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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: Cowboys try out RB Daniel Thomas
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) The Cowboys are in the market for another running back with Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle as their top three guys at the moment. 

Therefore, Dallas could be looking to add another. According to The Baltimore Sun and National Football Post's Aaron Wilson, the Cowboys worked out running back Daniel Thomas on Thursday. 

Thomas was with the Dolphins the previous four years and totaled 1,480 career yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. The Cowboys also worked out Ben Tate and Felix Jones. 


49ers' Carlos Hyde unable to practice, Mike Davis does
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) 49ers second-year running back Carlos Hyde was forced to watch Thursday's OTA practice from the sidelines, according to the San Jose Mercury News

Hyde is dealing with a leg injury that isn't considered serious. 

Rookie running back Mike Davis did practice despite injuring his thumb on Wednesday after catching a pass from Colin Kaepernick. 

“Kap, man, I didn’t know he could throw a ball that fast,” Davis said. “I still caught it.”


Anquan Boldin, five others absent from 49ers OTA practice
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) Six players were absent from the 49ers' OTA practice on Thursday, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Those not present were wide receiver Anquan Boldin, fullback Bruce Miller, offensive linemen Alex Boone and Anthony Davis, punter Andy Lee and kicker Phil Dawson.

OTA practices are voluntary and players are not required to attend.

Linebacker NaVorro Bowman was also not present though he was given the day off by 49ers coach Jim Tomsula. Bowman missed the 2014 season after sustaining an ACL tear during the 2013 playoffs. 


Saints WR Andy Tanner back with club on injured reserve
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) Saints receiver Andy Tanner cleared waivers and reverted to injured reserve with the organization, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune

Tanner has been with the Saints since 2010 but has never appeared in a game. 


Report: Chargers expect to reach long-term deal with Philip Rivers
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) A month ago rumors swirled about the Chargers possibly trading Philip Rivers

Now it appears Rivers won't be heading anywhere anytime soon. According to a report from NFL.com, the Chargers are confident in reaching a long-term deal with Rivers. 

Rivers is entering the final year of his contract, in which he is due $15.75 million. 

A year ago, Rivers threw for 4,286 yards, 31 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. 


Report: Jaguars' Dante Fowler to have ACL surgery next week
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) Jaguars rookie defensive lineman Dante Fowler will have surgery next week to repair a torn ACL sustained in rookie minicamp, according to the Florida Times-Union

Fowler was injured during an 11-on-11 drill during his first practice with the Jaguars on May 8. He'll miss the entire 2015 season. Fowler is still with the team participating in strength and conditioning exercises. 

Fowler is expected to remain in Jacksonville to rehab his knee. 


Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin out for next week's OTAs
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) With organized team activities set to begin next week for the Panthers, one notable contributor is likely to be sidelined. 

According to the Charlotte Observer, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin strained his hamstring a week ago and will probably sit during next week's practices as a result. Benjamin, a rookie in 2014, had 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns for the Panthers. 

With Benjamin sidelined, rookie receiver Devin Funchess has a chance to step in and act as Carolina's No. 1 receiver during the upcoming voluntary practices. 


Falcons' Joplo Bartu's suspension rescinded, fined $50,000
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/21/2015) Falcons linebacker Joplo Bartu had a two-game suspension for an alcohol related offense rescinded but was fined $50,000, per NFL.com.

Bartu pleaded no contest to driving under the influence last season and received a two-day suspended sentence and 12 months of probation.

According to an NFL and NFLPA agreement, players had until Nov. 1, 2014 to resolve DUIs for them to be accepted under the previous policy and for a suspension not to be issued. Bartu needed to submit his plea agreement before November but he did not go in front of judge before the deadline and was suspended in March.

Bartu provided the league with additional information, showing that his plea agreement was actually reached on Oct. 30, resulting in the $50,000 fine and his suspension as rescinded.

Bartu was third on the Falcons last season with 83 tackles.

 


Colts cut former basketball player Demarco Cox
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) The Colts released offensive tackle Demarco Cox on Friday, per radio station 1070 The Fan

Cox completed his college basketball career at Georgia Tech in March and was trying to convert to an NFL football lineman after not playing the sport at the college level.


Texans release veteran OT Tyson Clabo
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) The Texans announced on Thursday that they have released veteran offensive tackle Tyson Clabo

Clabo appeared in all 16 games for Houston a year ago but did not start any of them. This was a departure from what he was used to as a longtime starter in the NFL. 

Clabo entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Wake Forest in 2004. After bouncing around with the Broncos, Giants and Chargers, Clabo latched on with the Falcons in 2005. In 2006, Clabo earned a starting role with Atlanta, the team he stayed with through the 2012 season. 

He ended up in Houston a year ago after starting 15 games for the Dolphins in 2013. 

In total, Clabo has started 116 of the 132 games he's appeared in throughout his career. 


 
 
 
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