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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
Report: Torn pectoral sidelines Vikings CB Josh Robinson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/4/2015) The Vikings secondary took a hit last month when cornerback Josh Robinson sustained a partially torn pectoral muscle, a league source has told ESPN.

The nickel back played in 690 snaps last season and was expected to battle several others for playing time. The injury could sideline him from training camp and land him on the PUP list.


Report: Packers' Andrew Quarless arrested on gun charges
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(7/4/2015) Packers tight end Andrew Quarless was arrested for firing a gun twice in Miami on Saturday, per the Miami New Times.

Quarless was involved in a fight at South Beach and fired the gun into the ground. 


Titans receivers can thrive in YAC with Marcus Mariota's accuracy
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/3/2015) The Titans wide receiving corps could gain more yards after the catch this season because of rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota and his accurate throws, per ESPN.com.

The Titans were 24th in the league in yards after the catch last season, but with Mariota under center that can all change.

“If you have an accurate quarterback, it allows us to get more yards after that catch,” wide receiver Harry Douglas said. “And that’s one thing that makes a receiver dynamic -- first being able to catch the ball and then being able to do some things with it after you catch it. I feel like [to this point] Marcus has done everything he needs to do to get the ball to his receivers.”


Saints RB Khiry Robinson doesn't feel he's on outside looking in
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/3/2015) Saints running back Khiry Robinson might be the least known of his backfield counterparts, but he doesn't feel like the off man out, per ESPN.com.

Robinson knows the team is heavily invested in the likes of Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller, but he's still confident he can thrive in whatever role the Saints put him in.

“I’m the type of person, I’m gonna get what I get and do what I do with it. So whether it’s 20 carries or one carry, I’m gonna do the best of my ability every play,” Robinson said.

Robinson has shown flashes of success during his three years in the league. Injuries played a key role against him last season, which can ultimately put him as the third back on the depth chart. He will use the offseason to continue to improve and challenge his counterparts for playing time.

“I just gotta keep working,” Robinson. “It’s all love in the backfield. We all work together, try to help each other. So I think it’s a good thing we’ve got a full backfield again. So if anybody goes down, we’ve got another player right up there to do the same thing.”


Browns OL Michael Bowie itching to compete for starting spot
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/3/2015) Browns offensive lineman Michael Bowie is not required to report to training camp until the end of July. But never mind that - he's heading out after the last Independence Day firework explodes in the sky.

Bowie is itching to get started. He missed all of last season due to a shoulder injury after starting for Seattle on its Super Bowl title team in 2013. He is seeking to stay in tip-top shape in an attempt to land a starting spot on a Cleveland line that is the strength of the team.

"It's up to them to decide who is the best five," Bowie told the team website. "All I can do is take care of my business. Hopefully I can get a shot. That's what I'm working for."

Bowie participated fully in the offseason program, working mostly with the second team at right tackle. That will likely be the spot at which he competes for a starting job. Incumbent Mitchell Schwartz has not performed particularly well there and Mike Pettine has vowed there will be competition all over the field in camp.


Redskins OLB Ryan Kerrigan nearly recovered from knee surgery
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/3/2015) Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan appears to be on target to join the team for training camp after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery that prevented him from participating in earlier offseason activities.

Kerrigan, who registered a career-high 13 1/2 sacks a year ago, had the operation to alleviate pain in the area.

"My leg feels really good and I'm glad I got the surgery - not just for football but it makes my everyday life feel better so I'm glad I got it done," he told CSN Washington. "Now it's just a matter of getting stronger and getting into shape."

Kerrigan added that he's been running and now only needs to regain strength to insure his place at training camp.


Texans waive DT Brandon Ivory
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(7/2/2015) The Texans waived rookie defensive tackle Brandon Ivory on Thursday, according to ESPN.com

Ivory was arrested on first degree burglary charges in Tuscaloosa, Ala. just one day ago. Ivory's agent Jeff Guerriero said Ivory is not guilty of the charge. 

"I spoke to Brandon he is not guilty and his name will be cleared of all charges," Guerriero said. 


Chargers TE Antonio Gates suspended 4 games for PED use
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) Chargers tight end Antonio Gates has been suspended four games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy, the team announced. 

It's unknown at this time what drug Gates tested positive for. Gates, in a statement, said he was unaware that he took a banned substance

"In my 12 years in the NFL, I have taken tremendous pride in upholding the integrity of the NFL shield and all that it entails," Gates said. "I have taken extreme care of my body with a holistic approach and I have never knowingly ingested a substance that was banned by the NFL. In an effort to recover from this past season, I used supplements and holistic medicines, and unfortunately, I have now learned that those substances always present a risk because they may contain banned substances even if the ingredient list doesn’t reflect them.

"As an NFL veteran and team leader, I should have done my due diligence to ensure that what I was taking for recovery was within the NFL guidelines. I understand that I am responsible for what is in my body and I have always believed that ignorance is no excuse when it comes to these issues. I take full responsibility for my actions. I’d like to express my sincere apologies to the Chargers, my teammates, coaches, fans and the league who have always supported me and expected and gotten nothing but the highest level of integrity from me."

With Gates out for four games, the Chargers will turn to Ladarius Green as the team's top tight end, though it was expected for Green to continue getting more looks in the passing game. Green is entering the final season of his rookie contract. 

The Chargers expressed disappointment in Gates for his suspension but plans to stick with the longtime veteran through the suspension. 

"We are tremendously disappointed for our team and our fans as well as Antonio, but no more disappointed than Antonio is with himself," the Chargers stated. "Antonio is a member of the Chargers' family and we will continue to support him 100-percent. We have the utmost confidence he will stay in excellent shape for the season and be ready to go when he returns in Week 5. While it's unfortunate to not have him to start the season, we have complete confidence our tight end group will continue to play at a high level."  


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by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) Packers defensive lineman Datone Jones will be suspended for one game for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, according to NFL.com. 

Jones will miss Green Bay's season-opener against the Bears. In 2014, Jones totaled 22 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in 13 games played. 


Cowboys LB Rolando McClain suspended four games for 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) The Cowboys announced that linebacker Rolando McClain has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season due to violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. 

McClain hasn't been able to participate much in offseason workouts due to going under offseason knee surgery. McClain will be eligible to practice in training camp and is expected to be healthy by then. 

"I apologize to my family, the Cowboys organization, my teammates and Cowboys fans for my mistake. I will not break the rules of my profession in the future, and I regret my error," McClain said in a statement, via CSN Bay Area. "I look forward to returning to the field on week 5, when I hope to help my team beat the Patriots.

In 2014, McClain, who had previously retired twice before being traded from the Ravens to the Cowboys, totaled 81 tackles and a sack in 13 games played.


 
 
 
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