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Dear Mr. Fantasy: Patience is wearing thin

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The Bills have an actual buffalo on the sides of their helmets, which would be like the Raiders having an oak tree or the Jaguars having a portrait of Andrew Jackson.

You kind of just have to accept that they do things backward.

Yeah, they looked like one thing coming into the season, but after a blowout victory and two come-from-behind victories, including one against the mighty Patriots, you can pretty much conclude that the bad are actually quite good.

If nothing else, their offense is. An average of 37.7 points in three games is hard to dispute, meaning you can trust that Ryan Fitzpatrick, Fred Jackson and Steve Johnson are more or less who they say they are. It's not a complete surprise given the flashes of greatness they've shown in the past. It just doesn't make much sense given where they were drafted in Fantasy.

But again, they have an actual buffalo on the sides of their helmets.

Time to sell high on Ryan Fitzpatrick? I have Rashard Mendenhall, Frank Gore, Cedric Benson and Joseph Addai at running back. I'm currently starting Matt Schaub at quarterback. I can get Peyton Hillis for Fitzpatrick straight-up. Is that a good deal? -- Vince Smith (via Twitter)

SW: Fitpatrick may be a logical player for you to trade right now, but I don't know that you'd be selling high on him. Granted, it's easier to admit in retrospect, but the Harvard grad was a surprisingly productive Fantasy quarterback last year as well, throwing for multiple touchdowns and at least 200 yards in five of his 13 starts. He's only more experienced in that offense now, so I get the impression that his numbers through the first three games are exactly what they should be.

Of course, because you have Schaub at quarterback, Fitzpatrick's greatest value to you is as a trade chip. The depth doesn't hurt, of course, but when you have a need elsewhere on your roster, a stellar backup quarterback is a luxury you can't afford.

You, Vince, clearly have a need. You probably didn't feel that way coming out of the draft, but given the way the first three weeks have gone, you can't feel confident about your stable of running backs. The only one of the four I'm still confident will finish with starter-caliber numbers is Mendenhall -- and not everyone feels that way about him.

We've seen enough from the Colts offense by now to know that Addai won't be a reliable option, and Gore, whether because of last season's hip fracture, his recent contract or the 49ers' struggles on offense, doesn't seem to be the same player anymore. I'm not saying you'll never have reason to start either again, but relative to the running backs that most other teams have in their lineups, they'll be liabilities more often than not.

Benson might end up OK since the Bengals will likely continue to lean on him with a rookie under center, but he figures to miss the next few weeks because of a suspension. With those four running backs, you're probably in a big enough hole already that you can't afford to wait for him to return.

For as much attention as Hillis got as a bust candidate coming into the season, he's still the focal point of the Browns offense and a factor in both the running and passing games. He's the kind of running back you can trust on an every-week basis, which is exactly the kind that you desperately need. You should feel good about this deal, Vince.

What should Ben Tate owners do with Arian Foster on his way back? -- Craig Wilson (via Twitter)

SW: Can't have a Dear Mr. Fantasy without an assessment of the Texans backfield, can we?

Yes, Foster appears to be in good shape for Week 4. Coach Gary Kubiak gave his most optimistic update yet Monday, saying Foster at least has a chance to be full-go Sunday. The Texans sat him in Week 3 after giving him limited touches in Week 2, so dating back to the preseason, he'll have had about five weeks of rest heading into Sunday's game. That's enough to heal a strained hamstring, right?

Still, I'm skeptical the Texans will turn Foster loose in (sort of) his first game back. They don't need to given the way Ben Tate performed in his absence. Over time, the Texans will probably turn more and more of the carries over to Foster since he's by far the better blocker and the superior player overall, but in his first game back -- well, sort of his first game back -- you shouldn't hope for much more than a 50-50 split.

