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Fantasy & Reality: Five up, five down

Senior Fantasy Writer
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I don't have many pet peeves, but one of them is when people ask me about a possible trade after the draft but before the season started. You just set up your entire roster, now you want to make deals? Unless an obvious offer comes along, it's not worth making preseason moves.

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But that was just a few weeks ago. Now people are asking about possible trades and at least we've had three weeks to get a glimpse of who's hot and who's not around the NFL. Now's the time to think about roster improvement. If you're 3-0 or 2-1, depth should be on your mind. If you're 1-2 or winless, rapid improvement is definitely on your mind.

This season we've come up with a Fantasy Trade Value Chart, designed to help you figure out fair and unfair offers that come along. But after three weeks, there are still a number of players who are valued too high and too low that owners should give some thought to trading for or trading away.

Buying low

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: This has been a hot topic for me for a couple of weeks now. Roethlisberger is one of just five quarterbacks with at least 19 Fantasy points per game so far in 2012, but no one's noticing. He's only starting in 38 percent of CBSSports.com leagues. That means he's on the bench for two-thirds of the people who play on our site. That means he can be had for cheap. Who wouldn't trade away a backup quarterback, especially at a time when many starters are healthy and another backup passer can be claimed off waivers? There's a difference with Roethlisberger: He has to throw because the Steelers' run game is such a mess. I love the idea of acquiring Roethliberger on the cheap if I'm not thrilled with my current starting quarterback.

Aaron Rodgers, QB; Greg Jennings/Jordy Nelson, WRs; Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers: A smart Fantasy owner will shake off Green Bay's tough start offensively. But the smarter Fantasy owner will seek out the disgruntled owner of the Packers' pass game stars and lowball him on his talent. The Packers began the year with matchups against the Niners, Bears and Seahawks, three tough defenses with strong defensive lines. They have another tough matchup in Week 6 at Houston, but otherwise won't have a big challenge until Week 12 at the Giants and then again at the Bears in Week 15. Everything else is a cakewalk starting this week against the Saints at home. Jennings especially stands out as a great buy-low candidate: He has as many targets in two games (19) as Nelson has in three.

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

Stevan Ridley, RB, Patriots: Ridley's numbers have declined over three weeks thanks to a great Week 1 and tough matchups in Weeks 2 and 3. Things should turn around for him starting this week against the Bills. Here's a good note: Ridley has more carries through three weeks (52) than any Patriots running back since 2007 (Laurence Maroney, 54). And he's still averaging 4.5 yards per carry on the year. It remains to be seen how much Brandon Bolden and Danny Woodhead will take away from Ridley, but we're still in love with him for the simple reason he'll be the primary back in an offense loaded with passing talent.

Justin Blackmon, WR, Jaguars: Pretty soon people are going to start punting on Blackmon because of his ugly start. Why not swoop in with the worst player on your bench for him? Yes, he has only four catches for 31 yards, but he does have 15 targets (Top 60 among wideouts) and is in little to no danger of losing playing time as the Jaguars' receiving corps is getting thin. He's also in no danger of playing in a lot of games where the Jaguars have a big lead and run the kill the clock. He has nowhere to go but up and you can get him for a song -- far less of a risk than what people paid for him during the draft.

Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions: There is a slew of interesting tight ends available on waivers but they're going quick. One of the tight ends who might be getting cut in a lot of leagues is Pettigrew, who has yet to post more than seven Fantasy points in a standard format. It's the same old story for Pettigrew: Lots of catches, not a lot of yards. He's fourth among tight ends in targets and fifth in receptions, but a weak receiving average keeps him grounded. Still, he had at least five catches per week in half of his games last year and two of three games this year. He's probably the best buy-low tight end you could get.

Selling high

Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins: You don't need me to tell you that Griffin's been the best Fantasy player through three weeks. Everyone knows it. And some Fantasy owners will get a little crazy and offer up the moon for him. That's when you should deal him off -- we've seen him dealt for Andre Johnson, Julio Jones and Darren McFadden. If you can land an elite talent at another position for Griffin, it's probably a good idea (obviously in seasonal formats only). He's most likely not the only quarterback on your roster; assuming you're comfortable with who else you have, so don't frown on the idea of giving up Griffin if a great deal comes along. Anything short of that and you should hold off.

Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins: RG3 isn't the only Redskin worth moving. Morris was either drafted very late or picked up off waivers, so he's been a boon to most of you. Time to make him pay off: After this week against the Bucs, the Redskins will take on the Falcons, Vikings, Giants and Steelers in their next four. Combined they've allowed six rushing touchdowns and three 100-yard rushing games to running backs. Then after his Week 10 bye he'll have two games each against the Cowboys and Eagles -- assuming he's still the Redskins' primary rusher by then. Like Griffin, don't give Morris away just to avoid some bad stat lines. But an owner desperate for running back help should pony up a solid receiver or tight end to shore up his or her ground attack.

Steve Johnson, WR, Bills: Buffalo's schedule is about to get very tough. With C.J. Spiller banged up and Fred Jackson on the mend there's no chance of getting a huge amount in a trade for them, nor will anyone pay up big for Ryan Fitzpatrick. But Steve Johnson is one of two receivers with at least 10 Fantasy points per game thanks to a three-game touchdown streak to begin the year, and he's a guy who could fetch quite a bit in trade. Johnson led off 2011 with scores in each of his first three games and had four more with one 100-yard game the rest of the way. In his breakout 2010 season he scored in five straight games from late September through October before scoring four touchdowns in two games the rest of the season. With a history of limping to the finish line, Johnson might be a receiver you should consider hitting the ejection button on soon. I might even consider taking less than a five-star deal for him.

Tony Gonzalez, TE, Falcons: The dude is on fire with touchdowns in three straight games and just over 70 yards per game. Think he keeps it up? Not many think so -- he had two three-game touchdown streaks last season with no other scores sprinkled in throughout the year. But here's a chance for Fantasy owners to get sneaky -- one could trade Gonzalez for a good player at another position and then go right out to the waiver wire to find another tight end who is producing good numbers. Heath Miller has somehow scored more touchdowns than Gonzalez has and is unowned in over 60 percent of CBSSports.com leagues as of Sept. 25! Brandon Myers is another sweet tight end who could be claimed to take over for Gonzalez. Make the huge amount of tight end talent work for you by getting rid of Gonzalez while his value is arguably at a three-year high.

Frank Gore, RB, 49ers: This one is a tough call but falls along the same lines as Morris. Gore's playing above expectations thanks in part to a pretty good schedule, but some tough matchups coming up could bring him back down to earth. Let's also not forget that the Niners have a number of running backs on the roster and initially planned to keep Gore's carry totals under the 282 he had in 2011. He's also missed at least two games in three of his last four seasons and has averaged more than 4.3 yards per carry once since his breakout 2006 season -- the 5.9 yard rushing average he's sporting now will head south. An owner scrambling for a running back could pony up a couple of stellar talents for Gore. Let him do it and take advantage.

Fantasy & Reality

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

Fantasy: Cam Newton is a rock solid, safe No. 1 Fantasy quarterback. There I was in my office last week contemplating Newton as the No. 1 quarterback on my rank list for Week 3 as he faced a beleaguered Giants defense at home on a short week. I pulled away from that but couldn't get him past No. 2 on my rank list. He sure played like No. 2 all right, throwing three interceptions while completing a gross 53 percent of his passes with zero touchdowns. He has four touchdowns through three games, a cold streak he suffered through once all of last season. His offensive line isn't protecting him as much and his passing is just as streaky if not more so than it was in 2011. I'd be nervous about starting him this week against a Falcons secondary that embarrassed Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers in consecutive weeks.

Reality: Marques Colston is a problem. Don't take my word for it -- take Drew Brees'. Sure, he won't say anything that isn't glowingly positive about Colston, but the proof is in the numbers: 31 targets for Jimmy Graham, 25 for Darren Sproles, 22 targets for Lance Moore, 19 for Marques Colston. Last week even Devery Henderson had more passes thrown his way than Colston. The veteran wideout has had some decent gains this season but isn't a factor in the red zone (four targets) and looks as if a foot injury is slowing him down.

Fantasy: Shonn Greene is the Jets' best running back. We know Rex Ryan could be at his wit's end with the problems the Jets are having but it remains to be seen just how patient he'll be with Greene going forward. For the second week in a row Greene had a poor 2.1 rushing average with a long run of 9 yards. For a guy who averaged at least 4.0 yards per carry in nine games last season, that's not good news. Ryan already told the media this week that giving Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight more carries is "a possibility that we'll look into." Greene is on notice with Ryan while Powell stands as a good waiver nab for those with an eye toward the rest of the season.

