With the excruciatingly long off-season and relatively unimportant slate of preseason games in the past, Week 1 of the NFL season is finally here. Of course, that means fantasy football season is also in full swing.
Obviously player talent is important when determining which players to sit or start in a given week, but there are other factors to consider as well. Most commonly, those would be player opportunity and weekly matchups.
Even the most talented player in the world should not be started in fantasy football if the signs point to him not getting an opportunity to play. Obviously this can be difficult to predict, but there are many cases when the writing is on the wall.
Matchups are a little bit easier to see. If your starting quarterback is facing a weak secondary, start him with confidence. If a running back is facing a tough run defense, searching for other options may be the best choice.
Fantasy football is a game with a lot of unknown factors and luck involved, but there are things to look at that help fantasy owners make decisions. It is important to make the best possible decision every week in your lineup, and that is what this article will help you do. This piece will also aims to give more under-the-radar options. Everybody knows to start their studs, but the rest of the roster must get filled out as well.
Get these players in your Week 1 lineup, and look the fantasy point totals rise on Sunday.
All Average Draft Position (ADP) data for this article obtained from FantasyPros.com. Fantasy Pros uses five websites (ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, CBS Sports, Fantasy Football Calculator and NFL.com) to obtain cumulative ADP data. This is the most accurate way to determine where players are being drafted.
Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Throwing for 412 yards and three touchdowns to zero interceptions, Colin Kaepernick was a Week 1 darling to start the 2013 season. That game against the Green Bay Packers ended up being far and away his best game of the year, but it sure was an impressive start. There are reasons to believe that Kaepernick could once again start this season on a very high note, and lead fantasy teams everywhere to Week 1 glory.
Most fantasy leagues start only one quarterback each week. In said leagues, the position is incredibly deep with viable starting options. Kaepernick has a current ADP of 12th among quarterbacks, and 76th overall. This means that in standard 12-team leagues, Kaepernick is the last starting quarterback being taken, and he is going in the seventh round. Essentially, he is a borderline QB1 option.
There are definitely reasons to be excited about Kaepernick this season. As always, his elite-level physical tools make him a dangerous weapon in both the passing and running game, giving him a seemingly endless ceiling.
On top of that, Kaepernick heads in to the 2014 season with the best receiving core of his career. Steady veteran Anquan Boldin returns, Michael Crabtree finally appears to be fully healthy, newly acquired Steve Johnson will certainly play a sizeable role and tight end Vernon Davis is always a dangerous weapon.
Even with these positives, since he was not drafted as a sure-fire QB1 with the likes of Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, there will certainly be weeks where benching Kaepernick will be the correct play. Week 1 is not one of those weeks.
Kaepernick and the 49ers travel to the Lone Star State this week in a matchup against the Dallas Cowboys. Simply put, the Cowboys’ defense is terrible. Last season they allowed the seventh most points per game in the NFL (27), and the most total yards per game (415.3). Their secondary was a mess all season long, as they allowed 286.8 yards per game through the air, which was the third worst in all of football.
With no significant additions in the off-season to help to the defense, and the team releasing star pass rusher Demarcus Ware, it is hard to see the Cowboys improving much on the defensive side of the ball early on this season. For obvious reasons, this bodes very well for Kaepernick in Week 1.
While the 49ers dependence on the running game is always concerning when starting Kaepernick, this matchup is too juicy to pass up. Start the 49ers’ quarterback with complete confidence this week.
Other Strong QB Options: Nick Foles, Russell Wilson, Jay Cutler, Carson Palmer, Matt Ryan and Geno Smith.
Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions
Last season, as the back-up to Reggie Bush, Joique Bell rushed for 650 yards and eight touchdowns. He was also a reliable option for the Lions in the passing game hauling in 53 receptions for 547 yards. The Lions inked Bell to a three-year contract extension this off-season, a sign that the team wants him to continue to get more and more involved in the offense.
