The red carpet is rolled out, as it's opening week for the fantasy football season. We got a taste of the action on Thursday, but the real fun begins Sunday. So, like every red-carpet show, let's see what the stars are wearing:
» Robert Griffin III is sporting a nice knee brace. Don't overthink the decision of starting him. He should be in your lineup regardless of the injury. He's proven to be a top quarterback, and he's a risk worth taking as long as he's on the field.
» Rashard Mendenhall has gone from wearing black and yellow to red and white. After missing most of last season with a torn ACL, he's run well in the preseason for the Cardinals, averaging more than 6 yards per carry. Mendenhall is a nominee for comeback player of the year, especially because the most successful seasons of his career were when new Arizona coach Bruce Arians was the offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh.
» There are plenty of fresh faces. Rookies are trying to make their case to be in fantasy lineups, but few are worthy of a Week 1 start. The only rookies I'd play in the first week are Eddie Lacy, Tavon Austin, Zach Sudfeld, Kenbrell Thompkins and Giovani Bernard. Keep the rest of them on your bench until they prove worthy.
» Chip Kelly took off his Oregon visor and put on the Eagles gear. If his offense goes according to plan, LeSean McCoy will be a fantasy stud. The real questions come from the other weapons. Will Michael Vick get back to being a star? What will Bryce Brown's role be? Can DeSean Jackson improve from a bad 2012? Will there be a second receiver who becomes a fantasy option? Keep a close eye on the Eagles in their first couple of games.
» Pint-sized Danny Woodhead now has a bolt on his helmet. The former Chadron State star and North Platte native will be a factor in the San Diego offense — especially in PPR formats. Ryan Mathews is still going to get the bulk of the carries, but Woodhead should occupy the same role that Darren Sproles does in New Orleans.
» Mike Wallace has found a new look. But don't expect his move to Miami to help his fantasy stock. After posting back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Wallace had 836 receiving yards last year. Ryan Tannehill will be better in his second season, but I see Brian Hartline, who may be a free agent in your fantasy league, getting a lot of the looks this season.
Smart to Start
The first “Smart to Start” of the season shouldn’t be that complicated. You drafted players you wanted to start. Don’t think of matchups as that relevant until defenses show they are quality.
That being said, there could be a decision at the second receiver spot or flex play. Here are some of the guys who are on the edge, but should be in your starting lineup come Sunday:
RB Lamar Miller, Dolphins: A matchup with the Browns is perfect for Miller, who is trying to prove himself as an every-down back. Expect Miller to get the bulk of the workload, mainly because Daniel Thomas has already proven he isn’t capable of handling it.
WR Kenbrell Thompkins, Patriots: If your looking for a do-or-die play, Thompkins is it. He’s an undrafted rookie who has had an outstanding preseason. Tom Brady likes to distribute the ball all over the place, and the Bills secondary is nothing to fear.
WR Tavon Austin, Rams: Jeff Fisher has hinted that he hasn’t fully shown what the Rams plan to do with Austin. But the short, quick slot receiver has potential for big things. It’s always hard to tell how rookie wide receivers will perform, but Austin was drafted in the first round and should be a main weapon in the offense.
Fit to sit
Once again, don’t get too crazy overanalyzing matchups for Week 1. Sitting a player you drafted in the first eight rounds is a bad choice.
For example, sitting Aaron Rodgers simply because he’s playing the 49ers is crazy. In last season’s opener, Rodgers threw for 303 yards and two touchdowns against San Francisco. In the playoffs, another 257 and two touchdowns. Matchups don’t mean a lot when looking at elite players.
Still, when it comes to the guys on the cusp of starting, here are some to avoid:
WR James Jones, Packers: Jones’ role is yet to be determined. Jordy Nelson is active, Randall Cobb is expected to see a bigger role this season and Jermichael Finley had a tremendous preseason. So it’s wise to use a wait-and-see approach with Jones.
TE Tyler Eifert, Bengals: The rookie out of Notre Dame was drafted in the first round, but it’s unknown if he’ll be the main guy right away.
WR Sidney Rice, Seahawks: It isn’t that Carolina is a bad matchup, but Seattle will run the ball a lot this year, especially early in the season. Pete Carroll started using the zone-read offense late last season, and it was much more effective for Russell Wilson. The Seahawks will likely stick with that game plan until someone proves they can stop it.