Week 1 of the 2014 NFL season begins Thursday, and fantasy teams are locked and loaded. While most players on any given fantasy squad are either clear-cut starters or designated for bench duty, there are always a few players who give owners fits. Those players are classified as fringe starters.
Fringe starters can be rather tricky plays. Sometimes, a player's matchup can look so good that keeping him on the bench seems like an injustice. Other times, a usually solid starter will face off against a team that's given him trouble throughout his career. These situations can cause fantasy owners to overthink their lineups.
In an effort to avoid further confusion going forward, let's take a look at a list filled with Week 1 decisions on whether to play certain fringe starters, followed by in-depth analysis of a few players.
|Week 1 Fringe Starters: Start or Sit|
|Player||Pos.||Team||Opponent||Start or Sit|
|Sean O'Donnell's Picks|
Bernard Pierce, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Bernard Pierce seems like a sexy option this week for fantasy owners due to the suspension of Ray Rice. However, this isn't the week to start Baltimore's backup ball-carrier.
Last season, the Cincinnati Bengals finished with the league's fifth-ranked run defense—that was with defensive tackle Geno Atkins in the fold for only nine games. Baltimore met Cincinnati twice last season, and in those two games, the Ravens averaged 2.8 and 3.4 yards per carry, respectively.
Making matters worse, Atkins is now healthy, and we can expect Cincinnati's vaunted run defense to be back in top form. While some Ravens—namely, tight end Dennis Pitta—are fantasy must-starts in Week 1, Pierce is not.
Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Terrance Williams had a solid rookie season with the Cowboys, racking up 44 receptions for 736 yards and five touchdowns. He clearly has some solid rapport with quarterback Tony Romo, and his role is expected to increase this season.
In Week 1, Williams faces off against a dangerous San Francisco 49ers defense. However, this isn't exactly the same unit that's terrorized the NFL over the past few seasons. Neither NaVorro Bowman nor Aldon Smith will be in action, and the team's secondary underwent a complete makeover during the offseason.
Considering Dallas may have some trouble keeping San Francisco from putting points on the scoreboard, expect Romo to pass early and often in the opener. While the 49ers are concentrating on shutting down the prolific Dez Bryant, Williams will reap the benefits.
Ladarius Green, TE, San Diego Chargers
Ladarius Green is a hyped name in fantasy circles for the 2014 season. He has a tremendous skill set and a huge frame—he's 6'6" and 240 pounds—and he can be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Luckily, owners won't have to wait long, because Week 1 is the perfect time to unleash him.
The Cardinals finished the 2013 season as the league's 14th-ranked passing defense; however, the unit was awful against tight ends. According to FFToday.com, Arizona gave up an average of 13.2 points per game to opposing tight ends. That's a full 3.2 points more than the next-highest team.
While Arizona does have some new faces in place this year, only linebacker Larry Foote has been solid in coverage—although, at 34 years of age, his prowess is questionable at this point.
Even though Green will share time on the field with Antonio Gates, this is one week fantasy owners can start the third-year tight end with confidence.