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Fantasy & Reality: A tale of two receivers

Senior Fantasy Writer
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There's really not a lot in common between Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinal with four Week 2 targets, and Danny Amendola, the Rams receiver who posted career-highs in targets, catches and yards on the same day. One was drafted to be a No. 1 receiver, the other is playing like one. And unless this is the first time you're reading a Fantasy Football column, you know who is who.

Through two weeks Fitzgerald has five catches for 67 yards. Amendola had slightly more yardage on the same number of catches in Week 1 before exploding last Sunday. A look into these two receivers could shed some light on what to expect the rest of the season.

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Amendola is a wonderful story after a major elbow injury capsized his 2011 season. Playing in a role more or less like that of Wes Welker, the Rams did a phenomenal job finding ways to make him effective. Whether he lined up in the slot or the outside, his route tree branched out in every direction. Of his 15 catches on Sunday, only five were five or more yards downfield, but one included a deep crosser nearly 20 yards past the line of scrimmage where quarterback Sam Bradford found him wide open. He took it another 36 yards for the longest catch of his career. Another impressive play counted on the scoreboard when he posted up Gronk-style in front of a Redskins linebacker for a 1-yard touchdown dart from Bradford. Several other catches involved him punishing zone coverage and getting open in space -- the very thing the Rams likely want to do with him as much as possible.

For Fitzgerald, the problem was that he wasn't utilized enough. He ran pretty good routes -- there were a couple of occasions where he slacked off but those were mainly on runs (check out the Andre Roberts touchdown to see Fitzgerald become more observer than player) -- but he also received the kind of coverage big, elite receivers with deep speed demand. And when he was open, he went unnoticed. There were several plays where Fitzgerald had shed his coverage but his quarterback didn't find him. There's a reason why.

It should come as no surprise to learn that Fitzgerald is very much handicapped by his quarterback, Kevin Kolb, who is himself handicapped by a sub-standard offensive line that doesn't protect very well. Against the Patriots, Kolb was seemingly focused on getting the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible, thus eliminating the mid- and long-range passes from Fitzgerald's arsenal. There was one play where Fitzgerald was singled up on a deep route and Kolb went in his direction, but it was off by several yards. That was one of three deep pass attempts Kolb threw at New England; everything else was basically within 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. Making matters worse, Kolb only threw at Fitzgerald four times (five if you include a penalized play) over 27 official attempts. That's a pretty crummy ratio considering Fitzgerald's status as an elite receiver. You'd think Kolb learned to lean on Fitzgerald after he threw at him three of his first four pass attempts when he replaced John Skelton in Week 1, but that wasn't the case Week 2. This is an issue Amendola doesn't have with his quarterback.

The funny thing is that if the Cardinals took some of the routes the Rams use with Amendola, he'd become more effective. Fitzgerald ran several inside routes against the Patriots -- one such route resulted in a completion that was negated by an offensive line penalty -- but it's hard to keep Fitzgerald involved if he's not in Kolb's vision, and he simply isn't there when Kolb is looking to get rid of the ball as fast as he can because the pocket is collapsing.

So until Kolb has more time to throw, or until he learns to lean on Fitzgerald, or until Fitzgerald starts running more short slant and dig routes that take away his gamebreaking abilities, he's going to have a hard time succeeding. When you consider his matchup against the blitz-heavy Eagles in Week 3, it's enough to make you think seriously about benching him.

Amendola, on the other hand, should continue being a factor for the Rams until defenses get a beat on how to contain him. Maybe all it takes is press coverage from the snap to throw Amendola off his route and throw off his timing with Bradford. But until Amendola's numbers begin to sink, it's not worth worrying about. Additionally, the Rams can always find ways for Amendola to get around the jam; his quick and can still get open. His matchup against the Bears in Week 3 should provide some insight as Chicago's cornerbacks have played well and will likely bracket Amendola to keep him contained.

Both the Cardinals and the Rams aren't expected to blow the doors off of anyone, in fact they'll probably be in a lot of competitive games or playing from behind. That favors the receivers. Expect Amendola to remain relevant in Fantasy -- though probably not at a level like we saw in Week 2. As for Fitzgerald, keeping expectations in check is probably a very good idea, at least until something changes in the Arizona passing and pass protection areas. It does help Fitzgerald's case that his upcoming schedule is about to get easier.

Fantasy & Reality

Quick observations about the misconceptions (Fantasy) and truths (Reality) from around the league.

Fantasy: Eric Decker will do well against the Falcons' banged up secondary. Frankly, Decker hasn't done great this season, but he does have 15 targets. That's enough to tell you that he's doing something to catch Peyton Manning's attention. He came close to coming up with a long catch against the Falcons and even was targeted in the end zone. Either of those misses hit and no one's worried about Decker. He's not going away -- don't lose patience with him.

