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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
49ers' Colin Kaepernick tosses two scores in finale
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:32 pm ET) San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick tossed two scores Week 17 against the Cardinals.

Kaepernick completed 15 of 26 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns. He did not turn the ball over during the contest. Kaepernick was also active with his legs, rushing for 63 yards. His legs were certainly a factor on his first touchdown throw. Kaepernick looked as if he was going to take off before finding Anquan Boldin wide open in the middle of the field. Boldin was able to take the pass 76 yards for the score. Kaepernick's next touchdown wouldn't come until the third quarter. He hit Bruce Miller on a 3 yard strike. 

Kaepernick finishes the year with a career-high 3,369 passing yards. He tossed 19 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He also set a career-high in rushing yards, finishing the year with 639. 


Cardinals' Chandler Catanzaro hits his only field goal Week 17
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:23 pm ET) Cardinals kicker Chandler Catanzaro hit his only field goal Week 17 against the 49ers.

Catanzaro hit on a 36 yard attempt in the second quarter. He also converted both his extra point attempts. Catanzaro will look for more in the playoffs. He'll take on the Panthers next week. 


Steelers NT Steve McLendon (stinger) expected to return
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:23 pm ET) Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon suffered a stinger in Sunday's game against the Bengals, However, the defensive lineman is probable to return to the AFC North battle.

Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald ends season on sour note
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:21 pm ET) Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald ended the season on a sour note Week 17 against the 49ers.

Fitzgerald caught two passes for 29 yards during the contest. He was targeted just four times. Fitzgerald has been battling a knee injury in recent weeks, but has managed to play through the pain. He finishes the year with just 63 catches, which is his lowest total since his rookie season. Fitzgerald gained 784 yards and scored two touchdowns. 

He'll take on the Panthers in the playoffs next week. Carolina is favored by -4.5 points.


Cardinals' Michael Floyd ends regular season with huge game
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:16 pm ET) Cardinals wideout Michael Floyd ended the regular season with a monster game against the 49ers.

Floyd hauled in eight passes for 153 yards and two scores. On his first touchdown, Floyd got behind the defense and was wide open on a flea flicker. His second touchdown was even more impressive. With time running out in the second quarter, Floyd pulled down a 41 yard touchdown from Ryan Lindley. Again, Floyd managed to beat his defender, and was able to get into the end zone as he was being tackled. He was clearly Lindley's favorite option, receiving a team-high 12 targets. 

Floyd's numbers took a step back in his third season. He finished with 47 catches for 841 yards. With his big game, Floyd managed to set a career-high with six touchdowns. 

Floyd will take on the Panthers in the playoffs next week. Carolina is a -4.5 point favorite. 


Bengals RB Cedric Peerman (concussion) will not return Week 17
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:09 pm ET) Bengals running back Cedric Peerman will not return to Sunday's regular-season finale against the Steelers due to a concussion, the team announced. A key special-teams player, Peerman was originally deemed questionable to return to the game but his night is now over.

Cardinals' Kerwynn Williams leads the way Week 17
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:08 pm ET) Cardinals running back Kerwynn Williams led the team in rushing again Week 17 against the 49ers.

Williams carried the ball 17 times for 67 yards. He averaged 3.9 yards per attempt. Williams was not a threat in the passing game. While he did receive one target, Williams failed to come up with the catch. It was the third straight game in which Williams received at least 15 carries. 

Williams will take on the Panthers in the playoffs next week. Carolina is favored by -4.5 points.


Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham questionable to return Week 17
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:07 pm ET) Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham is questionable to return to Sunday night's regular-season finale against the Steelers, the team announced.

Gresham was previously ruled probable to return due to a back injury but was able to come back into the game. However, after the tight end played on one series, the team updated his status to questionable. Gresham had one catch for six yards at the time of his injury.


Cardinals' Ryan Lindley tosses two scores Week 17
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:03 pm ET) Cardinals quarterback Ryan Lindley tossed two scores against the 49ers Week 17.

Lindley completed 23 of 39 passes for 316 yards. He threw two touchdowns, but also added three interceptions during the contest. When Lindley had time to throw, he was able to take shots down the field. He averaged 8.1 yards per completion. Drew Stanton's status remains up in the air, meaning Lindley could start the team's first playoff game next week. The Cardinals are set to take on the Panthers. The Panthers are favored by -4.5 points. 


Bengals' Peerman questionable to return, Gresham probable
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:58 pm ET) Bengals running back Cedric Peerman is questionable to return to Sunday night's game against the Steelers due to a head injury, the team announced. Tight end Jermaine Gresham exited with a back injury as well but has returned to the game.

The Bengals and Steelers are battling for the AFC North title in Week 17's matchup in Pittsburgh.


 
 
 
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