FANTASY FOOTBALL: Week 1 FLEX Rankings, Starters & Sleepers

wes welkerTHE FLEXPERT

You know how to get the chicks, man? Molly… and a bubble machine.

I received this critical life-lesson from a vagabond named Smokey within the first ten minutes of arriving at Bonnaroo ’09. It was just moments after I extended the stakes of the “officially designated camping area” so I could pitch my tent directly in front of the entrance. Like in poker, being aggressive at a music festivals is the winning play; hippies are usually too burned out to do anything… except become one with the music, I suppose. After clarifying what, exactly, Molly was, Smokey then explained to me how living in Oregon was the best, “because you’re 45 minutes away from the mountains, desert and ocean.” I can’t confirm whether that last statement is true or not – why would I ever go to Oregon?

Wes Welker is plenty familiar with Molly. Except he prefers his MDMA cut with amphetamines for that transcendent blend of being spaced out and FIRED UP at the same time. I hear it’s the only way to truly enjoy the Kentucky Derby. After news broke Tuesday night that Welker had been suspended four games for a failed drug test, common sense played out with him accepting the punishment, and with Denver’s Week 5 bye, allowing him a month-and-a-half to exorcise those pesky dizzy demons currently inhabiting his head. The Broncos are going to win without him; having Welker healthy in January is far more important than in Week 1.

This (probably) EDM inspired revelation set off a chain reaction: First, I instantly scampered to the waiver wire to scoop up Andre Caldwell, not Cody Latimer, in every league where I needed WR help in the short term. That’s the logical move. It was made clear in the preseason that Caldwell would be the next receiver up on the Peyton Manningbeneficiary conveyor belt, so he’s the better addition at the moment. Manning has a long history of making three WRs (and a TE!) Fantasy relevant on a weekly basis. Second, I began tossing out rip off ultra buy low offers for Welker to see if I could acquire his services for a bench asset like Khiry Robinson or Andrew Hawkins in the hopes that someone will panic and accept. (Update: Reeled in one sucker so far). Welker still has tremendous value. Yes, his injury history concerns me, but much like my affinity for Josh Gordon pre-suspension, if you’re not affecting your starting lineup, why not stash a potential difference maker on your bench. Even if you don’t need to upgrade your receiving corps, you’ll be able to flip Welker for far more than you paid to address a team need at the end of October. Third, for Week 1,Emmanuel Sanders breaches into MUST START territory while Caldwell becomes a capable WR3/FLEX option with the excellent matchup. Latimer is nothing more than an upside long shot. In the present, he’s no different than Jermaine Kearse or John Brown – worth owning in deep leagues, nothing more.

However that could change very suddenly Sunday night.

If Latimer usurps Caldwell as Manning’s new favorite plaything and explodes against Indy, we’ll have our first potential impact waiver wire wonder of the season. The type of pick up so impactful it propels your Fantasy squad to the playoffs. We see it every year; so don’t be frugal with your FAAB bucks or lofty waiver priority if that player emerges after Week 1. Everyone who got assaulted on league messages boards worldwide for spending 80-percent of their budget on Julius Thomas in 2013 likely laughed their way to a championship. Ditto for those who wisely put in a claim on Alfred Morris the year previous.

This “impact player” won’t necessarily reveal himself in the wake of Week 1, though. It may happen in Week 3, like with Peyton Hillis in 2010 or Victor Cruz in 2011, but you need to possess the fortitude to shell out the dollars to acquire a potential Top 50 talent, especially early in the season. The opportunity cost of gaining that type of player for 13-15 weeks outweighs the risk of blowing your budget on a dud like Brandon Jackson in 2010 (DAMN YOU BRANDON JACKSON!!!!) and missing out on an opportunity to gain an equally impactful piece in Week 12.

Fantasy Football, in case you’re slow, tends to be capricious week-to-week. Like in non make-believe NFL, getting into the playoffs is the goal. Wins early in the season are just as valuable as ones claimed down the stretch, regardless of what the ESPN narrative machine would have you believe.

Are Caldwell or Latimer one of these guys? Probably not. Welker’s eventual return puts a shelf life on their viability.  But keep your eyes open. If you identify a player as one that can make a giant difference for the entire season early in the year, make certain you get that guy… at any cost.

Fortunately, I have a few tricks that can assist you in mining Fantasy gold off free agency so you can keep some FAAB cash in the reserve. If you currently own your running back’s handcuff, ditch that guy before Week 1 and put a higher upside asset on your bench. Handcuffs become more important later in year when your studs need insurance. For now, consider stashing a handcuff as betting against yourself and, in turn, unnecessarily depriving your roster of a player that has a better opportunity to become an impact player.

