We’re less then 12 hours away from the start of the NFL season and with that comes the start of fantasy football. That’s right, fantasy football is finally back and most likely, you are already struggling to iron out your starting lineup. Don’t worry, your definitely not alone. This article- which will be published weekly- will help you solve your lineup conundrums. Let’s get started.
Side Note: I’m a proponent of “starting your studs” so you won’t see names like Antonio Brown or Adrian Peterson in these articles.
Derek Carr- Fun fact: Carr has thrown 53 touchdown passes in his first two seasons, which is second in NFL history only to Dan Marino (68). Carr is ready to emerge as one of the league’s top signal callers and has a fortuitous Week 1 matchup. No team yielded more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks than the New Orleans Saints did last season. In what should be a shootout, expect Carr- among other members of the Raiders’ offense- to shine on Sunday.
Matthew Stafford- Sure Stafford had a rough start to 2015, but he finished the year real solid. He scored at least 20 fantasy points in his last eight games, or since Jim Bob Cooter took over as the Lion’s offensive coordinator. The Lions’ shaky ground attack will force them to go pass heavy against a soft Colts’ secondary that is without Vontae Davis. Combine that with the addition of Marvin Jones and Anquan Boldin and you should feel confident playing Stafford as a QB1.
Jameis Winston- After an impressive rookie campaign, Winston comes into his sophomore season with high expectations. Last season, he put up 21 points in each of his meetings with the Falcons and there’s reason to believe he’ll better those numbers on Sunday. Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson both look to be in better shape than least year and they’ll benefit from facing a below average Falcons’ defense.
Marcus Mariota- Minnesota boasts one of the league’s top pass defenses and an overall top 10 defense in the NFL. It’s also worth noting that the Titans have fell in love with their two-headed ground game that features Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray. I like Mariota this year, but the second year QB faces a difficult Week 1 matchup and should be avoided.
Dak Prescott- Prescott’s skyrocketing ADP is evidence that a lot of people having been buying into his hype. However, there are far better options to start at quarterback for Week 1. Don’t get me wrong, Prescott showed us he has the ability to be a successful NFL starting QB, but a few preseason games is not enough to warrant him a start against a revved up Giants’ defense.
Andy Dalton- In 2015, the Jets were the 11th ranked passing defense in the league. With Eifert most likely not playing due to injury and A.J. Green going up against Darrelle Revis, Dalton will have very few viable passing options on the road Sunday.
Spencer Ware- Jamaal Charles out, Spencer Ware in. Last season was evidence that Ware can be a very productive fantasy running back. In fact, he probably could be a bell cow for a number of teams around the league. The Chargers were one of the worst teams at stopping the run last season so feel comfortable playing Ware as an RB2 with upside.
Ryan Matthews- The only thing that has held Ryan Matthews back throughout his career has been injuries. After finishing the preseason completely healthy, Matthews faces a soft Cleveland defense and should see a bulk of the Eagles’ carries. Expect Coach Doug Pederson to rely on his veteran running back while rookie Carson Wentz is starting under center.
Rashad Jennings- When the Giants allowed Jennings to be the feature back during the end of last season, he had a four-game stretch of at least 100 total yards or a touchdown. Now that the Giants have committed to Jennings being the feature back, the sky is the limit for him. It’s also beneficial that Andre Williams was recently cut, allowing Jennings to see short yardage and goal line work.
Jeremy Hill- Hill was a touchdown-dependent running back last season and the Jets’ defense is coming off a 2015 campaign where they only allowed four opposing rushing touchdowns. Just four. Not to mention they also allowed the second fewest rushing yards in the league. Avoid starting Hill as more than a flex play in deeper leagues.
Arian Foster and Jay Ajayi- I’ll say this once and won’t say it again: stay away from Dolphin’s running backs. If the preseason showed us anything it’s that the Dolphins are going to have a major running back problem this year. Going up against the Seahawks- who were the number one ranked rushing defense last season- spells disaster for both Ajayi and Foster. Avoid starting these two like the plague.
