Fantasy football: Week 1 starters, benchwarmers
Wondering whether or not to start David Johnson and Julio Jones, or to bench Tom Savage and Markus Wheaton? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.
Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 1 of the 2017 season.
WATCH ‘EM ROLL
Derek Carr, QB, Raiders at Titans: This should be a high-scoring affair with two of the league’s young guns matching wits and touchdown passes. Carr is fully healed from last season’s leg injury and his stellar receivers will have little trouble carving up Tennessee’s soft secondary.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers at 49ers: The rookie couldn’t have asked for a better place to make his debut. (Well, after last night, maybe second only to the Patriots.) McCaffrey is an electrifying playmaker who is expected to be featured as both a rusher and receiver in Carolina’s offense. He’ll have plenty of chances to showcase his skills on Sunday.
Bilal Powell, RB, Jets at Bills: Matt Forte is nursing a bum hammy and the Jets’ passing attack is downright sad. Powell is his team’s only viable offensive weapon, and he will be facing one of the NFL’s worst run defenses from 2016.
Stefon Diggs, WR, Vikings vs. Saints: When the perennially pitiful Saints pass defense goes on the road, home offenses prepare to feast. Even one as challenged as Minnesota’s. I’m no fan of Sam Bradford, but he’ll likely be forced to throw often to keep pace with Drew Brees, and Diggs is his most reliable target. I like Adam Thielen’s chances in the Monday nighter, too.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers at 49ers: Benjamin is coming off a strong preseason and he’ll present a significant size mismatch against San Francisco’s transitioning secondary. Cam Newton & Co. should have little problem moving the ball at will against this defense, and Benjamin will get plenty of opportunities to exploit them.
More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, Matt Stafford, Russell Wilson, Eli Manning, Marcus Mariota; RBs Lamar Miller, Isaiah Crowell, Todd Gurley, Dalvin Cook, LeGarrette Blount, Danny Woodhead; WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Jeremy Maclin, Sterling Shepard, Michael Crabtree, Martavis Bryant, Eric Decker, Jamison Crowder, Rishard Matthews.
ROLL ‘EM BACK
Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys vs. Giants: I believe Prescott will have an excellent sophomore campaign, but he will likely get off to a slow start. Expect Ezekiel Elliott to see a tremendous workload as Prescott plays it safe against the Giants’ stacked secondary that held him mostly in check in both games last season.
Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals vs. Ravens: Mixon has some work to do before he ascends to the starting role. Jeremy Hill has held onto his job for now, and Giovani Bernard is still in the picture. This three-headed committee also faces an elite run defense. Cincinnati’s hopes are best through the air in this divisional matchup.
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Lions vs. Cardinals: Arizona’s run defense packs a punch, while Detroit is always a pass-first offense. Abdullah, when healthy, has shown promise, but he often suffers when the Lions abandon the run and play catch-up. That’s when Theo Riddick takes over as the pass-catching back and Abdullah’s touches are limited.
Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars vs. Texans: Houston has its problems, but pass defense isn’t one of them. Robinson is coming off an awful season and his beleaguered quarterback isn’t likely to reverse his fortunes against this tough secondary and potent pass rush.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts at Rams: I realize you probably have no choice but to start Hilton, but methinks you’re going to be disappointed. Not only will Scott Tolzien be dinking and dunking while covering for Andrew Luck, but the Rams sport a solid secondary that should cut off Hilton’s deep routes and force Tolzien to look elsewhere.
More thumbs down: QBs Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton, Trevor Siemian, Jared Goff; RBs C.J. Anderson, Ty Montgomery, Thomas Rawls, Frank Gore, Eddie Lacy, Paul Perkins, Leonard Fournette; WRs Jordan Matthews, Marvin Jones, Davante Adams, Alshon Jeffery, Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams, Sammy Watkins, Pierre Garcon, all Bears, Browns and Jets.
TAKING A FLIER
Cole Beasley, WR, Cowboys vs. Giants: Dez Bryant was completely shut down by the Giants’ defensive backs in both of last season’s games. While that wouldn’t keep me from starting him, it does suggest Beasley will be a frequent, reliable target across the middle for Prescott. In PPR leagues especially, Beasley has significant upside.
Don’t be the bonehead who… ignores the inactive reports on Sundays. I say it every year, yet it bears repeating. Every week, including the opener, several star players (including Odell Beckham, Jr.) will be game-time decisions, and some will either be inactive or put on a play count. I tweet out the inactives and other late-breaking news as it happens all day Sunday (@ladd_biro), so follow me or find another reliable source. Just don’t set your lineup on Thursday and fuggetaboutit!
Ladd Biro is a two-time winner and five-time finalist of the Football Writer of the Year Award by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Follow all his advice daily at the Fantasy Fools blog (fantasy-fools.blogspot.com), on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).