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Fantasy & Reality: Silver & Black panic attack

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Back in August the biggest concern everyone had about drafting Darren McFadden was that he was injury prone and wouldn't make it through much of the year. But six games into the season, no one's thinking about his health.

With 324 rush yards, 167 receiving yards and two rushing scores, McFadden has stats on par with Darren Sproles and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. That might be fine if McFadden had been a fourth- or fifth-round pick, but he was a consensus first-round choice with an average draft position inside of 10th overall. Much more was expected of McFadden, who entered this season with 15 touchdowns and over 120 total yards per game on average in his last 20 starts.

There are a number of factors as to why McFadden is struggling with a 3.1 yard per carry rushing average this season, but the biggest might have to do with his running style and more importantly, the offensive line. This offseason the Raiders added Greg Knapp to serve as their offensive coordinator and Frank Pollack as their offensive line coach. After spending many seasons in Houston and witnessing the zone-blocking scheme work so well with Arian Foster, Knapp deduced it would be good for the Raiders to use the same thing with Pollack's help, letting go of veteran O-line coach Bob Wylie in the process. They even signed guard Mike Brisiel away from the Texans to help the transition.

But McFadden has yet to adjust to it -- he's more of a powerful gasher who doesn't run with a lot of patience, which is necessary in the zone scheme. McFadden prefers to have his blockers give him some wiggle room and burst through the space they make. That's been what made McFadden's numbers pop in the past.

The Raiders' line has struggled to maintain efficiency in blocking, a huge sign that firing Wylie was a mistake. Wylie is a master of both a zone-block and power-block coach and has the chops to coach up anybody. Without him the line looks lost and McFadden has struggled to grasp the nuances of taking a handoff, making a cut and hitting the assigned hole. You'd think a running back with McFadden's talents could adapt but he hasn't so far (teammate Mike Goodson has fared better). So the Raiders have tried implementing some physical power runs that McFadden likes better, except their line has struggled to open up holes for McFadden because they're not all physically dominant guys, nor have the starters played together regularly, so all of the issues that are hampering the line are adding to McFadden's woes. His stats are lame as a result.

Case in point: In Week 7 the Raiders hosted the Jaguars, who came into the game with the 30th-ranked run defense in the league. But you would have thought the Raiders were taking on the 2000 Ravens the way the Jacksonville defensive front stuffed the Raiders' O-line and kept McFadden from picking up big gains. It wasn't until the end of regulation, when the Jaguars' defense was in a prevent mode, when McFadden finally picked up some decent runs on consecutive plays. The game-best 13-yard run he had came with under 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter deep in his own territory.

There have been bright spots for McFadden -- his 64-yard touchdown run against the Steelers for one -- but by and large he's been labeled a bust by many in the Fantasy community. Statistically there's no denying that he is one judging by his production. But does it mean he'll finish as one?

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That depends on the Raiders' coaching staff. If they're resourceful they'll use McFadden on outside runs that attack the edges and let him use his mix of speed and strength to bully defenses, not to mention involve him more in the passing game. But if we haven't seen it yet, what would lead us to believe we'd see it at all? What's more, if McFadden's offensive line can't play with consistency then that collective group would further hamper his potential. And lest we forget that McFadden has yet to play a 16-game season and has already surfaced on the injury report with a minor shoulder injury.

It sounds awful, which is why this last part might be the most surprising of all: He's still worth starting. Ridiculous, but true. Despite his O-line woes and his weak performance thus far, he's still among the league leaders in carries with 17.2 per game on average. His remaining schedule boasts just two matchups against run defenses currently ranked in the top half in rush yards allowed. And this part is important: While his line has been mediocre and McFadden's own skill set has worked like a square peg in a round hole, McFadden still looks great and doesn't seem slow in the least when he gets in space.

If you own McFadden, keep rolling with him. If you don't own McFadden, take the time to inquire about him with the owner who has him in your league. If he's frustrated, he'll take less-than-ideal value for him via trade. The move could pay off as McFadden and the Raiders work through their problems.