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Reality: Tom Brady struggles against the Ravens. Okay, maybe he didn't exactly struggle against the Ravens on Sunday night. He completed 68 percent of his passes, he threw for a season-high 8.2 yards per attempt and he didn't have any turnovers. But he didn't throw multiple touchdowns and that stung owners expecting big stats from him. No one who drafted Brady is freaking out, but through three weeks he has fewer Fantasy points than both rookie quarterbacks as well as Ryan Fitzpatrick and Andy Dalton. It's not exactly ideal, but it's still better than what people have gotten from other Top 25 overall picks like Rodgers, Stafford and Newton.

Impactful injuries

C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills: The entire city of Buffalo breathed a sigh of relief when Spiller was diagnosed with a sprained shoulder, not a separation. He could play sooner than later (maybe this week) but Fred Jackson, who got hurt in Week 1, could beat him back to the field. Spiller's long-term outlook is still considered positive.

Reggie Bush, RB, Dolphins: It looked rough when Bush tested his knee on the sideline in the second half on Sunday and couldn't come back into the game against the Jets. But no structural damage was found and Bush might find himself back on the field in a week. Hopefully this is the last time Bush deals with a knee problem this season, but we know better.

Willis McGahee, RB, Broncos: McGahee is day-to-day with a rib injury. Without him the Broncos would presumably roll with a Lance Ball/Ronnie Hillman/Knowshon Moreno trio. We'll see if he gets some work in practice before a juicy Week 4 matchup vs. Oakland.

Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals: Wells might have turf toe, or at least that's what was implied on Sunday. The injury would open the door for Ryan Williams to be the primary ball carrier for the Cardinals.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Raiders: DHB was carted off the field in Oakland Sunday with a concussion and a neck sprain. He left a hospital earlier in the week and isn't expected back anytime soon. The door is open for Denarius Moore to cement himself as the Raiders' best receiver.

Jared Cook, TE, Titans: Cook banged up his shoulder in Week 3 but coach Mike Munchak feels good about him playing at Houston in Week 4. At least someone feels good about playing the Texans!

Darrelle Revis, CB, Jets: It's a torn ACL for the league's best cornerback, ending his season and putting a lot of pressure on the rest of the Jets secondary. Kyle Wilson will pick up Revis' slack, but he won't intimidate offenses like Revis did. The Jets defense has as many sacks as game played -- without Revis they're in big trouble.

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Buccaneers: Clayborn was considered one of the league's up-and-coming pass-rush specialists. The Bucs will be even easier to pass against without him coming down on quarterbacks. He tore ligaments in his knee.

DST sleepers for Week 4

Last week's DST sleepers: Bills (12 points), Chargers (four points), Saints (nine points), Colts (don't ask)

Cardinals (vs. Dolphins) ... The Cardinals DST was owned in under half of CBSSports.com leagues last week. That number should be closer to 100 percent this week. Great schedule for the rest of the season and it kicks off with a game at home vs. Miami potentially without Reggie Bush. They should dominate.
Falcons (vs. Panthers) ... In consecutive weeks the Falcons have landed multiple interceptions against good quarterbacks. Containing Cam Newton doesn't sound easy but Atlanta picked him off five times in two games last year, both Falcons wins.
Buccaneers vs. Redskins ... In three games against teams led by Newton, Eli Manning and Tony Romo, the Bucs DST has managed to top 12 Fantasy points per game. Sure, the Redskins offense is a challenge to contain, but the Bucs' run defense has been surprisingly effective and the pass defense has allowed a ton of yards but not a ton of touchdowns.

Two more things

• Christian Ponder might end up being this year's rags-to-riches Fantasy story. Through three weeks he's been very impressive, totaling five touchdowns without an interception and a good completion percentage every game -- a nice improvement from last year. Where he's had help is in his receiving corps -- Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph have been big for him. More help is on the way as Jerome Simpson is coming back from a three-game suspension and can help stretch defenses further. The Vikings have averaged 23 points per game this season and Ponder has been a major reason.

• I came away with a very favorable impression of Kevin Kolb in the Cardinals' drubbing of the Eagles in Week 3. After playing it close to the vest against the Patriots in Week 2 and making everyone nervous about using Larry Fitzgerald, Kolb opened it up a bit more against the Eagles and completed 17 of 24 passes for his most efficient game as a member of the Cardinals. He threw downfield more, stood up in the pocket more and played beyond expectations, especially in a game against a tough pass rush. If this lasts we won't have to sweat Fitzgerald's numbers with Kolb anymore, and it might even lead to the Arizona ground attack becoming more of a factor, just like it was for Ryan Williams against the Eagles (83 yards on just 13 carries).

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
Rams not expected to pick up 2016 option on S Mark Barron
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(5:51 pm ET) The Rams are not expected to pick up the 2016 option on safety Mark Barron, reports ProFootballTalk.com. 

