The harsh reality of football fantasy, Week 1: 5 worst starters at each position

The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

You've seen the best, here's the worst of the rest! Each week we take a look at the players you absolutely don't want.

It goes without saying that the NFL is a competitive sport, but on an individual "him vs. him" level, it is perhaps the most competitive. "Manning or Brady?" "Sanders or Payton?" "Party boat or Spygate?"

We are constantly asking ourselves, "Who is the best?" Well, this year I am setting out to ask a different question -- as if I'm just begging for more hate mail -- Who is the worst?

At least, who could possibly be the worst option for your fantasy team every week that is likely starting for an actual NFL team? Every week based on talent, opportunity, the players around them and the opponents they face, I will rank the five worst options at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end. It will be easier to determine the starting quarterbacks, though of course the other positions can be fluid and up for debate, so we'll do our best guess or interpretation.

Week 1 can be a very interesting week. A few teams and players will surprise because they will do things we couldn't possibly know they were capable of. That means that some of these players might completely change our perceptions of them by the time the first round of games has completed. We like that. I'm rooting for them.

I'm just not starting them.

Quarterbacks

32. Geno Smith, Jets

Geno 911 gets the call, but it really doesn't matter. Questionable receivers, questionable running backs, questionable quarterbacks and the revamped Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary. If Darrelle Revis plays, it's over. If he doesn't ...

It's over.

31. Terrelle Pryor, Raiders

Even if Flynn had secured the job, it doesn't matter. I don't know who is going catch passes -- Rod Streater suffered a concussion, Denarius Moore caught 45 percent of his targets last year and Brandon Myers is in New York. Also, left tackle Jared Veldheer is on the shelf.

This could get really ugly, really quickly.

30. E.J. Manuel, Bills

We are a week removed from Jeff Tuel getting the starting nod in Week 1. Manuel was seemingly still recovering from his knee procedure, and would be worked back in slowly. It appears to have taken the Bills coaching staff a day or two to remember that they were starting a guy who before the announcement did not even have a Wikipedia page. I would hope that didn't affect their decision, but you have to wonder at least a little bit.

Manuel was drafted as the QB of the future, and apparently the future is now. He is talented, and could develop into a fine quarterback, but it won't be Week 1 against the daunting New England Patriots.

29. Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars

I actually kind of like Gabbert more than most people do, but at this point I still have to go off of past history. His history is not so good.

28. Andy Dalton, Bengals

Don't bite my head off for this one -- I like Andy Dalton. The Bengals are my AFC Super Bowl pick. This is mostly based off of traveling to Chicago and taking on the best defense of a year ago, so I expect it to be a low-scoring game and perhaps not many points for Dalton.

He just barely beat out Philip Rivers, Christian Ponder, Jake Locker and Brandon Weeden.

Running Backs

32. Felix Jones, Steelers

He's been let go by two teams in 2013 and he's playing for a team that had no running back go over four yards per carry last season. Jones is a nice complement to a real starting running back sometimes, but he's always failed when given the opportunity to be the lead ball-carrier. Even if he has a one-off good game here or there, eventually he will fall.

I like the matchup against the Titans but the Steelers should spread it around.

31. Daryl Richardson, Rams

Richardson was an early season surprise but ran for 24 yards total in the final five games of the year. He doesn't look like an every-down back and even if Isaiah Pead has struggled to convince coaches he deserves to start, he's going to steal carries away from Richardson on the regular.

And if not Pead, then Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham, but this is going to be a committee. Read the minutes:

4:51 - Richardson gets a carry.
5:21 - Stacy gets a carry.
6:10 - Cunningham catches a ball
7:24 - Pead runs it in at the goal line.

Meeting adjourned.

30. Rashard Mendenhall, Cardinals

The Cards play the Rams in Week 1 and I don't expect it to be high-scoring. Arizona not only was one of the worst run-blocking teams in the NFL last year, but they've already lost their biggest improvement with Jonathan Cooper going on injured reserve.

Mendenhall looks like a game-time decision, but whoever is starting at running back for the Cardinals, he likely won't be very successful.

29. Chris Ivory/Bilal Powell, Jets

I'm a Coug. I wish that Ivory and Jeff Tuel were both starting for the Jets and they traded for Marquess Wilson and Brandon Gibson. That would be lovely. It would also be a pretty awful team but I digress.

Rex Ryan said Powell has "earned the right to start" but that Ivory will see substantial playing time. Unfortunately for both, the Bucs might have the best run defense in the NFL. Not a great way to get things going in what could be an ugly 2013 Jets campaign.

