Posted: Tuesday September 4, 2012 11:55AM ; Updated: Tuesday September 4, 2012 11:55AM

Flex-spending: Who should play?

Story Highlights

The flex position can be the toughest to decide in a fantasy lineup

Ronnie Brown would be a good player to start in Week 1

Rashad Jennings start ahead of Maurice Jones-Drew for at least one week

By Michael Beller, Special to SI.com

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Ronnie Brown
Ronnie Brown should see a lot of action in Week 1 for the Chargers.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Deciding who to start as your second back or third receiver can be a challenging decision, but it usually has a pretty easy path to follow. Which player has been hot lately? Who has the better matchup? Does either guy figure to get more targets in the passing game? How about his backup, will he vulture goal-line TDs? These are important questions, but quite often they're easy to answer.

However, many of the toughest lineup decisions these days are made at the flex position. In the old days, you always wanted a running back as your flex. That is no longer the case. Quite often, you're third receiver might be a better option than your third running back. In leagues that start two running backs, three receivers and a flex, typical of most 10-team leagues, your fourth receiver could conceivably be a better start in a given week than your third back. And in leagues where tight ends are eligible at the flex position, the process becomes even more convoluted. Your flex decision will often be the hardest choice you make every week, and it can frequently mean the difference between winning and losing.

Well, you're prayers are answered. What's that? You weren't praying for a flex guru in your life? Come on, of course you were, whether you knew it or not. Every week, right here in the flex barometer, we'll talk all things flex. We'll compare apples to oranges to bananas, discussing whether you'd rather start Stevan Ridley, Reggie Wayne or Jacob Tamme at your flex spot. We'll also take a look at the risers and fallers, telling you what newcomers deserve your flex attention, and which mainstays you might want to park on the bench for the time being. We'll also include a comprehensive list of the top-100 flex players from the week comprised of running backs, receivers and tight ends.

With this being the first week of the season, we don't have any new guys to report on yet, and we can't yet identify the players who may be falling out of favor. Instead, I'll offer up some fringe players who are flex worthy this week.

Ronnie Brown, Chargers -- With Ryan Mathews' status for Week 1 still up in the air thanks to a fractured clavicle, Brown will likely see more time than usual on Monday against the Raiders. Brown can do a lot of the same things Mathews does for the Chargers, albeit on a smaller scale. He's an adept pass-catcher, which has become a staple of San Diego's from LaDainian Tomlinson to Darren Sproles to Mathews. Brown can do that much better than Curtis Brinkley, so he should see the majority of the time if Mathews is out.

Rashad Jennings, Jaguars -- Even though Maurice Jones-Drew ended his holdout this week, Jennings will get the start Week 1 against the Vikings. Head coach Mike Mularkey said Jones-Drew will be used as a third-down back, with Jennings getting the bulk of the playing time. Jennings become a chic sleeper pick during Jones-Drew's holdout, but even though MJD is back in the fold, Jennings still has plenty of fantasy value. The Vikings don't figure to provide the best matchup, but Jennings should be started in all but the shallowest leagues. If you own him but not MJD, you may want to try and trade him after this week, especially if he performs well.

Montario Hardesty, Browns -- Trent Richardson returned to practice on Monday and is likely to play, but you have to think he'll at least be limited after missing the entire preseason with a knee injury. Hardesty will be the beneficiary of Richardson's increased time on the sidelines, and while he was uninspiring in limited action both last year and this preseason, opening the door for Brandon Jackson, he actually makes a decent flex option in deep leagues. The one worry is that the Eagles will blow out the Browns, relegating the run game to the backburner and putting the game in the hands of rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden. Still, Hardesty is worth a shot, depending on the composition of your roster.

Here are the top-100 flex options this week.

1. Arian Foster vs. MIA
2. LeSean McCoy at CLE
3. Ray Rice vs. CIN
4. Darren McFadden vs. SD
5. Calvin Johnson vs. STL
6. Matt Forte vs. IND
7. Chris Johnson vs. NE
8. Victor Cruz vs. DAL
9. A.J. Green at BAL
10. Jamaal Charles vs. ATL
11. Julio Jones at KC
12. DeMarco Murray at NYG
13. Brandon Marshall vs. IND
14. Larry Fitzgerald vs. SEA
15. Jimmy Graham vs. WAS
16. Doug Martin vs. CAR
17. Wes Welker at TEN
18. Fred Jackson at NYJ
19. Steven Jackson at DET
20. Greg Jennings vs. SF
21. Rob Gronkowski at TEN
22. Marshawn Lynch at ARI
23. Jordy Nelson vs. SF
24. Percy Harvin vs. JAC
25. Hakeem Nicks vs. DAL
26. Michael Turner at KC
27. Marques Colston vs. WAS
28. Jeremy Maclin at CLE
29. Ahmad Bradshaw vs. DAL
30. Donald Brown at CHI
31. Antonio Brown at DEN
32. Roddy White at KC
33. Darren Sproles vs. WAS
34. Steve Smith at TB
35. Frank Gore at GB
36. Mike Wallace at DEN
37. Dez Bryant at NYG
38. Reggie Bush at HOU
39. Kevin Smith vs. STL
40. Rashad Jennings at MIN
41. Aaron Hernandez at TEN
42. Pierre Garcon at NO
43. DeMaryius Thomas vs. PIT
44. Eric Decker vs. PIT
45. Fred Davis at NO
46. Vincent Jackson vs. CAR
47. Antonio Gates at OAK
48. Stevan Ridley at TEN
49. Willis McGahee vs. PIT
50. DeAngelo Williams at TB
51. Torrey Smith vs. CIN
52. Dwayne Bowe vs. ATL
53. C.J. Spiller at NYJ
54. Miles Austin at NYG
55. Reggie Wayne at CHI
56. Beanie Wells vs. SEA
57. Vernon Davis at GB
58. Brandon Lloyd at TEN
59. Steve Johnson at NYJ
60. BenJarvus Green-Ellis at BAL
61. Jermichael Finley vs. SF
62. Toby Gerhart vs. JAC
63. Shonn Greene vs. BUF
64. DeSean Jackson at CLE
65. Evan Royster at NO
66. Malcom Floyd at OAK
67. Roy Helu at NO
68. Isaac Redman at DEN
69. Robert Meachem at OAK
70. Darrius Heyward-Bey vs. SD
71. Nate Washington vs. NE
72. Michael Bush vs. IND
73. Brandon Pettigrew vs. STL
74. Michael Crabtree at GB
75. Ronnie Brown at OAK
76. Ben Tate vs. MIA
77. Alfred Morris at NO
78. Anquan Boldin vs. CIN
79. Greg Little vs. PHI
80. Peyton Hillis vs. ATL
81. Cedric Benson vs. SF
82. Justin Blackmon at MIN
83. Santonio Holmes vs. BUF
84. Lance Moore vs. WAS
85. Danny Amendola at DET
86. Jared Cook vs. NE
87. David Wilson vs. DAL
88. Ryan Williams vs. SEA
89. Jacob Tamme vs. PIT
90. Jonathan Stewart at TB
91. Titus Young vs. STL
92. Mike Williams vs. CAR
93. Maurice Jones-Drew at MIN
94. Jonathan Dwyer at DEN
95. Tony Gonzalez at KC
96. Jonathan Baldwin vs. ATL
97. Mark Ingram vs. WAS
98. Robert Turbin at ARI
99. Mario Manningham at GB
100. Brent Celek at CLE

Chat with me on Twitter, @MBeller

 
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