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For that reason -- not to mention the fairly high probability that Foster suffers a setback -- I'm holding on to Tate for now. Frankly, I'd like to hold on to him all season if possible. Unlike most handcuff options, he's guaranteed to put up big numbers if he gets the opportunity. We've already seen it. And who knows? Maybe he performed well enough in the first three games to earn more of a timeshare with Foster than I'm predicting.

Most likely, we'll learn a lot more about the Texans' backfield situation in Week 4, so sit tight. Fortunately, the Texans are facing the Steelers in the contest, which eliminates the dilemma over which running back to start for at least one week. With that matchup, you wouldn't want to start either if you can help it.

Someone offered me Cam Newton for Shonn Greene. I have Maurice Jones-Drew and Daniel Thomas as my other running backs. My current quarterback is Matt Schaub. Should I make this trade? -- Reed Toombs (via Facebook)

SW: Having Newton as your backup couldn't hurt, but honestly, when would you start him over Schaub?

Oh, you plan to play the matchups, do you? Yeah, that worked out great in Week 3, when Newton had the good fortune of facing the Jaguars. Too bad he ended up having his worst game by far.

Face it: If you have a proven commodity like Schaub at quarterback, you're never going to sit him for your backup, even if that backup is as good as Newton. A stud quarterback is the most consistent weapon in Fantasy -- one that often transcends matchups because his team relies so heavily on the passing game. Remember how Tony Romo was a bad start at the Jets in Week 1? Yeah, two touchdowns and 326 yards say otherwise.

I'm not saying you should never play the matchups at quarterback. If you drafted a shaky option like Josh Freeman as your starter, then a supplemental option like Newton, Joe Flacco or Eli Manning is vital to your team's success. But you can't touch Schaub. He's capable of monster numbers any given week.

With this deal, Newton's purpose on your team would be as a bye-week replacement. You'd be trading a starting-caliber running back for excess.

What about Greene? Isn't he excess? If you want to get technical about it, yeah. Assuming your league doesn't offer a flex spot, you might not need Greene if you have Jones-Drew and Thomas starting at running back. But I'm guessing at some point you'll be glad you have him.

Running backs are different from quarterbacks. Not only are they more likely to get hurt -- which is especially noteworthy since you'll need two healthy options every week -- but they're also more susceptible to matchups. A team can abandon the running game if it isn't having much success with it early a lot easier that it can abandon the passing game. Plus, look at the names here. A player like Thomas isn't nearly the certainty that Schaub is. What if he fumbles four times next week and the Dolphins lose all confidence in him? That kind of stuff happens to rookies.

No matter how you break it down, Reed, this deal doesn't make sense for you. You'd be risking too much for a part you don't need. If you're really desperate for a backup quarterback, take a look at Matt Hasselbeck or Rex Grossman off the waiver wire.

Is it wise to give up on Dallas Clark for a waiver wire tight end like Brandon Pettigrew or someone else? -- Quackinthe319 (via Twitter)

SW: I'm willing to give Clark the benefit of the doubt for at least a week or two more. For one thing, I want to see how he fares now that Kerry Collins is likely to miss time with a concussion. Maybe the inexperienced Curtis Painter will lean on Clark more as an underneath option than Collins did.

But even if Collins makes a quick return in Week 4, Clark's potential is still too high for me to pull the plug on him after only three weeks.

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I understand he hasn't been great so far. He hasn't even had a 40-yard game. But he has 19 targets and a touchdown to his credit, which shows that the Colts clearly haven't forgotten about him. They may not be able to get him the ball as often as they did with Peyton Manning under center, but as long as they keep trying, Clark will have his games of 75-plus yards. Even a low-end quarterback like Collins is capable of throwing for 150-200 yards every time out. You have to figure Clark and Reggie Wayne will be on the receiving end of most of them.

You want to know how much Clark's value can change with one big game? Pettigrew is a perfect example. Through two games, the Lions tight end had only five catches for 64 yards, ranking him behind Clark in both categories. One 11-catch, 112-yard game later, he's the hottest thing off the waiver wire. Who's to say Clark won't do in Week 4 what Pettigrew did in Week 3?

