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2011 Draft Prep: What to watch for in Week 3

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Week 3 of the NFL preseason is when teams play their starters around three quarters in what is really the only true dress rehearsal for what lies ahead in the regular season.

This will be our best glimpse into what teams actually plan to do come Week 1 following the lockout shortened offseason and it is our last chance to do some serious player evaluations prior to our Fantasy drafts.

For more from Nathan check out his website at thefantasyconsultant.com

Green Bay at Indianapolis, Friday, 8 p.m. ET

How will Ryan Grant look in his first extended action of the preseason and is there a RBBC in Green Bay? Grant has looked sharp with 36 yards on eight carries, but we will see much more of him against the Colts. With the way the Skins ran all over Indy, a good game from Grant is expected. If James Starks (ankle) plays in the game, seeing how that tandem works together and how the workload is distributed will be a huge thing to focus on. Is Starks really the backup for Grant or is this a true committee approach? If Grant is the starter, he becomes a great No. 2 runner for your teams. In a committee, both will have value, but neither will be a top weekly option.

Who is the No. 3 receiver for the Packers? Jordy Nelson (slot) or James Jones (outside with Donald Driver moving to slot) will be the answer and whoever it is will get a little nudge up the board as a sleeper.

How much time will Kerry Collins get with the first team? Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky have played themselves to the bench and the team signed Collins on Wednesday. He will only have two days to get ready for this game and I expect he will get some time with the starters because if Peyton Manning is not ready for Week 1, Collins will get the nod. He is a veteran and should be able to pick things up quickly, but how quickly is the key

Joseph Addai is the starter, but then what for the Colts? We know Addai is the main man for the Colts, but rookie Delone Carter has apparently wowed the staff and has earned some playing time. With the reports that Donald Brown is transitioning into more of a third down, change-of-pace role, Carter has the chance to really make an impact as a deep sleeper because he is the second "runner" on the depth chart. If Addai gets hurt, Carter would likely be the primary runner and goal line back and he is an excellent between the tackles runner. Remember, Javarris James was Fantasy relevant for a stretch last year when he scored six times in six weeks and Carter is much more talented. Make sure Addai stays in at the stripe to secure his value and then pay close attention to what role, if any, Carter appears to have with the starters.

St. Louis at Kansas City, Friday, 8 p.m. ET

The Kansas City offense has not shown us anything thus far, will they open it up against the Rams? Matt Cassel has thrown only 14 passes in two games and he has just six completions for 73 yards. He has his best collection of weapons yet with Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston, Jon Baldwin, Tony Moeaki and Jamaal Charles, so I want to see Cassel air it out a little this week.

Please tell me Thomas Jones is just the backup and not the goal line back! Here's a little known fact for you. Last year, Jamaal Charles had an 83 percent goal line touchdown rate, best among the 45 backs with at least six chances from inside the 5-yard line last year. He does not need to be pulled at the goal line and frankly all I want to see in this game is Thomas Jones staying on the sideline when the Chiefs get near the end zone.

Can Mike Sims-Walker be the No. 1 receiver for Sam Bradford? All accounts have MSW and Bradford getting on the same page for the Rams. I am excited to see them together for an extended period against the Chiefs and I hope to see them plant the seeds of success. I think MSW can be a solid sleeper for your teams in the Josh McDaniels' offense.

Jacksonville at Buffalo, Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

How are the Bills planning on using C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson? Jackson has been a solid No. 2 running back in each of the last two seasons, but Spiller looks to have a much bigger role in 2011. Just how big remains to be seen and it is something to watch for.

Can Steve Johnson be a one-man show in the passing game? I am nervous about TD Steve headed into 2011 with Lee Evans out of Buffalo. Yes, he will get a ton of targets, but he has no one to draw any defensive attention away from him. In the final six games last year he saw 10-plus targets per game and averaged around 50 yards per game with only one score.

Pay attention to Rashad Jennings. He will once again start in place of Maurice Jones-Drew and is an excellent handcuff to target on Draft Day.

With Mike Thomas as the team's No. 1 receiver, can this be a good enough passing game to keep defenses honest?

