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Dear Mr. Fantasy: Had your fill of tough calls?

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Here's a word you probably don't want to hear right now: debate, as in "I have to debate between Mikel Leshoure and Rashad Jennings at running back this week."

Here's a word you probably don't want to hear right now: deficit, as in "I can't overcome the deficit caused by starting Jay Cutler at quarterback."

Here's a word you probably don't want to hear right now: elect, as in "I elect to drop Jonathan Stewart of those five."

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Here's a word you probably don't want to hear right now: concede, as in "I concede the rest of this season, but I'm looking to trade anyway."

I'd say we've had our fill of those words for the next, oh, four years or so. So I won't use them ... starting now.

But I will address those topics. My constituency demands it.

I have Roddy White and Randall Cobb in a points-per-reception league. With Danny Amendola coming back, is it safe to drop Hakeem Nicks? -- @LoloBrah (via Twitter)

SW: Come again?

This is the part when Marty McFly realizes he's talking to a version of his mom from 30 years ago. Everything sounds normal, normal, normal and then, whoa, not right.

Nicks is averaging 38.5 receiving yards in four games since returning from foot and knee injuries. Nicks had just one catch for 10 yards last week against the Steelers. Nicks plays for an offense that has been relying on the pass less and less in recent weeks.

But guess what? Nicks is still undroppable in Fantasy.

Nicks is a stud. His last few games have been disappointing, but in his first two back from injury, he was still limited by injury, and in his last two, the Giants didn't have much need to throw the ball. Or, more accurately, they weren't able to throw the ball last week against a Steelers defense that ranks No. 1 against the pass.

But look at their remaining schedule. After a Week 11 bye, they face the Packers, Redskins, Saints and Falcons. The Packers, Saints and Falcons are among the highest-scoring teams in the NFL, and the Redskins have the second-worst pass defense in the league. The Giants won't win those games without big performances from Eli Manning.

And now that Nicks is feeling healthy again, he figures to be a big part of those big performances. I predict he has a couple of two-touchdown, 100-yard performances in him. At his best, those are standard fare.

Granted, Amendola has a tendency to rack up receptions as sort of a Wes Welker type in the Rams offense. But the Rams offense isn't the Patriots offense, and thus, he only has so many opportunities to rack up those receptions. His value is greatest in points-per-reception leagues, but his upside is limited to that of a second-tier wide receiver.

Ideally, you'd hold on to both, but if forced to choose, I'd rather gamble on the potential stud, especially you'd have the luxury of stashing him on your bench for now.

With Trent Richardson on bye this week, should I play Rashad Jennings on Thursday or Mikel Leshoure on Sunday? Leshoure has been losing a lot of carries. -- @MuchAdo1 (via TWitter)

SW: Leshoure has been losing carries to Joique Bell recently, but the 16-to-13 split in Week 9 isn't as bad as at looks. The Lions had a 21-0 lead at halftime -- thanks to Leshoure's three rushing touchdowns, mind you -- so they then turned the ball over to Bell in the second half. Why risk the starter if you don't have to?

The three touchdowns are what you should take away from Leshoure's Week 9 performance. He entered the game with only one career touchdown, so we really hadn't gotten a chance to see if the Lions would be willing to trust him inside the 10-yard line, coming off all those injuries. Not only did they trust him, but he delivered on every single opportunity. Forget how Bell's performance impacts Leshoure in Fantasy. I'm wondering how Leshoure's performance impacts Matthew Stafford. Against the 18th-ranked Vikings run defense, I'm comfortable recommending Leshoure as a starter.

That said, the Jaguars are facing the Colts, who are allowing 130.8 rushing yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry. Any running back who faces them is an advisable start in Fantasy. Does that include one who's averaging 3.0 yards per carry and who plays for the lowest-scoring team in the NFL? Er ... um ... well ... maybe.

The only reason I hedge is because I know your alternative. Most Fantasy owners wouldn't be able to fall back on a Leshoure, and so Jennings is an advisable start for them. But if I had to choose one or the other, my lack of confidence in the Jaguars offense has me leaning toward Leshoure, split carries and all.

