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Fantasy & Reality: Too many quarterbacks

Senior Fantasy Writer
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It's no secret that quarterbacks put up more points than players at other positions. That we knew. But it's getting a little out of control: Fifteen quarterbacks have put up at least as many Fantasy points as Arian Foster, the highest-scoring non-quarterback in standard formats through four weeks. The likes of Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub and even Kevin Kolb have outscored Foster.

Yet, quarterbacks as a whole aren't considered ultra-valuable pieces to a Fantasy roster. Take this one-question poll to confirm this: In a basic league, would you take Matt Ryan straight up in trade for Arian Foster?

Most (if not all) of you would not accept that deal. Foster is considered ultra-valuable because of his steady production thanks to his dominant role in one of the league's best run-oriented offenses. And in Fantasy, you need at least two running backs in your lineup each week compared to just one quarterback. And most leagues have 10 or 12 owners, so only a dozen quarterbacks are really necessary. The demand for quarterbacks, even high-end ones, isn't nearly as great as the demand for high-end players at other positions, especially running backs.

As a result, owners trying to get good value for their quarterback -- whether they're from a good draft pick over the summer or off waivers -- will be disappointed.

It's an oversaturated marketplace. Even the owners of Michael Vick, Matthew Stafford and Tony Romo aren't in a hurry to make a move to replace them even though they're easily the three biggest Draft Day disappointments at quarterback so far. That's because the waiver wire has been and will continue to be rich with replacements. The passing era we're in has provided great Fantasy choices who mostly went undrafted in Flacco, Kolb, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Andy Dalton. The closest quarterback replacement, for a week or longer, is just a waiver claim away.

Your options are slim if you have two or even three excellent quarterbacks and you can only start one at a time. In one of my too-many leagues I landed Matt Ryan and Robert Griffin III on Draft Day, but I'm having an impossible time trying to move one of them in an adequate deal. I could get Stevan Ridley for one of them but that doesn't feel like enough. So my choices are to "settle" for something less than fair or just sit tight and wait for one of two things to happen: An injury to impact an owner in my league or a league-deadline deal to shore up my roster. Either way it doesn't look like a move is imminent.

Patience is prescribed for anyone loaded at quarterback. Eventually the right deal should come along and if it doesn't, make the best trade you can for your team as late as possible. But if you're not as lucky to have a couple of quality gunslingers on your team, the time is perfect to try and upgrade.

Whether you drafted Vick or Stafford or Romo or even Philip Rivers, you're probably unhappy. They each have only one game with 20 or more Fantasy points, the new benchmark for a good Fantasy week (25-plus points is now considered excellent). Two of them are on bye in Week 5 (Stafford and Romo) while Vick and Rivers get their breathers in a couple of weeks (Week 7). You need a bye week replacement anyway, so you might as well shop for a passer who can at least provide insurance in case of an injury or very favorable matchup.

This is where you'll win -- finding that second quarterback might be as easy as looking at waivers. Though Fitzpatrick and Dalton have been snapped up in most leagues, they're still out there in a few. And if they're not, choices like Kolb (21-plus Fantasy points in each of his last two starts) and even Jay Cutler (two 21-point performances) could be available. And if they're not your cup of tea, starters rich with receiving threats like Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman and Matt Hasselbeck are there in a pinch. Not that you'd start them outside of bye weeks, which is why leaving them on waivers instead of on your bench isn't much of a risk.

Landing a Flacco/Fitzpatrick/Dalton in trade, however, shouldn't set you back. That's your next move after scoping what's available for free on waivers. Getting one of those breakouts won't mean giving up a quality starter, mainly because the owners of those quarterbacks probably have them as backups and would view your offer of a good (not great) player in exchange for their backup as a victory. Want proof? Take this one-question poll: Your backup quarterback or Jonathan Stewart? If you didn't say Stewart then your backup quarterback better be RG3. Pretty much anyone would rather have another backup running back or receiver than a backup quarterback so long as their starting quarterback is a must-start.

The last step in the quarterback evaluation process is to put the position under the microscope and re-tier them based on what we've seen through four weeks. If your starting quarterback is in the first two tiers, it's up to you whether you need to even carry a backup, save for the bye weeks. If your starting quarterback is in the third tier, you should be comfortable with a game plan that involves an alternate starter in the event of tough matchups or slumping play. It would be dangerous if your regular weekly starting quarterback was in the fourth tier.

