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2010 Draft Prep: Sleepers, Breakouts and Busts

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

Every year, Fantasy owners want to know about sleepers, breakouts and busts. They also want to know how those categories are defined. Well, here's a little lesson with the help of a dictionary:

Sleeper -- something that obtains unexpected recognition or success
Breakout -- a forceful emergence from a restrictive situation
Bust -- to break

Our job is to help you find the sleeper ready to do something unexpected. We'll show you the breakout ready to emerge. And we'll help you avoid the bust who is ready to break -- and break badly.

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Some of the best sleepers are veteran players who are trying to bounce back from a bad year, someone like Chad Ochocinco and Joseph Addai in 2009. A breakout is usually a young player ready to do something great, like Ray Rice and Aaron Rodgers last year. And the busts are usually the older player who is ready to fade, and LaDainian Tomlinson was the best example from a year ago.

Here is a look at players to consider as sleepers, breakouts and busts for this season. It's now up to them to define their success or failure. And it's up to you as Fantasy owners to figure out the players you want on your roster and the ones you want to stay away from.

Sleepers

Chris Cooley, TE, Washington
Jamey's projection: 76 catches, 815 yards, six touchdowns, one fumble
Dave's projection: 72 catches, 799 yards, six touchdowns, one fumble
Average Draft Position: No. 117 overall (Round 10)
The concern is that Cooley's days as a No. 1 Fantasy tight end are over. He was limited to seven games last season due to a broken ankle, and he watched backup Fred Davis catch 48 catches for 509 yards and six touchdowns when he was out for the rest of the year. But Fantasy owners should remember that Cooley was an elite tight end prior to getting hurt. He averaged 75 catches for 818 yards and five touchdowns from 2007-08. He's had four seasons with at least 55 catches, 730 receiving yards and six touchdowns. This year, Cooley gets Donovan McNabb throwing him passes, and McNabb has a good history with tight ends, especially last year when Brent Celek had 76 catches for 971 yards and eight touchdowns. Coach Mike Shanahan also likes using the tight end going back to his days with Shannon Sharpe and even Tony Scheffler. We feel Cooley is a tight end to target, and we expect him to return as a No. 1 option. He's worth a late-round pick in all formats since he will come off the board after the top tier of tight ends are selected.

Malcom Floyd, WR, San Diego
Jamey's projection: 65 catches, 856 yards, seven touchdowns
Dave's projection: 60 catches, 855 yards, six touchdowns, one fumble
Average Draft Position: No. 85 overall (Round 8)
A lot of Fantasy owners are going to look at Floyd and say his fate is tied to what happens with Vincent Jackson. If Jackson sticks to his word and is a holdout for the first 10 games of the season, then Floyd has the chance to become a star. If Jackson returns after his three-game suspension, then Floyd could return to anonymity. Well, forget about Jackson because Floyd should play well either way -- he's just better if Jackson is gone. Last year, the Chargers released Chris Chambers in the middle of the season to give Floyd a larger role. Floyd responded with a career season with 45 catches for 776 yards, but he scored only one touchdown. Those stats should increase across the board. Remember, Philip Rivers is going to throw -- he's attempted at least 460 passes in each of the past four seasons -- and Floyd should see a significant boost from his 76 targets last year. More targets equal higher production, which should make Fantasy owners happy.

Arian Foster, RB, Houston
Jamey's projection: 911 rushing yards, four touchdowns, three fumbles; 26 catches, 256 yards, one touchdown
Dave's projection: 696 rushing yards, six touchdowns, one fumble; 17 catches, 118 receiving yards, one touchdown
Average Draft Position: No. 139 overall (Round 12)
Foster's value is on the rise with a strong offseason and then the ankle injury suffered by rookie Ben Tate in the preseason opener against Arizona. With Tate out for the season and Steve Slaton ticketed for third-down work, it appears like Foster will get the majority of touches in 2010. He played well last year when he was finally given a chance. In the final two games of 2009 against Miami and New England, Foster had 39 carries for 216 yards and three touchdowns. The Texans are desperate to improve their ground game and add more balance on offense, which is why they drafted Tate, but now it's up to Foster to help the cause. He's gotten nothing but rave reviews from the coaching staff, and he should be considered a solid No. 3 Fantasy running back with the chance to start in favorable matchups. Slaton will take away playing time, especially in passing situations, but Foster will work in the red zone and should lead Houston in rushing touchdowns. Anyone who drafted Foster before Tate's injury got a steal based on Foster's ADP, but he will likely start to come off the board in Round 6 or 7 in all leagues. That's when you should consider this sleeper on Draft Day.