There are signs pointing towards new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi implementing a more balanced offensive attack than what the Lions have done in the past. With emphasis appearing to finally being put on the run game, Bell appears to be in line to become a huge beneficiary.
Obviously, Bush will still play a role this season, but with his advanced age for a running back, expect his carries to be limited. Lombardi comes from the New Orleans Saints. Using Bush similarly to how the Saints used Darren Sproles for many years makes a ton of sense. He will surely still be valuable, but far from being a bell cow, leaving opportunity for Bell.
This week, the Lions host the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. While the Giants’ defense was not terrible against the run last season, they are certainly exploitable. Also, Eli Manning and the Giants’ offense have struggled mightily throughout the preseason. They look lost on the field, and could be in for a long night against the aggressive Lions’ defense.
With the Giants’ offense looking putrid and the defense being nothing special, the Lions taking a commanding lead early appears to be a likely outcome in this one. If that were to happen, expect Bell to get a large amount of touches to grind the clock, leading to huge fantasy success.
Other Strong RB Options: Andre Ellington, Ben Tate, Shane Vereen, C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Knowshon Moreno and Chris Johnson.
Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Michael Floyd quietly had a breakout sophomore season in 2013. With 65 receptions for 1,041 yards and five touchdowns, Floyd proved to be a strong option in the passing game for quarterback Carson Palmer.
Floyd is now primed to take the next step and become an elite fantasy wide receiver. This week, he has a great opportunity to start his season strong as the Cardinals host the San Diego Chargers in the nightcap of Monday Night Football.
Last season, the Chargers’ secondary was brutal, allowing 258.7 passing yards per game, the fourth most in the NFL. Based on ESPN.com standard scoring, the Chargers allowed 23.4 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. That total tied them for the fourth highest points allowed in the NFL.
The Chargers did add veteran cornerback Brandon Flowers this off-season, who has had a good career with the Kansas City Chiefs. However, Flowers was picked on by opposing quarterbacks at times last season, and while he will be an improvement to the Chargers’ secondary, he may not have the major impact that he appears to have on paper.
This game has the makings of a shootout with both offenses having the ability to put up high point totals. In a fast paced, high-flying game, Floyd has incredible upside against a poor pass defense.
Other Strong WR Options: Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Cordarrelle Patterson, Eric Decker, Michael Crabtree, DeAndre Hopkins and Brandin Cooks.
Ladarius Green, TE, San Diego Chargers
As stated above, the matchup between the Chargers and Cardinals has shootout written all over it. On the Chargers side Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews, Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates are all certainly players worth considering. However, perhaps none have the upside of Ladarius Green in this matchup.
At 6-foot-6, 240 pounds with blazing speed and incredible athleticism, Green is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. The 24-year-old athletic freak burst onto the scene last season with 17 receptions for 376 yards and three touchdowns. Most of his production came down the stretch, when it appeared that the Chargers were starting to trust him, and get Green more involved with the offense.
Now, Green is in for a breakout season.
The biggest question surrounding Green is his usage, and it is certainly a fair question. For whatever reason, the Chargers have been hesitant to fully use Green thus far, and there is no proof that will change this season. That being said, with Allen being the only solid option at wide receiver on the roster, the Chargers would be wise to use both Green and Gates together in two tight end sets.
This would costless Green up in the slot, if they want to defend him with a defensive back, Green can over-power him with size and strength. Put a linebacker on him, and Green’s speed takes over.
The Cardinals were far and away the worst team in the NFL at defending the tight end last season. ESPN standard scoring had them allowing a whopping 13.1 points per game to opposing tight ends. With no clear players added to the defense to help this problem this off-season, it is fair to think the Cardinals will struggle against tight ends once again.
Now, starting Green is a risky play. Gates is also a good option, and the much safer play. That being said, the talent is obvious and the upside is massive with the younger Chargers’ tight end. A passing of the torch is likely to happen in San Diego this season, grab Green before it is too late.
Other Strong Options: Antonio Gates, Zach Ertz, Greg Olsen and Travis Kelce.