Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em Picks for Week 1: Derek Carr, Aaron Jones, T.J. Hockenson, and Others

Week 1 is finally here! Who are some of the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends that you should start or sit on your rosters?

Week 1 is upon us! We have heard all the talk, read all the predictions, and made some projections of our own. But now it is time for money to meet mouth, talk to be backed with action, and the ball to be kicked off on the 2023 NFL season.

You’re prepared. You have spent all summer pouring over fantasy football data, transaction news, draft coverage, and injury reports. Now it is time to set your lineup!

But it can’t hurt to take in one more bit of advice on who should be in your lineup in Week 1, right?

Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em Picks for Week 1 of the 2023 NFL Season

While we truly don’t know how the 2023 season will play out, we can make some educated guesses on how Week 1 will go. Let’s dive in and look at a start and sit option for all the positional groups for this first week of the regular season!

Start ‘Em

Derek Carr, QB, New Orleans Saints

You may be surprised to see a quarterback who moved across the country this offseason as my first “start ‘em” of the season. But there is a ton to like about Derek Carr and the New Orleans Saints passing game this Sunday.

First off, Carr will have a dangerous wide receiver room with a full bill of health at kickoff. There may not be a wide receiver with fantasy stock that has risen more since the end of last year than Chris Olave. The talented second-year wideout is healthy and will take the top off the defense all afternoon. Meanwhile, Michael Thomas (still the record holder for most receptions in a single season) will be getting open on all sorts of slant routes underneath.

What? He loves slant routes! I didn’t say the nickname that made him punch a teammate three years ago!

Anyway, Carr threw for over 4,000 yards in four of his last five seasons with the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders. He also threw for over 21 touchdowns in each of the last four seasons. He comes to the Big Easy with the capacity to sling the ball all around the field, and he has some fantastic weapons at his disposal.

Oh, I forgot to mention: Carr and the Saints have the Tennessee Titans coming to town, a Titans team that surrendered the most passing yards and second-most passing touchdowns a season ago.

With injuries and suspensions in the running back room, I expect Carr to throw early and often in Week 1. And that is great news for his fantasy managers. Start him in your leagues!

Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers

In three of the last four seasons, one running back in the NFC North has finished with over 1,450 all-purpose yards and seven or more touchdowns every season. You clearly read the title, so I don’t actually need to be cryptic. It’s Aaron Jones.

Having played with a Hall of Fame QB in Aaron Rodgers for his six-year career, things look a bit different in Green Bay for Jones and the rest of the Packers’ roster. Jordan Love is behind center now.

For 31 seasons, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers ran things in Green Bay. But now Love takes over as the Packers quarterback. With expectations ranging from “he could be good too” to “I hope he’s alright,” the confidence is not quite as high in Wisconsin.

But Jones is that consistent producer at running back, the metronome that has kept the Pack on tempo for years. With a young quarterback taking over the team, the Packers will likely rely heavily on Jones and the Packers’ running backs to ease the tension on Love.

And wouldn’t you know it? They got matched up with one of the worst run defenses in the NFL a year ago in the Chicago Bears. There is nothing the Packers love more than beating up their neighbors to the South, and I fully expect a heavy dose of Jones in this one.

There is top-12 potential written all over Jones’ Week 1.

Jahan Dotson, WR, Washington Commanders

A new era has come to the Washington Commanders. Out with Voldemort –- sorry, the Commanders’ previous owner — and in with a new ownership group that is breathing new life into the team. It’s the kind of excitement that has been missing from D.C. for so long that the team actually felt it necessary to proudly proclaim that they sold out their home opener on Sunday.

And one of the newer members of the Commanders could be set for a big game on Sunday. With only one year and 12 total games of Voldemort stink on his uniform, Jahan Dotson has a chance to be an integral part of the Commanders’ rise from the ashes.

It all begins Sunday when Dotson (now fully healthy after an injury-filled rookie year) and the Commanders take on one of the worst teams on paper entering 2023: the Arizona Cardinals.

Dotson had a strong rookie campaign, even if it was shortened. He averaged 14.9 yards per catch and hauled in seven touchdowns in the first 12 games of his career. With a knack for finding the endzone, Dotson is a prime candidate to hit paydirt on Sunday. With hyped-up, second-year QB Sam Howell under center and a lowly Cardinals defense defending him, Dotson has a chance for a big game.

Add in that Terry McLaurin may not be at full speed while he deals with a turf toe injury, and the stars have aligned. Dotson is a fantastic start for Week 1.

T.J. Hockenson, TE, Minnesota Vikings

T.J. Hockenson suffered from a back injury and ear infection for a great deal of the Minnesota Vikings’ preseason and training camp. Nothing else. Just a few injuries. But the Vikings tight end finally returned to the practice field on August 31. On an unrelated note, Hockenson also got a four-year, $66 million contract extension — on August 31.

His healing and the contract are probably a coincidence, right?

