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2012 Draft Prep: An in-depth look at the Bucs

Senior Fantasy Writer
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It was only the first preseason game of what he hopes will be a long NFL career, but Buccaneers rookie running back Doug Martin forgot something after he scored his first touchdown – the ball.

"I didn't know I could take the ball with me," Martin said after the Bucs beat the Dolphins 20-7. "Oh well. I'll try to remember for the next time."

Fantasy owners hope Martin gets plenty of chances to score since he enters this season as a potential starter in all leagues. And he is not alone for the Tampa Bay offense.

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The Bucs, despite finishing 4-12 in 2011 in what was a miserable year, are poised for a rebound with some quality talent on offense, which should lead to several Fantasy options. Martin is likely the best of the bunch along with Josh Freeman, Vincent Jackson, LeGarrette Blount, Mike Williams and Dallas Clark.

Even though it was a meaningless preseason game, Tampa Bay started its season on a high note in Miami. The Bucs also opened some eyes with what could turn into a potent offense, which we'll break down here. The biggest question following the Dolphins game is if Martin and Blount are now a tandem, but there are plenty of other players to address.

Quarterback

You remember Freeman. He was one of the biggest surprises in 2010 when he finished as a Top 10 Fantasy quarterback and then a tremendous bust last year when he was barely inside the Top 20.

This year, Freeman could re-emerge as a potential starting option and shapes up as top-end backup Fantasy quarterback. Freeman has lost about 20 pounds and gained some quality weapons in Jackson, Martin and Clark. The Buccaneers have improved their offensive line, and Freeman is poised to play closer to his 2010 form.

That year, Freeman had 25 touchdown passes and just six interceptions. He regressed last year to 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions, but we expect Freeman to dramatically improve. He's a great No. 2 quarterback to pair with fragile starters like Michael Vick and Peyton Manning, and he is an excellent value pick based on his Average Draft Position of No. 133 overall.

"We feel good with the offense," Freeman said. "I know everyone feels extremely prepared and ready to go."

Jackson said Freeman is a Top 5 quarterback in the NFL, which is a stretch. He's not even as good as Philip Rivers, who was Jackson's quarterback in San Diego. Jackson didn't want to compare Freeman to Rivers, but he's looking forward to playing with him this season. He expects Freeman to have a productive year in 2012.

"Every quarterback has their own thing how they throw, how they release," Jackson said. "As far as Josh, he's just fundamentally sound. He does everything right. He does a great job seeing blitzes, seeing the defense, keeping us aware. Overall, I've been so impressed with how he's been as a professional, especially at his age. I expect him to have a great career."

Running back

The thought all offseason was Martin would be the dominant back for the Bucs after he was drafted out of Boise State at No. 31 overall in the first round of the NFL Draft. But Blount isn't giving up the job so fast, and now we're likely looking at a tandem.

Unfortunately for Fantasy owners, that's OK with both running backs. Martin said he doesn't mind working with Blount, and Blount is excited for what this tandem could be.

"We can definitely be the best duo in the league," Blount said. "With the schemes that we're running, with the offensive line that we have, with the blocking, with the confidence (Martin) has in me and the confidence I have in him. It's definitely going to be a really good fit. We have the potential to be the best backfield in the league."

I'm sure the running backs in Houston might have something to say about that, along with several other teams, but Martin and Blount both ran well against the Dolphins. Blount had seven carries for 30 yards and a touchdown, and Martin had seven carries for 21 yards and that first career score.

Blount, who was a bust in 2011 after a breakout campaign in 2010, showed a solid burst in working with the starters, including a quick outside run for 16 yards. He said this is the best shape he's ever been in his career.

"I feel faster. I feel a lot quicker. I feel a lot lighter on my feet," Blount said. "Everything is coming into play."

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He is no longer an afterthought for Fantasy owners, and Blount could be a steal based on his ADP, which is No. 111 overall. He should now be considered a No. 3 Fantasy running back, and he has the potential for 800 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

Martin is still the better Fantasy running back even in a tandem, and he should be drafted in Round 4 in standard leagues. He will share rushing downs with Blount, and he will work in passing situations. We could see Martin reaching 1,200 total yards, and the key will be how many touchdowns he can score, especially with Blount as a potential vulture. Martin had at least 1,350 total yards and 14 touchdowns each of the past two seasons at Boise State.