Must-starts Near must-start Mostly reliable Matchup-dependent
Drew Brees, NO Cam Newton, CAR Michael Vick, PHI Andrew Luck, IND
Matt Ryan, ATL Eli Manning, NYG Tony Romo, DAL Andy Dalton, CIN
Aaron Rodgers, GB Matthew Stafford, DET Philip Rivers, SD Matt Schaub, HOU
Tom Brady, NE Peyton Manning, DEN Ben Roethlisberger, PIT Ryan Fitzpatrick, BUF
Robert Griffin III, WAS   Joe Flacco, BAL  

Fantasy & Reality

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

Fantasy: Christian Ponder will outproduce Cam Newton in Week 4. I was pretty confident in this pick before Week 4, and I am feeling that much like a horse's patootie now. Friends, followers, radio show hosts and even my own boss saw what I saw with Ponder and started him over Cam on what turned out to be Newton's best Fantasy week so far this season. Go ahead and laugh at the pick, I deserve it. If you didn't listen, I'm happy for you. By the way, I still see Ponder as an effective quarterback loaded with receiving threats. It just would have helped if the Vikings' special teams didn't score all of their touchdowns against the Lions. And speaking of those Lions ...

Reality: There are rough weeks ahead for Matthew Stafford's Fantasy owners. The Lions quarterback just hasn't quite been himself this season, but it's more of a byproduct of his receivers than anything else. Cumulatively the Lions have 14 drops (more depending on who you ask) this season and Stafford is not getting as much production from secondary receiving options like Brandon Pettigrew, Nate Burleson and Titus Young. In fact, if you remove the Hail Mary catch Young had (from Shaun Hill, not Stafford), he's averaging about 18 yards per game. That's a far cry from the roughly 43 yards per game he had in the 14 games he actually caught a pass in. Tack on a rough three-game stretch coming after the bye (at the Eagles, at the Bears, vs. the Seahawks) and he could be a disappointment. The bright side is that he'll have some nice matchups in the second half of the year. Stafford's owners have a lot of thinking to do.

Fantasy: Something's amiss with Marques Colston. In Week 3 Colston played just 57 percent of snaps against the Chiefs. There was some thought that his achy foot was holding him back from playing at all, much less playing effectively. That went directly out the window in Week 4 when he slammed the Packers at their place for 153 yards and a score on nine catches. What's funny is after a slow start in 2011, Colston broke out on the road at the Bucs for 118 yards and a touchdown. He followed that up with an even better game at home against a weak Colts defense. Can't help but think history might repeat itself, even if the Chargers pass defense is better than the lowly Colts of 2011.

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Reality: The Dolphins offense, not just Brian Hartline, is on the fast track. Ryan Tannehill appears to be finally "getting it" and is maturing in the West Coast offense at the pro level. Against the Cardinals in Week 4, Tannehill ran an offense that reminded me a lot of what the Packers have been running for years: Well-timed, well-run routes of different varieties with downfield shots mixed in. He has put the ball on the money several times when throwing to Hartline, including an out-route where Hartline made an impressive catch with Patrick Peterson blanketing him. The gutsy Fantasy owner in need of a one-week replacement might consider starting Tannehill this week against the Bengals.

Fantasy: Chris Johnson is back, baby! I was stunned to see Chris Johnson land 141 yards on 25 carries, but a closer look might throw a wet blanket on any enthusiasm. He had 55 yards on eight carries in the fourth quarter, his best rushing quarter of the game, when the Texans had a huge lead and had no problem letting him chew up yardage if it meant grinding the clock. I'll admit he ran effectively in the first half (58 yards on 10 carries) and hope it's a sign of things to come, but no one should be ready to put him back on the stud running back mantle.

Reality: Ryan Mathews' situation is concerning. In July, Norv Turner was talking about Mathews as if he was Emmitt Smith. And he still did even after he broke his collarbone. But when Mathews fumbled in his first game back Turner went haywire and now Jackie Battle is in the mix for carries. I'm getting the feeling Battle will play much like Mike Tolbert did over the last two seasons in San Diego, and that means Mathews' superior stats we had all hoped for are not going to happen. It doesn't mean he's a bust, but it's certainly disconcerting.

Impactful injuries

Greg Jennings, WR, Packers: Jennings re-aggravated a groin injury after a touchdown catch against the Saints. It is believed that he could miss another game, maybe two. James Jones is an ideal replacement.

Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants: After missing his second straight game with knee and foot issues, there's an uneasy feeling Nicks might have a year like Andre Johnson had in 2011. When he's active he's worth starting, but who knows how often that will be?

Santonio Holmes, WR, Jets: Holmes hurt himself after making a catch, clutching his left leg. There's already talk that his season is over.

Jake Locker, QB, Titans: For the second time this season the quarterback has hurt his left shoulder. It's believed to be a separation. Matt Hasselbeck appears to be the Titans' starter for Week 5 at Minnesota (not a completely horrible matchup).

Laurent Robinson, WR, Jaguars: The team confirmed he suffered another concussion, his second in as many weeks and his third since training camp. His absence only solidifies playing time for Justin Blackmon.

Cordy Glenn, OT, Bills: One reason for Ryan Fitzpatrick's passing success: Excellent offensive line play. Glenn's absence will make an impact there as well as in the ground game. And Glenn is one of two starting linemen not expected to play against the 49ers (the other is guard Kraig Urbik).

Kenny Phillips, SS, Giants: Phillips sprained his knee against the Eagles and is considered "week to week." A depleted secondary gets even thinner.

