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Flex-spending: Who should play?

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. MIA2. LeSean McCoy at CLE3. Ray Rice vs. CIN4. Darren McFadden vs. SD5. Calvin Johnson vs. STL6. Matt Forte vs. IND7. Chris Johnson vs. NE8. Victor Cruz vs. DAL9. A.J. Green at BAL10. Jamaal Charles vs. ATL11. Julio Jones at KC12. DeMarco Murray at NYG13. Brandon Marshall vs. IND14. Larry Fitzgerald vs. SEA15. Jimmy Graham vs. WAS16. Doug Martin vs. CAR17. Wes Welker at TEN18. Fred Jackson at NYJ19. Steven Jackson at DET20. Greg Jennings vs. SF21. Rob Gronkowski at TEN22. Marshawn Lynch at ARI23. Jordy Nelson vs. SF24. Percy Harvin vs. JAC25. Hakeem Nicks vs. DAL26. Michael Turner at KC27. Marques Colston vs. WAS28. Jeremy Maclin at CLE29. Ahmad Bradshaw vs. DAL30. Donald Brown at CHI31. Antonio Brown at DEN32. Roddy White at KC33. Darren Sproles vs. WAS34. Steve Smith at TB35. Frank Gore at GB36. Mike Wallace at DEN37. Dez Bryant at NYG38. Reggie Bush at HOU39. Kevin Smith vs. STL40. Rashad Jennings at MIN41. Aaron Hernandez at TEN42. Pierre Garcon at NO43. DeMaryius Thomas vs. PIT44. Eric Decker vs. PIT45. Fred Davis at NO46. Vincent Jackson vs. CAR47. Antonio Gates at OAK48. Stevan Ridley at TEN49. Willis McGahee vs. PIT50. DeAngelo Williams at TB51. Torrey Smith vs. CIN52. Dwayne Bowe vs. ATL53. C.J. Spiller at NYJ54. Miles Austin at NYG55. Reggie Wayne at CHI56. Beanie Wells vs. SEA57. Vernon Davis at GB58. Brandon Lloyd at TEN59. Steve Johnson at NYJ60. BenJarvus Green-Ellis at BAL61. Jermichael Finley vs. SF62. Toby Gerhart vs. JAC63. Shonn Greene vs. BUF64. DeSean Jackson at CLE65. Evan Royster at NO66. Malcom Floyd at OAK67. Roy Helu at NO68. Isaac Redman at DEN69. Robert Meachem at OAK70. Darrius Heyward-Bey vs. SD71. Nate Washington vs. NE72. Michael Bush vs. IND73. Brandon Pettigrew vs. STL74. Michael Crabtree at GB75. Ronnie Brown at OAK76. Ben Tate vs. MIA77. Alfred Morris at NO78. Anquan Boldin vs. CIN79. Greg Little vs. PHI80. Peyton Hillis vs. ATL81. Cedric Benson vs. SF82. Justin Blackmon at MIN83. Santonio Holmes vs. BUF84. Lance Moore vs. WAS85. Danny Amendola at DET86. Jared Cook vs. NE87. David Wilson vs. DAL88. Ryan Williams vs. SEA89. Jacob Tamme vs. PIT90. Jonathan Stewart at TB91. Titus Young vs. STL92. Mike Williams vs. CAR93. Maurice Jones-Drew at MIN94. Jonathan Dwyer at DEN95. Tony Gonzalez at KC96. Jonathan Baldwin vs. ATL97. Mark Ingram vs. WAS98. Robert Turbin at ARI99. Mario Manningham at GB100. Brent Celek at CLE

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