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Offseason Extra: The good and bad from 2011

Senior Fantasy Writer
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When it comes to Fantasy Football, no one wants to be wrong. In a perfect world, you go undefeated by making excellent draft and lineup decisions and proudly hoist your league's championship trophy while hollering "In Your Face!" to anyone within earshot.

Too bad Fantasy Football doesn't work that way.

The unpredictable nature of football, and thus Fantasy Football, makes the game fun and exciting. It also makes analyzing the game fun and exciting (and sometimes frustrating). We're always trying to learn anything we can about the game -- how it's changing, how coordinators adjust to defenses and everything else to help you have a leg-up on your league mates. When we make a prediction that comes in, we feel great. When we make a prediction that flops, we shudder -- but we try to learn from our mistakes.

Here are 10 predictions -- five I nailed, five I whiffed on -- from 2011.

The good ...

Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers
My prediction: Sleeper
Average Draft Position: No. 127 overall (Round 11)
My projection: 48 catches, 663 yards, six touchdowns
2011 stats: 69 catches, 1,108 yards, two touchdowns
2011 Fantasy points (weekly average): 126 (7.8)
2012 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 75 overall (Round 7)
The gamble paid off for the Fantasy owners who took Brown late last year. Though he got off to a less-than-stellar start, Brown had seven games with at least eight Fantasy points in his final 10 games. He was a darling in PPR formats as well, catching at least four passes in 11 of 16 games. Scoring twice in 16 games (just 10 targets inside the red zone) left a lot to be desired, but consider that a blessing in disguise: Had he scored six or seven times he might have drawn a higher profile this summer. As it stands now, Brown will be a name people will draft in hopes of a repeat performance, but they won't do it as soon as they might have had he really exploded on the scene in 2011.

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Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns
My prediction: Bust
Average Draft Position: No. 28 overall (Round 3)
My projection: 838 rush yards, eight touchdowns; 40 catches, 281 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown
2011 stats: 587 rush yards, three touchdowns; 22 catches, 130 receiving yards, zero receiving touchdowns
2011 Fantasy points (weekly average): 87 (8.7)
2012 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 100 overall (Round 9)
In retrospect, we had some pretty decent projections for Hillis even though we didn't like him and referred to him as a bust multiple times. Not only did he struggle to reproduce his gaudy stats from 2010 but he had a falling out with the Browns regarding his health and now is in a contentious battle to get re-signed. Perhaps he'll do better in 2012 than in 2011 by default, but he's still not any better than middle-round material.

Brandon Lloyd, WR, Rams
My prediction: Bust
Average Draft Position: No. 60 overall (Round 5)
My projection: 1,003 yards, seven touchdowns
2011 stats: 966 yards, five touchdowns
2011 Fantasy points (weekly average): 126 (8.4)
2012 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 90 overall (Round 8)
Pretty much everyone knew that Lloyd wouldn't repeat his big 2010 feats in Denver. His playcaller was gone, his quarterback situation was tenuous and his role was changing. So, off he went via trade to St. Louis after a slow start, and it was there where he reunited with Josh McDaniels and caught five touchdowns and averaged 63 yards per game in 11 games. With McDaniels now in New England, it doesn't take a Bill Belichick to figure out where Lloyd lands next. And, it doesn't take a Fantasy Football analyst to tell you what to expect. Though targets could be a factor playing in the receiver-heavy Pats' system, Lloyd still figures to be productive and thus worth adding to your mix at wideout.

DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys
My prediction: Sleeper
Average Draft Position: No. 151 overall (Round 13)
My projection: 472 rush yards, four touchdowns; 112 receiving yards
2011 stats: 897 rush yards, two touchdowns; 183 receiving yards
2011 Fantasy points (weekly average): 119 (9.1)
2012 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 30 overall (Round 3)
We thought Murray would make an impact in the Marion Barber role for the Cowboys behind Felix Jones. As it turned out, he thrived in the Felix Jones role. Once he had the opportunity to run without splitting reps, Murray put up some amazing numbers including three games with over 130 rush yards in four tries. But his injury history caught up with him toward the end of the year and he hurt his ankle. He's expected to be fine for the start of training camp, and chances are the Cowboys will enter the year planning to lean on him more and Jones less. Health is still an issue but he could come out of the gate with some strong rushing performances, making him worthy of being a No. 2 Fantasy running back.

Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions
My prediction: Sleeper
Average Draft Position: No. 68 overall (Round 6)
My projection: 4,004 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, one rushing touchdown
2011 stats: 5,038 passing yards, 41 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, zero rushing touchdowns
2011 Fantasy points (weekly average): 424 (26.5)
2012 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 20 overall (Round 2)
"Stafford doesn't have Top-10 Fantasy quarterback potential -- he's got Top-5 Fantasy quarterback potential, and that's what makes him alluring." That's from my review of him last summer, and thanks to his talented receiving corps, his aggressive playcaller and of course his good health, he finished not only as a Top 5 Fantasy quarterback but also as the fourth-ever passer to top 5,000 yards in a season! There will not be a fortuitous draft strategy to get Stafford like there was last year, but anyone interested in locking up an elite talent on an explosive offense should give Stafford some consideration in Round 2.

The bad ...

Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers
My prediction: Bust
Average Draft Position: No. 55 overall (Round 5)
My projection: 784 receiving yards, six touchdowns
2011 stats: 767 receiving yards, eight touchdowns
2011 Fantasy points (weekly average): 124 (7.7)
2012 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 55 overall (Round 5)
The thought here was that Finley wouldn't put up Antonio Gates-like production, but at the very least still be serviceable. And outside of two games, he didn't. Finley had an 85-yard, three-touchdown game at Chicago in Week 3 and a 64-yard, one touchdown game vs. Detroit in Week 17 (when a lot of people aren't playing Fantasy). Take those two games away and Finley averaged 44 receiving yards per game and one touchdown every 11.25 receptions. Sure, Finley finished as a Top 5 Fantasy tight end, but how he got there infuriated Fantasy owners because he was so inconsistent. Hopefully that changes in 2012 and Finley, who signed a two-year deal to stay with the Packers, can be counted on more often.

Chad Henne, QB, Dolphins
My prediction: Breakout
Average Draft Position: No. 150 overall (Round 13)
My projection: 3,517 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, 18 interceptions
2011 stats: 868 passing yards, four touchdowns, four interceptions
2011 Fantasy points (weekly average): 67 (16.75)
2012 Projected Average Draft Position: Undrafted
Henne had an amazing Week 1 vs. the Patriots: 416 yards, three total touchdowns and one interception, and the thought was that this could be a sign of things to come. In fact, it was: The Patriots secondary stunk all season. Henne, however, fizzled out over his next few games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. What surprised us about Henne was his willingness to run; he had at least 26 rush yards in his first three starts. Henne's spot was taken over by Matt Moore, who had some good games of his own, but chances are his spot will get taken by another quarterback before the start of the season. Henne, meanwhile, will probably start 2012 on the bench somewhere. It won't stop us from looking for a quarterback in a enviable position: In a pass-intense offense with a less-than-perfect run game. That was Henne in 2011.

Steve Johnson, WR, Bills
My prediction: Bust
Average Draft Position: No. 66 overall (Round 6)
My projection: 895 receiving yards, seven touchdowns
2011 stats: 1,004 receiving yards, seven touchdowns
2011 Fantasy points (weekly average): 142 (8.9)
2012 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 75 overall (Round 7)
The concern here was that Johnson would significantly regress in a Bills offense that didn't make any improvements. Aside from a dip in touchdown catches, he was virtually the same receiver he was in 2010. That's a positive as projecting him goes, but now it's going to be tough to see him stepping up as an elite receiver, which is what he's angling to be paid as. Once he gets a big deal, be it by the Bills or someone else, there will be some concern that he won't put in the effort that he has over the last two years. With 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns a fair expectation, it might be tough to expect more from him.

