Thursday Night Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em: Week 1 (2018): Matt Ryan, Jay Ajayi, Tevin Coleman & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Thursday games are often tricky as it is, because there isn’t necessarily a reason to take any undue risks with questionable options (which could set you back and spoil your week).  Who are the borderline players that should be in lineups?  Who should be sat down?  Let’s take a look at the skill players taking the field tonight and try to answer those questions:

 

Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan – Quarterback
Generally we don’t go by the previous season when we are making a decisions as things change so quickly in the NFL.  However the Eagles have brought back the bulk of their starters from their Super Bowl winner, and that’s not a good thing for Ryan and company.  They allowed the tenth fewest points per week to opposing quarterbacks while tying for the fourth most interceptions (19) and finishing middle of the pack in sacks (38).

As for Ryan himself, he’s coming off a year where he attempted the fewest passes since 2009 (the last time he played fewer than 16 games) while also posting his fewest yards since 2010 (4,095) and TD since his rookie season (20).  Given the matchup and the potential for a run heavy offense once again, Ryan is at best a QB2 for this week (and a mid-tier option at that).

Verdict – QB2

 

Tevin Coleman – Running Back
He’s going to continue to play behind Devonta Freeman and that’s going to limit his potential upside.  Coleman had double-digit carries just four times in ’17, and three of them came when Freeman was limited by injury.  Of course Coleman also struggled to generate big numbers over his key three week stretch, outside of consistently finding the end zone:

  • November 12 (vs. Dallas) – 20 carries for 83 yards and 1 TD
  • November 20 (at Seattle) – 20 carries for 43 yards and 1 TD
  • November 26 (vs. Tampa Bay) – 19 carries for 97 yards and 2 TD

Freeman is a proven TD producer, and with him on the field Coleman isn’t very likely to find the end zone (he had 5 rushing TD total).  With that in mind at best he’s a risky FLEX play this early in the week, but usable if you have no other good option.

Verdict – Risky FLEX

 

Mohamed Sanu – Wide Receiver
He may open the year as the #2 receiver, though the Falcons didn’t select Calvin Ridley 26th overall without viewing him as a potential difference maker.  Will Ridley emerge and take a lot of opportunities in Week 1?  Probably not, but how many chances are there really behind Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman?  Sanu’s high a year ago was 85 yards as he averaged about 6.5 targets per game.  In other words he’s unusable on a Thursday night.

Verdict – Don’t Consider

 

Calvin Ridley – Wide Receiver
Ridley faces the same questions as Sanu, except that he’s a rookie set to make his NFL debut.  Penciling him in and expecting a stellar performance would simply be misguided.

Verdict – Don’t Consider

 

Austin Hooper – Tight End
There’s always been a lot of hype surrounding Hooper and his upside, and maybe he does figure it out and breakout in ’17.  At the same time are you really willing to bet that it actually happens, especially this early in the week?  He had 49 receptions a year ago, simply not enough to consider rolling the dice against a tough defense.

Verdict – Don’t Consider

 

Must Start Options:

  • Julio Jones – Wide Receiver
  • Devonta Freeman – Running Back

 

Philadelphia Eagles

Nick Foles – Quarterback
After leading Philadelphia to a Super Bowl title Foles will start Week 1, as the team proceeds with caution bringing Carson Wentz along.  Obviously Foles had a great playoff run, but can we expect him to carry that into the regular season without his top receiver (Alshon Jeffrey)?  That’s a tough sell, even though the matchup isn’t a terrible one.  Consider Foles a viable QB1 fill-in, but more of a high-end QB2 that we’d rather not start if we could avoid it.

Verdict – Solid QB2

 

Jay Ajayi – Running Back
A few weeks ago we would’ve expected Ajayi to be a surefire RB2, but he missed time with a mysterious lower body injury.  He’s ready to roll for this one, but how much work is he going to get?  Will they deploy him as “the man”?  The absence of Alshon Jeffery helps his case, but we’d still expect the team to use a committee approach given the depth that they have.  Ajayi could easily be eased into action, with maybe 10-12 carries (as opposed to pushing 18+).  That’s going to limit the overall upside and could help to bury you this early in the week.  Keep that in mind before committing him.

Verdict – Given the risk, more of a FLEX play but is usable as a RB2

 

Nelson Agholor – Wide Receiver
With Jeffery out Agholor should be the focus of the passing game.  He showed the potential in the Super Bowl, turning 11 targets into 9 catches and 84 yards.  He’s shown growth each year and could continue to gain opportunities (he set a career high 95 targets last year).  In two receiver formats there isn’t quite enough upside, especially with Zack Ertz likely dominating the opportunities, but in even deeper formats there’s value.

Verdict – Viable WR3 (borderline WR2 if in need)

 

Must Start Options:

  • Zack Ertz – Tight End

Sources – ESPN, NFL.com

Make sure to check out all of our Week 1 rankings:

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defenses
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