Fantasy Fool: Week 3 starters and benchwarmers

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Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Wondering whether or not to start Aaron Rodgers and DeAngelo Williams, or to bench Case Keenum and Brandon LaFell? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 3 of the 2016 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans vs. Raiders. Mariota is off to a so-so start to his season, but he’ll face the NFL’s passing doormats when the Raiders come to town. It’s hard to say which of his receivers, other than Delanie Walker, will prosper, but Mariota seems assured of having his best outing of the young season on Sunday.

Charles Sims, RB, Buccaneers vs. Rams. I once proclaimed that Sims was a more talented and complete back than Doug Martin. Martin made me eat those words last season, but that doesn’t diminish what Sims brings to the table. As a potent dual threat (with nearly equal yardage rushing and receiving, but four more receiving TDs, over his career), Sims will get his chance to shine as the workhorse against a Rams defense that bounced back nicely last week after a miserable opener.

Theo Riddick, RB, Lions at Packers. Green Bay manhandled T.J. Yeldon and Adrian Peterson over the first two weeks, and they are likely to clamp down on the Lions’ running game as well. But Riddick is more deadly as a receiver – where the Packers are vulnerable – and he is likely to see a season (if not career) high in touches with Ameer Abdullah now on injured reserve.

Randall Cobb, WR, Packers vs. Lions. Cobb is off to a disappointing start, with Jordy Nelson once again the apple of Aaron Rodgers’ eye. With Detroit’s porous secondary, and stingy run defense, up next, Cobb will be targeted often on Sunday. The Lions have surrendered six passing TDs already, so look for both Cobb and Nelson to add to that total.

Travis Benjamin, WR, Chargers at Colts. The former Brown out-shined the over-hyped Tyrell Williams last weekend, reeling in six catches for 115 yards and a pair of TDs. As hot as Philip Rivers has been, and going up against Indy’s sieve-like secondary, Benjamin should continue to cement himself as heir to Keenan Allen’s lead role.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers):QBs Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers, Ryan Tannehill, Eli Manning, Derek Carr; RBs C.J. Anderson, Melvin Gordon, Devonta Freeman, DeMarco Murray, Frank Gore; WRs Larry Fitzgerald, T.Y. Hilton, Brandin Cooks, Jeremy Maclin, Jarvis Landry, Alshon Jeffery, Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin, Michael Floyd, Jordan Matthews, Michael Crabtree, Eric Decker, Marvin Jones, Willie Snead.

Roll ‘em back

Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks vs. 49ers. It’s too early to press the panic button, but not too soon to put Wilson on your bench. His ankle clearly wasn’t right against the Rams, and now Doug Baldwin (knee) is limping around, too. San Francisco’s defense is vulnerable, but Wilson isn’t in the best position to take advantage.

Latavius Murray, RB, Raiders at Titans. Murray has been unable to distance himself from Oakland’s two other backs – DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard – who have earned enough carries to keep him from becoming a true workhorse. Facing a Titans defense that has allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing rushers so far this season, Murray’s short-term outlook isn’t getting any rosier.

Jerick McKinnon, RB, Vikings at Panthers. Why should we expect McKinnon to prosper where Adrian Peterson couldn’t?Especially against a stout defense, on the road, with Matt Asiata potentially poaching the goal-line carries? Sure, he was worth scooping up off the waiver wire, but McKinnon should be stashed on your bench this weekend.

Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos at Bengals. Denver is leaning on its running game as Trevor Siemian eases into his leadership role. That means there just aren’t that many passes to go around, and Sanders’ value has suffered as a result. Against a solid pass defense on the road, the wideout comes high risk for low production.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Redskins at Giants. The big-play receiver’s production has suffered thanks to Kirk Cousins’ early-season struggles. Meanwhile, New York has coughed up just one passing TD to date, and they are shutting down the long balls that are D-Jax’s specialty. Strike three: he’s dealing with ankle and knee issues.

More thumbs down: QBs Kirk Cousins, Andy Dalton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyrod Taylor, Sam Bradford, Blaine Gabbert; RBs Carlos Hyde, Matt Jones, Rashad Jennings, Jeremy Langford, Jeremy Hill, Spencer Ware, T.J. Yeldon, Justin Forsett, Fozzy Whittaker; WRs John Brown, Tavon Austin, Torrey Smith, Allen Hurns, Markus Wheaton, Vincent Jackson, Terrelle Pryor, Tyler Boyd, Golden Tate, Pierre Garcon, Sammy Watkins.


Jay Ajayi, RB, Dolphins vs. Browns. Nobody wants to make a better impression this weekend than Ajayi, who believes he should be Miami’s starting tailback. With Arian Foster sitting out with a pulled groin, he’ll get his chance to soar against a defense that is likely to be sucking wind thanks to its offense’s ineptitude.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO … continues to distrust Matt Ryan as your starter.

He is currently the top-ranked fantasy QB in the land, yet he is being started by less than half of his owners. On Monday night, he’s facing the Saints – a defense that he regularly torches. While I don’t expect Ryan to maintain this pace all season, he’s absolutely worth riding while he’s high.

Ladd Biro is a four-time finalist and two-time winner of the Football Writer of the Year Award by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Follow all his advice daily at the Fantasy Fools blog (, on Facebook and via Twitter(@ladd_biro).

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