6 NFL Fantasy Players You Must Start or Sit in Week 1
Every Thursday afternoon and Sunday morning, Zach Warren will be looking at some of the guys being started in some ESPN leagues, but not all. Not sure what to do, even after heading over to the numberFire questions board? Check it out!
You never quite know with fantasy football. 95.8% of fantasy owners started Hakeem Nicks in week one. He responded by hobbling his way to four catches and 38 yards, a grand total of three fantasy points in most leagues. And then you have Kevin Ogletree, the new Sir Regent of Dallas, hailing from the all-mighty house of 25 career catches in three seasons entering last night. Naturally, he goes off for what might end up being a fantasy receiver-leading 23 points in standard leagues. If you were one of the 1.1% who started Ogletree, please take me to Vegas. If you're one of the rest of us who didn't see it coming (or like me, simply guessed the wrong Cowboys receiver to get targets), don't beat yourself up over it.
Other than Sir Ogletree, numberFire projections had an accurate game last night. Tony Romo slightly exceeded expectations and Eli Manning performed about as well as he did on SNL (not well), but the rest of the calls accurately predicted what was to come in this game.
So with one down, want some more Fire Knowledge coming at you? There are a few guys right on the border between must-start and must-sit, those confusing middle players who could go either way. Most of them are only confusing, however, until you take a closer look at the stats. Here's what numberFire projects some of these guys to do this weekend as you look to start your own season off on the right foot.
Thursday Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 1
I'm not a huge fan of Williams this season; I'm on the record as saying he won't be as good as you might think. However, if there was ever a game to start him on your fantasy team, this would be the one. Jonathan Stewart remains banged up going into week 1, meaning that Williams may only be sharing his carries with Mike Tolbert (AKA not sharing many carries at all). The Tampa Bay defense last year had more open holes than Kim Kardashian's views on the economy - dead last in the league with 2,497 yards given up on the ground. This may be Williams's one and only chance to shine.
There are still people thinking about this? Yeesh. Let me lay it out plain: Maurice Jones-Drew is a top flight back, but he's only truly worth the start if he gets a high number of carries. In 2011, 34.99% of his rushes were considered successful, meaning that he increased the Jaguars' chance of scoring on 120 of his 343 times rushing the ball last season. That 34.99% is pretty good, but it's not "I can come in at any time and you must FEAR ME" good. In addition, his Net Expected Points (NEP) per play value sat a bit lower than fantasy owners would have liked for a top-tier back. At -0.07 NEP per play in 2011 and -0.05 in 2010, the Jaguars on average lost expected points every time he ran the ball. If MJD was the starter this week, this would easily be forgiven and he's a must play by virtue of quantity over quality. But he's not. Rashad Jennings is. And for that reason, I'm laying off.
For the final four players on this start/sit, let's take a look at two sets of teammates. First off, you have a pair of targets for noted football fairy and great quarterback Peyton Manning. Eric Decker's been a name that has been rising up the charts recently, because hey, that guy can play some ball. Decker and Manning have already established a connection; Decker caught eight passes for 101 yards and two TDs from Manning in limited time this preseason. And as I noted a couple of days ago, he already led the Broncos in targets as a sophomore and seems comfortable within their offensive system. If you add more targets to the fire, Decker could easily break out against the steadily aging Steelers secondary in week 1.
Part of me wants to recommend starting Tamme this week, just because there are 42% of people starting him, and that is the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything after all. But then the other part of me slapped the first part upside the head wondering what he was thinking. While Tamme is a welcome new addition for Manning, John Fox's Broncos gameplan simply did not favor the tight end last year. The leading pass catcher at the position was Daniel Fells, who finished with only 19 catches and was 7th on the team in number of times targeted. Jacob Tamme's catch rate is not the best for a tight end either - at only 61.29% last season, his conversion rate was closer to the wide receiver's average than the much-higher tight end average. Until the Broncos/Manning prove that their ways have been converted, there are simply too many other strong tight ends to start this week.
I have a knack for calling him Pierre "Stone Hands" Garcon around these parts, a nickname originated from our own Keith Goldner. However, it's for a good reason: the man just can't seem to catch the ball. In three pro seasons with a significant number of targets, Garcon has never hit the league average of a roughly 60% catch rate; he has really never even come close. His best year was in 2010, when he hit a 57.14% rate with Peyton Manning. Otherwise, he caught an abysmal 52.24% of his targets last season and 50.54% of his targets in 2009. That is just simply not good. The New Orleans Saints may have given up the third-most passing yards in the league last year, but I don't trust Garcon to take advantage as he tries to move into a new #1 receiver role with the Redskins. Don't let the allure of an RGIII receiver overcome you.
The allure of a RGIII tight end, however? I'm on board! Especially in a week where some of the normal lower-end TE starters are seeing tough match-ups (like Jermichael Finley against San Francisco and Owen Daniels against Miami), Fred Davis should be a good way to sneak in for some increased points. Davis's catch rate has increased each of his three years in the league, peaking at 67.05% last year. In turn, he also had his career-highs in both receptions and yards last season as well, almost touching the century mark in standard league fantasy points for the first time in his career (he finished with 98). numberFire expects that upward trend to continue, as he's the #7 TE in our projections this week. While everybody in Washington becomes misty-eyed over one tight end's retirement, because really this is a franchise that hasn't had much else to get misty-eyed about, Davis has a chance to break out as the newest, baddest tight end in the nation's capital.