N.Y. Giants at N.Y. Jets, Saturday, 2 p.m. ET

How many carries will Shonn Greene get compared to LaDainian Tomlinson? Greene is expected to go now that his foot infection has cleared up. Rex Ryan says he is the bell cow and that LT will just be a situational third down back. Well, now we get a chance to see the plans first hand. I think Greene is the primary back on first and second downs and if he also gets the goal line carries as expected, he will be a great breakout candidate in non- PPR leagues

Who will step up to replace Steve Smith and Kevin Boss in the Giants' passing game? Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks are going to be very busy, but who else is going to step up? Domenik Hixon? Travis Beckum?

And a few more things to look for ... Can Mark Sanchez continue to impress and climb up the boards as a legit No. 2 option for your teams? ... Will the Ahmad Bradshaw /Brandon Jacobs split be similar to last year?

Atlanta at Pittsburgh, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET

Can the high flying Falcons offense keep soaring against the Steelers? Matt Ryan and Co. have looked very good in the early going with big plays coming in bunches. Now they face their toughest test with the Steelers and I will be watching both the passing game and the ground game very closely. If Pittsburgh can't slow them down, this could end up as Top 3 overall offense.

Is Antonio Brown becoming a legit sleeper? With Emmanuel Sanders out, Brown is someone to keep an eye on as the potential No. 3 receiver for the Steelers. Over the last few years that position has produced solid value from Nate Washington and Mike Wallace as a rookie.

Miami at Tampa Bay, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET

Can we learn anything about the Reggie Bush/Daniel Thomas RBBC? I know Bush is the "starter" but I can't see Miami giving him more than 15 targets plus carries per game. Thomas has been called out by his head coach for too much tippy toeing at the point of attack and he will have a chance to show that he is the team's power and goal line back. As long as they work in every series, I think Bush is the better PPR option, while Thomas will be better in standard leagues.

Will the Bucs show us anything on offense? It's the preseason, so I am not panicking, but I'd like to see some signs of life from the first-team offense. So far, Josh Freeman is averaging just 4.6 yards per attempt and running back LeGarrette Blount has 19 yards on 9 carries. I'd like to see the 2010 Tampa offense on display here.

And a few more things to look for ... Who is the primary handcuff and third down back in Tampa Bay? ... Will Dezmon Briscoe really hold off Arrelious Benn for the No. 2 receiver job for the Bucs?

Houston at San Francisco, Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

The biggest backup running back battle in Fantasy Football: If Derrick Ward (concussion) is cleared as expected and he plays against the 49ers, who works as the second back in the game ... Ward or Ben Tate? Tate took advantage of Ward's absence last week as he ran for 95 yards and a score on nine carries. Head coach Gary Kubiak loved what he saw from the former second rounder in his Texans debut: "That's a big step forward in his career," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "If we can get that out of him behind Arian (Foster), that's going to be a nice thing to have." Ward was great last year, averaging over 6 yards per carry for the Texans, but Tate may be the No.2 running back of the future based on Kubiak's comments. Whoever wins that job is arguably the top handcuff in all of Fantasy.

Who is the top backup to Frank Gore? Rookie Kendall Hunter has been great in the preseason with 134 yards and a score in 16 carries. Meanwhile Anthony Dixon (who averaged 3.4 yards per carry last year) has taken 19 carries and picked up only 69 yards. I like Hunter and think he should win the job

New England at Detroit, Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

The Pats are going to be able to run the ball this year, but who will do the most damage? With three quarters of action for the starters, will Stevan Ridley (222 total yards and three TDs in two games) be a part of the mix? Ridley has taken some first-team goal line work in practice, but will that happen in the game? How many carries per week will Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis be getting?

If the Lions get to the goal line, will Jahvid Best stay in the game and get the ball? If the answer is yes, Best is looking like a great No. 2 running back and has Top 10 potential in PPR formats. He is expected to play on Saturday despite suffering a mild concussion against the Browns. Another thing to keep an eye on is who is the second back on the depth chart for the Lions, so we know who to grab as the handcuff for Best.

