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2011 Draft Prep: Best will be among the best

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Everyone is excited about the Lions this year and for obvious reasons. Their franchise quarterback, Matthew Stafford, looks poised for a big season, and the defense could be a force behind Ndamukong Suh.

But for as much optimism as there is for Stafford and the offense, CBS analyst Steve Beuerlein said the Lions will only go as far as their running game. And that's where Jahvid Best comes in.

He has the potential to help the Lions become a respectable team this year and possibly a playoff contender. And if he plays to his ability then he will be a standout Fantasy option, which is something we expect to happen.

The prediction here is Best will be a Top 15 Fantasy running back in 2011. There is too much talent to overlook even with some potential red flags.

If you go back to last year, Best was the No. 1 Fantasy rookie rusher ahead of LeGarrette Blount, Ryan Mathews and C.J. Spiller. He finished as the No. 23 Fantasy running back overall in standard leagues.

But Best didn't have the best rookie campaign. He struggled with turf toe for most of the season and finished with 171 carries for 555 yards and four touchdowns and 58 catches for 487 yards and two touchdowns.

Taking a further look, Best averaged just 3.2 yards per carry, had zero 100-yard rushing games and went 13 games in a row without a rushing touchdown. I'm going to chalk up the negative performances to the turf toe, which he sustained in Week 3 at Minnesota.

In his first two games, Best had 268 total yards and five touchdowns, and that's the running back I expect to see this year. The Lions have no other choice but to rely on him, and he feels healthy with his toe and following a concussion he sustained in the preseason.

Detroit didn't want to be all in on Best. The Lions drafted rookie Mikel Leshoure to split carries, but Leshoure is out for the season after suffering a ruptured Achilles' tendon. Now, Best will carry a heavy load.

He isn't going to be a dominant runner between the tackles, but he doesn't have to be. His receiving skills will definitely be on display, and his ability to catch passes out of the backfield will help offset any deficiencies on Detroit's offensive line.

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Best had 80 targets last season, which was No. 4 among running backs behind LeSean McCoy (90 targets), Arian Foster (84) and Ray Rice (82). Best's targets should rise, and he had six games in 2010 with at least five catches. He should be viewed as a similar talent to McCoy, and Best should be excellent in leagues where receptions count.

My projections for Best are 188 carries for 904 yards and five touchdowns and 52 catches for 403 yards and three touchdowns. That comes out to 178 Fantasy points, and last year that would put him as the No. 14 running back in standard leagues.

Look, I can understand why you'd be skeptical of Best in standard Fantasy leagues. There's injury risk following the toe injury last year and the concussion history (he also had one in college at Cal). But an NFL talent scout once told me you should "not let injury confuse you as to who the player is." And Best is a special player.

His Average Draft Position is the No. 20 running back at No. 48 overall in Round 4, and here's a strategy you can use with Best on Draft Day. It's an approach I've used several times.

If you're picking toward the end of Round 1 and have the chance at two of the Top 3 wide receivers in Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson or Roddy White then you should take them with your first two picks. Then when it comes back to you in Round 3 and 4 you need to get two good running backs with upside.

You'll be looking at a group of Shonn Greene, DeAngelo Williams, Knowshon Moreno, Best, Felix Jones or Mark Ingram based on their ADP. I usually target two out of Greene, Best, Jones or Ingram. Then in Round 5, you can look at another running back to cover yourself like Beanie Wells, Mike Tolbert or Tim Hightower and still get a quarterback in Round 6 like Ben Roethlisberger, Josh Freeman or Matthew Stafford.

In Round 7 you can look at tight end with Kellen Winslow, Jimmy Graham or Greg Olsen. And in Round 8 you can get your No. 3 receiver in Julio Jones, Kenny Britt or Santana Moss.

I'd be happy with a core lineup of Roethlisberger at quarterback, Greene, Best and Hightower at running back, Calvin Johnson, White and Moss at wide receiver and Graham at tight end. And Best is someone I would start in Week 1 at Tampa Bay with confidence.

If he stays healthy, Best will post quality stats this season. And by the end of the year he will be a Top 15 Fantasy running back.

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
John Conner, aka 'The Terminator,' re-signs with Jets
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:51 am ET) The Jets signed fullback John Conner to a one-year deal, reports Yahoo Sports. He played for the team in 2010-11 before stints with the Bengals and Giants.

Jets coach Rex Ryan nicknamed the 5-11, 245-pounder "The Terminator" on HBO's "Hard Knocks" in 2010.


Dwayne Bowe's performance doesn't move needle
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:45 am ET) Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe turned in his best game of the season Week 4 against New England, catching five passes for 81 yards.

