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Dear Mr. Fantasy: The Week 1 overreaction

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Deep breaths, everyone.

The best thing you can do for yourself after the first weekend of NFL action is slow down for a minute. It's only reasonable after what just happened. In a few days' time, you went from pouring over the same old data week after week to suddenly having all new data on every single player in the game. That's a lot of information to take in all at once.

And the hard part is sorting it all out.

We still don't know much. We may know more than we did a week ago, but any opinions that have changed since then are based on events that took place over a period of four 15-minute quarters. That's not much to go on.

Sure, it's OK to have suspicions and even to act on some of them, but you're likely to do more harm than good by jumping to conclusions. Why take the plunge if you can just toe the water?

Saying we now know Adrian Peterson is ready to contribute again is one thing. You're not declaring him the best running back in Fantasy and trading Aaron Rodgers for him; you're just putting him back in your lineup and entertaining the idea of dropping Toby Gerhart. Reasonable enough. But saying we now know Michael Turner is useless in the Falcons' new offense is probably making too much of too little.

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It may ultimately prove true, and certainly you have probable cause to bench him right now. But what if he just wasn't a big part of the game plan last week? The Chiefs' secondary was in disrepair, after all. Cutting the player you drafted to be your second-best running back this early in the season is just asking for trouble.

I mean, Andrew Hawkins isn't worth that much.

What do you think of this trade in a points-per-reception league: Stevan Ridley and Kevin Smith for Doug Martin? -- Victor Bustamante (via Facebook)

SW: I'm pretty sure I like it for the guy getting Martin. My judgment is warped somewhat because Ridley and Smith are both coming off outstanding Week 1 performances, but when I weigh what I do know against what I don't, the trade works out in the other side's favor.

First, Martin. Based on the Ray Rice comparisons that began in training camp and persisted throughout the preseason, I already suspected he'd carry the load for the Buccaneers and catch a fair number of passes out of the backfield. His performance in Week 1 only validated those suspicions. The concern with him, as with any rookie, was that the speed of the NFL game could expose some previously undetected shortcoming. Now, with a strong debut behind him, that concern is significantly lessened.

So he's a capable running back with a signifcant role in a scoring format well suited for his abilities. OK, then. That's what I know.

What do I know about Ridley and Smith? For the former, I know he can succeed in the Patriots offense if given the opportunity. I just saw it happen. What I don't know is if the Patriots' reconciliation with the running game was just a one-week thing. And even if it wasn't, will it be an every-week thing? To some degree, all the pass-heavy offenses we see in the NFL today exist because of what the Patriots (under current offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, mind you) did in 2007, so by changing course now, they'd be abandoning the revolution they started just when it's becoming the accepted model of success. I don't see it happening. They may run more than they used to now that they have the proper personnel for it, but the passing game is still the focus of their offense.

As for Smith, I know he does a fine job both running and catching the ball when he's the only backfield option the Lions have, but when he has to split touches with Mikel Leshoure, as will be the case when Leshoure returns from a suspension in Week 3, I don't know that he'll even be usable in Fantasy. I suspect he will at times just because the Lions have grown to trust him with Leshoure and Jahvid Best sidelined by injuries over the last two seasons, but on a weekly basis, I don't see it. With the Matthew Stafford-Calvin Johnson connection in its prime right now, the Lions live and die by the pass. They don't offer enough carries to sustain two backs.

Most Added Players (as of 9/12)
Player % increase
1. Kevin Ogletree, WR, Cowboys 48
2. Stephen Hill, WR, Jets 35
3. Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins 27
4. Randall Cobb, WR, Packers 17
5. Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Steelers 17
6. Dennis Pitta, TE, Ravens 15
7. James Jones, WR, Packers 13
8. Dexter McCluster, WR, Chiefs 12
9. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos 10
10. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears 9

So even though Ridley and Smith are capable running backs, their opportunities to contribute down the line are uncertain. OK, then. That's what I don't know.

