Drafts are over so it's time to put away the general manager hat for the moment and dust off the coaching clipboard. Often the players an owner selected with a starting role in mind occupy those spots in Week 1. However, entering a lineup based on draft position alone isn't a winning plan, just the easiest one. Matchups must be explored, alternatives pondered. That's the goal here each week with the Start 'Em and Sit 'Em column.
Start 'Em: Colin Kaepernick (@ Cowboys) - Like Robert Griffin III, Kaepernick struggled during the preseason. At least San Francisco's starter opens against a Dallas defense that appears worse than last season abysmal showing. Kaepernick has tons of weapons and the running threat will find use for them. Though just outside QB1 range on my draft board, he's No. 5 on my QB list for Week 1.
Others: Russell Wilson (vs. Packers), Jay Cutler (vs. Bills)
Going Deep: Geno Smith (vs. Raiders), Jake Locker (@Chiefs)
Sit 'Em: Cam Newton (@Buccaneers) - There's the recent rib injury and the ankle surgery back in March. There's the lack of quality wide receivers. There's playing on the road. Whether owners drafted Newton as a starter or not, the circumstances in his case hint toward making him a backup this week.
Warning: Aaron Rodgers (@Seahawks) - Seattle's defenses makes plays all over the field and often in dominating fashion. That's especially true at home. While it's hard imagining an owner having another QB viable enough to sit Rodgers, it's hard picturing Green Bay's star living up to his 2nd/3rd round draft slot this week.
Start 'Em: Frank Gore (@Cowboys) - One reason owners in keeper leagues loved Carlos Hyde in drafts stems from idea he'll start for San Francisco next season. If this is indeed Gore's final campaign with the 49ers, don't be shocked if his last best game comes against Dallas. The Cowboys ranked 32nd in fantasy last season against running backs. The 31-year-old back wasn't one of my draft targets. He might not last the season as a productive option. This week Gore rates as an RB1
Others: Joique Bell (vs. Giants), Arian Foster (vs. Redskins), Chris Johnson (vs. Raiders), Shane Vereen (@Dolphins), Mark Ingram/Pierre Thomas (@Falcons).
Sit 'Em: Rashad Jennings (@Lions) - The fear is less about rookie Andre Williams stealing goal line carries and more about facing a stout Detroit run defense that ranked top 10 against fantasy RBs last season. Though typically drafted as an RB2, Jennings is more of an RB3 in Week 1.
Others: Steven Jackson (vs. Saints), Trent Richardson (@Broncos)
Warning: Ben Tate (@Steelers) - The good news is that Tate looks like a 3-down back and rookie Terrance West doesn't look ready yet. The bad news is that Pittsburgh likely makes stopping the veteran runner its top priority thanks to Cleveland's Josh Gordon-less passing attack.
Going Deep: Devonta Freeman (vs. Saints). Every skill player in this game is worth considering, including the exciting rookie who is a lock (at least in my head) to take on a larger role this season once the aged Steven Jackson breaks down.
Start 'Em: Marques Colston (@Falcons). Most drafted Colston as a WR3/4, but he's a WR2 in what should be game with an NBA-like final score. He went for 9-108-1 in two games versus Atlanta last season with the score coming in the season opener.
Others: Eric Decker (vs. Raiders), Golden Tate (vs. Giants), Justin Hunter (@Chiefs), Cecil Shorts (@Eagles)
Going deep: Cody Latimer (vs. Colts). This is more of a waiver wall call post Wes Welker's suspension than a pure "start" recommendation. Yet the rookie wide out is a red zone target poised for more and is blessed with Peyton Manning as his quarterback plus the Thomas' as decoys. ...James Jones/Rod Streater (@Jets)
Sit 'Em: Mike Wallace (vs. Patriots) - Wallace went for 105 yards and a score on six catches versus New England in Week 15 last season. That type of production in the season opener would be surprising since (Darrelle) Revis Island is now a part of the Patriots defense.
Others: Kelvin Benjamin (@Buccaneers), Sammy Watkins (@Bears)
Warning: Keenan Allen (@Cardinals), Pierre Garcon (@Texans)
Start 'Em: Antonio Gates (@Cardinals) - Arizona gave up the most points to fantasy tight ends last season. Gates might not hold off Ladarius Green all season, but he's the better bet for a productive outing in Week 1.
Others: Zach Ertz (vs. Jaguars) - The pecking order for Philly's passing game remains unsettled. What's known is that Jacksonville ranked 30th against fantasy tight ends last season. ...Jordan Reed (@Texans).
Going Deep: Travis Kelce (vs. Titans), Tim Wright (@Dolphins)
Sit 'Em: Charles Clay (vs. Patriots) - The borderline TE1 didn't top 40 receiving yards in either game versus New England last season.
Warning: Rob Gronkowski (@Dolphins) - Just a reminder to check Gronk's status Sunday morning. Even if he plays, the Patriots may choose to pick their spots rather than giving the scoring machine a full workload after limited work during the preseason. If he plays, start him.
Bears (vs. Bills) - E.J. Manuel looks like a disaster at quarterback for the Bills
Lions (vs. Giants) - Eli Manning was a disaster when it came to committing turnover last season.
Jets (vs. Raiders) - Derek Carr makes his NFL debut
49ers (@Cowboys) - San Francisco's defense might dominate when all its pieces are back together. That's not the case right now.
Nate Freese (vs. Giants) - New York allowed 9.0 points per games to opposing kickers last season. ...Cody Parkey (vs. Jaguars)
Sebastian Janikowski (@Jets). Again, Derek Carr's first start and Oakland less likely to settle for field goal if game gets out of hand.