Wide receiver

Jackson is going to make the Bucs and Freeman better this year, but he's someone on my bust list. I don't expect him to be a consistent Fantasy option, and he's more of a No. 3 receiver than a starting option in the majority of leagues.

Jackson has put up standout production for the Chargers, but he's been inconsistent. In 2011, Jackson had 60 catches for 1,106 yards and nine touchdowns. But he managed just six games with double digits in Fantasy points since five touchdowns came in two games.

I don't see Jackson having many big games like that, and his production will tail off. He will help Freeman improve, but his Fantasy value will decline. Still, he's excited for the opportunity in Tampa Bay.

"I couldn't be happier," Jackson said. "It's been great. The organization, coaching staff ... I couldn't be more impressed with how they do things around here. I'm having a lot of fun."

Freeman's ability to throw the ball down the field might be underrated, but he's not at Rivers' level yet. Rivers was able to get Jackson the ball behind the defense, which led to plenty of easy touchdowns.

Jackson said Freeman is going to surprise people with his arm strength and how the two work together.

"There's not a throw he can't make," Jackson said. "He's a smart kid. He's doing everything he can do to master this offense. To have a guy like that in huddle leading us you definitely feel like you can win each and every Sunday."

Jackson's ADP is No. 65 overall, which is too high for me in Round 6. I'd rather settle for him a little later in Round 7 if he's still there.

On the other hand, Mike Williams might present great value at No. 155 overall. He should rebound in 2012 after a disastrous season in 2011.

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Williams had 65 catches for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie in 2010 before struggling as a sophomore with 65 catches for 771 yards and three touchdowns last year. But the presence of Jackson drawing extra coverage, along with a re-dedication to his profession, should help Williams this year. He said 2012 is not a redemption season, but he does want to play better.

"I really don't look at it like that," Williams said. "I really don't care what people think or how they feel. It was an off season for the whole team. Not just me individually. It was the whole team. I think we all have to bounce back."

Williams could be a steal with a late-round pick. He might not repeat his rookie stats, but he could turn into a No. 3 receiver if he improves as expected.

Tight end

There isn't a lot to get excited about with Clark, who looks done based on his play the last two years. He has only appeared in 17 games the last two seasons because of injuries, and he has a combined 71 catches for 699 yards and five touchdowns over that span.

Last year, in first season without Peyton Manning, Clark struggled with 34 catches for 352 yards and two touchdowns, but he should improve this year. He is replacing the departed Kellen Winslow, who averaged 73 catches for 792 yards and four touchdowns the past three years for the Bucs.

It's doubtful Clark reaches those totals, but if he starts out the season playing well he could turn into a serviceable bye-week or injury replacement. He should not be drafted in the majority of leagues but does have potential as a waiver wire addition.

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
Titans' Massaquoi rehabbing shoulder, to miss OTA's
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(4:34 pm ET) Outside linebacker Jonathan Massaquoi will not participate in the Titans' first organized team activities, per ESPN.com.

Massaquoi, who was claimed off waivers from the Falcons earlier this year, is recovering from shoulder surgery. He had a bone spur removed from the area, but the procedure was categorized as a minor cleanup.

Massaquoi recorded 22 tackles in 15 games with Atlanta last season.


Entering third season, 49ers' Lawrence Okoye eyeing roster spot
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(4:04 pm ET) This might finally be the year Lawrence Okoye can crack a spot on the 49ers' roster, per the Bay Area News Group.

Okoye, a former British Olympics discus thrower and rugby player, is feeling confident about his improvements and feels like his potential is worth a roster spot.

“It’s very different from the first time I came here. I’m feeling very good about things,” Okoye said Thursday while sitting at his locker. “I’m just happy I was given the opportunity to stay here so long, so I could catch up. I have a good opportunity to show what I can do.”

