by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Trying to decide who you should start or sit this week? Let’s take a look at a few potential decisions owners have and try to sort through them:
Start – Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions – vs. New York Jets
This spot easily could’ve gone to Ben Roethlisberger, but we already discussed him and the rest of the Steelers given the Le’Veon Bell situation (click here for the article) so instead we’ll give the nod to Stafford. It’s easy to call him “Mr. Consistent”, as his worst yardage over the past seven seasons is 4,262 (2015) and he has at least 24 TD in four of the past five seasons. The Jets may be seen as a team with upside, but after allowing the fifth most points to opposing QB a year ago (28 TD tied for third most) did they do enough this offseason to think that anything will change? Importing Trumaine Johnson helps and experience for their young safeties should help (though Marcus Maye is banged up), but it’s hardly enough to scare you away from utilizing Stafford.
Sit – Jimmy Garoppolo – San Francisco 49ers – at Minnesota
Overall there’s a lot to like about Garoppolo, but this is among the more difficult matchups in the league. The Vikings allowed the third fewest points per week to opposing quarterbacks last season and the loss of Jerrick McKinnon brings significant questions to the running attack. The Vikings should key in on stopping Garoppolo, instead forcing Alfred Morris to try and beat them. Throw in that this game is coming on the road and the overall depth at the position and it makes sense to take a conservative approach for this one.
Start – Alex Collins – Baltimore Ravens – vs. Buffalo
The Buffalo Bills allowed a league high 1,789 rushing yards to opposing running backs a year ago, which alone would give hope for Collins and company to thrive. Throw in Nathan Peterman making the start and it’s easy to imagine the Ravens building up a lead and allowing the ground game to control the game and chew up the clock. As for Collins himself he showed what he was capable of in December of ‘17, taking 83 carries for 343 yards (4.1 yards/carry) and 4 TD (he had 6 TD over his final seven games of the season). Don’t be surprised to see him get off to a strong start to the season.
Start – Kenyan Drake – Miami Dolphins – vs. Tennessee
On their official depth chart the Dolphins listed their starting running back as Kenyan Drake “or” Frank Gore. We’ve got to love semantics, don’t we? The preseason narrative from Miami has been all about feeding Drake the football so don’t let this deter you in any way. He’s going to get the opportunity to thrive and could easily rack up 20+ touches and find the end zone (he averaged 21.6 touches per game in December ’17, though he only scored 2 TD).
Sit – Adrian Peterson – Washington Redskins – at Arizona
Peterson is going to be the starter, but he has only been in the mix for a few weeks (he wasn’t signed until after Derrius Guice’s season ending injury) and saw 11 carries during the preseason. It’s been a long time since Peterson looked like one of the elite running backs in the game, including averaging 3.4 yards/carry over 10 games last season, and he also is guaranteed to cede some opportunities to Chris Thompson. Maybe Peterson proves us wrong, but he’s a hard bet for Week 1.
Sit – Jordan Wilkins – Indianapolis Colts – vs. Cincinnati
With Marlon Mack looking unlikely to play the Colts will likely lean on Wilkins and Christine Michael carrying the football. That would seem to give Wilkins an opportunity, though he averaged just 2.7 yards/carry during the preseason (including a long of 8 yards on 27 carries). He simply failed to stand out, and that makes him impossible to trust regardless of the perceived chances he could get.
Wide Receiver (Two-Receiver Format)
Start – Chris Hogan – New England Patriots – vs. Houston
With Julian Edelman suspended and a running game that generally is tough to trust (and it’s even more questionable given the absence of Sony Michel and with Rex Burkhead expected to be limited), Hogan should play a big role over the first few weeks of the year. He showed it in the Super Bowl, turning 8 targets into 6 catches, 128 yards and 1 TD. Outside of Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady it’s always going to be difficult to trust any New England skill player, but there’s little to trust in the receiving corps and Hogan should see a significant number of opportunities to produce.
Sit – Los Angeles Rams Wide Receivers – at Oakland
Who is going to ultimately be “the man” for the Rams? Will it be Robert Woods? How about Brandin Cooks? Maybe Cooper Kupp? Throw in that Todd Gurley is going to be the focal point of the offense, and despite the upside each wide receiver has individually it’s impossible to trust any of them in Week 1. There’s just too much risk that they don’t get enough opportunities to produce.
Wide Receiver (Three-Receiver Format)
Start – Devin Funchess – Carolina Panthers – vs. Dallas
The Cowboys allowed the second most TD to opposing wide receivers a year ago (20) and their starting cornerbacks were both a part of that secondary. Funchess should be the primary red zone target, listed at 6’4” and scoring 8 TD last season (including 5 TD over his final 7 games of ’17). Would it really be surprisingly if the fourth year receiver fully broke out by year’s end and emerged as a must play option each and every week in all formats? It all starts in Week 1, and he has a good chance to make a statement.
Sit – Kelvin Benjamin – Buffalo Bills – at Baltimore
The Bills will be starting Nathan Peterman at quarterback in Week 1, infamous for his 5 INT performance during a start as a rookie. It’s hard to envision a repeat performance, but do we really expect gaudy numbers? There is upside for Benjamin in rediscovering the form he showed over his first two seasons, but with Peterman under center this should be the Lesean McCoy show. Baltimore was also among the best secondaries in the NFL last season (including allowing just 6 TD to opposing wide receivers) just further clouding the outlook.
Start – Trey Burton – Chicago Bears – at Green Bay
There was a lot of hype surrounding Burton in the offseason and it’s easy to think that second year quarterback Mitch Trubisky will lean on him as a safety valve. Listed at 6’3” and 235 lbs. he also could be the go to red zone target, especially with Allen Robinson potentially being eased into the mix after missing the bulk of 2017 due to injury.
Sit – Antonio Gates – Los Angeles Chargers – vs. Kansas City
Sure he knows the offense, but Gates missed the entire preseason and it’s easy to envision him being extremely limited in Week 1. Throw in a fairly deep wide receiving corps and the risk far outweighs the potential reward.
Sources – ESPN, NFL.com
Make sure to check out all of our Week 1 rankings: