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. 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

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