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Dear Mr. Fantasy: What's the deal with/for CJ?

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

Chris Johnson ... safe to say people are down on him right now.

If you thought his numbers last year were bad, his performance through two games this year might be what causes you to lose all faith in humanity. So far, he has picked up 21 yards on the ground, which not only ranks dead last among starting running backs but would rank only 12th among starting quarterbacks. Even backup Colin Kaepernick has 17.

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So as you might expect, he's a hot topic on the Interwebs right now, with questions ranging from the specific ...

Is Chris Johnson worth trading if all I can get in return is Trent Richardson, Ryan Mathews or Peyton Manning? -- Chris Layton (via Twitter)

All you can get? That's pretty good stuff right there. I don't know about Manning if you're already satisfied with your starting quarterback, but either of those running backs could ultimately provide the numbers you were expecting from Johnson.

... to the optimistic ...

What do I do with Chris Johnson? What can I get for him in a trade? -- @d_parsons520 (via Twitter)

That's right. You're not throwing in the towel on Johnson. You're just using his slow start as an opportunity to explore the marketplace. And judging by some of the trades made in actual CBSSports.com leagues, the market hasn't exactly given up on him either. Doug Martin for Johnson. Reggie Bush for Johnson. I like the sound of those.

... to the narcissistic ...

Chris Johnson? I could have more rushing yards than him by now! -- everyone with a pulse (via various message boards across all of cyberspace)

Uh ... yeah. Normally, anyone who takes to titansfever.com with such bravado is full of it, but in this case, simply falling forward 19 times would probably do the trick.

... to, my personal favorite, the fatalistic ...

I am beyond frustrated with Chris Johnson. I also had him last year, so after two games, I'm done. I want to trade him, but I need to know which players you think I could get for him. You may provide a list of as many names as you can think of, as I plan to offer him to everyone and anyone who will listen. -- Jeff Ill (via e-mail)

Yes, the fatalistic. A man resigned to his fate doesn't waste time kicking around what-if scenarios. He acts.

And in this case, his action may be warranted. Sure, Johnson could come around -- he did last year, to a degree -- but if I had a shot at any of these players instead, I'd prefer not to sweat it out with him.

Yes, it's a list, but it's a list of every running back I'd take over Johnson right now. If that's too boring for you, just imagine I made a song out of it, like Yakko in front of the world map in the old Animaniacs cartoon.

Arian Foster, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Marshawn Lynch, DeMarco Murray, Maurice Jones-Drew, Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, Ryan Mathews, Reggie Bush, Darren McFadden, Adrian Peterson, the C.J. Spiller-Fred Jackson tandem and the Michael Bush-Matt Forte tandem.

Not as extensive as you'd think? To be honest, I'm a little surprised myself, but knowing the way Johnson bounced back last season after looking similarly inept in the early going, I'd rather not bail on him for a platoon back like Darren Sproles or Jamaal Charles or an injury risk like Frank Gore or Steven Jackson. And I'm not completely sold yet on Alfred Morris or Stevan Ridley, especially given the tendencies of their coaching staffs.

Should I start Jay Cutler against the Rams, Joe Flacco at the Patriots or Ben Roethlisberger at the Raiders? -- @theonly1Avenger (via Twitter)

Most Traded Players (as of 9/19)
Player # of trades
1. Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins 1329
2. C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills 1135
3. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans 1051
4. Kevin Smith, RB, Lions 814
5. Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins 785
6. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons 781
7. Cedric Benson, RB, Packers 767
8. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals 764
9. Willis McGahee, RB, Broncos 753
10. Ben Tate, RB, Texans 749

SW: So ... I'm guessing you were the odd man out in the race for the top 11 quarterbacks on Draft Day. It's a shame you didn't target Robert Griffin III as No. 12 -- a shame, but nothing you can go back and change now.

And I'm sure you weren't the only one to go that route. Griffin offered the upside, but with your No. 1 quarterback, you wanted some sort of track record, which these three were able to provide. But you can't rely on stud numbers from any of them week to week, which leaves you with this same dilemma over and over again. Talk about agonizing.

The good news is all three of these quarterbacks should fare well with these matchups. The bad news is, accounting for the law of averages, one probably won't, and if you happen to go with that one, it could cost you a win.

