Fantasy Doctor: One last look at the bench

Our first test is Thursday.

Calm down, midterms are still weeks away. But when Mile High is soaked in the national spotlight Thursday night and thousands of anxious eyes across America shift their attention to Denver, we fantasy owners will all be asking one thing.

Who should I play in Week 1?

It’s a tough question to answer — way tougher than faking interpretations in English class. We haven’t seen what any of these players can do in more than seven months, preseason excluded. And who actually based their draft choices on preseason performances? People who are going to lose, that’s who. It’s all a combination of analyzing last season, checking up on offseason injury statuses and looking ahead to certain matchups. And luck — don’t forget luck.

Just because Michael Vick has been less than impressive the past two seasons doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a great chance of tearing up a weak Redskins defense Monday night. Christian Ponder may have finally found a good target in Greg Jennings, but putting all of your chips on the new guy in the offense could be dangerous in a conference matchup (especially when it takes Leslie Frazier’s iron fist to help him get over his “break-up” with Aaron Rodgers).

But while it’s important to decide on your starting lineup before Sunday rolls around (or Thursday, if you snagged Peyton Manning, Wes Welker or Ray Rice), there’s one more thing we owners need to focus on before the final approach.

Stacking our benches.

Here me out, it’s not as crazy as it sounds. Players are dropping left and right, which is typical preseason disappointment that has made us all groan at least once. Brandon Marshall most likely went early in all of our drafts, but his concerns about his role on the team and his hip surgery are making owners everywhere a little uneasy.

Not to mention several ships have new captains. That is to say, people such as Andy Reid have started steering programs in new directions. Could the loss of defense-oriented Lovie Smith sink the warship that is the Bears defense? Is there any chance Mike McCoy can make a course correction and keep Philip Rivers from plunging deeper this season? (Probably not.)

The point is this: Consider the options. Expect the unexpected, because it could be your guys crashing and burning in the early weeks on the season.

So, for the benefit of fantasizers everywhere, I’ve come up with a single name — one backup bruiser who needs to be on someone’s bench in every league.

Ben Tate

Arian Foster scares me. He should scare you, too. Injury concerns kept him out of the preseason, which isn’t much, I know. I mean, the guy has been in the top five for fantasy points three years running. But as more is expected from top-tier running back, it’s reasonable to wonder if this might be the year Foster slips.

Enter Ben Tate, the Texan backup with a contract on the line.

With a run-heavy offense like the Texans, the strain is going to pile up on Foster, which means Tate will start seeing the ball more. There’s no denying last season wasn’t Tate’s brightest, with only 65 attempts for 279 yards. In 2011, though, he touched the ball 175 times and took it 942 yards and four touchdowns. As a backup. After breaking his ankle the year earlier.

Now, Tate has had his dip year. He’s well over his injury. And if he doesn’t perform this season, he’ll likely be dumped into free agency. Mix that motivation for Tate together with Foster’s murky outlook this season, and then try to tell me that Tate couldn’t be your perfect problem solver.

J.J. is a sophomore in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Wilsonable07.