I like to think that our readers have a certain degree of fantasy acuity before they arrive, so my hope is that this start and sit list – which avoids the obvious – will be useful for all of you.
Moving forward, we’ll be hosting a live start and sit advice chat on Sunday mornings before kickoff, however, it isn’t a part of our schedule this week so we’ll let this start/sit post speak for itself.
Again, remember, I’ve made my opinions on start/sit implicitly known via my weekly rankings, so, you won’t see a lot of QBs inside my top 6, etc. listed here.
Week One QB Starts
Michael Vick vs. Washington – Understandably, Vick wasn’t a draft day target in most standard drafts. There are a number of questions about the veteran QB related to turnovers, health, and overall quality of play that make him a tough player to invest in over the course of the long haul. The long haul doesn’t have an impact on your Week 1 decision. Vick, you’ll recall, delivered a historic performance against the Redskins in 2010 and has looked incredibly strong in the preseason under new Head Coach Chip Kelly’s offensive system. During the preseason he completed 73.7% of his passes and threw for 10.1 Yards Per Attempt. Impressive numbers. Get him in there against a Redskins D that hasn’t improved a lot over the course of the offseason (and gave up the 5th most points to opposing QBs in 2012). Our Neil Parker has already listed Vick as a great weekly value in the Draft Street/Daily Game business.
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Matt Schaub vs. San Diego – Schaub upgraded significantly at receiver this season moving from Kevin Walter/Lestar Jean/whoever else he had at WR2 to DeAndre Hopkins who should play well across from Andre Johnson. Appearing in his first pro game and having missed a significant portion of the preseason with a concussion we won’t expect a huge impact from Hopkins in Week 1, but his presence in the lineup has a positive effect on the whole team by making room for Owen Daniels underneath, etc. The Chargers have an exploitable defense, and their secondary ranked 7th lowest in the league in pass coverage last year according to Pro Football Focus.
Week One QB Sits
Robert Griffin III vs. Philadelphia – The matchup, the injury status, and the hype all point to Griffin being a great start this week against the Eagles. However, I’m choosing to wait to start him. I’d rather start a QB like Tony Romo or Andrew Luck this week and give Griffin a week to shake the rust off. He didn’t play a single snap in the preseason so he may be a little out of sync with his receivers, and he strikes me as a player who will come into this game way over anxious. He wanted to be on the field so badly that it seems like he has something to prove this week. That can be a bad situation for a young QB who may find himself forcing some throws against the Eagles.
Cam Newton vs. Seattle – Seattle’s defense doesn’t appear to be any less dominant than it was in 2012; in fact, arguments could be made that it has gotten better. They held opposing QBs to the lowest average point total in the league last year and Newton himself posted just 7 fantasy points against them in Week 5. Mike Shula’s offense showed us very little in the preseason and I’m not ready to roll with Cam this week. The reality is that if you drafted Cam, you picked him high, and you may not have a better option on your bench… but, if you secured the position with a Romo, or perhaps even a Schaub, it’s worth considering leaving Cam out of your lineup this week.
Week One RB Starts
Ryan Mathews vs. Houston – Mathews’ Week 1 matchup comes against a formidable run defense and I have him ranked as my 22nd ranked back, so he’s hardly in ‘Start of the Week’ territory, but similar to Vick owners shied away from the Bolt because of concerns about injury. He’s not hurt yet. If you own him, deploy him. Mathews figures to have a solid workload for the Chargers with 3rd down specialist Danny Woodhead as his chief competition for touches. He averaged 4.9 YPA and 2.1 yards after contact per attempt through the summer season.
Ben Tate vs. San Diego – Arian Foster won’t have a full workload this week, and while Tate should factor into the Houston run game all season he’ll see more than his typical load early as the Texans aim to work Foster into game shape and back into the lineup slowly. He posted 86 yards on just 15 carries in the preseason and figures for a 13-17 touch workload against the Chargers, and should be a very reasonable flex option at that level.
Week One RB Sits
Ahmad Bradshaw vs. Oakland – Much like Foster, Ahmad Bradshaw should receive an unequal distribution of Indianapolis’ carries as the season progresses, but he’s unlikely to see that this week. The matchup against the woeful Raiders is tempting, particularly as many project the Colts to be in clock killing mode late, but without the benefit of having played in the preseason, look for the Colts to ease Bradshaw into the lineup.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. Chicago – Yet another situation where a committe approach affects the value of each party involved. Giovani Bernard will be very useable late in the season, but, he isn’t a recommended play this week given the fact that Green-Ellis looms ahead of him on the depth chart and that the teams face a Bears D that allowed the 3rd fewest points in the league to RBs last year. How that will change with a question mark at MLB and a new coaching philosophy remains to be seen, but the Bears will still be formidable against the run. While Bernard hasn’t taken the starters job yet, limiting his own ceiling, he’ll take plenty of the work from Green-Ellis who was already an underwhelming fantasy asset. Stay away from him moving forward, and in particular with a tough matchup on the slate in Week 1.
