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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
Report: C.J. Spiller to be pursued by multiple teams in free agency
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:33 am ET) Running back C.J. Spiller is set to become a free agent soon and made it clear Tuesday he won't be returning to Buffalo.

Spiller is reportedly set to have multiple suitors, including the Cardinals, Jets, Dolphins and 49ers, according to Josina Anderson of ESPN. 

Spiller played in just nine games in 2014 with a shoulder injury, finishing with 300 yards on 78 carries and 125 yards on 19 receptions, scoring just one touchdown.


Report: Wide receiver Ted Ginn to visit with 49ers Wednesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) Wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. is reportedly scheduled to visit with the 49ers Wednesday, according to ESPN. Ginn, who was released by the Cardinals last month, reportedly visited with the Titans as well Tuesday.

Ginn Jr. caught 14 passes in 2014 for 190 yards. He was a member of the 49ers from 2010-2012, where he totaled 33 catches for 384 yards and one touchdown. He also averaged 23.5 yards per return in those three seasons.


Report: Kendall Langford visiting Jets, Saints
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) Free agent DT Kendall Langford finished his visit with the Lions. The Jets and Saints are the next two scheduled stops on his tour, according to ESPN's Nick Wagoner

Langford was released by the Rams last week. 


C.J. Spiller: 'I won't be returning to Buffalo'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) Impending free-agent running back C.J. Spiller said Tuesday that he will not return to the Bills, who reportedly have a deal in place to acquire Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, the NFL Network reports.

"I won't be returning to Buffalo," Spiller said.

Spiller indicated in February in an interview on Sirius XM radio that he wanted to remain in Buffalo but that his fate was up to the team. He played in just nine games in 2014 due to a stint on injured reserve caused by a shoulder injury. Spiller finished with 300 yards on 78 carries and 125 yards on 19 receptions, scoring just one touchdown.


Bills to trade Kiko Alonso to Eagles for LeSean McCoy
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) The Bills intend to trade linebacker Kiko Alonso to the Eagles for running back LeSean McCoy, CBSSports.com NFL Insider Jason La Canfora confirms. ESPN first reported the news of the trade, which will be a one-for-one deal.

The trade will become official next week, but the Bills have notified Alonso, who was looking to leave Buffalo, that he will be dealt.

Alonso had 159 tackles for the Bills in 2013 but missed all of last season after undergoing successful surgery to repair a torn ACL in July. He said in late February that he expected to be 100 percent before the beginning of camp. The trade reunites Alonso with Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who was his coach at Oregon.

La Canfora added that McCoy may not be pleased with the deal. The Eagles are looking to clear cap space, possibly for a draft day trade for a quarterback. Kelly was reportedly not a fan of McCoy's contract. The running back has a $10.25-million cap hit for 2015.

McCoy has delivered four 1,000-yard rushing seasons in the last five years, most recently rushing for 1,319 yards and five touchdowns in 2014. The Bills have had just one player top 1,000 yards rushing in the last five years.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


Titans claim Jonathan Massaquoi off waivers, cut Bernard Pollard
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) The Titans have claimed free agent linebacker Jonathan Massaquoi off waivers and released safety Bernard Pollard, the team announced Tuesday.

Massaquoi totaled 22 tackles and two sacks in 15 games for the Falcons in 2014. Pollard was expected to be cut by the team after requesting his release earlier in the week. He suffered an Achilles tear in October, limiting him to just five games in 2014.


Report: Eagles plan to release defensive end Trent Cole
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) The Eagles are planning to release long-time defensive end Trent Cole within the next 24 hours, according to ESPN's Adam Caplan. 

Cole, who has played his entire 10-year career in the league with Philadelphia, was reportedly attempting to re-negotiate his contract to remain with the team. Cole was set to make $11.6 million in base salary and would save the Eagles $8.4 million in cap room.

Cole totaled 52 tackles in 2014 with 6 1/2 sacks. In his 10 years, Cole amassed 85 1/2 sacks.


Raiders release longtime safety Tyvon Branch
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) The Raiders made it official, announcing the release of safety Tyvon Branch. The 28-year-old played seven seasons with Oakland and registered more than 100 tackles three times.

Injuries limited Branch to five games over the past two seasons.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


Report: Greg Hardy to meet with NFL brass Wednesday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy is scheduled to meet with NFL officials in New York on Wednesday about domestic violence charges against him that were dropped, a league source told the Charlotte Observer. Misdemeanor charges against Hardy were dismissed when prosecutors could not locate Hardy's accuser to testify against him in a jury trial, the paper said.

Hardy will become a free agent March 10, and potential suitors "will want to know if and for how long Hardy will be suspended," the report said.

Hardy had 26 sacks in 2012-13 before playing in one game last season. The NFL put him on the Commissioner's Exempt List after Hardy was found guilty by a judge last summer of assaulting and threatening his ex-girlfriend.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


Report: DeMarco Murray may give Cowboys a hometown discount
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/3/2015) Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray will hit the free agent market on March 10. ESPN's Ed Werder reported that Murray wants to return to the Cowboys, and he's willing to re-sign if they come close to what other teams offer. 

Murray made $1.4 million last season and rushed for 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns. 

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


 
 
 
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