Time to Shine or Ride the Pine: Week 1

Football is finally back with Tom Brady as a Buccaneer, Cam Newton dabbing for Bill Belichick, and once again, the Dallas Cowboys supposedly Super Bowl contenders.

I’m not here to gush over those guys, nor tell you how my Cowboys will once again disappoint in the end. I’m here with those sometimes crazy flex play decisions/recommendations. So without further ado, here are your Week 1 start or sit players. LETS F’ING GO!

Time to Shine

Hunter Renfrow ([email protected] 1pm est) 

All of the talk and excitement coming out of Raiders camp has been about rookies, Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards. We’ve even heard more about Nelson Agholor than the top contributor left from last season.

That is none other than Hunter Renfrow, who has become the forgotten man of Oakland’s top 10 passing offense. Renfrow finished 2nd on the Raiders in Targets (71) and receptions (49) for 605 yards and 4 TDs. Most of this production came over his last 7 games. Over that span he averaged 5 receptions for 70 yards. He became option 1B in Oakland and the connection between him and Derek Carr was apparent. 

Enter 2020 and this year’s crop of rookie wide-outs. Ruggs and Edwards have been lighting up camp, and open the season as the starting receivers (per depth chart). Whether this is fact or not has zero effect on what Renfrow does for Las Vegas, his role is that of chain mover out of the slot. 98% of his routes were run from the slot in 2019 thus cementing his role for the Raiders going forward.

His Week 1 opponent, the Panthers, were abysmal defending wide receivers last season and lost James Bradberry to the Giants. Renfrow’s own team also struggles defending the pass which will be an issue this week. The combination of a poor Panthers pass D, an established rapport with Derek Carr, and his own teams struggles, make Renfrow a fantastic week 1 flex play. 

Prediction: 6 rec 71 yards, 1 TD: 16.1 pts

Irv Smith Jr. ([email protected] 1pm est)

Minnesota drafted Justin Jefferson to replace Stefon Diggs but this transition isn’t going to be immediate. Minnesota currently lists Bisi Johnson and Adam Thielen as starters with Jefferson and former Titan, Tajae Sharpe, as back ups. We also know what this offense is built around and that is running the ball behind two TE sets. Both Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. will be on the field a lot, and I suspect Smith will see an increased involvement as well. 

Smith saw his snap % continually increase over the last half of his rookie season. Although his production wasn’t great, he worked into the offense more. His versatility is something not offered by traditional TE Rudolph, and there are rumblings that he’ll be split out wide this year. With only the aging Kyle Rudolph, Bisi Johnson, and Justin Jefferson, competing for targets, Smith Jr. is set for increased work. Week 1 could be a changing of the guard with Irv Smith Jr. taking over the pass catching role. He’s more of a long play, but I’m intrigued for week 1. Aresoe!

Prediction: 5 rec 47 yards, 1 TD: 13.2 pts

Blake Jarwin ([email protected] 8:20pm est)

This entire Cowboys’ offense is one where all those involved will have value during this upcoming season. Jarwin is taking over for the departed Jason Witten, who in his age 37 season, had 63 receptions for 529 yards and 4 TDs. He averaged his lowest yds/rec at 8.4 last year while becoming even less likely to gain any yardage after contact yet this was still good enough to finish as a top 12 TE.

This should excite everyone for the prospects of Blake this year, as he offers much more in terms of athleticism and speed at the position. He was only 150 yards short of Witten’s totals on half as many receptions (31) while also averaging over more yds/rec at 11.8.

In Week 1, he and the Cowboys open up SoFi Stadium for the Rams in a possible shootout. With so many weapons at receiver and running back for Dallas, Jarwin has a prime opportunity to shine as The Rams were bottom half of the league defending tight ends allowing 900+ yards and 6 scores.

You’ll want as much exposure to this Cowboys offense this season, as they’re primed to lead the league in yards, and potentially scoring. He should be in your starting lineup this week and going forward.

Prediction: 5 rec 63 yards, 1TD: 14.8 pts

Ride the Pine

A.J. Green ([email protected] 1pm est)

You will be Green in the face if you trust A.J. in Week 1 of the 2020 season. I myself was feeling ill after drafting him everywhere last season only to see him sit for it all.

He hasn’t played a meaningful game since December 12th, 2018, against the Broncos and is transitioning to a Joe Burrow lead offense. The improved play of Tyler Boyd, Auden Tate’s emergence, and John Ross’s return to relevance make it less likely Cincy forces the offense through Green in Week 1 of this year.  

His first opponent of 2020, the Chargers, finished top 10 in receptions (8th, 173), Yards (3rd, 2063), TDs (T-6th, 11) and fpts/gm (4th 28.8) allowed to receivers last year. Although do-everything safety, Derwin James, will miss the season, the Jr’s, Chris and Casey, still form one of the NFL’s best corner duos.

As Green primarily runs routes from the outside, he’ll likely see a lot of these two. A rookie QB making his first start, his first game action in almost 2 years, and a difficult defense make Green a dicey play. Give A.J. some splinters this week and plant him on the bench.

Prediction: 4 rec 54 yards: 7.4 pts

Jets Receivers ([email protected] 1pm est)

The Bills’ defense was the 3rd best in terms of total yards against while ranking 4th best in passing yards. They were also tied with New England and Baltimore, only allowing 15 passing TDs in 2019.

They have added pass rusher, Mario Addison, via free agency, and drafted AJ Epenesa (Iowa), to bolster their pass rush and re-signed Tre’Davious White. So, even with Shaq Lawson leaving, and Star Lotulelei opting out, this Buffalo Defense will still be among one of the best.

In 2 games against the Bills in 2019, the Jets threw for a total of 374 yards and 2 touchdowns. Only Jamison Crowder, who saw 17 (Week 1) then 10 (Week 17) targets, recorded more than 36 receiving yards in either of the 2 contests. Yes, I understand the Jets drafted Denzel Mims (not likely to play Week 1), signed Breshad Perriman, and still have Crowder. Let’s not fool ourselves though.

Adam Gase is still the coach, and until Sam Darnold proves otherwise, this pass offense is not one to trust. Unless it is a full PPR league, I’m not touching ANY of the green & white pass catchers in Week 1.

Prediction: Nobody exceeds 60 yards, & any TDs are to TE or RB.

Marquise Brown ([email protected] 1pm est)

Hollywood Brown is ready to be a star in Baltimore, but let’s wait before the positive reviews begin flowing. Marquise eclipsed 50 yards on only 3 occasions while also posting 5 games on 2 or fewer receptions.

Baltimore drafted Devin Duervnay and James Proche, in addition with Miles Boykin, as competition for targets on the outside as well. This creates an even smaller plate to eat from for receivers as 242 of Baltimore’s 440 pass attempts went to TE’s and RB’s last year leaving only 198 for all wide-outs.

In the 2 games against Week 1 foe Cleveland last year, Brown only mustered 5 receptions for 28 yards in the two games, as Lamar Jackson leaned on the tight ends to a tune of 205 yards versus 188 for receivers. Cleveland was also surprisingly good at defending WR’s as they ranked 6th allowing 18.2 fpts/gm.

The Ravens’ pass offense is supposed to be better this season, and I fully expect it to be. However, it is still literally passed through the tight ends first with the wide-outs playing second fiddle. Delay the release date for Marquise Brown to avoid disappointment.

Prediction: 4 rec 62 yards: 8.2 pts


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