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Dear Mr. Fantasy: No satisfaction from the signal-callers

Senior Fantasy Writer
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My perusal of the social media outlets this morning has made me aware of a universal truth.

Not the one about the replacement officials. If you're using that to explain why your Fantasy team is 1-2, you've really gone off the deep end.

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No, the one I have in mind is more direct and without an easy remedy. In short, nobody is satisfied with his quarterback right now.

I can understand why. Of the supposedly safe top 11 coming into the season, only two rank in the top five now, and eight -- Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Michael Vick, Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers -- rank outside the top 10. That's some widespread disappointment.

But doesn't that say something in and of itself? If everyone is equally afflicted, how concerned should you really be? Unless you believe in a league-wide phenomenon that would cause the best players at the most influential position in the game to collapse all at once, this can't last.

One of the biggest challenges of playing Fantasy Football is learning to distinguish the legitimate trends from the random noise -- knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em, as Kenny Rogers would say. Because the season is only 16 games, you'll never feel completely confident you've seen enough to make an informed decision, but if you wait too long to act, you'll be in a deeper hole than you can overcome.

Still, three games is a small sample by any standard. Right now, just one underwhelming performance is enough to bury a quarterback in the rankings. Sure, Newton looks bad now, but who was complaining about him when he put up 27 points against the Saints in Week 2? Yeah, Romo cost your team a victory with his pathetic five-point showing against the Buccaneers last week, but didn't his three touchdown passes carry you in Week 1? Already this season, we've seen what makes these guys special, but because they've stumbled at some point, they've dropped behind the quarterbacks who've gone a perfect 3 for 3.

Three games isn't enough time to drown out the early-season anomalies at quarterback. Thus, it creates an impossible standard at the position. Not everybody can be Matt Ryan right out of the gate.

Timing is having the greatest say in how Fantasy owners perceive these quarterbacks now. Back in Week 1, everybody wondered what was wrong with Eli Manning after he scored only 14 points against the Cowboys. Now, he's one of the "safe" players. If we're still at a point where one good game from your quarterback would remove all the doubts you've had about him up until now, then his value is essentially the same. All that's changed is your perception of him, which is a temporary condition.

So what do you do with him, then? Wait it out? For the most part, yeah. I'm not saying you don't make a play for an Andy Dalton or Jake Locker just in case the worst comes to pass, but we're not there yet. If the matchup is favorable, your stud still deserves the benefit of the doubt. Missing out on the good weeks in attempt to avoid the bad only doubles the damage.

I can't promise every single one of those eight quarterbacks will bounce back with their expected numbers, but I can guarantee most of them will. It's the nature of the position. Barring a dramatic change in personnel, scheme or physical abilities, quarterbacks tend to do what they've always done.

I have Tony Romo as my starting quarterback, and he has been killing my Fantasy team. I was offered Joe Flacco for Fred Jackson. I currently have Arian Foster, Doug Martin and DeAngelo Williams at running back. We start two running backs, two wide receivers and a flex in my league. What do you think? -- Jonathan Pepin (via Facebook)

SW: Killing it? Really, Romo is killing it? He's had one bad game to go along with an average game and a great game, and you're saying he's the worst thing to happen to your Fantasy team this year? Consider yourself lucky.

I could understand the woeful attitude if Romo was throwing for 150 yards every other week as the Cowboys transitioned to a run-heavy offense built on the legs of DeMarco Murray, as happened to Matt Schaub with the rise of Arian Foster in Houston. But Romo has thrown for no fewer than 250 yards in any of his three games this season. The Cowboys still live and die by the pass, most notably in the red zone (since the start of last season, their six rushing touchdowns are tied for fewest in the league), so unless you think the offense as a whole will come to a standstill (which seems unlikely with all the weapons in the receiving corps), Romo has some big games ahead of him.

What's that? You say you'd rather have Schaub coming off a four-touchdown performance at Denver? That's the kind of thinking that can get a Fantasy owner in trouble this time of year. You're reacting, not forecasting, which only works if you plan on playing the season in reverse. Schaub threw for four touchdowns because it happened to fit in the game plan that week, but the game plan in Houston still revolves around the run, as we saw in the first two weeks and all of last season.

