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Reality Check: Surviving without Julio Jones

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Some people tried to deny it, noting the incredible catch he made on his team's final drive.

Others made no bones about what happened to Julio Jones Monday, when the screw in his surgically repaired foot broke, ending his season.

They're called CBSSports.com users, and they're the best. Where else but Jones' player page could you find a full gamut of commentary ranging from the reactive ...

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Wow! -- DntGetMurkd

... to the reflective ...

Crushing blow. -- NY Swag

... to the tabloidian ...

Welcome to dumpsville. -- IDI

... to the instructive ...

Run to the wire and grab Kenny Britt! -- GOGREEN2010

... to the sublime.

Why Britt? -- CTRL-FRK

For real. Somebody needs to tell GOGREEN2010 that he already went green and it's 2013. He seems to be living in the past.

But at least his heart is in the right place. Obviously, part of the discussion on Jones is how to replace him, but an injury of this severity to a player of his prominence has so many tangents, both practical and philosophical, that sticking to one shortchanges the discussion. And what better way to tackle them all than to turn it over to the floor?

What follows is a conversation artificially created by pulling user comments from the mysterious depths of the Internet, cleaning them up for mass consumption and interspersing them with my own thoughts and observations. It's less science-fictiony than it sounds.

It's also more valuable than it sounds. The thing about tangents is they take you where never thought you'd go. I promise even the non-Jones owners will come away with something useful.

Just once I'd like to go through a Fantasy Football season without my best player getting injured. [Feeble attempt at euphemism deleted.] -- VeryUndude

Some euphemisms are so clever in their construction or effortless in their usage that they take on a life of their own, actually enriching a language that never knew what it was missing. Others are just thinly veiled efforts to get by the censors. How very undudely of you, VeryUndude.

But at the same time, how very fitting of the circumstances. Most Jones owners would have considered him their best player at the time of his injury. If nothing else, he had reliability going for him, leading the league with 41 receptions while putting up more than 75 yards every week. Losing a player of that caliber, no matter how the rest of the season unfolds, would lead anyone to wonder, "What if?"

Before moving on to "why me," though, keep in mind most everyone in your league has a "what if." What about the owner who lost Steven Jackson -- a player he drafted even before Jones, most likely -- in Week 2? What about the owner who opted for Matt Ryan (we'll get to him in a minute) over Peyton Manning, not wanting to hitch his wagon to a 37-year-old only a couple years removed from neck surgery? What about the owner who's having to adjust his expectations for C.J. Spiller, Trent Richardson, Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew or, to a lesser extent, Doug Martin?

You could argue their misfortunes are the result of bad decisions and that they're getting exactly what they deserve, but it's not like they went rogue with those picks. They followed the consensus. OK, maybe not with Ryan over Manning, but even that wasn't so unreasonable, was it?

As a Jones owner, you feel like you're getting a raw deal because you were completely convinced you made the right call before having the rug pulled out from under you, but you could argue you're also getting exactly what you deserve. Jones hasn't been a model of health during his time with the Falcons and wasn't in college either, which explains why he had a screw in his foot in the first place. Some might argue an injury of this severity was a long time coming. Not saying I am, but it's a valid point.

I'm also not trying to kick you while you're down. Just offering some perspective. Things go wrong in Fantasy Football. It's a vicious, fiercely team-oriented game with too many variables to predict. As you've learned from experience, you're unlikely to avoid the misfortune, so even though it's a bummer when it happens, you have to be prepared for it.

That's why you don't get complacent. You keep playing the waiver wire, religiously putting in your claims Tuesday night, because in the end, an Alshon Jeffery is just as likely to win you the league as a Julio Jones.

Out for the year? I hate Fantasy Football. Everyone is hurt. -- sargent2424

It's kind of crazy how much we all invest in something so volatile. I'm not just talking money, but time, emotion, brain power, etc. Think of all we could accomplish if we applied those to something a little more substantive.

But we all know that's not going to happen. Fantasy Football may be the most unpredictable of the Fantasy games, but it's so widespread and accessible that the love-hate relationship is only going to continue. So maybe instead of obsessing over its unpredictability, you take advantage of it.

Counting on everyone to get hurt is exactly why Fantasy owners began handcuffing their running back however many years ago. Granted, not all handcuffs are worth it, but the ones with a strong skill set and natural fit in the offense hardly miss a beat when the starter goes down. Just look at how Joique Bell owners fared with Reggie Bush sidelined in Week 3. It's proven to be an effective strategy.

