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Offseason Extra: Fantasy potential of the 2012 class

Senior Fantasy Writer
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When rookies get drafted by an NFL team, they're picked based on expectations. For instance, Andrew Luck is expected to lead the Colts' offense for the next 15 years. Trent Richardson is expected to rumble on the ground for the Browns for the next nine or 10 years.

Rookies have pre-draft expectations in Fantasy Football, too. But some are believed to be with a team where they'll exceed expectations and others will wind up stuck on a depth chart or with some sub-standard teammates.

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Here's our take on 10 rookies who should do better or worse than we expected going into the 2012 NFL Draft simply because of where they ended up. This is not a list of obvious players like Luck or Richardson or Justin Blackmon, who should serve their teams well even though they're not in an ideal spot.

Note: Players are listed in order of Fantasy impact.

Top five draft winners

1. Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins
Call him the rookie we saw coming weeks in advance: When the Redskins invested a huge package of picks in Griffin, we knew to take notice. Mike Shanahan and the Redskins' coaching staff are going to put Griffin's best attributes to work right from the get-go: His strong arm and his mobility. While we'd be shocked if he put up the rushing numbers Cam Newton did last year, he's still going to get some stats on the ground. But his arm is sound and the Redskins made some shrewd moves this offseason to lock up a receiving corps loaded with speed. They'll provide him opportunities to make some plays out of the pocket, which is where Shanahan's quarterbacks have put up big numbers in the past. He's easily the most appealing rookie quarterback for Fantasy and will be a trendy mid-to-late pick as a backup.
Initial 2012 projection: 3,383 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, 18 interceptions; 425 rush yards, four touchdowns

2. Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers
You can tell that Bucs coach Greg Schiano is over the moon for Martin. When asked if he saw some of former Rutgers protégé Ray Rice in Martin, Schiano said, "To tell you the truth I do. I see a guy who runs hard and plays hard." He also referred to Martin as a "three-down back" and sounded like a man ready to give Martin every bit of the workload you'd expect a coach to give his first-round pick. This isn't to say that LeGarrette Blount won't have a role, but the smart money is on Martin having more carries, way more catches and way more total yards than Blount. The only catch: Short-yardage touchdowns, where Blount might still be of use to the Bucs.
Initial 2012 projection: 216 carries, 907 yards, five touchdowns; 33 catches, 256 yards, one touchdown

3. Coby Fleener, TE, Colts
Unquestionably the most perfect fit for the best receiving tight end in the draft. Fleener heads with his college quarterback, Andrew Luck, to a Colts team that needs offensive assets. He'll start from Day 1 and be a mismatch problem when he flexes out or lines up wide like Aaron Hernandez has done for the last two seasons. Colts coach Chuck Pagano told CBSSports.com in March that he's still dealing with the nightmare of defending the Patriots' tight ends in their AFC title game. Now he has one of his own. And not only is Fleener a good fit for the Colts, but he's an additional investment for Luck, providing a target he's very familiar with. For a team expected to pass a lot in 2012, this is a great move.
Initial 2012 projection: 61 catches, 754 yards, six touchdowns

4. Rueben Randle, WR, Giants
Randle was drafted 63rd overall, but he is by no means the 63rd-best rookie in this draft. He might even turn out to be the third-best rookie receiver this season. Randle is a big guy, nearly 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, and he's got as good a chance as anyone on the Giants' wideout depth chart behind Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz to land the third receiver job. The kicker is that when he plays he'll be lined up with Nicks and Cruz, so defenses can't possibly do any better than stick one cornerback on him. With Eli Manning throwing the ball, that should lead to some good numbers. It's just a matter of opportunity for him.
Initial 2012 projection: 44 catches, 585 yards, four touchdowns

5. Ronnie Hillman, RB, Broncos
Unless you think Willis McGahee can handle another 285 carries (249 in the regular season, 36 in the postseason), or that Knowshon Moreno will come back seamlessly from a torn ACL, or that Lance Ball or Mario Fannin will step up and be huge contributors for the Broncos, you should get to know Hillman. While he might take a little while to develop into a primary rusher, he does have some exciting accolades and measurables. For instance, he broke some of Marshall Faulk's college records with 1,711 rush yards for a single-season best. And he can run a sub 4.5-yard 40-yard dash at 5-foot-9 and 200 pounds. But the Broncos love his explosive, big-play style, and they'll give him the chance to make some plays so long as he has a good preseason. Playing behind Peyton Manning (defenses won't stack the box) and with McGahee (who turns 31 in October) should yield some good opportunities.
Initial 2012 projection: 106 catches, 474 yards, two touchdowns; 25 catches, 172 yards.

