Start/Sit Week 1
September 6, 2017 | Josh Stanley
Week one is finally here and so are the agonizing questions of who to start and who to sit. Making line up decisions is part of the challenge and enjoyment of fantasy football, but that doesn’t mean it’s not eternally frustrating. If you stare at your team long enough you can convince yourself of every outcome and end up overthinking your decisions.
So every week throughout the season I will be taking a look at who you should start and who you should keep on the bench, hopefully giving you that extra bit of information you need to bring home the win.
There are players you are never going to take out of your lineup, like Aaron Rodgers and Antonio Brown, so those players will be left out of this article so that we can take a closer look at the tougher decisions you have to make.
Washington may never give Cousins a long term deal, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to give him every opportunity to sling the ball come opening day. With the run game in poor shape and the addition of Terrell Pryor to an improving receiving core, Cousins should have no problem with Philadelphia’s weak secondary at home in Week 1. The Eagles did upgrade an impressive defensive line, however, they did little outside of trading for Ronald Darby to bolster a secondary that ranked 13th against the pass last year. Cousins averaged 248.5 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception against them last year, so you can safely expect that as a floor since he will have a full complement of receivers, including a healthy Jordan Reed.
Palmer and the Cardinals are going to be a popular mainstay in this article over the first few weeks of the season thanks to their fantasy friendly schedule. They start off with a Lions team that ranked 28th in passes defended last year, 30th in sacks, and 23rd in interceptions. The defense is nothing to fear and all reports out of Cardinals camp is that Palmer has looked sharp this off season. Even with David Johnson in the backfield the Cardinals finished 9th in passing offense last season and passed the ball on 61% of their plays. The old man may break down later in the season, but now is the time to take advantage of this air-oriented offense and a seasoned passer who led the league in average depth of target as recently as two seasons ago.
Ezekiel Elliot will play Week 1 which will be a big boost to Prescott’s fantasy outlook however, it is still not enough to start him over quarterbacks with better match ups. Prescott may end up returning to his outstanding rookie form, but I would rather wait and bet on him after his match up against the Giants. New York’s defense is one of the better units in the league, ranking 4th in interceptions and 2nd in passes defended. They continued to look like a team to avoid in their third preseason game where the starting defense converted a pick-6 and a safety. They also seem to have the Prescott’s number, holding him to just 392 yards and 1 touchdown in two games last season.
Rivers is another quarterback who I expect to have a surprisingly good season, but should be kept on the bench in his Week 1 tilt against the Broncos. Denver’s defense is at the top of the league and boasts enough talent to encourage most fantasy players to avoid them. Rivers is a classic gunslinger who won’t shy away from challenging the Broncos defense, but they seem to have stood up to the challenge in recent meetings. Over the past two seasons Rivers has faced them 4 times averaging 218.75 yards, 1.25 touchdowns, and 1.25 interceptions. These are not numbers you want from your starting quarterback as you try and begin your fantasy season with a win.
Like the solar eclipse, we all caught a glimpse of something amazing in 2015, but it quickly disappeared last season causing many people to shy away from Gurley. He draws a favorable match up Week 1 however, going up against the Colts, which should see him fill up the stat sheet. The Rams offensive line remains to be proven, but on paper it seems they made several solid upgrades in veterans Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan with the hope of opening space for Gurley. The acquisition of Sammy Watkins should also take some pressure off the running game. We know that Gurley has the talent after a rookie season that saw him rush for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns. Against an injury ravaged Colts defense and a front seven which Pro Football Focus ranked as 31st going into the season, we may all get to share in witnessing another special event.
Cook was an outstanding college player with over 1,200 yards each season. He was also one of the most hyped rookie running backs this draft season and Week 1 will finally show us if the rookie was worth the high draft pick you had to pay. Luckily, he will face a Saints defense which has been a favorite for fantasy players to target for the past few seasons. They gave up the 2nd most points and finished as a middling run defense last season. They shouldn’t be much better this year, especially considering the placement of Delvin Breaux on the IR already. Latavius Murray shouldn’t take too much work away from Cook in this first game since he missed significant time in training camp while he healed from offseason surgery. This should be a strong debut for the new Viking.
If Dalvin Cook is the highly touted rookie you want to start, Fournette is the one you need to bench Week 1. Travelling to a Texans team where emotions will be high as the team plays for the pride of their city and the defense will be motivated by Fournette’s comment on how easy he finds the NFL, this is a match up to avoid if you can. More than likely you drafted him as a starter, but if possible look to the waiver wire for a temporary replacement. The Texans finished 12th in rushing defense last year only giving up an average of 99.7 yards per game and now come back with a healthy J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Fournette will not have much room to run either with the Texans stacking the box and having to worry little about Blake Bortles competency in the passing game.