Of course, it's not so applicable to Jones owners. Fantasy-caliber wide receivers are a little more prevalent than running backs, and it's not like anyone expects Jones numbers from Harry Douglas. Still, it's worth mentioning for the Steven Jackson owner who might be on the fence about dropping Jacquizz Rodgers. Or the Eddie Lacy owner who just saw James Starks go back on waivers. Or the Ray Rice owner who thinks he's gotten all he can from Bernard Pierce. Or the Jamaal Charles owner who feels like he's wasting a roster spot on Knile Davis. Shoot, I'm still stashing Montee Ball. Not like Knowshon Moreno is known for staying healthy.

And speaking of Moreno, maybe he's the type of player you target in the middle rounds next year over dime-a-dozen types like Steve Johnson and Miles Austin. If everything's going to blow up anyway, you might as well get a head start on the players you can actually get excited about starting. Moreno, Jordan Cameron, Josh Gordon -- they all had plausible opportunities for big-time production even if they weren't quite as "safe" as Johnson or Austin.

Everyone is freaking out about Matt Ryan losing Julio Jones, and I know it's serious. But he basically hasn't had Roddy White all season. If White can come back healthy after the bye, it shouldn't be a huge dent to the offense. -- Zr0Tolerance (via Matt Ryan's player page)

Ah, yes ... White. If he can come back healthy, I'm right there with you. He was a stud before anyone had even heard of Jones and still has Tony Gonzalez to keep defenses honest. Though he's been limited by an ankle sprain this season, a week off might be exactly what he needs to get to feeling himself again.

But of course, it's not just the ankle now. White strained his hamstring against the Jets in Week 5, which might put him out of the lineup altogether.

More often than not, that second guy makes all the difference. Gonzalez will have defenders draped all over him now, forcing Ryan to broaden his horizons. I mentioned Harry Douglas, and he's sure to get open looks from time to time, but receivers like Jones and White never needed open looks. Ryan could throw the ball to them in coverage and trust them to come down with it. If he takes those chances with Douglas, he's likely to get picked.

Ultimately, I think the yards will be there for Ryan. He's a good player in his own right, and the Falcons offense is designed to throw the ball. But I could see his interceptions rising as he compensates for the talent around him, and I could see the Falcons opting for more running plays inside the 10-yard line.

Well, Julio ... like the Falcons, my team is 1-4 and doesn't deserve you. -- Mugiwaraboi

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Wait, wait ... hold up a minute. Given what the Falcons gave up to draft Jones, couldn't you argue he's the player they most deserve? I'm just saying ...

He was the only player on my team pulling his weight. (Looking at you A.J. Green, Doug Martin, David Wilson and Vincent Jackson.) Good luck with your recovery, pal. -- Mugiwaraboi (continued)

One thing that gets lost in the uproar over Jones' injury: The numbers he was putting up weren't entirely sustainable.

That's not to say he wouldn't have continued to be one of the top wide receivers in Fantasy, but he was on pace for 131.2 catches and 1,856 yards. You don't see numbers like that every year.

Because his season ended after only five games, he never had a chance for a down week. Somewhere along the line -- maybe after Steven Jackson came back or Roddy White fully recovered -- he would have had a clunker or two. Everybody does.

Just because he hadn't yet doesn't mean someone who has isn't pulling his weight. You've allowed Jones' consistency to set an impossible standard for everyone else.

Green is on pace for 99.2 catches for 1,155.2 yards and 9.6 touchdowns. Aren't those about the numbers you expected when you drafted him? He's had some ups and downs along the way, but that's normal even for the great ones. Maybe because his best game came in Week 1, you're worried defenses have him figured out or something, but to some degree, it's cyclical. The Bengals just used a two-headed rushing attack to take down a previously undefeated Patriots team, which means defenses will have to shift some of their focus to BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard, which means they'll have to shift some away from Green, which means, sooner or later, he's putting up another 160 yards.

Martin is lacking in touchdowns so far and hasn't been particularly efficient with his carries, but especially now that the Buccaneers have turned to rookie Mike Glennon at quarterback, he's the entire offense. He's on pace for 1,368 rushing yards, for crying out loud. In today's NFL, any running back who reaches 1,000 is pulling his weight.

I can understand your frustration with Wilson and Jackson. Wilson has yet to offer any reason for optimism and is now dealing with injury, and Jackson, as compared to Martin, is a more likely casualty of the Buccaneers' switch to Glennon. I don't have especially high hopes for either going forward.

But my point is you have enough heavy hitters to make a run at the playoffs even without Jones. If you feel like you need a little extra something, you can always try the trade market. Maybe a couple of your better bench players could land you an undervalued Fred Jackson or Frank Gore. Or maybe you could make up for the loss of Jones by upgrading at quarterback. I don't know who you have there, but if it's someone relatively high-end like Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan or even Philip Rivers, now might be a decent time to make a play for Aaron Rodgers, provided you have a good enough second player to include in the deal.

