We’ve done the draft; we’ve looked at the waiver wire; now it is time to set those line-ups and take home the league title. Sometimes the hardest part of the fantasy season is deciding who to play out of the line-up full of studs every team seems to have. That is where I come in; I make sense out of madness and tell you who to sit and who to start week in and week out.
One big mistake people make is starting the bigger name over the better match-up. Let’s say you have Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles, Trent Richardson and Steven Ridley, who do you start? Yahoo.com, NFL.com, ESPN.com will all tell you to go with Johnson and Charles, and stick Richardson in the flex. But, that is why I am here and they are there… because I know more than they do. So, get aboard the Morris Express and allow me to bring your fantasy into my reality!
There are a few key injuries that we need to talk about before getting to the rankings:
Arian Foster is questionable for the Texans against the Dolphins on Sunday. Foster is one of the top backs in fantasy football, so you’ll want to check back here Sunday morning for an update on his status. If he can’t go, Ben Tate becomes a good option to start for your team as he’ll get the majority of the carries.
Rashard Mendenhall is doubtful for the Steelers’ Sunday night game in Denver. If he isn’t a full go, it will be too late to put anyone else in. I would leave him on the bench unless something drastically changes in the next 30 hours and we have definitive proof he is a 100 percent go.
The Vikings have already said that even if Adrian Peterson suits up for week 1, his action is going to be limited at best. Toby Gerhart is going to be the RB this week, and you should leave AP on your bench until further notice.
Marshawn Lynch is dealing with back spasms, and his status is going to be a true game-time decision. If you own him, make sure you go grab Robert Turbin as a handcuff and be ready to make the switch on short notice.
Stevie Johnson is dealing with a groin problem that required off-season surgery. He is listed as questionable, but Coach Chan Gailey still expects him to play versus the Jets in the opener.
Matt Ryan – QB Atlanta: With an ADP (average draft position) of 66, Ryan fell to round 7 in standard drafts and that is a steal. Julio Jones is going to finish the season as a top 5 fantasy WR, and it is because of what Ryan is going to do with the ball. I would play Ryan over guys like Tony Romo and Peyton Manning without hesitation.
Andrew Luck – QB Indianapolis: Luck is more for 14-team and deeper leagues, but this kid is for real. He looks like one of the most NFL ready QBs we’ve seen in the last decade, and the Colts are going to use him as if his last name was Manning. The Bears secondary has long been their weak spot, so I have Luck finishing the week as a top 12-15 QB.
Doug Martin – RB Tampa Bay: Martin has been named the starting RB in Tampa Bay, ahead of incumbent LeGarrette Blount. He was taken on average at the tail end of the 5th round, which makes for very nice value considering I have him ranked as a top 12 RB this week. The Panthers run defense doesn’t scare me, and the addition of Vincent Jackson and Dallas Clark should take off some of the focus on stopping the run.
Stevan Ridley – RB New England: Ridley is coming off a strong pre-season in which he racked up 152 yards on 34 carries (4.47 YPC), and Shane Vereen is still nursing a minor foot injury. The Patriots won’t use the ground-and-pound approach to running the ball, BUT Ridley could be a sneaky bet for some redzone touches and enough yards to make him a top 15 RB play this week.
Reggie Bush – RB Miami: Bush fits nicely into a flex spot against the Texans. I have him ranked just outside the top 30 RBs this week, and that is more due to the Texans defense than it is the Dolphins offense. I have faith in Ryan Tannehill as a QB, but there are some real WR concerns that could allow the Texans defense to stack 8-men in the box on running downs.
Eric Decker – WR Denver: Peyton Manning made even Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon look like WR studs, so you can only imagine what he can do for guys with actual skill like Decker and Demaryius Thomas. I would have no problems at all putting a top 20 WR ranking on Decker and a top 25 ranking on Thomas this week.
Torrey Smith – WR Baltimore: Smith has emerged as Flacco’s clear No. 1 option and is running a full route tree this season. Flacco has given him plenty of praise and I see his as a legit WR2 given his 11 catches for 146 yards in just two preseason games.
Greg Olsen – TE Carolina: Cam I Am is a beast at the QB position, and he is going to make a fantasy stud out of Olsen this season. TE is an all-or-nothing position in fantasy football, with many leagues going the route of a WR/TE flex spot. However, Olsen hauled in five catches for 62 yards in three pre-season games, and I envision him as a sneaky TE1 this year because of his TD’s.
Seattle Seahawks Defense: The Seahawks defense isn’t given nearly the respect it deserves. On average they were the 8th defense off the draft board, despite finishing last season ranked 5th when the 2011 season finished. The Cardinals have problems at every position except WR1, and I would put the Seahawks defense #1 in my board this week because of it.
Matt Schaub – QB Houston: Schaub was once a top 10 fantasy QB, but those days are behind him now. The Texans offense has evolved into a run-heavy scheme where Schaub makes a few big play throws to Andre Johnson each game. At best he is a QB2 in fantasy terms, and not someone I would even own unless I am in a 2-QB league.
Robert Griffin III – QB Washington: The Redskins are dealing with much of the same problems as the Seattle Seahawks, a lack of weapons for the QB to utilize in the passing game. Pierre Garcon isn’t someone I am overly excited about as a WR1, and Josh Morgan as a No. 2 option doesn’t help at all. The lone bright spot I see is Fred Davis at TE. But, with a 3-way RBBC brewing and a lack of receiving options, I would leave this rookie on the bench until he gives us a reason to play him.
Trent Richardson – RB Cleveland: As good as Richardson may be, the rookie has some major hurdles to deal with on the offense. Even if his knee is healed from the scope, he still has Brandon Weeden at QB, and a WR corps that consists of Greg Little, Josh Gordon and Mohamed Massaquoi. At best he is a flex play this week, and probably someone I would rather leave on my bench if at all possible.
Rashad Jennings and Maurice Jones-Drew – RBs Jacksonville: Maurice Jones-Drew ended his hold-out, but that didn’t put him back in the Jaguars RB driver’s seat. Even with Jennings leading the pack until MJD is back into game-shape, the Vikings run defense is a tough one for even the best running backs in the NFL to deal with. The reality is that Jennings will hold the starting job for weeks 1 and 2, and then turn the reigns over to MJD in week 3. The Jaguars face the Vikings and Texans in the first two games of the season, neither of which is encouraging for Jennings’ owners.
Stevie Johnson – WR Buffalo: As I said earlier, Johnson is expected to play in this one despite being held out much of this week in practice. Regardless, he is going to draw coverage from Darrelle Revis and I think his history of success against the shut-down corner ends this week. At best I see him as a low-end WR3 and would feel more comfortable if he were in my flex spot.
Malcom Floyd – WR San Diego: Floyd was taken in the 12th round in most drafts, which puts him in many flex spots to start the season. The problem I have with him is that the Chargers face the Raiders in a division rivalry game, and Robert Meachem has not found his groove with Philip Rivers as of yet. Floyd has shown big games against the Raiders in the past, but there is added pressure since the Chargers are also without RB Ryan Mathews.
Jacob Tamme – TE Denver: Tamme was taken far too high (ADP of 114 in the 12th round) and he only managed to amass four catches for 43 yards and no touchdowns in the pre-season. As much as Manning can do for his WRs and TEs, Tamme didn’t get the looks this pre-season and he is not someone I would want on my team entering the season. Instead go grab Kyle Rudolph from the Vikings and let someone else deal with Tamme this season.
Check back right here Sunday morning for an injury updates blog to help set your lineups for week 1.
If you have any further lineup questions, follow James on Twitter here.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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