Sneaky Starts for Week 1 Lineups
We have finally made it—week 1 of the NFL season. The drafts are wrapping up, your teams are set, and redraft trades are in motion. The NFL season is here, and let's talk about some Sneaky Starts for week one.
Josh Allen is a must-start… obviously. This article isn't about the obvious starters here. I will not tell you to start the Allen, as mentioned above, Patrick Mahomes, Justin Jefferson, or Josh Jacobs. Those guys are must and obvious starts. This article is about some guys that did not have the draft capital and may have question marks for year-long plays (I do dive into why they are as well) but for week one. It may win your matchup.
As we all know, starting in the win column in fantasy is significant; a close victory or a blowout, a win is a win. This article is here to help you with just that. Here is a player from every offensive position (and flex spot) that could win your matchup this week.
QB - Sam Howell
There may not be more hype for a player after preseason than Sam Howell, and for good reason. Sam Howell produced points when the first team offense was on the field. His stats speak for themselves. In the two preseason games he played against the Browns, Ravens his stat lines are as follows:
9/12 77 yards 1 TD
19/25 188 yards 2 TD
Howell secured his starting role and got to rest the third game so he would be healthy and ready for the regular season. So what? Why should you start him in your lineups this week, and why am I starting him over Jared Goff and Aaron Rodgers? There are a few reasons.
Reason 1: Opponent
Washington is playing Arizona. After Zaven Collins and Budda Baker, the Arizona defense is in rough shape. While also trading away Isaiah Simmons for practically nothing, the Cardinals will not be very good this year. Only when Kyler Murray returns will the defense play less and not wear down.
Reason 2: Player Personnel
Howell has two running backs, Brian Robinson for between the tackles and Antonio Gibson for gadget, outside, and screen game. The real depth is at wide receiver. Terry Mclaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Curtis Samuel are all great options for a new quarterback. Mclaurin is a perfect outside receiver, Dotson the inside, and Samuel the Swiss army knife. Howell has the weapons in the backfield, out wide, and at the line of scrimmage with Cole Turner and Logan Thomas at tight end.
Reason 3: Coach
Eric Bieniemy is now the offensive coordinator for the Commanders. His offenses have been dynamic in recent years as the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs. Although Andy Reid gets all the credit for the Chiefs offense, which is why Bieniemy had to leave, he will be taken seriously as a head coaching candidate. Bieniemy has something to prove. Howell has good athleticism, and Bieniemy will put him in a position to win.
If you have Sam Howell in Superflex, Howell will be a great Superflex player all year. If you have Burrow as QB1 and Howell as your QB2, will Burrow be 100%? Howell may be the play week one if the Bengals play it safe, or if Burrow does play, he has an injury that reaggravates easily.
RB - Jamaal Williams
Jamaal Williams was an obvious choice here. Williams brings charisma and professionalism to a backfield that needed a player like that. The reasons why you should start him are as follows:
Reason 1: Playing Time
We know Williams will be the starter for at least the first three games because of the suspension of Alvin Kamara. Frankly, after the first three weeks, I don't see him being that bad of an option either. Kamara's best years were when Mark Ingram and he split touches, and I feel Jamaal can do that for the Saints again. Williams is a must-start with this and the lingering injury to Kendre Miller.
Reason 2: Track Record
Jamaal Williams's track record as a viable running back option has always been good. In his four years in Green Bay and two years in Detroit, he has yet to have a season under 100 touches. In that six-year career as well, he has 30 touchdowns. I don't expect a repeat of last year's 17 touchdowns, but he will have a workload, especially in week one against the Titans. Williams will not be affected by a decent defense.
The zero-running-back truthers are loving this one. Williams is the epitome of the strategy. Jamaal Williams will be the bellcow in week 1 for the Saints, and he could easily play 80% of snaps, so he will get his chances to fill the stat sheet.
WR - Courtland Sutton
The reasons are evident for Sutton, and we will get to those in a second, but Sutton gets on this list for where he is also going in drafts. I picked him up in drafts as early as round 11 to round 14, and for a WR2 in most weeks on his team, that is a value I will always hit the draft button for. Here are a few more reasons why:
Reason 1: Injuries
The Denver Broncos are one of the teams that have been thwarted by the injury bug this preseason, especially at the wide receiver position. Jerry Jeudy will be questionable with his hamstring injury; they lost KJ Hamler and Tim Patrick, possibly forever. They also cut many of the guys who have had NFL reps, like Kendall Hinton. Purely based on who is there, Sutton is a good start candidate.
Reason 2: Offensive Coaching
Sean Payton, whether you love or hate, knows how to coach, specifically on the offensive side of the ball. He had one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Drew Brees, and had a WR1 in New Orleans for multiple years before injuries started playing a factor. That wide receiver was Michael Thomas. Based on reports, Payton has had Sutton watching old Thomas films. If that is the case, Sutton, a big-bodied wide receiver, might have a great year.
