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Dear Mr. Fantasy: Go all-in on Hartline

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Sarcasm. It doesn't always come across in print.

Without the benefit of emoticons, which are generally reserved for instant messages and sorority newsletters, the author has to rely exclusively on words. Words have meaning. Sarcasm changes that meaning. Thus, if the arrangement of words doesn't reveal the intended sarcasm, the meaning is not only lost, but misconstrued as the opposite.

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The moral: If you're going to resort to sarcasm to make your point, you better make darn sure the world knows it's sarcasm, even if that means hinting at the sarcasm by pontificating on the general use of sarcasm in a seemingly irrelevant introduction.

Just something to keep in mind as you read this first question.

Should I trade DeMarco Murray and Donald Brown for Darren McFadden and Ben Tate? -- @smo_13 (via Twitter)

SW: Why? Because Murray had a stinker Monday night? Yeah, and McFadden is shredding defenses left and right. Three games with fewer than 35 yards on the ground? Talk about a competitive advantage. I'm surprised Roger Goddell isn't investigating it by now.

And that's even with McFadden having to face the Chargers already. If there's one thing Norv Turner knows, it's defense, boy howdy. Murray could learn something by watching the film of that game. He's been going up against the Seahawks, Buccaneers and Bears lately. Man, will the Cowboys ever face someone legit?

It's not like McFadden and Murray were drafted two spots apart or anything. Nope, not on my watch. The only way you could argue they're on equal footing now is if Murray had outrageously outperformed McFadden up to this point. Similar production counts for nothing.

Don't even get me started on Brown. Indianapolis is like an ever-revolving door of running backs, none of which Andrew Luck actually needs. Three starts? Shoot, he's practically Steve DeBerg these days.

Now, Tate -- you know nobody's going to interfere with him. I, for one, can't imagine the Texans offense without him. Talk about irreplaceable. Who knows where they'd be if they hadn't given him those five carries last week? Mercy me. Remember what football was like before he came into the league? All those passes. All that risk. He revolutionized the game, that one, reminding offensive coordinators that it's OK to run. I tell you, nothing says offensive efficiency like handing the ball to the player behind you.

Come on now. It's not like by making this trade, you'd be swapping out a handcuff option for a legitimate every-down back without losing anything in the other half of the move. Please.

Should I drop Donald Brown, Kyle Rudolph or Brandon Pettigrew for Brian Hartline? What about Jackie Battle? -- @jayceex37 (via Twitter)

SW: The sarcasm was limited to the first question, so you can take this statement at face value: I'm all-in on Hartline. Here and now, I'm officially declaring him one of my guys.

We already know his monster performance in Week 4 isn't a one-time deal because he also had one in Week 2. No, he didn't finish with 12 catches for 253 yards, but nine for 111 is about as much as you can expect from any wide receiver any given week. Considering Hartline had eight and nine targets in his two "bad" games -- which is exactly what Julio Jones had in the two games he was targeted most -- you could argue he'd have four 100-yard games with better quarterback play.

And here's the kicker: He's going to have better quarterback play. Ryan Tannehill has looked more comfortable with each passing week, following a continual progression that should be the norm for a first-round pick like him. No, the Dolphins won't be offensive juggernauts by season's end, but as Tannehill has more success throwing the ball, Hartline's numbers will steadily rise. How could they not? Clearly, he's the rookie's favorite target.

Would I drop Rudolph or Pettigrew for him? Honestly, who needs two tight ends? If given the choice, I'd prefer to drop Pettigrew since his role as an underneath route runner precludes him from big yardage, but I wouldn't let Rudolph stop me either. Would I drop Brown for Hartline? That's a bit of a stretch. Say what you want about his lack of his production so far, but he's the only legitimate backfield option on a team that will have to lean on its running game a fair amount with a rookie quarterback under center. Every-down backs are hard to find, and when the easier portion of Brown's schedule gets here, you'll be glad you held on to him.

So what about Battle? If you're picking him up, it should be strictly out of need. The Chargers only began splitting carries between him and Mathews because Mathews had a critical fumble in Week 3. When Mathews regains their trust, he'll regain the lion's share of the workload since he's clearly the superior rusher. Battle is probably worth more to you than a second tight end, especially with a favorable matchup at the Saints this week, but he's waiver fodder in the long run.