One scenario I try my best to avoid in Fantasy Football is the guessing game. Once in a while is fine, but if every week is the same thing -- two similar running backs with two similar matchups -- I too often find myself saying "oops."

If you have a shot at what seems like a sure thing, you take it. Let someone else play the guessing game with Ridley and Smith.

Should I chance starting either Kevin Ogletree or Alfred Morris in my flex spot? -- @SailorJerry81 (via Twitter)

SW: Ah, yes. You just picked them up, and now you're wondering if you can use them. I suppose that's the natural progression.

My belief is you'll have occasions to start both. I'd say Ogletree has more lasting appeal than Morris, who still has to contend with Evan Royster and Roy Helu. Sorry, but I don't think a 3.4-yard-per-carry performance, which is what Morris accomplished in Week 1, is enough to win Mike Shanahan's undying loyalty. My general belief in these situations is that the talent wins out in the end, and the talent in this case is Helu. If that transition comes to pass, be it in Week 3 or Week 13, Morris will be useless in Fantasy while Ogletree will still be the third receiver in a pass-oriented offense.

But our emphasis right now is on Week 2, and for Week 2, I like Morris. He's facing the Rams, who ranked second-to-last against the run last year. Granted, this year's Rams could be different, but they didn't get a fair test against the run in Week 1, when they faced Matthew Stafford and the pass-happy Lions. Somehow, some way, a Shanahan-led team is going to get its yards on the ground, and since Morris seems to have established himself as the go-to guy for now, I think he's fine as a second running back or flex option.

The problem for Ogletree is that as long as Miles Austin and Dez Bryant are healthy, you won't be able to trust him as more than a bye-week replacement. He is third on the Cowboys' depth chart, after all. Granted, the Cowboys throw enough to give their the third and fourth receiving options a handful of big games over the course of the year, but you'll never be able to predict when they'll happen. And when they don't, you won't like the results.

Now, if Austin or Bryant goes down, which both have a history of doing, Ogletree has the potential to go all Victor Cruz on us, which is a big reason why he's so worth owning. But given the state of the Cowboys receiving corps heading into Week 2 at Seattle, I should hope you can do better than him.

Please tell me there isn't anything to worry about again this year with Chris Johnson. -- Ryan Minard (via Facebook)

SW: I had an opportunity to draft Johnson in one of my leagues this year. Fortunately, I also had the luxury of a one-hour time limit. I thought about it ... and thought about it ... and thought about it ... and eventually passed in favor of Calvin Johnson.

That was back before the preseason started, but with each exhibition game the Titans played, the question in my mind grew louder and louder: Why does everyone assume Johnson -- Chris, not Calvin -- will be all better this year?

He didn't look it in the preseason, averaging 2.9 yards carry. He didn't look it in the season opener, averaging 0.4 yards per carry. I know the latter came against a Patriots defense that is suspected to be much improved, but it doesn't explain the former. And yes, I know preseason numbers are horribly misleading, but for a player who was a colossal disappointment last year and has been a colossal disappointment this year -- one game and all -- I can't help but think they mean something.

The one bit of encouragement I can offer is that Johnson showed some improvement in the second half last year, which is why people were so quick to blame his poor showing on his contract holdout prior to the season -- he showed up late, got off to a bad start and never fully recovered -- but I think there's more to the story here.

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Of course, that's just a suspicion I have at this early stage of the season. It's not justification to dump Johnson for whatever you can get. It may be justification to deal him, though, if you're offered something fairly even in return, such as Maurice Jones-Drew straight up.

Which is the best DST for this week: the Redskins (at St. Louis), the Cowboys (at Seattle) or the Vikings (at Indianapolis)? -- @DjPaUlHoWaRd (via Twitter)

SW: I think we all got a little spoiled playing the matchups with defenses last season, when the Colts, Jaguars and Rams were all abominable on offense. This season, no offense stands out as being quite that bad. The Dolphins and Browns are getting there, but after one game, I don't think I'm sure enough of them to start the Raiders or Bengals defenses this week.

