Week 1 start/sit fantasy advice for IDP leagues
At long last we have arrived at Week 1 of the NFL season and more importantly the start of the fantasy regular season. After months of preparation and weeks (or a day in some cases) of drafting it is time to set those IDP line ups to kick off the season.
Heading into the opener is not the time to overthink things. It’s the time to play it safe as the season is just beginning to unfold. Go with the studs that you drafted early that have offered consistent fantasy production and can be easily trusted. J.J. Watt, Joey Bosa, Luke Kuechly, Alec Ogletree, Bobby Wagner, Landon Collins, Keanu Neal and the like are not names I need to tell you to start. Just do it.
We’re going to offer up some players a bit further down the rankings that belong in the lineup as well as some perhaps surprising bigger names that do not. Keep in mind that the Tampa Bay and Miami game has been postponed due to Hurricane Irma so we need to get all players from those teams out of our lineups.
Let’s start things off with a twofer! Early in the season it’s tough to get a solid gauge on matchups, but this one appears very favorable for this Steelers duo. The Browns will be starting rookie DeShone Kizer at quarterback and will likely look to establish the running game to ease the pressure on the youngster. That will play into the wheelhouse of both Williams, who has replaced Lawrence Timmons, and the speedy Shazier. When Williams had the chance for expanded snaps last year in Weeks 4-5 (he played 123 of 133 snaps) he was very productive. In the two games he racked up 25 total tackles and a pair of sacks. In the two games between these teams last season Shazier and Timmons combined for 29 total tackles and 2 sacks as well as a forced fumble and interception. This is a great week to roll out both of the Pittsburgh linebackers.
This may come as a surprise as I’ve been banging the “I love Jarrad Davis!” drum all preseason long. I still do for the season but advise owners to err on the side of caution as Davis continues to learn the NFL game. In Week 3 of the preseason, the Patriots consistently exposed the rookie in coverage completing all three passes into his coverage for 34-yards and a touchdown. While it’s likely that Davis keeps a three-down role if he struggles early in coverage then Detroit could use safety Tavon Wilson or Miles Killebrew at linebacker. Another reason to take a wait-and-see approach with Davis is the matchup with the Cardinals, as they have been one of the stingiest defense in giving up fantasy production to linebackers. In the past three seasons, the Cardinals have ranked 29th (2014), 32nd (2015), and 31st (2016) in allowing points to linebackers in most standard scoring formats. Davis will have plenty of big weeks throughout the season but it’s unlikely to happen right out of the gate.
Graham was finally given the defensive end designation last season with Jim Schwartz implementing his 4-3 “Wide-9” scheme and he responded with a top-20 finish among defensive linemen. Despite putting up only 5.5 sacks Graham was a disruptive player, racking up 41 solo tackles and a pair of forced fumbles. While the sack total was a bit down, there is reason to believe Graham will improve on that as he led all 4-3 ends in quarterback hurries with 60 last season. Familiarity brings contempt and the Eagles are certainly familiar with division foe Washington. While he failed to register a sack in the two meetings last season Graham did have nine QB hurries and will look to turn those hurries into sacks. With Washington having to account for a healthy Vinny Curry and Fletcher Cox, as well as rookie Derek Barnett, Graham will have plenty of opportunities to start the season off with a bang.
Sit: Ezekiel Ansah, Detroit Lions
Yes. It may appear that I am piling on the Lions defense heading into the opener despite the fact I live just outside Detroit and am a lifelong Lions fan. Sometimes the matchups or game situations just dictate that a defense is in for a long day. The Cardinals’ high-powered offense is just that for Ansah and the Lions. Ansah is coming off of a miserable 2016 season derailed by a high ankle sprain suffered in Week 1. After posting 14.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles in 2015, Ansah put up only 2 sacks and produced zero other big plays last season. Despite facing an Arizona offense that allowed 25 sacks to the defensive line position last year, Ansah is too risky to roll out in Week 1. He did not play a single snap in the preseason and was just activated from the active/PUP list. It’s unclear at this point just how many snaps Ansah will play as conditioning is very likely to be an issue in his first live game action. It’s too risky to roll out a player coming off an injury that may be on a snap count and expect good things to happen. Let’s hold off on Ansah until we see that he has returned to a full-time role off the edge.
It’s time to put my money where my mouth (or more to the point rankings) is. I have Reid ranked fifth in my season-long rankings and believe he starts the drive to that finish in Week 1. After playing out of position during his first four years in the league Reid will finally get the opportunity to be the 49ers starting strong safety. Reid’s 2016 season was shortened to 10 games due to a torn biceps, but he did still manage to post 62 total tackles and could have put up a career-high in stops. Now Reid steps into a role where veteran Antoine Bethea racked up 95 solo and 110 total tackles last season. Reid also brings big-play potential, having amassed 8 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries along with a forced fumble and sack in his first four seasons. Reid gets to start his SS role against a Carolina offense that was generous to the defensive position last season allowing 403 total tackles and 15 interceptions to DBs. In fact, six different strong safeties had at least 8 tackles in a game versus the Panthers in 2016. Playing on a 49ers defense that’s going to be on the field a lot Reid will have the chance to top double-digit tackles in Week 1.
Another highly touted rookie makes the sit list as the season kicks off. As I mentioned earlier, it’s tough to get a good feel for the matchups this early as well as just how a player will be utilized. Peppers is a “jack of all trades”-type of player that played as much linebacker last season for the University of Michigan as he did defensive back. The Browns have decided to put him at strong safety and long term I like that plan. It’s the short term that concerns me as, until we see just how new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams plans to use Peppers, it’s tough to insert him into lineups. In the preseason Peppers played 81 snaps and actually played some free safety in the third preseason game. It’s a little concerning that Peppers only lined up within 8 yards of the line of scrimmage twice and was brought as a rusher just once. Hopefully that’s just preseason “vanilla” defensive scheming and Peppers will see an increase in both of those facets of the defense. Therein lies the reason we want to keep him on the bench. Peppers is going to be a valuable toy for both the Browns and fantasy owners but it’s a bit too soon to open him up.