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Dear Mr. Fantasy: Can Charles be in charge again?

by | Senior Fantasy Writer
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Alarm ... stretching ... rubbing of eyes.

Ah, what a beautiful morning. So full of certainty.

Open window ... birds chirping.

Yes, how deliciously cut-and-dried my world is right now. So predictable and serene, with an answer to every question. I don't see how anything could throw off the equilibrium of this moment.

Computer ... e-mail ... e-mail ... e-mail ... pop-up alert.

Oh, Wednesday! Let's see what we have in the mailbag today ...

Why isn't Kansas City using Jamaal Charles? Is he in the dog house? -- Jeanie Flaherty (via Facebook)

Not using Charles? Why, that's ridicu ...

Box score.

... oh?

Five carries? That's it? Gee, Jeanie, I don't know why the Chiefs aren't using Charles, but I wouldn't mind putting this so-called Show Me State to the test.

Phone ... airport ... airplane ... airport ... cab ... dice in mirror ... destination.

I'm here ... show me!

Birds chirping.

Whoops ... better head inside first.

Entrance ... high ceilings ... empty walls ... lady at desk.

Who's in charge here?

Silence.

By "in charge," I mean calling the shots and by "here," I mean Kansas City.

Silence ... creaky seat.

Um ... hello? I'm here about Charles. I'm looking for the one in charge.

"No, Charles isn't in charge. That came to an end in the 1980s."

Right. Yes, I understand Charles isn't in charge, but I want to know who's in charge of Charles.

"Oh ... then probably Romeo."

Wherefore art thou, Romeo?

"I'm sorry, sir. Did you ask where you can find him?"

Probably not. But that's what I intended to ask.

"I'm afraid you just missed him. He's ..."

Man walking by.

"... oh, there he is! Mr. Crennel, you have a visitor."

Man stopping ... turning.

Coach Crennel. Sorry to ambush you like this, but on behalf of Fantasy owners everywhere: Why didn't Charles get more than five carries Sunday?

Pause ... distant look.

"You know, I'm not exactly sure either."

Turn ... exit.

But ... you're the one in charge.

Closed door.

You're the one in charge!

Pursuit ... exit.

Shooooow meeeee!

Birds scattering.

Which three of these running backs should I start: Jamaal Charles, Ray Rice, Reggie Bush and Mikel Leshoure? Is Charles still "safe?" Should I worry about Bush splitting carries? -- @stlsportsfan84 (via Twitter)

SW: Rice is obvious. He's traveling to Cleveland, not San Francisco, which means he's facing the 24th-ranked run defense. Why even bother including him here?

As for the other three, yeah, things have taken a turn for the worse lately. The Lions' perplexing fascination with Joique Bell has limited Leshoure's carries. The Dolphins' renewed trust in Daniel Thomas has prevented Bush from reaching the 70-yard mark since Week 2. The Chiefs' inexplicable departure from Charles makes you wonder if they've mistaken him for the mascot or something.

The most frustrating part is that two of those running backs have cupcake matchups this week. Leshoure is facing the 25th-ranked Jaguars run defense, and Bush is facing the 27th-ranked Colts run defense. If everything was as it should be, they'd be slam-dunk starters in Fantasy.

But they're not. Is Charles?

He's facing the second-ranked Chargers run defense. Yeah. Big discrepancy. Not only that, but for as uninspiring as Leshoure and Bush have been lately, Charles had the fewest carries of the three in Week 8. He was also the biggest disappointment. He should have run all over the good-for-nothing Raiders.

But here's why I'm optimistic: The carries he lost didn't go to anyone else. The only Chief with more than his five was quarterback Matt Cassel, who had seven. Peyton Hillis had four, but that's not enough to indicate a timeshare. The Chiefs simply chose not to run it last week. Why not? You'll have to ask coach Romeo Crennel about that.

Or not. It's not like efforts to do so up to this point have yielded any insight. But to Crennel's credit, he didn't sound supportive of the decision to curb Charles, which leads me to believe he'll have a discussion with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll about it as the team prepares for San Diego. Given all the negative attention Charles' disappearance has gotten, I get the feeling the Chiefs will go the extra mile to make sure his talents don't go to waste this week. They've leaned on him before. He got 233 yards when they gave him 33 carries back in Week 3 -- which, coincidentally, was their only win this season.

