Preparing your fantasy football team for Week 1

Curtis Leister

The difficult part of building a championship fantasy team is finished: you’ve drafted the players who will lead you to glory, poured over cheat sheets and statistics and probably watched way too much “NFL Live” for your own good. Now, it’s time to sift through the waiver wire and opponents’ benches for the sleeper picks who could push your team to the top for Week 1 and beyond. Here’s who to sit and start this week.


Bills Defense
Buffalo opens against an offense with two polarizing quarterbacks in the Jets’ Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow, neither of whom scored a touchdown this preseason. So it’s easy to plug in the defense that will face the Jets in Week 1 and expect positive results, but this season’s Bills defense is one with a lot of potential. Former Longhorns cornerback Aaron Williams and Marcell Dareus, the defensive tackle who knocked Colt McCoy out of the 2010 national title game, are both promising second-year players. Safety Jairus Byrd has 13 interceptions in two seasons and free agent defensive end Mario Williams anchors the line. The Bills defense didn’t do a whole lot last year to warrant a starting spot on a fantasy team, but this is an up-and-coming unit that should expect a lot of improvement.

Nate Burleson and Titus Young, WRs, Detroit Lions
Both of these receivers play second (and third) fiddle to Calvin “Megatron” Johnson on a pass-happy Lions offense captained by Matt Stafford, who threw over 5,000 yards last year. Expect Megatron to rake in huge point totals again, but grabbing either Burleson (757 yards, 3 TDs in 2011) or Young (607 yards, 6 TDs) in the later rounds or on the waiver wire will give any team a solid backup receiving option at a low cost, especially with Stafford throwing them the ball.


Beanie Wells, RB, Arizona Cardinals
If you’re basing the oft-injured Wells’ fantasy projection for 2012 on his 2011 statistics, he’s not a bad option as a second running back. But the Cardinals drafted running back Ryan Williams, who missed all of last year with a preseason knee injury, in the second round in 2011. Expect Williams and Wells to split carries on an Arizona rushing attack that ranked 24th in the league last year. Wells’ candidacy to start on a fantasy team in Week 1, especially against a Seattle defense that allowed just 79 yards per game in the preseason, is one worth passing on.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
“What,” you might be asking yourself, “is a perennial top-ten fantasy player doing on a Week 1 ‘no start’ list?” Precisely this: Jones ended a 38-day contract holdout late last month with his return to Jaguars practice, the first time he has seen live football action since Jan. 1. Jones-Drew’s holdout went for naught, and he enters 2012 without both the mega-deal he was looking for and practice time with his team. Additionally, Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey told the media Jones would serve as the team’s third-down back for Sunday’s game. It’s easy to admit that leaving Jones-Drew on your fantasy bench is a little insane, so this one is up to you. Just be aware of the warning signs that surround one of the most productive players in all of fantasy football.