START: Colin Kaepernick ($8000) – The 49ers are set to take on the Cowboys in week one. The Cowboys ranked 30th against the pass last season and didn’t get any better this offseason. They arguably got worse. They allowed the second most passing touchdowns in the NFL. The 49ers offense has struggled in the preseason, but that shouldn’t worry fantasy owners. Kaepernick started off last season with 412 passing yards and three touchdowns. While it may be difficult to repeat those numbers, he still has a good shot at another huge season opener. Kaepernick gets yards through the air and on the ground, which is important for our scoring settings because if he rushes for a touchdown, that yields six points compared to four points for passing touchdowns.
I’d start him over: Nick Foles $8500, Cam Newton $8400, and Matt Ryan $7900
SIT: Matt Ryan ($7900) – Ryan will face a division rival in week one. The Saints were surprisingly good against the pass in 2013. They finished 2nd, allowing just 194 yards per game and 20 touchdowns. In two games against the Saints last season, Ryan threw for 596 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. That includes a scoreless game. He also lost a big piece of the offensive line during the preseason. At $7900, he’s not worth the risk. There are several quarterbacks at a cheaper price that have better matchups and can produce quality fantasy points.
I’d rather start: Colin Kaepernick $8000, Carson Palmer$7500, and Jay Cutler $7800
START: Andrew Luck ($8300) – Luck vs. Manning in week one is a great way to start the season. I’m expecting a shootout between these two teams. Last season, the Colts beat the Broncos 39-33 in a game where both quarterbacks threw for three touchdowns. Luck is $1800 cheaper than Manning and could easily produce similar numbers. Although Luck struggled on the road last season, he threw five touchdowns and no picks in his last two road games.
I’d start him over: Peyton Manning $10,100, Cam Newton $8400, and Nick Foles $8500
SIT: Cam Newton ($8400) – Newton seems a bit pricey for week one and his matchup is not one that bodes well. He threw for 484 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions against the Bucs last season. He will be on the road against a division rival. This will also be the first regular season game he plays with an entirely new receiving corps. I feel uneasy paying premium price for a big question mark this week when there are better matchups at a cheaper price.
I’d rather start: Colin Kaepernick $8000, Jay Cutler $7800, and Ben Roethlisberger $7600
SNEAKY START: Jake Locker ($6100) – Locker is my bargain of the week. If you’re looking for a cheap QB with a good matchup and some upside, he’s your guy. Locker will be taking on the Chiefs defense which ended last season on a bad note and lost DB Brandon Flowers this offseason. In the final seven games of the regular season, the Chiefs allowed 292 passing ypg. That does not include the first game of the playoffs, when they allowed 443 passing yards. Locker’s problem has always been durability, but in a daily league, that shouldn’t be a concern. There’s plenty of talent on the Titans offense and there’s no reason Locker should struggle to have a decent game.
I’d start him over: Alex Smith $7000, Eli Manning $7400, and Michael Vick $7300
START: Adrian Peterson ($7900) – Peterson began last season with a price of $8,700. He averaged 17.9 fantasy points per game per Draft Kings scoring settings. Week one, he’s at the cheapest of the elite running backs and has a decent matchup. The Rams allowed 18 rushing touchdowns last season. Peterson is also expected to catch more passes this season with new OC Norv Turner calling the plays. This could be as low as it gets for Peterson as far as price. So with a potential discounted price and a good matchup, Peterson is a good value for week one.
I’d start him over: Matt Forte $8300 and Jamal Charles $9000
SIT: Arian Foster ($7200) – This is a pretty high price to pay for a running back that is in a terrible offense and has been battling injury during camp and the preseason. The matchup is a good one for Foster, but the price is not. There are better options this week at a cheaper price with good matchups. The Texans will likely fall behind early and abandon the run. Another factor to consider is that this a new system and coaching staff, so it’s not clear how Foster will be used.
I’d rather start: Le’Veon Bell $6700, Zac Stacy $6400, and Monte Ball $7000
START: Shane Vereen ($6100) – The Patriots are a team that you usually steer away from when it comes to running backs. During the preseason, Stevan Ridley continued his fumbling issues and has struggled. There have been rumors that he’s actually on the roster bubble. Vereen has gained the teams trust and is clearly their best back. He started off last season strong before injuring his wrist which caused him to miss most of the year. In eight games, Vereen caught 47 passes for 427 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 208 yards and one rushing touchdown. He can both run, and catch the ball which is a big plus in the Patriots offense. You’re getting great value for Vereen at $6100. The Dolphins did not do well against the run last season and didn’t do much this offseason to improve that. He’s a great mid-level option.
I’d start him over: Arian Foster $7200, Giovanni Bernard $6600 and Bishop Sankey $5700
SIT: Ryan Mathews ($5400) – Mathews is coming off a career year and is expected to build off of that this season, but I’d wait until Week 2 to plug him into your lineup. The Chargers are set to play the Cardinals week one which was the NFL’s best run defense. The Cardinals defense allowed just 84.4 rushing yards per game and just five rushing touchdowns last season. They did lose some players this offseason, but remain a tough defense. Mathews only found the end zone six times on the ground last season. Look for a rough start to a potentially good season for Mathews.