If I owned the Jamaal Charles/Knile Davis combo and names like Ahmad BradshawIsaiah Crowell, Lorenzo TaliaferroDexter McCluster (in PPR), Andre HolmesTravis Kelce, Latimer, Kearse, Brown are lingering on free agency, I’m dropping Davis and making that swap immediately. Charles needs to get hurt for Davis to have value. While that scenario is definitely in play, it’s a zero-sum game for your roster. These listed players all have the chance to gain a larger (and potentially impactful) role just by simply being good and winning the job. Owning Davis is a passive move; BE aggressive! Sure, it’s a low percentage maneuver, but it’s one that can pay massive dividends and has minimal risk.

In fact, I think my favorite trick is exploiting the waiver rules before the Thursday night game. In some formats, you can pick up a player between Tuesday waivers and Thursday kickoff for free, bench him, and drop him after the fact. You’ll have to check your league settings, as it’s not a uniform rule, however it is how I ended up with a bounty of Zac Stacyshares last year, purchased for pennies.

There were rumblings that Stacy was a bourgeoning threat for carries in St. Louis heading into a Thursday night game against the 49ers. A night full of ineffectiveness from Daryl Richardson and Benny Cunningham later, and BOOM, Stacy was the starter. An impact player, picked up for free.

Sometimes, a little foresight (and luck) is all you need.


Let’s be clear: Twin Peaks is not for everybody. But, if you were a fan of True Detective’s mystery/weirdness quotient, or simply loved LOST, I guarantee it is certainly for you. The best part? Since ABC disenfranchised David Lynch so much, it’s only 30 episodes (or in binge-watch metrics, an awesome long weekend). Twin Peaks is suspenseful, hilarious and, more than anything, gleefully strange. If nothing else, it revolutionized the serialized shows we all gush over today.

Go ahead, watch that scene as many times as you want. Nothing will be spoiled, I sweara God!



  1. NO/ATL
  2. CIN/BAL
  3. BUF/CHI
  4. WAS/HOU
  5. NE/MIA
  6. CLE/PIT
  7. TEN/KC
  8. MIN/STL
  9. JAX/PHI
  10. OAK/NYJ


Eagles over Jags


  1. NYJ
  2. STL
  3. CAR
  4. NE
  5. SEA
  6. PIT
  7. KC
  8. HOU
  9. WAS
  10. PHI
  11. BAL
  12. ARZ
  13. CIN
  14. TB
  15. CLE


NO/ATL u51.5


Peyton Manning vs IND
Jacob Tamme vs IND
Kyle Orton (Maybe) at Chicago


You drafted Rob Gronkowski to be a difference maker, so play him. Unless you only have one tight end slot, no FLEX and somehow ended up with Jimmy Graham or Julius Thomas as a result of poor drafting. GRONK is reportedly going to see limited snaps, and this is causing concern for Fantasy owners. Let me quell that burden. Even if he sees merely 40-percent of the Patriots’ snaps, he’s still an elite option. Tight end is deep, but there’s a dearth of elite talent. Plus, the ‘phins can’t defend big men. They’ve been perpetually near the top in points against to the position for the last five years, and really, you just need GRONK on the field when New England is in the red zone. He scored in four straight before getting injured against the Browns last year and has 42 TDs in 50 career games. GRONK SMASH!!!

Don’t fret over Joe Haden blanketing Antonio Brown; Brown chooses to ignore his coverage. Brown saw 24 targets matched up against the Browns’ shutdown corner in 2013, piling up 15 receptions for 179 yards and a score. I’d be more concerned about Keenan Allen squaring off with Patrick Peterson.

Yes, Cecil Shorts III has been dealing with a wonky hamstring, but he’s been cleared to play and he says it’s 100 percent. So I’m choosing to believe him. This one’s all about game situation. The Eagles are likely to come out and quickly light up the scoreboard at home, forcing the Jags to take to the air. And when Chad Henne drops back, he has a propensity to gaze towards CSI…II. Marquise Lee could eat into some of his dump off looks and a gimped up Allen Robinson may see some as well, but don’t forget – in 12 games last year, Shorts saw double-digit targets in nine. He’s not likely to find the end zone, although, he did score in two straight to close his season, but through attrition alone, he’ll pile up receptions. Making Sideshow Cecil a fantastic, safe low end alternative.