A few more things to look for ... Will Nate Burleson stay nasty in the preseason and further elevate his sleeper status? ... Can Aaron Hernandez stay red hot and how many targets should we be expecting for Chad Ochocinco?

Chicago at Tennessee, Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

Is Roy Williams truly playing himself to the bench? I sure hope so, because Johnny Knox could be a great No. 3 wide receiver for our teams if he gets back into the starting lineup. Even if Williams starts, I will be very curious to see what percentage of the snaps see Johnny Knox on the field.

If the Bears get to the goal line, who gets the ball? Will Matt Forte be the goal line back and get a nice bump up the rankings or will newly acquired Marion Barber get the ball and become a solid No. 4 option for your teams?

Is Jared Cook ready to breakout? As the starter in the final 3 games of 2010, Cook had 15 catches (on 21 targets) for 196 yards and a touchdown, which translates to 80 catches for 1,045 yards andfive scores. Matt Hasselbeck is already comparing Cook to Antonio Gates and I am eager to see the two play extended time together.

One more thing to look for ... Will Javon Ringer solidify the starting job in Tennessee should the Chris Johnson holdout last into the season?

Dallas at Minnesota, Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

Can the Vikings offensive line hold their own against Dallas and open running lanes for Adrian Peterson? As you may know, I took Ray Rice ahead of Peterson in the Fantasy Football Today 10 team league draft. The offensive line questions and lack of talent outside at wide receiver in Minnesota have cooled me on AP's upside for 2011.

A few more things to look for ... Can Devin Aromashodu beat out Michael Jenkins or Bernard Berrian to emerge as a nice sleeper? ... If DeMarco Murray plays against the Vikes, will we get a glimpse of what his role will be alongside preseason sensation Felix Jones? ... With Percy Harvin (ribs -- expected to play) and Adrian Peterson playing big minutes for the first time this year, will the Vikings offense start to click?

Seattle at Denver, Saturday, 9 p.m. ET

How will the Denver running back position look? So far the Knowshon Moreno/Willis McGahee RBBC looks pretty even, with perhaps a few more touches per week for Moreno and the goal line work for McGahee. Will that trend continue? So far, Moreno has 10 carries for 51 yards, while McGahee has 9 carries for 44 yards and a score. Knoswhon has three catches for 29 yards and McGahee has two for 33 yards and a score. If it stays this even in a full game, Moreno's stock definitely drops to a No. 3 running back, while McGahee will become a great sleeper No. 4 runner for your teams.

Can Tarvaris Jackson get this offense moving or will Seattle have to turn to "The Beard?" Jackson has been dreadful thus far, completing just 14 of his 26 passes for 88 yards and an interception. Meanwhile, Charlie Whitehurst is 28 of 39 for 212 yards and a score. The Hawks have a much improved offensive line and they added Sidney Rice and Zach Miller in the offseason, so this should be a surprisingly good offense. Whoever is the quarterback in Seattle could be a nice sleeper if they play well given the supporting cast, so this is an important battle. It is also important as the values of Rice, Miller, Mike Williams, Golden Tate and Marshawn Lynch are all directly linked to the quarterback spot.

San Diego at Arizona, Saturday, 10 p.m. ET

Can Beanie Wells have the solid game that would make everyone feel comfortable with him as a low end No. 2 running back? Wells has a golden opportunity to show his organization that he is ready to be the team's franchise back following the injury to Ryan Williams. He has done very well in the past when given a bigger workload (check the second half of 2009) and now he will get that week in and week out.

A few more things to look for ... Will Andre Roberts, Early Doucet or tight end Todd Heap really be the second option in the passing game for Kevin Kolb? ... Pay close attention to the split of time between Ryan Matthews and Mike Tolbert again this week. Some in San Diego think that both backs can go over 1,000 yards this year, but I still think Mathews leads in yards and Tolbert leads in scores.

New Orleans at Oakland, Sunday, 8 p.m. ET

How will Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas split up the carries? Will Ingram continue to be the goal line back? So far it is looking like a 50/50 split between Thomas and Ingram, but Ingram will receive the all important goal line carries. Ingram has more upside to me and as long as the workload stays as it has, he is the Saints back to target first on Draft Day.

