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2011 Draft Prep: Don't count out Collie

Senior Fantasy Writer
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I'm afraid for Austin Collie's long-term health. After watching him take those vicious hits last season and suffer multiple concussions, I'm worried about his future if he gets hit in the head again.

But I'm not afraid of Collie for my Fantasy team. In fact, I want him in as many leagues as possible. The prediction here is Collie will return as a starting Fantasy option in 2011, and you should draft him as a Top 24 receiver as early as Round 5.

Let's start with the facts. With the way the NFL views concussions, no team would allow Collie back on the field after what happened to him last year unless he was OK. And the Colts medical staff has cleared Collie at 100 percent. He's also wearing a new helmet designed to help him avoid another concussion.

If the Colts say he is OK, and he said he feels fine, you should have faith in him as well. I understand the hesitation considering if he suffers another concussion he could be out, and it's a reasonable concern. But does that mean you're staying away from every injury-risk player?

Look at all the different draft boards, and you'll find that many of the top players have injury concerns, from Michael Vick to Antonio Gates. Even Aaron Rodgers could be considered a concussion risk since he suffered two just last year.

But you're drafting Rodgers because he's expected to play 16 games, and you should do the same with Collie. Just look at the way he played last year prior to getting hurt.

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Collie was the No. 1 Fantasy receiver through the first six weeks in 2010 when he had 44 catches for 503 yards and six touchdowns over that span. He averaged nearly eight targets a game, which makes him a Top 15 receiver in terms of targets per game from last year. By comparison, Reggie Wayne averaged 11 targets a game, Dallas Clark averaged nine and Pierre Garcon averaged seven.

It's clear that Peyton Manning relies on Collie quite a bit even with a talented receiving corps full of other options. You can even argue that Collie would have finished with more Fantasy points than Wayne had Collie stayed healthy. Wayne had 111 catches for 1,355 yards and six touchdowns for the season. If you project Collie's stats from the first six games for a full year, he would have finished with 112 catches for 1,341 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Now, you're not drafting Collie ahead of Wayne, but Collie should move up on your draft board. His Average Draft Position is the No. 27 Fantasy receiver in Round 8. He's being drafted after receivers like Steve Johnson, Brandon Lloyd, Sidney Rice and Garcon, and I would rather have Collie over all of those receivers.

There's definitely some risk in drafting Collie this year. But as long as he stays healthy and avoids another concussion he should return as a standout Fantasy option in all leagues.

Zegura's Fantasy facts ...
Our Nathan Zegura shares his take on Austin Collie
Austin Collie: I caught a lot of flack for ranking Collie ahead of Pierre Garcon in 2010, but the numbers don't lie: Collie is the second best wide receiver on that team (don't tell Reggie Wayne, but Collie is probably the best). After an incredibly impressive rookie year in which Collie caught 60 passes for 676 yards and seven TDs, I was pumped to see what he could do in Year Two. After all, Peyton Manning is as smart as they come and Collie had the seventh best target conversion rate in the league as a rookie (66.7 percent) in addition to finishing Top 10 in Red Zone TD rate at 29 percent. To me, that spelled more chances for Collie in his sophomore season and that is exactly what he got. In 2010, Collie saw his targets per game rise to 8 (from 5.6 -- again Peyton is a smart guy) and he turned in an even better set of metrics. He led the NFL with an 80.6 percent target conversion rate, averaged 9 yards per target and dominated in the Red Zone with a 55.6 percent Red Zone TD rate (best among the 66 receivers with at least nine Red Zone chances). In other words, there was no more efficient receiver in the NFL than Collie, who totaled 58 catches for 649 yards and eight scores in only nine games. Collie was a Top 3 Fantasy scorer on a per game basis last year and if it weren't for the concussion issues, he would have been Top 10 for sure at the end of the year. Headed into his third season, the sky is the limit for Collie if he can stay healthy, and yes that is a big if. Collie is one hit away from another concussion and at some point his health and his future quality of life will become a legit and very serious concern. However, when he is on the field, Collie has Manning's trust every bit as much as Wayne or Dallas Clark and he will get plenty of opportunities to make plays week in and week out. If Collie can play 16 games he will be a Top 10 performer because I have never seen metrics like his as long as I have been covering Fantasy Football. Bottom Line: Collie is a great No. 3 wide receiver for your teams because he has legit Top 10 potential and as the 27th receiver taken in drafts, you can survive if you get a shortened season from him. He is so efficient that he is literally the perfect receiver for Manning and I expect this to be one of the most potent hookups in the NFL again in 2011.
Nathan Zegura provides Fantasy Football analysis at thefantasyconsultant.com and will contribute to CBSSports.com throughout the 2011 Fantasy season.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg .

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Player News
Colts waive four, including RB Jeff Demps
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(11:08 am ET) The Colts announced Monday they have waived four players, including running back Jeff Demps, who was never able to translate his world-class speed into the NFL. 

