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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
Jets sign WR Austin Hill; release kicker Andrew Furney
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:38 pm ET) The Jets reached a contract agreement with wide receiver Austin Hill on Tuesday, the team announced. Hill was an undrafted free agent.

To make room for Hill on the roster, the Jets parted ways with kicker Andrew Furney.


Bucs place DB Derrick Wells on reserve/non-football injury list
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12:57 pm ET) The Buccaneers placed safety Derrick Wells on the reserve/non-football injury list Tuesday, the team announced.

Wells is an undrafted rookie. The non-football injury is for players that sustained an injury away from the football field.


Lions sign DB R.J. Stanford
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12:42 pm ET) The Lions signed defensive back R.J. Stanford on Tuesday, reports the Detroit Free Press.

Stanford was one of five cornerbacks that worked out for the Lions on Tuesday. He has two interceptions during his five-year career.


Vikings WR DaVaris Daniels begins practicing Tuesday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:57 am ET) Vikings wide receiver DaVaris Daniels was able to participate in practice Tuesday, which means he has been removed from the Active/Non-Football Injury list, reports the StarTribune.

Bills WR Sammy Watkins says he'll be 'full go' for training camp
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:44 am ET) Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins said he will not be limited when training camp practice starts Friday, reports ESPN.com.

"I'll definitely be ready to practice," Watkins said Tuesday. "I'll be full go. I'll be prepared to go out there and make plays."

Watkins underwent hip surgery during the offseason, which limited his participation in the team's offseason program.


Report: Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson will report to camp
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:35 am ET) Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson has no intention of holding out of training camp, a source told the New York Post.

Wilkerson has expressed his desire to work out a long-term contract before reporting to training camp, which begins Wednesday. Wilkerson did not attend the team's voluntary offseason program while waiting for a new deal, but he did report to mandatory minicamp in June.


Dolphins re-sign quarterback Josh Freeman
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:29 am ET) Less than a week after releasing him, the Dolphins re-signed quarterback Josh Freeman on Tuesday, reports the Palm Beach Post.

Freeman is competing for a backup role on the team. He is a former first-round pick of the Buccaneers.


Cowboys sign RB Gus Johnson, two others
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:23 am ET) The Cowboys reached a contract agreement with running back Gus Johnson on Tuesday, reports ESPNDallas.com. Johnson has never appeared in an NFL game.

In addition to Johnson, the team also signed offensive lineman Ronald Patrick and linebacker Justin Anderson.


Cowboys release RB Ryan Williams, two others
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:20 am ET) The Cowboys parted ways with running back Ryan Williams on Tuesday, reports ESPNDallas.com. Williams has not played in a game since 2012.

Moreover, the team released linebacker Cameron Lawrence and offensive lineman Ryan Miller.


Shoulder issue has Steelers QB Bruce Gradkowski sidelined
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:32 am ET) Steelers backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski has been dealing with a sore shoulder for most of the last two months and is not ready for training camp.

"A couple weeks ... I'm not sure," he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review about a timetable for his return. "It's nothing serious. I am thankful that we have a long training camp and we have plenty of time."

Gradkowski will almost certainly be out when his team plays in the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 9.


 
 
 
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