And who's to say another Pettigrew won't emerge off the waiver wire down the line? One of the main reasons why you can afford patience with Clark right now is because the supply of Fantasy-relevant tight ends outweighs the demand. Because most Fantasy leagues offer only one tight end slot and because most Fantasy owners wouldn't want to use a tight end in their flex slot, you'll rarely see more than 12 tight ends in play at once.

Would you be dissatisfied starting any of Rob Gronkowski, Jermichael Finley, Jason Witten, Jimmy Graham, Aaron Hernandez, Dustin Keller, Tony Gonzalez, Fred Davis, Greg Olsen, Owen Daniels, Vernon Davis or Scott Chandler? That's 12 without even mentioning Clark or Pettigrew ... or the banged-up Antonio Gates, for that matter.

Give Clark a week or two more to adjust to life without Manning. If he still doesn't, you can always replace him later.

Who should I start in Week 4: Darren Sproles or Thomas Jones? -- Jeremiah Davis (via Twitter)

SW: I'd go with Sproles here. Jones didn't have a stellar debut as the Chiefs' starting running back in Week 3, picking up just 31 yards on 14 carries. Granted, he was facing a solid Chargers defense, but the bottom line is he's a 33-year-old with over 2,500 career carries on a team without a steady passing game to keep defenses honest. I'll need to see it to believe it.

Sproles may not be the most consistent Fantasy option as a less-than-every-down player on an offense with more weapons than the Jaguars, Seahawks and 49ers combined, but in three weeks, he has yet to give his Fantasy owners reason to complain. He managed to catch six passes even with Lance Moore back from injury and playing a key role in the passing game in Week 3, coexisting with the Saints' primary underneath route runner in a way Reggie Bush never could. Plus, Sproles' quickness gives him a chance to break off a big play every time he touches the ball, regardless of the matchup.

If it helps, he has a favorable matchup at Jacksonville in Week 4 while Jones has a less-than-enticing one against the Vikings. But even if the matchups were reversed, you wouldn't want to start Jones until he gives you a reason to start him.

I have Joe Flacco and Josh Freeman at quarterback and Larry Fitzgerald, Wes Welker and Mike Wallace at wide receiver. Should I trade a wide receiver for a top-tier quarterback, or am I OK? -- Ernie Rupp (via Twitter)

SW: Maybe with Freeman as your only viable option, you'd be in trouble, Ernie, but with Flacco also available, I think you're in pretty good shape.

Flacco has had two great games and one terrible game so far. Considering he was a good Fantasy option more often than not last year, throwing for multiple touchdowns in nine of his 16 starts, I'm of the belief that the two will be more common than the one.

Of course, the Ravens are still defined by their defense, and as a defensive-minded team with a quality running back in Ray Rice, they could at times make Flacco a lesser part of the game plan. If that ends up being the case this year, as it was many times last year, Freeman will be a worthy platoon partner. He might not be having the Fantasy breakout that everyone expected, but he's still the most important offensive weapon on a team with a legitimate chance of making the playoffs.

For Week 4, you'll want to sit Flacco because he's facing the Jets, but if he has a good performance off your bench, then you'll have every reason to believe you can trust him on a week-to-week basis going forward. If he doesn't, it doesn't necessarily mean you can't trust him, but it'll reinforce the need to be selective with him, starting him mostly in games that figure to be high-scoring, such as Week 6 against the Texans and Week 8 against the Cardinals.

If nothing else, the combination of Flacco and Freeman gives you the luxury of waiting to see how big of a need you actually have at the position. Give it a try and see where it takes you. If you're 3-5 after eight weeks, you'll still have the option of trading one of those wide receivers.

