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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
Panthers pick up option on Luke Kuechly contract
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) What was promised by general manager Dave Gettleman is now official - the Panthers have picked up the fifth-year option on the rookie contract of standout linebacker Luke Kuechly, per the team website.

The two-time Pro Bowler has led the NFL in tackles in two of his three seasons and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. He has racked up 473 tackles since 2012, the most in the NFL.


Ravens TE Dennis Pitta hopeful for 2015 return
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta hopes to take the field in time for the 2015 season, but admits it's too early to determine if that goal can become a reality.

Pitta has undergone surgeries to repair a fractured and dislocated hip in each of the last two years.

"We still have some time to be able to assess where I'm at," Pitta told the Baltimore Sun. "I sure hope that I'll be on the field next year. That's my hope; that's my goal. We'll just see if I can get there."

Pitta has played in just seven games in the last two seasons combined.


Mark Sanchez: Eagles said Tim Tebow was just a camp arm
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez said he wasn't concerned that the team signed Tim Tebow, because the Eagles told him Tebow was just there to throw in camp.

"We needed another guy to throw while Sam's (Bradford) still recovering. So that's the reason (for the signing), at least as explained to me," Sanchez said, per CSN Philadelphia

The Eagles signed Tebow on Monday. He hasn't played in the NFL since getting cut by the Patriots at the end of training camp prior to the 2013 season. He spent last year as a television analyst for the SEC Network. 

Tebow and Sanchez were teammates on the Jets in 2012. Tebow's presence as a back-up created a quarterback controversy among fans and media that last ed throughout the season. 


Vikings CB Terence Newman has familiarity with Mike Zimmer
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Vikings cornerback Terence Newman won't have a steep learning curve now that he's with his new team. 

Newman played under Vikings coach Mike Zimmer when he was the defensive coordinator with the Cowboys. Drafted in 2003, Newman learned Zimmer's defense from his rookie season through 2006, before Zimmer left to take the same position with the Falcons. 

“I just know exactly what to expect from him as a coach, as well as everybody else in this locker room,” Newman told the Vikings' website. “You play your best football under him.”

In his career, Newman has recorded 741 tackles and 37 interceptions. Entering his 13th NFL year, Newman has already impressed his teammates with voluntary workouts underway. 

“I met with him and he seemed like a great guy,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “Like he’s going to come in and teach us what we need to know about the technique of the game and about the defense because he’s been in it before, so he’s going to help us out a lot. He’s a big asset to this team and the defense.”


Chiefs pick up option on NT Dontari Poe
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Chiefs have exercised their fifth-year option on two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe, per NFL.com. He is set in Kansas City through 2016, when he will earn $6.146 million.

The 350-pound Poe has earned the money. He racked up six sacks and contributed to 46 tackles in 2014.


Lions GM Mayhew OK with James Ihedigbo skipping workouts
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Safety James Ihedigbo was the lone absence from voluntary workouts this week for the Lions. But general manager Martin Mayhew understands. After all, Ihedigbo's agent has stated that he would not work without a new contract.

"I look forward to talking with James," Mayhew told ESPN. "I understand what he's going through. I've been through that myself as a player, when I felt that a time in my career that I was underpaid and I had to deal with that.

"So I have empathy for him. I understand what he's going through and I look forward to sitting down and talking with him. I have great respect for him as a player, as a man. I've gotten to know him a little bit away from football and I understand how he feels."

Mayhew declined to discuss whether the Liins will rework Ihedigbo's contract.

The 31-year-old Ihedigbo contributed 71 tackles and two sacks with a career-high four interceptions in 2014 despite missing three games at the start of the year with a nerve injury. He earned Pro Bowl alternate status.


Eagles withdraw qualifying offer to RB Chris Polk
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Running back Chris Polk is now a free agent. 

According to the NFL transaction wire, the Eagles rescinded their $1.6 million tender they offered this past March. The Eagles placed the tender on Polk, previously a restricted free agent, before signing both DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews in free agency. 

With Darren Sproles on the roster, it didn't make much sense for Polk to stay with the Eagles. 

In 2014, Polk ran for 172 yards and four touchdowns. 


RB Bobby Rainey signs qualifying offer with Buccaneers
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Buccaneers have announced that running back Bobby Rainey has signed a one-year qualifying offer the team extended to him before the free agency period. He was a restricted free agent and was given an opportunity to negotiate with other teams.

Rainey will compete for playing time with Tampa Bay. He rushed for 406 yards in 2014, but faded at the end of the season with just two carries in the last six games combined.


Jaguars planning to play 2015 season without Justin Blackmon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) As far as the Jaguars are concerned, Justin Blackmon will not be lining up at receiver for them this season. 

At least that's the approach Jacksonville is taking. Blackmon has been indefinitely suspended since Nov. 1 2013 for three violations of the substance-abuse policy under the old CBA.

"Our process hasn't changed," Caldwell said, via ESPN.com. "[We] plan to go without him, but if he emerges, he emerges, and he's going to go in with those top guys and compete with those other guys. Hopefully we're able to get some news, but if not we weren't planning on [having Blackmon]. We're just going to go [without him]."

Before he can re-join the Jaguars, he'll need to file an application for reinstatement, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell making a decision within a 60-day window. The application letter would include details of the treatment he's received. 

Since being selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Blackmon has only played in 20 games. He has 1,280 yards and six touchdowns in his career. 


Cowboys' Greg Hardy called 'woman beater' by teammate
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy got into an altercation with teammate Davon Coleman during a voluntary offseason workout, according to a report from Yahoo! Sports

Hardy reportedly questioned Coleman's work ethic during a conditioning drill, which led Coleman to call Hardy a "woman beater."

Hardy was accused of domestic abuse and was found guilty by a North Carolina judge. On the subsequent appeal, prosecutors dropped charges against Hardy and the case was never presented in front of a jury. 

Hardy has been suspended by the NFL for 10 games due to what transpired in that case. According to FOX Sports, the confrontation between Hardy and Coleman remained verbal


 
 
 
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