Friday, September 11, 2009

Week 1 Starters & Benchwarmers

You don’t need me advising you to start Drew Brees and Adrian Peterson, or to bench Tarvaris Jackson and Michael Crabtree. So I’ll spare you the obvious recommendations, focusing instead on the players typically on the bubble of most fantasy lineups. Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 1.

Watch ‘em roll

Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals at Broncos. This may be the last time I can recommend Palmer without sounding like Captain Obvious. But as he returns from an injury-marred 2008, and a sprained ankle this preseason, questions abound. Fortunately, Denver’s aging secondary will be no match for his dangerous receiving corps, boosting Palmer’s chances of beginning the ’09 campaign with a bang.

Ray Rice, RB, Ravens vs. Chiefs. The second-year back is now the undisputed starter in the Ravens’ backfield and should have little trouble breaking free at home against an inferior opponent. The top receiving threat among Baltimore’s running back troika, Rice should find the end zone at least once, despite concerns about his teammates poaching the goal-line carries.

Thomas Jones, RB, Jets at Texans. Where’s the love for the 2008 AFC rushing champ? It’s shifted to his more electric backfield mate, Leon Washington. But Jones remains the workhorse of this offense, especially with rookie Mark Sanchez under center. Jones will make you wonder why he slid so far on draft night as he plows through the Texans’ suspect defense Sunday.

Roy Williams, WR, Cowboys at Buccaneers. The only result worse for the Cowboys than an opening day loss would be failing to get Williams fully integrated into the offense. Expect Tony Romo to look his way often – possibly too often – in an effort to silence the critics and move beyond the Terrell Owens era.

Lance Moore, WR, Saints vs. Lions. Drew Brees & Company should score at will against their outmatched opponents, with both starting wideouts having field days. Moore is fully recovered from offseason shoulder surgery, and has a proven chemistry with his quarterback.

Other thumbs up: QBs Matt Schaub, Matt Ryan; RBs Cedric Benson, Felix Jones, Chester Taylor; WRs Chris Henry, Derrick Mason, Anthony Gonzalez.

Roll ‘em back

Eli Manning, QB, Giants vs. Redskins. Breaking in a new set of starting receivers against a solid secondary, Manning is unlikely to put up starter-worthy passing numbers. Washington bolstered its pass rush in the offseason, so look for a healthy dose of Brandon Jacobs and quick passes in this divisional slugfest.

Steve Slaton, RB, Texans vs. Jets. I realize you probably have to start him; just be prepared for a frustrating day. With Chris Brown slated for goal-line duty, and a sturdy Jets rush defense clogging the line of scrimmage, Slaton’s role could be scaled back in favor of Schaub’s aerial attack.

Larry Johnson, RB, Chiefs at Ravens. It’s hard to find any Chief worth starting in this lop-sided matchup. With a hobbled quarterback facing one of the NFL’s fiercest defenses, the offense will be a rare visitor to the red zone. Johnson may even be pulled early for Jamaal Charles, a better receiver who’ll get more reps while the team plays catch-up.

Antonio Bryant, WR, Buccaneers vs. Cowboys. He hasn’t suited up all preseason while rehabbing his surgically repaired knee, and he’s been limited in practice all week. He’s also working with a new quarterback under the direction of a hastily installed offensive coordinator. Dallas’ secondary is solid, though not air tight. Let’s just say the odds are stacked against Bryant this weekend.

Torry Holt, WR, Jaguars at Colts. Indy is a tough setting for Holt to begin his first season as a Jag. The Colts’ secondary, even without Bob Sanders, is extremely stingy, and Holt no longer has the breakaway speed of his youth.

Other thumbs down: QBs Matt Cassel, Brett Favre; RBs Pierre Thomas, Knowshon Moreno, Fred Jackson, Jonathan Stewart; WRs Kevin Walter, Brandon Marshall, Bernard Berrian, Dwayne Bowe.


Mike Bell, RB, Saints vs. Lions. With Pierre Thomas likely sitting out the opener, and Reggie Bush (knee, calf) still on questionable footing, the stars are aligning beautifully for Bell to romp in his regular-season debut in the Big Easy. The preseason sensation couldn’t ask for a better matchup, as Detroit’s rush defense was the league’s worst in ’08.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…forgets to bench Marshawn Lynch during his three-game suspension. According to one leading fantasy site, Lynch was still listed as a starter on more than a third of his teams as of Friday morning. Please, folks, pay attention!


  1. Ladd - I see that you're holding back on Steve Slaton. I was going to start him. I have Ronnie Brown on the bench. Guess I should start him instead. Your thoughts?

  2. Yeah, I probably would do that. Hard to make that call, but I think you'll be glad you did.