Fantasy & Reality

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

Fantasy: Greg Jennings and Pierre Garcon will be major Fantasy contributors in 2012. The ugly truth: Sometimes football teams aren't completely honest about injuries. Garcon has been a non-factor since hurting his toe in Week 1 and Jennings has been M.I.A. since aggravating what was described as a groin injury in Week 4. Both guys appear to be lost for an extended period of time, at least through Week 10 in the case of Garcon. Your record should dictate what you do with these guys: If you're on a losing team fighting for wins, you have to trade them for whatever you can get that helps your roster. If you're on a winning team with bright playoff hopes, stashing these guys could give your roster a boost late in the season. Expect impatient Fantasy owners to begin dropping injured receivers like these in the coming days.

Reality: Now is the time to break out the handcuffs. The responsible Fantasy owner might have rounded out his or her draft by taking his best running back's backup. But most of us would rather gamble on a breakout player than carry a stud rusher's caddy. But over the last two weeks we've seen DeMarco Murray and Maurice Jones-Drew go down with injuries that kept them off the field and kept the waiver wire burning with hot pickups. There's no excuse: If you don't have at least one of your starting running backs' handcuff on the bench, you're playing with fire.

Fantasy: Owners can't trust Philip Rivers or any Browns players this week. Don't be surprised if both Philip Rivers and Brandon Weeden end up with big games in Week 8. Rivers' numbers haven't been hot but he comes out of the bye taking on a defense that's allowed every quarterback to total two or more scores with four throwing for three touchdowns. Weeden has tossed two touchdowns in each of his last three and faces a Chargers pass defense that has yielded at least two passing scores in each of their last four! Expect a shootout in Northeast Ohio.

Reality: If you're in a pinch at receiver this week look to London, but not the Patriots. The Patriots have allowed 290 or more passing yards to each of the last five offenses they've faced, including the lowly Jets last week on their own turf. Now in London, they'll take on an upstart Rams team with some pretty surprising receivers in Brandon Gibson and Chris Givens. Givens is more explosive -- he has a 50-yard catch in each of his last four games -- but Gibson is a steady outside receiver with 16 targets over his last two games. Best of all, Gibson is still unowned in 49 percent of CBSSports.com leagues and Givens is out there in 83 percent of leagues! It's like stealing.

DST sleepers for Week 8

All of our DST sleepers are owned in 50 percent of CBSSports.com leagues or less.

Last week's DST sleepers: Raiders (11 Fantasy points), Bills (eight points) and Panthers (six points). We've had better weeks.

Dolphins (at Jets) ... Three of the last four DSTs to play the Jets have totaled at least 13 Fantasy points with the one team not accomplishing the mark being the Colts, whose defense leaves a lot to be desired. The Dolphins allowed 23 points to the Jets in Week 3 but registered a pair of sacks and interceptions. Miami's defense is coming off a bye and has plenty of good, underrated talent.

Lions (vs. Seahawks) ... The Lions' defense has its fair share of issues, but they hung in there against the Bears on Monday, holding them to just 13 points and 296 yards. Three of the last four DSTs against Seattle have posted at least 14 Fantasy points. Russell Wilson has taken at least two sacks in all but one game this season and has thrown six picks in his last four games. The only negative here is that the Seahawks haven't played since last Thursday while the Lions lost last Monday, so the Seahawks should be better rested.

Raiders (at Chiefs) ... Two words: Brady Quinn. Twenty-one more: Every DST to play the Chiefs has posted at least 11 Fantasy points, including the bottom-of-the-barrel Saints and Bills. The Raiders don't have a terrific defense by any stretch but they should be able to contain the Chiefs, especially if they can build any kind of lead.

Chiefs (vs. Raiders) ... If we're going to play the "DSTs have done well against this offense" game like we did with the Raiders, then we have to do it with the Chiefs. Defenses against Oakland have posted double-digit Fantasy points in each of the last three weeks including the Jaguars last week, even though they allowed 26 points and 351 total yards. Sometimes we do crazy things when we're desperate and using the Chiefs DST could be one of those things.

Two more things

• Had a talk with my colleague Brian Westbrook about why the Eagles are so darn good coming out of their bye week. Westbrook told us on Fantasy Football Today that coach Andy Reid self-evaluates his coaching, his players and his tendencies and also gets a beat on his upcoming opponent. As a result the Eagles do some new things that aren't on film and look for specific things that the opponents have done before. A pessimist might say that every team does this during the bye week, but Reid's undefeated record coming off the bye (13-0) is proof that he's a master. Expect the defense to be completely different and far more aggressive and for the Eagles to hand the Falcons their first loss of the season.