It’s always tough relying on rookies to produce, especially in their first career game. But, this is a great spot for Brandin Cooks. Trust me, I’m not just hyping him up just because he spells his name soooooooo hilariously, either. No, many expect this game to be a shootout, I have tempered expectations, but there’s gonna be some Fantasy goodness to be had. The Falcons defense isn’t not strong, and especially not fast, meaning Cooks will have plenty of opportunities to operate in space. And it only takes one missed tackle to hit pay dirt. It’s a risk, certainly, but a calculated one.

If I was stuck at QB or looking for a cheap DFS option I wouldn’t take issue with starting Shaun Hill or Geno Smith.

The Saints backfield is a legitimate Fantasy conundrum. With no clear cut option penciled into a workhorse role, it’s made choosing between Mark IngramPierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson rather unpredictable. Many decided to lean towards Ingram because of preserved opportunity and first round pedigree, but not me. He’s the worst. I’m steadfast in my belief that Ingram is Fantasy death and will slowly kill your team with his crippling inconsistency. You know when Ingram has his best weeks? The times when he’s in no one’s starting roster. Make a stand, and say no to Ingram. That leaves Thomas as my favorite back in New Orleans. Mainly, because he led the league in RB receptions in 2013. A feat he has the ability (and opportunity) to replicate this season.With Sproles now in Philly, there’s an open 120 or so touches to be absorbed. While, I expect Cooks and Thomas to divvy up most of them, Robinson should inherit a share too. He’s the most well rounded back of the three and has immense upside. He was a low risk draft pick and he’ll get his chance to run away with the job at some point this year.

The Rams yielded only 68 catches, 688 and 4 TDs to tight ends last year. That was the lowest per game average allowed to the position. Buy low on Kyle Rudolph after he has a bad game.

The Jets D/ST is a layup. It’s simple: they get a terrible Oakland team, traveling across the country for a 1pm ET kickoff… starting a rookie QB. Gang Green has one of the premier front sevens in football and Rex Ryan is going to give Derek Carr fits in his first career start. Streaming D/STs is the way to play the position, and this is a great spot. Start’em with confidence. However, if Oakland falls behind and is forced to throw for the majority of the game, play close attention to which receivers Carr favors. I’m betting it will be James Jones, or possibly Andre Holmes butDenarius MooreRod Streater and Mychal Rivera are all live options.

If Travis Kelce, aka MINI GRONK, is still available in your league, please, pick him up.

I’m playing my gut on Reggie Wayne: I’m not buying him despite the awesome matchup. ACL + Old = Bad News. If I’m wrong and he’s vintage Wayne, consider yourself lucky, you got a steal on draft day.

One team gave up 17 touchdowns to tight ends in 2013. It was the Cardinals. Those 17 TDs were four more than any other team. Now, I know teams change year-to-year, but the Cards linebackers are seemingly worse this year after losingDaryl Washington and Karlos Dansby. So, seems like a prime spot to use Ladarius Green… in PRIME TIME. Everyone is expecting a breakout from the athletic freak, and he’ll showcase his talents, both vertically and in the red zone, during Week 1. Could it be Antonio Gates who excels, you ask? Possibly, but I’ll bank on Green.

You’re all Fantasy ageists!!! Fortunately, for those of us that were willing to give every player their fair shake, you probably ended up with Chris Johnson. Which, I’ll tell ya, was a great pick. Let me elaborate: Johnson is one of the few legitimate three down backs in football, running behind a solid offensive line, on a team that’s committed to pounding the rock, with a quarterback that requires teams to commit a defender to spy Geno so he doesn’t hit the edge and take off down field, which takes an extra man out of the box. All good things. Even better? Johnson gets the Raiders. There will only be sparse occurrences where vintage CJ2K makes a cameo this year, but this is one of those weeks.

Quick Quiz: After the Cowboys, which team acted the most like pylons in an attempt to defend the run in 2013? If you said the Titans… you’d be wrong. It was the Bears. Sure, Jared Allen is a nice pickup and a revamped defensive line will help, but don’t expect them to be markedly improved. Enter, Fred Jackson. F JAX will continue to work inside both 20s out of the Bills backfield and, when Buffalo inevitably falls behind early, guess who’s the prime recipient ofE.J. Manuel’s favorite throw, the checkdown? It’s Jackson. He’s perpetually underrated – he saw double-digit rushing attempts in 14 of 16 games last year – be aware of that before you leave a pile of points on the bench. C.J. Spiller is still a better option, but both are Top 20 RBs in Week 1.

I’m making it my mission to get a piece of any offense taking on the Cowboys this season. They have the potential to be historically bad on the defensive side of the ball, which bumps Michael Crabtree from his usual low end WR2 status and into MUST START territory. And, if you’re worried the Niners will get up by too much and stop throwing,DON’T!!! Dallas’ offense is going to post plenty of points to counterbalance. I think we overlook how much Colin Kaepernick relies on Crabtree. In his eight games last season, Crabtree saw seven or more targets in six of them. One of those where he didn’t? His first game easing back from injury. That barely counts.

