In fantasy football, the most common dilemma for an owner is who to start in a given position week in and week out. The truth is, all the factors that go in to such a decision (matchups, trends, performance consistency, etc.), plus all the different options you may have at each position, make getting every decision right an exceedingly difficult thing to do.
Your saving grace can come at the flex position, in which you can start either a running back or a wide receiver.
Most likely, your big name running backs and wide receivers will be starting at their respective positions. Those are the players who are going to have huge games fairly often but will also have the occasional stinker.
The flex position is for players who will be able to provide around ten points a week without fail. This means that while they certainly cannot earn you a win by themselves, they will also not hurt you so badly that you will lose because of them.
I like to start running backs in the flex position. Unlike wide receivers (who can only earn you points if they receive a significant amount of targets from their quarterback), a starting running back, or even one who is in a time share with another back, is usually guaranteed around 15 touches per game. He may not have a huge day, but he will have the opportunity to earn you enough points to push your point total.
Let’s look at Seattle Seahawks’ running back Justin Forsett. Although officially designated as the team’s starting running back, Forsett has so far been sharing his job, first with Julius Jones, and now with Marshawn Lynch. Despite this unfortunate fact, Forsett has still been averaging just over 12 carries per game, which has translated to over 60 yards per game the last three weeks for an average of over seven fantasy points per week. While it’s not spectacular, it’s also not horrible, and if that yardage is accompanied by a touchdown — as it was in Forsett’s last game — it can mean another six points and a very respectable fantasy day.
Another example is Chicago Bears’ RB Matt Forté, who despite playing in the pass-first offense of Mike Martz, has been able to average nearly 13 fantasy points per week on an average of fewer than 12 carries.
If you’re going to start a wide receiver at the flex position, be sure to start someone who gets enough targets to be useful every week, no matter the matchup. Normally, this will end up being a receiver who plays out of the slot position, because quarterbacks trust those receivers to get them out of tight spots. Since every quarterback gets into trouble several times a game, slot receivers are usually targeted often enough to make up for the fact that they don’t get many yards.
Patriots’ wide receiver Wes Welker is the quintessential flex receiver. Tom Brady trusts him to get open when he needs him to, and so looks his way often in a variety of situations. This trust has led to 33 receptions for Welker so far, setting him on pace for 106 by the end of the season. Because Welker gets targeted so often and has so many receptions, he can be counted on to provided solid fantasy numbers week after week, as can other receivers like him.
The key to success at the flex position is consistency. While they may not get an enormous amount of touches per game, they get enough work that fantasy owners can hope for at least some points each week. Consistency is exactly what you want out of a flex player, as the flex position is for players who can be trusted to provide enough points to cover your big game players, who tend to be more boom or bust, on days when they, well… bust. Whether you choose to play a running back or a wide receiver, make sure you pick someone you trust not to drop the ball with the game on the line.
Pick Up of the Week: While I’d like to recommend Deion Branch, I find it hard to tell people to pick up any Patriots player based off one good week that was probably due to Tom Brady’s tendency to spread the ball around. Instead, I’ll tell you to keep Branch in mind but focus on Detroit Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford. When he returns from injury after the Lions’ bye week, he’ll take over an offense that is powered by running back Jahvid Best and wide receiver Calvin Johnson. With his talent and those weapons at his disposal, Stafford could provide a good option for anyone struggling at the QB position. Stafford is still available in 77 percent of leagues, but I have a feeling that’s about to change.
Daily Nexus NFL columnist Josh Greenberg flexes his muscles like the running backs and wide receivers at the flex position.