In addition to Demps, the Colts released WR Kadron Boone, DE Gannon Conway and OT Matt Hall


Falcons turn attention to extension for Julio Jones
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:06 am ET) With the NFL draft completed, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said signing wide receiver Julio Jones is a priority for the team, reports ESPN.com.

"There is no question that our focus in the future will be on Julio Jones and where we are," Dimitroff said. "I don't want to get into specifics about the timing of that, obviously. But now that the draft is over and we continue to build this football team, we understand that Julio is a very important part of our building and evolving as a championship-type team."

Jones is a two-time Pro Bowl player and can become a free agent after the 2015 season. Jones has had to deal with foot issues during his career, which Dimitroff said wasn't an issue.

"That's not my concern right now," Dimitroff said. "That's not my concern, period."


Vikings CB Antone Exum ready to make an impact
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(10:53 am ET) The Vikings did not select a safety during last week's NFL Draft, which opens the door for second-year man Antone Exum to step in and produce, per the Pioneer Press

Exum, who was taken in the sixth round last year and only participated in 16 plays from scrimmage, could battle safety Robert Blanton for the position, but is willing to be either a strong or free safety. 

"So whatever I'm asked to play, I will be ready," Exum said. "I take pride in work ethic and not being outworked, and this offseason I've been attacking."


Seahawks decline to exercise Bruce Irvin's option
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:19 am ET) Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin will become an unrestricted free agent in 2016 after the team decided not to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract for the 2016 season, reports the Seattle Times.

The Seahawks would've owed Irvin $7.8 million had they picked up the option. Despite not picking up the option, coach Pete Carroll had previously said Irvin is in the team's long-term plans.

"If we pick up Bruce's option it's a great thing, if we don't pick up Bruce's option it only means we aren't picking it up... We want him to be here for a long time," Carroll said. 


Redskins release LB Gabe Miller
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(9:29 am ET) The Redskins released linebacker Gabe Miller, reports ESPN.com. In seven games last season, Miller totaled four tackles.

Bucs decline fifth-year option on RB Doug Martin
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(9:17 am ET) The Buccaneers will not pick up the fifth-year option on running back Doug Martin, meaning he will be an unrestricted free agent in 2016, per the Tampa Tribune. 

Martin rushed for 1,454 yards in 2012, but since then has battled injury and ineffectiveness, falling short of 500 yards in each of the last two seasons. 

Martin remains in line to be Tampa Bay's No. 1 rusher at the start of 2015, but he will have to prove himself in order to be rewarded with a new contract. 


Report: Raiders release wide receiver James Jones
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:36 am ET) The Raiders have reportedly released wide reciever James Jones, according to CSN Bay Area.

General manager Reggie McKenzie informed Jones of his termination Sunday. In his only season with Oakland, Jones had 73 catches for 666 yards and six touchdowns. The team will save $3.43 million against the 2015 salary cap.


Eagles coach Chip Kelly: Tim Tebow not just a camp arm
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5/3/2015) Eagles coach Chip Kelly thinks Tim Tebow could eventually develop into a quarterback and isn't just a camp arm, as Mark Sanchez said last month, according to NFL.com.

Tebow was signed in April as the fourth quarterback on the roster after the team traded for Sam Bradford and re-signed Sanchez.

"No, I think everybody here that we bring to our organization is here to compete for a job," Kelly said. "That's what Timmy is going to do. He's an unbelievable competitor. ... If we were just going to have guys throw drills, we'd take (Mike) Mayock in the offseason and bring him down here and let him throw to them."

Tebow hasn't played in the league since 2012.


Cowboys RB Darren McFadden maybe used as kick returner in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5/3/2015) Cowboys running back Darren McFadden could see an expanded role next season, as a kick or punt returner, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Wide receiver Dwayne Harris left during the offseason for the Giants, leaving a vacant spot in the return game.

"We have some guys we feel who can go return right now both punt returners and kickoff returners," coach Jason Garrett said. "And hopefully we'll get a chance to bring some guys in college free agent type guys we targeted as well. We like the guys we have and we feel like we can go play right now with them and also create some competition with some younger guys."

McFadden was a kick returner for the Raiders in 2014 where he had three returns for 59 yards.

"He certainly could," Garrett said. "He's done it in his past."


Jersey No. 11 holds significance for Texans WR Jaelen Strong
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/3/2015) Texans wide receiver Jaelen Strong was pegged as a potential first-round pick entering the 2015 NFL draft. 

However, he had to wait quite a while in the green room to hear his name called. In the third round, the Texans took Strong, a productive wideout at Arizona State. Strong, surprised at the fall in the draft, picked a jersey number to remind himself of what happened to him. 

Strong was the 11th receiver selected this past weekend. Therefore, 11 is the jersey number Strong will wear this season, to remind himself that 10 other receivers were selected ahead of him. 

"Number 11 to remind me that 10 receivers were taken before me in the Draft," Strong wrote on his Instagram page. "So much hunger in my heart. Thanks Houston!"


 
 
 
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