Your fantasy draft finally is over. Congratulations! Now you can sit back and watch your team achieve fantasy dominance.
Just kidding. In fantasy football, your draft is only the beginning.
Week 1 is one of the most important weeks of the fantasy season, as it allows you to finally see how your team stacks up. It’s also one of the most difficult, as you have virtually no recent statistics to draw upon as you set your lineup.
For that reason, Week 1 roster decisions often come down to matchups. Predicting how a player will fare against a completely overhauled defense can be difficult, but it’s a safe bet that a running back will do better against the Jacksonville Jaguars than he will against the Seattle Seahawks.
Assuming you’ll start your big guns no matter what, let’s take a look at the next tier down and see who to avoid and who to start Sunday.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Oakland Raiders: Jones-Drew moves to a new offense this season, and he has the pleasure of kicking off his 2014 campaign against a New York Jets defense that allowed less than 89 rushing yards per game in 2013. There are too many question marks surrounding MJD’s fantasy potential to give him the start here.
Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons: It might be a stretch to bench White, who finally looks healthy after dealing with a nagging ankle injury in 2013. Yet a surprisingly stout pass defense in the New Orleans Saints and the return of Julio Jones as the focal point of Atlanta’s passing attack might be enough to bump White out of your starting lineup.
Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals: Believe it or not, the Red Rifle put up pretty decent numbers in 2013. That said, he opens the 2014 campaign at Baltimore against a Ravens defense that’s always among the league leaders in passing yards allowed. There are better quarterbacks out there.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings: Rudolph could be a fantasy stud in 2014, but he faces a brutal Week 1 matchup against the St. Louis Rams, who gave up the fewest fantasy points to tight ends last season in Yahoo! standard leagues. Several serviceable tight ends on the waiver wire have more favorable matchups.
Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers: Crabtree isn’t facing arch-nemesis Richard Sherman, so feel free to start him with confidence. In fact, the Niners open the season against the Dallas Cowboys, who allowed the second-most receiving touchdowns (33) in the NFL last season. Crabtree’s comeback season should kick off in a big way in Week 1.
C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills: Good news — it’s Week 1, which means Spiller is healthy. More good news — he’s playing against the Chicago Bears, who had the NFL’s worst run defense in 2013. The Bears bulked up their defensive line by adding Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston, but the Bills still should pile up the rushing yards, with Spiller being the major benefactor.
Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints: Feel like testing the wheels on the Saints’ prized rookie? Now is the time to do it. Atlanta allowed more than 30 receiving touchdowns in 2013, and that was with linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who will miss all of 2014 with a torn ACL.
Houston Texans defense: Didn’t draft a defense? Fear not! The dynamic duo of J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney will have the chance to wreak havoc against the Washington Redskins, who turned over the ball more than twice per game and surrendered 43 sacks in 2013. This unit is perfect for a Week 1 spot start.
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