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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
Waiver wire thin for quarterbacks this week
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(5:32 pm ET) With an eye on Week 8 and beyond, Jamey Eisenberg tabbed his top quarterbacks on the waiver wire Tuesday, headlined by the Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill, who is owned in just 43 percent of CBSSports.com leagues at this point.

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Among quarterbacks with a lower ceiling who nonetheless have jobs locked down, Kyle Orton of the Bills (12 percent) and Alex Smith of the Chiefs (59 percent) have some value, with matchups against the Jets and Rams, respectively, for Week 8. 


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The station speculated earlier that Wayne could miss one or two games. Indy visits the Steelers on Sunday.


Broncos K Brandon McManus held out Tuesday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:05 pm ET) Broncos kicker Brandon McManus did not practice Tuesday due to a groin injury, but coach John Fox doesn't seem worried about McManus' availability for Thursday's game against the Chargers, reports ESPN.com. "See what tomorrow brings," Fox said. "I'm sure he'll be good to go."

Bucs waive DE Scott Solomon
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(4:56 pm ET) The Buccaneers waived defensive end Scott Solomon, the team announced. He has seven tackles and a sack this season.

La Canfora: Titans trading LB Akeem Ayers to Pats
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:43 pm ET) The Titans agreed to trade linebacker Akeem Ayers to the Patriots, reports CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora. New England will give up a sixth-round pick and receive Ayers plus a seventh-rounder, per La Canfora.

The Tennessean said the trade will go through once Ayers passes a physical.


Giants' Jon Beason might shut it down with big toe injury
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(4:23 pm ET) Giants linebacker Jon Beason told WFAN that it's 50-50 whether he tries to play again this season or has surgery on his injured toe, reports the New York Daily News. Beason, who visited a foot specialist Tuesday, said in the interview that he's playing "without a critical ligament" in his big toe.

Beason returned to action Week 7 but aggravated the injury in the loss at Dallas.


Chargers CB Brandon Flowers not practicing, likely out Thursday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:01 pm ET) Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers did not practice Tuesday and appears likely to miss Thursday's game at Denver. He suffered a concussion in Sunday's loss to the Chiefs.

Redskins put Brian Orakpo on IR, sign Everette Brown
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:58 pm ET) The Redskins placed linebacker Brian Orakpo (pectoral) on season-ending injured reserve and signed free agent linebacker Everette Brown, the team announced.

Ryan Mathews, Donald Brown still sidelined Tuesday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:54 pm ET) Chargers running backs Ryan Mathews (knee) and Donald Brown (concussion) did not practice Tuesday, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. Neither is expected to play Thursday at Denver, leaving Branden Oliver as the lead back.

Rams promote LB Marshall McFadden to active roster
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:44 pm ET) The Rams promoted linebacker Marshall McFadden from the practice squad to the active roster, the team announced.

 
 
 
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