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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
Chargers' McCoy: Philip Rivers had 'outstanding' practice Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:44 pm ET) Chargers coach Mike McCoy indicated that quarterback Philip Rivers (back, chest) "had an "oustanding day" in Thursday's practice, NFL.com reports.

"A ball did not hit the ground in all the throws he made today," McCoy added. "Philip was Philip, so he'll be ready to roll."

Rivers was a full participant in Thursday's practice after sitting out Tuesday and Wednesday. He should be ready to roll for Saturday's matchup with the 49ers.


Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald progresses to full practice Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:34 pm ET) Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (knee) was a full participant in Thursday's practice after being limited Wednesday, the team announced.

Fitzgerald has racked up 11 receptions in two games since his two-game absence but has managed just 64 yards and no touchdowns during that stretch. He's on track to resume his regular role in his team's Week 16 matchup with the Seahawks.


Cardinals' Kerwynn Williams limited Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:31 pm ET) Cardinals running back Kerwynn Williams (knee) was limited in Thursday's practice, the team announced.

Williams has shared touches with Stepfan Taylor with Andre Ellington out for the season but has amassed 175 rushing yards on 34 carries over the last two weeks. If his knee issue keeps him out Sunday, Taylor and Marion Grice would likely handle most of the touches at the position.


Cardinals QB Drew Stanton (knee) limited in practice Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:27 pm ET) Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton (knee) was a limited participant in practice Thursday, the team announced.

Stanton hurt the knee Sunday against the Rams and appeared destined to miss Week 16's matchup with the Seahawks, but coach Bruce Arians indicated Wednesday that Stanton could play this Sunday in a best-case scenario. Arians did say Wednesday that Ryan Lindley would start against the Seahawks, and he's still the favorite to line up under center, but Stanton's absence isn't a foregone conclusion at this point.


Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch doesn't practice Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:18 pm ET) Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (back) did not practice Thursday, the team announced.

Last week, Lynch was able to take part in practice in a limited fashion Thursday after taking his customary day off Wednesday. This week, he's looking at two DNPs heading into Friday. Lynch was listed as probable in Week 15 but could be facing a questionable tag (or worse) in Week 16. If Lynch isn't able to play Sunday, the Seahawks would likely expand the roles of Robert Turbin and Christine Michael.

Joining Lynch on the sidelines for Thursday's practice were tackle Russel Okung (chest), guard J.R. Sweezy (ankle), center Max Unger (knee/ankle), tight end Tony Moeaki (shoulder), wide receiver Paul Richardson (hamstring) and defensive end Demarcus Dobbs (ankle).


Kendall Wright, Delanie Walker good to go for Titans
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:11 pm ET) The Titans will have both Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker Week 16 against the Jaguars.

Both players came into the game listed as questionable. Wright is dealing with a hand injury. Walker has a knee issue. Both players will attempt to play through their injuries.

The team will also have Byron Stingily and Kamerion Wimbley. Both Stingily and Wimbley were listed as questionable. Daimion Stafford, who came into the contest listed as probable, will also be available. 


Titans list inactives for Week 16
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:07 pm ET) The Titans have listed QB Zach Mettenberger, DB Jemea Thomas, LB Zaviar Gooden, LB Dontay Moch, OT Terren Jones, OT Taylor Lewan and DL Mike Martin as inactive Week 16 against the Jaguars.

Both Mettenberger and Lewan were listed as doubtful heading into the contest. Neither was expected to take the field. Gooden was listed as questionable due to a hamstring injury. The other four players listed are healthy scratches. 


Jaguars' Blake Bortles, Marqise Lee active vs. Titans Week 16
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:02 pm ET) Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (foot) and wide receiver Marqise Lee (elbow) are active for Thursday night's Week 16 matchup with the Titans.

Bortles was listed as questionable to play on the team's final injury report but was reported to be starting earlier Thursday. Lee was listed as probable to play after catching four of his 10 targets for 14 yards in Week 15.

Players who were on the team's final Week 16 injury report who are also active include defensive end Ryan Davis (hip) and safety Josh Evans (foot), both of whom were questionable to suit up Thursday.


Jaguars list Week 16 inactives vs. Titans
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:01 pm ET) The Jaguars listed the following players as inactive for Thursday night's week 16 battle with the Titans: wide receiver Tommy Streeter (abdomen), defensive tackle Roy Miller (knee), defensive end Andre Branch (groin), cornerbacks Teddy Williams and Jeremy Harris, safety Matt Daniels and guard Tyler Shatley.

Streeter and Miller were listed as questionable to play Thursday on the team's final injury report, while Branch was previously ruled out. The Jaguars have three quarterbacks active for the game, including first-stringer Blake Bortles (foot), who was listed as questionable to play.


You'll want to stick with Tre Mason
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(6:31 pm ET) In two games since blowing up for 164 total yards and three touchdowns, Rams running back Tre Mason has a total of 99 yards on 33 carries. Neither performance was good individually, and Week 15 against Arizona was especially bad. Subtract the fumble from his 33 yards, and he scored a grand total of one Fantasy point in standard CBSSports.com leagues.

So why would you consider using him in your championship game with the Rams hosting the Giants in Week 16? For one thing, the matchup is a night-and-day difference. You had to expect Mason to struggle against the Cardinals, who rank sixth against the run, allowing 90.4 yards per game, but would have guessed the Redskins, his Week 14 opponent, rank seventh? It's not a matter of teams choosing to beat them through the air either. They're one of 10 teams that have allowed less than 4 yards per carry.

The Giants, meanwhile, rank 30th against the run, allowing 135.1 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry. It doesn't mean Mason is a lock for big numbers. The Redskins' Alfred Morris, who most would consider a superior running back, had just 49 yards on 14 carries against the Giants last week. But after splitting carries early on, Mason has become the clear workhorse of the Rams backfield. You don't sit a running back with that role when he has a favorable matchup, especially when he's performed as Mason has this season.

Jamey Eisenberg agrees, naming Mason the CBSSports.com Start of the Week for Week 16.


 
 
 
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