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Quick Fantasy Hits for Week 1

Senior Fantasy Writer
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As we wade into Week 1 action, there are some nuggets that are too in-depth for the show, too smart for Twitter and a little too short for the full column. Enjoy these Week 1 Quick Hits ...

Beware the subtle secondary genius of Chuck Pagano. Between stints at the University of Miami and the Browns, Pagano built up secondaries that led the NFL in interceptions (2001) and tied franchise records for fewest passing TDs allowed (13, in 2003). The Colts face the Bears in Week 1, so at least consider the fact that, while Rome wasn't built in a day -- Indianapolis finished in the middle of the NFL in terms of passing yards and passing TDs allowed last year while finishing last in interceptions. Jay Cutler might have a little more trouble than his owners might be expecting against Pagano and his Colts pass defense.

Braylon Edwards is not getting the respect he deserves. He hasn't had the most electrifying career (just one season of 1,000-plus yards), and he was a huge mess in 2011 with the 49ers (15 receptions for 181 yards in an injury-ravaged campaign), but Edwards, just 29, is in position to produce some decent numbers. The factors:

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1. While he only has one 1,000-plus yard season, he has four with 870 or more yards. And he did this with these quarterbacks: Derek Anderson, Charlie Frye, Trent Dilfer, Mark Sanchez and Alex Smith. So having Russell Wilson, the rookie, behind center, isn't as daunting a factor.
2. Edwards had 16 touchdowns in 2007. We tend to forget that Browns breakout year, probably because the Jets one is fresher in our memories.
3. You don't have to go too far back in Seattle's history to see a big, former first round draft pick, thought-to-be-washed-up receiver have a nice season. Mike Williams, who is just two inches taller and 18 pounds heavier than Edwards, came out of nowhere in 2010 to put up 751 receiving yards on 65 receptions.
4. Edwards isn't as buried on the depth charts as it may look. He's currently listed as the third wide receiver. But Sidney Rice is coming back from two shoulder surgeries and Golden Tate perennially disappoints, with just 609 total yards in 27 games over two seasons. Edwards has a real chance to make an impact with this figurative door slightly ajar.

This isn't to say that Edwards is going to have a 1,200-yard season with 10 touchdowns (although that's not totally out of the question). But his ADP is 175.62, and he's owned in just 10 percent of CBSSports.com leagues, making him a decent speculative pick for owners who have room on the end of their bench for a very deep sleeper.

Don't wholly discount Rashard Mendenhall for the season. Yes, it stinks that you have to just sit him on your bench for probably the first few weeks, but there are some factors that point to him possibly contributing this year, outside of the recent buzz and rumors that he might play in Week 1 (which is highly unlikely). First, Pittsburgh didn't put him on the PUP list, which would have had him out until Week 7. One would think that the Steelers wouldn't have done this unless they believed he could contribute before that point, as Mendenhall is now taking up a roster spot that could have otherwise gone to someone else, had he been placed on the regular season PUP list. And, second, the man who is serving as Mendenhall's replacement, Isaac Redman, has a hip problem that will likely bother him all year, as well as minor ankle and groin issues.

That being said, Jonathan Dwyer could be a huge Fantasy sleeper in Week 1 ... and possibly beyond. Dwyer had a stellar preseason, but he also had a stellar 2011 preseason (fifth overall in rushing last year) and did nothing with it. Still, here's a fun fact: Willie Parker had 186 rushing yards in eight career games before his breakout 2005 campaign. Dwyer currently has 151 rushing yards in ... eight career games. Parker ran 47 times for 272 yards in Weeks 1 and 2 -- with two touchdowns -- back in 2005, in Jerome Bettis' absence. When Bettis came back, he became one of the game's earliest (and best) touchdown vultures, letting Parker do all the rushing while he came in and scored the TDs. Dwyer is listed at 5'11" and 229 pounds, Parker is 5'10" 212. While Mendenhall isn't nearly as physically large as Bettis, he could slide into a supplemental TD-scoring role as he's eased back into games, with Dwyer playing the role of Parker.

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Bill Belichick runs more than you think he does. Belichick got a reputation -- probably through the high-output exploits of Tom Brady -- of being a pass-happy coach who produced a bunch of worthless Fantasy running backs. But this isn't exactly the case. According to stats culled from Pro Football Reference, New England has been in the top 10 in rushing attempts five separate times since 2006. And they've been in the top five in rushing TDs in five of the last six years.

Pat Shurmur, however, likes to pass, and this could benefit Brandon Weeden and nobody else. If you're looking for some kind of hope from the Cleveland passing game, it's this: last year, the Browns were 11th in passing attempts. And when Shurmur served as the offensive coordinator for the Rams -- in 2009 and 2010 -- his teams never finished in the top 24 in rushing yards. But St. Louis finished 16th in passing attempts in 2009 and fifth in passing attempts in 2010 with a receiving corps led by Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson and Daniel Fells. One could argue that Shurmur's unheralded group in St. Louis is somewhat comparable to the one he has in Cleveland. And while none of the receivers there went over 689 yards (Amendola) or three TDs (Amendola), Sam Bradford, a rookie, passed for 3,512 yards and 18 touchdowns. These numbers are right in line with what we have projected for Weeden this season.

