Welcome to another year of the Start/Bench List. This list will include a handful of players at each skill position that has either a very favorable matchup or a matchup to avoid. Not every player at every skill position will be listed every week. Instead of a watered-down version of predicting each player’s performance, this list will focus on a select group of players whose chances to succeed or fail are increased based on their opponent of the week.
When using this list, try and remember a couple basic rules:
1) Studs – Always play your studs. Each position will include a list of players that are considered studs and should not be benched. If you have the luxury of needing to decide between studs, check out the matchups or feel free to let the shark tank assist you in your decisions. I will try to answer as many inquires as possible.
2) Depth – Every fantasy team is different and some have more depth than others. Only follow the recommended moves if your team depth allows you to make such a move.
Enough of the chit-chat, onto the list!!
Dante Culpepper, Minnesota vs. Dallas
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis vs. New England
Donovan McNabb, Philly vs. N.Y.Giants
Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle vs. New Orleans
Steve McNair, Tennessee vs. Miami
Michael Vick, Atlanta vs. San Francisco
Marc Bulger, St. Louis (vs. Arizona): All I heard about in the off-season was, “what’s the status of Marshall Faulk?”. I’ll tell you this much, Bulger, Holt & Bruce will be ready to put on a show on Sunday. Oh and by the way, Faulk is fine and will prove once again that he belonged to be taken in the first round of your draft.
Chad Pennington, N.Y. Jets (vs. Cincinnati): After signing a huge contract extension, Pennington will be looking to prove he’s worth it this week against the Bengals. Pennington has a couple new weapons in Justin McCareins and Jerricho Cotchery and along side Santana Moss, Chad will impress this week.
Jeff Garcia, Cleveland (vs. Baltimore): Garcia’s debut with the Browns is not likely to be a favorable one. With a shaky offensive line and Garcia yet to gel with his receivers, it could be a long day for the ex-49er against Ray Lewis and company.
Mark Brunell, Washington (vs. Tampa Bay): Another tough matchup for a veteran QB on a new team. Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs is old school (literally) and will look to run the ball and play solid defense. This doesn’t translate to big numbers for Brunell especially against the Bucs this week.
LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego vs. Houston
Priest Holmes, Kansas City vs. Denver
Ahman Green, Green Bay vs. Carolina
Shaun Alexander, Seattle vs. New Orleans
Clinton Portis, Washington vs. Tampa Bay
Edgerrin James, Indianapolis vs. New England
Jamal Lewis, Baltimore vs. Cleveland
Deuce McAllister, New Orleans vs. Seattle
Kevan Barlow, San Francisco (vs. Atlanta): A lot of people were skeptical of Barlow being considered one of the elite backs in most fantasy drafts. Barlow’s not listed above as a must start…yet. He has shown flashes of brilliance in the past in limited action. Despite the lack of weapons in the 49er arsenal, you can expect Barlow to produce solid numbers and may creep to the above list real soon.
Quentin Griffin, Denver (vs. Kansas City): We all know the premise behind the Broncos running attack: it’s the system and not the player. After trading Clinton Portis in the off-season, this theory will be put to the test once again with Griffin leading the pack. Griffin might not be the long term answer with youngster Tatum Bell ready to show his stuff, but early on Griffin will reward those owners who start him.
Domanick Davis, Houston (vs. San Diego): Davis was another running back that several owners shied away from because of his history of injuries. Another rumor is that Tony Hollings will take away some carries, possibly at the goal line lowering Davis’ value even more. If I owned Davis, I’d be sure to trot him out in my starting lineup early in the season for the favorable matchups to showcase him for a potential deal.
Travis Minor, Miami (vs. Tennessee): Ricky Williams, he ain’t. When Miami is talking about sharing time between Minor, Sammy Morris, and Leonard Henry, you know things aren’t quite as sunny as they want it to be in Miami. You don’t want any part of this ugly three-headed RBBC.
Kevin Jones, Detroit (vs. Chicago): Jones is a highly-touted rookie that probably went pretty high in your fantasy draft. Here’s a guy who could struggle early for the Lions despite being handed the keys to the car. Granted, it’s a Ford Pinto and not a Porcshe, but Jones will see his share of rough times even driving the old jalopy.
Lee Suggs, Cleveland (vs. Baltimore):Suggs has been battling a revitalized William Green in training camp for the #1 spot in the Browns backfield. Most recently, Suggs suffered a neck stinger and is questionable for this week’s game against Baltimore. Hmm, questionable status vs. Ray Lewis. You do the math.
Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis vs. New England
Randy Moss, Minnesota vs. Dallas
Torry Holt, St. Louis vs. Arizona
Terrell Owens, Philly vs. N.Y. Giants
Hines Ward, Pittsburgh vs. Oakland
Chad Johnson, Cincinnati vs. N.Y. Jets
Laveranues Coles, Washington vs. Tampa Bay
Joe Horn, New Orleans vs. Seattle
Derrick Mason, Tennessee vs. Miami
Santana Moss, N.Y. Jets vs. Cincinnati
Steve Smith, Carolina (vs. Green Bay): Smith began establishing himself as a top notch receiver mid-season last year and didn’t let up into the postseason. With Carolina not likely to surprise anyone this season, the true test for Smith will be can he continue to get open with the focus being on him from the start of the season? On Monday Night Football, he’s worth the start to find out.
Andre Johnson, Houston (vs. San Diego): Because Johnson plays for the Texans, he slipped further than his value warranted in most fantasy drafts. He’s another player that could very easily make his way to the Stud list within a couple solid weeks. Facing the Chargers this week should be a strong beginning to a fine season for the youngster.
Keyshawn Johnson, Dallas (vs. Minnesota): Usually what you see in the preseason is about as valuable as a fantasy magazine from 1996 on draft day. But one thing cannot be ignored: Parcells will utilize Keyshawn to the best of his abilities. In a game against the Vikings where points could be had early and often, expect Keyshawn to make a strong impression in his first game with America’s team.
Plaxico Burress, Pittsburgh (vs. Oakland): I don’t know what it is about this guy that makes me project big things from him year in and year out. Maybe it’s his size, the lack of a solid running game in Pittsburgh, or maybe it’s just being able to say “Plax” or “Plastic-Man” as much as possible. No matter the reason, expect Burress to have a strong season starting with the Steelers home-opener against a rebuilt Raiders defense.
Tim Brown, Tampa Bay (vs. Washington): Don’t get me wrong, I like Tim Brown’s chances to be a quality receiver this year. Teaming up with Gruden could be the best thing that could have happened to Brown. But, the Redskins will be a tough team to throw on and Brown may take a couple games to find his rhythm in the Bucs offense. Skip Brown this week, but don’t forget about him completely.
Rod Gardner, Washington (vs. Tampa Bay): The Redskins receiving corps are a crowded bunch with Coles at the top of the pile followed by Gardner, newcomer James Thrash and youngsters Taylor Jacobs and Darnerian McCants. Don’t expect much from Gardner this week as it’ll take a few games for the #2 WR spot to iron itself out.
Marty Booker, Miami (vs. Tennessee): When Miami traded malcontent Adewale Ogunleye to Chicago, most Dolphins fans expected either Thomas Jones or Anthony Thomas in return. When the word came down that it was Marty Booker heading to Miami, his ranking among the wide receivers dropped quicker than the amount of #34 jerseys purchased in the South Beach area. Three words for you: avoid, avoid, avoid.
Reggie Williams, Jacksonville (vs. Buffalo): Williams is another rookie with nice upside, but won’t have much value early on in the season. Until he establishes a chemistry with Leftwich, he’s a nice guy to have on your bench but not in your starting lineup.
Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City vs. Denver
Todd Heap, Baltimore vs. Cleveland
Jeremy Shockey, N.Y. Giants vs. Philadelphia
Kellen Winslow, Cleveland vs. Baltimore
Alge Crumpler, Atlanta (vs. San Francisco): Crumpler is just a notch beneath the upper echelon of tight ends. A full season with Michael Vick could change that quickly.
Antonio Gates, San Diego (vs. Houston): Somebody has to catch passes in San Diego, why not Gates? With Eric Parker the current #1 option at wide receiver, you can bet that Drew Brees will need some help from other sources in the passing attack.
Christian Fauria, New England (vs. Indianapolis): Just like the wide receiver position, there’s too many options at tight end in New England to choose a starter of the bunch. With Daniel Graham and rookie Ben Watson on the payroll, avoid this situation unless one of the three establishes himself as a go-to guy.
Bubba Franks, Green Bay (vs. Carolina): Franks is a tight end that is usually overvalued on draft day. His TD production has dropped from 9, to 7, to 4 last year. Don’t expect any big changes from the Packers offense which means another year, more mediocre stats from Franks.