Jabar Gaffney, WR, Denver
Jamey's projection: 52 catches, 752 yards, five touchdowns
Dave's projection: 49 catches, 660 yards, five touchdowns
Average Draft Position: No. 148 overall (Round 13)
If you're looking for a wide receiver to target with a late-round pick, Gaffney should be near the top of your list. Someone has to catch the ball in Denver, and Gaffney has the best chance to be the Broncos' No. 1 option in the passing game with Brandon Marshall now in Miami. Rookies Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker aren't ready to be go-to receivers, and it's clear after last season that Eddie Royal isn't one of coach Josh McDaniels' favorite players. Gaffney, who played for McDaniels when he was the offensive coordinator in New England, has proven his worth in Denver. In the final two games last year, Gaffney had 21 catches for 282 yards and two touchdowns against Philadelphia and Kansas City. In the season finale against the Chiefs, Gaffney had 14 catches for 213 yards, and that was with Marshall out of the lineup. Gaffney won't be as good as Marshall, which isn't what we're suggesting, but he is worth drafting with a late-round flier.

Brian Hartline, WR, Miami
Jamey's projection: 47 catches, 596 receiving yards, four touchdowns
Dave's projection: 44 catches, 561 yards, four touchdowns
Average Draft Position: Not drafted
Hartline should enjoy Marshall coming to Miami because he should see plenty of single coverage, and he's already earned the trust of quarterback Chad Henne. Hartline had some quality moments as a rookie in 2009, when he finished with 31 catches for 506 yards and three touchdowns. He had two games with at least 94 receiving yards, and all three receiving touchdowns were scored in division matchups. We think Hartline is worth a late-round pick on Draft Day based on Marshall's influence. The second-best receiver in Denver the past three years, when Marshall was racking up at least 100 catches, has performed well. Last year, Gaffney finished with 54 catches for 732 yards and two touchdowns. In 2008, Royal had 91 catches for 980 yards and five touchdowns. And in 2007, Brandon Stokley had 40 catches for 635 yards and five touchdowns. If Hartline reached the average of those three receivers he would finish 2010 with 62 catches for 782 yards and four touchdowns. That's excellent production if you're talking about your No. 4 or 5 Fantasy receiver.

Jacoby Jones, WR, Houston
Jamey's projection: 42 catches, 602 yards, five touchdowns
Dave's projection: 51 catches, 684 yards, five touchdowns
Average Draft Position: No. 177 overall (Round 15)
Jones had the best year of his career in 2009, which was his third year in the NFL, with 27 catches for 437 yards and six touchdowns. He should play much better in 2010 with his role expected to increase. Jones should be considered the second-best receiver for the Texans behind Andre Johnson, and he's got much more upside than Kevin Walter. With Matt Schaub at quarterback, the Texans offense should again be explosive. And Jones should find himself with plenty of single coverage thanks to Johnson. You'll likely draft Jones as your No. 4 or 5 Fantasy wide receiver, and that's great value for someone in this offense and with his skill. And if he continues to develop as expected then he could find himself starting for you for several weeks during the season. He should definitely be considered a wide receiver on the rise.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh
Jamey's projection: 2,991 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, 12 interceptions; 122 rushing yards, three touchdowns, two fumbles
Dave's projection: 2,911 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, 11 interceptions; 128 rushing yards, two touchdowns, two fumbles
Average Draft Position: No. 122 overall (Round 11)
There's some concern with Roethlisberger this year. He's suspended for the first six games of the season for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, and even if that suspension is reduced to four games, he still won't be able to play until Week 6 because the Steelers have a bye in Week 5. He also loses Santonio Holmes, one of his key weapons from his big year in 2009 when he passed for 4,328 yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. But don't let that deter you from taking him on Draft Day. The Steelers have said they aren't going to shy away from throwing the ball, and Roethlisberger is motivated to prove he can still play after all his offseason problems. He still has his trusted weapons in Hines Ward and Heath Miller, and Mike Wallace is an emerging talent. You should plan on drafting Roethlisberger as one of the top backup Fantasy quarterbacks, and he could either be a starter if your No. 1 option struggles or trade bait. Last year, he had three 300-yard games, one 400-yard game and one 500-yard outing. He also had eight games with multiple touchdowns, and he should perform at a high level in a short period of time. He's worth the risk for a rebound year now that he's trying to rebuild his ruined reputation.

Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco
Jamey's projection: 3,402 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, 16 interceptions; 88 rushing yards, one fumble
Dave's projection: 3,595 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, 15 interceptions; 98 rushing yards
Average Draft Position: No. 127 overall (Round 11)
Smith finally looked like he was worth the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft last year. After losing the starting position due to shoulder injuries and inconsistent play, he was given a second chance in 2009 when Shaun Hill struggled. Smith never looked back as he developed a solid rapport with Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore and Josh Morgan. Smith showed his potential during a three-game stretch last season against Green Bay, Jacksonville and Seattle with 769 passing yards, seven touchdowns and one interception, which put him on the Fantasy radar again. He finished the season completing a career-high 60.5 percent of his passes for 2,350 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, and this year he should be even better. "Alex made great strides last year," Morgan said in an interview with CBSSports.com. "Now that he's playing with confidence and showing his leadership, the sky's the limit. This is why he was the No. 1 overall pick. It's all coming together. He's going to be big this year." He has the weapons, a favorable schedule and his past struggles are behind him. He's a quarterback to target as a No. 2 option, but he could finish as a starter by the end of the year.

Breakouts

Steve Breaston, WR, Arizona
Jamey's projection: 65 catches, 915 yards, six touchdowns, one fumble
Dave's projection: 63 catches, 865 yards, six touchdowns, one fumble
Average Draft Position: No. 96 overall (Round 8)
Breaston is expected to take a huge leap in production this year now that Anquan Boldin has left the Cardinals via trade to the Ravens. He should be better than his unexpected performance in 2008 and rebound from last year's injury-plagued performance. In 2008, Breaston came out of nowhere to catch 77 passes for 1,006 yards and three touchdowns. He played well as the No. 3 wide receiver behind Larry Fitzgerald and Boldin and stepped up when Boldin was injured. Last year, Breaston struggled with a knee injury and finished with only 55 catches for 712 yards and three touchdowns, but now he will be asked to replace Boldin again. In the past three years, Boldin has averaged 81 catches for 972 yards and eight touchdowns, and Breaston could reach those stats. Boldin was also targeted an average of 117 times over that span, which is more than Breaston (98 targets) has averaged in his past two years. Derek Anderson will take over for the retired Kurt Warner, which could put a dent in the Cardinals' explosive passing game, but the increase Breaston will see in playing time and targets makes him a solid No. 3 Fantasy wide receiver with the chance to become a starter during the year. He is worth a mid-round pick in all leagues on Draft Day.

John Carlson, TE, Seattle
Jamey's projection: 56 catches, 708 yards, six touchdowns
Dave's projection: 60 catches, 714 yards, six touchdowns, one fumble
Average Draft Position: No. 137 overall (Round 12)
Carlson is hoping to pick up this year where last season ended. He was largely a disappointment in 2009, but he finished the season with a four-game touchdown streak. That made his overall stats look better -- 51 catches for 574 yards and seven touchdowns -- but he let Fantasy owners down early in the year with only three games over 50 yards receiving for the season. He has potential to be a No. 1 Fantasy tight end even with Seattle adding rookie Anthony McCoy, and Carlson could see time split wide at receiver. The Seahawks need to help their passing game, and Carlson has averaged 53 catches for 600 yards and six touchdowns in his two-year career. He also might not be asked to block as much this year with Seattle adding rookie tackle Russell Okung in the first round of the NFL Draft. Carlson is great value since he is worth drafting as a No. 2 option with a late-round pick. And if he starts out the season like last year finished then he will be a No. 1 tight end early in the year.

Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco
Jamey's projection: 74 catches, 933 yards, eight touchdowns, one fumble
Dave's projection: 68 catches, 875 yards, seven touchdowns, two fumbles
Average Draft Position: No. 58 overall (Round 5)
Crabtree was better than expected as a rookie last year when he finished with 48 catches for 625 yards and two touchdowns. He only played in 11 games after missing the first five games with a holdout. This year, Crabtree will be on the field from Week 1, and he has the potential to be a No. 2 Fantasy wide receiver. He would have finished with 69 catches for 909 yards and three touchdowns last year if you project his stats over a full season, but we think he's much better than that. He's had a full offseason of work, and reports out of San Francisco are he has a better understanding of the offense and looks polished. We think he's in line to take the next step in his career, and he could be a solid Fantasy wide receiver in 2010. "He can be real good," Morgan said. "He has a lot of talent. He can be a very special wide receiver. He has a great attitude, and he comes to work every day and works hard." Crabtree will benefit from Davis drawing plenty of coverage, the threat of Gore in the backfield and the development of Smith. He also plays in the weak NFC West, and we can see Crabtree posting outstanding stats in his sophomore season.

