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START/BENCH: Week 1

At long last the wait is over. After months and months of preparation the long hours spent ranking then re-ranking and ranking some more will pay off as we have arrived at Week 1 of the 2016 season! It is my honor and pleasure to once again be bringing folks the Start/Bench article here at Fantasy Sharks. This is year four of me writing this piece and it gets more exciting each and every season.

As always, this will be the longest introduction of the season as we explain a few of the ‘ins and outs’ of how the article works. If you are a returning reader of Start/Bench then welcome and thank you so much for coming back. If this is your first time checking out the piece then a hearty “Hello there” is in order and thank you as well.

The way things basically break down is that we examine each of the offensive skill positions on a weekly basis (no kickers…nope) to come up with what we feel are the most and least favorable matchups from a fantasy perspective. At the top of each position are the players considered ‘Studs’ or what are considered weekly starts regardless of the matchup. Your QB 1…RB 1 etc.

Otherwise, Old Uncle Waldo could just mail it in by simply suggesting you start Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers or Adrian Peterson on a weekly basis and call it a day. That’s the easy way out and we here at Fantasy Sharks realize that our readers demand and deserve a deeper look at the matchups so that’s just what we deliver.

The ‘Studs’ list is a fluid one as the season plays out and we will see names added or removed due to injuries, poor play, suspensions and the like. That being said it’s rare that a player of ‘Stud’ status is dropped from the list after one bad game or a player is added to the list after one very good game. It usually takes a few good or bad performances for names to start moving on or off the list and explanations as to why will be provided.

Another point I like to bring up right out of the gate is that from time to time a player listed as a start may actually be higher in my weekly rankings here at Fantasy Sharks than a player listed as a ‘Stud.’ The reason for that happening is strictly a matchup based one. A matchup so juicy that a player normally down the rankings finds their way into the top-10 or so spots. That player isn’t considered a no-brainer weekly starting option so isn’t added to the permanent listing of ‘Studs.’

If you are fortunate enough to own both a ‘Stud’ and start suggestion (especially at QB where only one player generally starts) on a given week, then you have a decision to make. That’s one of the things we love about this maddening adventure known as fantasy football though isn’t it? For my money, I generally roll with the ‘Stud’ in that scenario for what it’s worth.

Yes, I actually do use my own advice from this piece (otherwise I wouldn’t put in the hours of research) so if a player tanks in a given week that I’ve suggested starting him I will generally feel your pain as it’s likely I started him as well.

One last point I’d like to make is that early in the season there will be references to how defenses performed against certain positions last season when determining what I feel a player will do in a given week. That’s mainly because we don’t get to see much from defenses in the preseason as veterans often sit and teams run a vanilla scheme until the actual season starts.

This type of evaluation will mainly come into play when I feel a defense has done little to improve it’s roster from last season. I am also an Individual Defensive Players (IDP) writer here at Fantasy Sharks so I do keep close tabs on all things defense. As the season unfolds and we have film to watch on this year’s defenses, then that will be heavily incorporated into the evaluations.

Enough of my babbling and let’s get to what we all came here for…

 

QUARTERBACK

STUDS

Cam Newton
Aaron Rodgers
Russell Wilson
Andrew Luck
Drew Brees
Ben Roethlisberger
Tom Brady –  *suspended for first 4 games*
Eli Manning
Carson Palmer
Blake Bortles

 

START

Derek Carr, OAKLAND at NEW ORLEANS – The Saints defense was the fantasy friendliest to quarterbacks last season allowing over 4,700 passing yards and 45 touchdown passes. The unit did little to improve and struggles to create pressure (31 sacks a year ago) or interceptions (only nine in 2015). Carr is an ascending talent with productive receiving options in Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Clive Walford. Carr gets first crack at this weak defense and will put up great fantasy numbers in the opener.