It's a moot point anyway because neither the Raiders nor the Bengals are options here, but the underlying message is that I'm not sure I trust matchup information enough at this point in the season to stray from the higher-profile defenses.

Of the three you listed here, the Cowboys are the highest-profile. No, they weren't the highest-scoring last year, but they have a big-name defensive coordinator in Rob Ryan and the talent to force a bunch of sacks and turnovers.

And you know what? Their matchup might be the best anyway. The Rams seem to have a different attitude with Jeff Fisher at the helm, so I don't know what to expect from them anymore. And Andrew Luck is such an improvement over what the Colts had at quarterback last year that I expect them to look entirely different as well.

I'm still trying to figure out just what the Seahawks have in Russell Wilson, but judging by his performance against the Cardinals in Week 1, I don't think he's in for a big season statistically. If that defense held the Seahawks offense to only 254 yards, you have to think the Cowboys are a relatively safe start at Seattle.

Is Fred Jackson for Beanie Wells and Nate Washington a good trade? Would Jackson for Reggie Bush be a better trade? I have Jackson. I'd just like to know what you think before I accept or counter offer. -- George Reed (via Facebook)

SW: My initial thought is that if you can still get something for Jackson, with his knee as messed up as it is, go for it. Coach Chan Gailey doesn't think it'll be as long as eight weeks, but he doesn't know either. And eight weeks is a long time as it is. Do you want an injured player hogging a bench spot for that long? Are you sure Jackson will reclaim the job from C.J. Spiller when he's ready to return? Tough questions, both.

But again, that was just my initial thought. Gailey also speculated that Jackson could miss as little as four weeks, which is a much more manageable timetable. I don't know that it's a more realistic timetable, but in the end, I'm just speculating myself. If you discard Jackson for a bunch of scrap metal just to get him off your roster, you may regret it later. So, yeah, I'll take what I can get for him ... within reason.

Wells and Washington are exactly what I mean by scrap metal. They're good enough to own, but will they ever put up big numbers? Maybe when the stars align. Will you ever feel compelled to start them? Maybe when the bye weeks align. I know Wells was pretty good last year, but now he has company in Ryan Williams on an offense that isn't going anywhere this year. Thinking about it makes me feel yucky inside.

However you rate those two, they're not going to help make up for the loss of Jackson. In fact, together, they'll just take up more roster space. If you're going to make either of these deals, you should make the Bush one.

And I'd recommend it, sure. I never understood why everyone was so down on Bush in the first place. He looked like a candidate for the second round when he rushed for 100 yards in each of his last four games last year. I know he doesn't play for a great offensive team, which limits his potential for touchdowns, but ... he is the offense. With Brandon Marshall out of town, most of the yardage now, whether on the ground or in the air, goes through Bush. Clearly, he thrived with poor quarterback play last year, so why wouldn't he do the same this year? I imagine you'd end up starting him just about every week, which is why this trade is worthwhile.

I'll add one caveat, though: If you're the one who owns Spiller, you shouldn't be looking to trade Jackson. You know you have a stud in the Bills running back, whichever it is. If you break up that duo now, you risk not having a stud if and when Jackson returns. Granted, it'll work out great if Jackson ends up missing the rest of the season or if Spiller ends up claiming the job outright, but right now, you're not in a position to predict either of those scenarios.

Rank these tight ends going forward: Brent Celek, Dennis Pitta, Heath Miller and Marcedes Lewis. -- Zac Duffy (via Facebook)

SW: So you want to know where Pitta fits into the equation after a breakout performance in Week 1? That one's hard to figure. For starters, I don't know that he's overtaken Ed Dickson, and I'm not sure the two can coexist. Most offenses don't have enough stats for multiple tight ends.

I mean, they'll play together, but speaking in terms of Fantasy, they may prevent each other from making a relevant contribution.

