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Reality Check: The C.J. Spiller debacle

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Thanks a lot, C.J. Spiller.

Just when you thought it was safe to bench him, just when you had finally come to terms with the idea that your top pick wouldn't be anywhere close to your best player, he went and piled up 155 yards against a Chiefs defense that had single-handedly won its Fantasy owners about four games this year.

It's enough to make you wonder what it's all for -- you know, rankings, projections, matchup info, real-time scoring, Sunday afternoons, football, competition, humanity, life. Assigning random outcomes to each of your players each week simply won't do. This isn't a study in chaos theory. At some point, the numbers have to actually mean something.

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They have to, right? Well, right? Please, tell me they mean something!

You see that? You see what this game is doing to us? All that time, all that effort spent trying to get an edge, and what do you have to show for it? Madness! You want an edge? I'll give you an edge ...

Crash!

Just imagine I toppled a giant stack of plates or did something similarly loud, showy and completely incongruous to what I just said.

And with that, you're in the middle of an after school special -- the kind designed to wake you from your trance, enlighten you to the ramifications and return you to meaningful pursuits like horticulture and rocketry.

But since you and I know that won't actually happen, let's instead work to be smarter about the way we process certain information. Specifically, our approach to underachievers is at times less than sensible.

Most require patience and a reminder that they're better than their last week's numbers. Others legitimately aren't worth the trouble anymore, though they're fewer and farther between than the typical angry commenter would have you believe.

Anger -- that's an emotion that won't win you games. It can serve as a motivator, sure, but if you're this deep into a Fantasy Football column this abstract this far into the season, motivation is the least of your concerns.

Frankly, we'd be better off eliminating emotion from the start-sit and add-drop processes. If we approached them as a machine would, using past data to predict future data and recognizing that any anomalies are just additional data and not part of some vast conspiracy to thwart our sincerest efforts, we'd make fewer boneheaded moves.

Like sitting Spiller?

See, I wouldn't go that far. Based on the information we all had collected on him (and on the Chiefs, for that matter) up to that point, sitting him made perfect sense. But would you believe that in my shallowest league, for the briefest of moments, I actually considered dropping him?

Dun dun dun!

And to further the conversation, I did drop Trent Richardson ... like, just a couple days ago ... after Spiller's resurgence.

Those who can't remember the past are condemned to repeat it, right? Having just survived a brush with boneheadedness, here I am following through on it with a player of similar standing.

But you know, I feel good about it. They're different players with different sets of circumstances. And while I ultimately talked myself out of dropping Spiller, the arguments for keeping Richardson just weren't as compelling.

Of course, knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em is the eternal dilemma of gaming, but if you can recognize the difference between a Spiller and a Richardson, you won't be so hesitant to pull the trigger. And I don't know about you, but after a week chock-full of attractive waiver claims -- with more to come, to be sure -- I'd rather not devote any more roster space to deadweight.

So how do you act decisively in a game where so much changes from week to week?

The No. 1 pitfall in Fantasy Football is an overemphasis on the micro. You could argue the game is built for it. It has the shortest season of any major professional sport and yet the longest wait between samplings. Had the inventor anticipated the ensuing torment, he would have thrown up his hands and gone back to bed, but alas, here we are.

Every player has a range of potential outcomes from week to week. Though you can't predict where he'll land within that range, you can predict the range itself by weighing a variety of influences, which include ability, health, workload, role, scheme, supporting cast and opposition. Let's go ahead and call that the definitive order. Sounds about right to me.

The one that changes most often is opposition, so it tends to get the most attention from week to week, but in the grand scheme of influences, it's relatively low on the list.

And the rest? Well, unless you're in win-or-die mode -- which, admittedly, some Fantasy owners are this time of year -- they keep you from doing something boneheaded, like dropping Spiller.

Allow me to demonstrate with a side-by-side comparison of Spiller and Richardson. We'll begin with supporting cast. For Spiller, it's at least adequate, judging by Fred Jackson's production. Richardson has Andrew Luck to keep defenses honest, but it's not like the Colts have churned out productive running backs in recent years. The Bills and Colts are two of the few teams in the NFL that would prefer to run, so both players have scheme going for them. As for role, they're both platoon backs, though the Colts intended Richardson to be a workhorse when they acquired him. Workload? Again, the Colts want to give Richardson as much as he can handle, but you could argue the same is true for the Bills with Spiller judging by offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett's comment this preseason that they'd give him the ball until he threw up. In terms of health, Spiller had played on a bad ankle for three weeks before finally getting a break in Week 8 while Richards, as far as we know, is as right as rain.

