It’s Sunday, and the clock is about to strike 1:00 pm. Anticipation is building, and you finally cave, as you remove Stevan Ridley from your FLEX and replace him with Joique Bell. After all, Ridley has been in the doghouse with Coach Belichick and Bell has a great matchup vs. the Eagles. We’ve all be there before — at the last minute you completely reverse course from the original starting lineup you had all week long. Sometimes it pans out, but sometimes you’re left kicking yourself — like when Bell cedes carries to a red-hot Reggie Bush and Ridley sneaks in for a couple of one-yard touchdown dives.
This column is here to help you make those decisions easier. Each Saturday throughout the NFL season, I will be providing you with a list of some players you should start, as well as some that should take a seat at the end of your bench. I won’t be telling you to start LeSean McCoy, ‘cuz if you’d ever consider sitting him, well, you’ve got way more things to worry about than fantasy football (like getting your head checked). Instead, I’ll focus more on the fringe players or the sneaky second- or third-tier guys who aren’t automatic starts or sits each week.
Let’s get on with the show. And as always, I will be taking your additional start/sit questions on here and will be doing so all the way up until kickoff.
(Stats are based on PPR formats unless noted otherwise)
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers: An underwhelming 2013 season accompanied by a less-than-stellar preseason made Kaepernick the 12th QB off the boards in this year’s fantasy drafts. While I believe his ADP is in the right range, his Week 1 matchup vs. the porous Dallas Cowboys defense is one that fantasy owners must exploit. The Cowboys’ D ranked 31st (out of 32 teams) vs. opposing QBs last year, allowing 26.2 fantasy points per game. The Cowboys will also be without cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who will miss four games after being suspended for breaking the NFL’s drug policy. Because Kaepernick fell a bit in drafts, it’s possible he may be your QB2, but I’d start the Niners’ signal caller over guys like Tom Brady, Cam Newton and Nick Foles this week.
Fred Jackson, Bills: Jackson eclipsed the 30-year-old mark three years ago — the traditional “downhill point” of a running back’s career — but that hasn’t slowed him down one bit. The undrafted back out of tiny Coe College was a menace in PPR leagues last year, ranking 11th among all RBs. C.J. Spiller is fully healthy once again, which means a backfield split, but Jackson has always gotten his share of catches and goal line touches. F-Jax and the Bills face the Chicago Bears in Week 1, a team that allowed the second-most points to opposing RBs last year (29 ppg). Jackson is still a flex play in most leagues, but he’s worth starting over ball carriers like Maurice Jones-Drew, Toby Gerhart and Bishop Sankey.
Marques Colston, Saints: We all know about Jimmy Graham and the addition of rookie Brandin Cooks, but Marques Colston is still a major part of the Saints’ record-setting offense. Colston is coming off arguably the worst (full) season of his career (he had a statistically reduced 2008 after playing in only 11 games), but his foot troubles that have plagued him in years past seem to be behind him. After all, in his “bad” 2013 campaign, the eight-year vet still racked up 943 yards on 75 catches. The Saints open up vs. the Falcons, who gave up the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers last year. In what should be a shootout, Colston is worth starting over other WRs like Larry Fitzgerald, DeSean Jackson and Torrey Smith.
Heath Miller, Steelers: The Big Ben-to-Miller connection has endured for years and in the Steelers’ new no-huddle offense, it should continue to thrive. The duo has a great opportunity to make a splash in Week 1 when Pittsburgh hosts the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Miller didn’t fare all that well against them last year, catching just seven balls for 58 yards in their two contests, but overall the Browns defense allowed a great deal of production to opposing teams in the red zone. In fact, Cleveland was the 11th-worst team when defending against the touchdown within their own 20-yard line — allowing 2.0 TDs per game — and they let opponents score six points on 64 percent of those opportunities (30th in NFL). Miller is a fine start in deeper leagues and warrants consideration over higher-profile tight ends like Charles Clay and Martellus Bennett.
Robert Griffin III, Washington Football Team: RG3 had a rather lackluster preseason, throwing two picks and zero TDs in 67 snaps. There still seems be some skittishness with his surgically-repaired knee, and he is not someone I’m starting until I see the 2012 version of RG3 on the football field. On top of that, he has to face J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and the Texans D in Week 1.
Joe Flacco, Ravens: Flacco’s 2013 season was laughable. After signing the largest contract in NFL history (at the time), Joe Cool bottomed out with a career-worst 19/22 TD/INT ratio and 73.1 QB rating. The Bengals defense was sixth-best vs. QBs last year and in two games vs. Cincy, Flacco threw only two TDs to five INTs and completed just 58.1 percent of his passes.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Raiders: The Jets had fantasy football’s second-best defense vs. RBs last year and the Raiders will have to travel across the country for to face them in an early game. Also, it’s the Raiders.
Toby Gerhart, Jaguars: The Eagles averaged 12.8 points (9th) to the Jags’ 8.5 points (32nd) in the 1st half of games last year. In a game that could get out of hand early, it’s best not to rely on the trailing team’s run game.
Jeremy Maclin, Eagles: Maclin is on the flipside of the Gerhart scenario. The Eagles could be up big early, which means a heavy does of LeSean McCoy. After ACL surgery, I’d also like to see Maclin play a couple of games before I begin starting him with confidence.
Charles Clay, Dolphins: Rumors have surfaced that the Patriots are planning on possibly shadowing Clay with Darrelle Revis at times, which is a death sentence for production. Clay also had a knee injury this summer, which limited him to just one preseason game. There are better tight end options out there in Week 1.
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