My league has an issue. We have a player who has basically given up and said this will be his last year because his team has lost seven straight games. We have another player who sends ridiculous trade offers that always get turned down because they're a joke. Well, the player that has given up just traded Calvin Johnson, Jimmy Graham and Jay Cutler for Robert Griffin III, Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller. Is this a fair trade, or should the rest of the league be objecting? -- C.J. Rader (via e-mail)

SW: This is a good counter to the Brandon Marshall-and-Chris Johnson-for-Steven Jackson-and-Brandon Gibson deal that I said was worth overturning a couple weeks ago. Again, that was an exceptional case -- a deal so outrageously one-sided that you couldn't make a rational argument for the losing side. This one doesn't seem as bad to me.

I understand the backstory. I understand that, in this scenario, the potential for collusion is heightened. Suspicions are raised, and insecurity abounds. In such a climate of mistrust, every trade made by the departing team is subject to such intense scrutiny that unless it's outrageously one-sided the other way, it's going to look like a fix.

But let's examine the individual pieces here.

Most Traded Players (as of 11/7)
Player # of trades
1. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions 2,702
2. Rashad Jennings, RB, Jaguars 2,676
3. Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins 2,234
4. Steven Jackson, RB, Rams 2,217
5. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons 2,162
6. Mikel Leshoure, RB, Lions 2,030
7. Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders 1,961
8. Andre Johnson, WR, Texans 1,916
9. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Bengals 1,908
10. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals 1,896

Yes, in most cases, I'd be inclined to take the Johnson-Graham-Cutler side of the deal, but I say that as someone with his own unique set of biases. Johnson just had another 100-yard game, so you'd think his value would be on the rise. But because he still has just one touchdown this season, he's struggling in the eyes of some Fantasy owners, his player page rife with angry comments every time he goes without a score. So even though I still regard him as one of the top two or three wide receivers in Fantasy, I recognize not everybody does.

Graham has been equally polarizing. Though he's been productive more weeks than not, he's missed some time recently with an ankle injury and hasn't exactly rewritten the record books at the tight end position. For some Fantasy owners, that's enough to make him a disappointment. Personally, I still feel like he has the highest week-to-week upside of any player other than Rob Gronkowski at the position, but Owen Daniels and Tony Gonzalez owners might beg to differ.

My bias also stems from having not had to put up with Cutler as my starting quarterback all year. The quarterback position has a paradoxical nature to it. It seems so easy to fill to the many owners who found a reliable option right out of the gate. But if you're one of the few who didn't, you're at a significant disadvantage every week. It's the highest-scoring position in Fantasy, after all. Swapping out a bottom feeder like Cutler for a borderline stud like Griffin is the most impactful upgrade a Fantasy team can make.

Wallace may not have Johnson's upside, but he does have five touchdowns, which has some Fantasy owners regarding the two as more or less equal. From that perspective, this trade boils down to Graham and Cutler for Griffin, which is plenty reasonable given the effect Griffin could have on this team's bottom line.

Again, I'm not endorsing the Griffin-Wallace-Keller side of the deal, but just because I have veto power doesn't mean I should run everyone else's team. Fantasy Football wouldn't be nearly as fun if people weren't allowed to make their own mistakes, and it's not like this one would completely destroy the competitive balance of the league.

Unless the departing owner has such a vendetta against the rest of you that you suspect this trade is his way of giving you all the finger on his way out the door, I think you should let it slide.

Should I trade Darren McFadden and Percy Harvin for Michael Turner and Demaryius Thomas? Injuries are killing me. -- @JayHanna1 (via Twitter)

SW: I see what you mean. The reason you'd make this deal is because of McFadden's and Harvin's injuries. Neither has officially been ruled out for Week 10, but given the nature of the injuries, you can expect both to miss several weeks. McFadden has a high ankle sprain, which often sidelines players for four weeks or more. Harvin's is the more conventional low ankle sprain, but it's an especially bad one. He says he sprained the ankle in three places.