Is Charles "safe?" No, but he's still in the best position to succeed, favorable matchup or not. As for the other two, the decision comes down to whose role you trust the most. Though I think Thomas is a greater threat to Bush than Bell is to Leshoure long-term, I'll go with Bush this week. The Lions could always default to their passing attack. The Dolphins are sure to lean on their running game with quarterback Ryan Tannehill hobbled by a knee injury.

I have Robert Griffin III and Matthew Stafford. Should I trade one? If so, which one? -- @tedluck (via Twitter)

SW: Depth isn't the worst thing ever. Quarterbacks aren't immune to injuries, and if your only hope when yours goes down is a Russell Wilson type off the waiver wire, you're pretty much doomed.

That said, most Fantasy owners don't have the luxury of fortifying every position with a high-end backup. If that gaping hole at running back is costing you victories week after week, a little injury insurance seems like a wasted asset.

Maybe it's not as much a gaping hole as a moderate deficiency, meaning you're forced to start a Michael Turner or Steven Jackson type every week. You should still look into trading your asset and crossing your fingers on the injury.

Unfortunately, your timing couldn't be any worse. Prior to this week, Griffin would have fetched you far more than Stafford even though he has the tougher schedule the rest of the way. Now, though, the value of both players is up for debate. Griffin is coming off one of his worst games of the season, and Stafford is coming off undoubtedly his best. I still think Griffin's trade value is higher than Stafford's, but you're sure to encounter a few naysayers now, particularly at the negotiation table.

A word of warning: You should get more for Griffin than you do for Stafford. That's the entire basis for trading him. If you don't, you might as well keep him and let someone else take the chance on the more disappointing player to date. If you want to remove all doubt, you could try shopping both of them and seeing which yields the best return.

I would think one or the other could net you a second-tier running back, like Darren McFadden or Frank Gore.

Do I start Anquan Boldin, Josh Gordon or Santana Moss this week? -- @SeanHanlon4 (via Twitter)

SW: Oh, because Moss has five touchdown catches in his last six games? That's why you're willing to consider him here? I see.

Did you know that he's averaging just 2.8 catches per game during that stretch? How about 41.7 yards per game? Oh, you want to talk targets? The only time he's had more than five this season was this past week at Pittsburgh, when he had nine. The result was four catches for 21 yards.

My point is that even though Moss' point production in recent weeks makes him a tempting option in Fantasy, it's not something he can sustain. He's not a consistent enough part of the offense to continue scoring touchdowns at his current rate. Even with him facing the Panthers this week, I wouldn't want to take the chance on that house of cards tumbling down.

Gordon is sort of in the same boat. Sort of. Like Moss, he has a disproportionate touchdown-to-reception ratio. The difference is pretty much all of his touchdowns have come on long plays, which suggests they're more a matter of his natural ability than him simply being in the right place at the right time. Plus, he's targeted more, which suggests he has more potential from week to week. Plus, he's 21, which suggests the Browns are grooming him for the long haul.

But you didn't ask if I preferred him to Moss. You asked if he was the best of your three options this week. He's not -- in part because of his matchup against the Ravens, who have allowed only six touchdowns through the air this season.

No, the one you want is Boldin. He lacks the big-play potential of Gordon and will occasionally go missing when the Ravens choose to emphasize the passing game, but he always gets his looks and recently had a three-game stretch in which he averaged 103.7 yards per game.

At Cleveland, he's the safest bet in a week when the alternatives are looking just plain sorry.

Would you pair one of Ahmad Bradshaw and Stevan Ridley with Mike Wallace for Victor Cruz? I'd still have Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles and Rashad Jennings. -- @theonly1Avenger (via Twitter)

Most Traded Players (as of 11/1)
Player # of trades
1. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions 2,546
2. Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins 2,483
3. Rashad Jennings, RB, Jaguars 2,302
4. Steven Jackson, RB, Rams 2,255
5. Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders 2,097
6. Mikel Leshoure, RB, Lions 2,034
7. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons 2,007
8. Andre Johnson, WR, Texans 1,990
9. Alex Green, RB, Packers 1,959
10. Dwayne Bowe, RB, Chiefs 1,895

SW: The most valuable asset in Fantasy is a quality running back, so when I have one, I'm wary of trading him even if the player I'm getting in return is "better."