Will Darren McFadden make his preseason debut? Hopefully we get our first look at McFadden on Sunday night against the Saints. If he does play, the one thing I will be focused on is if Michael Bush comes in at the goal line like he did much of 2010. If so, it puts a little damper on DMC and further establishes Bush as one of the top handcuffs in the game

One more thing to look for ... Will Jimmy Graham and Lance Moore continue to impress or can they slide under the radar one more week for your benefit on Draft Day?

Glossary
Target Conversion Rate or Catch Rate (TCR): The percentage of a player's targets (passes thrown to them) that are converted into receptions. Over 60 percent is excellent, 66 percent is elite and under 52.5 percent is worrisome.
Yards per Target (YPT): A player's receiving yards divided by his targets. In other words, the numbers of yards a team gains on average every time they attempt a pass to a certain player. Over 10 is exceptional, over 8 is solid and 6 or lower is horrendous.
Red Zone Opportunities: A player's total number of pass+rush+targets inside the opponent's 20 yard line
Red Zone TD Rate: The percentage of a player's Red Zone opportunities that result in a TD
Goal Line Opportunities: A player's total number of pass+rush+targets inside the opponent's 5 yard line
Goal Line TD Rate: The percentage of a player's Goal Line opportunities that result in a TD
Consistency Rate: The percentage of quality starts a player gives you out of 16 games. For QBs that is a game with 300+ yards passing OR multiple TDs. For RBs/WRs: A game with 100+ yards rush/rec or a game with a TD. For TEs: A game with 60+ yards receiving or a TD. For a Kicker: A game with multiple FGs.
Big Game Rate: The percentage of dominant starts a player gives you out of 16 games (games missed with injury count as a bad game since they do not help your Fantasy teams). For a QB that is a game with 300+ yards and 2+ TDs or 200+ yards and 3+ TDs. For a RB/WR that is a game with 100+ combined rush/rec yards and a TD or a game with multiple TDs. For a TE that is a game of 60+ yards and a TD, 100+ yards or a game with multiple TDs.

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

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Player News
Chargers' McCoy: Philip Rivers had 'outstanding' practice Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:44 pm ET) Chargers coach Mike McCoy indicated that quarterback Philip Rivers (back, chest) "had an "oustanding day" in Thursday's practice, NFL.com reports.

"A ball did not hit the ground in all the throws he made today," McCoy added. "Philip was Philip, so he'll be ready to roll."

Rivers was a full participant in Thursday's practice after sitting out Tuesday and Wednesday. He should be ready to roll for Saturday's matchup with the 49ers.


Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald progresses to full practice Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:34 pm ET) Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (knee) was a full participant in Thursday's practice after being limited Wednesday, the team announced.

Fitzgerald has racked up 11 receptions in two games since his two-game absence but has managed just 64 yards and no touchdowns during that stretch. He's on track to resume his regular role in his team's Week 16 matchup with the Seahawks.


Cardinals' Kerwynn Williams limited Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:31 pm ET) Cardinals running back Kerwynn Williams (knee) was limited in Thursday's practice, the team announced.

Williams has shared touches with Stepfan Taylor with Andre Ellington out for the season but has amassed 175 rushing yards on 34 carries over the last two weeks. If his knee issue keeps him out Sunday, Taylor and Marion Grice would likely handle most of the touches at the position.


Cardinals QB Drew Stanton (knee) limited in practice Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:27 pm ET) Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton (knee) was a limited participant in practice Thursday, the team announced.

Stanton hurt the knee Sunday against the Rams and appeared destined to miss Week 16's matchup with the Seahawks, but coach Bruce Arians indicated Wednesday that Stanton could play this Sunday in a best-case scenario. Arians did say Wednesday that Ryan Lindley would start against the Seahawks, and he's still the favorite to line up under center, but Stanton's absence isn't a foregone conclusion at this point.


Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch doesn't practice Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:18 pm ET) Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (back) did not practice Thursday, the team announced.

