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Five Things to Know: It's Cooper Time

Mario Puig

Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.

1. Danario Alexander is a Near Must-Own in 12-Team Leagues

His knees probably don't have long before they start to flare up again, but until they do, Alexander should be owned in most formats now that he's emerged in San Diego. He played more snaps than any other Charger receiver against Tampa Bay on Sunday and, given the ineptitude of the players around him, it's an arrangement that should last as long as Alexander's health cooperates.

As disappointing as he's been the last two years, Philip Rivers has shown immediate chemistry with Alexander, who pulled in eight of his 10 targets the last two weeks for 195 yards and a touchdown. Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal, on the other hand, respectively have just 13 catches on 30 targets and 16 catches on 28 targets despite being in San Diego since training camp, so there's no reason to expect the light to go on any time soon in either case.

At a legitimate 6-foot-5 with a big wingspan, Alexander is more along the lines of the Vincent Jackson-Malcom Floyd mold that Rivers prefers at receiver, and his skill as a receiver isn't in much question. He caught 113 passes for 1,781 yards and 14 touchdowns in his final season at Missouri in 2009, surpassing the 200-yard mark three times.

2. Laurent Robinson Should be Owned in PPR Formats

This week's road matchup with the Texans figures to be anything but fun for Jacksonville's inept and MJD-less offense, but Jacksonville's perpetual point deficit makes for a desperate offense that's forced to feed its top receivers targets, and for now that means a surprisingly prominent role for Laurent Robinson.

Upon his return from a concussion two weeks ago, Robinson was immediately given a heavy target count, turning a nine-target game into a six-catch, 41-yard showing against a tough Detroit Lions secondary. The trend continued against the Colts last week, with Robinson making nine catches for 77 yards on 15 targets.

Robinson's situation should remain favorable for PPR owners. The Jaguars are usually in garbage time, and Cecil Shorts figures to demand most of the attention from defenses despite Robinson's high target volume. With Rashad Jennings averaging just 3.0 yards per carry, the running game isn't much of an option for the Jaguars, either. No running game, big point deficits and minimal attention from defenses should continue to equal cheap PPR production for Robinson.

3. Nick Foles will be Serviceable in his First Start

Although the uncertainty created by his inexperience is compounded by an apparently atrocious offensive line, look for Nick Foles to make it to at least 15 standard scoring points against Washington in his first NFL start.

For as bad as the Philadelphia line has looked - and it has looked quite bad in allowing 29 sacks in nine games this year - there's no doubt that poor pre-snap recognition and just generally stunning obliviousness on the part of Michael Vick have made the Eagles blockers look worse than they actually are. Some of the blitzes that went unnoticed by Vick probably would have been accounted for by most passers, and Foles figures to be an upgrade in that regard.

Furthermore, Andy Reid has a very long history of turning even low-level talents into highly productive off-the-bench passers. Jeff Garcia had an improbable late-career surge under Reid's watch, while both A.J. Feeley and Kevin Kolb looked good enough to con other teams into coughing up big trade offers. Foles' pedigree is at least as good as what Feeley and Kolb had, so it's not as if Reid has less to work with this time around. The Redskins allow 7.9 yards per pass on the year and have just 10 interceptions while giving up 20 passing touchdowns, too, so the setting is very favorable.

4. Aim for Lamar Miller in Dynasty Leagues

Even if Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas are the top two runners on the Miami depth chart for 2012, it's not an arrangement that will last. The honeymoon with Bush is over - he has just 14 carries (and two lost fumbles) in the last two weeks - and Thomas has done nothing to indicate anything more than a backup-level skill set at the NFL level.

In fact, Miller's time could arrive even before this year ends. The Dolphins have turned to Thomas since losing their faith in Bush, and if Thomas keeps performing like he has to this point in his career, Miami figures to become similarly disillusioned with him. Thomas has just 794 yards on 227 carries in his career (3.5 YPC) and has as many lost fumbles (three) as he does rushing touchdowns.

The usual rookie running back complaints have been thrown Miller's way to rationalize his minimal role - playbook knowledge, pass blocking, etc. But a big play or two goes a long way in making coaches get over the skittishness of the unknown, and Miller's standout explosiveness and vision will equal big plays when he gets the opportunity. Don't forget that it's not rare for coaches to underestimate their young runners, and early distrust in itself means next to nothing. Jamaal Charles once wasted away behind Larry Johnson, the Cowboys mistook Felix Jones for DeMarco Murray's superior last year and the Texans let Arian Foster sit on the practice squad in 2009 while the likes of Steve Slaton, Chris Brown and Ryan Moats flopped.

The days are numbered for Bush and Thomas, and Miller will run with the opportunity when he gets it.

5. Cooper is Worth Consideration if Avant is Out

Jason Avant is a non-factor in most fantasy formats due to his lack of playmaking skills, but he generally sees a decent number of targets, earning 81 last year and totaling 38 in nine 2012 games. If a more explosive player were to replace Avant, however, that role could yield some deep-league fantasy production.

Riley Cooper could be a legitimate candidate to provide that production increase. With Avant (hamstring) likely out against Washington this week, Cooper should have every chance to prove himself. His odds of success this week are aided by Washington's awful pass defense - the Redskins allow 7.9 yards per pass and have surrendered 20 touchdowns through the air, tying with Tennessee as the league's worst in that category. It also doesn't hurt that Jeremy Maclin figures to be at least limited by a back strain he suffered against Dallas on Sunday.

Although his on-field performance wasn't so good, Cooper managed to provide decent fantasy numbers in a similar role last year, catching 13 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown in a three-game stretch. Particularly if Maclin misses time, something similar could be in store as long as Avant is out.