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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
Bengals' Jeremy Hill expects balance attack with Giovani Bernard
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(10:20 am ET) The Bengals have weapons at the running back position. With Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, the team has a pair of more than capable rushers at its disposal.

It seems as if the Bengals are going to use both of them as much as possible, per ESPN.com.

"Obviously there's going to be a balanced attack," Hill said. "I don't think he's got to wear either one of us out, so that way we can make it through all 16 games for a playoff push."

Hill rushed for 1,124 yards and nine touchdowns last season as a rookie, while injuries limited Bernard to 680 yards and five touchdowns. The duo plans on coming back even stronger next season.

"We want to lift ourselves to the next level and earn the respect of this league," Hill said. "We have the guys in the [running back] room to do that."


Giants QB Eli Manning is expecting best pro season next year
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(10:06 am ET) Giants quarterback Eli Manning is an accomplished 11-year veteran. There isn't much for the two-time Super Bowl MVP to prove, except that he will have his best season ever as a pro next year, according to NFL.com.

"I am," Manning said when asked if he was expecting his best season ever. "I like the guys we have in the locker room, I like our talent, I like how everybody's approaching this season, I'm looking forward to it."

Manning will certainly have the weapons at his disposal for a fantastic season. Wide receiver Odell Beckham, the 2014 Offensive Rookie of the Year, is as talented a player there is. A healthy Victor Cruz will scare opposing defenses. And Rueben Randle has improved every season in the league. 

"I think he can have a dominant season," Cruz said. "I think that with the type of offense we have, and the way that we all can click come September and all that good stuff, I think it's gonna make for a very, very dominant type of offense where we could go and put up 28, 35 points at a clip, and really do some fun things this year."

Manning will have to try to eclipse last season's performance, when he threw for 4,410 yards and 30 touchdowns.


Packers QB Rodgers could have more control after play-calling change
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(9:44 am ET) Aaron Rodgers was at the helm of the league's highest-scoring offense last season, and he could now have even more control of that offense this season, per ESPN.com.

Rodgers, who won the his second NFL MVP award while helping the Packers score 30.4 points per game, will probably be more involved in every facet of the offense this year -- including some play-calling.

"He has," Packers quarterbacks coach, Alex Van Pelt, said when asked if Rodgers could call plays. "He could. Sure. Definitely."

The official play-calling duties are in the hands of associate head coach Tome Clements, after coach Mike McCarthy passed them down before last season. The switch is what can give Rodgers more freedom than ever when it comes to the play selection.

"I've always had a lot of freedom," Rodgers said. "It's just occasionally the personnel groupings restricts some of the checks you can make. But that's kind of a natural progression for a quarterback who's been in a system for a long time, if they can handle it to do more things. I have always liked a good starting point for a play, and then have the ability to get us in a better play if you can do it quickly and it’s clean."

Rodgers passed for 4,381 yards and 38 touchdowns in 16 games last season.


Falcons DT Jackson hires personal chef to lose weight, fit into defense
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(9:27 am ET) Falcons defensive tackle Tyson Jackson can sit back and relax after signing a five-year, $25 million deal with the team last season, but he's showing more dedication than ever.

Jackson, who currently weighs 318 pounds, hired a personal chef with the goal of slimming down to 305 pounds, per ESPN.com.

"I just started recently, and constantly, week by week, I want to trim down," Jackson said. "I got my personal chef at the end of March. I know Matt Ryan used her, and a couple Falcons in the past have used her, too."

Jackson wants to slime down because the Falcons' defensive schemes will be much different this year. Last season he was encouraged to be as big as possible because the team pictured him as a run-stuffer. This year's defense is a more complex version of last season's 4-3 scheme and it incorporates a lot of 3-4 principles, so Jackson's big frame isn't an ideal fit.

"Playing this 4-3 style of defense, there's no reason to be heavy because you're not two-gapping no more," Jackson said. "Everything is ball, key and get-off. So, that's pretty much the reason for [losing weight]."

Jackson started all 16 games for the Falcons last year and recorded 22 tackles.


Texans' Louis Nix 'trying to move forward' in sophomore season
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) Texans nose tackle Louis Nix spoke about his lost rookie season this week in OTAs, the Houston Chronicle reports.

"A lot went on my first year here. It was a lot to deal with," said Nix, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery during the preseason and eventually was placed on season-ending injured reserve. "It was difficult to maintain it with all the issues. But I'm happy about now, and that's what I'm worried about. I'm just trying to move forward and do the best I can."

Coach Bill O'Brien expressed frustration with Nix earlier this offseason.

"Bill is Bill. He challenges everybody," Nix said. "Sometimes you guys make it more than what it is. … He wants guys to be better. I take no offense to it. I know he just wants me to be the best player that I can be. He sees potential, and I see it in myself. I'm starting to get back in a groove of things. I'm just going to keep trying to do the best I can."

Nix is finally healthy and working his way into game shape.

"Make it through a practice, man," Nix said. "That's my goal."


Eagles' Earl Wolff, Marcus Smith limited in OTAs with injuries
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) Eagles safety Earl Wolff and linebacker Marcus Smith were limited in OTAs with injuries, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Wolff is recovering from knee surgery. Coach Chip Kelly said the safety has been cleared to return, and the team is waiting for him to reach full participation in OTAs. Smith has been dealing with a pulled leg muscle.


Packers' Casey Hayward dealing with foot injury
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) Packers cornerback Casey Hayward is dealing with a foot injury and doesn't expect to return to action until training camp, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

"I’ll probably take it easy into camp right now," Hayward said. "I have a minor foot thing right now. We’ll probably take it easy into camp."

Hayward said the foot "flared up" on him earlier in the offseason. He finished with 42 tackles and three interceptions last season.


Ravens' Terrence Brooks running, 'doing really well'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) Ravens free safety Terrence Brooks is running after suffering ACL and MCL tears in his right knee in December, the Baltimore Sun reports.

"Terrence Brooks is doing really well," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "No predictions right now, but he looks good. He has worked hard."

Brooks is expected to open the season on the PUP list and could make his return this season.

"We're just hoping for the best, trying to get back as soon as possible," Brooks said. "We're taking precautious. We definitely don't want to rush back too fast. If you do get cleared, playing this year is definitely a goal. You don't want to rush it. For the most part, you have to be cautious and take it easy. After we get off of the PUP list, we'll see where we're at. I definitely want to get back into it, but we're taking our time. I have high hopes of being ready."


Report: OT Jake Long visits Giants Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) Free-agent offensive tackle Jake Long visited the Giants on Thursday, ESPN reports.

The Giants are having to shuffle their offensive line with Will Beatty expected to miss the first part of the season with a pec injury. Long was scheduled to make $9.25 million in 2015 but was released by the Rams in March.


Saints CB Brandon Browner impressing teammates, coach
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) New Saints cornerback Brandon Browner is having a positive impact on not just the secondary, but the entire defense. At least that's the view of defensive backfield mate Kenny Vaccaro.

"Browner's a good dude, leads by example, talks when he needs to talk," Vaccaro told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "He's real serious, kind of keeps everybody level headed and knows what we've got to work for. He's won two Super Bowls, so he knows what to do."

Sean Payton echoed those sentiments.

"He's competitive," he said. "He's driven and certainly one of the things we talked about this offseason through the draft, through the acquisition of players is the makeup and making sure that this is something we felt like was a plus and certainly with him we feel that that is a strength of his."

The Saints are Browner's fourth team in six seasons in the NFL.


 
 
 
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