Carlos Hyde– Hyde hasn’t proved anything yet and therefore doesn’t warrant a start against a stout Rams’ run defense. It’s also worth noting that the 49ers have the 26th ranked offensive line in the league (Pro Football Focus). Many people have Hyde listed as their RB2, but he should only be looked at as a flex play with upside until he plays up to expectations.
Amari Cooper- Amari Cooper is a rising star in the league and seems poised to take his game to the next level. In Week 1, he’ll face the Saints, who were the league’s second worst passing defense in 2015. Like I said earlier with Derek Carr, expect the Raiders to come out guns blazing and Cooper- as well as Michael Crabtree- to benefit from it.
Sammy Watkins- When healthy, Watkins racks up fantasy points. He even showed his ability to compete with the league’s best last season when he put up 136 yards against Darrelle Revis and the Jets (as a Jet fan, it still pains me to even think about that). In Week 1, he faces a favorable matchup against a porous Ravens’ secondary. Assuming he has no health set backs this week, Watkins should be ready to go Sunday and will be a heavily targeted by Tyrod Taylor.
Michael Floyd- Floyd was the unsung hero for the Cardinals receiving core last season. Going behind John Brown and Larry Fitzgerald in drafts, I could argue that Floyd has more upside than both of them. The Patriots will pay a lot of attention to Fitz and Brown, allowing Floyd to have the potential for a big game.
Jarvis Landry- In PPR formats, it’s hard to sit Landry any week because of his high reception totals, but he faces a tough matchup against Seattle in Week 1. The Seahawks will make life difficult for Ryan Tannehill and thus hurt Landry’s fantasy value. Try to sit Landry in standard scoring and play him no higher than a flex for PPR leagues, where garbage time might help bolster his production.
Demaryius Thomas- With Trevor Siemian under center, the whole offense’s fantasy value is limited. Especially when you consider they’re playing the Panthers. Thomas is such a talented receiver, but getting him the ball will be difficult in Week 1 and therefore he should be played as a low-end WR2 or high-end flex option.
Larry Fitzgerald- After revitalizing his career in 2015, it’s tough to expect Fitzgerald will best what he did last year. In fact, it’s likely that this year will begin his impending decline. The Patriots’ defense will focus their efforts on stopping the Cardinals number one receiver and he won’t have much to do about it.
Coby Fleener- The only thing Drew Brees loves more than his jeans? His tight ends. Just look at the numbers Ben Watson put up last season with Brees throwing to him. The Raiders allowed the third most yards to opposing tight ends in 2015. Combine that with the Saints’ pass heavy offense and you got a viable TE1 option in Fleener.
Jesse James- Due to Ladarius Green’s mysterious injury, James will start at tight end for the Steelers. Being without three main offensive players in Week 1, the Steelers need players to step up and help Antonio Brown shoulder the load. I expect James to be heavily involved in what is one of the league’s top offenses going up against a middle-of-the-road Redskins’ defense.
Jason Witten- Starting his first NFL game, Dak Prescott will rely heavily on his security blanket, Jason Witten. In fact, don’t be surprised if Witten leads the Cowboys in receptions and targets. Going against the Giants- who allowed the second most yards to opposing tight ends last season- warrants Witten to be a TE1 for Week 1.
Antonio Gates- I’m high on Gates this season, really high actually. But he faces a difficult matchup Week 1 against the Chiefs. Last year, the Chiefs allowed the fewest yards and just three touchdowns to opposing tight ends. In fact, no tight end scored more than seven points when playing the Chiefs in 2015 (standard scoring). Gates should try to be replaced by a spot start tight end just for this week.
Austin Seferian Jenkins- ASJ has battled injury and problems with the coaching staff since last season. He has a lot of upside, but there are way to many question marks surrounding him to start the season. Until Jenkins proves himself, find a better option to start at tight end.
Jordan Cameron- You should know by now that I’m expecting the Dolphins to get embarrassed by the Seahawks. Avoid Cameron, just like the rest of Miami’s offense.