But a big reason for it was he happened to catch a long one -- a 33-yarder in the second quarter. He still got only six targets, or what he averaged through his first two games. Unless you think he's no longer the possession receiver he's proven to be the last few years or that the Chiefs will for some reason shy away from the rushing attack that piled up 207 yards against the Patriots, these performances for Bowe figure to be few and far between.

To put it another way, he's not enough of a big-play threat to make good on so few targets.

Some people may see this relatively decent performance, remember that Bowe used to be a pretty good Fantasy option and make a play for him on the waiver wire. Some people are not me.


Lions down to two healthy running backs
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:42 am ET) The Lions might need to promote running back George Winn from the practice squad or sign a free agent because they currently have two healthy running backs, Reggie Bush and fullback Jed Collins, reports the Detroit Free Press. Joique Bell is recovering from a concussion, while Theo Riddick and Montell Owens are dealing with pulled hamstrings.

All three were knocked out of Sunday's win over the Jets. Lions coach Jim Caldwell has not provided any updates on the injured trio. Detroit hosts Buffalo in Week 5.

Niles Paul sidelined with concussion
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:31 am ET) Redskins tight end Niles Paul was unable to practice Monday as he continues to recover from a concussion suffered last Thursday against the Giants. He did some light jogging on the side, reports CSNWashington.com.

Alex Smith's production linked to Jamaal Charles'
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:20 am ET) Even with star running back Jamaal Charles on the mend (though he looked good in his return Monday night), the Chiefs offense has picked it up the last two weeks with back-to-back 30-point outbursts -- and surprisingly, against two defenses that currently rank in the top 10, Miami and New England.

Quarterback Alex Smith has been either one of the beneficiaries or one the facilitators of the turnaround, throwing three touchdown passes in back-to-back games. It's reminiscent of last season, when he had nine games with multiple touchdown passes in leading the Chiefs to an 11-5 record. Of course, he had zero touchdown passes in the other seven games.

Back in the fold, Charles figures to take the leading role in the Chiefs offense and did so in Week 4, scoring three of their five touchdowns. It's just that two happened to come through the air, benefiting Smith as well.

That's part of Charles' game, catching the ball, so it's not the last time we'll see Smith benefit from his ability. But you'd think more often than not, his scores will come on the ground.

It all adds up to Smith being little more than a bye-week replacement in Fantasy. He'll have some big games like the last two weeks just because the Chiefs have the ability to score, but the presence of Charles will make him boom-or-bust every time out.


Chiefs dominate Patriots in Monday night win
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:19 am ET) The Chiefs took advantage of another subpar showing by the Patriots offense in Week 4, in a 41-14 win Monday.

 The Chiefs DST unit put together a huge performance, highlighted by a 39-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. They forced three turnovers overall, while limiting the Patriots to just 290 yards and two touchdowns, one coming in garbage time. The Patriots also managed just 290 yards of offense, while the Chiefs racked up three sacks.

The Chiefs DST unit has dominated over the last two weeks, allowing just three offensive touchdowns. They face a tougher test in Week 5, with the 49ers on the way. 


Bengals optimistic about Vontaze Burfict's availability
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:19 am ET) Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said he expects linebacker Vontaze Burfict to practice this week ahead of Sunday night's visit to New England. Burfict suffered concussions in each of the first two games before sitting out Week 3.

Cincinnati had a Week 4 bye. Burfict did not practice Monday as he remained in the league's concussion protocol.


Conditioning key for Ace Sanders
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:14 am ET) Jaguars receiver and punt returner Ace Sanders is back from his four-game suspension, but the team won't decide until Friday if he'll suit up Week 5 against Pittsburgh.

"He's fired up," coach Gus Bradley told the Florida Times-Union. "He's excited. You can only imagine. ... I think it's important to see where he's at and his conditioning. It would be great to get him back here not only on offense, but on punt returns as well."


Patriots unravel in blowout loss
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:12 am ET) The Patriots defense came apart in Week 4, during a 41-14 loss to the Chiefs Monday.

The Chiefs offense dropped 30-plus points for the second game in a row, and the Patriots defense provided little resistance. The Chiefs racked up 443 yards on 66 plays, including 207 on the ground, and the Patriots failed to make any big pays. New England's DST unit ended up forcing no turnovers, while finishing the game with just two sacks.

The defense had been a positive for the Patriots in recent weeks, as they allowed just 16 points in their previous two games. They might struggle to get back on track in Week 5, however, with the Bengals on the schedule. 


Ben Tate returns to practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:08 am ET) Browns running back Ben Tate is practicing for the first time since Sept. 5, reports the Associated Press. The bye week helped Tate recover from his sprained knee, and he's expected to play Sunday at Tennessee.

 
 
 
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