Justin Forsett, RB, Seattle
Jamey's projection: 785 rushing yards, five touchdowns, two fumbles; 43 catches, 344 yards, two touchdowns
Dave's projection: 789 rushing yards, five touchdowns, two fumbles; 30 catches, 218 yards, one touchdown
Average Draft Position: No. 91 overall (Round 8)
Forsett has quickly gone from sleeper to breakout as he continues to rise in the rankings. He has the potential to be a star, especially playing in offensive line coach Alex Gibbs' system. In 2009, Forsett showed off his all-around skills. He was second on the team in rushing behind Julius Jones with 114 carries for 619 yards (an amazing 5.4 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. He also added 41 catches for 350 yards and a touchdown, and his 969 total yards led the team. He will share carries with Jones, but it's clear Forsett has more upside. He proved that last year in the four games he had double digits in carries: Week 10 at Arizona (17 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown), Week 12 at St. Louis (22 carries for 130 yards and two touchdowns), Week 16 at Green Bay (14 carries for 70 yards) and Week 17 against Tennessee (10 carries for 74 yards). And playing under Gibbs, who is known as "the Godfather of zone blocking," Forsett could thrive. During his NFL tenure with Denver, Atlanta and Houston, Gibbs' offenses have produced 14 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He's helped running backs like Terrell Davis, Clinton Portis, Warrick Dunn and Steve Slaton have some of their best years, and Forsett could be next. He's worth drafting as a No. 3 Fantasy option as early as Round 6 or 7, but he should outperform his draft position.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia
Jamey's projection: 1,075 rushing yards, four touchdowns, three fumbles; 44 catches, 254 yards, two touchdowns
Dave's projection: 1,014 rushing yards, four touchdowns, three fumbles; 43 catches, 261 yards, two touchdowns
Average Draft Position: No. 37 overall (Round 4)
McCoy will be the starter for the Eagles this season with Brian Westbrook no longer with the team, and McCoy has the chance to post Westbrook-like stats. He is a good runner and receiver, and he showed that as a rookie in 2009 with 637 rushing yards and four touchdowns and 40 catches for 308 yards. In Westbrook's second year with the Eagles in 2003 he had 613 rushing yards and seven touchdowns and 37 catches for 332 yards for four touchdowns, so McCoy is already on pace to follow in Westbrook's shoes. From 2004-08, Westbrook had at least 1,200 total yards, 60 catches and seven touchdowns each year, so Andy Reid knows how to get the most of speedy running backs who can catch the ball. It's not unrealistic to expect those stats for McCoy this season. He'll lose some carries to Mike Bell, especially in the red zone, and there's some concern about Kevin Kolb replacing McNabb and how the offense will run. But McCoy should live up to the lofty expectations and be considered a solid No. 2 Fantasy running back to start the season. By the end of the year McCoy could be a Top 10 Fantasy running back, especially in leagues where receptions count, and he's someone I plan to target in all formats on Draft Day.

Zach Miller, TE, Oakland
Jamey's projection: 68 catches, 875 yards, five touchdowns, one fumble
Dave's projection: 69 catches, 853 yards, five touchdowns, one fumble
Average Draft Position: No. 107 overall (Round 9)
Miller continues to improve each season, and this should finally be the year he emerges as a starting Fantasy option thanks to the addition of Jason Campbell at quarterback. His receptions and yardage have gone up in each of his three seasons in the NFL, but he's never had more than three touchdowns. But now that JaMarcus Russell is gone, he has a quality quarterback in Campbell, who likes using his tight end -- just ask Cooley and Davis. Cooley averaged 75 catches for 818 yards and five touchdowns from 2007-08 with Campbell, and Davis had 48 catches for 509 yards and six touchdowns last year after he took over when Cooley broke his ankle. Also, even with Russell's inconsistent play, the Raiders have tried to keep Miller involved. His targets have gone from 69 in 2007 to 86 in 2008 to 100 last year. You have to hope that Campbell will hit on more of those passes with his targets also improving this year. Miller is worth drafting after all the elite tight ends are off the board, and we expect Miller to finally play like a standout Fantasy option. He's someone to target after Round 8, and this should be his breakout season.

