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Fantasy football: Week 1 starts, busts, free agents

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Fantasy football: Week 1 starts, busts, free agents

Week 1 of the NFL season is finally, finally here. Though some still have a fantasy football draft or two remaining (hand raised), most can put away all their preseason material, stop with the mock drafts and start focusing on setting lineups. In other words, the next phase of over-thinking begins.

Don't fret. I'll talk rankings, starts/sits and pickups throughout the year. Typically, my first weekly article for CSNmidatlantic.com will focus on the "Waiver Wire." Seeing as just about everybody team should be good with their lineups except for the unfortunate souls who somehow drafted Jordy Nelson and Kelvin Benjamin, this week's offering will include a sneaky start and potential bust along with a Waiver Wire option for each position...

Quarterbacks

Sneaky start -  Ha, trick category. Owners should start the QB they drafted first for Week 1 in virtually all cases. Potential exceptions would be Eli Manning (at Dallas) or Matthew Stafford (at San Diego) if you backup is Sam Bradford (at Atlanta). Not an exception: Ryan Tannehill (That means start him).

Bust alert - Speaking of Matthew Stafford, here are his home/road splits from 2014:

Home: Touchdown passes (13), interceptions (6), yards per game (282), completion percentage (67.25)

Road: TDP (9), INT (6), yards per game (250), completion percentage (54.1)

Even if Stafford didn't struggle on the road, the Chargers ranked fourth against the pass last season.

Waiver Wire Derek Carr doesn't receive the hype or attention like many of the NFL's young passers. Good. Now you can swoop in and grab him as an upside QB2. Those with Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan and such should shoot for the moon with your backup rather than hold no-trade-value types like Andy Dalton or perhaps Joe Flacco. Facing Cincinnati isn't ideal even at home, but the Carr-Amari Cooper connection starts taking off this week. 

Running backs

Sneaky start - Latavius Murray landed on plenty of sleeper lists this summer, but that doesn't mean owners selected the Raiders runner as a top-two RB. He opens the season against a Bengals defense that allowed nearly 22 fantasy points to running backs last season and won't have injured linebacker Vontaze Burfict around.

Bust alert - Plan on starting Lamar Miller against the Redskins, but the improvements along Washington's defensive line are sincere. The addition of nose tackle Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton is a game-changer. Better run support from the safeties, particularly Duke Ihenacho, helps as well. The Redskins have the goods to finish the season among the top 10 defenses against the run.

Waiver Wire - Perhaps you didn't select a lottery ticket RB in the late rounds or perhaps you did but David Cobb and Jay Ajayi are no longer worth keeping in redraft leagues. If so or you simply have some other dead weight, take a flyer on Christine Michael. Seattle bailed on the physical freak. Keep that in mind, but now Dallas takes a shot. Considering the uncertainty with projected starter Joseph Randle and the injury fear with Darren McFadden, Michael could end up as the Cowboys starter sooner than later.

MORE REDSKINS: SOLID STARTERS, QUESTIONABLE DEPTH

Wide receivers 

Sneaky start - Arizona's John Brown turned into a big play threat during his rookie season. Expect opportunities against a New Orleans defense that allowed the eighth most point to fantasy wide receivers last season. Expect more targets than usual if Michael Floyd (dislocated fingers) cannot go in the opener.

Bust alert - Redskins fans probably like the call of DeAndre Hopkins except for those that drafted Houston's top option. While certainly worthy of his borderline WR1 status for the season, Hopkins' first matchup isn't pretty. Kansas City ranked second behind Seattle in passing yards allowed last season. This game screams low scoring; The 40.5 over/under is the lowest on the board in games not involving Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh McCown. Brian Hoyer fits perfectly with that journeyman crew and he's the man throwing Hopkins's way.

Waiver wire - This long distance dedication goes out for an emerging long ball threat, Seattle's Tyler Lockett. Don't dump proven players for the speedster, but Lockett could be the next unknown catching deep bombs from Russell Wilson. Actually, he did just that in the final preseason game. Opening for playing time exists. Should Lockett start strong against the Rams, the previous statement won't be true anymore.

Tight ends

Sneaky start Hold for the Waiver Wire selection.

Bust alert - Coby Fleener/Dwayne Allen. Maybe one of them emerges as the Colts' main TE, but that's not super obvious now. Even if you have your fave, Indianapolis faces a Buffalo defense that allowed the fewest points to fantasy tight ends last season.