Of course, it's not like you listed a bunch of studs here. If nothing else, Pitta looked good catching the ball -- more like a wide receiver than a tight end, I'd say -- so if he continues to get the opportunities he did Monday, he has the potential to surprise. I'd still rank him behind Celek -- who, despite his limited ceiling, is a safe bet for 800 yards -- but I'd gamble on Pitta over uninspiring options like Lewis and Miller.

Granted, I'm not being entirely fair to Lewis. If coach Mike Mularkey has indeed fixed the passing game in Jacksonville, Lewis could reemerge as a primary red-zone target and approach the 10 touchdowns he scored in 2010. But he has never offered much between the 20s, and touchdowns alone aren't enough to keep a tight end relevant in Fantasy these days.

As for Miller ... yeah, he plays. That's about all he has going for him, though.

In a 10-team points-per-reception league, I can only start two of Percy Harvin, Jeremy Maclin and Reggie Wayne. Who should I sit? -- Sean Curtis (via Facebook)

SW: Well, if Maclin ends up missing the game with a strained hip flexor, that's it. The decision is made for you.

In a way, it might already be. He's at less than 100 percent. He's always at risk of losing catches to DeSean Jackson. He's facing the Ravens. Honestly, I can't think of a compelling reason to start him.

But the second reason is the most interesting to me because it applies beyond just this week. Call me old fashioned, but I like the wide receivers who are the clear No. 1 options for their teams. These days, I have to keep more of an open mind because the pass-heavy schemes in New England, New Orleans, Green Bay, New York, Atlanta, Denver and Dallas are all capable of sustaining more than one stud receiver. I'm not so sure about Philadelphia, though.

True, Michael Vick is more inclined to air it out these days than when he was with the Falcons, but running is still a big enough part of his game that he's not going to be one of those quarterbacks who throws for 250-plus yards every week. His passing numbers will be erratic, and Maclin and Jackson will suffer because of it. Hey, the proof is in the pudding. Maclin had less than 60 receiving yards in six of his 13 games last year.

I'm not saying he's a bad Fantasy option or even that I'd have the luxury of sitting him in most of my leagues, but clearly, you do. Granted, Harvin and Wayne aren't exactly Calvin Johnson themselves, but both figure to lead their teams in receiving just about every week. And as we saw in Week 1, both figure to benefit from improved quarterback play this year after falling short of expectations last year.

If I shop Jacquizz Rodgers to a Michael Turner owner, what can I expect to get in return? I was thinking Alshon Jeffery. -- @BrentBeugelink (via Twitter)

SW: Well, yeah, you could probably get Jeffery for him, but if you have to dig that deep, is it really worth it?

Don't get me wrong: Jeffery is a fine sleeper and all -- I own him in a few leagues myself -- but he's at that point where he's still just one bad game from going back on the waiver wire in most leagues. Rodgers' value is a bit more established. Considering his role in the Falcons' new pass-happy offense, he's a threat to overtake Turner any given week and is, therefore, a must-have handcuff option in Fantasy. One bad game won't change that.

Granted, I don't personally feel like he'll displace Turner as the primary rusher. I don't think he's as good in that role. But given the distribution of workload between the two backs in Week 1, the Turner owner has to be freaking out right now. And you're right to take advantage.

But if you're going to take advantage, take advantage. You need a wide receiver? Try asking for Miles Austin or Reggie Wayne or Antonio Brown or Eric Decker. None of them are so high-end that the Turner owner wouldn't at least think about it, and all offer more assurances than Jeffery.

Sure, the Turner owner might just laugh in your face, but if that happens, you don't lose anything by holding on to Rodgers. Another bad week for Turner would only work to your advantage.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB or Facebook . You can also follow Scott via Twitter @CBSScottWhite .

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Player News
Eagles LB DeMeco Ryans working way back from injury
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6:37 pm ET) There was a bit of a discrepancy Thursday in regard to the practice participation of Eagles inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans.

