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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
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham to avoid surgery on shoulder
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:34 pm ET) Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he will avoid surgery on his shoulder after testing it at the Pro Bowl. 

"I’ve been doing rehab and I’m going to start back on my rehab Monday and really there’s going to be no surgery," Graham told SiriusXM radio. "I’m just going to do rehab, strengthen the area. That’s what’s best — not having to take six months off and try to heal up with a surgery, but now have those six months to work on all things I need to to try and hopefully get to a place like (the Super Bowl) next year."

Graham, who had 85 catches for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014, fought off the injury for most of the season. He was still unsure about having surgery before the Pro Bowl last week.

"It was something that really needed some rest and unfortunately it wasn’t able to get that during the season," he said. "It happened early and then you have about 10 straight weeks of trying to make it to the game. Now after having about three or four weeks and last week kind of testing it at the Pro Bowl, it feels great."


Vikings' Greg Jennings: We all want Adrian Peterson back
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:26 pm ET) Vikings veteran wideout Greg Jennings said during a SiriusXM NFL Radio interview on Friday that embattled running back Adrian Peterson is wanted back by everyone in the organization, per ESPN.

"I don't know if he'll be back. I can't answer that question," Jennings said. "But what I do know is that if he does come back, he'd be accepted with open arms. As an organization from the Wilfs on down, we all want him back. So, I mean, it's a touchy subject and he's been the franchise player -- face of that team -- for eight years. So it will be a loss, a huge loss, if we can't get him back, and that's the nature of this business."

In November, Peterson was suspended by the league without pay for the rest of the season, making him ineligible for reinstatement until at least April 15. The move came after Peterson pleaded no contest to recklessly injuring his 4-year-old son last May. He is under contract with the Vikings for next season, and is set to earn $12.75 million.

It's unclear at this point if Jennings has talked to Zygi and Mark Wilf about the Peterson situation. What is clear is that the team is not allowed to communicate with Peterson during his suspension.


Eagles' Maclin believes contract will take care of itself
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:08 pm ET) Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin believes he will be back in Philadelphia in next season. His representatives and the Eagles are in the process of negotiating a new contract for the 27-year-old, who will become a free agent in March unless he is re-signed.

"I'm excited about what the future holds," Maclin said on Friday. "Once again, both sides have made it known what we want to do. I think it will take care of itself."

He could be franchise tagged if a deal is not signed. The tag number for wide receivers is yet to be determined.

Maclin had 85 catches in 2014 for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns in Philadelphia.


Bears sign LB DeDe Lattimore to two-year contract extension
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:03 pm ET) The Bears have signed linebacker DeDe Lattimore to a two-year contract extension. He appeared in 10 games as a rookie in 2014, recording five special teams tackles.

Jaguars' Khan 'very optimistic' about WR Blackmon being reinstated
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:46 pm ET) Jaguars owner Shahid Khan said Friday he is "very optimistic" about wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who missed the 2014 season after being suspended indefinitely for a third violation of the league's substance abuse policy, being reinstated to the NFL.

"I think he's paid his dues and I think he's got his life together," Khan said, per The Florida Times-Union.


NFLPA president Eric Winston: New conduct policy 'violates CBA'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:43 pm ET) After the union field a grievance last week against the NFL over changes to the NFL personal conduct policy, Players Association president Eric Winston said Thursday the new policy "violates the CBA in several ways and we're going to be grieving this as far as we can."

NFL owners unanimously approved the changes in December.

"We have an agreement with the league and they have an agreement with us," Winston said, per the Associated Press. "We're going to hold them to that agreement. Many aspects of this policy fall outside of the CBA and we're going to continue fighting it going forward."

Following former Ravens running back Ray Rice's domestic violence case and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's child abuse case, a more extensive list of prohibited conduct was included in the policy, as well as criteria for paid leave for anyone charged with a violent crime. A suspension of six games without pay for violations involving assault, sexual assault, battery, domestic violence, child abuse and other forms of family violence will be in effect.