DST sleepers for Week 5

Last week's DST sleepers: Cardinals (14 points), Falcons (five points), Buccaneers (four points)

Vikings (vs. Titans) ... Minnesota's defense is for real. Eight of its 12 sacks came over the last two games and its secondary is a little bit better than advertised. They'll have a real good chance at some turnovers and sacks against the Titans in Week 5.

Rams (vs. Cardinals) ... The Rams secondary has been outstanding thanks to the addition of Cortland Finnegan. He'll likely get locked onto Larry Fitzgerald. Not that that means Fitz will be handcuffed, but with Arizona coming to St. Louis on a short week it could mean a surprise outing for the defense.

Panthers (vs. Seahawks) ... Got guts? The Panthers have three interceptions on the season but they've come up with 12 sacks and take on a one-dimensional offense that has yet to put up over 20 points in a game (the Seahawks had a special-teams score in their 27-7 win in Week 2).

Bengals (vs. Dolphins) ... I'm starting to see the good in the Dolphins' offense so this matchup isn't quite the pushover it looked like a few weeks ago (OK, maybe one week ago). The Bengals' banged-up secondary is an issue but their run defense against Maurice Jones-Drew last week can't be ignored.

Two more things

• How could you not be impressed with Andy Dalton's play over the last three weeks? True, he's posted 890 passing yards and nine total touchdowns against the Joe Haden-less Browns, punchless Redskins and struggling Jaguars, but isn't that what good quarterbacks are supposed to do? He's got the stud receiver in A.J. Green, the complementary weapons (it would be nice if Armon Binns or Andrew Hawkins could break out further) and a pretty good offensive line, all things considered. But the best aspects of Dalton's game are improvements made in accuracy and yardage -- he's averaging 2.2 yards per attempt more per pass this year than he did last year, and he's already notched half as many 40-plus-yard passes as he had last year through one-quarter of the season. He's evolving into a pretty darn good Fantasy quarterback, maybe even a low-end starter.

• And if Dalton's play wasn't impressive enough for you, how about Michael Turner's? It took him a couple of weeks but in back-to-back matchups against the Chargers and Panthers he's done damage on limited carries and even broke free for a long score on a catch last week. He's scored in three straight games for the first time since, well, last year. I was one of his most outspoken supporters during the summer and still feel pretty good about Turner going forward but there's one thing that's still troublesome: His carries. He has only one game with over 15 carries and one game with over 16 total touches. It's worked out well so far but we might be reaching if we expect him to keep up double-digit Fantasy production on limited reps. If a good offer comes across your desk for Turner, think long and hard about accepting it.

• Bonus thing: I met Chuck Pagano for the first time in April at the NFL Meetings. He was very open and friendly with the media, shaking hands and asking questions of his own. To him, the media wasn't a nuisance. We had a good talk about the AFC title game and the impact of new-breed tight ends on defenses. It was also then when he hinted at taking Coby Fleener to go with Andrew Luck if given the chance. Pagano's been a football coach since the mid-'80s and was even a Miami Hurricane coach at the same time a certain Fantasy writer was enrolled there. Everyone roots for people struck with serious illnesses to come back strong but Pagano deserves the support of football fans everywhere in appreciation of his coaching contributions.

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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Sparano: Raiders' LaMarr Woodley's bicep injury 'could be serious'
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(8:11 pm ET) Raiders linebacker LaMarr Woodley missed practice Wednesday with a bicep injury, and head coach Tony Sparano said it "could be serious," CSN Bay Area reports.

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Raiders T Khalif Barnes practices Wednesday, may not start
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:03 pm ET) Raiders tackle Khalif Barnes (quad) returned to practice Wednesday, but he may not regain his starting role from Menelik Watson, CSNBayArea.com reports.

Watson has allowed just two pressures in two starts, but coach Tony Sparano was noncommittal earlier in the week when asked about the situation. "We’re going to have some decisions to make," Sparano said Monday. "Menelik did a great job in there again (on Sunday). Khalif has been a real staple for me at a bunch of positions, as you know. I really feel like he’s one of the leaders of that group and he hasn’t been out there, but Menelik has done a really good job. We’ll find ways to keep them all involved and to keep them all going. The good news is that Menelik is a young player right now that is getting better."

Watson ran with the first team during the portion of Wednesday's practice open to the media.


Seahawks S Kam Chancellor misses practice Wednesday
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(7:48 pm ET) Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor did not practice Wednesday due to an ankle injury.

"I think last game it kind of flared up on him again a little bit," teammate Richard Sherman told the Seattle Times. "He was able to overcome it and continue to play in the game but obviously any time you have an ankle injury it takes a lot. But he’s fought through and done a great job."

Chancellor has battled ankle issues throughout the season.


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(7:21 pm ET) Seahawks tight end Zach Miller (ankle) has been ruled out for Week 8 against the Panthers.

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Bills likely to insert Kraig Urbik into starting lineup at guard
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