The Rams acquired Barron from the Buccaneers in a trade midseason last year for a fourth- and sixth-round pick in this year’s draft. 

He started all seven games he was with the Rams in 2014. 

The Rams will evaluate Barron's play in 2015 before deciding if they'll pursue a new contract.


Giants waive running back Michael Cox
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:27 pm ET) The Giants have waived running back Michael Cox, the team has announced.

Cox played in four games in 2014, having his season cut short after suffering a fractured leg in Week 10.

A seventh-round draft choice in 2013, Cox played in 18 games and started one in two seasons for the Giants.

Rams to exercise fifth-year option on DT Michael Brockers
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(5:04 pm ET) The Rams have announced that they will exercise the fifth-year option on defensive tackle Michael Brockers, keeping him with the club through at least 2016, per NFL.com. 

Brockers was drafted No. 14 overall in 2012 by the Rams and has started every game for the team the last two seasons. 

The former LSU standout will earn over $5 million in 2016 after signing a four-year, $9.52 million rookie deal.


Report: Eagles excercise fifth-year option on Fletcher Cox
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:28 pm ET) The Eagles have reportedly exercised their fifth-year team option on defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, according to NFL Network.

Cox is entering his four season in Philadelphia, where he has missed just one game his career. Cox has totaled 109 tackles and 12 1/2 sacks in his three seasons with the club.


Bills release DB Jonte Green
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(4:14 pm ET) After signing him in January, the Bills have released defensive back Jonte Green, the team has announced.

Green was drafted by the Lions in the sixth round of the 2012 draft out of New Mexico State.

He played 24 games with seven starts over the 2012 and 2013 seasons for the Lions and totaled 38 tackles, one sack, seven passes defensed and one interception.

He did not play in the NFL in 2014.


Bills send DB Jonte Green packing
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:06 pm ET) The Bills have released defensive back Jonte Green three-and-a-half months after signing him.

Green played in 24 games with Detroit in 2012 and 2013. He totaled 38 tackles, one sacks and seven passes defensed.


Report: NFLPA appeals Greg Hardy suspension
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:58 pm ET) The NFL Players Association has appealed the 10-game suspension of Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy, per the Charlotte Observer.

The union is expected to claim that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell applied the discipline retroactively under the new personal conduct policy, which was not enacted until December - seven months after Hardy was arrested on domestic violence charges.

Goodell, however, has claimed that the suspension is identical to what it would have been under the old policy for conduct detrimental to the league.

Hardy, who signed an incentive-enhanced one-year deal with Dallas in March, could lose as much as $5.8 million if the suspension stands.


Redskins pick up QB Robert Griffin III's fifth-year option
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(12:03 pm ET) Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan announced Monday that the team will pick up quarterback Robert Griffin III's fifth-year option for the 2016 season, a move worth $16.155 million, per The Washington Post

The Redskins have already announced that Griffin will be the starter this season, and locking him up would not affect the team's plans, if they have any, to draft a quarterback. NFL Media insider Albert Breer said the team views the option as a franchise tag of sorts. 

The risk comes in that if Griffin is hurt during this season, the Redskins would be on the hook to pay the full $16 million. If Griffin does not perform well in 2015, the Redskins could release the quarterback without taking a salary-cap hit. 

Griffin threw for 1,694 yards and four touchdowns with six interceptions last season.


Steelers WR Antonio Brown arrives at team facility
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(10:52 am ET) Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, who was noticably absent during the first few days of the team's offseason workout program, was back in camp on Monday, the team reported. 

Speculation bloomed that Brown was dissatisfied with his contract, which is scheduled to pay him $6 million this season, but Brown wrote on Twitter that he was spending time with his newborn child and would be back soon. 

The receiver racked up 1,815 yards and 138 catches for the Steelers last season.


Joe Flacco: Ravens don't need to draft wide receiver
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:35 am ET) When your Super Bowl quarterback doesn't believe his team needs to draft a wide receiver, then perhaps it doesn't.

Joe Flacco feels the Ravens are well-stocked in that area despite having lost Torrey Smith to free agency. They still boast Steve Smith, Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken, Michael Campanero and Jeremy Butler, but are expected to seriously considering adding a wideout as early as the first round.

"Obviously, without Torrey now, the one thing we probably don't have as much of is that speed, is that one guy who can stretch the field," Flacco told ESPN. "But I'm not going to say we need it. I think we got really good guys and I think we're good with who we have."


 
 
 
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