28. Eddie Lacy, Packers

Everybody loves Lacy right now but let's look at some additional facts other than "second round pick out of Alabama that is the starting running back for a good team." Such as the fact that Lacy is making his first career start, for a passing team, against the San Francisco 49ers. I think of Lacy's situation similar to the one that fellow Crimson Tide back Mark Ingram has in New Orleans.

And that's not very good at the moment.

Those that just escaped my path of hate mail bait (send in your hate mail) were Montee Ball, DeAngelo Williams, Ryan Mathews, and Darren McFadden.

Wide Receivers

64. T.J. Graham, Bills

The "second receiver' may be Graham or rookie Marquise Goodwin but the starting quarterback is a rookie that gets to debut against the best team of the century: the New England Patriots.

Manuel was drafted high for a reason, but it's going to take some time to get used to the NFL. It's not good news for Graham or Goodwin at the moment, though I think the long-term prospects in Buffalo under Doug Marrone are very good.

Graham is a worthy sleeper, but not for Week 1.

63. Stephen Hill, Jets

Your quarterback is Geno Smith and his first assignment is the new-look Bucs with Darrelle Revis, Dashon Goldson, Johnthan Banks, and second-year safety Mark Barron. Good luck!

62. Jacoby Jones, Ravens

Consider this a placeholder for "Any Ravens receiver not named Torrey Smith."

There seemed to be about a dozen guys that were fighting for Anquan Boldin's targets in the preseason, and none of them stepped up in a big enough way to really distinguish themselves. This left many of them on the outside looking in after Jones and Brandon Stokley as the player most likely to get the most targets after Smith. It's bad news for Joe Flacco and it's worse news if you expected somebody in Baltimore to become the next Boldin.

Jones has had opportunities before and simply dropped the ball.

61. Domenik Hixon, Panthers

I have Hixon as one of my top sleepers this year and recently projected him for 1,000 yards with his new team. He was more valuable with the Giants than you think but needs to stay healthy and get more opportunities. Unfortunately his first assignment with Carolina is to go against the best secondary in the NFL: the Seattle Seahawks.

60. Mohamed Sanu, Bengals

I also happen to like Sanu but why no mention of him on Hard Knocks? What do they know that we don't know? I know they like to focus on guys that are just trying to make the roster and all, but at least give him a little bit of love. I never understood that part about Hard Knocks.

That's not the real reason I'm putting Sanu here. He needs more time and it's too bad that his first chance this year to get more time is against Tim Jennings and Peanut Tillman.

Sanu I had rated just a bit lower than Nate Burleson, Justin Blackmon, Davone Bess, Donnie Avery, Riley Cooper, and a few other names.

Tight Ends

32. Kellen Winslow/Jeff Cumberland, Jets

I didn't even know that Winslow was on a team again. Nobody wanted him last season once they actually had him, and that included two of the best teams in the NFL: Seattle and New England. Whether he or Cumberland get the most targets shouldn't matter in this scenario with Geno.

Avoid Kellen Winslow? Gee, no duh. (Geno Duh, get it?)

31. Luke Stocker, Buccaneers

Winslow's former team, the same team they'll face on Sunday, used Dallas Clark a bit last year but opted to just replace him with the backup Stocker. Maybe he is better than we know, but I'm not going to bet on it in Week 1 and then see touchdowns go to free agent signee Tom Crabtree.

30. Charles Clay, Dolphins

The injury to Dustin Keller threw a wrench in the water for Miami. I don't think that Clay, or Dion Sims, or Michael Egnew, are the ones to dive in and get it.

29. Delanie Walker/Craig Stevens, Titans

If it didn't work for Jared Cook, who looks like a modern tight end, I don't see how it's going to be any better for Walker -- who is not here to catch passes. Unless it's to steal touchdowns away from Stevens. Not my favorite situation in the NFL for tight ends, nor were those that just barely made the cut: Marcedes Lewis, Brent Celek, Dallas Clark, and David Ausberry.

Zach Miller survived if only because the Seahawks cut almost every other tight end on the roster and so who else at the position is going to steal targets?

28. Julius Thomas/Virgil Green/Jacob Tamme/Joel Dreessen, Broncos

Thomas is looking like the best tight end on the roster, with Green climbing the depth chart. Peyton Manning is generally what we like to call a "good" quarterback, and will probably utilize his tight ends. The problem is that there are four interesting tight ends and three great receivers, so you probably can't trust any of them. The tight ends that is, definitely start the receivers.

Remember to leave your hate comments and we'll see you back here next week!

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