I'm not saying Flacco is a bad option -- he looks like he might finally take that long-awaited next step this year -- but in the long run, the presence of Ray Rice and a first-rate defense in Baltimore will probably make him less consistent than Romo, which would make him nothing more than a flashy backup for you. Might he be a little more trustworthy than Romo in the short-term? I guess, but right now you have the perfect setup at running back when Jackson returns from his knee injury. He's potentially your second-best option at the position, especially with C.J. Spiller out, and you'd rather not have to start the highly unreliable Williams or a third wide receiver in your flex spot.

Philip Rivers is my starting quarterback. I need to pick up a backup. Should I go with Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford, Kevin Kolb or Matt Cassel? -- @MisterMcGibblet (via Twitter)

SW: I like the measured approach. You're not freaking out about Rivers' two-point performance against a stout Falcons secondary. You're remembering his 27-point performance from Week 2, not to mention all those big performances from previous years, and standing by him as your starting quarterback. But that doesn't mean you can't protect your investment by getting a backup while the getting is good.

Most Traded Players (as of 9/26)
Player # of trades
1. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans 2549
2. Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins 1987
3. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals 1536
4. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons 1525
5. Cedric Benson, RB, Packers 1416
6. Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins 1284
7. Wes Welker, WR, Patriots 1248
8. Michael Bush, RB, Bears 1217
9. Willis McGahee, RB, Broncos 1208
10. Kevin Smith, RB, Lions 1150

In Ponder, Locker and Andy Dalton, we're looking at what could be the next wave of starting-caliber Fantasy quarterbacks. All three have shown impressive accuracy and mobility, and all three are in their second seasons, which is about the time a quarterback reveals his true colors.

In Sanchez, Kolb, Cassel and Alex Smith, we're probably looking at fool's gold. They've been around the block a time or two already. They'll occasionally deliver big performances, but they lack the consistency to make a significant impact in Fantasy. By buying into them now, you're just falling for the same stunt they've pulled two or three times already.

Of the first group, the ones available to you are Ponder and Locker, and of those two, I'd lean toward Locker. It's nothing against Ponder, who's looking like a fine pickup himself, but I see Locker having the higher ceiling. And I see the Titans having to lean on him more than they originally planned with the early struggles of Chris Johnson.

For the record, I'm still on the fence about Bradford. He's had one great game and one awful game so far this season. He's had an encouraging rookie campaign and a disappointing sophomore campaign so far in his career. I believe he has the talent, but is he in a position to succeed with Jeff Fisher's Rams? The jury's still out there. He's not the most exciting pickup you could make at the quarterback position.

What do you think about trading Chris Johnson for Aaron Hernandez? -- Jeff Hill (via e-mail)

SW: I think it's pretty silly. Maybe if Hernandez was actually healthy and playing, you could justify it, but as things stand now, I feel like you have more to lose than gain with this deal.

I realize Hernandez will eventually return and likely perform like a top-five tight end when he does, but provided you've been able to get your hands on Martellus Bennett or Dennis Pitta by now -- and I assume you have if tight end was a position of need for you -- how much of an upgrade will he really be? Even if Pitta, Bennett or whoever else you've settled on at tight end stumbles in the weeks ahead, the next hot pickup is just a waiver claim away.

Really, there's no shortage of quality tight ends these days. In most leagues, each team starts only one. Maybe if the deal was for Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham, I'd stop and listen, but Hernandez is still second-tier in my mind.

As for Johnson, look, I'm just as concerned as you are, but I'm not ready to pull the plug on him yet. I'm not saying I'm starting him -- particularly not on the road against a stout Texans defense -- but I can see how he might turn things around at some point. For the most part, he looked good last week against the Lions, breaking off three runs of 10 yards or more. It was the losses -- a combined minus-26 yards on four of his carries -- that ultimately doomed him. I don't know if the blame goes to the coaching staff, the offensive line or Johnson himself, but the problem is the approach, not the ability. If the three would work together to simplify the running game, making it about picking up positive yardage rather than breaking a big play, Johnson could still salvage his season.

One thing he has going for him is that the Titans don't have anyone to take his place. It's Johnson or bust, which means if he does turn it around, he won't have to share carries with anyone else. True every-down backs are rare in today's NFL, so if any faint hope of a Johnson rebound remains, you wouldn't want to sell him short.

