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Fantasy & Reality: Addition by subtraction

Senior Fantasy Writer
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There isn't a ton of advice to impart with two games left in the regular season of Fantasy Football (assuming your playoffs kick in Week 14). But if there's a basic principle that everyone should keep in mind when looking over their rosters, it's this: Be prepared.

What if you lost Adrian Peterson to a high-ankle sprain? Or Jay Cutler to a broken thumb? Or Jeremy Maclin, Julio Jones or Miles Austin to a nagging hamstring injury? Would your roster be ready for such calamities? If it's not, then it's time to get ready. You've got two important games left to play in your leagues, so getting your rosters fine-tuned so that they're ready for the playoff push is mighty important.

You need to have the right guys on your bench -- just in case.

Let's start at running back, where there are all sorts of depth issues to cover. If you did well on Draft Day or played the waivers right, you might be loaded at running back -- so much so that you're making tough lineup decisions among Top-15 players every week. Obviously you're not cutting anyone there; you just need to make good choices from week to week.

Then there are the real-life handcuffs, who are important for obvious reasons too. If Arian Foster is your top back, it makes sense to have Ben Tate or even Derrick Ward, so that if bad news comes you won't have to panic.

Not all handcuffs are created equal, though. Think Toby Gerhart will produce anything close to what Adrian Peterson puts up in a given week? Ditto that for Cadillac Williams in St. Louis with Steven Jackson and the pair of underachieving rushers in Seattle behind Marshawn Lynch. In some cases it might be better to back up your studs with the best available running backs out there rather than their second stringers, though getting both might be ideal.

Here's a look at all the backup running backs in the league as it stands right now. We've ranked them in order of most desirable to least in the event the backup becomes the starter. This way, you can see which starting running backs should be handcuffed, and which backup running backs simply aren't worth adding to rosters in place of other players at the position.

Ranking the backup running backs
Backup (Own Pct.) Starter Backup (Own Pct.) Starter
1 Michael Bush (99) Darren McFadden 17 Peyton Hillis (90)/
Montario Hardesty (38)
Chris Ogbonnaya
2 Ben Tate (92) Arian Foster 18 LaDainian Tomlinson (66) Shonn Greene
3 Mike Tolbert (99) Ryan Mathews 19 Toby Gerhart (10) Adrian Peterson
4 Pierre Thomas (88) Darren Sproles 20 Delone Carter (39)/
Joseph Addai (60)
Donald Brown
5 Felix Jones (82) DeMarco Murray 21 Stevan Ridley (18) BenJarvus Green-Ellis
6 DeAngelo Williams (80) Jonathan Stewart 22 Lance Ball (62) Willis McGahee
7 Daniel Thomas (84) Reggie Bush 23 Justin Forsett (4) Marshawn Lynch
8 Brandon Jacobs (98) Ahmad Bradshaw 24 Thomas Jones (20) Jackie Battle
9 Marion Barber (55) Matt Forte 25 Ryan Grant (57) James Starks
10 Jahvid Best (95)/
Maurice Morris (76)
Kevin Smith 26 Ryan Torain (53) Roy Helu
11 Ronnie Brown (12) LeSean McCoy 27 Bernard Scott (25) Cedric Benson
12 Jason Snelling (12) Michael Turner 28 C.J. Spiller (29) Fred Jackson
13 Kendall Hunter (85) Frank Gore 29 Cadillac Williams (20) Steven Jackson
14 Ricky Williams (26) Ray Rice 30 Deji Karim (10) Maurice Jones-Drew
15 Javon Ringer (45) Chris Johnson 31 Kregg Lumpkin (11) LeGarrette Blount
16 Isaac Redman (26) Rashard Mendenhall 32 Chester Taylor (1) Beanie Wells

Long story short, if you're carrying any of these backup running backs, there better be a reason for it.

The same logic applies for wide receivers: Know who you're starting and carry a backup or two in case of an emergency. But here's something that might fry your brain: Only 33 wide receivers are started in at least 50 percent of CBSSports.com leagues when healthy (this includes currently injured receivers like Miles Austin and A.J. Green).

Recognizing the dead weight at wide receiver will help. Here's a simple rule of thumb for finding those unnecessary players: Any receiver starting in less than 30 percent and owned in less than 70 percent of CBSSports.com leagues isn't going to help your team unless you're totally weak and need all the help you can get.

Now if you have receivers who fit this criteria, it doesn't mean you must cut them right now. It just means they're candidates to be cut if you want to get help elsewhere, such as adding running back depth. Here are some receivers worth hanging on to based on the kind of league you're in or if you're willing to carry one as a sleeper for late-season success (note that sleepers are worth holding on to in any format unless specified below).