Reality: Reggie Bush hasn't slowed down one iota. I figured at the very least Bush would score and total 80 yards against the Raiders in Week 2. Nope. He scored twice and totaled nearly 200 yards! A lot of people might be comfortable saying his best numbers of the season came against Oakland but it wouldn't be a surprise if he put up some hot stats against the Bengals in Week 5, the Rams in Week 6, the Colts in Week 9 and the Titans in Week 10. There are some iffy matchups in between (the Jets in Week 3 qualifies) but nothing is as tough as going up against the Texans in Houston in Week 1, and he still topped 100 total yards. If he's on the field he should be in your Fantasy lineup.

Fantasy: Trent Richardson's knee will be a concern all year. After watching his game against the Bengals I can assure you that while his body could get beaten up over the course of the year, the knee issue he had in August doesn't seem to affect him at all. His offensive line is pretty good, he himself is a tough guy to bring down and the Browns might actually be developing an offense. I love his chances to keep it up against the Bills in Week 3.

Reality: Ben Roethlisberger is the best buy-low quarterback out there. Though he's averaging just 7.32 yards per pass attempt through two games, Big Ben is starting to look like a capable stat producer for those owners unsure about their options at quarterback. He's helped big time by Mike Wallace, who has shown minimal signs of rust since coming back from his holdout. Antonio Brown remains very relevant in the offense and Heath Miller has stepped back into relative prominence. With the Steelers run game rendered useless at this point, there's probably a good chance Roethlisberger will continue to throw often. His upcoming schedule: at Oakland, a bye, vs. Philadelphia, at Tennessee, at Cincinnati, vs. Washington, at the N.Y. Giants, vs. Kansas City. One ugly matchup in the bunch, and no one will ask for much in return for him.

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Fantasy: Martellus Bennett is a career underachiever who won't help Fantasy owners. I'm dead wrong on Bennett. The guy was garbage in Dallas -- as every Cowboys fan will tell you -- but Eli Manning has taken to him as a legit red-zone threat. Get this: Bennett had five passes thrown to him in the end zone last week against the Bucs. It took five tries to connect but on the fifth he scored. Yes, drop whatever pile of tight end junk you took in Round 12 to get him.

Reality: Robert Griffin III is amazing, but can he last? After two games the Fantasy world is in love with RG3. It's totally understandable. But the one concern I have is whether or not he can take the physical beating over 16 games. Take a look at him: He's not as big as, well, pretty much anyone at quarterback in the NFL. He's pretty slender. Redskin Nation as well as Fantasy owners shouldn't be worried to the point that they trade him away for nothing (but trading him is something you could consider), but I'd carry a backup if I had Griffin as my starter.

Impactful injuries

Aaron Hernandez, tight end, New England: No surprise, the Patriots are being coy about what the injury is and how long he'll be out. Whether it's a high-ankle sprain or a low-ankle sprain, the fact remains his Fantasy owners have sprained lineups. The good news is that finding an alternative won't be a big deal. The bad news is that the alternate might be in there for a while. It's also a blow to the Patriots' passing attack, which became a little easier to defend with Hernandez sidelined.

Ahmad Bradshaw, running back, Giants: Hopefully his neck sprain doesn't keep him out for too long. The hunch is that we'll see a lot more of Andre Brown and David Wilson against the Panthers. What happens after that will hinge on Bradshaw's health. Hopefully he's back for Week 4 at Philadelphia.

Jeremy Maclin, wide receiver, Eagles: Maclin banged up his already-hurt hip. He could miss a game, though it's dependent on his practice schedule this week. We'll see.

Brian Orakpo, linebacker; and Adam Carriker, defensive end, Redskins: Replacing both guys is a tall order for Mike Shanahan. No one should fear the matchups against Washington until further notice. That could help the Redskins' passing attack as they play in competitive (potentially high-scoring) games, by the way.

DST sleepers for Week 3

Last week's DST sleepers: Bengals (12 points), Raiders (1 measly point), Chargers (12 points)

Bills at Browns ... So far, DSTs going up against Cleveland have enjoyed double-digits in Fantasy points (18 for Philadelphia, 12 for Cincy). Buffalo put up 21 Fantasy points at home against Kansas City.
Chargers vs. Falcons ... Big risk going with a DST playing the Falcons, but those Dirty Birds are flying cross-country after playing on Monday. The Chargers held Carson Palmer to 297 yards and held Jake Locker to 174 yards in their two games. They are a little light on the sacks with just three in two games, but their defense should be fairly decent. If you're desperate they're not bad.
Saints vs. Chiefs ... I don't know if this DST can be trusted, but the matchup can be. The Bills DST had 21 Fantasy points against them in Week 2 and the Falcons had 11 in Week 1. Again, a desperation choice.
Colts vs. Jaguars ... Chuck Pagano's group has 10 Fantasy points in consecutive weeks and need only contain Maurice Jones-Drew to remain viable in Week 3. Stop me if you've read about starting a DST if you're desperate ...

