At long last, the 2018 NFL regular season is set to kick off. The months of draft preparation and weeks of drafting are finally over. It’s time now for the weekly struggle of deciding which players belong in our IDP starting lineups.
It’s always advisable — especially in the season’s opening weekend — to keep things simple. Start the high draft selections, as they were that for a reason. Ride the studs like Joey Bosa, Luke Kuechly, and Landon Collins — and yes, even Khalil Mack is still a weekly must start if your league designation switched him back to OLB after the trade to Chicago.
It usually takes three to four games to get a handle on which offenses tend to be favorable matchups for certain positions so playing it safe early is the way to go.
Enough of my rambling; it’s time to take a look at some start/sit options for the opening weekend of NFL action.
Flowers has led the Patriots in sacks for the past two seasons and has what turned out to be a favorable matchup last season to kick things off. When these two teams met in Week 3, Flowers finished with six total tackles and a sack, which were top-12 numbers for the week. The Texans were among the most generous offenses in giving up fantasy points to defensive linemen in 2017, allowing 34 sacks and 10 forced fumbles to the position.
With Michael Bennett now in Philadelphia, Clark is far and away the main man in the Seahawks pass rush. Clark has quietly put up 19 sacks in the past two seasons and will face a shaky Denver offensive line in the opener. Last season, Denver allowed 170 solo tackles and 33 sacks to the defensive line position. Clark should come out of the gate quickly from a fantasy perspective.
Following a failed attempt at using Beasley at linebacker last season, head coach Dan Quinn has moved him back to defensive end. In 2016 Beasley notched 15.5 sacks. He has an early-season matchup against a struggling Eagles offense. While the preseason isn’t always the best indicator of how a season will play out, it’s concerning that Philadelphia allowed 20 sacks in their four games. In his last two games against the Eagles, Beasley has put up seven total tackles with a pair of sacks and a forced fumble.
While preseason results aren’t necessarily an indicator of how a team will play once the regular season kicks off, it’s concerning how poorly the Lions defense (including the starters) performed. The switch to more of a 3-4 scheme under new head coach Matt Patricia hasn’t really clicked yet. Ansah was a boom-or-bust option last season as three-quarters of his 12 sacks came in a trio of three-sack games. I’m seeing a bust week out of the gate as this unit continues to morph into the new scheme.
While I do like Barnett a lot heading into the season, we need to take a wait-and-see approach early. There are a lot of mouths to feed along the Eagles defensive line with the addition of Michael Bennett to go with Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and Chris Long. Barnett should see an increase in snaps from the 424 he played in the regular season but until we get an actual look at his role in the DL rotation he can safely be benched in fantasy.
For the umpteenth season in a row, the Lions are intent on establishing a running game and will look to pound the ball early in the season with rookie Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount. That will lead to plenty of tackle opportunities for Williamson as he steps into the role vacated by Demario Davis. All Davis did last season was put up 135 total tackles on his way to a top-10 fantasy finish. Williamson should hit the ground running on Monday night. Keep an eye on the practice reports out of New York as Williamson missed practice early in the week with an “undisclosed” designation. If he’s a late scratch, then teammate Darron Lee is an excellent replacement.
The rookie steps right in as the starting MLB replacing Preston Brown who has moved on to Cincinnati. Brown put up triple-digit tackles in each of his four seasons in Buffalo and had a career-high 144 last season. Edmunds played 85 snaps in the preseason and was credited with 12 total tackles. It’s a favorable matchup to open the season as Baltimore allowed over 290 solo tackles to the linebacker position in 2017.
As excited as I am for Edmunds rookie debut I am wary when it comes to Smith’s first game. After a holdout kept Smith out of most of training camp, a hamstring issue prohibited him from seeing the field in the preseason. If he does suit up for the first game, there is a good chance that Chicago has him on a snap count as he works into game shape. By midseason, Smith could very well be a weekly must-start but until we see him playing three downs I’m suggesting sitting him.
A torn MCL limited Collins to just six games in 2017 after he had put up either LB1 or LB2 totals 2014-2016. Things were trending in the wrong direction for Collins as teammates Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey both put up LB1 production last season manning the WLB as well as MLB positions. Their production has seemed to leave as the odd man out. Collins has moved the SLB role capping his value as there have been times in the preseason that he has been coming off the field on passing downs. It’s too risky to roll out a LB that isn’t guaranteed a three-down role.
Once the Chargers allowed Tre Boston to leave via free agency and selected James with the 17th overall pick IDP owners began to see the writing on the wall. The rookie would start immediately opposite Jahleel Addae, with “what safety position” being the only question. Throughout the preseason James mainly played SS, and that is the reason we roll him out. On 112 preseason sacks James put up nine total tackles along with an interception and he was credited with a quarterback hurry as well. Start the rookie Week 1.
The main concern with Geathers has been his ability to stay on the field as he’s played just 14 games in the past two years. The good news is that he’s healthy as the season kicks off and fantasy owners should use him while we can. IDP owners love three-down players at SS playing behind a suspect linebacking corps and Geathers’ situation checks all the boxes.
There is no doubt that when he’s on the field Berry is a dominant force at the DB position. Unfortunately, there is major doubt regarding his health heading into the season opener as he has dealt with a heel injury. That’s the last thing an IDP owner wants to hear regarding a player coming off a season ending Achilles injury. Even if Berry starts this Week 1 matchup it’s advised to take a wait-and-see approach.
Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks (@ Broncos)
First of all, Thomas might sit this game out as he continues to look for an extension or trade. Secondly, it’s high time IDP owners stop chasing a famous name from a once-formidable defense that is no longer a viable fantasy option. Thomas hasn’t finished as a top-40 DB since 2014.
One last quick one here. Joseph has seemingly been replaced as the starting SS in Oakland by Erik Harris. If the Raiders don’t start Joseph, neither should IDP owners.