So why wouldn't you make this deal? Well, if you were 8-1 and expecting to coast to the playoffs regardless of what lineup you ran out there every week, you'd probably want to hold on to McFadden and Harvin for their potential to carry your team in the playoffs. After all, on an 8-1 team, a player like Turner would probably be relegated to the bench, even with the injury to McFadden, which means all you'd really gain in this deal is Thomas -- a pretty good player, but not worth weakening yourself for the playoffs.

My guess is that if you're lamenting your injury woes, you're not 8-1. You haven't already sewn up a playoff spot. In fact, you're probably fighting for one. If that's the case, you can't afford to wait around for McFadden and Harvin, hoping they might be able to give you a push in the playoffs. You have to sell out for right now.

And frankly, you could do it in a much more crippling way than this. Harvin has outscored Thomas by only three points in standard Fantasy leagues right now, so that half of the trade is a wash. Thomas may even have the advantage considering he's the one with the superior quarterback. Turner doesn't quite have McFadden's upside, but he's plenty usable, especially with some of the matchups he has ahead.

Together, the two should replace the production you're losing in McFadden and Harvin, which is the most you can ask for when you're the one with the injured players. I'd say if you can pull of a trade like this one, your misfortune isn't really a misfortune at all.

In a points-per-reception league, which is the best option for the rest of the year: Kyle Rudolph, Brandon Myers or Dwayne Allen? -- @barney71229096 (via Twitter)

SW: Filling that tight end spot bargain-basement style, huh? I like it.

Of the three, Rudolph is the only one trending down right now. Myers has been a consistent, if less than spectacular, target for Carson Palmer and finally got in the end zone -- twice -- in Week 9. Allen has done more in relief of fellow rookie Coby Fleener than Fleener ever did as the primary tight end. Still, those five-catch, 50-yard efforts we've seen from those two lately are about the extent of what they have to offer in Fantasy, and neither Myers nor Allen is the primary red-zone target on his respective team.

Rudolph, on the other hand, is. He has caught half of Christian Ponder's 10 touchdown passes this season, giving him more than twice as many as Myers or Allen. Granted, his last three games have been a disaster -- resulting in just two catches (on a combined eight targets) for 17 yards -- but when browsing the bargain basement, you sacrifice something in the way of reliability.

The good news is the Vikings say they want to involve Rudolph more, and they pretty much have to with Percy Harvin sidelined by a sprained ankle. It's not like Michael Jenkins and Jerome Simpson are going to carry the passing game.

So basically, my choice is Rudolph because his presence in the red zone gives me some hope that he'll be able to distance himself from the other two. That said, none of these three is going to become another Jimmy Graham overnight. Each catch enough passes to remain relevant in your format, but none is an especially right or wrong choice.

Is it safe to drop Andy Dalton or Tony Romo if I have Josh Freeman at quarterback? -- @Mike_E_Nelson (via Twitter)

SW: With 11 touchdown passes in his last four games, Freeman is now the eighth-ranked quarterback in standard Fantasy leagues. He certainly looks safe.

But think of where he was before that torrid four-game stretch, throwing just five touchdown passes in his first four games. Think of where he was last year -- his sophomore season -- when he threw 22 interceptions to only 16 touchdown passes. Think of where he's going to be now that rookie running back Doug Martin has broken out with an obscene 386 rushing yards over the last two weeks -- and for a head coach who, if he had his druthers, would prefer to run the ball.

Still confident?

Now think of this: Freeman's last four opponents -- the ones that have elevated him from waiver fodder to his current status -- were Oakland, Minnesota, New Orleans and Kansas City. All four are in the bottom 10 in opponent quarterback rating, with 91.7 being the lowest.

In other words, Freeman was supposed to shred those defenses. Every quarterback is supposed to shred those defenses. Freeman deserves some credit for actually doing it -- Matt Ryan's numbers against the Raiders weren't exactly other-worldly -- but it's not like this recent portion of his schedule has been the fairest gauge of his progression.

For now, I reserve judgment on him. He's relying heavily on the deep ball, which won't be there every week, and he has matchups against the Falcons (twice), Broncos and Eagles ahead.