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Mario Manningham, WR, Giants
My prediction: Breakout
Average Draft Position: No. 62 overall (Round 6)
My projection: 1,045 receiving yards, seven touchdowns
2011 stats: 523 receiving yards, four touchdowns
2011 Fantasy points (weekly average): 76 (6.33)
2012 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 92 overall (Round 8)
Maybe I deserve partial credit for recognizing that someone other than Hakeem Nicks would break out in the Giants offense in 2012. But it wasn't Manningham, and you don't get credit for Victor Cruz's stats if you owned Manningham. In fact, it was Manningham's absence in Week 3 that kicked down the door for Cruz to be an impact receiver for the Giants. Manningham wound up missing four games but did have a three-game touchdown streak in between injuries before coming up lame for the rest of the season. His catch that helped push the Giants to their Super Bowl-clinching score will be the highlight of his season and possibly the impetus to getting him paid as a free agent this offseason. Health is an issue with Manningham, but he could end up with a good opportunity and be worth a look in the middle rounds of drafts.

Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers
My prediction: Breakout
Average Draft Position: No. 44 overall (Round 4)
My projection: 1,143 receiving yards, nine touchdowns
2011 stats: 771 receiving yards, three touchdowns
2011 Fantasy points (weekly average): 91 (6.0)
2012 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 97 overall (Round 9)
Williams went downhill fast, scoring in Week 1 and not finding the end zone again until Week 11! He didn't have any 100-yard games, had one game over 90 yards and had four games with 75-plus yards. It came out after the season that a poor work ethic combined with some weight loss was to blame for his low numbers. It remains to be seen if he'll have the same opportunity to thrive as he had as a rookie in 2010, but we can be sure that new head coach Greg Schiano will not put up with a lackluster effort. The lesson learned here is to always be careful with second-year receivers and not just assume that they'll repeat their production from the year prior.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Player News
Colts' Andrew Luck considered skipping Pro Bowl
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(8:41 pm ET) After losing 45-7 to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck admitted he thought about not playing in the Pro Bowl, reports The Indianapolis Star.

Luck felt embarrassed after the championship game and had to think about turning around and playing a week later.

"I mean, it is a privilege, but I am hurting in a sense," Luck said. "But I realize it's an honor to be voted in and the fans really enjoy it. So, I did it."

While Luck was proud of his team for advancing to the championship game, he said this season’s playoff loss was worse than the previous two.

"I think every loss in the playoffs leaves a really, really terrible taste in your mouth," Luck said. "But this one has been worse than the other two because we did get so close. And the way we lost, it was just embarrassing."


NFL warns Marshawn Lynch with 15-yard penalty for obscene gesture
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:10 pm ET) The NFL has issued a warning to Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch if he decides to make his obscene gesture in the Super Bowl, vice president of officiating Dean Blandino told ESPN Saturday. If Lynch performs his gesture, Seattle will be assessed a 15-yard penalty.

Meaning if Lynch makes his gesture after scoring a touchdown, the kickoff will be from the 20 yard line. Lynch was fined $20,000 for making his gesture after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship game last week.


Matthew Slater: NFLPA 'instructed' Pats not to address Deflategate
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:31 pm ET) Patriots special teamer Matthew Slater told reporters that the NFL Players Association has "instructed" New England players to not publicly address Deflategate, according to the team's official website. The 29-year-old Slater is a team representative for the union.

"I'd love to get into that with you, but we have been instructed by our union as players to reserve comment on this situation," Slater said. "It's an ongoing investigation, so in order to protect our players, we’re going to go ahead and not talk about that."

The NFL found 11 of 12 game balls the Patriots used in the first half in Sunday's AFC Championship against the Colts were significantly underinflated after being deemed legal before the game. The investigation is being led by NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash and Ted Wells. The league has yet to release its findings.

Coach Bill Belichick also addressed the media in an impromptu press conference to reveal that his team conducted an "internal study," which revealed that the Patriots "followed every rule to the letter."

Like Slater, Belichick vowed not to speak on Deflategate again. New England will square off against Seattle in the Super Bowl on Feb. 1.


Report: Colts LB Andrew Jackson arrested for DUI, careless driving
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:26 pm ET) Colts linebacker Andrew Jackson was arrested in Kentucky early Friday morning for careless driving and DUI, per the Indianapolis Star. He was booked just before 5 a.m. and released from jail at 12:30 p.m. the same day.

Jackson, a sixth-round pick in the 2014 draft out of Western Kentucky, was a marginal contributor for Indianapolis last season, contributing only on special teams and short-yardage scenarios. He registered 10 tackles and one sack in 13 games his rookie season.


