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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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Saints chop way down to mandated 53
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:36 pm ET) The Saints have knocked their roster down to 53 by waiving a number of players Saturday.

Among the offense players let go are center Matt Armstrong, wide receivers Seantavius Jones , Brandon Coleman and Charles Hawkins, tight end Nic Jacobs, guards Jason Weaver and Marcel Jones, tackles Tavon Rooks and Thomas Welch and running backs Greg Jones and Derrick Strozier.

The defenders cut loose are cornerbacks Trevin Wade, Terrence Frederick and Derrius Brooks, linebackers Keyunta Dawson and Todd Davis, tackle Lawrence Virgil, safety Pierre Warren.

Placekickers Shayne Graham and Derek Dimke are also out.


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by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:57 pm ET) The Colts have pared down their roster to 53 on Saturday by cutting 17 players and making other moves.

The offensive players on the list are running back David Fluellen, quarterback Chandler Harnish, wide receivers Ryan Lankford and Josh Lenz, center FN Lutz, tight ends Weslye Saunders and Erik Swoope and guard Josh Walker.

The defensive players let go by Indianapolis are ends Gannon Conway and Tyler Hoover, linebackers Rob Ruggiero, Kelvin Sheppard, Phillip Hunt and Andrew Jackson, safety Dewey McDonald, tackles Brandon McKinney and Nnamdi Obukwelu and cornerback Sheldon Price.

The Colts waived/injured tackle Matt Hall and safety Delano Howell and placed linebacker Robert Mathis on the reserve/suspended list.


Bengals make flurry of moves Saturday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:46 pm ET) The Bengals made a slew of moves Saturday to pare their roster down to the required 53 for the regular season.

Among those moves was the placement of guard Trey Hopkins on the reserve/injured list with a leg issue. Rookie quarterback AJ McCarron was put on the reserve/non-football injury list with a shoulder problem.

The Bengals also cut the following offensive players: tackles Dan France and Will Svitek, wide receivers Colin Lockett and Cobi Hamilton, center Trevor Robinson and running backs James Wilder and Nikita Whitlock.

Defenders waived by the Bengals include safety Danieal Manning, cornerbacks Onterio McCalebb and Victor Hampton, tackles Devon Still and David King and ends Sam Montgomery and Dontay Moch.

Cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris will begin serving a two-game drug suspension handed dowsn by the league.


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(3:34 pm ET) Free safety Delano Howell has been waived/injured list by the Colts.

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