Below are guys that I have ranked higher or lower than the FantasyPros.com expert consensus rank (ECR) by at least four spots. And I focus on the guys around the cutoffs to be starters for the week. For quarterbacks and tight ends that means guys that the ECR has in or out of the top 10/12 with me being of the opposite opinion. For running backs and receivers that means guys around the 20-24 range that I’m four spots higher or lower on.
If you have additional start/sit questions, feel free to ask in the comments below or ask me on Twitter @TheRealTAL.
Tony Romo ǀ vs. NYG ǀ ECR: 10 ǀ My rank: 6
Weekly rankings are tough early in the season because we’re relying a lot on matchup data from last year. But players have moved around, schemes are different, and some guys just won’t perform at a level similar to how they performed last year. As the season goes along, matchup data will get better and weekly rankings will be more reliable.
But for now, last year is all we’ve got. And the Giants weren’t very good in pass coverage by any measure last year. As a team, they received the third worst pass coverage grade from ProFootballFocus.com (PFF). And PFF didn’t have a single Giants cornerback rated as significantly above average. Football Outsiders (FO) had the Giants pass defense ranked 16th in the league but below average against #1 receivers and slot receivers. And the Giants were 10th worst in fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs. So this isn’t the best matchup ever, but it should be a good one.
Andrew Luck ǀ vs. OAK ǀ ECR: 6 ǀ My rank: 13
I know this is a sweet matchup, but it’s a sweet matchup for the ground game as well. I sort of expect the Colts to jump out to a quick lead, and I don’t think Terrelle Pryor is going to move the ball well in his first start, so I don’t think the Colts will need to keep throwing to extend the lead. Plus, I just don’t like Luck that much. I think he’s got some regression coming this year. Maybe it doesn’t start this week, but I’d probably only use Luck against a team with a bad pass defense and a good offense.
Rashard Mendenhall ǀ @ St. Louis ǀ ECR: 29 ǀ My rank: 23
There’s not a whole lot of variance on Mendenhall as all but four rankers have him somewhere between 23 and 35. But I’m the highest on him at 23. That makes him a flex option in ten team leagues and a starting running back in 12 team leagues. He’s not a great player, but he is the undisputed running back for an NFL team. And it’s an NFL team that should at least be competent on offense with Carson Palmer at the helm. There are red zone carries to go around in competent offenses and Mendenhall is going to get them in this one. The matchup with St. Louis is average.
Chris Johnson ǀ @ PIT ǀ ECR: 18 ǀ My rank: 25
There has been a lot of talk about the additions that Tennessee made to the offensive line. Their big free agent signing, Andy Levitre, is an elite pass blocker, but was rated as a below average pass blocker last year by PFF. And new center Rob Turner is also a much better pass blocker than run blocker. Rookie Chance Warmack is an elite run blocker according to scouting reports, but it’s not like all three upgrades the Titans made are going to be big boons to Chris Johnson.
All that being said, I had Johnson as a top 15 back in my preseason ranks. I like him fine, but not this week against the Steelers who were a top ten run defense last year according to PFF, FO and fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs.
Eric Decker ǀ vs. BAL ǀ ECR: 24 ǀ My rank: 13
When ranking the Denver wide receivers on a weekly basis, the defensive rankings against different types of receivers put out by Football Outsiders will be helpful. Those rankings show how teams do against #1 receivers, #2 receivers, and “other” receivers (which I consider to be slot receivers). For example, last year the Ravens ranked 20th vs. #1 receivers, 6th against other receivers and 30th against #2 receivers. Demaryius Thomas is the #1, Decker is the #2 and Welker is the slot man. So Decker appears to have the best matchup this week. They’re all going to get theirs this year, but Decker is a better play this week than the ECR is giving him credit for.
Cecil Shorts ǀ vs. KC ǀ ECR: 25 ǀ My rank: 17
After Jacksonville’s bye last year, Shorts was 12th among receivers in points per pass route run. And he was averaging about 60 snaps per game, so it’s not like he was good but limited in opportunities to be good (cough Randall Cobb cough).
Miles Austin ǀ vs. NYG ǀ ECR: 30 ǀ My rank: 21
I’ve already talked about why I like Romo, and I expect Dez and Miles to both have big days.
Torrey Smith ǀ @ DEN ǀ ECR: 18 ǀ My rank: 28
There’s been a narrative around Smith “making a leap” this year, but I’m not someone telling that story. He’s a boom or bust deep threat type player, and I’m not a fan of the inconsistency that goes along with those players. In fact, Smith is the ultimate boom or bust receiver. He has led all receivers in average depth of target in each of the last two seasons. And this is going to be a tough week for Smith to boom. He’s facing the Broncos who return three defensive backs that were rated well above average in coverage last year by PFF. They were rated 5th best as a team in coverage by PFF as well as in pass defense by FO. And they allowed the second fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. Stay away.
Brent Celek ǀ @ WAS ǀ ECR: 17 ǀ My rank: 6
The Redskins struggled mightily against tight ends last year as they allowed the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends and FO rated them as the 5th worst defense against tight ends. After Graham, Gonzalez, and Witten there is this huge amalgamation of tight ends in the next tier. There are literally between eight and ten tight ends that I think could finish as the fourth and fifth best tight ends for the season. So when it comes to weekly rankings, it’s going to be a total crapshoot picking who is best week to week. Playing the matchups is about all you can do.
Jordan Cameron ǀ vs. MIA ǀ ECR: 8 ǀ My rank: 18
Since 1970, only three rookie tight ends have topped 700 yards or more. Only 18 have had five touchdowns or more. So I’m not sure why everyone is all in on Jordan Cameron. I know he’s talented, and I know a Norv Turner offense likes to utilize the tight end. But lots of talented tight ends take time to develop and Turner had Antonio Gates. So let’s slow down on the Cameron love.
Cameron also has a tough matchup with the Dolphins who allowed only three touchdowns to tight ends last year. When picking tight ends, you’re basically trying to guess at touchdowns since they don’t rack up a ton of yardage. This isn’t a good matchup for Cameron to score.