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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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- all updated in real time. Download the CBS Fantasy App.

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Player News
Report: Tight end Rob Housler visiting the Bengals
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:11 pm ET) Free-agent tight end Rob Housler has a visit scheduled with the Bengals, according to a report from ESPN.com. 

Housler has spent the previous four seasons with the Cardinals. His role in the passing game was reduced drastically in 2014 as he only caught nine passes for 129 yards. His time in Arizona ended with a total of 1,133 yards and one touchdown. 


Seahawks re-sign DT Jesse Williams, FB Will Tukuafu
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:04 pm ET) The Seahawks brought back two familiar faces on Wednesday. 

According to the NFL's transaction wire, the Seahawks re-signed defensive tackle Jesse Williams and fullback Will Tukuafu. Williams was waived in early March but said, via ESPN.com, that he was going to re-sign on a restructured contract. 

Tukuafu was signed to the Seahawks in 2014 after the 49ers released him. He played in nine games for Seattle. 


Browns re-sign cornerback Sherrick McManis
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:42 pm ET) The Bears announced on Wednesday that they have re-signed cornerback and special teams standout Sherrick McManis

McManis is being brought back on a one-year contract. 

McManis is a reserve corner but a dependable cover guy on special teams. A season ago, he recorded a career-best 10 tackles. 


Texans sign receiver Nate Washington
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:38 pm ET) The Texans signed veteran wide receiver Nate Washington on Wednesday, the organization announced

Washington has been in the league since 2005 and is entering his 11th season. His best season came in 2011 with the Titans when he went for 1,023 yards and seven touchdowns. That was the only season Washington has gone over 1,000 yards. 

Washington signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent out of Tiffin in 2005. He was a part of both Steelers Super Bowl winning seasons (2005, 2008) before signing with the Titans. 


Ravens trade center Gino Gradkowski to Broncos
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3:28 pm ET) The Ravens have parted ways with a former 2012 draft pick. 

On Wednesday, the Ravens traded Gino Gradkowski to the Broncos, both teams announced. Gradkowski was selected in the fourth round of the 2012 draft out of Delaware.

After Matt Birk retired following Baltimore's Super Bowl victory, Gradkowski stepped into the starting role at center. He did not have a good season and was replaced in 2014 by Jeremy Zuttah following a trade with Tampa Bay.

The Ravens and Broncos will also swap 2016 draft picks as part of the deal. It's assumed the Ravens will receive the higher pick in the trade. 


Panthers waive G Derek Dennis, LB Horace Miller
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3:20 pm ET) The Panthers announced on Wednesday that they have waived offensive guard Derek Dennis and linebacker Horace Miller

Both Dennis and Miller spent the majority of the 2014 season on the practice squad. Miller was on the 53-man roster for one week but inactive. Dennis entered the league in 2012 and spent time during his first two seasons on the Bears' practice squad. 


Colts' Chuck Pagano said Andre Johnson will be matchup problem
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3:14 pm ET) Colts coach Chuck Pagano seems excited to have receiver Andre Johnson at his disposal for the coming season. 

Via ESPN.com, Pagano gushed over Johnson's ability as a pass-catcher. Though he may not have many years left to play at an NFL level, Pagano certainly believes the 6-3, 230-pound wideout can be extremely successful in his offense. 

"He's got a big catch radius," Pagano said. "But again, the contested catches that you see on tape. It's very difficult to match up. There are few corners in the league that have length and size to match up but most are aren't on that size and they get pushed around a little bit."

Johnson's addition to Indianapolis comes after recording 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns during his time with the Texans. Since being taken third overall in the 2003 draft, Johnson, 33, has spent in his entire career with Houston, reaching the postseason only twice.

Now, in the later stage of his career, he joins a team fresh off of an AFC Championship appearance. And if teams want to roll coverages to T.Y. Hilton, then Johnson will make them pay, Pagano said. 

"Certainly somebody (who's) an opponent can't just line up and say, 'Don't worry about Andre Johnson.' They're still going to have to tend to him if you will," Pagano said. "If they choose to double (Hilton) and take him out of the game, you have another guy on the other side, along with the rest of the guys on the roster who can still stretch the defense. He's a big, possession type guy. He makes contested catches in traffic."


Steelers re-sign DE Clifton Geathers
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(2:58 pm ET) The Steelers have announced they have re-signed defensive end Clifton Geathers, per Adam Caplan of ESPN on Wednesday. Geathers, 27, played three of his nine games last season with the Steelers. He totaled four tackles in 2014.

Report: Bengals re-sign WR Brandon Tate
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:41 pm ET) The Bengals have re-signed wide receiver Brandon Tate on Wednesday, per the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Tate, who visited the Chiefs on Monday, registered 17 catches for 193 yards and a touchdown for the Bengals in 2014. He also had a combined 571 yards in kick and punt returns.


NFL receives permission for photos in Greg Hardy investigation
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:32 pm ET) The NFL has obtained permission to access photos submitted into evidence for Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy's domestic violence case, according to ESPN.com.

A judge in North Carolina signed off on all parties, including the NFL and NFLPA, involved in the case to have access to photos of alleged assault against Hardy's former girlfriend, without the district attorney giving up custody of the images. 

A decision from the NFL in Hardy's case has yet to be handed down, but is expected to be announced soon, according to ESPN's Ed Werder. The images in the assault case will help the league determine punishment to be handed down on Hardy, who signed a one-year deal with Dallas this offseason.

"We are trying to get as many facts as we possibly can to make the most informed decision we can so that we can uphold standards that we put forward in our personal conduct policy," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said last week at the owners meeting. "So I expect that that will conclude sometime in the near future and we'll make a decision shortly after."


 
 
 
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