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta
Jamey's projection: 4,058 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, 15 interceptions; 58 rushing yards, two touchdowns, three fumbles
Dave's projection: 3,852 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, 16 interceptions; 69 rushing yards, one touchdown, three fumbles
Average Draft Position: No. 86 overall (Round 8)
The Falcons are known as a run-first team with Michael Turner, but the passing attack isn't too shabby, which is due to Ryan, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. In fact, White and Gonzalez were among the most targeted players at their positions last year, and coach Mike Smith said the offense could open up even more in 2010 with the way Ryan has developed entering his third year. "Matt has improved from Year 1 to Year 2," Smith said in an interview with CBSSports.com. "I think there will be some significant improvement from Year 2 to Year 3. ... Matt is a guy that we've given more to. We've opened up the playbook from Year 1 to Year 2, especially in our no-huddle offense. We'll be able to continue to expand what we want to do offensively." In 2009, Ryan had eight games with multiple touchdown passes, and he might have had more if not for missing nearly three games with a toe injury. We can see Ryan taking the next step in his career with the help of White and Gonzalez, and Ryan should be considered a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback. He might fall into the No. 2 range if an owner isn't willing to gamble on his upside, but we believe Ryan is ready to emerge as a star.

Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh
Jamey's projection: 58 catches, 877 yards, six touchdowns, one fumble
Dave's projection: 55 catches, 798 yards, six touchdowns, one fumble
Average Draft Position: No. 91 overall (Round 8)
Wallace was one of the surprise rookies in 2009 when he had 39 catches for 756 yards (an amazing 19.4 average, which led the NFL) and six touchdowns. Now, he should see an increase in production with Holmes off to New York to play for the Jets. Wallace said in an interview with CBSSports.com he has "big shoes to fill" as he steps into the starter's role opposite Ward. "Last year was a good year for me," Wallace said. "But my rookie year was just the beginning. I have a bigger role this year, and I'm excited about it. I'm just going to try not to screw things up." Wallace could have inconsistent quarterback play to start the season with Roethlisberger's suspension, but Wallace should still post quality stats. Holmes averaged 62 catches for 1,004 yards and six touchdowns the past three years playing opposite Ward, and Wallace can easily reach those stats. You can draft Wallace as a No. 3 Fantasy wide receiver with a mid-round pick, but he should end up in your starting lineup for several weeks during the year, especially once Roethlisberger returns. Wallace is looking forward to big things in 2010. "I feel like I surprised some people last year, but not myself," he said. "I always knew I was able to do good things and play at a high level. I'm still going to surprise some people this year, but I plan to come out of the gate fast and playing well."

Busts

Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas
Jamey's projection: 38 catches, 634 yards, six touchdowns, one fumble
Dave's projection: 43 catches, 643 yards, six touchdowns, one fumble
Average Draft Position: No. 105 overall (Round 9)
Bryant has as much talent as any offensive rookie coming into the NFL, but he's not someone you can count on in 2010. For starters, he could be injury prone after dealing with a severe sprained ankle in training camp on top of a hip pointer and a hamstring problem during the offseason. Bryant also is stepping into an offense where he's not needed since Dallas already has Miles Austin, Roy E. Williams, Patrick Crayton, Jason Witten, Marion Barber and Felix Jones. Crayton is still a candidate to get traded, but he's still in Dallas and has gained momentum with Bryant missing time with the ankle problem. Bryant will still get the chance to make plays this year, but don't expect him to be a significant contributor in seasonal Fantasy leagues since he might not get many targets. Bryant is going to be great in the future and could be a starting Fantasy option as early as next year. But you should lower your expectations for him this season since he might not make an immediate impact in his first year in the NFL.