Now ability ... that's the kicker. We know Spiller has it from his 6.0 yards per carry last year and penchant for breaking long runs. All Richardson has backing him up is the fact he went third overall in the 2012 draft.

So in Spiller, you have an explosive back capable of taking any play all the way whose struggles are at least partially explained by injury, and in Richardson, you have a plodder who has yet to prove capable of more than 30-40 yards and maybe a touchdown if Luck doesn't take matters into his own hands. Shoot, James Starks could do better than that.

One of those players strikes me as somebody worth protecting in all leagues. The other strikes me as just roster filler.

The focus here is on those two, but as with every "big picture" column, the concept is meant to apply beyond just them. You could try it on any player who has you on the fence. Steven Jackson? His team isn't the most committed to the run, but he gets a full workload and has been mostly productive with the carries he's gotten. He deserves a longer look after missing so much time with injury. Ray Rice? He has been embarrassingly unproductive this year, but the Ravens remain committed to him. Given his track record, you shouldn't discount the possibility of a Chris Johnson-like resurgence. Doug Martin? His ability was never in question. His health is a concern, but until the Buccaneers rule him out for good, you have to stick with him, especially with his supporting cast showing signs of improvement. BenJarvus Green-Ellis? An obvious beneficiary of being in the right place at the right time a couple years ago, he has zero big-play ability and is splitting carries with an up-and-comer who seems to be gaining trust by the week. Cutting him loose wouldn't be the most regrettable thing ever.

Of course, just because you could justify dropping someone doesn't mean you absolutely should. I've limited this discussion to running backs not because it couldn't apply elsewhere, but because they're generally in higher demand and, thus, more deserving of protection. At most every other position, your best bet is obvious, and your next best is comparable to what's already on waivers. Cutting somebody loose doesn't have the same repercussions as at running back, where virtually anyone getting regular carries has value. That said, in a league where I also have Reggie Bush, the Tampa Bay duo, Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren McFadden, Starks and, what could be the biggest find of all, Ben Tate, I'm fairly confident I won't be missing Richardson.

But again, this isn't about me or him, but those tough decisions we all face every time we enter our waiver claims for the week. If your inner robot can't find reason for optimism, by all means, pull the plug.

But if that inner robot made the wrong call in Spiller, take a moment now to recalibrate.

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
Bills QB EJ Manuel adds weight as way to improve
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7:00 pm ET) Bills quarterback EJ Manuel is in the middle of a three-way competition for the starting job in Buffalo, but he's hoping that the weight he added during the offseason will help him get the starting nod, per The Buffalo News.

Manuel estimates he gained eight to 10 pounds of muscle during the offseason with the intention of staying healthy -- he missed six games as a rookie in 2013 due to injury.

“I feel a lot better this way,” Manuel siad. “I still feel like I’m quick and fast and able to move around. I think that’s just about being durable and obviously being able to take a full season.”

With Tyrod Taylor and Matt Cassel competing alongside him to become the starting quarterback this year, Manuel feels he has a great chance to come out the top guy.

"I feel like I’m right there in the mix, so I’ve just got to go out every day and get better," Manuel said.

Manuel threw for 838 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions in five games last season.


Jets G Willie Colon fighting to leave NFL on his own terms
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5:12 pm ET) Willie Colon is very self-aware. He knows 32-year-old linemen, entering their 10th season in the league are often looked at as sparable. He wants to avoid that, per The New York Post.

Colon is working hard this offseason with the Jets, after signing a one-year deal to remain with the team. He knows that the extra work is the only thing that can keep him around.

“I never want to go home and sit on the couch and wonder, ‘Maybe I could have done this better. Maybe I could have prepared a little better;’ I never wanted that feeling,’’ Colon said. “I want to feel like if anything ever happens [getting cut], it wasn’t due to my play, it was a decision that the front office made. I always want to feel like I gave it all I got.’’

The veteran guard has started every game for the Jets the last two seasons.


Buccaneers RB Doug Martin: 'I would really love to be back here'
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(4:06 pm ET) Buccaneers running back Doug Martin isn't ready for a change of scenery.

Martin, who is entering his fourth year in the league, doesn't want the Bucs' decision to not pick up his fifth-year option to mean he's done in Tampa, per The Tampa Tribune.

“I have my own house here now and I’m just now fixing up the backyard,’’ Martin said. “It’s almost finished, so I would really love to be back here. I love this place.’’