Two more things

• We talked this preseason about Brandon Lloyd coming to New England and taking targets away from the other Patriots receivers. Well, he's not alone. Not only is Lloyd the leader in targets for the Patriots through two games with 21 (Gronkowski has 15), but Stevan Ridley has emerged as a reliable running back and has taken 39 carries and five receptions in two games. There were only three instances of BenJarvus Green-Ellis having at least 18 carries in back-to-back games with the Patriots and they came back in 2010, mainly late in the year. Laurence Maroney did it once in 2009, Sammy Morris did it once in 2007. It's rare for Bill Belichick's offenses to be run heavy but Ridley could continue to hawk carries, given that he's averaging 5.0 yards per carry and bringing back a dimension to the Patriots offense they haven't had in years.

And it could mean fewer opportunities for everyone in the Patriots offense, including Tom Brady.

• Reporters asked Darren McFadden and Chris Johnson about their rushing woes after two games. McFadden said he's comfortable with the Raiders' new zone-blocking scheme and expects to "start popping" soon. Johnson pointed fingers, saying "people need to step up and do their job."

I think both backs will ultimately be OK. But one guy's accepting the issue and believes he'll do well soon. The other is seemingly calling out teammates and perhaps even his coach. Which one would you rather have on your Fantasy team?

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Player News
Bills move Corey Graham to safety
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:01 am ET) The Bills have moved cornerback Corey Graham to safety, the Buffalo News reports.

Graham said that he and the team have discussed the move all offseason and decided to give the position change a try on Tuesday when the team held its first workout of OTAs.

"He’s got that unique ability where he can do both things," coach Rex Ryan said. "So let’s see what we have out there. And this is no slam on Duke or on Rambo or on Meeks or any of those guys, but this is us doing what’s best for the team. And if that means we feel good about [Graham] playing safety, then that’s where he’ll be."

Graham is enthusiastic about playing the safety position full-time.

"I want to try to really learn it and see where it goes, see how much my grasp is, see how I’m playing at it, see where it can take me," he said. "I look forward to it. It’s a challenge for me, but I’m actually very excited about it."

Graham recorded 84 total tackles last season, his first in Buffalo, while intercepting two passes.


Vikings' Bridgewater 'extremely comfortable' with leadership role
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) Vikings second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is embracing his role as leader of the offense, the Star Tribune reports.

"I’m a young guy still on the team, but guys are pushing me forward to say something in the huddle, or break the team down, or break the offense down," Bridgewater said. "That just gives you that confidence in yourself, confidence in your leadership and I’ve been extremely comfortable doing that so far."

Coach Mike Zimmer is satsfied with the work Bridgewater has done during the offseason.

"It’s hard to never not be pleased with Teddy because he’s such a hard worker," Zimmer said. "We wanted him to get bigger and stronger; he looks a little bit bigger to me. He’s always worked real hard. The leadership things are starting to come better. I think he’s been doing a good job the two days we’ve been out here against the defense."

Bridgewater made 12 starts in his rookie season and played 13 games in all, racking up 2,919 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while completing 64.4 percent of his passes.


Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders hoping to reach 1,000 yards
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders believes the new offensive scheme in Denver will effect his numbers, accoridng to the team's website.

Sanders is working with new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and coach Gary Kubiak to install the team's new offense and noted it's very different from last year's spread attack.

"You talk about going from a no-huddle offense to an offense that's huddling up, to an offense that is predicated off running a football and then throwing it. It's different," Sanders said. 

"It's a totally different set up, but I tell you what, the more and more I'm in it," said Sanders. "Because we can get the run game going and just use my vertical speed on cross routes and all these different combinations of routes is based off the play action, then I think the offense will be successful with Peyton Manning at the helm."

Sanders, who totaled 1,404 yards and nine touchdowns in 2014, doesn't think he'll accomplish the same numbers.

"Of course obviously it's not going to be one of those offenses, well I'm praying that it is, but obviously it's not going to be one of those offenses where you catch it and you're going to have two receivers catching over 100 passes," said Sanders. "Hopefully, my goal is really to try to get a 1,000 yards to just help this team win ball games."