• If you're racking your brain looking for reasons why Matthew Stafford and the Lions' offense is struggling, it can be summed up as follows: They're not scoring touchdowns! Our Nando Di Fino did some digging and learned that Stafford has actually thrown for more yards and completed more passes through his first six games this year than he did last year. But through six games last year he had 15 touchdowns; he has just five passing and two rushing so far this season. The hunch is that following this week the Lions' offense will rev up its engine against weaker defenses and Stafford will indeed get back on track. We liked the effort given by Titus Young last week and the addition of rookie Ryan Broyles in the slot should give Stafford a sure-handed receiver (he is the NCAA's all-time receptions leader, after all). Young and Broyles are worth stashing on rosters and Stafford has some buy-low appeal, not just right now, but after his game against the Seahawks.

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
Eagles coach Chip Kelly: Tim Tebow not just a camp arm
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:15 pm ET) Eagles coach Chip Kelly thinks Tim Tebow could eventually develop into a quarterback and isn't just a camp arm, as Mark Sanchez said last month, according to NFL.com.

Tebow was signed in April as the fourth quarterback on the roster after the team traded for Sam Bradford and re-signed Sanchez.

"No, I think everybody here that we bring to our organization is here to compete for a job," Kelly said. "That's what Timmy is going to do. He's an unbelievable competitor. ... If we were just going to have guys throw drills, we'd take (Mike) Mayock in the offseason and bring him down here and let him throw to them."

Tebow hasn't played in the league since 2012.


Cowboys RB Darren McFadden maybe used as kick returner in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:11 pm ET) Cowboys running back Darren McFadden could see an expanded role next season, as a kick or punt returner, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Wide receiver Dwayne Harris left during the offseason for the Giants, leaving a vacant spot in the return game.

"We have some guys we feel who can go return right now both punt returners and kickoff returners," coach Jason Garrett said. "And hopefully we'll get a chance to bring some guys in college free agent type guys we targeted as well. We like the guys we have and we feel like we can go play right now with them and also create some competition with some younger guys."

McFadden was a kick returner for the Raiders in 2014 where he had three returns for 59 yards.

"He certainly could," Garrett said. "He's done it in his past."


Jersey No. 11 holds significance for Texans WR Jaelen Strong
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:24 pm ET) Texans wide receiver Jaelen Strong was pegged as a potential first-round pick entering the 2015 NFL draft. 

However, he had to wait quite a while in the green room to hear his name called. In the third round, the Texans took Strong, a productive wideout at Arizona State. Strong, surprised at the fall in the draft, picked a jersey number to remind himself of what happened to him. 

Strong was the 11th receiver selected this past weekend. Therefore, 11 is the jersey number Strong will wear this season, to remind himself that 10 other receivers were selected ahead of him. 

"Number 11 to remind me that 10 receivers were taken before me in the Draft," Strong wrote on his Instagram page. "So much hunger in my heart. Thanks Houston!"


Jaguars agree to terms with 9 UDFAs, including Nick Marshall
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:16 pm ET) The Jaguars announced they will sign nine rookie undrafted free agents, including former Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall.

Marshall will move to cornerback as a professional football player.

As Auburn's starting quarterback in 2014, he threw for 2,532 yards and 20 touchdowns. In 2013, Marshall led the Tigers to the BCS National Championship, where Auburn lost to Florida State. 

Marshall has some experience with the Jaguars. At the Senior Bowl, where he played as a corner, he was coached by the Jaguars' coaching staff. 

The Jaguars will also bring in Miami linebacker Thurston Armbrister , Syracuse defensive tackle Eric Crume , Auburn running back Corey Grant , Oregon State tight end Connor Hamlett , Minnesota-Mankato guard Chris Reed, Maryland linebacker Matt Robinson , Pittsburgh linebacker Todd Thomas and Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters


Lions unsure if Travis Swanson will start at center
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3:26 pm ET) When the Lions drafted Travis Swanson a year ago, the idea was for him to emerge as a starting center for the franchise by 2015. 

