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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
Reggie Bush breaks free for 86-yard TD run
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/22/2014) Lions running back Reggie Bush showed a flash of dominance Friday night against the Jaguars in exhibition play.

Bush broke for a 24-yard run on the first drive, which was called back because of a penalty. But that didn't faze him. He made a nice cutback and ripped an 86-yard touchdown run in the opening quarter. He was limited to only one half of work. He finished with two carries for 95 yards and a touchdown and was not targeted in the passing game.

Calvin Johnson has two grabs in preseason debut
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/22/2014) Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson made his preseason debut Friday night against Jacksonville. Johnson wore a protective splint on his finger and was limited two catches, both of which came in the opening quarter. He was targeted three times and finished with two grabs for 27 yards. 

Matthew Stafford picked off once in dress rehearsal game
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/22/2014) Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was picked off once in an up-an-down outing Friday night against the Jaguars in exhibition play.

Stafford was intercepted by Andre Branch in the first quarter. He was limited to only one half of work with the first unit. He compiled 98 yards through the air while completing 10 of 16 passes. He had one interception and no touchdowns, registering 53.6 passer rating.

Greg Olsen does little in third preseason game
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/22/2014) Panthers tight end Greg Olsen did little Friday night against the Patriots in exhibition action. Olsen caught a short 5-yard pass on the opening drive and a 16-yard pass from Cam Newton late in the second quarter. He played the first two quarters and was targeted four times. He finished with two catches for 21 yards. 

Julian Edelman has flawless outing vs. Carolina
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/22/2014) Patriots receiver Julian Edelman made his presence felt Friday and nearly cracked the 100-yard mark in an exhibition game against the Panthers.

Edelman caught five passes in the first half, including one from backup quarterback Ryan Mallett in the first quarter. He caught passes for 8, 13 and 8 on the final drive of the night late in the third quarter. He caught all eight of his targets for 99 yards, averaging 12.4 yards per grab.

Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams make little noise vs. Pats
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/22/2014) Panthers running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams barely made any noise Friday night against the Patriots in Foxboro.

Stewart caught a short pass from Cam Newton and found an opening for a 20-yard gain in the first quarter. It was his only grab of the night. He took four handoffs for 11 yards. Williams was not targeted in the passing game and finished with nine rushing yards on five carries, averaging only 1.8 yards per attempt.

Kelvin Benjamin heavily targeted with first unit Friday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/22/2014) Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin was heavily targeted with the first unit during Friday's preseason game against the Patriots. Benjamin made three early grabs through traffic in the opening quarter. He was targeted six times and finished with five grabs for a team-high 47 yards, averaging 9.4 yards per attempt.

Cam Newton works past minor injury scare
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/22/2014) Panthers quarterback Cam Newton worked past a minor injury scare Friday night against the Patriots.

Newton absorbed a hit by Jamie Collins on a quarterback run late in the second quarter. he was seen pointing his hip and sat out for one play in order to get medical attention. He returned to action and played the rest of the first half with the first unit. During the second half, he went to the locker room for an X-ray on his back, which came back negative. According to the NFL Network, he was diagnosed with a contusion in the middle of his back.

Newton was sacked three times and compiled 88 yards through the air while completing 8 of 12 passes. He finished with a 88.2 passer rating.

Shane Vereen strikes twice in exhibition tuneup
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/22/2014) Patriots running back Shane Vereen found the end zone twice during Friday’s preseason game against the Panthers.

Vereen caught a short pass on a wheel route and took it 40 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. He then caught a short 6-yard pass from Tom Brady for a touchdown in the third quarter. He worked into the third quarter and finished with 75 yards of total offense. He took six handoffs for 18 yards and caught five passes for 57 yards and two touchdowns.

Kory Sheets departs exhibition game with ankle injury
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/22/2014) Raiders running back Kory Sheets left Friday's preseason game against the Packers at Lambeau Field with an ankle injury. He helped off field after taking a hard hit and a fumble late in the first half. Sheets was ruled out for the remainder of the game, according to the team's official website.

 
 
 
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