Fantasy Football Start or Sit Week 1: Eric Decker


Fantasy football season is officially underway. Things got started Thursday night when the New England Patriots beat the Pittsburgh Steelers and will only pick up this weekend. That game was successful for many fantasy owners, as there was a ton of yardage and a decent amount of points. The game between the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns Sunday afternoon is expected to be the polar opposite.

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Despite upgrading numerous positions this offseason, the Jets offense is still a question mark because of quarterback play. Geno Smith was expected to start, but had his jaw broken by former teammate IK Enemkpali. In steps journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, who, depending on who you ask, is better fit for this system than Smith was.

On the other side of the field are the Browns, who are a mess offensively. They have quarterback problems of their own, as journeyman Josh McCown will start the season as the starter. Johnny Manziel is sitting on the bench, but still has something to show before he gets a starting job.

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But the Browns lack any real playmakers. Dwayne Bowe, the nominal No.1 wide receiver, hasn’t caught a touchdown since 2013 despite playing 15 games last season. There is very little after him, as injury prone Brian Hartline, Andrew Hawkins and Travis Benjamin follow him. No real weapons won’t help hide the problems that McCown has.

That is where the Jets differ, as they have weapons to make up for Fitzpatrick’s deficiencies. The Jets added veteran Brandon Marshall, who should be a big help in the red zone. While he will definitely help whoever is playing quarterback, he should help our Eric Decker the most.

With Marshall in town, Decker can slide down to the No.2 receiver spot. That is where he is better suited to be and he should excel. He will also have the luxury of not having defenses focus on him as they did last year, as Marshall will draw the most attention of any Jets receiver. That is exactly what fantasy football owners are hoping for throughout the season.

But, Decker and the Jets receiving core will have a difficult matchup in Week 1. The Browns, despite all their dysfunctional ways, have an outstanding secondary. Joe Haden headlines the group, with Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner backing him up at safety. But, Haden is expected to be defending Marshall most of the afternoon, which could open up Decker for some opportunities.

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After Haden, the Browns cornerbacks drop off a bit. Tramon Williams was brought in to bookend him. He was solid with the Packers, but isn’t impossible to beat. Second year players Pierre Desir and Justin Gilbert have problems of their own, as Desir is still adapting to higher level of competition and Gilbert has a lot of growing up to do. This all works in Decker’s favor.

While the Jets are expected to be a ground-and-pound offense, they will have to throw the ball some to keep the Browns honest. Fitzpatrick isn’t an incompetent quarterback, so there should still be some production to be had for Jets receivers; just the Browns aren’t the easiest matchup.

Last season the Browns ranked 17th in points allowed to opposing receivers in fantasy football. Very rarely did a player put up WR1 numbers against them, so the Jets receivers have to be knocked down a peg because of the matchup right off the bat. The gameplan also works against them, as the Browns had the worst run defense in the NFL last season, meaning that is what the Jets will most likely be attacking.

This makes for a tough decision to make regarding Jets receives like Decker for your fantasy football lineup. But, with Haden most likely taking Marshall for the afternoon, Decker actually makes for the better play. He has the better matchup and should outscore Marshall in Week 1.

Decker can be safely started in your fantasy football lineup, but expectations need to be held in check. He may end the season on the WR2/WR3 line, but against the Browns he looks more like a strong FLEX, low upside WR3 play. The expected Jets gameplan and matchup difficulty will make it difficult for a huge game, but Decker should provide an adequate performance for your team in Week 1.

Next: Jets vs. Browns 5 Bold Predictions

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