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Fantasy & Reality: The replacements

Senior Fantasy Writer
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It's that time of year. Players start getting hurt and their replacements are snapped up off waivers. It's inevitable -- football's a tough sport and the men who play get hurt by nature. As Fantasy owners, our eyes immediately turn away from the players who are hurt and to the players coming into the huddle off the bench. It's not that we're unsympathetic to the players who got hurt, it's that we know that players who are inactive or on injured reserve can't help us in our quest for Fantasy greatness.

This past week we saw three teams turn over their running back position. The Eagles lost LeSean McCoy to a concussion, sidelining him for the team's game vs. Carolina. Willis McGahee had significant leg and knee injuries that will keep him out of action for the rest of the Broncos' regular season. And the Jaguars changed their running back of choice last week at Houston, benching Rashad Jennings.

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The replacements for each of these running backs were the hottest names off the waiver wire leading up to Week 12. But only one seems like a shoe-in for Fantasy success.

Ronnie Hillman, Broncos: With McGahee going down, John Fox's bunch is expected to use a trio of backs. Lance Ball has served well as a part-time back for the Broncos and Knowshon Moreno has been inactive for weeks but should dust off the cobwebs for their matchup at Kansas City. But it's rookie Ronnie Hillman who is expected to get the first crack at being the primary rusher.

And that's exactly what he was for the Broncos after McGahee got hurt last week vs. the Chargers. Hillman played on 15 first downs, nine second downs and 29 snaps total after McGahee got hurt. By comparison, Ball played on just 15 snaps -- eight third downs and a handful of reps when Hillman had to leave the game with what is believed to be a minor hamstring injury. Moreno was inactive. Hillman worked in the two-minute offense, in the red zone, near the goal line and he got carries to kill the clock at the end of the game. When you see running backs working in all of those situations on top of being the primary back on first- and second-downs, you've got something.

Hillman's a smallish but quick back who was a stats beast in college, breaking many of Marshall Faulk's yardage records at San Diego State, but it has taken a while for him to adjust to the pro game as evidenced by the 31 carries he had in the Broncos' first nine matchups. The biggest problem he faces is something Fantasy owners might not think much about: pass protection. The running back who steps on the field next to Peyton Manning has to be a marvel at stopping an extra blocker or else Manning gets crunched. McGahee handled this role well as does Lance Ball, but Hillman seemed lost last week trying to protect his quarterback. What's more, defensive coaches will see Hillman's thin frame and encourage defenders to body rock him whether they can get to Manning or not. So there's a delicate balance in play for the Broncos: They want to use Hillman's speed and versatility but if he can't keep the defense out of the pocket he's not going to be on the field long.

This might be a major problem if the Broncos were taking on a team with a blitz-happy defense, but they have the Chiefs this week. Kansas City does boast a pair of good pass rushers in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston but they also boast a run defense that was slammed for 101 yards and a score last week by BenJarvus Green-Ellis. That might suggest that the Chiefs defense is pitiful but the reality is that they've allowed just five rushing touchdowns and four 100-yard rushers on the season. That's not atrocious, plus the Broncos haven't sported a 100-yard rusher more than three times all season.

The bottom line: Hillman should get the first crack at handling the majority of running-down snaps for the Broncos and has the potential for a good game. But also has the potential to get an early hook if he can't pass protect or if he can't get anything going against whatever kind of defense shows up for the Chiefs. Though there's tons of upside, there's some risk involved in starting Hillman this week.

Jalen Parmele, Jaguars: After watching Parmele's snaps from the Jaguars' surprising game at Houston last week, the phrase 'three yards and a cloud of dust' came to mind. Parmele ran hard and with some power but not with a lot of speed or elusiveness. Though he made some decent cuts running behind the Jags' offensive line, he was more battering ram than cheetah. And you'd think a back like this is a cinch to score from the goal line but on consecutive plays against the Texans he gained 1 yard with no scores. Sure, the opponent was tough but those scores should be automatic for burly backs against almost anyone.

Another issue with Parmele is that he's bounced around the league and is basically a back the Jaguars are settling for after the Rashad Jennings experiment failed and after Maurice Jones-Drew hurt himself. So by default, Parmele has this gig, his first starting job after three years in the league and one year out of the league (he didn't play in 2011). If he was so talented, why wasn't he in a starting role before now?

Last week Parmele had 24 carries and it got him 80 yards. He actually had 56 yards on 21 carries until the Jaguars caught the Texans napping in overtime and ran him left behind an unbalanced line the Texans seemed to not catch on to. That gave him 28 yards and was easy for the Texans defenders to catch. He lost four yards on his next carry and had no yards on his final carry.

The common thread among big, slow backs is that they usually need a lot of carries in order to be helpful in Fantasy. That's where Parmele can win. With MJD out and Jennings out of coach Mike Mularkey's mind, Parmele could easily land 20 carries against the Titans. But because of his style of running I just don't think he can finish a game with over 4.3 yards per carry. So maybe he gets that heavy workload but it might mean just 80 or 90 yards. There isn't a big ceiling for Parmele, and that makes me shy away from him even in a matchup at home against Tennessee.

Bryce Brown, Eagles: I saved the best for last. With McCoy expected to miss Week 12, Brown should step in as the Eagles' primary rusher. Unlike Hillman, he's got a little size to him, and unlike Parmele he has a lot of speed to him. This is the best running back of the three you could have picked off waivers, and he happens to have an excellent matchup too.

Let's go back to his limited snaps against the Redskins last week. Not only did he have 35 yards on five carries but another run of 18 yards was wiped out by a holding penalty. So was a 13-yard catch-and-run. The point isn't that the Eagles have a hard time blocking legally, it's that Brown can hit a hole very quickly and speed off for a nice gain. Brown curently has a 4.4 rushing average on the season.

