The gloves come off for fantasy football owners this week.
It’s time to dive right into start ’em, sit ’em decisions with Week 1 here. In theory, the NFL is healthier than it will be all season, meaning fantasy competitions will never be more interesting or diverse.
Of course, the obvious stuff remains. Start Andrew Luck, Adrian Peterson, Rob Gronkowski and more. The not-so-obvious start-sit factors rest below, and they are something to muse over while the weekend continues to barrel down the tracks.
Here’s a look at what to do with some of fantasy’s top stars.
Start to Know: Sam Bradford, Philadelphia Eagles (at ATL)
Get used to the idea of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford as a top fantasy star.
Yes, injuries have marred Bradford’s career thus far, but it’s something most would suffer playing behind what was often a historically bad line in St. Louis.
Now he controls Chip Kelly’s offense, where, in the team’s third preseason game, he went 10-of-10 with three touchdowns. While he’s not a running back, in this case, opportunities for Bradford will mean production.
At times, Bradford has looked like an elite quarterback. He should in Philadelphia if he can stay healthy, and a shootout with the Atlanta Falcons bodes well for a strong debut.
Star to Sit: Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers (vs. MIN)
Colin Kaepernick didn’t impress last season when he finished outside of the top 15 scorers at quarterback despite his dual-threat capabilities.
It didn’t look any better in San Francisco’s third preseason game, where he completed just two of his five passes. The line looks wobbly, and the Torrey Smith-Anquan Boldin tandem didn’t seem to do him any favors.
Things may improve, sure, but the Minnesota Vikings allowed just the 12th-fewest points to quarterbacks on average last year and only figure to improve. Until Kaepernick proves he can make the most of a bad situation, name recognition means little.
Start to Know: Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers (at CHI)
Eddie Lacy, despite the name recognition, isn’t the surest thing in the world in Week 1.
Aaron Rodgers figures to soak up a lot of the offensive touches. More important, though, is the quiet success of Chicago’s defense against Lacy last year, holding him to 177 total yards and two touchdowns in two games. The defense under new coach John Fox figures to be improved, too.
Still, Lacy received double-digit totes in every game last year and responded with 12 double-digit performances. It’s a trend sure to continue and smart odds to play, so Lacy needs to be in all lineups no matter what the little voice in the back of an owner’s head whispers.
Star to Sit: Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers (vs. MIN)
Carlos Hyde might be one of fantasy football’s next big things.
Just not in Week 1.
It’s wise to avoid the 49ers as a whole this week despite Hyde’s tremendous upside in the wake of Frank Gore’s departure. As a rookie, Hyde averaged just 4.0 yards per carry on 83 attempts and scored four times.
Stretch it out, and the numbers project well. Heck, the Vikings allowed the seventh-most points to running backs on average last year. But look inward—the 49ers lost right tackle Anthony Davis to retirement and guard Mike Iupati to free agency, and center Daniel Kilgore sits on the physically unable to perform list.
Until the line improves and the matchup looks like a sure thing, Hyde’s outburst can wait.
Start to Know: Stevie Johnson, San Diego Chargers (vs. DET)
Stevie Johnson spent a year with the 49ers and didn’t do much, but he finds himself in a much better situation with the San Diego Chargers this year.
In fact, Johnson was a star of the preseason in the team’s third game, catching four of a team-high six targets for 63 yards. He already looks like a starter who will compete with Keenan Allen and Malcom Floyd for attention due to an encouraging rapport with Philip Rivers.
Detroit wasn’t an easy assignment for wideouts last year, but this is a home game for Johnson, who figures to see more targets than usual thanks to the suspension of tight end Antonio Gates.
Star to Sit: Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills (vs. IND)
There’s quite an allure to Buffalo Bills sophomore wideout Sammy Watkins after a debut campaign in which he posted five double-digit outings.
The thing is, while Watkins looks to be on the rise, the team around him appears to be going backward. Whether it’s Tyrod Taylor or Matt Cassel under center, the Clemson product doesn’t figure to have much in the way of bountiful opportunities in Week 1.
While the Bills figure to pass quite often in an attempt to keep up with Luck and Indianapolis, the Colts surrendered the fifth-fewest points to wideouts last year on average.
Without a great matchup or proven quarterback, Watkins needs to ride the pine until at least one of those factors clears.
Start to Know: Larry Donnell, New York Giants (at DAL)
It’s easy to forget that New York Giants tight end Larry Donnell finished 2014 as the position’s 12th-highest scorer.
Donnell put in quiet work last year, with just three trips to double digits, but his consistency at a frustrating position isn’t something to ignore. Neither is the fact that the Dallas Cowboys gave up a league-high 109 catches to tight ends last year and the sixth-most points. Also keep in mind Victor Cruz‘s injury status remains up in the air.
Against a familiar opponent, which happens to be one of the league’s worst, Donnell is in for a bang of a season debut.
Star to Sit: Jordan Cameron, Miami Dolphins (at WAS)
No blaming owners for flocking to Miami Dolphins tight end Jordan Cameron.
For the first time in his career, the uber-athletic Cameron looks to have an elite starting quarterback and a strong offense. Even better, Washington surrendered the fourth-most points to his position last year.
There are a few things to remember, though. It was all quiet on the Cameron front this preseason, and he didn’t make much in the way of a difference. He’s surrounded by a crop of weapons, including Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings and DeVante Parker.
While the matchup looks great, it might be best for owners to stash Cameron and see how things play out for a few weeks.
All scoring info courtesy of ESPN standard leagues, as is points-against info and ownership stats as of September 10. Statistics courtesy of ESPN.com. All ADP info courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator.
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