I'm not saying you should reject any offer that comes your way -- Johnson's overall outlook is still grim -- but I don't think this one is right for you.

Should I consider trading Greg Jennings? What could I get for him? -- @coorc5 (via Twitter)

SW: It wouldn't be the worst idea in the world. Of course, if Aaron Rodgers turns it around, as I expect him to, Jennings will be one of the biggest beneficiaries, so my skepticism with him has more to do with a philosophical approach than anything that's happened up to this point in the season.

I just feel like the number of weapons at Rodgers' disposal makes Jennings less than a surefire stud even when the offense is clicking. Not only does Jordy Nelson steal looks opposite him, but Jermichael Finley and James Jones play a big role in the passing game from week to week and Randall Cobb is involved as well. So yeah, you haven't liked what Jennings has delivered with Rodgers struggling, but even at his best, he's an annoying player own.

Of course, throughout Rodgers' struggles, Jennings has remained a preferred target. Because he missed a game with a groin injury, his totals are lagging, but his 19 targets in two games would translate to 28.5 in three, which would rank him in the top 15 among wide receivers, just ahead of DeSean Jackson and Roddy White. In other words, as inconsistent as he may be from week to week, Jennings is still too much of a priority in that offense not to have the numbers in the end.

I'd trade him because he's a frustrating player to own, but not because I think he'll be no good this year. Now probably isn't the best time to shop him, but among the trades made in actual CBSSports.com leagues Tuesday, I like the one that landed Trent Richardson for him, the one that landed Larry Fitzgerald for him and the one that landed Fred Jackson and Antonio Gates for him.

I can get either Roddy White or Steve Smith in exchange for Doug Martin or Alfred Morris. What's the best scenario for me? -- @marcus_ari (via Twitter)

SW: The best scenario would be to land White for Morris, and quite frankly, I think it's steal.

I still don't trust Redskins coach Mike Shanahan to stick to one running back. I'll admit Morris has defied the odds by keeping the job this long, but his production has slipped each of the last two weeks, leaving just enough of a crack for another running back to slip through the door.

Not that Shanahan needs a crack. He usually makes his changes on a whim.

Is Morris the only back in Washington? Certainly not. Is he the most talented or accomplished back in Washington? You could argue against that as well. With that in mind, can you really trust him to remain a relevant contributor all season? I can't.

Martin is different. Martin is supposed to be the answer in Tampa Bay. That's why he was drafted, and through three games, he hasn't given the Buccaneers reason to change course. He's the safer bet for your Fantasy team, and why trade the safer bet if you don't have to?

Between the wide receivers, White is still the safer bet for big numbers. I worried he might lose something with the emergence of Julio Jones, but the Falcons are passing so often these days that they have more than enough targets to go around. Smith is good enough that I could see myself trading Morris for him if I had a need for a wide receiver, but when the deep ball isn't working for Cam Newton, he tends to disappear. Plus, his age makes him more susceptible to injuries.

Would you trade Marshawn Lynch and Reggie Wayne for Darren McFadden and Brandon Pettigrew in a 16-team league? Coby Fleener is my only tight end. -- @havsmgrapefruit (via Twitter)

SW: And if you don't make this trade, you're stuck with Fleener forevermore? I don't buy it. I understand that, in a 16-team league, guys like Dennis Pitta and Kyle Rudolph are long gone by now, but what about Brandon Myers and Scott Chandler? As prevalent as pass-catching tight ends have become in today's NFL and as unlikely as Fantasy owners are to start more than one, I think you'll eventually have options.

Even if a handful of owners have stockpiled the extra tight ends in your league, hoping to pull off exactly this kind of deal, all you need to do is wait them out. With the bye weeks approaching, they'll eventually have to devote that bench space to something else.

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Let's say you know the only way you can upgrade at tight end is by making a trade. It's not true, but for the sake of argument, let's say it is. What would you really gain with this deal? It's not like Pettigrew is a touchdown machine. He's an intriguing option in points-per-reception leagues since he makes his living as Matthew Stafford's preferred safety valve underneath, but in terms of actual production -- meaning yards and touchdowns -- you can only count on him for five or six points per week.

