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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: Redskins CB Bashaud Breeland suspended one game
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:52 am ET) The NFL will suspend Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland for one game during the 2015 season, sources told The Washington Post.

The suspension was reportedly related to Breeland being cited for marijuana possession last year.


Bills DL Mario Williams cleared to practice
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:35 am ET) Bills defensive lineman Mario Williams is back on the active roster and able to practice Friday, the team announced. Williams was placed on the non-football injury list Thursday.

Ravens CB Lardarius Webb passes conditioning test
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:05 am ET) Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb is able to participate in practice after passing his conditioning test Friday, the team announced.

Webb wasn't able to practice at the start of training camp Wednesday after failing his conditioning test and was placed on the non-football injury list.

"The conditioning test measures anaerobic conditioning," coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday. "It measures the ability to recover, to get your heart rate up and recover. Webby is in really good shape in a lot of different ways, I can see it in the way he moves in the weight room, but he's not in the kind of anaerobic shape he needs to be in to come out here and practice."


Report: Seahawks QB Russell Wilson agrees to contract extension
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(9:56 am ET) The Seahawks agreed to a contract extension with quarterback Russell Wilson on Friday, a source told SI.com.

The extension is for four years and $87.6 million. The deal includes a $31 million signing bonus and an estimated $60 million in guaranteed money. Wilson confirmed the four year extension on his Twitter account. 

Wilson has one Super Bowl win and has thrown for 72 touchdowns with 26 interceptions in his three-year career.


Saints WR Marques Colston returns to practice Friday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(9:34 am ET) Saints wide receiver Marques Colston was back at practice Friday, reports NOLA.com.

Colston was placed on the PUP list Tuesday with a non-disclosed injury, but his return means he is no longer on the list.


Redskins place LB Ja'Gared Davis on non-football injury list
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(1:48 am ET) Reserve linebacker Ja'Gared Davis , who spent time last season on the Redskins' practice squad, was placed on the non-football injury list by the team Thursday after apparently injuring himself during practice, per The Washington Post

Davis last played in the NFL in 2014 with the Patriots. 


Cowboys DE Greg Hardy suffers strain in side
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(1:33 am ET) Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy suffered a strain in his left side during Thursday's practice, which the team said is not considered serious, per the Dallas Morning News. 

Hardy told fans "I'm invicible," as he signed autographs after practice. The Cowboys training staff was checking out Hardy after practice as a precautionary measure. 

"To be honest with you, with Greg right from the start, he was actually going too hard," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "He was going too hard in the weight room and too hard on the field early on in the offseason."


Cowboys WR Dez Bryant says new deal won't change him
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(1:28 am ET) Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant reported to camp Thursday and said that just because he's inked a big-money contract, he won't change the way he plays, per the Dallas Morning-News. 

Bryant participated in every drill and the afternoon practice, even though the team suggested he might be limited at the start of camp after signing his $70 million deal so late in the offseason. 

"That deal don't make me," Bryant said. "It don't make me. I play this game because I love this game. I don't give a damn about none of that. It's not going to change the way I play. It's not going to change the way I act."


S Kam Chancellor lone Seahawks no-show
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(1:19 am ET) Kam Chancellor did not report to the Seahawks' facility on Thursday, and appears to be prepared to hold out when the team's training camp opens Friday, per the SeattlePI.com. 

If Chancellor does hold out, he would incur up to $30,000 per day in fines. He is upset about the four-year, $28 million deal he signed in 2013. 

Chancellor recorded 78 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble in 14 games for the Seahawks last season.


Cowboys QB Tony Romo intends to practice more
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7/30/2015) Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said he plans to ramp up his level of activity during training camp, planning to practice for three days in a row at times, per the Dallas Morning-News

Romo, who has battled back issues for the last several seasons, did not practice in more than consecutive days last training camp. 

"I think we'll practice more this year than we did last year, but at the same time it's not out of the realm to go two-and-one sometimes (two days on, one off) and I think the plan is we'll have some where we go three in a row," Romo said. "We'll see how it goes."


 
 
 
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