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

Senior Fantasy Writer
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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
Chargers' Franklin: Rivers more 'approachable' than Manning
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(10:47 am ET) Chargers offensive lineman Orlando Franklin, in an appearance on NBC Sports Network's Pro Football Talk Live, said Philip Rivers is a more "approachable" quarterback than Peyton Manning

Franklin spent the past four years with the Broncos and has played with Manning the past three seasons. He joined the Chargers this offseason as a free agent. 

“[O]ne thing I noticed immediately when I got here is that Philip Rivers is definitely more approachable than Peyton,” Franklin said. “I don’t know if it was because I was a lot younger being that I met Peyton in my second season and now meeting Phillip going into my fifth season but definitely I will say Phillip is more approachable than Peyton.”


Lions DT Caraun Reid taking strides during early OTA's
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(10:28 am ET) With Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley gone, there will be a lot of opportunities for defensive tackle Caraun Reid to contribute for the Lions, per mlive.com.

Though it's still early during organized team activities, Reid has impressed coach Jim Caldwell thus far. 

"I think he's done a tremendous job just in terms of his approach to it," Caldwell said. "He looks good, increased his strength, his lean muscle has gone up, I mean, the whole gamut. So, hopefully we'll see that translate when we get an opportunity to go out there and go after it."

Reid, a fifth-round pick out of Princeton in 2014, has gotten a majority of the first-team reps during OTA's, which defensive coordinator Teryl Austin says ties back to the hard work he put in during the offseason.

"He's trained really hard, he's in really good shape," Austin said. "He looks good right now. Obviously, we'll have to wait and see once we get to pads where we are, but I like what he's done so far."

Reid appeared in 12 games last season and recorded just two tackles.


Colts Bjoern Werner: 'I can be a baller' when healthy
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(10:26 am ET) Since he was selected in the first-round of the 2013 draft, Colts defensive end Bjoern Werner has been banged up and bruised with various injuries. 

For Werner, playing through these ailments has frustrated him through the first two years of his career. He's totaled 68 tackles and 6 1/2 sacks through 28 regular-season games int wo seasons. 

"I don't want to sound cocky, but personally, I feel like when I'm out there and healthy, I can be a baller," Werner said, via the Indianapolis Star. "I can do it all. You always have to get that mojo going of course. But I'm telling you, I'm confident I can be an NFL player and a starter in this league."


Jets' Bowles: Leonard Williams 'more mature than the average rookie'
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(10:20 am ET) Jets coach Todd Bowles has been impressed with rookie defensive end Leonard Williams' maturity since bringing him on board. 

"He's more mature than the average rookie," Bowles said, via NJ.com. "He's grasping the system quickly and he's moving around well out of pads, but to really judge him, you have to see him in pads for the linemen."

Williams was taken by the Jets with the sixth-overall pick, even though the organization has plenty of defensive line talent on the roster. Bowles said that Williams doesn't look the part of someone coming out of college when it comes to the way he presents himself on and off the field. 

"Just the way he carries himself," Bowles said. "He doesn't carry himself like a young 20-year-old. He's got years beyond his age and the way he comes in and walks into it, treating it professionally."


Jaguars DE Dante Fowler has surgery to repair torn ACL
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(10:14 am ET) Jaguars rookie defensive end Dante Fowler underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL sustained in rookie minicamp, according to the Florida Times-Union

Dr. James Andrews performed the surgery. 

Fowler will miss his rookie season as a result. He was the team's first-round selection and the draft's third-overall selection. 


Lions TE Eric Ebron struggling with drops early in OTA's
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(10:13 am ET) The Lions need tight end Eric Ebron to be one of their primary offensive weapons, but the second-year player has not looked like that early on in organized team activities, per mlive.com.

The 22-year-old is suffering from a severe case of butter fingers. He dropped at least three well-thrown balls and mishandled a high pass that hit his hands.

Ebron, though, is confident he will work through the drops and expects them to be a thing of the past.

"The one over the middle I shouldn't have dropped. Got down on myself, and it made me drop the next one," Ebron said. "That's just stuff that I've been practicing (to prevent), and I let it get to me.

"But it's Day 2 of OTAs. We're just out there competing. I'll settle down. Today was a bit jittery, but I'll settle down and that'll never happen again."

Ebron caught 25 passes for 248 yards and a touchdown in 13 games last season.


Colts getting Jack Mewhort reps at right tackle
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(10:10 am ET) Colts offensive lineman Jack Mewhort received the majority of his snaps on Wednesday at right tackle, according to ESPN.com. 

Mewhort was getting these reps due to Gosder Cherilus unavailable. Mewhort entered the league as a left guard. 

"Versatility is hard to find," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "So obviously him playing a bunch of spots and playing everywhere along the line is definitely the more you can do. I think everybody is well aware of that spot and us trying to fill that hole right now. I'm fully confident that we've got the guys in this building right now that we're going to be fine there."


Broncos LB Brandon Marshall still rehabbing foot injury
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(10:01 am ET) Broncos inside linebacker Brandon Marshall was able to lift weights with his teammates during Wednesday's OTA practice, according to the team's website. 

Marshall is still recovering from a foot injury which has kept him off the practice field thus far. 

"I think it will be fairly soon," Marshall said, "because I feel really good, honestly."

Marshall injured his foot in a December game against the Chargers and later played through the pain in the playoffs against the Colts. He said that watching practice hasn't been as much fun as being out there. 

"It's kind of tough, because while I'm out here, I need to pay attention; I need to watch more film, because when you do it more, you get a better feel for it," he said. "I have to learn through visual learning and just trying to soak up as much information as I can, because when training camp comes, it's going to come fast, and I've got to learn fast. I'll be all right.


Giants new-look offensive line on display in OTA's
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(10:00 am ET) The Giants have completely remodeled their offensive line unit for the start of organized team activities.

Compared to last year's o-line, only two players are back but even those guys have switched positions and shifted along the line. Justin Pugh has gone from right tackle to left guard and Weston Richburg shifted from left guard to center.

Will Beatty, who was a mainstay at left tackle last season, will miss five to six months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle. Beatty's injury has paved the way for rookie Ereck Flowers to step in at the left tackle position.

Quaterback Eli Manning is still adjusting to all the moving pieces in front of him.

"Obviously, having a new center can be an adjustment," Manning said. "But (Weston) Richburg was here last year and I got snaps with him last year, so that hasn't been a big deal. Anytime you have a rookie at left tackle, it can be an adjustment."

Geoff Schwartz and John Jerry are splitting time at right guard, while Marshall Newhouse has been taking the snaps at right tackle.


Texans' Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett splitting first-team reps
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:52 am ET) As expected, Texans quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett split reps with the first-team during Wednesday's OTA practice, according to the Houston Chronicle

Hoyer is no stranger to competing for a starting job after going through the process in Cleveland against Johnny Manziel a year ago. 

“I’ve been through it before,” Hoyer said. “I’m not going to let it affect me and I’ll just be myself and really focus on the things that I can control.”

Hoyer, behind an offensive line that struggled following Alex Mack's season-ending injury, finished 2014 with 3,326 yards, 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Mallett, who suffered a season-ending torn pectoral, appeared in three games for Houston and threw for 400 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. 


 
 
 
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