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Fantasy mailbag: Chris Johnson is clear No. 1 for Cardinals

Thanks for submitting your questions for this week's NFL Nation fantasy mailbag. Send them anytime @MikeTriplett and I'll share insight every week from our 32 team reporters around the league.



@MikeTriplett: Chris Johnson was a popular name in this week's mailbag submissions. Fantasy players are suddenly trying to decide whether they should pay attention to the former 2,000-yard rusher again with Arizona Cardinals starter Andre Ellington being injured.

"Yes, they should," insists Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss, who said Johnson should be close to an every-down back for Arizona while Ellington is out.

Weinfuss said Johnson has looked good since joining the Cardinals last month, and coach Bruce Arians has shown more trust in him than rookie David Johnson.

"This week, he will be the No. 1 running back, hands down," said Weinfuss, who said that should include goal-line and third-down work.

Although David Johnson had a breakout moment with his 55-yard touchdown catch to clinch a 31-19 victory over the New Orleans Saints last week, Weinfuss said he doesn't expect a time share. He pointed out that David Johnson played only five snaps last week with zero carries.

That makes Chris Johnson an especially good value in daily leagues, where he's not being priced like a No. 1 running back this week.

Even more interesting going forward, Weinfuss said he wonders what might happen when Ellington returns if Chris Johnson thrives during his absence.



@MikeTriplett: Obviously no one Dallas Cowboys player will replace Dez Bryant's production. But Cowboys reporter Todd Archer said he expects several guys to get a bump in fantasy value while they replace Bryant by committee -- starting with Terrance Williams, who will move into the lead receiver role.

Archer said tight end Jason Witten and receiver Cole Beasley are two more easy choices, though he expects defenses to "clamp down on them" even more now. He also said running back Lance Dunbar should continue to be heavily involved in the passing game after he caught eight balls against the New York Giants last week. And receiver Devin Street should be a little more involved, though he only has two career catches.

Perhaps the biggest jump in any one player's production, though, could come from tight end Gavin Escobar, according to Archer.

"Bryant is an unstoppable red zone threat, but I think the Cowboys will look to Escobar in close now with his 6-6 frame and ability to go get the ball," Archer said.



@MikeTriplett: This is a great example of figuring out how to react to the guy who had a great Week 1 vs. the guy who had a lousy Week 1. And there's no obvious answer: Three of the five ESPN fantasy experts ranked Flacco higher this week, while two of them ranked Mariota higher.

It's safe to assume both guys will regress to the mean. Mariota's strong debut was no fluke, but he's not throwing four touchdown passes each week. And eventually he'll have to play through duress, which is when we might see growing pains.

I'd lean toward Flacco this week, especially because of the matchup. Here's what Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley had to say:

"The general thinking is he'll bounce back. In the season opener, Flacco was going against a top-five defense in Denver. The Broncos are unique because they have great edge rushers and two quality cornerbacks. We'll learn a lot more about Flacco on Sunday against the [Oakland] Raiders, who allowed 29 passing touchdowns last season [sixth-most in NFL]."