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2011 Draft Prep: Miles is the man in Dallas

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Tony Romo is a lucky man, and we're not talking about some of the women he's dated or his golf game. Romo and the Cowboys have the best receiving corps in the NFL.

It's a nice luxury to drop back and see Miles Austin on one side, Dez Bryant on the other and Jason Witten running down the middle of the field. His receiving corps is a big reason why Romo has the chance to post outstanding stats this season, which makes him a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback in all leagues.

"We do good things," Bryant said in an interview with CBSSports.com. "I feel like we're the best at what we do. We're striving for the best."

But who is the best Fantasy receiver for the Cowboys? And do you draft Austin first in Round 3 based on his Average Draft Position or wait for Bryant two rounds later in Round 5?

We'll take Witten out of the discussion since he's an elite tight end, but Fantasy owners want to know how to approach drafting Austin and Bryant this year. The prediction here is Austin will remain the better Fantasy receiver in 2011.

This isn't a knock on Bryant. He enters this season ready for a breakout campaign after the way he played as a rookie last year. Bryant had 45 catches for 561 yards and six touchdowns despite missing the final four games of the season with a broken leg.

We consider Bryant an excellent No. 2 Fantasy receiver, and he should be drafted in Round 5 with confidence. He is even saying all the right things leading up to the start of the regular season, and he said he is 100 percent healthy following last year's season-ending injury.

"I'm fired up," Bryant said. "I'm ready to go. Everything is in place. I feel like I'm doing a good job. I'm going to keep doing a good job."

Austin is coming off somewhat of a disappointing season in 2010 despite catching 69 passes for 1,041 yards and seven touchdowns. Fantasy owners expected more from him after his breakout year in 2009 when he had 81 catches for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The reason we like Austin better than Bryant is the rapport he has with Romo. Once Romo went down last year with a shoulder injury in Week 7, Austin's stats started to decline.

He opened the season with 35 catches for 524 yards and two touchdowns in the five games before Romo was injured. If you project those stats over a full year then Austin would have finished with 112 catches for 1,677 yards and seven touchdowns.

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Bryant also didn't get going until Romo went down. Bryant only had 18 catches for 211 yards and one touchdown in five games with Romo, and the bulk of his production came with Jon Kitna as the starter.

Bryant said he has spent time working on his rapport with Romo, and he feels the two are on the same page. He knows he might not get to the level of trust Romo has with Austin or Witten, but he's hopeful.

"I'm still progressing with him," Bryant said. "Tony puts more trust in me and more faith in me. Everything is going good."

We'll find out if Bryant and Romo can continue to connect, and we're confident in their ability to work together. But we just have more faith in Romo looking for Austin when he needs to make a big play.

So if you have the chance to draft Austin when he's available take him as your No. 1 receiver. And if you miss on him then pull the trigger on Bryant.

It will be a fun year watching the Dallas passing game flourish, and no one is happier about that than Romo and the Fantasy owners lucky enough to own these Cowboys.

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
49ers RB Marcus Lattimore scheduled to practice Monday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:36 am ET) 49ers running back Marcus Lattimore, who's been on the non-football injury list all season, is scheduled to practice Monday when the team returns from its bye, reports CSNBayArea.com. That will be two years to the day since he suffered a devastating knee injury while playing for South Carolina.

"As you know, it's been a long road," Lattimore said.

Lattimore said he reported to training camp at 225 pounds but is down to 220 and believes he's quicker, the report said. He's eager to test himself at full-contact practices.

"I want to put together consistently good days of practice so they trust me to go out there and play," he said. "That's the biggest thing."

The 49ers must decide whether to activate Lattimore within three weeks of his first practice.


Report: Darren Sproles 'appears likely to play'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:22 am ET) Eagles running back Darren Sproles "appears likely to play" Sunday at Arizona after suffering a sprained MCL in Week 6, reports CSNPhilly.com. Sproles rested over the bye and returned to a limited practice Tuesday.

"The way I'm feeling, yeah," Sproles answered when asked if he'd play Sunday. But the real test will come Wednesday and Thursday at practice, when the Eagles will do more than the light session they had Tuesday.

Sproles was in full pads at the start of Wednesday's practice.


Julio Jones shouldering the blame
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:15 am ET) Falcons wideout Julio Jones has gone four straight games without a touchdown, and he's failed to clear 70 receiving yards in the last two. Jones, who has dropped five passes, pointed to himself as the problem.

"It starts with me," he said on NFL Network. "I got to go out there and make plays when they are presented to me. I got to go out and catch the ball, be more of a deep threat.

