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2012 Draft Prep: McFadden the ultimate risk/reward

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Darren McFadden knows what you think of him. He hears the whispers of being called fragile and weak. In your view, porcelain dolls have a better chance of staying healthy compared to the Raiders running back.

McFadden is five years into his NFL career and has yet to play a full 16-game season. He has missed 19 of a possible 60 games, and last year was his worst season of all with only seven games played thanks to a Lisfranc injury in his right foot.

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But he's back this year at 100 percent, and his goal is to dominate the NFL. We believe in McFadden, and the prediction here is he will have a career year.

"I just want to come out there and pick up where I left off at," McFadden recently told the local Oakland media. "The type of injury that I had was something that set me down for a long time, but a lot of people may think it is hard to bounce back and get back in the flow of things. Once I am back out there on the field, I feel like I am at home, so I will just go out there and try to pick up where I left off."

Where McFadden left off in 2011 was impressive. Prior to going down, he had 113 carries for 614 rushing yards and four touchdowns and 19 catches for 154 yards and one touchdown. He was averaging 14.3 Fantasy points per game, which would have made him a Top 10 running back if he kept up that pace.

McFadden has been a beast when healthy. He has averaged 88.5 rush yards and 33.0 receiving yards over his last 20 starts with 15 total touchdowns -- all with Michael Bush there. Bush is gone now, signing as a free agent with the Bears, and McFadden's touches could actually increase given the lack of quality talent behind him with unproven commodities in Mike Goodson and Taiwan Jones.

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But the biggest issue with McFadden as we all know is health. Can he stay on the field? His best season to date was 2010 when he played 13 games and finished with 223 carries for 1,157 yards and seven touchdowns and 47 catches for 507 yards and three touchdowns. Fantasy owners would take that production in a second, and if he managed 16 games the stats would be phenomenal.

"I think we all understand that he's an explosive playmaker for us, and we need him to be healthy for an entire season," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said.

McFadden feels great now at the start of training camp, and he said he doesn't plan to alter his running style to protect himself from injuries. Fantasy owners will still fear McFadden, but if you want to win championships sometimes you have to gamble on talented players and hope they perform.

McFadden certainly falls into that category. He knows what he's capable of when he steps on the field, and he hopes this is the year he sheds the injury-prone label.

"It is one of those things where it happens in football," McFadden said of getting hurt. "I can't say I am unlucky about it. I am a very blessed person to even be playing in this league, so for me I just go out there and take it one day at a time. I can't control injuries. If I get hurt, I am going to get hurt going hard. So it's something I can't control, and I am not going to go out there and play to not get hurt."

McFadden's Average Draft Position at the start of training camp is No. 11 overall. He is being drafted as the No. 7 running back behind Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice, Ryan Mathews, Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew. That's the right spot for McFadden to go. He has elite talent and if he plays close to a full season, he could easily be a Top 5 running back.

There is risk involved with drafting McFadden, but if he rewards you with a significant amount of games played then you could be looking at a possible Fantasy championship.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
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.


Packers, Randall Cobb not in discussions for contract extension
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:21 pm ET) Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb said Thursday that he and the team haven't been engaged in contract-extension talks, the Journal Sentinel reports.

"There’s no contract talks that have been going on right now, so I guess not," Cobb said when asked if he thought he's done enough to earn an extension. "I guess there’s still more to do. So, just continue to put my nose down every day and focus on getting the team into the playoffs and doing everything I can to bring back the Super Bowl."

Cobb is in the last year of his rookie contract and will become a free agent this offseason if an extension isn't signed. He's enjoyed a breakout performance in 2014, racking up 76 receptions for 1,076 yards with 10 touchdowns. If the Packers choose to let Cobb enter free agency, 2014 second-round pick Davante Adams would likely move into a much larger role.


Turner: Matt Asiata to get bulk of carries Sunday against Dolphins
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:59 pm ET) After it was reported the Vikings were going to use a running-back-by-committee approach once Jerrick McKinnon was lost for the season, offensive coordinator Norv Turner said Thursday Matt Asiata will get the majority of the carries when Minnesota travels to Miami Sunday.