Speed has been consistent with Brown going back to when he was a five-star recruit out of high school. The Wichita, Kan., native was considered a top running back in the country before going to Tennessee, where he played behind Montario Hardesty for a year before taking off one season to transfer to Kansas State with his brother. Then he left the Wildcats after one game (and an ankle injury) to pursue the NFL. That might raise some red flags about his commitment but we're focused on the short-term with Brown, not the long-term. We doubt he'll quit on the Eagles before Monday.

Moreover, Brown should hog reps against a Panthers defense that has struggled vs. the run compared to the pass. Carolina has allowed over 400 total yards and two touchdowns to running backs over its last three games. The Eagles will never be a pass-oriented team but in a game like this Brown could be in line for a good amount of work and should produce some numbers to go along with it. Knowing how long and how badly Brown has wanted to make it in the NFL, I'd be surprised if he completely flubbed his debut.

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
Report: Josh McCown to miss 'several weeks' with thumb injury
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9/19/2014) Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown is undergoing a second test on his injured thumb, Alex Marvez of FOX Sports reports Friday. McCown left Thursday's game in Atlanta in the second quarter after hitting his hand on a helmet during a throw. According to the report, he is expected to miss "several weeks" with the injury.

If that is the case, the Buccaneers will turn to Mike Glennon moving forward. Tampa Bay will have 10 days before their Week 4 matchup at Pittsburgh.

Marshawn Lynch should be good to go Week 3
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/19/2014) Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is probable entering Week 3.

Lynch is dealing with a back issue. After sitting out Wednesday, Lynch returned to full practice Thursday and Friday. 


Carson Palmer among notable players listed questionable for Week 3
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9/19/2014) The Cardinals have nine players listed on the injury report for Week 3. Punter David Zastudil (groin) and linebacker Alex Okafor (thigh) were the only players officially ruled out for Sunday's game against the 49ers.

Deemed questionable were tight end Rob Housler (hip), defensive tackle Frostee Rucker (calf) and quarterback Carson Palmer (shoulder).

Linebacker Kevin Minter (quad), center Lyle Sendlein (ankle), running back Andre Ellington (foot) and linebacker Larry Foote (shoulder) were each ruled probable for Sunday.

Seahawks list nine on final injury report
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/19/2014) The Seahawks have listed nine players on the final injury report heading into Week 3.

Only Tharold Simon has been ruled out for the game. Bruce Irvin didn't practice throughout the week, but is questionable for the game. 

Kam Chancellor, Cooper Helfet, Marshawn Lynch, Christine Michael, Zach Miller, Mike Morgan and Kevin Pierre-Louis are all probable. 


Cordarrelle Patterson, Kyle Rudolph expected to go
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/19/2014) The Vikings should have their offensive playmakers for Week 3.

Both Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Rudolph are probable entering the game. Rudolph was limited in practice Friday, but Pattterson was able to practice in full. 


Vikings release final injury report
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/19/2014) The Vikings have released their final injury report before Week 3.

Chad Greenway, Rodney Smith and Brandon Watts will all enter the game listed as questionable.

The Sharrif Floyd, Phil Loadholt, Michael Mauti and Xavier Rhodes are all probable heading into the contest.

Both Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Rudolph are considered probable for Week 3. 


49ers list lengthy injury report for Week 3
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9/19/2014) The 49ers have nine players listed on the injury report for Week 3. Center Marcus Martin, who's nursing an knee injury, was the only player ruled out for Sunday's game against the Cardinals.

Deemed questionable are cornerback Tramaine Brock (toe), tackle Anthony Davis (hamstring), tight end Vernon Davis (ankle) and tight end Vance McDonald (knee).

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick (back), running back Carlos Hyde (calf), defensive end Justin Smith (not injury related) and tackle Joe Staley (knee) were ruled probable for Sunday.

The Raiders list nine players on final injury report
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9/19/2014) The Raiders have nine players listed on the injury report for Week 3. Linebacker Sio Moore, who's nursing an ankle injury, was the only player ruled out for Sunday's game against the Patriots.

Deemed questionable are cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (knee). running back Maurice Jones-Drew (hand), tackle Matt McCants (knee), linebacker Nick Roach (concussion), cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee), defensive lineman Antonio Smith (back) and wide receiver Rod Streater (hip).

Justin Tuck, who is dealing with an illness, was the only player ruled probable for Sunday.


Dolphins issue lengthy injury list for Week 3
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(9/19/2014) The Dolphins have officially ruled out running back Knowshon Moreno (elbow) for their Sunday game against Kansas City. Also out are linebacker Koa Misi (ankle) and guard Shelley Smith (knee).

Listed as doubtful are defensive end Terrence Fede (knee), center Mike Pouncey (hip) and linebacker Jordan Tripp (chest).

Tight end Charles Clay (knee) and guard Billy Turner (foot) are considered questionable.

The probables are safeties Walt Aikens (hand) and Louis Delmas (calf), tackle Branden Albert (shoulder) and linebackers Jonathan Freeny (calif), Jelani Jenkins (shoulder) and Philip Wheeler (thumb).


Chargers issue injury report with seven probables
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(9/19/2014) The Chargers have issued an extensive injury report for their Sunday game in Buffalo. Ruled out are running back Ryan Mathews (knee) and linebacker Melvin Ingram (hamstring).

Listed as questionable are safety Jahleel Addae (hamstring), wide receiver Keenan Allen (groin) and linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu (hamstring).

The probables are cornerbacks Chris Davis (ankle) and Brandon Flowers (groin), linebacker Dwight Freeney (non-injury related), tight end Antonio Gates (hamstring), defensive end Corey Liuget (ankle) and offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger (back) and Johnnie Troutman (back).


 
 
 
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