Don't get me wrong: I prefer Freeman to both Dalton and Romo right now, but I wouldn't want to go all-in on any of those three yet. Keep in mind Dalton was Freeman three weeks ago, coming off a five-game stretch in which he threw 12 touchdown passes. I'd guess he has a few more multi-touchdown games ahead of him with A.J. Green at his disposal.

I wouldn't want to close the book on Romo just yet either, but carrying three quarterbacks at this stage of the season is a bit excessive. Between him and Dalton, I think I might actually prefer Romo since he's on pace for nearly 5,000 passing yards. The touchdown passes are lacking, but if the Cowboys continue to move the ball the way they have been, those have to come eventually, don't they?

I think if Freeman's main drawback is a lack of track record, then an established quarterback like Romo makes for a better fallback option than Dalton.

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Here's who I have at running back: Fred Jackson, Jonathan Dwyer, Darren Sproles, Rashad Jennings and Jonathan Stewart. Do I drop one of these guys to get Isaac Redman? -- Jon Pope (via Facebook)

SW: That's like a who's who of flavor-of-the-week waiver-wire pickups right there. I suppose Jackson and Sproles don't exactly fit into that category, but considering the former has taken a back seat to C.J. Spiller in recent weeks and the latter is out 4-6 weeks with a broken hand, they might as well.

You could make an argument for dropping any of the five if you were in a bind. That said, you could make an argument for leaving Redman on the waiver wire as well. The key to this question is figuring out who is the worst fit for your specific setup.

I'll go ahead and eliminate Jackson. I understand he's been pretty disappointing since returning from a knee injury in Week 4, but the biggest impediment to his success has been Spiller. He's still on an offense that knows how to run the ball, so if Spiller goes down, he's an instant stud. And he's at least usable in the meantime.

Jennings has been mediocre at best as a starter for the Jaguars, averaging 3.0 yards per carry in three games, but he has made up for it to an extent with his receiving ability. And, as of now, he is the definitive starter in Jacksonville. With favorable matchups against the Colts, Titans and Bills in his future, you'll be kicking yourself for dropping him if Maurice Jones-Drew is sidelined longer than expected with a sprained foot.

The Steelers' backfield situation is kind of a mess right now, which is why you might not even want to bother with Dwyer or Redman. Dwyer looked like he had emerged as the top dog when he ran for 100 yards in back-to-back games, but then he went down with a quadriceps injury and Redman rushed for 147 yards in his place. I'd be inclined to carry both and hope that the Steelers commit to one or the other when both are healthy. You also have to account for the return of Rashard Mendenhall from an Achilles injury at some point.

Still, a potential timeshare isn't as bad as a known timeshare, which is what Stewart is a part of in Carolina. Word of the Panthers shopping DeAngelo Williams at the trade deadline briefly boosted Stewart's value, but the two are back to splitting carries almost 50-50, which makes both unappealing Fantasy options.

With so many alternatives, I don't know that Stewart is worth your time. That said, because so few of those alternatives are sure bets, you might need him just to serve as an able body at some point. If a potential shortage somewhere along the line is a legitimate concern for you, your best bet might be to bite the bullet and drop Sproles. In most cases, though, I'd rather cut Stewart loose.

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
Chris Harris targeting midway point of preseason
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Broncos cornerback Chris Harris, who's coming back from ACL surgery, told ESPN he expects to be cleared for full participation by the midway point of the preseason. Harris said the exact timetable hinges on his upcoming visit to his surgeon, Dr. James Andrews.

"I’m doing everything, there’s really nothing I can’t do right now," Harris told the network. "I still have to go see Dr. Andrews at the end of the month and get checked up and he’ll pretty much let us know the plan from there."

Harris had 65 tackles and three interceptions last year before getting hurt in the playoffs.


Dimitri Patterson a starter by default
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Unable to land a high-end free agent cornerback, the Jets "were forced to settle for journeyman Dimitri Patterson as a consolation," notes The Star-Ledger. Patterson, who projects to start opposite Dee Milliner, is on his sixth team in 10 seasons and has played all 16 games just once in his career.