Justin Forsett: The Ravens 'expressed that they want me back'
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:13 am ET) Justin Forsett told reporters following Friday's Pro Bowl practice that the Ravens have expressed interest in bringing him back next season, according to NFL.com. Forsett, who replaced Arian Foster's spot in the exhibition game, noted that he has not engaged in any contract discussions with the team, but remains optimistic of a possible deal in the offseason.

"That is the plan, they gave me my shot, they trusted me and believed in me enough to give me that shot so I'd like to stay," Forsett said. "They expressed that they want me back. I want to be back, so we'll see what happens."

Forsett, 29 is seeking his first multiyear contract of his career after playing for five teams in seven seasons. He broke out for 1,266 rushing yards this season, fifth-most in the NFL, and led all running backs with 5.4 yards per carry.


WR Emmanuel Sanders says Peyton Manning will return to Broncos
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:36 am ET) Although Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders' only communication with Peyton Manning was through a postseason text message, he believes that the veteran quarterback will return for another season, he told NFL.com on Friday.

Sanders and the Broncos were eliminated by the Colts in the AFC divisional round. Since that loss, the Broncos' coaching staff has been overhauled, with coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase heading to Chicago.

"Well, Gase is definitely in Chicago right now," Sanders said. "And Peyton says he's going to come back, but I'm not really worried about it, I really just want to win a Super Bowl. So that is all that is on my mind."

Gary Kubiak was hired to take Fox's place in Denver, and Sanders said that if Manning doesn't return, backup Brock Osweiler would fit "really well" in the team's new offensive scheme.

"Yeah, I think Brock is a quarterback that is on the rise, he's going to continuously get better and I feel like Kubiak's offense fits him really well," Sanders said.

Sanders signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Broncos last March. He earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl after totaling 101 catches for 1,404 yards and nine touchdowns -- all career highs.


Seahawks GM on Lynch: 'I kind of love his act'
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/23/2015) Seahawks general manager John Schneider said little Friday about Marshawn Lynch's future with the franchise.

"I mean, he's under contract next year," Schneider said in an interview with The Seattle Times. "He's a warrior. Goes out there every weekend and lays it on the line. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better running back in the National Football League."

Lynch has been rumored to be cut after this season to save money. He is set to make $5 million in base salary in 2015. Schneider also said he has no problem with the way Lynch behaves both on and off the field.

"I kind of love his act," Schneider said.


Colts' Robert Mathis may not be ready for training camp
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/23/2015) Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis is still recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon and could miss an extended period of time, including training camp, general manager Ryan Grigson said.

"No, he’s still in recovery," Grigson said when asked if he’s confident Mathis will be ready for training camp. "He’s a freak and you hope that he has an athletic genetic freak type of recovery so that he’s ready day one of training camp. But that information is not clear yet or a timeline is not there because it’s a tough injury. Hopefully in a couple months from now, we’ll be able to have some information on that."

Mathis torn the tendon in early September and missed the entire season. Without Mathis, the Colts were led by rookie Johnathan Newsome with 6 1/2 sacks in 2014.

"Obviously having [Mathis] out was a big hole," Grigson said. "But we don’t make excuses. That stuff gets forgotten and it should because a lot of teams win without key players. The next man up is for real. We found a way to still get pressure and play without his presence, but it makes it a heck of a lot harder, I promise you that. Just having him out on the field, even if he didn’t get out of his stance, it’s still going to command two blockers or more. That completely changes the complexion of a game just having him physically out there."


Seahawks' Carroll: Sherman, Thomas will be fine for Super Bowl
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/23/2015) Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Friday cornerback Richard Sherman (elbow) and free safety Earl Thomas (shoulder), who both sustained injuries in the NFC title game vs. Green Bay, will be fine to play in the Super Bowl.

As of Friday, the Patriots were 1-point favorites for the Super Bowl.


Steelers re-sign punter Brad Wing to one-year deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/23/2015) The Steelers have re-signed punter Brad Wing to a one-year deal, the team announced Friday.

Wing had 61 punts for Pittsburgh in 2014 for 2,668, avergaing 43.7 yards per attempt. He ranked 26th in the league with a 39.5 net yards average on the season.


 
 
 
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