Which leads to this series of questions: Do you play in an incredibly deep league? Need a TE? Desperate for a piece of that Cowboys/49ers points bonanza as well? Make Vance McDonald your new best friend.


NOTE: PPR scoring only truly affects outliers. PPR Ranks and Standard Ranks are similar with the exception extreme reception magnets  like Pierre Thomas, Danny Woodhead & Darren Sproles (PPR Positive) and the stonehanded Alfred Morris, Frank Gore & Stevan Ridley (PPR Negative).


Probable: Sammy Watkins (Ribs), Larry Fitzgerald (Knee), Bernard Pierce (Concussion), Christine Michael (Hammy), Rob Gronkowski (Knee), Tyler Eifert (Shoulder)
Questionable:  Allen Robinson (Hammy), Kenny Stills (Quad), Chris Polk (Hammy)
Doubtful: Odell Beckham Jr. (Hammy), Martavis Bryant (Shoulder), Brandon Bostick (Leg)
Out: Wes Welker ( HAVIN’ TOO MUCH FUN!!!), Dwayne Bowe (Drugs, Drugs, Drugs), Ace Sanders (Suspension),MARV Jones (Foot), Jerome Simpson (Suspension), Ray Rice (Suspension)

  1. Jamaal Charles
  2. LeSean McCoy
  3. Adrian Peterson
  4. Matt Forte
  5. Calvin Johnson
  6. Demaryius Thomas
  7. A.J. Green
  8. Julio Jones
  9. Dez Bryant
  10. Jimmy Graham
  11. Brandon Marshall
  12. Alshon Jeffery
  13. Antonio Brown
  14. Arian Foster
  15. Marshawn Lynch
  16. Montee Ball
  17. Andre Johnson
  18. Victor Cruz
  19. Julius Thomas
  20. Roddy White
  21. Michael CRABPEOPLE!!!
  22. T.Y. Hilton
  23. Percy Harvin
  24. Michael Floyd
  25. GRONKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!
  26. Larry Fitzgerald
  27. Pierre Garçon
  28. Too Nuked” Le’Veon Bell
  29. Reggie Bush
  30. Chris Johnson
  31. Jordy Nelson
  32. Cordarrelle Patterson
  33. Emmanuel Sanders
  34. Randall Cobb
  35. Kendall Wright
  36. Eric Decker
  37. Eddie Lacy
  38. Frank Gore
  39. C.J. Spiller
  40. Gio Bernard
  41. DeMarco Murray
  42. Rashad Jennings
  43. The Juke of Ellington
  44. HEY VERN Davis
  45. Fred Jackson
  46. Keenan Allen
  47. Vincent Jackson
  48. Marques Colston
  49. Justin Hunter
  50. Alfred Morris
  51. Zac Stacy. Film Credits: “Super Mario Bros.” as Goomba
  52. Pierre Thomas
  53. Shane Vereen
  54. Torrey Smith
  55. DeSean Jackson
  56. Joique Bell
  57. Doug Martin
  58. Toby Gerhart
  59. Doug Baldwin
  60. Jeremy Maclin
  61. Julian Edelman
  62. Brandin Cooks
  63. Terrance Williams
  64. Golden Tate
  65. Cecil Shorts III
  66. Greg Olsen
  67. Jordan Cameron
  68. Jason Witten
  69. Steven Jackson
  70. Ryan Mathews
  71. Ben Tate
  72. Carlos Hyde
  73. Knowshon Moreno
  74. Mike Wallace
  75. Andre Caldwell
  76. DeAndre Hopkins
  77. Jordan Reed
  78. Zach Ertz
  79. Martellus Bennett
  80. Ladarius Green
  81. Heath Miller
  82. Darren Sproles
  83. Danny Woodhead
  84. Reggie Wayne
  85. Tavon Austin
  86. Kelvin Benjamin (ft. Biggy, The Lox & Lil’ Kim)
  87. Marqise Lee
  88. Jordan Matthews
  89. Brian Hartline
  90. Riley Cooper
  91. Sammy Watkins
  92. Rueben Randle
  93. Dennis Pitta
  94. TRAVIS KELCE!!!!!!!
  95. Charles Dice Clay
  96. Anquan Boldin
  97. Hakeem Nicks
  98. James Jones
  99. Bishop Sankey
  100. DeAngelo Williams
  101. Bernard Pierce
  102. Jeremy Hill
  103. Dexter McCluster: Telling you not to LOL and Drive
  104. Maurice Jones-Drew