Who cares! The only thing that matters is that Hockenson is healthy and will be on the field for the Vikings in their Week 1 home opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Hockenson was a fantastic addition after being traded to the Vikings mid-season last year. In 10 games, the tight end brought in 60 catches for 519 yards and three touchdowns. And yes, Hockenson wasn’t seeing a 28% target share like his superstar teammate Justin Jefferson, but a 21.3% target share for a tight end in a new offense is nothing to scoff at.

While rookie WR Jordan Addison brings a little more target competition to Minnesota, I fully expect Hockenson to be heavily involved in the Vikings offense all year. And with a Buccaneers defense that surrendered the second-most passing touchdowns in 2022 in town, Hockenson is a great nominee to hit paydirt.

Start him everywhere you can!

Sit ‘Em

Matthew Stafford, QB, Los Angeles Rams

Where do I even begin with Matthew Stafford’s Week 1 chances?

The quarterback returns to action for the first time since Week 11 of the 2022 season. Stafford was in and out of concussion protocol throughout last season and suffered a spinal cord bruise that had him suffering from numbness in his legs.

Not the ideal way to spend a defending Super Bowl championship season.

Now, Stafford returns to the Rams with the cards stacked against the veteran quarterback. He will be without superstar wide receiver and breakfast buddy Cooper Kupp in Week 1. Adding insult to injury, Stafford is facing off against the Seattle Seahawks and the “12th Man” of Seahawks faithful in the Emerald City.

This game screams “sit” for Stafford. Run –- don’t walk -– to your fantasy team and make sure Stafford is riding the pine. If you don’t have any other viable options than Stafford this weekend, then Godspeed to you. It could get ugly in Seattle.

Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

There is just a lot stacked up against Najee Harris in Week 1 of the 2023 season. The third-year pro has had a lot of tread on his tires in his first two seasons with 708 touches in 35 career games.

And if the touches adding up weren’t enough, all we have heard this offseason is the words “Jaylen Warren.” Fantasy experts, football analysts, my Pittsburgh Steelers-fanatic ophthalmologist, everyone is talking about the rise of a new running back in the Steel City in Warren.

I don’t necessarily think Warren is going to take an enormous chunk of Harris’ work right away in 2023, but he certainly seems to be on track to get some action in Week 1. He had a great preseason, and the Steelers will need to start seriously thinking of managing Harris’ touches.

MORE: FREE Fantasy Football Start/Sit Optimizer

Keeping all this in mind, the kicker is Pittsburgh’s Week 1 opponent: the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners have a lightning-fast defense that can give the opposition fits all day. And they come to town with a high-powered offense and wizard playcaller in Kyle Shanahan.

If the Niners’ defense slows the Steelers’ offense down early and Brock Purdy and the San Francisco offense start putting up points right away, the Steelers will not be able to rely on the run game to stay in the game.

The work is cut out for Harris. I just don’t see this ending with fantasy managers happy they started him.

Michael Pittman Jr., WR, Indianapolis Colts

This suggestion really isn’t a slight on Michael Pittman Jr. He is a talented, fourth-year receiver. And he has somehow amassed 2,510 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in his 46 career games while catching passes from 39-year-old Philip Rivers, 37-year-old Matt Ryan, and (age doesn’t matter) Carson Wentz.

Pittman has been able to do quite a bit with some not-so-stellar quarterback play, but Week 1 of 2023 may be a bit different for the wideout. While the Anthony Richardson era is bringing excitement to Indy, it’s not exactly giving me confidence in the Colts’ receivers early in 2023.

Richardson was a very inaccurate quarterback in college at Florida. This has been widely discussed. Granted, it is not something he cannot fix. I am still a believer that Richardson could have a strong career in the NFL, but I think most of the damage early in Richardson’s rookie season will come from his legs rather than from his arm.

With this in mind, I am not feeling confident in Pittman in Week 1. I would put him on the bench until you know that Richardson can handle the passing game in the NFL.

Hunter Henry or Mike Gesicki, TEs, New England Patriots

There was a time not long ago when having a New England Patriots starting tight end was something that won you leagues. Having a player like Rob Gronkowski on your squad catching touchdown after touchdown from Tom Brady was a joy on Sundays, the kind of thing that left grown men giddy for the next Brady-to-Gronk hookup.

Now, things are a bit different in Foxborough, Mass. Nomad tight ends Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki are the duo for the Patriots. And they catch passes from Brady’s replacement: Mac Jones.

Mac-to-Hunter doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as Brady-to-Gronk.

But even if we can start to believe that Henry and Gesicki (and their 871 yards and seven touchdowns combined in 2022) were going to be strong for the Patriots this year, it isn’t likely happening in Week 1. The reigning NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles are in town.

With the fewest passing yards surrendered in 2022 and the fourth-most interceptions, the Eagles are going to give the Patriots passing game fits on Sunday. I wouldn’t touch a single Pats target with a 10-foot pole, especially the tight ends.

If you see “TE, New England” after a name on your roster, you are best off putting that player in the spot labeled “bench.”

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