So if the goal is to pick out which of these quarterbacks is least likely to disappoint this week, my choice is Roethlisberger, for three reasons:

1. He's the one who has most often performed like an elite option in his career, namely during the 2007 and 2009 seasons.
2. He's the one off to the best start this season, having thrown two touchdown passes in back-to-back games as the Steelers have struggled to find their running game.
3. He's the one facing what I perceive to be the weakest defense. I mean, the Raiders just gave up 35 points to the Dolphins, of all teams. How good could they be?

Sure, Flacco is facing the Patriots, who could force the Ravens into a shootout if they get back to their high-scoring ways. But they just got shut down by the Cardinals and have had trouble getting in sync under returning offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. If the potential for a shootout is your entire basis for starting Flacco, it could easily backfire, especially given the Ravens' defensive prowess.

As for Cutler, the downside is pretty obvious with him. He just threw four interceptions against the Packers and remains far too susceptible to such meltdowns for you to gamble on him when you have such favorable alternatives. The matchup against the Rams is attractive enough, but they have forced their share of turnovers this year. Why chance it if you don't have to?

Is it time to cut bait on Greg Olsen and pick up Martellus Bennett, Dennis Pitta, Brandon Myers or Kyle Rudolph? -- Gregory Koger (via Facebook)

SW: You mean you're still messing around with Olsen -- he of the one catch for 13 yards against the Saints last week? Get with the times, sir. I understand his Week 1 performance was fairly adequate, but was it really enough to grant him a reprieve? The Panthers pretty much phased him out at the end of last season. He had no more than three catches in any of his last seven games.

The abundance of tight ends we've already seen emerge off the waiver wire this season -- these four included -- demonstrates exactly why you were encouraged to wait at the position on Draft Day (assuming you didn't get Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski, of course). Everybody wants a legitimate receiver there now, so the position only figures to get deeper with time. Clearly, you recognized that much, which is why you didn't mind settling for Olsen on Draft Day. But to take the next step, you have to make the switch here.

I'd feel pretty good about any of those as my starter, which is more than I can say for Olsen. If I had to rank them, I'd go Bennett, Pitta, Myers and Rudolph.

Bennett seems to have replaced Mario Manningham as Eli Manning's third receiving target in a pass-driven offense, and his size makes him an ideal red-zone target. I wouldn't be surprised if he put up similar numbers to the ones Aaron Hernandez had last year. Pitta, likewise, has been earning plenty of looks from Joe Flacco and should make an impact in the red zone. The difference between him and Bennett is that the Ravens aren't quite as reliant on the pass as the Giants. Myers is a bit of a wild card, but Carson Palmer has to throw to someone. So far, he's been the beneficiary there. Rudolph should score his share of touchdowns, but I'm not sure the yardage will be there for him in an Adrian Peterson-driven offense.

What's up with Larry Fitzgerald? -- James Harrison Padley (via Facebook)

SW: What is up with him? If the Cardinals were to upset the Patriots, as happened in Week 2, you'd think he'd be the main reason why, yet he had just one catch for 4 yards in the contest. The last time he had a game that unproductive was as a rookie in 2004.

Hey, he was on the field. He was running routes, commanding double teams and even getting a few passes thrown his way -- five, to be exact. But he wasn't getting the numbers.

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The biggest issue, of course, is that the Cardinals' quarterback situation is arguably the worst in the league. They keep going back and forth between John Skelton and Kevin Kolb, but the truth is neither is the answer. You can't expect Fitzgerald to be his complete self with those two throwing him the football.

That said, he had 80 catches for 1,411 yards with those same two throwing him the football last year, and I don't think anyone would complain about that. The difference is that last year the Cardinals were able to divert some of the defense's attention away from Fitzgerald by establishing a halfway decent running game. So far through two games this year, Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams haven't gotten the job done.

But Wells was the main man last year and can do it again if he's able to bounce back from offseason knee surgery. He's not there yet, but he showed signs of coming around against the Patriots last week. If the trend continues, Fitzgerald's struggles could soon become a distant memory.

And even if it doesn't, I'd still expect Fitzgerald to come through with another productive season. He's arguably the most talented wide receiver in the league. The Cardinals aren't going anywhere if they don't deliver him the football, so sooner or later, you can bet they'll force the issue.

One way or another, he'll get his numbers. I'd rather be the one buying than selling him right now.

Do you like Jay Cutler or Alex Smith this week? What about Alfred Morris or Darren McFadden? Larry Fitzgerald or Demaryius Thomas? -- @S49erfan (via Twitter)

SW: Week 3, and we're already to the point where we consider benching our studs? Can't say I blame you. McFadden and Fitzgerald both were positively useless last week.

