Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 1: Flex Options to Use, Lose in Season Opener

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistSeptember 8, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 17:   Bilal Powell #29 of the New York Jets runs the ball against the Jacksonville Jaguars during their preseason game at MetLife Stadium on August 17, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The meat of setting a fantasy football lineup rests in picking a player to entrust in the flex spot.

Most of the time, managers will roll with their top players to kick off the season, as we still need to examine all the opposing defenses in full force. Start Adrian Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald and Tom Brady. Easy.

It's the flex position, designated for a lucky running back or receiver not quite good enough to make the cut with a regular RB or WR slot, that causes many sleepless nights throughout the fantasy community.

Do you start your third back or third wideout? Do you trust a possible one-year wonder or roll with a newbie? Let's try to ease the burden of all those decisions. 


Start: Ahmad Bradshaw (vs. Oakland Raiders)

Ahmad Bradshaw's close friendship with the injury report prevented drafters from trusting him with a No. 1 or 2 running back gig. Often grabbed for the flex spot, Bradshaw still sports top upside when healthy and facing a manageable opponent.

So unless he breaks his leg falling off the bus, he's worth starting this week against the Raiders.

Bradshaw mustered another 1,000-yard season despite missing two games, with his 4.6 yards per carry showing his efficiency when nagging ailments aren't hindering the tough rusher. Let's milk all the points we can before another injury knocks on his door.


Sit: Bilal Powell (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Not impressed with newcomer Chris Ivory, Rex Ryan is handing the starting job to Bilal Powell, according to ESPN New York's Rich Cimini.

The two backs are set to split carries against Tampa Bay this weekend, which means neither is worth using in a standard fantasy league.

Powell ran for a decent 4.0 yards per carry last year, but hardly showed breakaway speed with a long rush of 18 yards in 110 attempts. Essentially, he provides the same boringness that made owners reluctantly use Shonn Greene when he received regular playing time.

This week, Powell probably won't receive more than 15 handoffs. Even if he does, Tampa Bay's rushing defense was the toast of the league last season. Nothing to see here, people. Move along.


Start: Steve Johnson (vs. New England Patriots)

It's uncertain how Steve Johnson will mesh with rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel, but it's worth testing out.

Over the past three years, Johnson has caught 28 passes with three touchdowns in six meetings. Johnson does not wow anybody, and nobody pounded the table in disgust when you grabbed Johnson as your No. 3 receiver, unwilling to watch a guy with three straight 1,000-yard seasons drop any further.

But if you're looking for a steady pick, Johnson is unquestionably Buffalo's top target in the passing game, which could pull off a sneaky deep bomb or two if Manuel and C.J. Spiller's rushing prowess frustrate the Patriots.

Since New England's passing defense was among the league's worst last season, Johnson deserves flex-play consideration.


Sit: James Jones (at San Francisco 49ers)

James Jones caught 14 TD passes last season, including one in Green Bay's Week 1 bout with San Francisco. When the two squads met again in the postseason, he reeled in another end-zone grab.

So why exactly would anyone bench him as the Packers look to avoid their third loss to the 49ers during the past year?

Touchdowns are fluky, and a receiver who collects 64 receptions and 784 receiving yards usually does not broach anywhere near that many scores. Ask teamamate Jordy Nelson, who followed up his 15 touchdowns in 2011 with seven last season. 

Not only will Nelson look to snatch back some of those scores, but Randall Cobb is knocking on stardom's door while Jermichael Finley gets a fifth second chance to prove himself as a top-notch tight end.

Don't gamble on Jones finding the end zone again against San Francisco's ferocious defense.


Other flex options to start:

Giovani Bernard (at Chicago Bears) - Those waiting on Bernard to steal the starting job outright from BenJarvus Green-Ellis could miss some big runs from the rookie.

Miles Austin (vs. New York Giants) - New York's secondary is in dire condition and Austin recorded nine catches and 133 yards during their last meeting.


Other flex options to sit:

DeAngelo Williams (vs. Seattle Seahawks) - No Carolina Panther is a particularly appealing play against the Seahawks.

Mike Williams (at New York Jets) - Darrelle Revis is playing on the other side, but Antonio Cromartie isn't so bad either.