Speaking of the Browns -- get to know wide receiver Josh Gordon. The Browns used a second round supplemental pick on the former Baylor wide receiver, who has a ton of talent but hasn't played on an organized team since 2010, when he was suspended for failing drug tests. But Gordon is part of a receiving corps that only saw two players get over 500 yards receiving last year. The Browns are just two seasons removed from having their tight end, Benjamin Watson, lead the team in receiving yardage. If opposing teams focus on Greg Little, Mohamed Massaquoi and Watson, it could free up Gordon to do some serious damage. He's definitely in the right situation and has the opportunity and talent, it just remains to be seen if he can master the playbook and catch on quickly enough. If he does, he could very well lead the Browns in receiving in 2012.

Don't be surprised when Steve Johnson blows up this year. Johnson ends the Fantasy draft season with an ADP of 66.73, slotting him 24th among wide receivers. He sits behind the duo from Philadelphia, as well as two from Denver and two from the Giants. Here's my problem with some of this: Johnson is coming off two straight 1,000-plus yard seasons (1,073 over 13 starts in 2010, and 1,004 in 16 starts in 2011), with 17 total touchdowns over those two years. In 2011, he battled groin and shoulder problems, which deflated some of his mid-season value. But hold Johnson against a few of the receivers going ahead of him, and some of the ADP data seems skewed:
Jeremy Maclin: zero 1,000-plus yard seasons (although a case can be made that a healthy Maclin might have reached that benchmark in 2011, when he had 859 yards in 13 games).
Eric Decker: 718 total receiving yards over 13 career starts (with the argument being that Peyton Manning will likely lift his value).
Percy Harvin: zero 1,000-plus receiving yard seasons in three seasons. He has never gone past six touchdowns in one season.

It's not that Johnson is insanely better than any of those players, but any argument for one of them could be canceled out by simply pointing at Johnson's numbers over the last two seasons. Mix in a third straight year with the same quarterback and the same coaching system in place, and Johnson seems set up to have a bigger season than many owners are anticipating.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyFB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasyfootball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Marshawn Lynch retools current contract, receives higher base salary
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(7/31/2014) The week-long holdout worked to a certain extent for Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch. The 28-year-old restructured his current contract with the Seahawks, which will give him $6 million guaranteed this season, per Pro Football Talk.

Lynch will make a $5 million base salary in 2014, with a possible $500,000 roster bonus and another $500,000 bonus if he reaches 1,500-plus rushing yards. He totaled over 1,500 yards of offense with 14 total touchdowns last year but had over 400 total touches between the regular season and postseason.

DeMarcus Ware back at practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/31/2014) Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware returned to a limited practice Thursday after missing two practices with a bruised lower right leg, reports ESPN.com.

Mike Wallace might not be ready for preseason opener
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/31/2014) Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace missed a second straight day of practice with a sore hamstring and won't play in Saturday's scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium, reports the Miami Herald. His status for the Aug. 8 preseason opener against the Falcons is uncertain.

The paper said the injury is not serious, but "obviously slows the growth of Wallace's and quarterback Ryan Tannehill's ability to team up on dynamic long passes."


Bills going to 'feed' Sammy Watkins
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/31/2014) Bills rookie receiver Sammy Watkins "may not be the savior they hope he will be in Buffalo, but this team is going to feed him the ball and they are gambling he can make a quarterback out of EJ Manuel," reports CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora. "I’m not sure that will be the case, but a rookie of the year performance from Watkins wouldn’t shock me either."

La Canfora listed Watkins first among his 10 breakout players.


Dolphins switch out tight ends
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/31/2014) The Dolphins signed tight end Raymond Webber and waived tight end Brett Brackett, the team announced.

Marshawn Lynch reports to camp
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/31/2014) Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch officially ended his holdout and reported to training camp, reports NFL Network. His holdout lasted less than a week.

Geno Smith gets every first-team rep
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/31/2014) Jets quarterback Geno Smith took all 16 of the first-team reps Thursday, while Michael Vick got none, reports the New York Post. Until Thursday, Smith has been getting about 75 percent of the first-team snaps.

"I told [offensive coordinator] Marty (Mornhinweg) and Marty knows I understand that look, we have a certain mission to accomplish and we’ve got to get things going, we’ve got to get on the right track and I understand that. I won’t stand in the way of that," Vick told the paper.


Chiefs add Steve Gregory
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/31/2014) On the same day safety Eric Berry suffered an ankle injury, the Chiefs signed veteran safety Steve Gregory. Gregory played in 26 games and started 23 for the Patriots the past two seasons, registering 116 tackles, four interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Eric Berry sustains ankle injury
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/31/2014) Chiefs safety Eric Berry left Thursday's practice with an ankle injury, reports the Associated Press. Coach Andy Reid said Berry, who was carted off, has a sore ankle, "not an Achilles tear or any of that, but they’re evaluating him. They’re just seeing what it is."

Seahawks tweak roster
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/31/2014) The Seahawks put tight end Anthony McCoy (torn Achilles) on injured reserve and signed receiver Ronald Johnson, who's spent time with the Eagles and 49ers.

 
 
 
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