Fantasy Football Sleepers Week 1: Ty’Son Williams and Terrace Marshall are upside plays

With the start of the 2021 NFL season officially upon us, here are the Week 1 fantasy football sleepers for the opening week of games.

Although we rely on the big-name players to guide our fantasy football teams to victory, knowing how to locate the sleepers in a given week could be what pushes your team over the edge. With the 2021 NFL season finally set to kick off, here are some of the favorite fantasy football sleepers for Week 1.

Week 1 fantasy football sleepers | Quarterbacks

Which QB is headling the sleepers list for fantasy football in Week 1?

Jimmy Garoppolo | San Francisco 49ers @ DET

I get it. We are all ready for Trey Lance to take over the starting QB role. Even head coach Kyle Shanahan is ready for it, even though he won’t say it. But for right now, this is Garoppolo’s team, and we can’t allow the infatuation of the rookie’s potential to overshadow what he can do. 

After all, Jimmy G is 24-9 as a starter (including playoffs), 11th in QBR (98.1), and second in yards per attempt (8.3). Over the past two seasons (22 active games), Garoppolo has averaged 17 ppg. The only issue has been staying healthy. He is surrounded by talent with Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle and heads into Week 1 with one of the best possible matchups.

The Lions ranked dead last in fantasy points allowed per game in 2020 (112.2), QB points (23.8), RB points (32.4), and were 30th vs. WRs (44.1). Against tight ends, they allowed the third-highest fantasy points per reception at 3.0. 

Garoppolo is available in 68% of FleaFlicker leagues and has high-end QB2 upside. He’s on the shortlist of fantasy football sleepers for Week 1.

Week 1 fantasy football sleepers | Running Backs

These RBs are flying under the radar as sleepers for Week 1 in fantasy football.

Ty’Son Williams | Baltimore Ravens @ LV

The Ravens have had a brutal preseason, and the hits keep coming. If losing J.K. Dobbins for the season wasn’t enough (torn ACL), on Monday [September 6], it was announced that RB Justice Hill tore his Achilles late last week in practice. This leaves the Ravens with Gus Edwards and Ty’Son Williams as the only RBs on the depth chart for Week 1. They did host a few RBs on visits, but this is what they have until someone signs.

No one rushes the ball like Baltimore, averaging 539.5 attempts over the last four seasons. With all the attention going towards Edwards, and rightfully so, Williams deserves the attention as well. Williams is a 2020 UDFA who spent his rookie season on Baltimore’s practice squad but should see a sizeable amount of both rushing attempts and targets against a porous Raiders’ defense. 

Rostered in just 28% of leagues on FleaFlicker, Williams has low-end RB3 upside in Week 1. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more worthy sleepers candidate in Week 1 in fantasy football at RB. 

Tony Jones Jr. | New Orleans Saints vs. GB 

Note: GB at NO will be played in Jacksonville

A piece of news that seemed to go under the radar in the preseason was head coach Sean Payton’s comments on the RB2 situation. During the Saints’ second preseason game, Payton said that Jones would be the RB2 — not Latavius Murray — if the season started right now. And you could see why.

In his two games, Jones rushed 12 times for 106 yards with 1 touchdown while adding 6 receptions (8 targets) for 42 yards. He is a dynamic rusher that could flash when given touches behind Alvin Kamara. Although the Packers have a solid defense, they are susceptible on the ground, ranking 28th in points allowed to RBs at 26.9 per game. Kamara will see majority of opportunities, but Jones could see enough to warrant a second look.

Wide Receivers

As deep as the talent pool has ever been, these sleepers could get their 2021 season off to a quick start.

Gabriel Davis | Buffalo Bills vs. PIT

I get the Steelers have been a great defense for basically forever. But 2021 could be different. They lost Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton. Additionally, Devin Bush is still recovering from a torn ACL. While the addition of Ahkello Witherspoon helps their secondary, it’s not enough to stop Josh Allen and Buffalo’s offense.

Davis flashed last season as a rookie, showcasing his playmaking ability. He posted 35 receptions on 62 targets for 599 yards and 7 touchdowns. Also, Davis was on the field more than many expected, playing on 73% of the snaps, including 88% over the final six weeks.  

I can see this game turning into a track meet with Davis in the mix for the WR3 with Emmanuel Sanders. Add in the size advantage Davis has over every one of the Steelers’ starting CBs, and he’s one of the better WRs sleepers in fantasy football for Week 1. Davis is still out there in 59% of FleaFlicker leagues.

Terrace Marshall Jr. | Carolina Panthers vs. NYJ

While the Panthers still have Robby Anderson and DJ Moore at wide receiver, Marshall has shown in the preseason that he has the skills to shine in the same offense that he ran at LSU with current OC Joe Brady. With Curtis Samuel leaving in free agency, his 97 targets are up for grabs, and Marshall already appears to be the WR3 for the Panthers.

Marshall was the leading receiver for the Panthers this preseason, recording 9 receptions on 12 targets for 181 yards and a score. At 6’3″, 205 pounds, Marshall has the prototypical size you look for in a potential rookie breakout, which could start in Week 1 against the Jets. He’s rostered in just 42% of leagues on FleaFlicker.

Parris Campbell | Indianapolis Colts vs. SEA

Talent has never been the issue for Campbell. It’s staying on the field. Campbell was limited to just seven games during his rookie season. He endured four separate injuries (sports hernia, hamstring injury, broken hand, and foot fracture), three of which required surgery.

Then, in Week 2 of last season, Campbell suffered a season-ending MCL and PCL tear against the Vikings. In total, Campbell has played in nine games with 24 receptions for 198 yards and 1 touchdown.

Looking back at Carson Wentz’s time with head coach Frank Reich, he had his most success when targeting slot receivers. Given Campbell’s ability after the catch (4.31 40-yard dash), he is a third-year breakout to watch in 2021.

The Colts kick off the 2021 season with a Week 1 matchup against a Seahawks defense that allowed 43.2 points per game to WRs (29th). T.Y. Hilton is on the IR (neck surgery), and Campbell (35% rostered) should be considered in deeper formats as a sleeper in Week 1.

Tight Ends

Which TE should be on the sleepers list for Week 1 in fantasy football?

Tyler Conklin | Minnesota Vikings @ CIN

With Irv Smith Jr. likely to miss the entire 2021 season after undergoing surgery to repair a meniscus injury, Tyler Conklin needs to be on everyone’s sleeper list for fantasy football.

In July, when asked in a press conference if we should expect a bigger role for Smith due to Kyle Rudolph departing in the offseason, head coach Mike Zimmer redirected the question back to Conklin, stating that “I think its a bigger role for Tyler Conklin.” 

In 2020, Conklin reeled in 19 catches for 194 yards and 1 touchdown. His 168 yards across the final four games when Rudolph was out were ninth among tight ends. With 22% of the targets heading to TEs last season, Conklin could finish third in targets for the Vikings.

In Week 1, they take on a Bengals’ defense that ranked 26th in points allowed to TEs at 14.4 per game. Throw in the fact that the Bengals will struggle to maintain possession, and Conklin is leading the sleepers list at TE in Week 1 for fantasy football.

Tommy Garrett is a Fantasy Analyst for Pro Football Network and is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can read all of Tommy’s work here, listen to him on PFN’s Fantasy Football podcast, and check out his contributions in PFN’s free fantasy newsletter. Give him a follow on Twitter: @TommyGarrettPFN.