The 2016 NFL season is underway, and when it comes to fantasy football, it’s always best to start your studs. But which borderline players should you start or sit in Week 1? Here’s a look at 10 players that are on the cusp.
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys QB
vs. New York Giants
The rookie impressed during the preseason, throwing for 454 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in three games. Prescott has big shoes to fill stepping in for injured Tony Romo, but behind a talented offensive line and with weapons such as WR Dez Bryant and fellow rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott, he doesn’t need to do too much. The Giants took steps to improve their defense by signing free agents Damon Harrison, Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins, but will it be enough to contain the youngster? Prescott’s a high-end QB2 this week.
Brock Osweiler, Houston Texans QB
Osweiler turned in an average performance in eight games with the Broncos last season. He threw for 1,967 yards, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions, but it was enough for the Texans to offer him a four-year, $72-million deal. The Bears’ defense ranked fourth against the pass last season, allowing just 224.6 yards per game, but just two members of the starting secondary (Kyle Fuller and Adrian Amos) return this season. Osweiler’s also a high-end QB2 this week.
Robert Griffin III, Cleveland Browns QB
Griffin gets a fresh start in Cleveland after losing his job to Kirk Cousins in Washington last season. And he makes his return against a familiar opponent in the Eagles. In five career games against the Birds, Griffin has thrown for 1,211 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. The Eagles’ defense ranked 28th in the league against the pass last season, allowing 267.1 yards per game, but they added veterans Rodney McLeod and Leodis McKelvin to their secondary this offseason. Griffin’s a low-end QB2 this week.
Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers RB
at Kansas City
The running back is one of the top pass catchers out of the backfield. He’s coming off career highs in both receptions (80) and receiving yards (755), but the Chiefs are a tough matchup. Their defense ranked seventh last season in total yards allowed per game (329.3). Most of that defensive unit, led by nose tackle Dontari Poe, linebacker Derrick Johnson and safety Eric Berry, has returned in 2016. Woodhead struggled against the Chiefs last season, totaling 12 rushing yards and 17 receiving yards in the two games. Woodhead’s a flex play at best.
Arian Foster, Miami Dolphins RB
After missing most of last season with a torn Achilles, Foster is back with a new team that desperately needed an improved run game. The Dolphins finished 23rd with just 93.5 yards per game last season. Foster has been known to bounce back. After missing eight games in 2013 with a back injury, he combined for 1,573 total yards and 13 total touchdowns the following season. The Dolphins also improved their offensive line with the additions of Jermon Bushrod and rookie Laremy Tunsil. But Seattle was last year’s No. 1 rushing defense (81.5 yards allowed per game). They also were No. 1 in points allowed per game (17.3). Keep Foster on the bench this week.
Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans RB
DeMarco Murray is getting the start over Henry on Sunday after both turned in impressive preseason performances. It’s unclear how the carries will break down, but Murray proved in his last season in Dallas in 2014 that he can be a true workhorse after he carried the ball 392 times. Titans coach Mike Mularkey has made it clear Murray is his guy. Wait to see how many touches Henry gets the first couple of weeks before giving him the start.
John Brown, Arizona Cardinals WR
vs. New England
Brown wasn’t on the Cardinals’ injury report on Wednesday after missing much of August because of effects of a concussion suffered on July 31, but he could be out there in a limited role Sunday. The slot receiver is coming off a strong second year of 65 catches for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns. Be sure to monitor the Cardinals’ injury report as Sunday approaches. If he’s able to play, Brown’s a solid WR3 or flex option.
Sterling Shepard, New York Giants WR
The rookie has impressed during the preseason, so much so that Odell Beckham Jr. thinks Shepard can outperform his own incredible rookie year. Beckham lining up opposite Shepard will take some pressure off the youngster. The Cowboys’ defense is depleted with LB Rolando McClain and DEs DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory suspended. Shepard’s another strong flex play.
Allen Hurns, Jacksonville Jaguars WR
vs. Green Bay
Teammate Allen Robinson’s stellar 2015 season detracted from Hurns’ own breakout year. The third-year receiver had 64 catches for 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. The Packers’ defense was sixth in the league against the pass, allowing 227.6 yards per game, but it’s Hurns’ big-play ability that makes him a fantasy asset. The Packers allowed 14 passing plays of at least 40 yards, and Hurns had three games last season with a reception of at least 40 yards. Hurns is another good WR3 or flex option.
Clive Walford, Oakland Raiders TE
at New Orleans
Technically, it’s blocking specialist Lee Smith who’s listed as the Raiders’ starting tight end, but Walford is expected to play the biggest role in the passing game. The Saints’ defense allowed the most points per game last season (29.8) and ranked 31st against the pass, allowing 284 yards per game. With Dennis Allen in his first full season as defensive coordinator and the addition of veteran linebacker James Laurinaitis, the Saints’ defense has improved, but it will take time to fully develop. Walford’s a high-end TE2.