I need a quarterback. Should I trade Alfred Morris, Tony Gonzalez, Matt Schaub and DeSean Jackson for Robert Griffin III and Reggie Bush? -- @edjk38 (via Twitter)

Most Traded Players (as of 10/03)
Player # of trades
1. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans 3,719
2. Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins 2,110
3. Cedric Benson, RB, Packers 1,850
4. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons 1,791
5. Steven Jackson, RB, Rams 1,622
6. Mikel Leshoure, RB, Lions 1,613
7. Andre Brown, RB, Giants 1,501
8. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys 1,441
9. Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins 1,388
10. Ryan Williams, RB, Cardinals 1,387

SW: Um ... yeah.

When it comes to trading, I have an overriding principle that applies in about 98 percent of all cases: Don't trade two for one unless you're the side getting the one. It sounds backward, but think about it. If a guy offers you two players for one, it's because he knows neither of his players can individually meet the value of your one. It's a surefire sign that your player is the best of the three. Why is that a big deal? Because you live and by your studs. They're the ones putting up the steadiest numbers from week to week and the biggest numbers over the course of the season.

Serviceable players are serviceable, obviously, but chances are you'll be able to match their production via waiver claims throughout the year. If you clog up your roster with a bunch of serviceable types, you'll not only block yourself from making those waiver claims, but you'll limit your team's ultimate ceiling.

I realize this isn't a 2-for-1 trade, but it's something even better: a 4-for-2 trade. I may not have sat in a math class in 10 years, which puts me at a disadvantage in the way of fancy book learnin', but from what I can tell, that's like two 2-for-1 trades in one. Consider my mind blown.

The acquisition of Griffin solves your quarterback problem. Boy, does it. You wouldn't think lightning would strike twice after what Cam Newton did as a rookie last year, but so far, Griffin is matching him feat for feat. Shoot, he may be even better. We have yet to see him falter in the passing game, but you can bet whenever he does, he'll have more than enough rushing yards to make up for it. The upgrade from Schaub, who's more like a designated handoff specialist than a quarterback some weeks, is well worth the sacrifice of Jackson, who you'll never entirely trust from week to week given the capricious nature of the Eagles' passing game.

The move from Morris to Bush is an upgrade as well. Lately, I've come around on Morris, whose job appears safer than I ever thought possible on a Mike Shanahan-coached team now that Roy Helu is on IR, but I see Bush putting up the better numbers over the course of the season. He's been a little banged up the last two weeks, allowing Morris to surge ahead of him, but he's the focus of the Dolphins offense, which should make his big games bigger than anything Morris provides. Plus, he's much more of a receiving threat and won't forfeit goal-line carries to his quarterback. For that upgrade, I'm willing to sacrifice Gonzalez, who's good but doesn't project for significantly better numbers than the Dennis Pittas and Martellus Bennetts of the world.

Ben Roethlisberger or Christian Ponder this week? Ponder scares me after what happened last week. -- @NixcoPlb (via Twitter)

SW: Scare you he should. Last week, he reintroduced us all to the dangers of hasty prognostication. Just because a guy throws for 200 yards and two scores a couple times doesn't mean it's the new baseline for him. With Adrian Peterson in the backfield, the Vikings don't need Ponder to win it for them. At this stage of his career, some games are just about gaining experience.

Roethlisberger, on the other hand, has already learned everything he's going to learn. The Steelers know they can lean on him and have pretty much been forced to with Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer stinking up the backfield so far. I'm going to guess Rashard Mendenhall's rushed return from a torn ACL isn't going to change the direction of the offense too much. He's steady enough to keep defenses honest, but he doesn't have Peterson's game-breaking potential.

I'll go as far as to say you should plan on starting Roethlisberger every week the rest of the way. The only games that give me pause are Weeks 11 and 13 against the Ravens, but considering the Vikings are on bye for the first one and at Green Bay for the second, I'm going to guess Roethlisberger will be your better option even then.

Since I have DeMarco Murray, Stevan Ridley and Ryan Williams available to me, should I give up Ahmad Bradshaw and Greg Jennings for Larry Fitzgerald? Or would you rather give up Williams? -- @logger_up (via Twitter)

SW: Bradshaw and Jennings for Fitzgerald is an acceptable deal, but Williams and Jennings for Fitzgerald is a steal.

Some people might claim the value doesn't match up in either scenario. They might claim that, in a perfect world, Jennings is about equal to Fitzgerald. But in a little place I like to call the real world, where Jennings has been dealing with a groin injury for the last couple weeks, Fitzgerald is looking like the safer bet for big numbers from week to week. Not only is Jennings at risk of missing more time after aggravating the injury Sunday, but he's perpetually at risk of getting squeezed out when he plays. Between him, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley, Aaron Rodgers has a lot of mouths to feed. He can't satisfy everyone every week.