I rejected a trade involving Julio Jones and Willis McGahee on Friday. I could have had Doug Martin and DeSean Jackson, but I was drinking the Ryan-Jones Kool-Aid. Now, my season is over at 2-3. -- Mr. Niceguy

I hate to introduce Mr. Niceguy to Mr. Meanman, but I can't fathom why you would have turned down that trade in the first place. Given the shortage of quality running backs, Jones straight-up for Martin would have been at worst dead even, and Jackson is miles ahead of McGahee, who I consider a fringe waiver guy.

I understand every situation is different, but turning down two must-start guys (including a first-rounder) for the price of one would have required incredible depth, which you clearly don't have. If you did, you wouldn't be saying your season is over at 2-3.

Either way, I don't think it's over. If you've been playing the waiver wire all season, you should at least have a couple serviceable wide receivers on your bench, which should be enough to keep you competitive as long as you're stable at quarterback and running back. And then, if you keep playing the waiver wire, eventually you might strike gold at the position.

You've already missed out on Alshon Jeffery, I'm sure, but if history holds, we haven't seen the last big waiver claim at wide receiver.

Keenan Allen is a hot ticket! -- slippydog19

Who knows? Maybe it's him. He's already been claimed in all of my leagues, but he's still owned in only 47 percent. Clearly, he fills an important role in the Chargers passing game. I worried what might happen to Philip Rivers' numbers after downfield threat Malcom Floyd went down with a neck injury, but after back-to-back games of 400-plus yards for Rivers, I'm thinking Allen is sufficiently meeting that need.

Other potentially available wide receivers who I'm eyeing include DeAndre Hopkins, who has struggled recently but clearly has tons of potential playing opposite the injury-prone Andre Johnson, Nate Washington, who had back-to-back 100-yard games for the Titans before understandably taking a step back against the Chiefs, Golden Tate, who was finally the Seahawk' most targeted receiver Sunday after earning rave reviews this preseason, Terrance Williams, who has been terrific in place of the injured Miles Austin, Donnie Avery, who made the most of a couple downfield looks before hurting his shoulder last week, Rueben Randle, who has shown enough as a No. 3 to have me longing for the next Hakeem Nicks injury, and Harry Douglas, who -- as much as I've pooh-poohed him here -- is sure to offer something halfway decent if both Jones and White are missing.

And if you're lucky enough to have more than just a couple serviceable wide receivers on your bench, it's probably overkill. See if you can find a guy with a couple holes to fill and offer up a 2-for-1. A buy-low would be ideal. Someone on CBSSports.com recently swapped Vernon Davis and Dwayne Bowe for Larry Fitzgerald. That's the sort of trade that, if it works out as I think it will, with Carson Palmer making better use of his top target in the weeks ahead, will bring you just about back to where you started with Jones in your lineup.

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
Embattled Brandon Spikes pleads guilty to leaving scene of crash
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:35 pm ET) Former Patriots and Bills linebacker Brandon Spikes has pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a recent car crash and has received a fine and year of probation, per WBZ, which is further reporting that he has lost his license and will be forced to attend a driver's safety class.

Spikes has lost far more than his license. He has lost his livelihood, having been cut by New England for hitting another car and abandoning his vehicle on the highway. He later told the police that he had hit a deer.

No other teams have been rumored to be targeting Spikes for the coming season.


Terrelle Pryor ready to embrace new role with Browns
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Terrelle Pryor once declared that he could not play football if he could not play quarterback.

Reality has since set in.

Pryor has been cut twice and is now playing on a Cleveland Browns team desperate for a quarterback, but apparently not desperate enough to give him a shot. He is instead embracing what he is calling a "slash-player" role.

"I'm going to give (it) a chance," he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I just want to play football. I'm a playmaker, and I believe if I can touch the ball, I can go to the house, especially if I have space. This should definitely open up some opportunities."

Pryor has already taken the first step by contacting Steelers receiving stud Antonio Brown and making plans to work out with him and Randy Moss so they can teach him the nuances of the position.

He also figures there's another reason he's ahead of the game.

"The thing that helps me is that I played quarterback, and I know what the quarterback wants," Pryor said.


Lions new DT Haloti Ngata too busy to think about new contract
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata had his contract in mind in his last days with the Ravens, but he's too busy to think about it now that he's been traded to the Lions.

Ngata admitted that he suspected a deal could take place.

"The closer we got to free agency, I thought it could be a possibility," he told Monday Morning Quarterback. "It didn't surprise me ... since we weren't getting closer to any kind of contract stuff, I just figured there were a lot of things that could happen. I definitely started to have a trade in my mind as a possibility."

