Fantasy Football: Week 1 Startability Index

Perhaps I am pregnant because I smell fantasy everywhere. My keyboard smells like Drew Brees passing for over 5,000 yards again. My water bottle smells like the Seattle secondary averaging two picks a game. And my dry erase board smells like the flowers that will bloom once Josh Gordon and Justin Blackmon return from their respective suspensions.

OK, I’ll stop weirding you out now and get down to the fantasy advice. As a reminder, our Startability Index ranks the startability of players from 1-10, based on factors specific to the week. Several players listed below come from reader requests (thank you!), and I have added many others that are causing lineup conundrums. This season I have added in + and – signs in some cases to make the advice even more specific.

If there is a player you would like graded, or two players you can’t decide between, please drop a comment below. I will try my best to help you out.


Joe Flacco at Denver (7): Flacco played well in two games against Denver last season, throwing for just under 600 yards and 5 touchdowns. There are concerns about Flacco’s thinner arsenal, but owners should happily trade the loss of Anquan Boldin with the extra time he should receive in the pocket this week because the Broncos are without Von Miller (and Elvis Dumervil, for that matter.)

Ben Roethlisberger vs. Tennessee (7): Roethlisberger, who finished the fantasy draft season with an ADP of QB18, could easily be the season’s biggest surprise. With a de-emphasis on the running game (at least for now) and a solid crew of weapons (including rookie Markus Wheaton), Big Ben just needs to stay healthy. At present he is, and has a great matchup against the Titans.

Alex Smith at Jacksonville (6+): If you’re contemplating a Smith start you’re probably in a 2QB league. Congrats, they are all kinds of fun. As for Sunday, there is much to be excited for with Smith in an Andy Reid offense. Jacksonville presents a favorable matchup but I would prefer to see Smith put up big numbers before clicking the “start” button.  Even during Smith’s stellar pre-concussion season a year ago, he only averaged 173 passing yards a game.

Michael Vick at Washington (8-): Vick may be the biggest boom or bust pick of all. If the preseason was any evidence, Vick should put up solid fantasy numbers, especially given Chip Kelly’s caffeinated coaching style. Washington’s secondary was no. 30 last year, and despite looking to the draft for help, does not appear improved.

Running Backs

Giovani Bernard at Chicago (4+): Bernard is a talent but unfortunately will be starting his career on the road against a Bears defense that allowed only six rushing touchdowns last season. Most of Chicago’s starters return, with many viewing rookie Jon Bostic as an upgrade over Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker. Not the best welcome party for Bernard.

Bernard is a promising talent with a bad Week 1 matchup.

Chris Ivory vs. Tampa Bay (2+): Please avoid Ivory if you can. While the backup is likely in a RBBC with Bilal Powell, Ivory looked awful this preseason, rushing for just two yards per carry.

Felix Jones vs. Tennessee (2):  With Isaac Redman as the starter and La ’Rod Stephens-Howling as the likely third-down back, too many oddities would have to occur for Jones to be a factor in this one.

Eddie Lacy at San Francisco (3+): Lacy is a beacon of hope for a Packers run game that has largely laid dormant since the days of Ahman Green. But hopefully you have other options for this week as San Francisco has one of the top run defenses in football.

Ryan Mathews vs. Houston (5+): If he’s good enough for L.T, then he should be good enough for you. Just maybe not as a starter this week against Houston’s vaunted run defense. Ideally Mathews is your RB3 and you can use Week 1 to vet him for future starts. Although he’s not the worst flex play.

Darren McFadden at Indianapolis (6+): McFadden is always an injury risk but at the moment he is healthy.  The Colts allowed 137 rushing yards per opponent, and 7 runs of 40 yards or more. Given the lack of talent elsewhere within the Raiders offense, Dennis Allen would be crazy not to rely on McFadden all day.

Rashard Mendenhall at St. Louis (5-): The Cardinals say Mendenhall’s knee is healthy and that he will start Sunday. But given the supposed emphasis on the passing game, and the presence of Ryan Williams, it’s hard to envision Mendenhall with more than 15-17 touches.

Isaac Redman vs. Tennessee (5): Redman’s final ADP was RB46, landing him behind several backups from other teams. If Redman is going to be your steal of the century, this will be the game where he garners attention. The Titans have issues across the board; none are as dire as their run defense. Considering they were torched for most of the preseason, an improvement from 2012 doesn’t seem to be in order.


Wide Receivers

Danny Amendola at Buffalo (7+):  Yes, Amendola has big shoes to fill, and yes, he may be a slight downgrade in talent from Wes Welker. But the new “slot guy” has already proven he’s in sync with Tom Brady this preseason. Given his position on the field and the fact the virtually all his fellow receivers are unproven rookies, Amendola should see plenty of targets. Also helping is news that All-Pro Bills safety Jarius Byrd has been stricken with plantar fasciitis or just wants out of Buffalo. Either way, Byrd is likely out on Sunday.

Brian Hartline at Cleveland (5-): Hartline is an interesting cat for Week 1. With 74 receptions in 2012, clearly Ryan Tannehill is comfortable throwing his way.  (PPRers should boost him a point or so.) Mike Wallace will clearly be the first look but Hartline may benefit from less secondary attention.

Greg Jennings at Detroit (5+): I am in the Greg Jennings benefited greatly from Favre and Rodegrs and is old and Christian Ponder is terrible camp.  Ponder admitted to having (on-the-field) chemistry issues with his new receiver and I would be uncomfortable starting Jennings until that is worked out. However, this is a good matchup for Jennings and expect him to receive ample targets.

Stevie Johnson vs. New England (6): Despite Johnson’s proclamation that no Patriots player can stop him, this one figures to be all C.J. Spiller all the time with rookie E.J. Manuel at the helm. In two games against the Patriots in 2012, Johnson had a total of 8 receptions for 109 yards and no scores.

Denarius Moore at Indianapolis (4): Moore is coming off an inconsistent preseason and has an inexperienced Terrelle Pryor under center. At this point being the no.1 receiver in Oakland is equivalent to being the best slice in that week-old loaf of bread you forgot was in your pantry. That being said, pay attention because Moore could bring value in a hurry.

Cecil Shorts III vs. Kansas City (6+): Shorts, one of the big fantasy surprises of ’12, presents an interesting Week 1 conundrum. He is a proven talent who put up effective, albeit inconsistent Fantasy numbers with both Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne last season. With Justin Blackmon’s suspension, Shorts becomes even more of a focal point. While the Chiefs are probably not the league’s best secondary as they claim, the additions of Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith make this group loaded. They could impact Shorts’ productivity.

Tight Ends

Maretellus Bennett vs. Cincinnati (4+): If you have another option, I would sit Bennett and observe how he is infiltrated into Marc Trestman’s offense. In theory, Bennett should be a factor and seems to be Jay Cutler’s best tight end since Greg Olsen. But Cutler has a lot of other weapons with whom he is more comfortable.

Owen Daniels at San Diego (6+): Daniels is coming of a so-so year where he scored six times but only carried an average of 11.5 yards per catch.  With Arian Foster a little gimpy and Andre Johnson getting up there in football age, Daniels is likely to see more targets this season. Monday night is a good place to start.

Vernon Davis vs. Green Bay (7): Most observers believe Colin Kaepernick has to find Davis more consistently to return to the Super Bowl. I agree. There is no better place to establish regular season chemistry than at home against the Packers’ shaky defense.


Indianapolis vs. Oakland (10): See opponent.

Tampa Bay at New York Jets (9+): See opponent. Docked half a point for playing on the road.