 

Waiver wireGreen Bay's Richard Rodgers probably won't end up with tons of catches, but six or more touchdowns playing with Aaron Rodgers is certainly possible. Considering the team scenario - no Jordy Nelson - and general blah with tight ends overall outside the top 7-8, taking a true flyer on this Rodgers wouldn't be that bad. Could consider starting Richard Rodgers against a Chicago that allowed the most fantasy points to tight end's last season.

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As injuries linger at WR, Jay Gruden believes a trade might help Redskins

As injuries linger at WR, Jay Gruden believes a trade might help Redskins

The Dallas Cowboys traded for Amari Cooper on Monday, and with that, alarms go off around the NFL that it's wheeling and dealing season. The trade deadline hits in one week, and for teams looking to bolster their squad before the second half of the year, it's time to see what areas could improve. 

For Redskins head coach Jay Gruden, the injury situation at wide receiver means that his team could use help at the position. 

"We could probably use one more there if we could," Gruden said Monday on the Redskins Talk podcast. 

Asked if there was one area the team could bolster via trade, the coach explained that if wideouts Jamison Crowder or Paul Richardson could come back from injury right away, the Redskins would have no need to trade for another receiver. Unfortunately for the Redskins, neither injury situation is very clear, and some reports show that Crowder could miss a few more weeks working back from an ankle injury. 

"I think if you look at our team right now with the injuries to Crowder and obviously the uncertainty with Richardson you might want to add another receiver, but I like what [Michael] Floyd’s done coming in here," Gruden said. 

Floyd had one catch for 20 yards in the Redskins win on Sunday over the Cowboys, but he's a physical veteran that has the coach excited. Gruden also complimented what Maurice Harris and Brian Quick have done in the absence of Richardson and Crowder.

While the Cowboys struck first in the receiver trade market, more players remain reportedly available, including Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas and Dolphins WR DeVante Parker. 

Thomas is a five-time Pro Bowler in Denver, but at 30 years old and with some trade value, it makes sense for John Elway to consider his market. The Broncos are 3-4 and have an underperforming offense. 

Parker was a first-round pick in 2015 but has not had a 1,000-yard season in Miami. Making matters more complicated, Parker's agent Jimmy Gould called Dolphins head coach Adam Gase "incompetent" to a host of different media outlets. Parker has only been active twice this season though he contends health is not an issue. 

Gruden remains confident that 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson will get going, and he is a similar big target as Thomas and Parker. Should Richardson miss significant time, the Redskins would lack a true speed threat.

There's certainly no clear indication that Washington will make a move before the NFL trade deadline, but as things stand now with injuries, there is a need. Remember, too, the Redskins are long on 2019 draft picks with 10 selections in seven rounds.



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A day after loss to Redskins, Cowboys trade for Raiders WR Amari Cooper

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A day after loss to Redskins, Cowboys trade for Raiders WR Amari Cooper

The Dallas Cowboys are in desperate need of a playmaking wide receiver. The lack of talent at wide receiver has been evident throughout the first seven weeks of the 2018 NFL season, with wide receivers accounting for just five of the Cowboys' eight passing touchdowns.

Following the 20-17 loss to the Redskins on Sunday, the Cowboys decided to make a quick fix, trading a 2019 first-round pick to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for star wide receiver Amari Cooper, according to multiple reports.

Cooper, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, has just 22 catches for 280 yards and one touchdown in the first six games. The former Alabama star had an equally disappointing 2017 campaign and has grown frustrated with his role in John Gruden's new regime.

Cooper will instantly become the Cowboys best deep threat and will allow Cole Beasley to shine both in the slot and spread out wide. Beasley leads the Cowboys with 33 receptions for 350 yards and two touchdowns.

Rookie Michael Gallup, who scored the Cowboys' only passing touchdown against the Redskins, has the second most targets among Dallas receivers, hauling in 10 of his 22 targets for 190 yards. Tight end Geoff Swaim has 19 catches for 205 yards and running back Ezekiel Elliott has 25 catches for 175 yards.

Prescott is averaging just 202.2 passing yards per game, and while Cooper may not be a true top-tier wide receiver, he is the next best thing and will allow the offense to be more dynamic in its play-calling.

Cooper will make an estimated $13.9 million in base salary in 2019, meaning the Cowboys will have to pay a pretty penny to keep him.

The move makes it clear that the Raiders are shifting toward a full rebuild. It also shows that Dallas understands it didn't have enough firepower to compete for a divisional title.

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