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NFL fantasy football: Handcuffs come in handy

Whether you're a fantasy beginner or don't have as much time to devote to your fantasy team during the week, I'm here for you with the newest edition of Fantasy 101 -- all your fantasy needs in 15 minutes or less. Because that's how long you'll need to digest this column and make your appropriate moves. Through six weeks, picking up free agents has been extremely difficult. You'll grab a player one week and then he gives you nothing for the next two. That is unfortunately how it's going so far in 2012. But keep at it, because the next waiver wire gem could be right around the corner.

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Big injuries to watch

DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys: We said earlier in the season to make sure you have him handcuffed (drafting his backup if you drafted him), so now it's time to go get Felix Jones off the waiver wire. Murray is going to be out for Week 7 and maybe longer.

Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns: He's day-to-day with a rib injury. If he's out of action, Montario Hardesty (Richardson's handcuff) will fill in, and he had a TD on Sunday. So go grab him as Richardson's handcuff.

Free agents to pick up

Isaac Redman, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: If Rashard Mendenhall misses any time, Redman will get the bulk of the work, as his injury is minor, and he's starting to contribute in the running and passing games for Pittsburgh.

Daryl Richardson, RB, St. Louis Rams: It looks like there's going to be a timeshare (players splitting carries) at RB in St. Louis. Richardson is a younger, faster, more dynamic runner than Steven Jackson, so go get him if you can since he might take on a bigger workload as the season progresses.

William Powell, RB, Arizona Cardinals: He ran very well in his first extensive action, but it was against the Buffalo Bills, whose defense is atrocious. Still, if he's out there, put in a claim for him.

Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns: Two weeks, two long TD passes from Brandon Weeden. It's clear Gordon has surpassed Greg Little as the No. 1 WR threat in Cleveland, so he's worth a roster spot for now. I feel the same about Brandon Gibson in St. Louis, who is now Sam Bradford's top WR.

Stephen Hill, WR, New York Jets: Now that he's healthy, at the least he's Mark Sanchez's No. 1 red-zone target, and worth a play during the bye weeks -- but only if you're desperate.

Other notes of note

1. If I own a clear-cut star WR, and they're playing the Jets defense, I really have to think if I want to play him. Right now Antonio Cromartie is the best CB in the NFL, and he's on another level after shutting down Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne in consecutive weeks. He's ballhawking and almost playing at a Darrelle Revis level.

2. Dez Bryant is becoming the No. 1 WR in Dallas. If you were unsure of him before, it's time to get him into your lineup. If you own Miles Austin, time to explore a trade, because he's not getting the passes he was a few weeks ago.

3. Cedric Benson's injury has opened things up for the Green Bay Packers to pass more, and look what they did against Houston. That means the fantasy values of Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Greg Jennings (when healthy) are all on the rise.

4. Andy Dalton has gone from someone who was a nice matchup-based QB (someone who you would start if they're playing a bad team) to someone you might want to start week-in and week-out. If you have Dalton and another good QB, try to make a trade. Or if you need a QB, Dalton is a great option to deal for.

5. If for any reason Christian Ponder or Mike Williams are still available in any of your leagues, go get them. Ponder is playing terrifically and Williams has become a consistent fantasy scorer.

Jason Smith hosts NFL Fantasy Live on the NFL Network and writes fantasy and other pith for nfl.com. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca, and listen to his Fantasy Podcast with Michael Fabiano and Elliot Harrison every week on nfl.com. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.

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