week 1, Stafford could get off to a flying start against one of the league’s weaker rosters.

Alex Smith, Washington - 21.9 points per game

We at Fake Teams have been flying the Alex Smith flag this draft season. After his best season in 2017 where he finished as the QB4, Smith steps into Kirk Cousins’ shoes and should pick up where he left off in Kansas City.

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons - 21.5 points per game

If Ryan’s recent career arc of up year, down year, we should see performances more akin to his MVP 2016 season this year. Playing opening night against an Eagles defense missing some pieces, Ryan will be out for revenge for the narrow loss in the Divisional round in January.

Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans - 20.8 points per game

It’s a bit of a make or break year for Marcus Mariota if he wants to be get that big contract extension after this season. With new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur bringing a version of the Rams offense to Nashville, Mariota has the chance to shine and a week 1 trip to the Dolphins could get him and the Titans off to a fast start.

Running Backs

Carlos Hyde, Cleveland Browns - 17.6 points per game

The biggest week one warrior of them all, averaging more points per game in week 1 than any other active skill position player. Hyde moved to the Browns this off-season but will be the lead back as the Steelers visit Cleveland in week 1.

Chris Ivory, Buffalo Bills - 11.3 points per game

Ivory joined the Bills this off-season and though he will serve as Shady McCoy’s backup in Buffalo, the Bills offense is going to heavily rely of their backfield this season and Ivory will get his fair share of opportunities as both a runner and as a pass catcher.

C.J. Anderson, Carolina Panthers - 10.6 points per game

Another player on a new roster in 2018, Anderson fills in the role vacated by Jonathan Stewart and should get the majority of the early down work in Carolina. Both Christian McCaffrey and Cam Newton will eat into his workload, but as a spot starter in the flex, Anderson could offer some value in week 1.

Theo Riddick, Detroit Lions - 10.4 points per game

Riddick is in a crowded backfield in Detroit with rookie Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount also in line to share touches but Riddick remains the pass catching back and has the chemistry with Matthew Stafford. Riddick should be a flex certainty in PPR leagues and a consideration in deeper standard leagues.

Isaiah Crowell, New York Jets - 9.7 points per game

The final running back is also on a new team in 2018 as Crowell has moved from the Browns this off-season. Crowell doesn’t offer much in the passing game but as the lead back with a rookie QB under center, Crowell will get some good volume in week 1.

Wide Receivers

Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings - 15.5 points per game

A small sample size as Diggs only has two week 1 starts in his career, but Diggs is an explosive receiver who I believe will establish himself as the number 1 in Minnesota. A week 1 match up at home against the 49ers, I can see Diggs lighting up the San Francisco secondary for a big opening game.

Willie Snead, Baltimore Ravens - 14.8 points per game

Now here’s a deep week 1 sleeper. Snead is pretty much undrafted in all leagues and is likely to be the WR3 in Baltimore but is a sneaky decent receiver when healthy. Plus he can also throw the odd pass so could offer up a little more value if the Ravens want to add a little trickeration to their week 1 playbook.

Brandin Cooks, Los Angeles Rams - 14.3 points per game

I’m big on Cooks this year. The fact the Rams went in hard to acquire him, I think the money suggests he’ll be a figurehead of their offense and a true number 1. Against a Raiders team who could be a hot mess early on, Cooks is a must start.

Jordy Nelson, Oakland Raiders - 12.6 points per game

I’m a little nervous about this one but Jordy is the clear number 2 in Oakland and will always offer that touchdown threat in the red zone, even if his speed may be a little off what it used to be.

Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers - 10.9 points per game

With a host of pass catchers in Green Bay, Cobb will be fighting for targets but at least he has the history and rapport with the $100m man under center. More of a PPR flex than in standard leagues because of his work out of the slot, Cobb is good for 6-7 touches against the Bears in week 1.

Tight End

Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Jacksonville Jaguars - 11.5 points per game

Who knew eh? Driven by a 23 point game in 2015 for the Bucs, ASJ is an intriguing lower tier tight end this year as he replaces Marcedes Lewis in Jacksonville and could be in line for a lot of targets in 2018 among the Jaguars’ young receiving corps.

Vernon Davis, Washington - 11.2 points per game

A wily veteran, though Davis has seen his week 1 workload decrease each year since 2013. With a healthy Jordan Reed ahead of him, Davis would be a wild reach to start in week 1.

Austin Hooper, Atlanta Falcons - 10.1 points per game

The third year tight end got off to a fast start in 2017 with a 128 yard and a touchdown game against the Bears. A potential breakout candidate in 2018, Hooper may not be a likely week 1 starter but could be flying off the waiver wire by mid-season.

Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts - 9.8 points per game

With Andrew Luck back and looking fully healthy for the first time in nearly three 3 years, Doyle could be a legitimate starter this season, though the presence of Eric Ebron could muddy the waters a little. Doyle and Luck had a strong connection back in 2016 and Luck will be looking for reliable guys as he re-establishes himself in the league.

Jared Cook, Oakland Raiders - 8.9 points per game

It could be an interesting year in Oakland based on their off-season to date and with Martavis Bryant cut last week, Cook could be in line to improve on his 2017 season where he pulled in 54 catches, his best return. He’s likely the 3rd receiving option at the current time and worth considering in deeper leagues.