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Monday Brunch: Cecil Shorts and the life of variance

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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It's going to get better, CS3 (USAT)

Wide receivers are a curious thing in our fake football racket. You like drafting them in the early rounds because of the consistency and durability most premium wideouts offer - and then we're forced to live with week-to-week variance.

That's the rub.

While big ticket wideouts tend to be reliable on a year-to-year basis (more so than the running backs), the week-in, week-out ebb and flow can be frustrating. Wide receiver is the variance position of the three main fantasy football positions. It's the area where patience is most necessary.

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Calvin Johnson owners have every reason to be frustrated after another week of Almost Touchdown Follies. Man, the end zone gods must hate that guy. Dez Bryant was silent in the Sunday Night affair, in part because of physical issues (to both him and Tony Romo). Occasional hiccups are to be expected. Even the best wideouts are going to have several quiet games. (Conversely, it's easier for a running back to make a nothing day suddenly worthwhile - they have an easier path to touches, and, potentially, to easy touchdowns. See Ray Rice's output from Thursday.)

Fantasy football doesn't lend itself to easy patience, of course. Demaryius Thomas disappears for a half and the fantasy world gets antsy (then he goes ballistic in the second half and everyone feels fine again). Victor Cruz angst was at a silly level during our Sunday Night Fantasy Chat, but when the smoke cleared, the Sultan of Salsa had 118 yards and three scores. Let the games breathe.

It might be easy to stay patient with a Megatron or a Bryant (health permitting); it's not that simple when we step down to the Cecil Shorts class. Nonetheless, Shorts is someone I'd be looking to buy low on right now, if it's available to you. Blaine Gabbert has never looked like much of a pro quarterback, and an injured Blaine Gabbert is a downright joke. Kansas City had the first and last laugh Sunday, but the Shorts public didn't find it funny.

Monday's news cycle offers hope for Jacksonville - Chad Henne is going to start Week 2. Henne is no world beater, of course, but he's an upgrade simply for being Not Gabbert. And a trip to Oakland for Sunday also lines up nicely - the Colts didn't throw often in Week 1, but they had plenty of success when they did.

Shorts had just three catches on 11 targets against Kansas City, totaling 40 yards. We should blame this mostly on Gabbert, and if you read between the lines, Shorts is in agreement. Better days are ahead. Variance is a bitch for all receivers. The time to act is now. See what you can do.

When it comes to rookie receivers, all the patience rules go out the window - at least on my clipboard. Consider how things went down in New England's Week 1 victory at Buffalo. Rookie Kenbrell Thompkins did almost nothing with a whopping 14 targets (4-42-0), while veterans Danny Amendola (10-104-0 on 14 targets) and Julian Edelman (7-79-2 on nine targets) saved the day.

If you review Thompkins's debut, you'll see technical problems all over the place. He had trouble negotiating space, both at the sideline and in the back of the end zone. He doesn't have much chemistry with Tom Brady yet, and he didn't seem to know where to go when plays broke down (for a clinic on that skill, pop in the Anquan Boldin tape). It's a wonder Thompkins collected 14 targets in the first place. Young players can improve of course (and most Patriots teams improve in the second half of the year), but I'd be shocked if Thompkins saw this meaty a role Thursday against the Jets. For now, Brady is best served working with the receivers he can trust - with Edelman primary in that group. Experience is critical.

The Rams didn't do a lot with their shiny new toy, either. Although Tavon Austin caught six of the seven passes his way, then went for a paltry 41 yards. Is coordinator Brian Schottenheimer creative enough to fully unleash a player like Austin? I'm not confident it's going to come together quickly.

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To be fair, the Rams did have a field day throwing to tight end Jared Cook (7-141-2, and he should have scored a third time). But in the case of Cook, we're talking more about physical gifts and winning one-on-one battles and less about play design. Look around the league in Week 1 - the tight ends are just about taking over. The Rams are thrilled to be part of the revolution.

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Welcome back, Fitzy (USAT)

I have mixed feelings about the snappy debut of the Arizona passing game. On one hand, it's terrific to see Larry Fitzgerald fully relevant again, playing with a capable quarterback. It's almost like watching a close friend rediscovering happiness after they leave a crummy job or a bad marriage. Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts also made an impact. Carson Palmer is obviously an upgrade over last year's lousy pocket players.

But can Palmer last a full season behind Arizona's terrible offensive line? Four of the five Arizona linemen received negative grades from Pro Football Focus in Week 1, and Levi Brown graded out as the worst pass-blocking left tackle in the league. Sure, the nasty Rams defensive front deserves much credit for this, but where are the easy spots in this Arizona schedule? Detroit is a problem in Week 2. New Orleans looked improved on defense; the Saints call Week 3. Carolina's front seven is ridiculous - Arizona meets up in Week 5. Then it's San Francisco and Seattle, back to back.

I don't know that Palmer is a high-ticket item anywhere, but maybe you want to explore a sell-high in 2QB leagues. And as much as I love Fitzgerald, he's another guy I'd be potentially dangling in trade - maybe someone will put a second-round price on him right now. He's elite when the quarterback gives him a chance, but all bets are off if Drew Stanton has to play.

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