Week 1: Start 'Em
When it comes to setting Week 1 lineups, there is a basic rule owners should live by each and every year: don't get cute. Those smarting after putting Peyton Manning or perhaps Wes Welker on their bench certainly understand that logic now. However, that doesn't mean owners should simply place those players into their starting lineup based solely on draft position. This certainly applies to owners that didn't land one of the obvious top-12 quarterbacks, waited on drafting running backs, can start 3-4 wide receivers and really just about anyone whose tight end's surname is not Graham, Witten, Gonzalez or Davis. Therefore, here are players owner should take a closer look at this week...
This one goes out to owners in deep leagues, those that didn't draft one of the obvious dozen fantasy passing stalwarts or anyone debating letting Robert Griffin III take a hit before using him in your fantasy lineup. With the injury to rookie running back Le'Veon Bell, expect the Steelers to keep the ball in Big Ben's hands. Considering Roethlisberger's stats in his last two meetings against the Titans, that seems like a smart decision. Last season he threw for 363 yards and one touchdown in a 26-23 loss. In 2011, the two-time Super Bowl champ matched the franchise record with five touchdown passes and 228 yards. That track record combined with the suspect ground game and a Tennesse defense that allowed 31 TDP last season equals FFToolbox's No. 14 QB this week.
Ahmad Bradshaw landed in our "Sit 'Em" article this week simply because questions remain about how much they plan on using their new lead runner considering he missed all of preseason action with a foot injury. The matchup against Oakland's porous defense is pretty, pretty awesome. The opportunity for Indy to jump in front early and run out the clock late, sincere. Perhaps the Colts will let Bradshaw run, run, run back into shape. Either way, the other half of the Week 1 committee - Vick Ballard - will pick up touches. If OC Pep Hamilton decides Bradshaw isn't up to speed with his offense after missing all of the preseason, Ballard could pick a sizeable amount of touches. For the season, he's a handcuff. For the opener, he's quite possibly the workhorse. Goes without saying Ballard is a risky play even as a Flex, but there are positives with this opportunity. Rotobowl owners that must start two flex (plus three receivers) could do a lot worse.
Good luck guessing how the Saints plan on deploying running backs in any given week. Last season against Atlanta, the Sean Payton-less coaching staff ran Mark Ingram 16 times (for 67 yards) in the first meeting, but just six (for 13 yards and a TD) in the rematch. With that inconclusive data, why the mention in a "Start 'Em" article? For one, Saints-Falcons should be an offensive slugfest with each team racking up score after score, so having players in that matchup is ideal. In addition, Atlanta allowed the 10th most points to fantasy running backs last season. Finally, there has been decent buzz this offseason about the Saints committing to the third-year back. That's enough circumstantial evidence to warrant a Flex start or as an RB2 for any owner that doesn't have two top-20 backs on their roster.
Those familiar with the FFToolbox podcast heard plenty of praise for Givens during his rookie season and leading into the 2013 campaign. The speedster's performance against Arizona helped spur on the hype - as did catching at least one 50-yard pass in five straight games. In two games versus the Cardinals last season, he averaged three receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown. Yes, he had one score in each game, including a 51-yarder in the first meeting. The Rams added speed throughout their offense, but they already had a flyer in Givens. Drafted typically as a WR4, the former Wake Forest star is WR25 in this week's FFToolbox standard league rankings. Using him as a WR3 on your team is plenty bold.
If we're going to tout Ben Roethlisberger, might as well promote one of his primary targets. Antonio Brown moves into the WR1 role following Mike Wallace's departure. Additional attention will follow. That's not to infer Emmanuel Sanders will be standing all alone, but seeing as only one team allowed more passing touchdowns than Tennessee last season, getting open shouldn't be a problem. Rookie Markus Wheaton is a deep, deep league flyer for the same reasons. Starting Sanders isn't a stretch.