Need-to-know rookie: Randy Bullock, K, Texans. The Texans brought in veteran Shayne Graham to compete for the job with him, but the early guess is that the rookie will win out. Bullock made 90 percent of his field goals last year for Texas A&M and is a costly investment as a fifth-round pick (and is obviously much younger than Graham). Over the last two seasons the Texans' kicker has finished as a Top-10 option, so if Bullock gets the gig he might be great for Fantasy.

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Top five draft losers

Kendall Wright, WR, Titans
From all accounts, Kenny Britt is believed to be well on his way back from a torn ACL, Nate Washington is fresh off of a career year and Damian Williams played admirably for a second-year guy. So why add Wright? The Titans fell in love with his game and want to utilize his speed. It should work out for the team, but the chances of Wright catching over 50 passes or scoring more than six touchdowns this year seem bleak considering the talent around him (including running back Chris Johnson, who will chew up plenty of offensive touches). The best-case scenario for Wright is that he fits in right away while Britt is slow to recover from his knee surgery. Short of that, he's not expected to touch his potential this season.
Initial 2012 projection: 44 catches, 657 yards, three touchdowns

Stephen Hill, WR, Jets
Stephen Hill might turn out to be the next Demaryius Thomas -- or the next Troy Williamson. He left no questions at the combine about his measureables, but can he translate it to the pros after a fairly limited body of work in college? He'll be challenged to do so given the state of the Jets' quarterbacks. Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow can't be classified as accurate by any means, and Hill will need all the help he can get to be effective as a rookie. He might be used more for his blocking skills than anything else as a rookie. That won't mean a lot of numbers.
Initial 2012 projection: 37 catches, 515 yards, three touchdowns

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins
By comparison, Tannehill should acclimate to his pro offense faster than any rookie quarterback. That's because it's the same offense he ran in college, and the coordinator (Mike Sherman) is the same coach he had at Texas A&M. That's great for him, but it's the team around him in Miami that makes him a loser. The Dolphins' top receivers are Davone Bess and Brian Hartline. They've got Reggie Bush and Anthony Fasano too. This is among the worst receiving corps in the NFL right now. So even with a good offensive line in front of him and an offense he's got down pat, he'll have to make a lot of magic to be productive in his first season.
Initial 2012 projection: 3,152 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, 17 interceptions; 208 rush yards, one touchdown

David Wilson, RB, Giants
Wilson is the classic case of a speedy running back getting picked solely for talent instead of need. That's not a bad thing for him or the Giants but it certainly puts a cramp on his Fantasy prospects. Ahmad Bradshaw remains atop the Giants' depth chart, and so long as he's there Wilson won't have a chance to see more than a few carries per week. What's more, Wilson isn't considered to be a complete back. So if Bradshaw misses some time as he's been known to do, Wilson still isn't expected to carry a full workload.
Initial 2012 projection: 75 carries, 393 yards, two touchdowns; 18 catches, 136 yards, one touchdown

Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals
Floyd's on-field production at Notre Dame cannot be debated -- the guy's a stud. He's effectively a Larry Fitzgerald clone, right down to their respective college totals. But Floyd has two issues that should keep him from realizing his Fighting Irish stats in the pros: His quarterback(s) and his opportunities. Floyd wound up on the only team in the league with a Top 5 receiver in Fitzgerald and two bottom-10 quarterbacks in Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. We were psyched when the Falcons nabbed Julio Jones to pair with Roddy White last year; we'd feel the same way this time if the Cardinals had a capable long-term answer at quarterback. And even if they did, Floyd's target totals won't be close to Fitzgerald's, which means his stats won't be as huge had he wound up with a team with a legitimate need at receiver.
Initial 2012 projection: 59 catches, 737 yards, five touchdowns

Need-to-know rookie: LaMichael James, RB, 49ers. No doubt, James' landing with Jim Harbaugh's 49ers suggests that Harbaugh loved him even when he coached against him in college. But the mass of running backs the Niners have means that James won't see a ton of work until he either plays beyond anyone's expectations or Frank Gore gets hurt. He's one for the future, not for the present.