Should I sit Michael Turner (at Seattle) for Fred Jackson (at Cincinnati) in Week 4? I only see Turner putting up good numbers when the Falcons have a lead. Lately, they've been playing from behind and not giving him the ball enough. Jackson seems to be a big part of the offense whether the Bills are trailing or in the lead. -- Joseph Mata (via Facebook)

SW: You're right about one thing, Joseph: You have to like what you've seen from Jackson so far. He always had the talent but was at times easy to shut down as the only weapon on a miserable Bills offense. Now that the Bills actually have a passing game, we're seeing the full extent of his abilities. And, yes, they're extensive.

He can break off a big run. He can work at the goal line. He can catch the ball. He's the definition of an old-school Fantasy running back -- a guy who can do everything out of the backfield. If he keeps it up, he has the potential for first-round production.

My one word of caution is that Turner already is a first-round talent and has been for the last few years. I wouldn't want you to get the wrong idea about him coming off an 11-carry, 20-yard performance at Tampa Bay in Week 3. The Falcons weren't throwing the ball over and over again simply because they were trailing. They did it because the Buccaneers forced them to do it by completely neutralizing the running game.

Some teams will take that approach with them, but Matt Ryan is a good enough quarterback that not every team will. And when the Falcons can lean on the running game -- which has always been their preference during the Mike Smith era -- Turner is a near lock for a 100-yard game. Shoot, he did it the first two weeks of the season. You're going to sour on him because of one bad game?

You really can't go wrong here. Jackson might have the slightly tougher matchup, but it's still a halfway decent one. If you feel more confident with him than Turner right now, go ahead and start him. Just don't be surprised if Turner also has a big game against the Seahawks.

Who's the better Kenny Britt replacement off the waiver wire: Antonio Brown, Brandon Gibson or Torrey Smith? -- Craig Cozort (via Facebook)

SW: If you're in the unfortunate position of having to replace Britt, keep in mind what exactly you're replacing. The guy had 271 receiving yards and three touchdowns in two games. Brown and Gibson have a combined 285 receiving yards and one touchdown in three games.

I'm not pointing out the numbers to rub salt in the wound but to emphasize the need to think big. When it comes to replacing Britt, cutesy peripheral players like Brown and Gibson aren't going to cut it.

I don't know where exactly Smith's 2011 season goes from here. I don't know if he goes back to being a spare part once Lee Evans returns from an ankle injury, and even if he doesn't, I don't know if Joe Flacco will continue to look his way over Anquan Boldin. But I do know he had five catches for 152 yards and three touchdowns at St. Louis in Week 3, which means, unlike Brown and Gibson, he at least has the capacity for big numbers.

It's not the safe pickup, but it's the right pickup given what you're trying to replace. Because if this pray-for-rain-type pickup doesn't pan out, your only hope of getting anything close to Britt-like production from the slot he used to fill is by making a trade.

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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Player News
Drops plaguing Eric Ebron
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:14 am ET) Lions first-round pick Eric Ebron, who struggled with drops in college, has had "an inordinate number of dropped passes" through offseason workouts and the first two days of training camp, reports the Detroit Free Press. Coach Jim Caldwell says he's not concerned.

"It’s tough for any young guy that’s coming in to a system, particularly at the position he plays," Caldwell told the paper. "One thing I think people don’t quite understand about playing a tight end position, you can probably notice that he lines up in a number of different places. He lines up at a true tight end position, so he’s got to know all the blocking schemes, routes from there. He lines up at an auxiliary (position), what we can an F, so he’s got to know all the protections at that particular location as well as the routes. And then we also put him in the backfield.

"This guy literally has to know the slot receiver, the regular tight end and also a position out of the backfield as if he’s a fullback. So it’s not easy for him."

Caldwell said Ebron "has an unusual skill set" and will continue to improve.


Ronnie Hillman currently No. 2 in Denver
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:09 am ET) The Broncos' Ronnie Hillman has "usually been the second running back up behind [Montee] Ball and has been effective so far in training camp," reports the team's website. Hillman, who's ahead of C.J. Anderson, is "hitting the holes well," the report said.

The website said there's a sizable gap between those top three backs and four newcomers trying to make the team.