"The league's revised conduct policy was the product of a tremendous amount of analysis and work and is based on input from a broad and diverse group of experts within and outside of football, including current players, former players, and the NFL Players Association," the league said in a statement last week.

"We and the public firmly believe that all NFL personnel should be held accountable to a stronger, more effective conduct policy. Clearly, the union does not share that belief."


Eric Decker 'pushing' for Demaryius Thomas to sign with Jets
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:38 pm ET) Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is set to become a free agent in March, unless he agrees to a contract extension or Denver uses the franchise tag on him. If he does become a free agent, former teammate Eric Decker hopes Thomas would consider joining him on the Jets roster.

Decker spent a few days in Arizona this week with Thomas filming a commercial.

“I’ve been pushing for the entire year now,” Decker said in a telephone interview with The New York Post. “It was just another opportunity to talk to him about it. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. I think it would be tough for Denver to let him go. So whether they franchise-tag him here in the next month or give him a long-term deal, he’s just one of those premier players in this league.

"If he happens to make it to free agency, I would love to sign him because playing alongside him for four years and especially the last two years made it a lot of fun and made it a lot easier. He’s just one of the great players in this league.”

Thomas recorded a career-best 1,619 receiving yards in 2014. It was his third straight season of 1,000-plus receiving yards. He also had at least 10 touchdowns for a third straight season.


49ers CEO York: 'Defenses are not going to want to play against us'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:32 pm ET) 49ers CEO Jed York confirmed the promotion of quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst to offensive coordinator during an interview with NFL Network on Friday. York is particularly excited about Chryst, who has been the quarterbacks coach since 2011, continuing to work with quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

“With Kap, you got a guy in Geep Chryst who knows him better than anybody else,” York said, per CSNBayArea.com. “You have a great guy in (quarterbacks coach) Steve Logan who is coming to come in to work with him on fundamentals and allow us to put together a system that’s going to put Kap in the best position to make plays.

“How many quarterbacks in this league can run 90 yards for a touchdown? I can’t think of many. But you have to put Kap in a position where he can make those plays. And put Kap in a position where we can run the ball (and) we can throw the ball in ways that allow him to be successful and let him be the absolute stud that he can be on the field. And I think that’s what you’re going to see from us next year. Defenses are not going to want to play against us because you’re not going to know where we’re going to hit you.”


Bears' Bennett: Trestman will be 'excellent coordinator' for Ravens
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:34 pm ET) Marc Trestman lasted only two seasons as the Bears coach before losing his job. Bears tight end Martellus Bennett said on NFL Network on Friday that Trestman's demise in Chicago was plagued by his inability to control a locker room full of personalities.

"Trestman, I think, first off, the issue that he had, probably, was managing us all, all the different personalities," Bennett said. "There's a lot of big personalities (in the locker room). And I think, for a first-time head coach in the NFL, dealing with all the personalities that you have, I think that's hard when you got guys like me, you know, (Brandon) Marshall ... Lance Briggs on defense, (Charles) Tillman.

"There's so many guys with such outgoing personalities that managing those guys and bringing them all together is what a leader needs to do, you know? And that's one of the toughest things."

Although Trestman was fired in late December, he wasn't out of work for long, landing the job as the Ravens offensive coordinator after Gary Kubiak left to become the Broncos coach. Bennett believes Trestman will have success in his new role.

"Calling plays, he was excellent," Bennett said. "I think he's going to be an excellent coordinator for the Ravens.  Strategically, he was great. But on the field, guys just weren't executing.

"A lot of it comes back to the player preparation. If you're not preparing to a high level, then the coaches can only do so much; the game's not played on paper, it's played on grass. On paper, we look great. On grass, we looked bad."


Marijuana charges dropped against LeGarrette Blount in Pennsylvania
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:10 pm ET) Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount will not face charges for marijuana possession in Pennsylvania, Blount’s attorney said Friday.

Blount and Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell were pulled over and arrested for pot possession in August, a day before a preseason game. Blount satisfied his penalty by working community service in Boston. He will not have to appear in court in Pittsburgh next week. 


 
 
 
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