Donald Driver, WR, Green Bay
Jamey's projection: 65 catches, 916 yards, five touchdowns
Dave's projection: 68 catches, 969 yards, six touchdowns
Average Draft Position: No. 73 overall (Round 7)
Driver has been one of the most consistent receivers in the NFL over the past six seasons. Since 2004, he has at least 70 catches and 1,000 yards in each year, and only once during that span did he fail to score at least five touchdowns. He enters this season as the starter opposite Greg Jennings and remains in one of the best passing offenses in the NFL with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but at some point Driver's production is going to decline. And we're banking on it happening this year. He's 34 years old and entering his 12th season. He also had surgery on both knees this offseason, albeit minor, but the Packers have receivers in place who can help replace Driver in James Jones and Jordy Nelson. Tight end Jermichael Finley should also be considered the second-best receiving threat behind Jennings, who also should rebound from a down year in 2009. Driver appeared to slow down dramatically last year with only one 100-yard outing in his final 11 games and just two for the season. And while he's reached the 1,000-yard mark each of the past three seasons, he hasn't had 1,100 yards since 2006. If you land Driver as a No. 4 Fantasy wide receiver on Draft Day then you're in good shape. But he definitely should not be considered a starter at this stage of his career.

Brett Favre, QB, Minnesota
Jamey's projection: 3,887 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, 18 interceptions; 32 rushing yards, three fumbles
Dave's projection: 3,939 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 31 rushing yards, three fumbles
Average Draft Position: No. 62 overall (Round 6)
We're going to assume Favre is playing again in 2010 even though he has kept the Vikings and Fantasy owners in limbo at the start of training camp. Favre was amazing last year with 4,202 passing yards, 33 touchdowns and a career-low seven interceptions. But he's not going to play at that level again. His ankle is clearly a problem, which is part of the reason for his indecision about playing. His top two targets -- Sidney Rice (hip) and Percy Harvin (migraines) -- have been limited in training camp. And you're asking Favre to avoid being interception prone, which has been a problem for him throughout his career, especially recently. From 2005-08, Favre had 88 touchdowns and 84 interceptions in three seasons with the Packers and one with the Jets. He's 40 -- and a grandfather now -- so at some point he will falter. You should still plan on drafting Favre as a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback because he'll have some amazing weeks, but you better grab a quality backup on Draft Day. We would advise a Favre-Carson Palmer or a Favre-Donovan McNabb scenario as a good plan based on Favre's bye in Week 4. Palmer faces the Browns in Week 4, and McNabb has his grudge match against the Eagles. Those are two standout No. 2 Fantasy quarterbacks to count on in case Favre reverts back to his old ways in his old age.

Thomas Jones, RB, Kansas City
Jamey's projection: 797 rushing yards, eight touchdowns; 18 catches, 101 yards
Dave's projection: 740 rushing yards, seven touchdowns, one fumble; 17 catches, 100 yards
Average Draft Position: No. 97 overall (Round 9)
Jones loses a lot of Fantasy value coming to the Chiefs after an outstanding three-year stint with the Jets. He averaged 311 carries for 1,278 yards and nine touchdowns over that span, but now he's going to a secondary role in Kansas City behind Jamaal Charles. He's also 32 and showed signs of slowing down last year when he was limited with a knee injury in the playoffs. We view Jones as a potential short-yardage option for the Chiefs, meaning he could score his share of touchdowns this year with Charles getting the majority of yards. Jones also goes from an amazing offensive line with the Jets to a rebuilding one with the Chiefs. It all adds up to Jones taking a significant step back in production. There's no chance he could duplicate his stats from last year when he had 331 carries for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns. And don't be fooled if he's listed atop the depth chart when the season starts because coach Todd Haley has said that doesn't mean much. We agree, and you should only draft Jones with limited expectations. If you're counting on him as a reserve then you'll have someone who could have some quality weeks of production. But if you draft Jones as a starter then you're making a mistake. He's another year older, and the change of scenery from New York to Kansas City will not help his value.

Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
Jamey's projection: 3,998 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, 12 interceptions; 64 rushing yards, four fumbles
Dave's projection: 4,033 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, 14 interceptions; 63 rushing yards, three fumbles
Average Draft Position: No. 74 overall (Round 7)
Manning was amazing last year, throwing for 4,021 yards, 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He finished as a Top 10 Fantasy quarterback, but I'm not ready to put Eli on the same level as his brother, Peyton. The Giants are still a running team, and they should return to their roots this season under coach Tom Coughlin. Last year, the Giants had their fewest rushing attempts since 2004, which was the last time they missed the playoffs. The Giants ran the ball 443 times last year, but they averaged 474 carries from 2005-08 -- all playoff seasons. Now, it wasn't like Manning was excessive with his passing. He only attempted 509 passes, which was 30 more than 2008, but 20 less than 2007. But Manning was sacked a career-high 30 times. He also had 22 turnovers, including a career-high eight lost fumbles. The difference for Manning was he set a new career high at 62 percent completions. Considering Manning has a career completion percentage of 57 percent, he is likely to be less accurate this year. We don't expect Manning to have a huge drop-off in production, especially with his talent at receiver, but don't consider him a Top 10 Fantasy quarterback. He should still be viewed as a borderline starter or a key reserve, and he's only worth a mid- to late-round pick in standard leagues.