Receivers worth owning
Worth owning as: Standard PPR Sleeper
Doug Baldwin X
Arrelious Benn X
Steve Breaston X
Vincent Brown X
Nate Burleson X X X
Josh Cribbs X
Malcom Floyd X X X
Jacoby Ford X
Jabar Gaffney X
Darrius Heyward-Bey X
Lance Moore X X
Santana Moss X X
Greg Little X X
Jerome Simpson X X X
Demaryius Thomas X
Damian Williams X
Titus Young X

Quarterbacks and tight ends are sort of in the same boat: You know who the studs are and you know who the studs aren't. If you have a stud at either position, is it worth it to carry a backup? For instance, if you're only required to start one and you're not in a league 14 or more teams, does it make sense to have more than one quarterback and tight end?

The answer, in my opinion, lies on the waiver wire. If your league already has a bunch of free-agent quarterbacks and tight ends suitable for starting duty on waivers, then you don't need to hog a roster spot with a backup. Let the waiver wire carry the backup for you.

Pretty much any quarterback regularly started in less than 60 percent of leagues is pretty much a backup, with one very notable exception: Tim Tebow. As long as he stays productive, he's a consideration to start from week to week based on who else you have on your team. Everyone else isn't quite there -- guys like Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez probably won't start for many of you and are only worth keeping if everyone else in your league is keeping a backup.

The only way it pays to carry a second tight end is if you have no confidence in your first tight end. There are not many reliable No. 1 tight ends this year -- the turnover at the position has come at an alarming rate. Only nine tight ends are regularly started in at least 70 percent of leagues. If you have one of those tight ends, it's a safe bet that he'll be the only one you need. Let's call them Dominant-Tier tight ends.

If you don't have one of them, carrying two from the secondary group of tight ends isn't the end of the world. It's not ideal, because you have to make lineup decisions from week to week and of course spare an extra roster spot.

Tight ends worth owning
Dominant Tier Low-end starter/
High- to low-end backup
Jimmy Graham Kellen Winslow
Rob Gronkowski Greg Olsen
Antonio Gates Fred Davis
Jason Witten Brent Celek
Tony Gonzalez Jake Ballard
Vernon Davis Brandon Pettigrew
Aaron Hernandez Dustin Keller
Jermichael Finley Ed Dickson
Owen Daniels Jermaine Gresham
  Anthony Fasano

If you own a dominant tight end and another tight end from the second list, it's probably a safe call to cut the second tight end.

Nothing fancy when it comes to kickers and DSTs, people. Unless your league requires you to do so, don't carry any more than one kicker and one DST. Again, the byes are over. Yes, this includes the sneaky Fantasy owners who drafted the Packers DST and poached the 49ers DST off waivers back in September. There's no need to carry two -- pick one and go with them.

Finally, there's an all-encompassing rule I wanted to pass along, a rule I've followed my entire life when it comes to adds and drops. Call it Dave's Law of Drops: If you think the player you're looking at dropping would get picked up in a heartbeat, then he's not worth letting go.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Player News
Andre Williams could surprise again
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/30/2014) Though I don't know that he's ready for a platoon role, believing his strong showing Week 4 at Washington happened mainly because the Giants saw fit to rest their starting running back in a blowout, rookie Andre Williams has the perfect matchup to make the most of whatever opportunities he gets Week 5 against Atlanta. The Falcons rank 28th against the run, allowing 153.5 yards per game, and have given up nine touchdowns on the ground, four more than any other team.

Even better, they've been sort of the magic elixir for running back tandems this season. Not only did the Vikings' Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon both have big games against them last week, the former rushing for 78 yards and three touchdowns and the latter rushing for 135 yards, but the Bengals' Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill both had big games against them in Week 2, the former rushing for 90 yards and a touchdown and the latter rushing for 74 yards and a touchdown.

Of the two lead CBSSports.com Fantasy Football analysts, Jamey Eisenberg ranks Williams the highest for this week, placing him 28th among running backs, so we're talking little more than an emergency flex option in standard 12-team leagues. Still, you wouldn't be completely out of your mind to play him coming off last week's performance.


Rashad Jennings should come roaring back
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/30/2014) After being limited to just three touches in the second half of a blowout victory Week 4 at Washington, Giants running back Rashad Jennings has a chance to get back in his Fantasy owners' good graces in Week 5. He'll be facing a Falcons defense that just gave up 241 rushing yards to the Vikings, making them 28th against the run. They've also allowed nine touchdowns on the ground, four more than any other team.

