Five rookie quarterbacks will be making their NFL debuts in Week 1, and some of them are widely owned in fantasy football leagues. Managers looking for the next Cam Newton may be tempted to trot one of these rookie signal-callers out into their starting lineup.
Let’s see how wise that would be.
No. 5: Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Under absolutely no circumstances whatsoever should you even think about starting Tannehill this week on the road against the Houston Texans. The Dolphins wide receivers are subpar, at best, and Houston has one of the better defenses in the league. I don’t care how familiar Tannehill is with Mike Sherman–the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator and Tannehill’s college coach at Texas A&M–this is a disaster waiting to happen in fantasy football terms. Fortunately, Tannehill is only owned in 5 percent of Yahoo! fantasy football leagues.
No. 4: Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
Weeden is another rookie quarterback to avoid like the plague when the Browns host the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1. Just a couple weeks ago, Weeden flopped in the preseason at home against the Eagles, completing just 9 of 20 passes for 117 yards, getting sacked three times, and fumbling twice–losing one of them–in about a quarter-and-a-half of play. I have no reason to believe that Week 1 is going to be any better for him. The 8 percent of Yahoo! fantasy football managers who own him should keep him benched.
No. 3: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
It might be tempting for the 37 percent of Yahoo! fantasy football players who own Wilson to start him on the road against a leaky Arizona Cardinals pass defense, especially since Wilson has been tearing it up in the preseason and can scorch opponents with his legs, too.
Don’t forget, though, that Seattle is a run-first team. Marshawn Lynch is dealing with some back spasms that has his availability for Sunday’s game in question, but if he’s good to go against the Cardinals, he’ll likely be the focal point of the offense. If he can’t go, rookie Robert Turbin is in line to start, which will allow Arizona to focus more on pass defense. Either way, Wilson’s chances of fantasy success aren’t optimal.
I’d probably start him over veterans Josh Freeman, Alex Smith, Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Matt Cassel, but I anticipate him to be a Top 20 fantasy quarterback at best this week.
No. 2: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
The No. 1 overall draft pick is owned by 88 percent of Yahoo! fantasy football managers, and he has the potential to do fairly well in Week 1, despite facing the Chicago Bears on the road.
Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher is working his way back from a preseason knee injury, and while it looks likely that he’ll play against the Colts, his effectiveness remains in question. A slowed or absent Urlacher will help Luck out. The Colts defense, which is likely to get shredded by Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, and Brandon Marshall, will force Luck to throw a lot to keep Indianapolis somewhat in this game.
Luck has shown a lot of poise and calm under pressure during the preseason, so even if he gets off to a rocky start against Chicago, I like his chances of recovering and having a fairly productive game. He’s a middle-of-the-pack starting option at quarterback, and I wouldn’t fault anyone for plugging him into a fantasy football lineup, especially if the alternative is Matt Schaub, Jake Locker, or Carson Palmer.
No. 1: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
A lot of Yahoo! fantasy football managers–96 percent of them, in fact–have invested in the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft, and a Week 1 road tilt against the New Orleans Saints makes RG3 an awfully tempting starting quarterback option.
First, Drew Brees and the Saints offense can virtually score at will, so Griffin is going to have to produce if the Redskins hope to keep up.
Second, Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton–whose skill set is very similar to Griffin’s–had some success against the Saints last year from a fantasy football perspective, especially in his first game against New Orleans, where he threw for 227 yards, ran for 27 more, and scored a total of 3 touchdowns. (In his second game, he only threw for 158 yards, ran for 32, and scored once, although it was a meaningless Week 17 game for Carolina.)
The potential, then, is there for Griffin put up some decent fantasy football numbers, especially if he can find some running room to add to his passing totals. I’d put him in the middle of the pack among fantasy football quarterbacks, just a hair ahead of Luck, thanks to RG3’s ability to score points on the ground, too.
The author has played fantasy football in more leagues and for more years than he can remember, winning a number of league championships along the way. He is a Featured Contributor in Sports with the Yahoo! Contributor Network, and you can follow him on Twitter at @RedZoneWriting and on Facebook.