Robert Meachem, WR, New Orleans
Jamey's projection: 63 catches, 870 yards, six touchdowns, two fumbles
Dave's projection: 60 catches, 842 yards, six touchdowns, one fumble
Average Draft Position: No. 103 overall (Round 9)
Meachem was outstanding last season, and he was one of our best third-year breakouts. He finished the year with 45 catches for 722 yards and nine touchdowns, and he scored six touchdowns over a five-game stretch during the season. But it will be hard for Meachem to duplicate those stats, even in the Saints' high-powered passing attack. Most of Meachem's production last year came with Lance Moore dealing with injuries, but Moore should be healthy in 2010. With Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Jeremy Shockey, Reggie Bush and now Moore, Meachem likely won't be as productive. He also has a nagging toe injury, which has limited him in training camp. The good thing for Meachem is he only had 64 targets last year, which was the fewest among the top 30 receivers in a standard-scoring league. But even so, Meachem is still expected to struggle. We view Meachem as a reserve Fantasy option, and he should only be drafted with a late-round pick. Don't let last year's stats fool you because it will be difficult for him to have a repeat performance.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina
Jamey's projection: 922 rushing yards, eight touchdowns, two fumbles; 15 catches, 142 yards
Dave's projection: 927 rushing yards, nine touchdowns, two fumbles; 16 catches, 137 yards
Average Draft Position: No. 44 overall (Round 4)
Stewart's final stats in 2009 look great. He ran for 1,133 yards and 10 touchdowns and caught 18 passes for 139 yards with another score. His 5.1 yards per carry average was tremendous. But let's not forget that Stewart was leaned on heavily for the Panthers' final five games, giving him the opportunity to end the season with such huge numbers. DeAngelo Williams injured his ankle in Week 12, and that's when Stewart took off. He had 589 rushing yards and four touchdowns over that span, which was 52 percent of his total rushing yards and 40 percent of his total touchdowns. When both running backs were healthy, Stewart had only one 100-yard outing. He enters this season again dealing with foot and Achilles' problems, and Williams is back at 100 percent. We're confident in Williams again dominating carries, and Stewart's production should decline. Now, we're not expecting Stewart to completely falter. He's still going to get his share of touchdowns, and if Williams gets hurt again then Stewart will shine. But if you're drafting Stewart based on the way he finished 2009 then he's going to disappoint you. He should not be considered a starting Fantasy running back.

Ricky Williams, RB, Miami
Jamey's projection: 643 rushing yards, five touchdowns, one fumble; 24 catches, 233 yards, one touchdown
Dave's projection: 607 rushing yards, seven touchdowns, two fumbles; 21 catches, 180 yards, two touchdowns
Average Draft Position: No. 92 overall (Round 8)
Williams is someone you want to have on your Fantasy team. But if you're expecting the production you got a year ago you will be disappointed. He was a marvel at 32 when he had 241 carries for 1,121 yards and 11 touchdowns with 35 catches for 264 yards and two more scores. The majority of that production came after Ronnie Brown (foot) was hurt in Week 10, but Brown is expected to be healthy this year and motivated to earn a new contract. Williams is also looking for a new deal since, despite earlier proclamations he would retire at 34, he wants to keep playing. But with Brown back, Williams will return to a secondary role. The Dolphins will still rely on Williams a lot, but you have to consider him a No. 3 Fantasy running back at best. If you can get him as your No. 4 option that's even better, but don't draft Williams as a starting option. He will likely finish closer to his 2008 stats (659 rushing yards and four touchdowns and 219 receiving yards and a touchdown), which isn't bad at all but half of his production from last year. And that's what you can expect in 2010.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can also follow Jamey at @jameyeisenberg . Do you have a question or a comment for our Fantasy staff? Drop us a line at dmfantasyfootball@cbs.com .

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Player News
Jets backfield takes shape following Johnson signing
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(5:53 pm ET) With the Jets signing Chris Johnson on Wednesday, the rest of their backfield should start to take shape, reports the New York Daily News.