I like Cruz. In fact, other than A.J. Green and Calvin Johnson, I can't think of a wide receiver I'd rather have than him. But my preference is a matter of depth. In a non-points-per-reception league, I'd rather go patchwork at wide receiver than risk having to do it at running back.

Fortunately, you're not at risk of anything here. Even with this trade, your collection of quality running backs would go four deep. No, Jennings isn't the most proven player, but he's an every-down back on a team that has had success running the ball in the past. As a fallback option -- or, really, a double fallback option -- he's more than sufficient.

In other words, you have no reason to shy away from this deal. True, you'd also be giving up Wallace, but he's no longer the go-to guy on an offense that isn't as dependent on the pass as it used to be. Lately, he has shown enough inconsistency that, with the right alternative, you might consider benching him from time to time. That would never happen with Cruz.

As for which running back to trade, it's not even a contest. Bradshaw is playing on one bad foot and has a ready, willing and able Andre Brown behind him. Ridley may seem like he's losing carries to Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden, but it's not like it's affected his numbers. He's the third highest-scoring running back in Fantasy, for crying out loud. He's averaging 19.6 carries over his last five games. Ray Rice's season high is only 20.

I have Michael Vick and Jay Cutler in a league where each reception is worth half a point. Would I be OK moving Marques Colston for Andrew Luck? My other wide receivers are Julio Jones, Reggie Wayne and Danny Amendola. -- @TheMoDog (via Twitter)

SW: The price tag seems a little high to me, especially in a PPR league.

I understand your league doesn't award a full point per reception, which balances the scales a little, but any time receptions are rewarded along with yardage and touchdowns, regardless of the specifics, quarterbacks have reduced value. Apart from kickers and defenses, which have minimal appeal in the first place, they're the only ones not getting receptions.

But here's my biggest issue with the deal: It doesn't exactly solve your problem. Luck is a decent Fantasy option, and I can understand why you'd consider him safer than Vick or Cutler. But I still wouldn't consider him an advisable starter in a 12-team league.

Why not? It's pretty simple, really. I can think of 12 quarterbacks I'd rather have than him: Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Peyton Manning, Robert Griffin III, Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, Philip Rivers and Andy Dalton. And frankly, I'm on the fence about Tony Romo.

If you wanted to give up a little something for Luck just to buy yourself some security at the position -- like I said, he's less likely than Vick or Cutler to be a disaster the rest of the way -- then I could get behind the move. But you're giving up a borderline stud in Colston. Maybe he'd be just a third wide receiver for you, but in a PPR league, that's your flex option. And considering your only replacement for him is Amendola, who's out with a significant injury, you'd be creating at a hole at a position where you previously had a clear advantage.

For the type of quarterback who wouldn't give you an edge over the competition anyway, it doesn't seem worth it.

I'm thinking you're going about this the wrong way. I'm thinking your leaguemates smell your desperation and are looking to take advantage. Maybe instead of settling for this sort of offer, you should try trading up at the position, coupling Colston with Vick for one of the Manning brothers.

So what if you get turned down? In a worst-case scenario, you're living and dying with Cutler. With that trio of wide receivers in a PPR league, I still like your chances.

Would you trade Rob Gronkowski and Mike Wallace for Calvin Johnson, Antonio Gates, Mikel Leshoure and Donald Brown? -- @Juno038 (via Twitter)

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SW: At first glance, this trade seems like the kind to avoid. Any offer that has you getting more players than you're giving is cause for suspicion. A common tactic of ambitious traders is to substitute quality for quantity in the hope of overwhelming the other party with a collection of borderline waiver types.

But take a second look at those names. The four players you'd be getting back are legit. In 80 percent of Fantasy leagues, any owner would be happy to plug all four straight into his starting lineup.

OK, so maybe Brown is a little fringy, but even with him, you can see the potential for a significant contribution. Returning earlier than expected from a knee injury, he was the superior rusher in a split role with Vick Ballard last week, which suggests he'll get back to being the primary ball carrier in the weeks ahead. And with an average of 4.3 yards per carry, he should at least make the most of the favorable matchups.