Chip Kelly said before the session that Ryans would be a full-go despite him being just seven months removed from rupturing his Achilles tendon. Ryans did practice, but he told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he was not a full participant.

Ryans missed half of the 2014 season with the injury, but contributed to 45 tackles in eight games before going down.


Eagles QB Mark Sanchez optimistic as offseason rolls on
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6:28 pm ET) A stronger arm, greater familiarity with the offense and more confidence has Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez feeling quite good these days.

Sanchez underwent shoulder surgery two years ago that affected him early last season. He expects to be better in 2015, especially if given an opportunity to play over newcomer Sam Bradford.

"First thing, physically, I feel so much better," he told the team website. "The farther it gets away from surgery and all the reps I've had, all the rehab on through, it can only get better and stronger. So this is definitely the best I've ever felt. And then as far as the scheme, every rep, every time we sit down and watch film, every meeting, that can only help with my growth as well."

The chance to play is one reason why Sanchez chose to return this offseason to the Eagles.

"Were there other opportunitites? Absolutely," he said. "Did they look potentially good, better, similar, maybe worse? Potentially, yeah, there was some stuff out there. But when I factored it all in, I just felt this was the best spot for me. I enjoy playing for coach Kelly, I love this system, I love the tempo, I love the pace."

Sanchez also expressed a desire to remain on the team for which he threw his highest completition percentage of his career in 2014. He hit on 64.1 percent, by far a personal best.

Chip Kelly has seen a difference in Sanchez.

"I think you can see it in how he's performing out there now," he said. "He's also not learning an offense again. ... He is really comfortable in terms of the scheme."


Ravens waive/injured Julian Wilson
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:04 pm ET) The Ravens waived/injured cornerback Julian Wilson on Thursday, the Baltimore Sun reports. Wilson suffered a broken leg on the first day of rookie camp and will miss the season.

Saints' Anthony Spencer works ahead of Junior Galette Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:01 pm ET) Saints linebacker Anthony Spencer worked ahead of Junior Galette in the team's base 4-3 defense, a run-heavy look that featured just three linebackers, ESPN.com reports.

"However it came out, we’re not worried about depth chart now," defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. "We’re putting in a defense, we’re all working hard together and getting to know each other, our teammates and what we got. But I know both those guys can play, so we’re excited about 'em."

Spencer had a career-high 11 sacks in 2012 but has managed just 24 total tackles and a half-sack in 14 games over the last two years while dealing with a major knee injury.

"I think sometimes there are tougher positions to evaluate at this time of year," coach Sean Payton said, when asked to give his early thoughts on Spencer. "But I think, No. 1, he can affect the passer. ... He’s an edge player, I think he’s very good at fitting the run, and I think he can affect the passer."


Report: Bryant participates in drills despite unsigned franchise tender
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5:46 pm ET) Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant took a huge risk by participating in a limited portion of his team's organized team activities on Thursday, because he has yet to sign his franchise-tag tender, sources told Todd Archer of ESPN.com.

Bryant, who wants a long-term deal, has made a number of appearances at the Cowboys' offseason conditioning program but Thursday was the first day he participated in meaningful on-field work.

Bryant and the Cowboys need to work out a long-term deal before July 15 or he would be forced to play the season under the franchise tag, which would pay him $12.8 million.

In 16 games last year, Bryant caught 88 passes for 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns.


Browns' Josh McCown not bothered by 'game manager' label
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:40 pm ET) Browns quarterback Josh McCown brushes off the negative connotation around phrases like "game manager" and "building around the quarterback," per the team's website.

"That stuff doesn't bother me," McCown said after Tuesday’s OTA. "We're trying to win a championship. You can call it what you want to call it. I just want to win football games. That's my main focus. I understand who I am and how I want to go about winning football games. That's the key for us."

Coach Mike Pettine understands why McCown was attracted to Cleveland as a potential landing spot this offseason.