Carlos Hyde has ridden a rollercoaster of favoritism with the 49er’s coaching staff this offseason. He was at one point rumored to be traded, and then possibly cut, yet now stands confidently as the lead back. However, he will not find much success against a Panthers defense that ranked 6th against the run last year and returns most of their front seven. They plowed through offensive lines last year ranking 2nd in sacks with 47. Hyde’s lone game against the Panthers was in 2016 where he gained only 34 yards and averaged 2.43 yards per carry while not scoring a touchdown. While the Panthers have added players since the 2016 season, this defense remains largely the same which should cause you to reconsider starting Hyde this week.
Ted Ginn Jr.
Ginn has been running as the number two receiver this preseason for the Saints and with the suspension of Willie Snead he is set up to explode Week 1. It’s hard to compare Ginn’s previous stats to the potential he has in this game, because he has never played with a quarterback like Drew Brees. The Saints passed on 62% of their plays last season, but actually finished with the lowest average depth of target since 2009 averaging only 8 yards. Ginn will give them the deep threat Brees needed last season, seeing as his average depth of target in 2016 was 12.4 yards. While the Vikings defense cannot be ignored, it’s never proven to be wise to bet against Brees and his receivers especially when they play indoors.
Recently he has not been the most exciting pick, but Thomas can provide your team with stability and potentially some upside against the Chargers defense on Monday night. The Denver’s quarterback situation does nothing to inspire fantasy players who own a piece of the Broncos offense however, the new offensive coordinator should inspire Thomas owners. Mike McCoy will return to Denver and will bring along with him a system that allowed Thomas to catch 94 balls for 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns. McCoy understands Thomas’ strengths and will look to get him the ball early and often to take some of the pressure off of Trevor Siemian. This confidence, plus the fact the Broncos are playing at home, remove some of the hesitation of starting a receiver against the Chargers secondary. Last year despite strong play from the Chargers defense Thomas still managed 5 catches on 10 targets for 79 yards.
Marvin Jones Jr.
Jones started off strong last season, only to disappoint fantasy owners in the second half of the season. In 2017, Jones may not be off to such a fast start with a Cardinals defense that ranked 4th against the pass and allowed the 2nd fewest total yards last season. Jones has faced the Cardinals just once in his career, catching 4 passes for 60 yards, but this defense has only improved over time against the pass. Stafford will look to get the ball out quickly to Abdullah, Riddick, and this favorite target Golden Tate leaving few remain targets for Jones this week. It will be worth watching how the Lions use the preseason darling Kenny Galladay as well seeing as how he may take away red zone targets from Jones.
The Bengals defense is not the most fearsome in the league, however they may prove stout enough against the pass to ruin Maclin’s debut as a Raven. After the release of the Raven’s Week 1 depth chart it looks like Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman will line up on the outside leaving Maclin to do most of his work in the slot. Maclin is comfortable in this spot, playing there on at least 20 percent of his routes since 2012 according to Pro Football Focus, however it may take time for Joe Flacco to be comfortable with his new receiver. Flacco has been dealing with a back injury all training camp and has only recently started practicing with the team again. He has thrown at least 35+ attempts in each of the last 3 games against the Bengals, but it would not be surprise to see the Ravens ease Flacco back into game form which will limit Maclin’s opportunities. Baltimore’s run game should be more heavily leaned upon as well with the suspension of Vontaze Burfict.
When healthy he is one of the best tight ends in the league, take advantage of his early season health. In his one game against the Ravens last year he saw 11 targets and caught 5 of them for 68 yards and a touchdown. He is one of Dalton’s favorite receivers, especially in the red zone, catching 13 touchdowns over his career in this area of the field, which bodes well for his touchdown potential. This will be a Week 1 divisional match up the Bengals hope will give them a jump start to their season.
Rudolph is yet another Vikings player that you should start against the poor excuse for a defense the Saints are going to come out with on Monday night. Despite the Saints’ defensive woes though, their offense will put up points forcing the Vikings to keep pace if they hope to come away with a win. Rudolph figure to play prominently into the game plan as a reliable target for Sam Bradford. Outside of tight ends like Gronk and Kelce, most fantasy players aim for touchdown potential in this position since the yardage total figures to be low and Rudolph has a nose for pay dirt. He caught 5 touchdowns in the red zone last year and should create a mismatch with the Saints linebackers and corners.
The Raiders targeted their tight ends on only 15 percent of their passing plays which was well below the league average of 21.6 percent. Cook doesn’t aim to do well in a match up against his old team, whose defense has seen much improvement this offseason, in the additions of Logan Ryan and Johnathon Cyprien. The Titans allowed only 6.8 fantasy points per game and 5 touchdowns all season to tight ends last year which should make you hesitate to include Cook in you line up.
If you waited on tight end and found Fiedorowicz on your roster you may want to look for another streaming option Week 1. The Jaguars ranked 15th in points allowed to tight ends last year and Fiedorowicz only managed 26 yards on 5 targets in his match up last season. Adding to the reasons to sit Fiedorowicz this week is Tom Savage’s poor passing record. The Texans obviously have some faith in the quarterback, but in the three games he played last season he failed to throw a touchdown and did little to show he could support a fantasy relevant offense against a strong defensive unit.