The first tough part of winning in fantasy football is drafting a good team. The next challenge is getting the right players in your lineup.
You can draft a near-perfect squad of sleepers and top producers, but it won’t help you at all if they sit on your bench. At the same time, even some top picks should be removed from your lineup at times to avoid wasting a spot on a poor performance.
Even in Week 1, it’s important to adjust your roster to get favorable matchups and high-upside plays from top to bottom. This sometimes leads to tough calls, but here is a look at a few fringe starters, with advice for each.
Sit ‘Em: Joseph Randle, RB, Dallas Cowboys
There are some of you who spent an early draft pick on Joseph Randle (current average draft position of 61 after it was much higher most of the preseason), but there is no guarantee he’ll lead the timeshare of carries in the Dallas Cowboys backfield.
Head coach Jason Garrett was vague discussing his four(!) legitimate options in the backfield, per ESPN.com’s Todd Archer:
We feel good about Darren McFadden and how he’s played. We certainly feel good about Joe Randle and what he’s done for us and Lance Dunbar has been a very productive guy for us. We feel like bringing Michael in here will add to the mix and again we’ll compete each and every day for opportunities. […]
We won’t outline anything before the game. We’ll give each of those guys a chance over the course of the week to show us that they’re worthy of opportunities.
The league’s best offensive line provides a great chance for each of these players to have a productive season. Unfortunately, we don’t know who—if anyone—will get enough touches to make it count. This is not an enviable position for fantasy owners.
Start ‘Em: Chris Ivory, RB, New York Jets
Unlike Randle, Chris Ivory seems pretty secure with his role within the New York Jets offense. After battling with Chris Johnson early last season, the veteran finished with team highs of 198 carries, 821 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
This season he is the unquestioned go-to option on the ground for the Jets, with Bilal Powell likely to only make a small impact on a weekly basis.
With this type of certainty against a Cleveland Browns defense that finished worst in the NFL in rushing yards allowed last season, Ivory might be one of the safer bets at running back heading into Week 1.
Sit ‘Em: Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers
Week 3 of the preseason usually works as a dress rehearsal for teams, which isn’t a good sign for Melvin Gordon. The rookie can be forgiven for a rough game against the Seattle Seahawks, but his putrid 2.4 yards per carry on 14 attempts does not inspire much confidence going forward.
Of course, the biggest issue was the fact he didn’t even get the majority of playing time in the Chargers backfield, as noted by Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus:
The Chargers like using passing formations on all downs, which could mean a lot of Danny Woodhead throughout the season, especially early in the year. Gordon has a lot of potential, but it might be a while until he is ready to carry the workload in San Diego.
Until he does, it might be better to keep him on your bench.
Start ‘Em: T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Although he wasn’t the first running back taken in the draft, T.J. Yeldon might be the best rookie to start in Week 1. Unlike Gordon or Ameer Abdullah, Yeldon doesn’t seem stuck in a timeshare and could get a heavy dose of touches right out of the gate for a team in need of playmakers.
Yeldon does represent limited upside because of an inconsistent offensive line and a quarterback (Blake Bortles) who hasn’t proved himself to be enough of a threat to back defenses out of the box. This should put the running back lower on season-long lists than other rookies at his position.
That said, he is talented enough to contribute in a big way Sunday.
Sit ‘Em: Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Despite dealing with a finger injury, it’s possible Michael Floyd could play in Week 1, according to Darren Urban of the Cardinals’ official website. Even if he does, the receiver missed the entire preseason and hasn’t played a game with quarterback Carson Palmer since Week 10 of last season.
Floyd has a chance to bounce back after a disappointing 2014 season, but other options, such as Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown, will take away targets, especially early. Until he proves he is up to speed, keep Floyd on your bench.
Start ‘Em: Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins
The Washington Redskins allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing receivers last season, according to ESPN, and despite a few additions in the secondary, that shouldn’t change much this year.
Meanwhile, Jarvis Landry is coming off an underrated rookie season where he finished with 84 catches on 111 targets. With DeVante Parker still on his way back from an injury, Landry should be the go-to target for Ryan Tannehill early.
This could lead to a big showing in Week 1, especially in points-per-reception leagues.
Sit ‘Em: Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills
It was hard to stand out as a rookie in last year’s amazing class, but Sammy Watkins still showed flashes of why he was the top player drafted at the position in 2014. The problem has been quarterback play, and that won’t be too much better with Tyrod Taylor under center.
While Taylor does provide excitement as a runner, he hasn’t shown much as a passer in his short career.
Things will be tougher in Week 1, when Watkins will likely match up against Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis—considered by some to be one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL.
This doesn’t equal a recipe for success in the first game of the year.
Start ‘Em: Steve Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Steve Smith is getting up there in age, but he still finished last season with 79 receptions for 1,065 yards on 133 targets, all team highs despite the presence of Torrey Smith. With the younger Smith now out of town, Steve Smith should once again be a top option—and one of the only options until Breshad Perriman returns from injury—for Joe Flacco in the Ravens’ passing attack.
Denver Broncos safety T.J. Ward’s suspension for the game will only make it easier for Smith to come down with a big play.
Even at 36 years old, he has a good chance to come through for fantasy teams in Week 1.
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