By Moe Koltun, Matt Cott and Matthew Schwimmer of RotoAnalysis.com
Getting off on the right foot is important in fantasy football. While every week is equally important, it just feels great to start the season off with a win. So, this week, we’re going to try to give you some specific advice on who to start and who to sit in order to make sure you start off the fantasy season right. However, there might be some misconceptions about what a ‘start’ player or ‘sit’ player means. If we say to start Darrius Heyward-Bey, that doesn’t mean you should play him over Greg Jennings or Calvin Johnson, it means we like him over most of the mid-tier receivers that he’s comparable too. Similarly, if we say to bench Jamaal Charles, that doesn’t mean you should play Brandon Jacobs over him, it just means we think that there plausibly could be better options on your team that might be better than him for this week. With those caveats, here are this week’s start ‘em and sit ‘em players.
Start: Justin Blackmon, Jaguars WR
While I actually like Kendall Wright in the long-term better as a wide receiver prospect coming out of last year’s draft, I think Justin Blackmon is poised to have a big week one. Blackmon looked great in the preseason, managing 139 yards, 2 catches of over 20 yards, and a TD. Sure, Blaine Gabbert isn’t exactly the next Joe Montana, but he’s still young and has the potential to be at least decent in this league. The biggest reason to start Justin Blackmon this week is the Vikings pass defense: on a per-play basis, they were actually last in the NFL last season against the pass. It’s not like the Jaguars are going to pull away from the Vikings and stick solely to the run, so I think Blackmon really has the potential to break one deep for a TD, or just have a solid high volume game. If you’re looking for a deep wide receiver option, look no further than Justin Blackmon.
Sit: Jamaal Charles, Chiefs RB
I love Jamaal Charles. I picked him up off waivers that year when he went nuts in the fantasy playoffs, and he nearly singlehandedly won me a league. And while I do think this will be an extremely successful season for Charles, I just wouldn’t want to touch him this week. I am already wary of playing any player their first game back from injury, especially an injury as serious as a torn ACL, and as it turns out, the Falcons were sneakily fantastic against the run last year. I know the 49ers got all the hype for their run D, but the Falcons actually finished 3rd in the league in run defense efficiency last season, and only about 5% worse than the niners. When that is combined with the fact that I think the Falcons are going to come out throwing in this game and take an early lead, meaning the Chiefs are going to have to throw more than usual, it would just be hard for me to play Jamaal. I know in deeper leagues you have no choice, but in shallower leagues I’d look to play the matchups and try to bench Jamaal Charles if I could.
Start: Stevan Ridley, Patriots RB
Although owners don’t like to trust Bill Belichick with how he uses running backs, I think Ridley will be in for a major week 1 and in-turn, a sell-high after week 1. Without BenJarvus Green-Ellis no longer serving as the primary back, the Patriots will look towards the 2nd year back in Ridley as the primary ball carrier. Although Shane Vareen is also in camp, he’s been dealing with some injury issues and it’s unclear how effective he will be in week 1. Ridley and Co. will go up against a Titans defense that was 24th in the league against the run last year and should be even worse this season. Look for the Titans to have to play a lot of nickel and dime packages against Brady and his weapons that will leave Ridley with plenty of holes to run through.
Sit: Adrian Peterson, Vikings RB / Maurice-Jones Drew, Jaguars RB
You know and love them for what they’ve done for your fantasy teams in the past and how reliable they’ve been, but this year both of these backs are going to need to show me something before I play them without thinking about it. This preseason, these two running backs have combined for 0 carries. Adrian Peterson hasn’t taken a hit since his season ending injury last season and MJD didn’t report to camp until this week. Both backs are too important to their franchises to be asked to carry a full workload in week 1. MJD will probably end up with significantly less carries than his “backup” Rashad Jennings in week 1 despite the fact that you’d much rather own MJD for the entire season. If you have another option getting a higher volume of carries, consider sitting these two for one week before placing them back into your lineup.
Start: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders WR
Here are some guys who had less receiving yards than DHB last season: Percy Harvin, Brandon Lloyd, DeSean Jackson, Reggie Wayne, Julio Jones, Greg Jennings, and Dez Bryant. While he accumulated only 4 TDs, Heyward-Bey became a favorite target of Carson Palmer in the second half of last season. He has the skills to emerge as a top-tier wide receiver this year, and with Denarius Moore already dinged up, he is the clear #1 option for the Raiders. He could be a great start in nearly any format this week against a mediocre Chargers secondary that was the 2nd worst in the league against #1 wide receivers last year.
Sit: Trent Richardson, Browns RB
While in no way am I doubting Richardson’s awesome skills, he is definitely a very risky play. He said himself on Wednesday that, “It’s been a long time since I’ve touched the football.” He has no real competition for touches, but Brandon Weeden isn’t scaring anybody and it will be difficult for Richardson to get many yards per carry. I think he should improve as the year goes on, but for week 1, I’d happily sit the questionable RB against the Eagles.
Agree? Disagree? Questions? Tweet @RotoAnalysis and be sure to follow Moe @MoeProblems and Matt @KidCotti21. Check out their work on RotoAnalysis.com, as well as The RotoAnalysis Fantasy Sports Podcast.