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
Malcolm Jenkins: Eagles players not surprised by McCoy trade
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:12 am ET) While most folks were shocked when the news broke in early March the Eagles were trading running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills, apparently McCoy's Philadelphia teammates were not

Safety Malcolm Jenkins told NFL Network on Wednesday it was not surprising when it was announced McCoy was being traded for linebacker Kiko Alonso.

"In the locker room a lot of guys weren't surprised by the trade, what we were more surprised of was that it was just a player-for-player trade," Jenkins said. "I think everybody thought we would have gotten more -- Kiko, plus a couple draft picks, you know, somebody else...

"You look at the style of runner that Chip wants in his offense and even though Shady is one of the best backs in the league, he's not necessarily what Chip is looking for all the time. Chip thinks he's a great running back, he knows his talent is there, but our (system) is really predicated on downhill, somebody who is going to hit the hole every time. It's about getting up in the defenders face as fast as you can and that's not necessarily Shady's running style."

The Eagles replaced McCoy's absence in the backfield by signing former Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, who rushed for 1,845 yards in 2014, and former Chargers running back Ryan Mathews.

"When you talk about what you can get for -- if you are looking to acquire more talent -- I just think Shady's cap number and what we were able to get in return for Shady, I think made sense," Jenkins said. "And some guys in the locker room who kind of know what's going on weren't surprised by it."


Joe Lombardi: Lions excited to see what Broyles does in offseason
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:57 am ET) The Lions are not yet giving up on wide receiver Ryan Broyles, who has been hampered in his career by knee and Achilles injuries. 

“I think he’s a guy you have a lot of respect for because he’s had three major injuries and fought his way back,’’ Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said Tuesday, per The Oakland Press. “When he’s been in there he’s been productive. We’re excited to see where he is now after a full season of not coming back from an injury. He’s had a full year to be healthy we’re excited to see what he does in the offseasaon.’’


Michael Thomas signs tender with Dolphins
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:54 am ET) Michael Thomas, an exclusive rights free agent, formally signed his one-year tender with the Dolphins on Wednesday morning, reports Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. The 24-year-old played in eight games last season, making 18 tackles, until landing on IR with a chest injury.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


Report: Rolando McClain agrees to one-year, $3M deal with Cowboys
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:19 am ET) The Cowboys have reached an agreement with linebacker Rolando McClain on a one-year deal, a source told The Dallas Morning News. McClain's deal will pay him $3 million in base salary and potentially another $1 million in incentives.

McClain made his return to the NFL in 2014 after twice retiring. The former first-round pick thrived in his first season with Dallas, totaling 81 tackles (65 solo), one sack and two interceptions in 13 games. 

Although, he did have some injury issues last season. Knee and groin injuries, as well as an illness forced McClain to miss three regular season games. He was then limited in the playoffs due to a concussion.

McClain remained a sought-after free agent this offseason despite reports he is facing a four-game fine for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Also, an arson investigation into a fire that destroyed his Alabama home in December remains open but inactive.


Texans' O'Brien: WR DeAndre Hopkins can 'be one of the best'
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) Texans head coach Bill O'Brien is very encouraged by the performance of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins last season, per ESPN. O'Brien went as far as to say that Hopkins can be one of the best.

"He had a really productive year," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "The thing that we really like about Hop and that we want him to continue to do is his work ethic. He’s a hungry player. He works every single day. He came into the spring a year ago and he was learning the offense and thinking out there, then all of a sudden you could see all the work he put in and learning, he just took off."

Due to the departure of wide receiver Andre Johnson, the progression of Hopkins will be under the microscope as he is now the focal point of the passing offense.