Reason 3: Opponent
We have yet to determine what the Raiders will be this year. McDaniels's track record as a head coach could be better, and they have yet to do much to improve their defense this offseason. Their front seven is good, but must improve on the back end. Marcus Peters is good but injury-prone. We will see if he can produce like he once did. Peters gives up big plays, and no one in the Raiders' secondary can cover Sutton in week one. Nate Hobbs will try, but this is another case of the offense getting significantly worse, so how long will they be on the field? I expect a long time, which will stretch out the field for Sutton to eat up those slant routes.
It's purely based on who is available for week 1 for the Broncos. Sutton is an excellent wide receiver. Especially in leagues, you have to start three in. Wide receivers are the cream of the crop now in fantasy; finding depth and playing the right ones is significant between winning and losing. Sutton helps you win week 1.
TE - Dalton Schultz
On a new team that is rebuilding, Dalton Schultz has been a sneaky dynasty tight-end pickup all year. A career with 211 receptions, 2122 yards, and 17 touchdowns is decent; this could be a breakout year for many reasons. Here is why I think he is a better play than some other high-tier guys in week 1:
Reason 1: Security Blanket
Schultz has had a quiet offseason since he signed his deal. That is not good on a team with many new faces. We also all know the cliche that tight ends are a quarterback's security blanket. That holds with Schultz this year, especially with a rookie quarterback in CJ Stroud. Schultz is athletic and will be a mismatch on safeties and linebackers, and Stroud will need Schultz to dump it off when the play breaks down. Schultz is good enough to make opposing defenders miss when he needs to gain some extra yards.
Reason 2: Personnel
Dalton was this coaching staff's first "real" acquisition. The other backups are from the old regime and hold no bearing on Schultz being the TE1 on this team. That said, there is nothing at wide receiver that provides us to say that Schultz won't be the top pass catcher on this offense. I wrote a Dynasty Dilemma on Nico Collins on why he is a sell target for me. Behind Collins, the Texans have Robert Woods and many unproven guys in Tank Dell, John Metchie, Xavier Hutchinson, etc. Schultz has a real shot at being good all year, especially in week 1.
After Robert Woods on this team, Dalton Schultz is the most tenured offensive weapon. I would expect a huge game from him in week one. I would start him over Darren Waller, George Kittle, and Kyle Pitts. Waller is also on a new team, but unlike Schultz, Waller has more competition with Daniel Bellinger. Especially here in week 1, we will see how the chemistry is between Jones and Waller. I anticipate the Schultz and Stroud connection to be stronger in week one. Kittle was hit-and-miss last year, primarily because of injury, and I don't see that changing. In addition, Brock Purdy has weapons in Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and Christian McCaffrey to exploit, as well as Kittle. In Kyle Pitts, I want to see rookie year Pitts before he becomes an automatic start.
Houston does have a tough matchup against the Ravens, but if I'm the Ravens defensive coordinator, I'm not letting a tight end not named Travis Kelce beat me. That is a win every day of the week. Expect a big week one from Dalton Schultz.
Flex - WR Brandin Cooks
I like Mr. Reliable for a flex play this week. Another new team and the clear number 2 option, with the contract drama out of the way. Cooks is going to have a monster week one, and here is why:
Reason 1: Personnel
There are many mouths to feed on the Cowboys' offense. Ceedee Lamb is going to get plenty of volume, and so is Tony Pollard. They both offer different things for the Cowboys' offense that make it dynamic, but they both do very well to create and use the space they have with the revolving door around the tight end position and no real reliable options in the passing game. They will need to find someone who can bail out Dak Prescott. That, my friend, is Brandin Cooks. He takes the pressure off the Lamb, Pollard, and Prescott to always make a play.
Reason 2: Productivity
Brandin Cooks has been in the league longer than he has. He is already going into his 10th NFL season, but it feels like his 15th. The difference between him and Robert Woods or Allen Robinson is that Cooks still has his fastball. In his nine-year career, six have been 1000-yard seasons, and he has consistently produced, but no one has ever believed him to be an elite WR1. Like previous years, I expect some big and mediocre games in the season. This week will be significant because people need to remember how good Cooks can sometimes be.
Cooks will be the afterthought in the week one matchup against the Giants. New York should be more worried about stopping Tony Pollard and Ceedee Lamb, who have torched them in the past. Unlike other years, Lamb has no competition for his WR1 role like in the years with Amari Cooper, and has more reliable options than just him, like last year. Brandin Cooks is the forgotten weapon for the Cowboys, especially here in week 1. He will show the NFL why you need a game plan to stop him during week prep.
There you have it. Your week 1 "sneaky starts." Although I will not be held liable for your losses if you start these guys, I do hope they prove to be the guys that win you your matchups!
Cody Folden joined the Dynasty Pros team in 2023. He plays in many dynasty leagues but dabbles in other leagues like devy, contract, and scouting leagues. He loves to dive deep into learning about prospects coming up through college and seeing them thrive when they get to the league.