There's now some doubt, at least that's what the Lions themselves are saying after acquiring veteran Manny Ramirez in a trade on Thursday during the NFL draft. 

"I don't know," Lions offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn said, via the Detroit Free Press. "And I'm not trying to be evasive, I just don't know. What is it, May 2, 3rd? The depth kind of develops itself, which is a nice thing. Going through OTAs, mini-camp, training camp, it always takes care of itself."

Swanson is still the favorite to start at center, though it does appear the Lions want to put him in a competitive situation. 


Panthers not concerned with Devin Funchess' 40 time
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3:06 pm ET) Panthers rookie receiver Devin Funchess didn't impress scouts too much when he ran a 4.7 40-yard dash time at the NFL scouting combine this past February. 

But that didn't stop the Panthers from selecting him the second round on Friday during the NFL draft. The Panthers were impressed enough in Funchess, based on his big-play ability and size at 6-5, 230 pounds, to add him to their roster. 

"People are going to talk about his 40 time in Indy, but the kid plays fast, and he ran fast at the pro day at Michigan (4.48 40-yard dash)," Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said, via the team's official website. "Like with Kelvin (Benjmin) last year, you can't coach size. He plays fast. He's a smooth and fluid big man. We really like that about him, and he's a very smart kid."


Browns GM: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu can be a starting cornerback
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(1:34 pm ET) Former Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was considered a first-round prospect before tearing an ACL this past December, which sidelined him for the first-ever College Football Playoff. 

Due to the uncertainty of his injury, Ekpre-Olomu experienced a substantial fall from potential first-rounded to the seventh round. The Browns ended up grabbing Ekpre-Olomu with the 241st overall pick.

Assuming Ekpre-Olomu can rehab his knee back into shape, Browns general manager Ray Farmer said Ekpre-Olomu has a great future in the NFL. 

"We felt this kid can be a starter if he’s 100 percent," Farmer said, via ESPN.com


Matt Jones' arrival won't change Redskins RB Alfred Morris' role
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(1:00 pm ET) It doesn't hurt to have more than one quality running back to tote the ball in the NFL. But when a solid runner is taken in the first few rounds of the draft, it can be an ominous sign for a back used to being the primary ball carrier. 

That's not the case with Redskins running back Alfred Morris. Though the Redskins drafted Florida's Matt Jones in the third round, coach Jay Gruden said there are no plans to change Morris' role in the offense. 

"Alfred won't be affected," Gruden said, via ESPN.com. "Alfred's still the running back here. He's had three great seasons and that won't change. But to add another guy that can come in here and pound the rock a little bit doesn't hurt anything. It'll help Alfred in that regard, taking some carries off him. For the most part Alfred will be getting the bulk of the carries and Matt will get some too, obviously."

In a tough season for everyone on the Redskins, Morris ran got 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns. Jones provides some insurance as a big-bodied 6-2, 226-pound back that could actually help Morris this season. 

"He's a little bit different than what we've had around here," Gruden said. 


Falcons waive tight end Kyle Miller
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(12:53 pm ET) The Falcons announced on Sunday that they have waived tight end Kyle Miller

Miller was with the Falcons' practice squad in 2014. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Jaguars in 2012. 


Packers QB Brett Hundley's fall in draft 'blessing in disguise'
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(12:39 pm ET) Former UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley admitted disappointment after falling to third day of the NFL draft. 

When Hundley declared for the draft he was considered a first- or second-round pick. But as the pre-draft process continued, Hundley's game was scrutinized to the point where he fell down lots of draft boards. 

All of a sudden, Hundley found himself still available in the fifth round. With the 147th overall pick, the Packers selected Hundley, even though starter Aaron Rodgers is poised to remain as one of the greats in this league for many years to come. 

For Hundley, he's looking at the opportunity as a way to prove his critics wrong. 

"It's a blessing in disguise," Hundley said via the Green Bay Post-Gazette, "and you know I have a chip on my shoulder, and I'm coming in to work, and that's what I've come down to. I'm just coming in, I've got my opportunity. That's the way I look at it. It's a blessing in disguise.

"You always have expectations of going No. 1 or high in the draft, but everything happens for a reason, and that's how I look at it. If I'm supposed to be here, this is where I'm supposed to be, and I'm going to make the most of it."


 
 
 
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