"We just want to see him continue and progress," O'Brien said. "We think he can be one of the best, we think he is one of the best. We have a lot of confidence in him and we’re looking forward to seeing him progress when the offseason program starts."

In two years with the Texans, Hopkins has reeled in 128 receptions for 2012 yards and eight touchdowns.


Giants won't rush WR Victor Cruz back to the field
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:12 am ET) Although Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is hopeful that wide receiver Victor Cruz will be ready by training camp, the team will not rush him back, reports ESPN.

"I shouldn't say this, because medically I really don't have a definite answer, but by training camp hopefully, even if it's just to bring him," Coughlin said. "We're not going to just throw him to the wind. He'll work his way through. But I hope that would be the target."

Cruz tore his patellar tendon in week six of the 2014 season, causing him to miss the rest of the year. Coughlin is hopeful that he'll return to be the player that he was before the injury.

"I think he'll be the player that he was, and hopefully better," Coughlin said of Cruz. "But as far as when, I would be careful of what I would say there. Hopefully it's the first game. But if it isn't, you know we've done that one before. We just went through it. But I'm hoping it would be."

The former undrafted free agent has tallied 264 receptions for 3,963 yards and 24 touchdowns.


Lions QB Matthew Stafford to take more chances through the air
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was in new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi's system for the first time last season. The team plans on taking more chances down the field in Stafford's second season in the new offense, Lombardi said, according to the team's official website.

“In his second year (in the offense) he’s going to be that much more comfortable,” Lombardi said.

“We’ll be able to tailor the offense a little bit more to what he likes and what he’s good at. I thought he played smart football and sometimes to a fault. We’ll look for him to maybe take a few more chances this year with the football.”

Although Stafford didn't take many shots down the field, he did throw a career-low 12 interceptions in 2014. 

The former first overall draft pick has thrown for 21,714 yards with 131 touchdowns and 85 interceptions during his six-year career.


Colts OLB Robert Mathis plans to be ready for training camp
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis is not ready to run yet, he told Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL. Mathis added that he plans to be ready for the start of training camp.

“It’s not going as fast as I would like to, but we are getting well and we should be clicking in camp,” Mathis told Sirius.

Mathis was suspended for the first four games of last season due to violating the league's substance abuse policy. He then suffered a torn achilles, forcing him to miss all 16 games of the 2014 season.

During his 11-year career with the Colts, Mathis has collected 487 total tackles, 111.0 sacks, 15 passes defensed and 48 forced fumbles.


Lions TE Eric Ebron has been working out with Matthew Stafford
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said that tight end Eric Ebron has been working out with quarterback Matthew Stafford in Atlanta this offseason, reports the Detroit News. Lombardi also said that the plan is to have Ebron be the No. 3 weapon in the passing game this year.

Ebron, 21, finished his rookie season with 25 catches for 248 yards and one touchdown. 

"Listen, there's a big learning curve, obviously, for any rookie. And the tight end position is one that requires a lot," Lombardi said, per MLive.com. "As you look back, if you're self critical, maybe we asked a little too much from him from that perspective. I think there was just a volume that he struggled with early.

"But, listen, he was productive, and for anybody the second year is always where you see the biggest jump."


Cowboys' Tony Romo: DeMarco Murray asked me to take a pay cut
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Eagles running back DeMarco Murray was really hoping to remain with the Cowboys this offseason. So much so, he asked quarterback Tony Romo to take a pay cut to remain with the team, Romo said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday, per the Dallas Morning News.

"DeMarco ended up asking me, 'Why don't you take a pay cut?' I said, 'I will. I would take a pay cut to go do this,'" Romo said. "I was like, 'They're going to restructure me.' That's the same thing in some ways, just for the salary cap purposes. He was like, 'OK, now we're back to being friends again.' I would take $5 million less if meant getting him back.

"He knew that. It was just funny how he was literally worried about that part of it for a week. I'm like, 'That's not the reason.' I'm like, 'Obviously I'll restructure. I would even take a pay cut.' He was like, 'OK, we can be friends again.' It's amazing what you think about in those moments."


 
 
 
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