The report says Johnson and Chris Ivory will work as a tandem, and Bilal Powell will be the No. 3 running back. Mike Goodson is expected to be released before the start of the season.


Chris Johnson excited for 'fresh start'
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(5:48 pm ET) New Jets running back Chris Johnson's two-year deal is worth $8 million with another $1 million in incentives, reports Pro Football Talk. Johnson was scheduled to make $8 million for the Titans in 2014 alone before he was released.

Meanwhile, Johnson told the Tennessean that he's looking forward to this opportunity with the Jets.

"I have a fresh start. Now I am going to go out there with a chip on my shoulder," Johnson said. "I know a lot of people are doubting me. I want to prove everybody wrong who has doubts in me."


Bengals sign punter T.J. Conley
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4:21 pm ET) The Bengals signed free agent punter T.J. Conley on Wednesday. 

Conley punted in 16 games for the Jets in 2011. He averaged 42.7 yards on 92 punts, and his 38.8-yard net average was the highest in Jets history. He had 32 inside-20 kicks with just six touchbacks, and his plus-26 differential on inside-20s to touchbacks ranked tied for third in the NFL.

Conley did not play in the 2012 or 2013 regular seasons. He was with the Jets in the 2012 preseason and with Cleveland in the 2013 preseason.

Conley will challenge incumbent Kevin Huber for the starting job, but most likely he won't make the final roster.


Chris Johnson signs two-year deal with the Jets
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(3:19 pm ET) The Jets have signed running back Chris Johnson to a two-year deal, league sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter. 

Johnson told reporters on Tuesday he was taking free agency one day at a time and added that he had other visits planned, but the Jets must have made him an improved offer to lock up the one-time 2,000-yard running back. 

Johnson has totaled at least 1,400 yards in each of his last four seasons with the Titans since running for 2,006 yards in 2009. He also scored 10 touchdowns in 2013 (four receiving). 


Clay Matthews says it's thumbs up for training camp
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:37 pm ET) Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said he's diligently rehabbing his injured thumb, comparing it to a torn ACL rather than a typical bone break. As part of the injury he also had surgery on his forearm, which got damaged when he re-injured the thumb late last season. But he told USA Today that he'll be ready for the start of training camp, though he'll miss offseason workouts. 

Mike James resumes running and cutting
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:28 pm ET) Buccaneers running back Mike James is working his way back into football shape after breaking his left ankle last season. He told the Tampa Bay Times that he's been running and cutting and is aiming to get back to full strength and speed. Asked if he would be ready for the team's April minicamp, James said he and the team are "taking everything day by day." 

Josh Freeman signs with Giants
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:33 pm ET) The Giants have signed quarterback Josh Freeman, reports FOX Sports.

Freeman spent last season with the Buccaneers and Vikings. His only appearance for Minnesota was against the Giants, and he completed 20 of 53 passes for 190 yards and an interception.

Freeman will try and make the final roster for the Giants as a backup to Eli Manning, who is coming off ankle surgery this offseason. The Giants also have Curtis Painter and Ryan Nassib on the roster.


Rob Gronkowski will 'take his time' coming back
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:26 pm ET) Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will "take his time and then take more time" coming back from a torn ACL suffered last season, a source told Bleacher Report

Gronkowski's heart was questioned last year when he took his time coming back from forearm and back procedures. This year he might not care how long he takes as he wants to practice patience in his rehab. 

The knee injury happened in December of last year. Usually it takes nine months to come back from an ACL injury without incident. That would mean he'd be ready to hit the field by late August. 


Haloti Ngata turned down extension with Ravens
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:10 am ET) Looking to free up cap space earlier this offseason, the Ravens offered a "lucrative, long-term" deal with defensive lineman Haloti Ngata so that he wouldn't cost $16 million in cap space. Ngata, 30 years old with two years left on his current deal, wasn't willing to take the extension, NFL Network reports. 

Report: Ravens planning to add two running backs
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:47 am ET) The Ravens are aware of what's been going on with Ray Rice this offseason but were planning to add a pair of running backs this offseason anyway. NFL Network reports that they now believe that one of those two might have to start depending on what happens with Rice. 

The veteran running back had a horrible 2013 season (under 1,000 total yards) and then was indicted on a third-degree aggravated assault charge when he struck his then-fiancee and current wife Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino. 


 
 
 
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