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2011 Draft Prep: Hedging your bets on Mendenhall

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Rashard Mendenhall is going to be good this year. He's just not going to be great. And if you have the chance to draft Isaac Redman with a late-round pick, you should plan on doing so.

Back in February, when the Steelers were set to play the Packers in Super Bowl XLV, I researched running backs who make it all the way to the final game of the season. You can see the results of that research with the interactive visualization below, and it could be a long year for Mendenhall.

The prediction here is he will struggle in 2011.

You see, running backs who played in the Super Bowl the past five seasons haven't exactly fared well the next year. The Packers don't have anything to worry about since they used a backfield by committee following Ryan Grant's ankle injury in Week 1, but Mendenhall could suffer a breakdown. And the reason could be his workload from 2010.

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Over the past five years there were 25 running backs who were significant contributors in helping their teams reach the Super Bowl. Of those 25, 12 saw a decrease in Fantasy points the following season and two did not play again (Jerome Bettis and Reuben Droughns).

In looking at the 10 starters, seven saw a decrease in Fantasy points the following season (Pierre Thomas, Joseph Addai, Willie Parker, Edgerrin James, Laurence Maroney, Thomas Jones and Shaun Alexander). And five suffered significant injuries (Thomas, Reggie Bush, Addai, Maroney and Alexander). Four of the running backs who saw an increase in Fantasy points the following season were injury replacements (Donald Brown, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and Maurice Morris).

The biggest reason for Super Bowl running backs seeing a decrease in production the next year is likely wear and tear. On top of all their carries during the regular season, they get as many as four games worth of additional touches. There were 11 running backs who played in the Super Bowl over the past five seasons that had at least 50 touches in the postseason. For Alexander, he had 370 carries in the regular season in 2005 and then 60 carries in the playoffs. No wonder he couldn't make it through 2006.

Mendenhall had 412 touches last year (385 carries and 27 catches) over 19 games, including 61 carries and four catches in the playoffs. Since he runs between the tackles and thrives on contact, that kind of workload catches up to running backs quickly.

Now, in his defense, he's only 24 and has just two years of work as a starter under his belt, so his body hasn't been beaten up too much in his career. The NFL lockout also helped him with a lack of work in the offseason. He has a favorable schedule this year and the Steelers will feature him at the goal line. He had 1,273 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns last year in the regular season.

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But if you look at Mendenhall's overall body of work from last year, it can be a little deceiving. He had just four games with more than 100 rushing yards, and two of them came when Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL's code of conduct policy.

Keep in mind that he had seven games with at least 22 carries and 11 games with at least 18 carries, so the Steelers tried to force feed him the ball. And if you look at his stats with Roethlisberger and without, he averaged 102.8 rush yards when his starting quarterback was suspended and just 72.8 in the 15 games when Roethlisberger was active, including the postseason.

The Steelers also continue to open up the passing game – Roethlisberger has averaged at least 32 pass attempts a game in each of the past two seasons – and they have a dynamic receiving corps with Mike Wallace, Hines Ward and Antonio Brown. The more they throw, the less likely Mendenhall is to rack up stats.

When looking at Mendenhall on Draft Day – he's being drafted at No. 16 overall (Round 2) as the No. 9 running back – he should be taken as a starter because for stretches of the season he will play well. A good comparison is Michael Turner from 2009. He had a heavy workload with 376 carries in 2008, but in 2009 he suffered an ankle injury and played in just 11 games. He still managed 871 yards and 10 touchdowns.

We can definitely see Mendenhall having plenty of positive moments, but there could also be a time where he's resting or out, based on Super Bowl history. And that's where Redman comes in.

If you can draft him with a late-round pick – his Average Draft Position is No. 158 overall (Round 13) – you could be getting a sleeper with plenty of upside. Because if Mendenhall struggles as previous running backs who played in the Super Bowl have recently, then the backup for the Steelers could be a great Fantasy running back this year.

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 and on Facebook .

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Player News
Report: Bears re-sign QB Jimmy Clausen
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:06 pm ET) The Bears have re-signed quarterback Jimmy Clausen on Friday, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

New Bears coach John Fox drafted Clausen in 2010 when he was in charge of the Panthers. The new Chicago front office are reportedly uncertain of Jay Cutler's future with the club, so Clausen's role with the team remains to be seen.

Clausen, 27, got the start over Cutler in Week 16 before suffering a concussion. He completed 23 of 39 passes for 181 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, and was unable to play the season finale.


Lions lock up kicker Matt Prater to three-year deal
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:59 am ET) The Lions have signed kicker Matt Prater to a three-year deal on Friday, per the team's official website. Terms of the deal were not made public.

Prater was signed to a one-year deal after being cut by the Broncos on Oct. 3. He converted 21 of 26 field goals in 11 games for the Lions in 2014. Prater noted in January that he would like to return to Detroit in 2015, and now his wish has come to fruition.