  105. Shonn Greene
  106. Khiry Robinson
  107. Darren McFadden
  108. Ahmad Bradshaw
  109. Mike Evans
  110. Andrew Hawkins
  111. Robert Woods
  112. Aaron Dobson
  113. Danny Amendola
  114. Harry Douglas
  115. Jarrett Boykin
  116. Greg Jennings
  117. Markus Wheaton
  118. The Walls of Jerricho Cotchery
  119. Kyle Rudolph
  120. Antonio Gates
  121. Tim Wright
  122. Coby Fleener
  123. Garrett Graham
  124. Steve Smith Sr.
  125. Miles Austin 316
  126. Donnie Avery
  127. Brandon Gibson
  128. Cody Latimer
  129. Tyler Eifert
  130. Dwayne Allen
  131. Vance McDonald, Vance Refrigeration
  132. LeGarrette Blount
  133. Stevan Ridley
  134. Terrance West
  135. Jacquizz Rodgers
  136. Mike Tolbert
  137. Justin Forsett
  138. Andre Williams
  139. Roy Helu
  140. High Speed” Kenny Britt
  141. Brandon LaFell
  142. Rod Streater
  143. Kenny Stills to Pay the Billz
  144. Stevie Johnson
  145. John Brown
  146. Jermaine Kearse
  147. Mohamed Sanu
  148. Kenbrell Tomkins
  149. Mike Williams
  150. Frankie Hammond
  151. Brian Quick
  152. Nate Washington
  153. Country Music Sensation Griff Whalen
  154. Andre Holmes
  155. Denarius Moore
  156. Marlon Brown
  157. Lance Moore
  158. Brandon Lloyd
  159. Andre Roberts
  160. Corey Washington
  161. Jeremy Kerely
  162. Malcom Floyd
  163. Jason Avant
  164. Mychal Rivera
  165. Delanie Walker
  166. Anthony Fasano
  167. Brandon Myers
  168. Andrew Quarless
  169. Levine Trololo
  170. Chris Polk
  171. Bilal POWWWWell
  172. Stepfan Taylor
  173. Devonta Freeman
  174. #DANGERZONE Dri Archer
  175. Jonathan Stewart
  176. Ronnie Hillman
  177. LaMichael James
  178. Ryan Broyles
  179. Eddie Royal
  180. Marquise Goodwin
  181. Allen Robinson
  182. Chris Givens
  183. Davante Adams
  184. Donte Moncrief
  185. Jace Amaro
  186. John Carlson
  187. Chris Gragg
  188. Brent Celek
  189. Zach Miller (SEA)
  190. Austin Seferian-Jenkins
  191. Owen Daniels
  192. C.J. Fiedorowicz
  193. Scott Chandler
  194. Jermaine Gresham
  195. John Carlson
  196. Brandon Pettigrew
  197. James Casey
  198. Jacob Tamme
  199. Lance Kendricks
  200. Joseph Fauria
  201. Eric Ebron
  202. Larry Donnell
  203. Knile Davis
  204. Benny Cunningham, and his wife, Oprah
  205. Marcel Reece
  206. Storm Johnson
  207. Christine Michael
  208. Bobby Make it Rainey
  209. James Starks
  210. Lorenzo Taliaferro
  211. Lance Dunbar
  212. Bryce Brown
  213. Donald Brown
  214. Isaiah Crowell
  215. Jonathan Grimes (Or, Grimey, as he likes to be called)
  216. James White
  217. Daniel Herron
  218. Jacoby Jones
  219. Santonio Holmes
  220. Cole Beasley
  221. LOUIS MURPHY!!!!!
  222. Jerrel Jernigan
  223. Da’Rick Rogers
  224. Kris Durham
  225. Jordan Todman
  226. Matt Asiata
  227. De’Anthony Thomas
  228. Robert Turbin
  229. Lache Seastrunk
  230. Theo Riddick
  231. C.J. Anderson
  232. Ka’Deem Carey
  233. Jerick McKinnon
  234. Latavius Murray
  235. Junior Hemingway
  236. Stedman Bailey
  237. Joseph Randle
  238. Chris Ivory
  239. Alfred Blue
  240. Denard Dog Robinson
  241. Tre Mason
  242. Mike James
  243. Brandon Bolden
  244. Jonathan Dwyer
  245. Travaris Cadet


  1. Oh, hai Mark Ingram
  2. Lamar Miller
  3. Trent Richardson
  4. Jared Weber Cook(s)