What about Fleener? I'd say he's a solid three or four per week. Maybe that's a tad optimistic, but come on. How often is the upgrade to Pettigrew going to mean the difference between you winning and losing?

Ultimately, Lynch and Wayne will have a greater say in that. With Andrew Luck under center for the Colts, Wayne is back to being the same stud he was with Peyton Manning, so I can confidently say that whatever bench option you use to replace him would be a significant step backward. And it's not like McFadden is a big step forward. He may have the greater big-game potential than Lynch, but Lynch is more reliable from week to week and less likely to suffer a season-ending injury.

Are you so desperate to fill a position rife with redundancies that you're willing to sacrifice a potential top-15 wide receiver to do it? Sorry, but that doesn't make sense to me.

Which of these DSTs would you prefer to start in Week 4: Falcons, Broncos, Buccaneers or Bengals? -- @JamesCherrick23 (via Twitter)

SW: You mean the Cardinals and Seahawks DSTs weren't available? Shame. Not only are they off to great starts, but their favorable matchups going forward should keep them among the top units in Fantasy all season.

Of course, the Falcons DST has been a pleasant surprise as well, and it's not like its Week 4 opponent, the Panthers, is a lock to put up big points, as we saw last Thursday. Starting the Falcons DST isn't the safest move this week, but a couple picks from Cam Newton would be enough for it to pay off.

The Raiders may not bring much to the table defensively, but they can put up some yards, which is why I'd shy away from the Broncos DST this week. The Buccaneers DST has some sleeper potential with its revamped secondary, but going against a red-hot Robert Griffin III is a scary proposition. The Bengals DST has a great matchup this week at Jacksonville, but it's given up so many points this year that you can't entirely trust it.

I think the Falcons are your best bet. I'd rank the other three Bengals, Buccaneers and Broncos.

Who would you prefer for the rest of this season: Antonio Gates or Dennis Pitta? -- @JayHanna1 (via Twitter)

SW: I can understand how Gates owners might be getting a little frustrated by now, especially with silly players like Pitta exploding off the waiver wire. You paid big bucks to ensure high-end production at the tight end position when you could have just put in a claim for some no-name after Week 1.

But you shouldn't lose heart. Gates' foot problems of the last couple years are no more. He missed Week 2 with a rib injury, but overall, he's healthier than we're used to seeing him. Even with the balky foot last year, he put together some monster games when he was able to take the field, performing about like Aaron Hernandez on a per-game basis -- and that was with Vincent Jackson still on the field. With Jackson in Tampa Bay now, Gates is poised to become quarterback Philip Rivers' go-to guy, if he wasn't already. It hasn't worked out yet, but he deserves more of a chance than two games.

I'm not saying Pitta is in any way a bad Fantasy option. He's tied with Jimmy Graham for the most targets among tight ends this year, and he has the type of build -- long and lean -- that generally translates to good production at the position. But he's not the playmaker Antonio Gates is. While Gates will have weeks when he carries your Fantasy team, Pitta likely won't have the yardage to score much more than 10-15 points in his best weeks.

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
Falcons give Roddy White a contract extension
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(8:26 am ET) The Falcons announced a four-year extension for receiver Roddy White on Thursday. It should keep him with the team for the rest of his career. 

White, 32, had a down year in 2013 because he tried to play through a high-ankle sprain. But he finished the season strong with 43 catches for 502 yards and two scores in his last five games. He's expected to keep up that kind of production this season as part of the team's one-two punch at receiver alongside Julio Jones. 


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Report: Terrance West goes on injury list
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(7/23/2014) As expected, the 49ers put All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman on the PUP list. Bowman suffered a torn ACL and MCL in the NFC Championship Game and is not expected to return until midseason.

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(7/23/2014) The Vikings waived defensive end Spencer Nealy, who was recently suspended four games for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. To fill his spot, Minnesota signed former Saints tight end Mike Higgins.

Jamaal Charles more than doubles his salary
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(7/23/2014) Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles received a two-year contract extension that includes $18.1 million in new money, reports NFL Network. Instead of making $3.9 million in 2014, Charles will earn $8.3 million.

Charles' new contract, which runs through 2017, makes him the NFL's second-highest paid back behind Adrian Peterson.


 
 
 
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