Percy Harvin's days with the Jets are numbered
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:55 am ET) With Brandon Marshall reportedly traded to the Jets, it appears as if Percy Harvin's days in New York are numbered. According to CBSSports.com NFL Insider Jason la Canfora, the Jets are expected to part ways with Harvin.

Harvin, who reportedly refused a reduction in his 2015 salary, was slated to make $10.5 million next season. The 26-year-old Harvin hauled in 29 passes for 350 yards after joining New York in the middle of the 2014 season. The Jets traded a fifth-round pick for Marshall, and will owe Seattle a sixth-round selection if they cut ties with Harvin.


Bears agree to trade WR Brandon Marshall to the Jets
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:13 am ET) The Brandon Marshall era in Chicago has come to an end.

After it was reported earlier in the week that the Bears were shopping the veteran wide receiver, Chicago finally decided to move the embattled wideout. They agreed to trade Marshall to the Jets for a fifth-round draft pick on Friday, according to CBSSports.com NFL Insider Jason La Canfora. The move is pending a physical.

Marshall, 30, grabbed 61 receptions for 721 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games during the 2014 season. he has 773 career receptions, which is the most by any active platyer without a playoff apeparance. He is due to make $7.7 million in 2015 and is under contract through 2017.

He will be reunited with new Jets coach Todd Bowles, who was the assistant coach of Miami 2010-11 when Marshall was a member of the Dolphins.


Report: Dolphins confident they will land DT Ndamukong Suh
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(10:56 am ET) The Dolphins will be calling Jimmy Sexton to discuss their interest in signing Ndamukong Suh once free agency begins. According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins remain confident about their chances of landing Suh.

The impending free agent is scheduled to visit the Raiders next week. Outside of Miami and Oakland, the Colts, Jaguars, Giants, Redskins and the Lions have all reportedly expressed interested in Suh. According to Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel earlier this week, owner Steve Ross may be prepared to make a high bid on Suh, who could sign the largest deal by a non-quarterback in NFL history. Kelly noted that rival executives believe that Suh to Miami is a "done deal."

Suh is coming off a contract that paid him over $12 million annually, and will likely command a $100-plus contract once he hits the open market. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft completed his fifth season in the NFL with the Lions. He has totaled 181 tackles, 36 sacks and one interception in his career.


Report: Saints restructure Marques Colston's contract
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:40 am ET) It appears as if Marques Colston will be staying put with the Saints. According to Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, Colston has reportedly restructured his contract for the 2015 season.

Details of his restructured contract were not made public. Colston was set to make $6.9 million and count $9.7 million against the cap in 2015. Last season he caught 59 passes for 902 yards.


Colts won't re-sign veteran WR Reggie Wayne
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(10:34 am ET) The Colts announced Friday that they will not re-sign veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne, making him a free agent come Tuesday, per the team's official website. Wayne, who will turn 37 in November, had triceps surgery last week and may still be mulling retirement.

"It will allow (Reggie) to seek a better opportunity for playing time elsewhere if he so chooses," team owner Jim Irsay said in a statement.

Wayne played in 15 regular season games for the Colts in 2014, totaling 779 yards on 64 catches with two touchdowns. He has caught 1,070 passes in 14 seasons in Indianapolis.


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(9:54 am ET) Drew Rosenhaus, Brian Hartline's agent, made an appearance on WQAM radio in Miami and revealed that the Dolphins, Chiefs, Browns and Texans are all among the options for Hartline, per ESPN.

In a move to save cap space, Hartline was cut by the Dolphins last week. He visited the Browns on Tuesday, the Bears on Wednesday and the Texans on Thursday. The Patriots are also reportedly interested in his services, though Rosenhaus did not mention them. The 28-year-old has never caught more than four touchdowns in a season.


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(9:47 am ET) Brian Orakpo made an appearance on NFL Network on Friday, and revealed that he'd be open to playing for the Cowboys or Texans -- the teams in his home state of Texas, according to the Washington Post.

Orakpo, 28, was not franchise tagged by the Redskins, and is set to hit the open market on Tuesday if Washington fails to sign him. He said that talks between his camp and the Redskins are "minimal," though he believes a deal can be struck in time if the numbers are right, per ESPN.

"I hope those guys can turn it around and win for those fans and that whole market because it's great for football," Orakpo said.


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(9:26 am ET) The Bengals extended a second-round tender to restricted free agent linebacker Emmanuel Lamur, according to ESPN's Field Yates. He will make $2.356 million next year with the Bengals in 2015, unless a team offers a second-round pick.

Lamur, 25, racked up 91 tackles and picked off two passes last season. He has posted 110 tackles in two seasons in the NFL.


 
 
 
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