Cowboys rookie La'el Collins taking reps at RT in OTAs
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) Cowboys rookie offensive lineman La'el Collins started offseason team activities on Wednesday taking reps at right tackle, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Collins, who was signed as an undrafted free agent, could also see time at left guard. But the rookie is taking his first reps with the team at right tackle with Darrion Weems while Doug Free recovers from ankle surgery.

"We think he has the physical ability to play a couple of different spots," coach Jason Garrett said. "He was a tackle for most of his career in college but did play guard. We see him as a guy who can maybe do both of those things as he goes.

"The big thing for him is to try to get him acclimated as quickly as we can. So right now he's going to play right tackle for us. He and Darrion Weems are competing at that spot in Doug Free's absence and we'll just see how that unfolds." 


Vikings' Adrian Peterson on absence from OTAs: 'It's business'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said in a statement on Wednesday that his absence from OTAs has "nothing to do with wanting to be traded," ESPN reports.

"The reason I'm not attending OTAs has nothing to do with wanting to be traded. It's about securing my future with the Vikings. It's business, not personal and I understand that firsthand. Go Vikings."

It was reported earlier Wednesday that coach Mike Zimmer said that Peterson could "either play for us or not play." The running back has expressed frustration with team management for not showing him support during his legal case for child abuse.


Report: Falcons' Dezmen Southward undergoes knee surgery
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) Falcons defensive backs Dezmen Southward underwent a minor-knee operation Wednesday, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Southward did not attend Tuesday's OTA and it is not known how long he'll be sidelined.


Julius Thomas trying to fit into Jaguars' offense
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) Jaguars tight end Julius Thomas said after Wednesday's organized team activity that he intends to make it work with quarterback Blake Bortles, reports The Florida Times-Union.

"There is no 'Here's me coming in, and Blake's going to get on my page.' I'm going to be on Blake's page," Thomas said. "Whatever he expects, that's what I am going to do. He's the quarterback. He's the one in control of that huddle, and I like catching passes so I will make sure I do exactly what he wants."

With Thomas entering his first season with the Jaguars, he said it will take time to develop a rapport with Bortles.

"I think that getting good chemistry with a quarterback probably takes a couple of thousand passes," Thomas said.


Cowboys RB Darren McFadden not concerned with playing time
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) With the Cowboys just beginning their organized team activities this week, running back Darren McFadden said he just wants to concentrate on becoming familiar with the team, reports the team's official website.

"For me, I'm just going out there grinding," he said. "However the coaches put me out there – whether it's first team or second team. When it comes time for them to make a decision, it's totally up to them. I'm just trying to get that playbook down and take advantage of this opportunity."

McFadden is competing with Joseph Randle to be the first-team running back, and he said he just wants to work hard and not worry about how many repetitions he's receiving with the first team.

"Once you've been in a place so long like Oakland, you can get set in your ways," McFadden said Wednesday, after his second OTA practice with the Cowboys. "Coming out here and being around guys that work so hard, it just brings out the best in you. It's something I look forward to."


Chiefs' Mike Catapano on his health: I feel better than ever
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) After missing the entire 2014 season with a gastrointestinal virus, Chiefs defensive end Mike Catapano was able to participate in the team's OTA on Wednesday, reports The Kansas City Star.

"Every time I step on the field now it's with purpose and with extra vigor that I never really had," Catapano said. "It feels great. I feel better than ever."

Catapano played in 15 games during his rookie season in 2013 and he totaled four tackles and one sack. He said he's ready to surpass that in 2015.

"I'm ready to show that I offer a lot to this team. I'm ready to step up in big situations and starting situations," Catapano said. "I just want to keep getting better every day… and play to the best of my abilities."


Broncos' Manning, Sanders keeping up with Thomas during holdout
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/27/2015) Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is holding out of offseason workouts while he continues to negotiate a long-term deal with the team, but teammates Emmanuel Sanders and Peyton Manning have been keeping up with the star receiver, the Denver Post reports.

"One thing a lot of people don’t realize is when you’re playing on a one-year deal, there’s a lot of things going through your head," Sanders said. "As much as you guys want to say, ‘Don’t think about it,' of course it’s going to cross your mind because you’re talking about a lot of money at stake. When you’re playing these one-year deals, it’s a lot of stress on you. No matter how much you don’t want it to be, it’s going to happen. We’re all human."

Manning would like to have Thomas in workouts but understands the business aspects of his decision.

"I keep up with Demaryius. He’s my buddy," Manning said. "They got that business side of it to work out, but he’s been a great teammate to me, been a great friend to me since I’ve been here in Denver, so I keep up with him. Obviously want him to get back here as soon as possible, but we want what’s best for him, and he certainly deserves what’s best for him."

Thomas has started 16 games for three straight season, topping 90 receptions, 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns in each.


 
 
 
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