One of my fantasy team names is "Bortle Kombat" (play on the video game Mortal Kombat) because I love my Jaguars and know the fight Bortles has in front of him from those so-called "fantasy experts" around the country. As for us fantasy players, now we start the long and tedious struggle to see who will be crowned fantasy champion when the regular season ends. The draft may be over, but the real work now begins with waiver wire adds and drops, trades, and weekly sit/start decisions.
Even before we hit Opening Week of the NFL season, injuries, suspensions, and depth chart questions have changed the landscape of rosters. Because of that, fantasy owners are scrambling to figure out what is fact and fiction as we head into Week 1. Here are some answers before you even ask them:
Tony Romo is out until midseason; Teddy Bridgewater is out for the year (and may never be the same); Le'Veon Bell (3 games), Tom Brady (4 games), and Josh Gordon (4 games) are suspended; Spencer Ware is the RB to start for the Chiefs right now; and nobody seems to know who is going to run the ball for the Ravens.
After you know those quick facts, the rest is just sending your questions to me so I can read my magic 8-ball for you. Now, let's get to some Week 1 start/sit information to get you started with a win to open the season.
Dak Prescott – Cowboys: The Cowboys open the season with their 4th-round pick under center after Romo was injured in the preseason. Prescott looked pretty darn good during the preseason, and while some will say it WAS the preseason, I like his matchup against a weak Giants defense to start the regular season. Ezekiel Elliot will take pressure off Prescott with the run, and Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are going to be his safety nets in the passing game. This should be a high-scoring game with both defenses less than impressive, so the fantasy numbers are up for grabs if you are streaming QBs.
Blake Bortles– Jaguars: After last season you would think people would believe just a bit more in Bortles and the Jaguars' fantasy players. It amazes me that I still see fantasy pundits looking down on Bortles, and that leaves most fans wondering if he is a good fantasy play or not. The Jaguars offense showed last season they could move the ball in the air, and TE Julius Thomas has a year under his belt with a new team and offensive scheme. Not to mention they added Chris Ivory at RB to solidify the backfield and revamped their defense. Bortles has plenty of value as a low-end QB1 against an average Packers defense.
Spencer Ware – Chiefs: Ware will be the workhorse back while Jamaal Charles works his way back to full health, and the Chiefs have said they will not rush him back before he is ready. Ware showed he could handle the work when Charles went down last season, and Charcandrick West is more of a passing-down back than a true threat to Ware on early downs.
The Chiefs and Chargers rivalry is well known, and I expect the Chiefs to ride Ware pretty hard in Week 1.
DeAngelo Williams – Steelers: With Bell out due to suspension, Williams once again gets the call to open the season as the Steelers running back. Last season he was in the same position, and Williams was nothing short of a stud for the first few games of the fantasy season. The Redskins run defense is nothing to write home about, and the Steelers have an offensive scheme that will put Williams in the RB1 rankings when Week 1 is over. Start him with confidence.
Brandin Cooks – Saints: The big name everyone loves to talk about with the Saints when fantasy football comes up this year is Coby Fleener, but Cooks is the guy I like the most. Cooks is the heavy favorite for targets and Drew Brees is looking to give the front office all the reasons they need to finish up his big-dollar contract extension.
The Raiders secondary can be beat, and I'm looking for Cooks to do it. Start him as a fringe WR1 to start the season.
Marvin Jones – Lions: When Calvin Johnson retired before his time, the Lions scrambled to sign a WR before they were left with Golden Tate as their only option to throw to. The Lions signed Jones away from the Bengals and stuck him in their WR2 slot. The reality is the Lions didn't give Jones $40 million over 5 years to be a cog in the passing game. OC Jim Bob Cooter's offense provides plenty of opportunities for WRs, making Jones a high-end WR3 option in most formats.
Zach Ertz – Eagles: The Eagles sent Sam Bradford out of town, putting Carson Wentz in the driver's seat for the offense. Jordan Matthews is the only WR Wentz can trust (Nelson Agholor is a fantasy bust), putting Ertz in line for a major role as a safety net for the rookie QB. With so few options in the passing game for Wentz, Ertz is a solid option at a thin fantasy position.
Houston Texans defense: Fantasy owners of the Texans defense can play them with a little more confidence this week because J.J. Watt will play in the opener against the Bears. We still don't know what his workload will be exactly, but my guess is he will be on the field for as many snaps as they let him. The Bears O-Line got a little better with the recent signing of Josh Sitton, and waiver wire claim of Hard Knocks tank-top guru Eric Kush. However, their O-Line was one of their weakest points entering this season and the Texans D-Line is one of the best in the NFL.