If Patterson falters, third-round pick Dexter McDougle could get a shot.


Fred Jackson in danger of losing carries
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Bills running back Fred Jackson might not approach the 207 carries he received last year. According to WGR550.com, Jackson will once again split time with C.J. Spiller but also potentially lose snaps to the team's additions at running back, Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon.

The website said Jackson, 33, who's entering the last year of his deal, will be trying to prove how much he has left.


Teammate: Bitterness won't linger from Jimmy Graham standoff
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Saints tight end Benjamin Watson told ESPN that the the team's arbitration fight with Jimmy Graham over whether he's a receiver or a tight end won't have a longterm detrimental effect. Watson is hopeful the sides will reach a multiyear contract agreement by Tuesday's deadline.

"I’m very confident that it’ll be resolved the right way and guys can move forward," Watson said. "Obviously it’s always tough when you go through litigation with somebody, and it can probably get heated. And I’m sure there are emotions on both sides. But that is the business side of the game. 

"And it’s unfortunate that it came to that and that it was so public. But I really think -- I know, I don’t think -- I know that Jimmy loves New Orleans and I know that he loves our team and the organization and he loves playing here. And we love him, everybody wants him here, coaches included. So when it comes down to contract situations, that’s just a necessary evil ... not even evil, but just a necessary progression of getting a player here."


Dallas Thomas eyes starting job
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Dolphins coach Joe Philbin named Dallas Thomas one of the team's most improved players, and he has a good chance to start at left guard, according to the team's website. A third-round pick in last year's draft, Thomas played only four offensive snaps last season.

Thomas worked with the first team during spring drills and is much further along than he was in 2013. He stayed in South Florida throughout the offseason to get better prepared.

"You’ve got to know your material, you’ve got to know what you’re doing on the field because stuff happens so fast," Thomas said. "You’ve got to be able to just react to it and not even think about what’s happening on the field."


Spencer Nealy hit with four-game ban
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The NFL suspended Vikings defensive end Spencer Nealy four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances. An undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, the 24-year-old Nealy did not play in a game last season.

Nealy apologized and took responsibility in a statement, saying he took a supplement containing a banned stimulant.


Jarrett Boykin will be 'hard to dislodge'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Jarrett Boykin improved dramatically last season and "will be hard to dislodge" from the Packers' No. 3 receiver job, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Boykin will have to hold off second-round pick Davante Adams, fifth-rounder Jared Abbrederis and seventh-rounder Jeff Janis.

Boykin, 24, caught 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns last season.


Trent Richardson might not get long leash
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Averaging 2.9 yards a carry, like he did last year, will get Trent Richardson benched quickly, reports ESPN.com. Richardson "will have to produce right away because it's unlikely the Colts will wait for him to get going" if running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard are healthy and productive, the website said.

Richardson likely will get the first shot at the starting job. He has a much better grasp of the playbook than he did in 2013 and the belief is he'll be able to run on instinct as opposed to overthinking, the report said.


Bruce Ellington trying to overcome stature
by Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
(7/11/2014) At 5-foot-9, Bruce Ellington is the shortest receiver on the 49ers' roster. But the fourth-round pick out of South Carolina should not be discounted, his high school coach, Jerry Brown, told the Sacramento Bee.

Brown said Ellington is relentless at finding open space and catching everything thrown his way. "Football's played on a big field and it's hard to track someone like Bruce who's got so much agility," Brown said.

Ellington believes he has lots of room for growth because he only gave up basketball last year. Also a former track competitor, Ellington clocked a 4.45 forty at the combine.

"I'm just going to work hard, give it a hundred (percent) every time I step on the field and keep on chasing the dream," he said.


Colts dump LaVon Brazill, sign Aaron Burks
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The Colts waived suspended wideout LaVon Brazill and signed receiver Aaron Burks, an undrafted free agent from Boise State. Brazill, 25, is suspended for at least a year for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Burks caught 18 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns for the Broncos last season, averaging 17.2 yards per catch.


 
 
 
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