David Wilson to be re-evaluated next week
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:05 am ET) Giants running back David Wilson won't practice the rest of this week and will miss the team's preseason game Sunday vs. the Bills before getting checked out next Monday, the Bergen Record reported Wednesday. Dr. Cammisa, who performed the fusion surgery on Wilson in January, will check him out at the Hospital for Special Surgery, the Newark Star-Ledger reported

Wilson suffered a neck "burner" in practice Tuesday, an injury that deals with trauma to the neck or shoulder area that involves temporarily pain, tingling or numbness. Wilson had offseason neck fusion surgery and was cleared for training camp. 


Chip Kelly says 'there's no set number' for LeSean McCoy's touches
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:55 am ET) After totaling 366 touches last season (314 carries, 52 catches), it was presumed that the Eagles would make sure they didn't over-utilize LeSean McCoy this season. Adding Darren Sproles and keeping Chris Polk seemed to speak to that. But the Eagles' official website caught head coach Chip Kelly telling SiriusXM NFL Radio that there is no limit on McCoy. 

"I don't know if there's a set number," Kelly said of McCoy's touches. "Some guys can handle it, but our strength and conditioning staff and our athletic trainers do an unbelievable job of evaluating our players weekly. There's times where I say, 'Hey, do we need to back off?' They're like, 'No, we can even go harder with him,' because all of our players are investing in themselves. They're getting the proper amount of sleep. They're eating the right way. They're doing what we've asked them to do. They understand it because they feel really good."

On those 366 touches, McCoy had a career-best 1,607 rush yards, 2,146 total yards and 11 total touchdowns (his second-best). Another big season is in store. 


Patrick Peterson lands a mammoth extension
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:39 am ET) The Cardinals announced that they've signed cornerback Patrick Peterson to a five-year extension worth $70 million that includes just over $48 million in guarantees. Peterson announced the deal himself on Twitter. He's now the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL. 

Through three seasons, Peterson has 161 total tackles, 12 interceptions, 42 passes defensed and a pair of fumble recoveries. He also has four punt returns for a touchdown, all coming in his 2011 rookie year.

Most impressive of all, Peterson has not missed a game in his short career. 


Cowboys rookie DE Demarcus Lawrence out up to 12 weeks
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:29 am ET) Cowboys rookie defensive end Demarcus Lawrence broke his right foot on Tuesday and will miss 8 to 12 weeks, NFL Network reported. His timetable suggests he'll be back by, at the earliest, Week 5 vs. the Texans. 

Andre Johnson still sitting out practice
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:24 am ET) Texans receiver Andre Johnson has missed a second straight day of practice, Comcast Sportsnet reported Wednesday morning. Johnson tweaked his hamstring while making a diving catch two days ago. There is no definitive word on when he'll be back. 

Arian Foster back at Texans practice
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:22 am ET) After missing a couple of days with what was believed to be a hamstring injury, the Texans got running back Arian Foster back on the practice field on Wednesday, Comcast Sportsnet reported. Foster figures to be the primary running back for the team this season. 

Coach: Stephen Hill 'healthy and confident' unlike last year
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/29/2014) Jets receivers coach Sanjay Lal notices a major difference with Stephen Hill as he enters his third year in the NFL.

"Healthy and confident," Lal told The Star-Ledger. "That’s the biggest thing. I think he’s believing, and believing in himself – and it’s starting to show."

Hill struggled with knee injuries, inconsistency and dropped passes his first two seasons.

"It’s been the injuries that have hindered it and kind of somewhat made it harder than it could have been," Lal said. "He’s taken the coaching the whole time. Now, he’s able to do it physically, so it’s just kind of coming together right now."

Hill has a chance to be the No. 2 receiver behind Eric Decker.


Steven Jackson misses practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/29/2014) Falcons running back Steven Jackson missed Tuesday's practice, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The team has not said whether Jackson is hurt or just getting a day off.

 
 
 
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