I would look for the Texans to finish as a top-5 fantasy defense this week if Watt is healthy-ish and Jadeveon Clowney steps up his game and avoids the bust label.
Ryan Tannehill – Dolphins: Tannehill has the benefit of a new coach this season, with the Dolphins moving on from Joe Philbin and bringing in Adam Gase. The problem that Tannehill runs into is he plays the Seahawks' tenacious defense right out of the gate. And he will do so without WR Deante Parker and C Mike Pouncey.
Those of you in 2-QB leagues that own Tannehill, I'd find someone else to use to start the season if you don't want to finish this week with a loss.
Trevor Siemian – Broncos: Siemian is a hot name in the media right now because he won the Broncos starting QB job, which caused the team to cut Mark Sanchez. Yes, Siemian does have Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to throw to, but he is much more of a game manager than a gunslinger who will rack up fantasy numbers. Think of him in the same realm as, say, Alex Smith.
Those talking heads out there who claim to be experts love to throw his name around because if they are right, they look like geniuses. And if they're wrong, nobody expected anything from him anyway. I'll tell you to look at someone like Prescott in Dallas or Matt Ryan (67 percent owned on Yahoo) if you need a QB to fill in for Brady.
Justin Forsett – Ravens: Justin Forsett… the man shockingly cut by the Ravens, only to be resigned a few days later. The question for me is not if he should be owned (he should). Rather, it is should he be started? I would have to say no in Week 1.
With the backfield a hodgepodge of Forsett, Terrence West, and Buck Allen, there is just no way to predict how the touches will shake out. Let's not forget to look a few games down the road when rookie Kenneth Dixon should be healthy, and Forsett could once again be cut, traded, or benched in favor of the future. It's a RBBC (Running Back By Committee) mess that you'd be smart to avoid until we know more about how the touches will be distributed.
Thomas Rawls – Seahawks: Word out of Seattle is the Seahawks are going to treat Week 1 as a preseason game for Rawls, meaning he will be on a very limited snap count. Many fantasy owners drafted him in the middle of the 4th round on average. It's hard to see your 4th pick sit on your bench to start the season, but that is exactly what his owners are going to have to do this week.
My suggestion would be to look at guys like Christine Michael, Spencer Ware, or James White if they are available.
Stefon Diggs – Vikings: Diggs' value took a hit when Bridgewater tore up his knee, but bounced back (for the most part) when the Eagles drastically overpaid for Sam Bradford. Diggs is slated to spend most of his time in the slot this year, and Bradford favored his slot receiver dating back to his days with the Rams (Danny Amendola) and Eagles (Jordan Matthews).
The reason I put him on the sit list is tri-fold: The Vikings offense will revolve around Adrian Peterson; Bradford is a Band-Aid on an open chest wound at QB; and Diggs hasn't shown he can be consistent with production. I wouldn't consider him as much more than a risk/reward WR3 until he shows me otherwise.
Devin Funchess – Panthers: Funchess was the hot name entering the preseason as the Panthers coaching staff was impressed with his growth from last season. He pushed Kelvin Benjamin in camp, and opened eyes around NFL circles with his effort. But all of that did little to move him up the depth chart as he is listed as a WR3 behind Benjamin and Ted Ginn.
My guess is he will eventually force the Panthers to put him in the WR2 slot ahead of Ginn. But that isn't going to happen before Thursday night's kickoff. For now, you have to keep Funchess on the bench as a possible sleeper pick.
Richard Rodgers – Packers: I've read more than a few fantasy sleeper articles that talk about Rodgers as a possible sleeper at TE. My question to those writers is this: do you know Jared Cook is ahead of him on the depth chart and seems to have chemistry with Aaron Rodgers? Richard Rodgers is depth for the Packers, and waiver wire material in all fantasy formats.
Denver Broncos defense: The Broncos will rely on their defense more this season than they did last season, which is amazing considering how bad Peyton Manning looked in his farewell tour. The main problems I see for the Broncos defense this season will be how they handle the loss of Malik Jackson, and how they fare with a QB that really creates no fear for opposing defenses. That may sound odd, but the more the Broncos defense is on the field, the more tired they get.
I have become a believer in streaming fantasy defenses week-to-week rather than plug-and-playing one defense all season long. This week, I'd look elsewhere for a defense.