Gates and Leshoure aren't perfect either. The former, apart from a two-touchdown performance against the Broncos in Week 6, has done virtually nothing this season, and the latter has workload issues. But in both cases, the potential is greater than what they've delivered so far. And even if they don't meet their full potential, they're still better than what most Fantasy owners can do at tight end and flex.

So what's the catch? Well, you would be giving up the best player in Gronkowski, who has definitively emerged as the top tight end in Fantasy. But Johnson, even if he hasn't delivered the touchdowns so far, belongs in the same category value-wise. No one would be surprised if he was the top-scoring wide receiver in Fantasy from now until the end of the season. And he's a clear upgrade over Wallace, who's a solid but inconsistent receiving option on a Steelers team that's trying to get away from the pass.

If you were completely set at running back and had no real use for Leshoure or Brown, I could see why you'd turn this trade down. The upgrade at wide receiver isn't as big as the downgrade at tight end. But it's close enough that, in this rare case, I'd most likely opt for the volume.

In a standard league, should I start Jeremy Maclin or Mike Williams? -- @eddieisu42 (via Twitter)

SW: The obvious answer is Maclin. He's the bigger name. He was the higher draft pick. He's the one facing the Saints. But Williams' matchup at Oakland is pretty favorable in its own right, and in case you haven't noticed, he's actually been more consistent than Maclin this year.

I blame Michael Vick. Or, more accurately, I blame the offense that the Eagles, with their depleted offensive line, have chosen to employ with Vick. I watched him play last week against the Falcons. I'm pretty sure he didn't attempt a pass of more than 15 yards, which means the Eagles were depending on yards after the catch. And yards after the catch depend on precision passing. That's not Vick's game. His game is run it or chuck it. Why these coaches keep trying to force the game's least accurate quarterback into a West Coast style of offense, I'll never know.

But I do know this offense with Vick under center is a lost cause. He'll still have games when everything breaks his way, and Maclin will be the prime beneficiary. But the inconsistencies will continue. And unless the Eagles sort out their offensive line, the down weeks will only become more prevalent.

Will this week at New Orleans be one of those games when everything breaks his way? The Saints rank 30th against the pass and have allowed the highest quarterback rating this season. They score a ton of points, so the Eagles will have to throw the ball to have any hope of winning. It's not so far-fetched to think Vick, with his offensive line and accuracy problems, could have a big game against them. It's not so far-fetched to think a retired Jon Kitna could have a big game against them. Vick managed 311 yards through the air with a similar set of circumstances against the Lions in Week 6. Maclin was responsible for 130 of them, along with a touchdown.

Granted, that's a best-case scenario, but it's certainly better than the 60-yard, touchdown-scoring effort that would be a reasonable expectation for Williams.

I say if Maclin was facing any team other than the Saints, I'd write him off as a casualty of an unfortunate quarterback-scheme combination and opt for the safer Williams. But because he's facing the Saints, I'm willing to gamble on the upside.

Grade the trade: I give up DeSean Jackson for Ben Roethlisberger. It's a 12-team points-per-reception league. I already have four other legitimate wide receivers (Andre Johnson, Dwayne Bowe, Demaryius Thomas and Mike Wallace), and Philip Rivers is my only quarterback. -- Mathieu Billeaudeaux (via Facebook)

SW: Obviously, my concerns with Jeremy Maclin in the current state of the Eagles offense apply to Jackson as well. I like Jackson a little more because of his ability to break a long one any time he touches a ball, but I think he's worth less today than he was coming into the season.

Plus, his primary strength -- that ability to break a long one -- kind of works against him in PPR leagues by limiting his number of receptions. He's on pace for a career high this season, but that's not saying much. His previous high is only 63.

I prefer not to trade a wide receiver for a quarterback in a PPR league, where the value of all quarterbacks is reduced, but that's more of a guideline than a rule. As you point out, you have more than enough depth at wide receiver as it is, and having Rivers as your only quarterback is a scary proposition. Even with this trade, I still think you'd have to play matchups at the position -- it's not like Roethlisberger is Matt Ryan or anything -- but that's better than throwing Rivers out there every week and hoping for the best.

Plus, I don't think you could do any better for Jackson than Roethlisberger, PPR league or not. Go ahead and make the deal.

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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