Ngata added that he's not thinking about a contract extension with Detroit.

"I'm just trying to get to know my teammates, get my playbook down, and my technique and terminology," he said.


Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon claims he'd pick himself in Fantasy
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon doesn't have a Fantasy football team, but if he did...

"If ... I could take myself, I would," he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Never mind that Adrian Peterson has returned to the backfield. Never mind that Peterson has traditionally not yielded many carries to teammates. In 2012, for instance, he totaled 348 of his team's 401 rushing attempts.

The Vikings, however, are expected to use a more balanced approach in 2015. And McKinnon, who flashed as a starter with Peterson sidelined last season, is feeling dandy after undergoing lower back surgery in December.

"Two hundred percent," he declared in regard to his health. "If there is a 300, I feel 300. It's all good."

McKinnon averaged 4.8 yards per carry a year ago, which buoyed his confidence.


Lions RB Joique Bell predicting at least a 1,200-yard season
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Lions featured back Joique Bell is coming off a knee injury that has sidelined him throughout the offseason and has also been dealing with an Achilles issue. But his confidence is not hurt at all.

Bell has made a rather lofty prediction for 2015, particularly for a guy that has never rushed for more than 860 yards in a season. He claims he will exceed that by plenty.

"I'm going to rush for over 1,200 yards," he told MLive.com. "That's the minimum. If I do less than that, I'll be surprised. I'll be disappointed. Anything more than that, I wouldn't be surprised at all."

Bell averaged a mediocre 3.9 yards per carry in both of the last two years.


Report: LB Kyle Knox gets four-game suspension from NFL
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6/29/2015) Free agent linebacker Kyle Knox will get a four-game suspension from the league, NFL beat writer Howard Balzer reported. 

Knox as released by New Orleans in the offseason. Dallas signed him in June and released him three days later. 

Knox has played in 16 games for New Orleans and Jacksonville over the last two seasons.


Eagles sign John Moffitt, release Cole Manhart
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6/29/2015) As expected, the Eagles signed center John Moffitt to a one-year contract on Monday, per Philly.com.

Moffitt was a third-round draft pick in 2011 and played two years for Seattle. He was traded to Denver and retired early in the 2013 season. 

He was arrested in 2014 on assault and drug charges, which were later dropped. 

To make room, the Eagles released undrafted rookie free agent Cole Manhart


Chiefs' Jeremy Maclin off to best start ever with Alex Smith
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6/29/2015) New Chiefs WR Jeremy Maclin has hit it off with quarterback Alex Smith during the offseason. 

Maclin came to Kansas City from Philadelphia in the offseason, and his communication with Smith has been more than either player expected. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever been off to a better start with a particular quarterback in my life,” Maclin said, per KCChiefs.com.

Offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, like head coach Andy Reid, brought the Philadelphia offense to Kansas City, which has helped Maclin's transition. 

“He’s only a couple years removed from our system,” Pederson said. “We’ve changed some things since he’s been in the offense, but he’s such a smart, savvy, veteran guy that he’s picked up on what we’re doing really fast. He and Alex have sort of developed that continuity right away.”


Redskins' David Amerson looks to win back starting job
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6/29/2015) After a sub-par 2014 season, Redskins cornerback David Amerson is no longer expected to be a starter. Bashaud Breeland and free agent pickup Chris Culliver have knocked Amerson down to a nickelback role. 

Amerson lost the job after a season in which he indecisive and lacked aggression, he admitted to the Washington Post. Amerson didn't record an interception and had just seven pass breakups. 

“At the end of the day, that’s all it comes down to: just making plays. That’s the thing I felt like I was missing last year: being that big play-maker, game-changer,” Amerson said. “I basically had been that all my life, but it was different for me last year. It was unusual for me. So I need to get back into my groove and just find my swag. … Like I said, I’ve been that all my life, and always had that – I wouldn’t call it a gambling type of mentality – but knowing when to go and make that play, when to step up. It’s something I think a lot of people naturally have in them, and knowing when to bring it out. I just have to have that mindset.”


QB Russell Wilson reiterates desire to stay with Seahawks
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(6/29/2015) Quarterback Russell Wilson, whose contract status has developed into one of the offseason's major storylines, said that despite the issue with his deal, he still wants to remain with the Seahawks. 

"The rest will work out. The contract will work itself out. I'm excited about it and excited to hopefully be a Seattle Seahawk for a really, really long time," Wilson said during a football camp. "So, that's the goal."

Wilson is slated to play out the final year of his rookie contract in 2015, making $1.54 million, a figure wildly below market value for a player who has been to back-to-back Super Bowls. 


 
 
 
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