Weeks of meticulous research and planning paid off on draft day. Take a breather from depth-chart diving and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Make it snappy, though. The fantasy football grind only intensifies with the chore of submitting an optimal lineup every week.
Week 1 presents a challenging tuneup for gamers across the globe. In the middle of the season, managers can identify wide receivers seeing increasing targets and vulnerable opponents who can’t stop the pass. This weekend, however, everyone is left with last year’s outdated data along with speculations based on offseason moves and personnel changes.
Let’s dust off the cobwebs with a look at Week 1’s top 50 flex plays under standard and point-per-reception (PPR) scoring. The rankings will include tight ends along with running backs and wide receivers, but anyone starting a tight end in the flex spot is probably in for a long year.
Week 1 Flex/PPR Rankings
While target monsters obviously carry more weight in PPR scoring, their stability also offers peace of mind to gamers operating under standard scoring. Must-start studs in PPR leagues, Julian Edelman and Jarvis Landry still derive flex appeal across the board.
Everything is in line for Edelman to explode on Thursday night as long as he’s healthy. The elusive wideout, who dealt with an ankle injury all August, wouldn’t reveal any updates to the Boston Herald‘s Jeff Howe two weeks ago.
“Ask Bill (Belichick),” Edelman said. “We’re taking it day by day. I think I’m 10 seconds better than the last 10 seconds.”
The curmudgeonly New England Patriots head coach shockingly hasn’t shared more information, meaning managers will have to pay attention on Thursday night. If healthy, Edelman is the clear-cut No. 1 wide receiver after the team officially placed Brandon LaFell on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
In his last two seasons, the former seventh-round selection has collected 197 catches through 30 games. His role only expanded to close out the 2014 campaign. Including three stellar postseason performances, he amassed 73 receptions for 786 yards and four touchdowns over the Patriots’ final nine bouts. With Tom Brady back in play, the Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers are poised to start the season with a shootout.
As for Landry, he gets a Washington defense that surrendered the second-most fantasy points to receivers last year under standard ESPN.com scoring. Pro Football Focus graded it football’s worst defense in terms of pass coverage:
While he didn’t compile a 100-yard game all year, Landry averaged 53.9 yards per contest over his last dozen games. It looks boring, but at least owners know they’re leaving the week with something. PPR players can expect at least five extra points their way from the trendy breakout pick.
Nobody will blame a standard gamer turning elsewhere for a big splash. Pro Football Focus’ Mike Clay noted the second-year pro’s limited prowess downfield during exhibition play:
Players need to access their level of risk tolerance. Some would rather gamble on DeSean Jackson breaking free once, but a consistent target given a golden matchup is tough to ignore.
Anyone who exerted a first-round choice on Le’Veon Bell will play Week 1 short-handed at running back. So will those who drafted Arian Foster, Todd Gurley and/or LeGarrette Blount, and none of their replacements are particularly appealing.
The shortage of rushers turns Giovani Bernard into a serviceable flex play. Usurped by Jeremy Hill, he still compiled 453 yards over the Cincinnati Bengals’ final seven games. He made his presence felt as a pass-catcher, making him a sneaky play in any scoring.
Last season, the Oakland Raiders relinquished an NFL-worst 22.0 fantasy points per game to running backs on ESPN.com. They allowed 78 catches for 761 yards and seven touchdowns to backs, and Hill only tallied 27 receptions during his rookie year.
Bernard played in eight of Cincinnati’s wins, averaging 15 carries. If Cincinnati builds up a decent lead, he could spell his replacement for 10-12 handoffs along with some targets, which isn’t too shabby for someone viewed as a top-10 back this time last year.
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