"We are out there misreading or dropping balls. We have to fix that. It's nothing that the defense is doing; we have to fix that here."

Atlanta plays the Lions in London on Sunday.


Texans backing quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for now
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:15 am ET) Texans coach Bill O'Brien is still backing quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick following Monday's loss at Pittsburgh that dropped the team to 3-4.

“Fitzy is our quarterback,” O'Brien said Tuesday, per The Houston Chronicle.

However, for the first time since Ryan Mallett joined the team just before the start of the regular season, O'Brien linked both of the quarterbacks leading up to Week 8 at Tennessee.

"We’re going to continue to work with both of these guys in practice, and we’ll see how it improves," O’Brien said. "And hopefully, it will get better and better, and that will help our offense get better."

The Texans have lost three straight games. Still, O'Brien isn't about to pin all the struggles on Fitzpatrick.

"When you look at our tape … you cannot just point to one position and say that’s the position that is at fault," O’Brien said. "There are a lot of positions that need to play better. We need to coach better, all those different things. It all goes into why sometimes we stall offensively. It’s not one guy."


Ball security a focus for Giants TE Larry Donnell
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:01 am ET) The Giants are stressing ball security with breakout tight end Larry Donnell, who lost two fumbles in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss at Dallas. "It's one of those things we preach on a daily basis, whether it be technique or focus on the football," tight ends coach Kevin M. Gilbride told The Star-Ledger.

"And that's something he knows he needs to improve on. He knows it hurt our football team."

Donnell has lost three fumbles in seven games this season. The Giants are on a bye this week.


Steelers WR Antonio Brown not happy with overturned TD
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:56 am ET) Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown took to Twitter to express his frustration after officials overturned his 16-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter Monday against the Texans. The officals ruled his left foot touched the white boundary stripe.

Brown tweeted a photo that appeared to show both of his feet were inbounds. Brown posted a "derogatory remark" with the photo, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Brown said he doesn't regret making the comment and will accept any punishment the NFL might hand out.

"When you’re passionate about something, you speak your mind," Brown said Tuesday night on his radio show on 970 ESPN. “Touchdowns are hard to come by in the NFL. That would have given us a two-touchdown lead and made it harder for [the Texans]."


Giants WR Corey Washington still learning route tree
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:50 am ET) Giants receiver Corey Washington caught a touchdown pass in four straight preseason games. But even with the team losing Victor Cruz for the season, Washington was inactive Week 7 and has yet to make a regular-season catch.

"He's learning to run an entire route tree," receivers coach Sean Ryan told The Star-Ledger. "There is growing to be done with Corey. He works on his releases, his routes, his top of the breaks, getting out of those -- things he needs to improve on. That is where he is right now. He's a work in progress."


Titans' Bernard Pollard confident in quick recovery from Achilles injury
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:48 am ET) Titans safety Bernard Pollard was given a 6-8 month timetable for his recovery after undergoing surgery in early October for a ruptured Achilles. Though, Pollard expects a shorter timetable, per The Tennessean.

"Like I've told them, it's not going to take me six-to-eight. It's really not," Pollard said Tuesday. "More like two-to-three (months) … I want to be back. I want to be smart about coming back as well. I throw numbers out there or whatever, but it's going to be quick."


Dolphins punter Brandon Fields not having a strong season
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:40 am ET) Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is not hiding his disappointment with punter Brandon Fields, whose 43.3 gross average on punts ranks 31st out of 32 punters in the NFL, according to The Miami Herald. His net average is 31.8, which is the worst in the NFL.

"Early on we got the punt blocked in Buffalo," Philbin said. "He just hasn’t looked as comfortable quite yet back there, as he has in the two years that I’ve been here, the previous two years. I’m confident he’ll work his way through it and he’ll get back to being the outstanding punter that we all know.

"For his standards, it’s not quite what we’re used to. I think he would acknowledge that, but I’m very, very confident that he’ll get back to that soon."


Philbin calls out Caleb Sturgis during team meeting for missing FGs
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:33 am ET) Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said he called out kicker Caleb Sturgis during a team meeting for missing a pair of field goals during a win Week 7 at Chicago, according to The Miami Herald.

"We were in the team meeting today and we said we’ve got to make those field goals," Philbin said. "We kind of went through that sequence where we took a sack and knocked ourselves back, and made the field goal more difficult. That being said, I said to him right there in the whole team meeting, we’ve got to make those field goals. He knows that and I suspect that he will work at it and he’ll get better at it."

Sturgis is connecting on 78.6 percent of his field goals (11 of 14) after converting at a 76.5 percent rate (26 of 34) as a rookie in 2013.


 
 
 
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