 

Tyrod Taylor, BUFFALO at BALTIMORE – With WR Sammy Watkins looking good to go this week we like Taylor to continue to build on the success of his 2015 season. Taylor is a dual threat that averaged seven carries and 40 rushing yards per game last year and scored four rushing touchdowns. This is not the stifling Ravens defense of old and they managed a league low six interceptions last season. Taylor and Watkins hooked up for six scores between Weeks 12-17 and will pick up right up where they left off.

 

Jameis Winston, TAMPA BAY at ATLANTA- The ‘gun slinging’ Winston has a nice matchup to begin the year and has a full complement of weapons. With the twin towers of Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson creating mismatches in the secondary Winston will have plenty of time to pick the defense apart. The Falcons struggle (I’m being kind) to create pressure and managed a paltry 19 sacks a year ago. In his two games against Atlanta last season Winston threw for a pair of scores but more importantly also ran for two touchdowns. We love rushing scores from our fantasy QBs.

 

Kirk Cousins, WASHINGTON vs. PITTSBURGH – Cousins was a surprising top-10 fantasy QB last season finishing with 34 total touchdowns including five rushing scores. Fantasy owners covet a QB that will tuck it and run in the red zone and we like this opening weekend matchup. This game has the feel of a shootout and Cousins has the weapons to do some damage. With TE Jordan Reed splitting the seam and speedy DeSean Jackson stretching the field, Cousins will have a very productive debut against a revamped and unproven Steelers secondary.

 

 

BENCH

Ryan Tannehill, MIAMI at SEATTLE – I’ll be honest with you folks, there will be a few Dolphins on the bench list this week as they head to Seattle. The offense may show improvement with new head coach Adam Gase but it won’t happen this week. Over the last four seasons, Seattle has been a top-two defense in allowing the fewest points to QBs, having never given up more that 17 TDs to the position. With a shaky rushing game, Tannehill will be forced to throw a lot and that will allow the Seattle defense to pin their ears back at get after him. That is not a recipe for success and Tannehill should be on your bench.

 

Marcus Mariota, TENNESSEE vs. MINNESOTA – While I do like Mariota as a fantasy QB for the season, this is not a good match up to start things off. The Vikings defense racked up 43 sacks in 2015 (and put up 14 this preseason) and flat out punishes opposing QBs. If the Titans are going to move the ball it will be with their ‘exotic smashmouth’ rushing attack led by DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Mariota will be under heavy pressure all game long leading to dump-offs and possible turnovers. There will be better days ahead for the youngster but not in Week 1.

 

Dak Prescott, DALLAS vs. NEW YORK GIANTS – This may be a case of erring on the side of caution, but I want to see Prescott in a real game before slotting the rookie in my lineup. The Giants also made some serious adjustments to their D-line with newly signed Olivier Vernon, Jason Pierre-Paul, Damon Harrison and Owa Odighizuwa making up a fearsome unit. Look for Dallas to feature a heavy dose of Ezekiel Elliott and Alfred Morris in order to keep Prescott upright. Dak may not land on the bench list often if he continues his stellar play from the preseason but needs to show me something first.

 

Jimmy Garoppolo, NEW ENGLAND at ARIZONA –

QB_Jimmy_Garoppolo_NEP_1

While I do see Garoppolo holding down the fort at a reasonable level while Tom Brady sits out, this is a bad matchup to kick things off. The Cardinals are a top-three D/ST and get to have the Pats in their house in week one. They will play an aggressive blitzing style of defense unleashing OLB Chandler Jones and DE Calais Campbell on poor Jimmy all day long. With the return of Tyrann Mathieu the bevy of safeties that Arizona utilizes will also be a help in trying to contain Rob Gronkowski. Keep Garoppolo on the bench this week but take heart because he gets Miami in week two.

About Wally Spurlin

Wally Spurlin is a Fantasy Football Staff Writer at Fantasy Sharks and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writer Association (FSWA). Spurlin’s work has appeared in print publications, including the FSWA award winning 2014 USA Today Fantasy Football magazine as well as the 2015 edition. Wally is also a weekly co-host on the Fantasy Football Feeding Frenzy pod cast on Fantasy Sharks Radio at Blog Talk Radio.Follow him on Twitter @WaltonSpurlin