I’d rather start: Joique Bell $5500, Frank Gore $5200 and Chris Johnson $5100
SNEAKY START: Carlos Hyde ($3900) – This may seem odd to some as he’s not the starting back for the 49ers. But here are some fun facts: Frank Gore is up in age and the Niners could limit his touches to preserve him, Hyde has averaged 5.87 yards per carry this preseason, and, the Niners will face the Dallas Cowboys in week one. As mentioned above the Cowboys defense is flat out bad. They allowed 128.4 rushing yards per game last season. This is a risky play, but if you’re looking for a cheap back that could put up some solid numbers and possibly score a touchdown, Hyde is your guy.
START: Demaryius Thomas ($8100) – If you’re looking for an elite wide receiver to start, Thomas is your best option. The Broncos will take on the Colts in Week 1. In last season’s meeting between the two teams, Thomas caught four passes for 87 yards and a touchdown. Thomas finished No. 1 amongst wide receivers in PPR formats last season and is currently not the most expensive receiver on Draft Kings. He only had less than 10 fantasy points in one game. If you’re looking to pay the big bucks on a receiver, he’s your best bet. He can produce the same numbers or better than Calvin Johnson, and at a cheaper price.
I’d start him over: Calvin Johnson $8400 and Julio Jones $7700
SIT: Andre Johnson ($6600) – Johnson has been one of the most reliable fantasy receivers in the last six seasons. With that said, there are a couple of things that concern me about Johnson this season. He is a disgruntled employee and clearly isn’t happy with the situation in Houston; there’s an entire new system; and lastly a new QB. These are all red flags heading into the season. Johnson is priced relatively high because of his numbers last season. The matchup is also not the greatest as the Redskins ranked 11th against the pass, allowing just eight touchdowns through the air last season. There once was a time where matchups didn’t matter for Johnson, but those days are behind us.
I’d rather start: Victor Cruz ($6300), Michael Crabtree ($6300), and Michael Floyd ($6000)
START: Michael Floyd ($6000) – Floyd is expected to make a leap forward this season ahead of teammate Larry Fitzgerald on the team’s depth charts. He caught 65 passes for 1,041 yards in his second season. There’s a saying that receivers tend to break out in their third season in the league, and this is Floyd’s third season. The Cardinals open the season against the 29th ranked defense and I’m expecting for Floyd to start his breakout season with a bang. He ended the 2013 season averaging 82.4 yards per game for the last seven games, including three touchdowns. At $6000 you’re paying a mid-level price for a receiver that’ll likely be worth much more in following weeks. Consider this week your 10%-15% discount coupon.
I’d start him over: Andre Johnson ($6600), Roddy White ($5900), and Mike Wallace ($5600)
SIT: DeSean Jackson ($5400) – Here’s another player coming off his best season that I’m avoiding in Week 1. Jackson has never really been a consistent fantasy option and won’t be this year either, despite the fact that he had a great season last year. In 16 games last season, he caught fewer than five passes in nine games. He goes from being the number one option in the passing to the number two, and maybe the number three depending on Jordan Reed’s health. He’s on a new team with a new offensive coordinator and catching passes from a new quarterback. He’s a boom-or-bust type of receiver and at $5400, it’s not worth risk.
I’d rather start: T.Y. Hilton ($5500), Julian Edelman ($5300), and Emmanuel Sanders ($4800)
SNEAKY START: Justin Hunter ($3800) – This is a low-risk high-reward play. Hunter is a second year receiver who had a great camp and preseason. He’s freakishly athletic. Last season, his numbers were not impressive as he didn’t get many opportunities. This season, however, he’s expected to see more playing time. In week one the Titans are taking on the Chiefs defense that ranked 23rd against the pass. Hunter had two games of over 100 receiving yards last season. It may not be an appealing name or option, but if you’re looking for a cheap insert to your lineup, Hunter is a good choice. This will likely be the cheapest you’re going to get him this season.
START: Jimmy Graham ($7200) – Graham is one of the only players I’d be willing to pay top dollar for in Week 1 at their position. He’s a tight end that puts up receiver-like numbers. The matchup against the Falcons is also one that I love. In both meetings against the division rivals last year, Graham scored a touchdown. He’s pricey, but it’s worth the investment. If you can cut corners at other positions and plug him in, do it.
I’d start him over: any tight end if you can afford to.
SIT: Dennis Pitta ($4400) – I like Pitta for the season, but for Week 1, against a tough Cincy defense and at $4400, I’ll pass. The Bengals ranked fourth against tight ends last season. In six career games against the Bengals, he is averaging 3.33 catches per game, 33.17 yards per game and 0.33 touchdowns per game. It’s the first week of the season, and if you’re looking for a bargain at tight end, his stats against the Bengals aren’t appealing. There is better value for this position.
I’d rather start: Charles Clay $3900 and Martellus Bennett $3800
SNEAKY START: Ladarius Green ($3200) – The Chargers are taking on the Arizona Cardinals in week one. The Cardinals were ranked 32nd against tight ends last season. Green got to start 10 games last season and showed some nice potential. What I liked most was how he ended the season, scoring three touchdowns in the last six games (that included the playoff game). With that lack of receiver depth, the Chargers could lean on more two-tight end sets which will create opportunities for Green. At $3200 you’re risking little to gain big. If he starts off the way he ended last season, there’s a 50/50 chance he scores in Week 1.
If you’ve picked up on the trend here, I’m providing you with low-risk, high-reward players for each position. If you’re drafting a lineup that’s top heavy in salaries, and need to find some cheap players to plug in, then my sneaky starts can be useful.