The move not to pick up the option was largely based off finances. Martin was slated to make $5.6 million during the fifth year, which was a hefty price-tag for a guy who has been injury riddled his last two seasons.

“It didn’t surprise me,’’ he said. “And I don’t want to say, you know, ‘Whatever,’ because it’s something that just comes along with the business end of things. It’s part of the game. Besides, if I do everything that’s under my control, everything will fall into place the way I want it to."

Martin has rushed for fewer than 500 yards in consecutive seasons after posting an astounding rookie season, when he rushed for 1,454 and 11 touchdowns.


Falcons cut rookie linebacker Derrick Malone
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(2:34 pm ET) The Falcons remained busy this week, waiving rookie linebacker Derrick Malone on Friday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Malone signed with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent out of Oregon earlier this month.


Broncos' Omar Bolden on kick return duties: 'That is my job'
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(2:27 pm ET) Broncos strong safety Omar Bolden wants to be the team's kick returner and he just let the world know it.

"That is my job," Bolden said. "I want it."

Bolden returned 13 kicks for 429 yards and a 33-yard average last season.


Eagles LB Kiko Alonso is doing 'everything' at OTA's
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(2:12 pm ET) Eagles linebacker Kiko Alonso has surprised everyone, himself included, by participating in organized team activities, per nfl.com.

Alonso, who tore his ACL in July, was participating without limitations at Eagles practice this week.

"I honestly didn't think I'd be doing this much," Alonso said. "I've just been going on how I feel, and it's feeling really good."

To put his recovery in perspective, Alonso tore his ACL two months prior to teammate Sam Bradford, who is still recovering and has been seen walking with a limp.


Seahawks DE Michael Bennett not at OTA's due to contract dispute
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:09 pm ET) Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett has been noticeably absent from organized team activites this week, and now it's clear his absence is because he wants a new contract, per The Seattle Times.

Bennett is staying away from team activities because he hopes he can get a new deal from the Seahawks.

"Trying to get the contract right,’’ Bennett said. “I’ll be there shortly. I don’t know when I’ll be there. Depends on the team and stuff. See how it works out."

Bennett, who is in the second year of a four-year, $28.5 million deal, wants a contract that will pay him what the top seven players at his position earn. His current deal averages out to be 14th in salary among defensive ends in a 4-3 defense.

“Somewhere near the top seven at my position, top eight at my position,’’ Bennett said. “Not a lot of guys play inside and out (meaning both tackle and end). Not a lot of guys do what I do. So I feel like I should be somewhere near there.

“I just want to be in the realm of the guys that play like me,’’ he said. “There are only so many guys that do what I do, and I would love to be like somewhere in there where they are at.’’

Bennett recorded 38 tackles and seven sacks in 16 games last season.


Browns roster moves: Sign DL Christian Tupou, WR Josh Lenz
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(11:56 am ET) The Browns continue to keep busy this offseason by adding defensive lineman Christian Tupou and wide receiver Josh Lenz , per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal.

Tupou was previously a member of the Browns' practice squad, while Lenz was released by the Colts earlier this month.


Report: Jets rework WR Brandon Marshall's contract
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(11:24 am ET) Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall is set to make more money after the team reworked his contract, per ESPN.com.

Marshall's contract, which was worth $24.3 million over the next three seasons, now has a maximum value of $26 million, including an additional $1.3 million in full guarantees.

Marshall was scheduled to earn up to $7.7 million this season, which included his base salary and a workout bonus. He will now earn $9 million.

Overall, Marshall's restructured deal allows him to earn $2.7 million more in the next two years, but he can potentially earn $1 million less in 2017 than he was previously scheduled.

Marshall signed with the Jets this offseason after catching 61 passes for 721 yards and eight touchdowns for the Bears last season.


QB Shuffle: Bills cut Jeff Tuel, claim Matt Simms off waivers
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(11:09 am ET) Bills coach Rex Ryan didn't pass up the chance to reunite with one of his former quarterbacks, by cutting Jeff Tuel and claiming the former Jets passer Matt Simms off waivers on Friday, per nfl.com.

Tuel was a favorite of former Bills coach Doug Marrone, but with Ryan now the head man in charge his fate was doomed.

Simms, who played in just four games while with the Jets, will still be a long-shot to make the team because of the three-man competition at the quarterback spot already brewing between Matt Cassel, Tyrod Taylor and EJ Manuel.


 
 
 
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