Arian Foster vs. San Diego – above re: Tate
Week One WR Starts
T.Y. Hilton vs. Oakland – much has been made of the fact that the Colts will likely have Darrius Heyward-Bey on the field over Hilton in two wide receiver sets, but the young receiver dominated out of the slot last year so I’m not sure why we’re concerned. Hilton ran just 479 pass routes last year and posted almost 900 yards receiving, so it isn’t as if he’s a player who relies on time on the field to make an impact. This week, he faces the Raiders who haven’t been able to keep anyone around on defense (DJ Hayden won’t have a big impact on the secondary, yet) and gave up their share of points to wideouts last season.
Miles Austin vs. New York Giants – Everyone was down on Austin after last season, but the Cowboys WR still managed almost 60 yards per game and a touchdown every two and a half. This year he comes into the season fully healthy – his hamstrings gave him no issues during training camp after an offseason training program geared toward just that. Against a Giants squad that comes into this game less than 100% on defense and yielded the 7th most points to opposing WRs in ’12, expect a productive outing from the 3rd option in Dallas’ pass attack.
Week One WR Sits
Steve Smith vs. Seattle – per the above note on Cam Newton, the offense under coordinator Mike Shula has looked dull to date and Seattle represents a challenging matchup for WRs. Smith managed just four catches for 40 yards against them during their 2012 meeting.
Steve Johnson vs. New England – Johnson has spent the week bashing the New England secondary, but bravado doesn’t always yield results. With EJ Manuel starting his first game cold, coming off of knee surgery, and Bill Belichick’s impressive record against rookies in their first game it’s hard to project Johnson for exciting numbers. In two meetings against the Pats last year, Johnson posted 109 yards receiving and 0 scores.
Week One TE Starts
Antonio Gates vs. Houston – I’ve been down on Gates all offseason, and in the big picture I remain down on him, but he sneaks in as a viable starter in 12 team leagues to start the season. The Texans were bottom 10 in points allowed to TEs last season and Gates comes into the strong matchup reasonably healthy. With the receiving corps in shambles, he could factor into the game plan significantly in the early going.
Zach Sudfeld vs. Buffalo – Sudfeld is on the list simply because no one here wants to be Julius Thomased with Sudfeld on their bench. Get him in the lineup and enjoy the benefits. I’m not saying that Sudfeld is anywhere near as good as Rob Gronkowski (although he did have an awesome, if fumble-y, summer), but last year Gronk scored in both games against Buffalo. New England will continue to look to the TE position to produce results and Sudfeld is the only true pass catcher at the position ready for Week 1. He caught 72.7% of his targets in the preseason at a 12.6 YPR clip.
Week One TE Sits
Jermaine Gresham vs. Chicago – With Tyler Eifert in town many expect a reduction in targets for Gresham. That coupled with what should be a low scoring affair against the Bears on the docket and there are better options than Gresham at the position.
Coby Fleener vs. Oakland – Fleener is in a good position to outscore fellow TE Dwayne Allen in Indianapolis this season and it is conceivable that the team gives us two fantasy relevant TEs. He has practiced in full all week, but coming off a knee injury that limited him late in the preseason it’s easy to leave Fleener on the bench/wire this week.
Week One Plug and Play Defenses
Tampa Bay vs. New York Jets; Indianapolis vs. Oakland – you’re getting a combined note on these two defenses. Given my druthers I’d go Bucs over Colts (that TB secondary is going to present big trouble for Geno Smith) but both defenses face inexperienced QBs who have demonstrated a propensity for turnovers (we could easily throw in the Patriots here too, but that unit is a little more ‘on the radar’). Roll them out comfortably, much of DST scoring, of course, is dictated by the opponent and this week the matchups are attractive for both.
I spent a lot of the offseason worrying about Pierre Garcon’s health. Evidently, his toe is at 100% and he should be deployed dependably until results show us otherwise.
I was high on Chris Ivory early this year but his inability to wrest the starting job away from Bilal Powell shows he may not be the runner his career YPC average suggests. At least in the short term, keep him on your bench.