Because rookie Andre Williams performed so well in relief of Jennings last week, rushing for 66 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, you may be worried the two will split carries in some form or fashion going forward. While I don't think that's much of a concern -- Williams was already getting 5-10 carries a game and not doing much with them -- I'm not sure it really matters with this matchup. The Falcons have been the magic elixir for running back tandems this season. Not only did the Vikings' Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon both have big games against them last week, the former rushing for 78 yards and three touchdowns and the latter rushing for 135 yards, but the Bengals' Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill both had big games against them in Week 2, the former rushing for 90 yards and a touchdown and the latter rushing for 74 yards and a touchdown.

Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard both rank Jennings among their top six running backs for Week 5, and I agree wholeheartedly. He remains a must-start despite the disappointment of last week.


Alfred Morris running into tough matchup
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/30/2014) For as good as Alfred Morris is, owning him in Fantasy can leave you disappointed at times, given the Redskins' sometimes-inconsistent usage of him. You might want to skip the headache in Week 5, with the Seahawks on the way Monday night.

Morris has been productive in each game so far, and currently ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing yardage through four games. Unfortunately, he faces one of the toughest tests in the league this week. The Seahawks have yet to allow an opposing running back to score even six points this season, and their lone touchdown allowed came from little-used Packers fullback John Kuhn in Week 1. Morris has yet to face Seattle in his career, and they are unlikely to give him a very warm welcome.

Morris is nearly a must-start Fantasy option on a weekly basis, but this is one time you might want to avoid relying on him. The workload should be there, but Morris ranks outside of the top-30 for running backs in both Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard's Week 5 rankings.   


Jets add LeQuan Lewis, subtract Brandon Smith
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/30/2014) The Jets signed cornerback LeQuan Lewis to their practice squad and released corner Brandon Smith from the squad, reports the New York Daily News.

Panthers add Tauren Poole, Horace Miller to practice squad
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/30/2014) The Panthers signed running back Tauren Poole and linebacker Horace Miller to their practice squad.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins an interesting long-term prospect
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/30/2014) Buccaneers tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins returned from a foot injury and immediately served as a key part of the offense in Week 4. Does the rookie second-rounder have sleeper Fantasy potential moving forward?

Seferian-Jenkins was targeted on seven of quarterback Mike Glennon's 42 throws in Sunday's game, a number that left him third on the team. He brought in three of those passes, a decent number considering Glennon struggled with his accuracy all game. The fact that Glennon looked his way so often might be a good sign, since it was the pair's first game together.

After a collegiate career that saw him total 1,840 yards in three seasons, Seferian-Jenkins has a chance to become a big part of this Tampa Bay offense. However, he obviously has a lot to prove before you want to rely on him. Keep an eye on Seferian-Jenkins' play in Week 5 against the Saints, and consider adding him if he and Glennon show a good rapport. 


Lions put Montell Owens on IR
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/30/2014) The Lions put running back Montell Owens on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, ending his season.

LaMichael James signs with Dolphins
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/30/2014) Former 49ers running back LaMichael James signed with the Dolphins, reports Fox Sports. San Francisco released the oft-injured back following the season opener.

Luke Willson has a lot to prove with increased role
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/30/2014) The Seahawks will turn to Luke Willson to start at tight end in the coming weeks, with Zach Miller sidelined by ankle surgery. Should Fantasy owners take notice?

Miller had logged 83.5 percent of the team's snaps through three games, so Willson should be in line for a much larger role as the starter. Of course, Miller was nearly a nonfactor in the passing game so far, having been targeted just seven times. Between he and Willson, quarterback Russell Wilson has targeted tight ends just eight times on 87 attempts, after 20.6 percent of his passes went their way a year ago.

Willson might be the better pass catcher of the Seahawks tight end tandem, but we don't have much to go on here. There are better tight end options worth targeting on waivers, at least until Willson proves himself. 


Christian Ponder preparing to start
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/30/2014) Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder took the first-team reps Monday and Tuesday while rookie Teddy Bridgewater watched with an ankle injury. "I'm preparing to play, but we're hoping the best for Teddy," Ponder told reporters.

"I've talked to Teddy. He's doing everything he can to prepare and be ready to play."

Ponder has started 35 games, but none with Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. He could be under center Thursday in Green Bay. "It's a very different style of offense than what we've ran the previous three years," Ponder said. "Without Adrian [Peterson], it's different. Defenses play us differently without Adrian. I'm comfortable and fit well in it."


 
 
 
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