OK, so Jennings is inconsistent and injured. We knew that already. The real issue here is whether the trade up to Fitzgerald is worth giving up the second player. Hey, if that second player is just going to waste on your bench, why not? Even in leagues that offer a flex spot, you can't start more than three running backs. What good is that fourth one to you? I understand he allows you to play matchups and can fill in on bye weeks, but if you're forced to start someone like Andrew Hawkins for a month -- or however long Jennings misses with this injury -- that luxury is more like an inefficiency. The need for a top wide receiver is bigger than the need for a bye-week replacement. Who knows? An even better bye-week replacement could emerge off the waiver wire in the weeks ahead.

So why deal Williams instead of Bradshaw? Because you'd be losing flexibility with this deal, you want to keep the running back who you know is capable of putting up starter-caliber numbers. Bradshaw has done it the last two years, and the distribution of carries between him and Andre Brown last week shows the Giants are still counting on him to be their top backfield option. Williams, on the other hand, has yet to prove he's even competent against NFL defenses. He had 83 yards on 13 carries against the Eagles in Week 3, sure, but in his other three games, he has a combined 48 yards on 31 carries. He has less competition for touches than Bradshaw, which is why he has value in the first place, but I wouldn't want to have to rely on him on a week-to-week basis.

I'm not pleased with Philip Rivers' numbers. I could trade him and Brandon Lloyd for Andrew Luck and Percy Harvin in a dynasty league that awards a point per reception. Should I chance it? -- @pflogeras (via Twitter)

SW: You couldn't ask for a more perfect format for this deal. Frankly, I'm surprised the other guy's willing to consider it.

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Rivers is worth more than Luck this year, but not by much -- not like we were thinking in August, when Rivers was coming off his fourth straight 4,000-yard season and Luck had yet to throw an NFL pass. Luck hasn't been too far behind Robert Griffin III in terms of immediate impact, throwing for 300 yards in two of his first three games and throwing multiple touchdown passes in two of his first three. We probably haven't seen the worst of him yet, but we've seen enough for me to believe you can get away with starting him.

And when you factor in the keeper implications, you want to be the one who gets away with it. Luck was the best quarterback prospect since John Elway. What he's doing now is just the tip of the iceberg. Lock him up now, and you'll be set at the quarterback position for the next 12-plus years.

The wide receiver swap makes this deal a runaway victory for you. Just in the context of this season, I'd rather have Harvin, particularly in a PPR format. Based on the way the Vikings have used him so far, relying on screens and other high-percentage passes that allow him to pick up yards after the catch, he looks he'll be a threat for double-digit catches every single week. Lloyd has had a couple of games with near double-digit catches himself, but historically, he's more of a deep-ball threat, which means he'll usually be limited to five or six.

Besides, in a dynasty league, Harvin certainly has more longevity at age 24 than Lloyd does at age 31.

Would you drop Randall Cobb or Titus Young for Andre Roberts? Too early or just not a scenario worth considering? -- @zac_barrow12 (via Twitter)

SW: Your second question presumes I'll say no to the first, which I think is kind of funny -- especially since I'm about to introduce you to three fellas known in some circles as Y-E-S.

To both. OK, it's a little more debatable with Cobb, especially with Greg Jennings' health in question, but Young I want out of my life.

I'm all about patience with early-round investments, not wanting to punt on elite-level talent just because the first four weeks didn't go as scripted. Matthew Stafford? Oh, he's fine. Even Chris Johnson I was willing to give the benefit of the doubt in last week's column. But these two? Young was just a sleeper on Draft Day, and I'll bet you plucked Cobb off the waiver wire in Week 1. What makes them so deserving of your loyalty?

By now, I think we can tell Young is still behind the immortal Nate Burleson on the depth chart and Cobb isn't much good for anything other than shovel passes. Maybe that's the way it'll be all season. Maybe not. But the bigger issue here is that if you cut these two, no one else will pick them up. Their value wasn't high enough to begin with. By stashing them, you're just wasting crucial roster space that you could be using to protect players with more immediate value.

I don't know what's going to become of Roberts. He looks like the No. 2 wide receiver in Arizona behind Larry Fitzgerald and has been more productive than expected with Kevin Kolb stepping up his production in recent weeks. Maybe it's just a fluke, but if he puts up 80 yards and a touchdown this week, chances are you won't have another shot at him.

It's just the logical move to make at this point. Sometimes in Fantasy Football, you're better off going with the flow.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB or Facebook . You can also follow Scott via Twitter @CBSScottWhite .

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