And I'm not sure this week will be better for either. McFadden faces the vaunted Steelers defense, which is one of the best against the run year after year. This year is shaping up to be no exception. Just look at the way Willis McGahee's production changed against the Falcons in Week 2 after facing the Steelers in Week 1. Just look at the way Shonn Greene's production changed against the Steelers in Week 2 after facing the Bills in Week 1.

Similarly, the Eagles defense has feasted on the pass this year, making a mockery of Brandon Weeden in his NFL debut and bringing Joe Flacco back down to earth last week. Fitzgerald's inability to get anything going against the Seahawks and Patriots doesn't bode well for his chances in this matchup.

Maybe if Morris and Thomas had stinker matchups themselves, I'd be inclined to stick with the status quo. But Morris' against the Bengals could be his best one yet, and Thomas' against the Texans, though not favorable in the strictest sense, should turn out OK just because the Broncos will be forced to pass. Based on what those two have done so far, I'm will to depart from my usual philosophy of sticking with the studs and roll with Morris and Thomas.

Not so sure about Smith over Cutler, though. The Rams have given up some yards through the air this season, and Cutler's ceiling from week to week is significantly higher than Smith's. He's perhaps not as steady as Smith, as his four interceptions last week showed, but I'm not going to let one bad game scare me away from him if Smith is my only alternative.

Both of my starting running backs -- Matt Forte and Ahmad Bradshaw -- have gone down with injuries, and my backups are Isaac Redman and Knowshon Moreno. Is now the time sell high on Danny Amendola, or am I giving away a diamond in the rough? Jeremy Maclin, Jordy Nelson, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Robert Meachem are my other wide receivers. -- Martyn Vanderlugt (via e-mail)

SW: First of all, do you still have a shot at landing Andre Brown off the waiver wire? If you do, your situation isn't so dire. You can just plug him in with Bradshaw out and trust him to deliver. He did against the Buccaneers in Week 2. Why not at the Panthers in Week 3?

If someone else beat you to him ... yeah, you're in trouble. Moreno doesn't have a significant role with the Broncos, and though Redman gets touches, he doesn't have enough big-play potential to make the most of them. He's already practically worthless when he doesn't score a touchdown, and he'll only lose opportunities when Rashard Mendenhall returns from offseason knee surgery, which could happen as soon as this week. In that scenario, what Amendola may or may not do for you is irrelevant. You have to make a trade.

Fortunately, you have the depth at wide receiver to pull it off. Trading Amendola would certainly be the safe way to go since he's still an unproven commodity, but in any trade scenario, you have to look at it from the other owner's perspective. Amendola isn't any more of a proven commodity on his team than yours, so how much can you honestly expect to get in return? It's the classic case of shopping the guy you just plucked off the waiver wire. To some Fantasy owners, it's downright offensive.

To make sure you maximize your return, why don't you be the one to take the chance on Amendola? Honestly, I think it'll work out OK. I'm not guaranteeing 15 catches every week, but the double-digit targets and short routes turned to moderate gains -- a la Wes Welker -- were exactly what everyone was expecting from him last year, before he suffered a season-ending arm injury. Plus, the Rams offense as a whole seems to be more stable under the new coaching staff, so chances are Amendola isn't going to disappear on you. Again, it's no guarantee, but when you're in a desperate situation, those are the chances you have to take. It's certainly better than relying on Moreno.

So who should you trade? Maclin would be ideal since his relative inconsistency makes his actual value less than his perceived value -- or at least, that's what I think -- but with him nursing a hip injury, I'm not sure he'd fetch you a big return either. Your only choice might be Nelson.

Granted, I'm not thrilled with the prospect, but the silver lining is that you'd no longer have to worry about how much his role could change with the emergence of Randall Cobb in Green Bay. That offense can only sustain so many wide receivers, after all. Plus, Nelson should fetch you the kind of running back that you'd be happy to start even after Forte and Bradshaw return, such as Maurice Jones-Drew or Doug Martin.

If that doesn't work, the easier (and cheaper) approach would be to just trade for Forte's and Bradshaw's replacements (Michael Bush and Brown, respectively). You wouldn't even have to give up Nelson in that scenario.

