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NFL Fantasy Week 1: Start ‘em, sit ‘em – wide receivers

Wide receivers offer more of a strategic challenge than ever before. Three- and four-receiver sets are common, with tight ends and running backs eating away at the target counts. The number of elite, high-target wide receivers is dropping, while lesser receivers are creeping up.

The result is a large pack of wideouts with top-ten scoring potential each week. Last season, the top ten scorers of Week 2 were completely different from Week 1. In fact, over the first four weeks of 2017, only three receivers managed to crack the top ten more than once (Jordy Nelson (3), Stefon Diggs, and Mike Evans).

By the end of the season, 71 different players found their names among the weekly top ten scoring NFL fantasy wide receivers. In our weekly Start ‘em and Sit ‘em articles, we’ll try to predict who could be a top ten- or at least top 24- candidate that week. We’ll avoid the obvious to make it more challenging.

Start this guy: TY Hilton, Colts (vs Bengals)

Now some of you might say, “Hey! You said you’d avoid the obvious!” because TY Hilton is a top-level receiver. But apparently, you are in the minority because a lot of people are hesitant to start Hilton until they see for themselves if Andrew Luck can get him the ball.

Luck is fine. Hilton is fine. Hilton is Luck’s favorite target and a rare familiar face from 2016. The Bengals improved their rush a bit, but no one is shutting down Hilton in Week 1’s happy reunion.

Sit this guy: Sammy Watkins, Chiefs (at Chargers)

Sammy Watkins will catch a few passes this season that propel him to a fine fantasy week. It only takes one 40-yard touchdown to rack up 10 NFL fantasy points, after all.

This won’t be that week. I am a bit down on the Chiefs’ young quarterback under pressure from the Chargers’ pass rush. Kelce, Hill, and Hunt are worth playing, but I don’t see the Watkins connection hitting this week.

Start this guy: Brandin Cooks, Rams (at Raiders)

Brandin Cooks is going to be more than what head coach Sean McVay got out of Watkins last year. The coach signed Cooks to a long-term deal and told reporters he was the guy he really wanted in 2017.

With Oakland demoralized by the Khalil Mack trade, Jared Goff won’t be able to resist trying out his new toy. If Watkins was playing the Raiders, I’d play him. Brandin Cooks might be riskier later in the season, but his ceiling this week is too high to not take a shot.

Sit this guy: Amari Cooper, Raiders (vs Rams)

Not to beat up on the Raiders, but I think John Gruden gave up on the wrong receiver when he let Michael Crabtree go. Amari Cooper salvaged his season statistics with his Week 7 performance (210 yards, 2 touchdowns, 33 standard NFL fantasy points) in 2017. Cooper drops from WR-31 to number 54 without that outlier.

The Rams pass defense is enough to make me hold off on any Raiders wide receiver. But if you insist, Jordy Nelson is the guy more likely to provide some NFL fantasy points. Cooper probably has another big game or two in him, but we won’t see it this week.

Start this guy: Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos (vs Seahawks)

Demaryius Thomas came off the draft board ahead of Emmanuel Sanders in the vast majority of NFL fantasy drafts. Apparently, people weren’t paying attention.

Case Keenum and Sanders combined for the most preseason passing yards between any QB/WR pairing in the league. Sanders’ game plays into Keenum’s passing style. It is obvious they have a connection. Thomas is worth a play this week, too. But I would bet Sanders has a better game.

Sit this guy: Doug Baldwin, Seahawks (at Broncos)

Doug Baldwin says he might not operate at 100% all season, but that is not why I am sitting him this week. It has more to do with his lack of preseason reps (due to his knee injury) and a bit of respect for the Broncos defense.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is anxious to put rumors of the Seahawks’ demise to rest. I don’t expect the team to be shut out, but don’t be surprised if Tyler Lockett and Brandon Marshall shoulder the load while Baldwin gets back into game shape.

Do I get extra credit for these?

Philadelphia is beat up and I am not considering Nick Foles. But, the Eagles won't get shut out, either. I like Nelson Agholor a lot this week.

Josh Gordon does not excite me nearly as much. I am rooting for him, but I think it is too much to expect him to save your NFL fantasy week with barely a week of preseason practices under his belt.

On the other hand, I am buying into the Cleveland Browns this week. Look for an upset of the Steelers and start Jarvis Landry.

Keep an eye out for updates and news that could affect all your start ‘em or sit ‘em decisions. Got a question about who to start on your team? Put it in the comments below or post it on my Facebook page!