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Don’t Get Cute

No second-guessing in week 1.

In some ways, this is the best fantasy week of the year. Every team has title hopes, and every manager sees the playoffs in their future. Every team is undefeated, every draft strategy is still viable and every player has the potential to look like a great value pick.

Unfortunately, some managers want to spoil the fun by sabotaging their own lineups before the very first game. While the time will come when you’ll have to question your starters, that time is definitely not before week 1.

I understand the anxiety before the first contest. You want to start strong and you like your team. Why wouldn’t you feel optimistic about your bench? You selected them, after all. So it makes sense to consider putting one of them in place of a starter, right?

Not really. You drafted those starters for a reason, too. And it wasn’t because you wanted fewer games out of them. You’re going to give an important player an extra bye in week 1, before he’s done anything to deserve the bench? I’m all for evaluating talent, and not giving a guy a free spot in your lineup because of where you drafted them. But that’s a discussion for October, not a couple days before the first game.

Odds are, you’re overthinking it. Yes, matchups matter. Weather matters. There’s a risk in putting in a guy because you assumed he’d be the best option week in and week out. But there’s also risk in just switching him out for a player you didn’t even want until a few rounds later. Sure, the backup could do better. We’ve all taken a loss while watching fireworks on our bench. But is that a possible event, or a probable one? Is that likely to happen, or just something you could see happening? Are you trying to add risk to your decisions, or minimize it?

As with everything, there are exceptions. Maybe Cooper Kupp has you looking for the best replacement options. In that case, the 3rd wide receiver you drafted might not look as good as the 5th one this week. That’s a different, and fair, discussion. Or maybe you drafted in a way that a certain spot would always be a rotating group of players until someone emerges. In that case, there is no real starter, and you should consider everybody each week.

But if you’re second-guessing yourself because of a news blurb, or you’re facing a league rival, or you just really, really want to go 1-0, relax. You had a strategy, you did the best you could on draft day, and now it’s time to see how they’ll do. You won’t know everything after one week, but you certainly don’t know after zero weeks. At least give them a chance to justify your confidence on draft day. It might sting if you lose because the backup did better on your bench, but how would it feel if you benched the starter and it cost you the game? All that research, all that work, pulling the trigger on a player, and you did your opponent a favor and took him out. How’s that to start your season?

It’s your team, of course. Maybe you like tinkering with the lineups, and it’s just your style of play. If that’s the case, go for it. But I think a lot of managers simply don’t want to mess up their first game, so they’re considering making an unorthodox move. Ironically, I think they’re more likely to mess things up if they do that. Start your starters until they give you a reason not to do so. And while you may very well get those reasons eventually, I don’t think you have enough of them while your team is 0-0. Good luck this week.

Do you bench starters early in the season? What factors go into playing a backup before the starter has been evaluated fully? Thinking about any gambles in week 1? Share your thoughts below.

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