"I think he sees that as potentially a way to win football games," Pettine said. "I think virtually any quarterback in the league, if we said, ‘Hey, we want to get you in second-and-5 and not second-and-11. We want to get you in third-and-2 and not third-and-8,’ I think they’d all be appreciative of that."

McCown also had praise for his new offensive line after getting to work with the unit.

"I knew they were physically good, you see it on tape, but these guys are so smart," McCown said. "It's rare to get a group of five guys that can really see the field the way they do. I've said this all along, they were a big reason why I wanted to come here. After being with them now the last five or six weeks, had I known it was this good, I might not have even had to take a visit (before signing). They're really sharp. I'm looking forward to continuing to work with them."


Jaguars' Denard Robinson ready for second try as kick returner
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:33 pm ET) Jaguars running back Denard Robinson is getting a shot at being the team's kick returner this offseason, a role he hasn't performed since early in his rookie season, but he's ready for the challenge, ESPN.com reports.

"Anything they ask me to do, I’m doing," Robinson said. "Now I feel more comfortable [returning kicks] than I was my rookie year."

General manager David Caldwell has said that while Robinson will get work returning kicks, he'd still have a significant role on offense. The running back hasn't dwelled on the comment.

"You just go out there and do yourself," Robinson said. "Do your thing and have fun and get better every day."

Robinson averaged 4.3 yards per carry on 135 rushes last season while racking up 582 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. The Jaguars are expected to use rookie T.J. Yeldon as their primary runner in 2015.


Jaguars' Toby Gerhart feels for first time since last September
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:25 pm ET) Jaguars running back Toby Gerhart is expected to fill an H-back role after the team selected T.J. Yeldon in the second round, but he's worried less about his role and focusing on the fact that he's back to full health, ESPN.com reports.

"It’s feeling good," Gerhart said of the ankle that bothered him all of last season. "I feel healthy for the first time since last September. Feeling good and excited to go out there and be healthy and fresh this spring and show what I can do and compete."

Gerhart's new role will open him up to be a bigger part of the passing game.

"I’m learning the F [H-back] and running some of that and also taking just as many reps at tailback and competing and just trying to be the best I can be and see what happens," Gerhart said. "A lot of it so far has been a lot of routes and stuff like that, not so much iso downhill, more get me out in the flat, get me in pass pro and get out. It’s exciting to move around and we’ll see what happens."

Gerhart averaged just 3.2 yards on 101 carries last season while scoring two touchdowns. His average of 9.3 yards per reception represented a season high.


Eagles' Walter Thurmond moves to safety
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5:20 pm ET) The Eagles have made a lot of moves to improve their defense this offseason, one of which was to bring Walter Thurmond aboard.

Most thought he would play cornerback, but Chip Kelly announced Thursday that Thurmond has moved to safety, per nj.com.

Thurmond said the coaching staff approached him about the idea some time ago, giving him the option to compete at either position. 

"It was a couple weeks ago, just after the draft, they asked me how I would feel about moving to safety,'' Thurmond said. "They said I could stay and compete at corner, or I could move to safety and compete there. After drafting three corners, even though some of them might be safeties, they thought it would be better for me at safety. I'm good with it. I just want to play."

The move is intriguing given that Thurmond has never played a game at the safety position, but he isn't concerned too much about that.

"I've played it in practice, but never in a game,'' Thurmond said. "In this defense, though, it's not much different than playing in the nickel.''


Buccaneers DE Jacquies Smith opens OTAs on first team
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:16 pm ET) Buccaneers defensive end Jacquies Smith was part of the first-team defense in Thursday's open OTA practice, the first of the offseason, per the team's website.

Smith and George Johnson were the bookends on the defensive line, surrounding Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald. Lavonte David and Danny Lansanah were the two linebackers in the nickel set, with Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks at corner and Chris Conte and Major Wright at safety. Sterling Moore and Isaiah Frey each played nickel.

Smith was a castoff by Buffalo early last season but developed into a rotational end with the Buccaneers, racking up 6 1/2 sacks.


 
 
 
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