Who should I grab off the waiver wire: Mike Williams or Donnie Avery? Should I drop Titus Young for either of them? -- @Juan_S_Alba

SW: If we're talking disappointments, Young is at the top of the list. "Oh, he's going to emerge as a big-time receiving threat opposite Calvin Johnson" was a popular refrain coming into the season. But now two games into it, I'm having a hard time understanding the rationale. Because he's young and Nate Burleson is old? Is that all there is to it?

It's not, of course -- he also took on a bigger role in the passing game toward the end of last season and was routinely praised in training camp -- but in retrospect, his coronation was a bit premature with Burleson still in the picture. Burleson has been a steady contributor in the Lions' passing game over the last couple years and still has something left in the tank at age 31. I'm not saying Burleson will outperform Young every week or even most weeks, but with the two splitting looks under the long, long shadow of Johnson, I'm not so sure Young is worth the wait.

That said, I'm not so sure you can count on Williams for significant production either. He had a couple big catches Sunday and will have his share of those over the course of the season, but he's clearly the secondary target to Vincent Jackson. I don't think the Buccaneers' passing game can sustain two 1,000-yard receivers.

Can Indy's? Well, it's a more likely scenario. The team that drafts Andrew Luck doesn't intend to build around the running game. It intends to pass and, with questions on the defensive side of the ball, will likely be forced to pass much of the time. Reggie Wayne will get his, but what he doesn't get will go to Avery.

Of course, Austin Collie could muddy the waters if and when he returns from his concussion, but in the early-season rush for potential breakout players, Avery's production so far makes him well worth a flier.

I just picked up Martellus Bennett and Andre Brown and am starting them over Antonio Gates and Michael Turner in Week 3. Good idea? -- @Cweb1981 (via Twitter)

SW: Just when you thought lineup decisions couldn't get any more excruciating in Fantasy Football, Roger Goodell had to go and introduce Thursday Night Football. It's not just for Thanksgiving anymore.

These are the kinds of dilemmas owners will face on a week-to-week basis. If the Giants-Panthers game was on Sunday, you could just wait to see if Gates (rib) was healthy enough to return in Week 3. You wouldn't have to commit to your backup so soon. As it is, though, your options are limited. You could always replace Bennett with a backup who isn't playing Thursday, such as Dennis Pitta or Brandon Myers, but that's hardly a solution. Bennett is the best of the bunch, after all.

The good news is Bennett has been such a consistent part of the Giants offense so far that the drop-off from him to Gates probably won't be too significant. And rather than getting stuck with a big fat zero or being forced to pick up a third tight end Sunday, you'll live with that slight drop-off. Or at least I would.

The Brown-Turner dilemma is a bit easier. So far, Turner has struggled to pick up yardage in the Falcons' new offense, and he faces his toughest challenge yet at the Chargers this week. Plus, his playing time is in question following his DUI arrest early Tuesday morning. Provided Ahmad Bradshaw misses Thursday's game with a sprained neck, which seems a near certainty at this point, Brown is the obvious choice for your Fantasy team.

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
Giants pulling long-term contract offer to Jason Pierre-Paul
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(1:25 pm ET) In the wake of a Fourth of July fireworks mishap, the Giants on Monday pulled their long-term contract offer to defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who remains hospitalized in Miami, per NFL.com insider Ian Rapaport. 

The Giants had applied the franchise tag to Pierre-Paul this offseason, but the player has not yet signed it, technically leaving him not under contract with the team. The Giants move to yank the longer deal is a bit of gamesmanship, since according to Rapoport, Pierre-Paul was not going to sign the $60 million deal anyway. 


Bills sign veteran tackle Wayne Hunter
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(11:45 am ET) The Bills took another step to shore up their offensive line, signing veteran tackle Wayne Hunter to a one-year deal Monday, per the National Football Post. 

Hunter, who has not played in the NFL since 2012, did spend three years with the Jets under new Bills coach Rex Ryan from 2009-2011. 

Hunter's deal is reportedly worth $870,000.


RB Khiry Robinson could be odd man out in Saints backfield
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(11:20 am ET) Running back Khiry Robinson is a fan favorite with the Saints, but the third-year pro, who once was viewed as a breakout candidate for the team, may find his role squeezed by the presence of Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller, per ESPN.com. 

Robinson dealt with a broken arm last season, which limited him to 12 carries and 32 yards over the final 10 weeks of the year. The Saints then re-upped with Ingram and brought in Spiller to replace Pierre Thomas, meaning Robinson will have to fight hard in training camp to establish a role. 