"Well, Matt I think showed, I think he's shown throughout, but he's showed in the game that he's a guy that gives us the best all-around running, catching, [pass] protection," Turner said Thursday. "He had an outstanding game so I would expect Matt to get the bulk of the work and when there's opportunity to get someone else in there we'll do it."

Asiata is averaging 3.3 yards per carry this season with seven rushing touchdowns. Running backs Joe Banyard and Ben Tate appear to be on the back burner after Tate has had just 38 yards on 13 carries since going the Vikings. While Banyard has just 45 yards on 10 carries. 


Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham on track to play Week 16
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:53 pm ET) Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham, who missed the Week 15 win at Cleveland with a toe injury, practiced fully Thursday, reports ESPN.com. He's on track to start Monday against the Broncos.

With Tyler Eifert still trying to come back from an elbow injury he suffered in the season opener, Gresham is the team's only pass-catching tight end. Gresham has 50 grabs for 378 yards and three touchdowns.


DeAngelo Williams could play Sunday wearing a cast
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:38 pm ET) Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams is getting fitted for a cast he'd wear if he returns to action Sunday against the Browns, reports ESPN.com. Williams fractured his right hand in the Week 13 loss at Minnesota.

Williams was limited in Thursday's practice. He hasn't caught passes, and the team is concerned about how the injury will affect his blocking, the report said.

But if Williams returns, he'll cut into the sizable workload Jonathan Stewart has received the past two weeks when he averaged 21.5 touches.


Jaguars announce QB Blake Bortles will start Thursday night
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:21 pm ET) Jaguars rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, who was questionable with a mid-foot sprain, will start Thursday night's game against the Titans, the team announced. It will be Bortles' first primetime appearance.

Bortles made a quick recovery from the injury, but how effective he'll be remains to be seen. He's thrown 10 touchdowns against 17 interceptions. Tennessee will start quarterback Charlie Whitehurst following injuries to Zach Mettenberger and Jake Locker.

Jacksonville is favored by 3.5 points -- the first time it has been favored in 43 games.


Edelman, LaFell, Vereen still limited for Patriots
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:20 pm ET) The Patriots received limited participation in practice from Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell and Shane Vereen on Thursday.

All three players were limited on Wednesday, so there was no change in their status. Edelman is battling a thigh injury and a concussion. LaFell has a shoulder issue. Vereen is dealing with an ankle injury. The team will release a final game status for each player following Friday's practice. 


Broncos TE Julius Thomas (ankle) practices fully
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:14 pm ET) Broncos tight end Julius Thomas practiced fully Thursday as the team readied for Monday night's game in Cincinnati. It's a positive step for Thomas, who was limited last week due to his ankle injury.

Thomas played 29 snaps and caught a 30-yard pass in the Week 15 win at San Diego. He could be primed to return to his normal workload Monday.


Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles practices in full Thursday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:59 pm ET) Ankle and knee ailments could not prevent Chiefs standout running back Jamaal Charles from putting in a full practice Thursday. He was limited in the Wednesday session.

Charles in a roll. He has 515 yards on 86 carries in the last six games for a 6.0 YPC average.


DeMarco Murray increases workload in Thursday's practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:53 pm ET) Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray was listed as limited in Thursday's practice, but he said he did a lot more than he was able to do Wednesday, reports the Dallas Morning News. Wearing a special glove with padding to protect his surgically-repaired left hand, Murray participated in some team drills.

"It’s good," Murray told the paper. "I feel good."

Murray was asked if he'll play Sunday against the Colts, if the decision is left up to him. "I’m a very competitive person and I want to help this team out as much as I can," he told the paper. "I’ve had two good days and we’ll see how it goes."

Owner Jerry Jones said he was encouraged that Murray, the NFL's leading rusher, is "so aggressive in his thinking about playing."

Murray underwent surgery Monday to fix a broken bone in his hand. If he sits out, Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar would rotate at tailback. Dallas is favored by 3 over the Colts at nearly every sportsbook.


 
 
 
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