Last week, Lynch was able to take part in practice in a limited fashion Thursday after taking his customary day off Wednesday. This week, he's looking at two DNPs heading into Friday. Lynch was listed as probable in Week 15 but could be facing a questionable tag (or worse) in Week 16. If Lynch isn't able to play Sunday, the Seahawks would likely expand the roles of Robert Turbin and Christine Michael.

Joining Lynch on the sidelines for Thursday's practice were tackle Russel Okung (chest), guard J.R. Sweezy (ankle), center Max Unger (knee/ankle), tight end Tony Moeaki (shoulder), wide receiver Paul Richardson (hamstring) and defensive end Demarcus Dobbs (ankle).


Kendall Wright, Delanie Walker good to go for Titans
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:11 pm ET) The Titans will have both Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker Week 16 against the Jaguars.

Both players came into the game listed as questionable. Wright is dealing with a hand injury. Walker has a knee issue. Both players will attempt to play through their injuries.

The team will also have Byron Stingily and Kamerion Wimbley. Both Stingily and Wimbley were listed as questionable. Daimion Stafford, who came into the contest listed as probable, will also be available. 


Titans list inactives for Week 16
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:07 pm ET) The Titans have listed QB Zach Mettenberger, DB Jemea Thomas, LB Zaviar Gooden, LB Dontay Moch, OT Terren Jones, OT Taylor Lewan and DL Mike Martin as inactive Week 16 against the Jaguars.

Both Mettenberger and Lewan were listed as doubtful heading into the contest. Neither was expected to take the field. Gooden was listed as questionable due to a hamstring injury. The other four players listed are healthy scratches. 


Jaguars' Blake Bortles, Marqise Lee active vs. Titans Week 16
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:02 pm ET) Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (foot) and wide receiver Marqise Lee (elbow) are active for Thursday night's Week 16 matchup with the Titans.

Bortles was listed as questionable to play on the team's final injury report but was reported to be starting earlier Thursday. Lee was listed as probable to play after catching four of his 10 targets for 14 yards in Week 15.

Players who were on the team's final Week 16 injury report who are also active include defensive end Ryan Davis (hip) and safety Josh Evans (foot), both of whom were questionable to suit up Thursday.


Jaguars list Week 16 inactives vs. Titans
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:01 pm ET) The Jaguars listed the following players as inactive for Thursday night's week 16 battle with the Titans: wide receiver Tommy Streeter (abdomen), defensive tackle Roy Miller (knee), defensive end Andre Branch (groin), cornerbacks Teddy Williams and Jeremy Harris, safety Matt Daniels and guard Tyler Shatley.

Streeter and Miller were listed as questionable to play Thursday on the team's final injury report, while Branch was previously ruled out. The Jaguars have three quarterbacks active for the game, including first-stringer Blake Bortles (foot), who was listed as questionable to play.


You'll want to stick with Tre Mason
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(6:31 pm ET) In two games since blowing up for 164 total yards and three touchdowns, Rams running back Tre Mason has a total of 99 yards on 33 carries. Neither performance was good individually, and Week 15 against Arizona was especially bad. Subtract the fumble from his 33 yards, and he scored a grand total of one Fantasy point in standard CBSSports.com leagues.

So why would you consider using him in your championship game with the Rams hosting the Giants in Week 16? For one thing, the matchup is a night-and-day difference. You had to expect Mason to struggle against the Cardinals, who rank sixth against the run, allowing 90.4 yards per game, but would have guessed the Redskins, his Week 14 opponent, rank seventh? It's not a matter of teams choosing to beat them through the air either. They're one of 10 teams that have allowed less than 4 yards per carry.

The Giants, meanwhile, rank 30th against the run, allowing 135.1 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry. It doesn't mean Mason is a lock for big numbers. The Redskins' Alfred Morris, who most would consider a superior running back, had just 49 yards on 14 carries against the Giants last week. But after splitting carries early on, Mason has become the clear workhorse of the Rams backfield. You don't sit a running back with that role when he has a favorable matchup, especially when he's performed as Mason has this season.

Jamey Eisenberg agrees, naming Mason the CBSSports.com Start of the Week for Week 16.


 
 
 
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