"I just gotta keep working," Robinson said. "It's all love in the backfield. We all work together, try to help each other. So I think it's a good thing we've got a full backfield again. So if anybody goes down, we've got another player right up there to do the same thing."


Report: Giants Jason Pierre-Paul hurt in fireworks accident
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7/5/2015) Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul reportedly hurt his hand in a Fourth of July fireworks accident in Miami, according to the Daily News

The paper reports that the injury is not considered career-threatening, but that varying accounts of what happened have been reported. The Giants have not confirmed nor denied the incident. 

The Giants applied the franchise tag to Pierre-Paul this offseason, but the 26-year-old has not yet signed it as he seeks a long-term deal, meaning that he technically is not under contract. 

Pierre-Paul had 53 tackles and 12 1/2 sacks last year for New York. 


Report: Torn pectoral sidelines Vikings CB Josh Robinson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/4/2015) The Vikings secondary took a hit last month when cornerback Josh Robinson sustained a partially torn pectoral muscle, a league source has told ESPN.

The nickel back played in 690 snaps last season and was expected to battle several others for playing time. The injury could sideline him from training camp and land him on the PUP list.


Report: Packers' Andrew Quarless arrested on gun charges
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(7/4/2015) Packers tight end Andrew Quarless was arrested for firing a gun twice in Miami on Saturday, per the Miami New Times.

Quarless was involved in a fight at South Beach and fired the gun into the ground. 


Titans receivers can thrive in YAC with Marcus Mariota's accuracy
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/3/2015) The Titans wide receiving corps could gain more yards after the catch this season because of rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota and his accurate throws, per ESPN.com.

The Titans were 24th in the league in yards after the catch last season, but with Mariota under center that can all change.

“If you have an accurate quarterback, it allows us to get more yards after that catch,” wide receiver Harry Douglas said. “And that’s one thing that makes a receiver dynamic -- first being able to catch the ball and then being able to do some things with it after you catch it. I feel like [to this point] Marcus has done everything he needs to do to get the ball to his receivers.”


Saints RB Khiry Robinson doesn't feel he's on outside looking in
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/3/2015) Saints running back Khiry Robinson might be the least known of his backfield counterparts, but he doesn't feel like the off man out, per ESPN.com.

Robinson knows the team is heavily invested in the likes of Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller, but he's still confident he can thrive in whatever role the Saints put him in.

“I’m the type of person, I’m gonna get what I get and do what I do with it. So whether it’s 20 carries or one carry, I’m gonna do the best of my ability every play,” Robinson said.

Robinson has shown flashes of success during his three years in the league. Injuries played a key role against him last season, which can ultimately put him as the third back on the depth chart. He will use the offseason to continue to improve and challenge his counterparts for playing time.

“I just gotta keep working,” Robinson. “It’s all love in the backfield. We all work together, try to help each other. So I think it’s a good thing we’ve got a full backfield again. So if anybody goes down, we’ve got another player right up there to do the same thing.”


Browns OL Michael Bowie itching to compete for starting spot
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/3/2015) Browns offensive lineman Michael Bowie is not required to report to training camp until the end of July. But never mind that - he's heading out after the last Independence Day firework explodes in the sky.

Bowie is itching to get started. He missed all of last season due to a shoulder injury after starting for Seattle on its Super Bowl title team in 2013. He is seeking to stay in tip-top shape in an attempt to land a starting spot on a Cleveland line that is the strength of the team.

"It's up to them to decide who is the best five," Bowie told the team website. "All I can do is take care of my business. Hopefully I can get a shot. That's what I'm working for."

Bowie participated fully in the offseason program, working mostly with the second team at right tackle. That will likely be the spot at which he competes for a starting job. Incumbent Mitchell Schwartz has not performed particularly well there and Mike Pettine has vowed there will be competition all over the field in camp.


Redskins OLB Ryan Kerrigan nearly recovered from knee surgery
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/3/2015) Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan appears to be on target to join the team for training camp after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery that prevented him from participating in earlier offseason activities.

Kerrigan, who registered a career-high 13 1/2 sacks a year ago, had the operation to alleviate pain in the area.

"My leg feels really good and I'm glad I got the surgery - not just for football but it makes my everyday life feel better so I'm glad I got it done," he told CSN Washington. "Now it's just a matter of getting stronger and getting into shape."

Kerrigan added that he's been running and now only needs to regain strength to insure his place at training camp.


 
 
 
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