Okoye has worked under new head coach Jim Tomsula for two years and with Justin Smith's retirement, his emergence might be rewarded.

“You’re going to get lots of people telling you things. But the main thing is to just keep yourself motivated, despite what people say about you," Okoye said. "People will write you off. People will say this or that. Just keep yourself motivated, keep going every day and you’ll be good.”

 


Bengals' Terrelle Pryor still dreams about winning it all
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(3:45 pm ET) Terrelle Pryor's chances of taking the Bengals to the Super Bowl and winning it are slim, but that won’t stop him from dreaming.

Pryor -- in his fourth year in the league -- dreams about winning the Super Bowl with quite some frequency, he just isn't sure what team he's doing it with.

“I don’t know the team. It’s always in black uniforms,” Pryor said. “I didn’t see any orange. No, it’s not the Raiders. But I believe it can happen because I can visualize it like that. I’m into visualization.”

Pryor hasn't played a down since the 2013 regular season, when he passed for 1,798 yards, seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 11 games.


Flowers' college position coach thinks he can fill in for injured Beatty
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(3:18 pm ET) Things are moving really fast for Giants offensive lineman Ereck Flowers. The eighth overall pick in the draft, because of an injury to Will Beatty, might have inherited a huge workload this season, per nj.com.

Art Kehoe, Flowers' offensive line coach at the University of Miami, thinks Flowers will be up to the task of protecting quarterback Eli Manning.

"I'm sure he raised his level up a notch or two, but I think he plays every week, I think he plays hard in practice," Kehoe said. "He's an unproven commodity at the next level, and he's a high draft pick, [the Giants] drafted him to be a fixer, so I'm sure he's going in there to do what he did in Miami — scrap his ass off every day in practice, and if you're supposed to be a badass the next weekend [against] your opponent, he's gonna be there and he's gonna bring everything he's got. That's what he does. He wants to know that there's a dude, and he has to take care of him, and he'll be up to the challenge.

Giants' 2013 first-round pick, Justin Pugh is also a top candidate to fill in for the injured Beatty.


Union: Goodell must back off hearing of Patriots QB Tom Brady
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:00 pm ET) NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith is growing impatient awaiting word from Roger Goodell on the request of the NFL commissioner to recuse himself as arbitrator of the appeal hearings ofPatriots quarterback Tom Brady.

The league suspended Brady for the first four games next season for his alleged role in the Deflategate scandal, claiming that he likely knew that game balls were being deflated for his benefit before the 2014 AFC title game.

Smith is claiming that neither Goodell nor the Wells Report, which investigated the incident, could legitimately claim impartiality. He added that the NFLPA will "advance the volume" of the request if they don't hear from Goodell by next week. Part of the union's press release reads as follows:

Given a process that has contained procedural violations of our collective bargaining agreement, the Commissioner's role as a central witness in the appeal hearing and his evident partiality with respect to the Wells report, the Commissioner must designate a neutral party to serve as arbitrator in this matter. The players also believe that the Commissioner's history of inconsistently issuing discipline against our players makes him ill-suited to hear this appeal in a fair-minded manner.

As for the Wells Report, Smith stated that "you can't really have credibility just because you slap the word independent on a piece of paper." He offered into evidence the findings in regard to NFL official Walt Anderson, who was a key figure in the investigation, citing one part of the report questions his memory and another credits it.


Zimmer happy with progress of Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:32 pm ET) Mike Zimmer has expressed optimism that underachieving Vikings wideout Cordarrelle Patterson is gaining a better understanding of route-running and the nuances of playing the position in the NFL, which would allow his talent to result in greater productivity.

Patterson took a step back in 2014 after a mediocre rookie year. He played in every game, but managed just 33 receptions for 384 yards and one touchdown. He has since stated that 2015 is his make-or-break year and is apparently acting like it in the offseason.

"He's done real well," Zimmer told Fox Sports North. "He's running routes good. He's working hard. So we just need him to continue to do those things and continue to keep getting consistent and keep improving. I've been impressed."


GM: Dolphins LT Branden Albert should be fine for Week 1
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:22 pm ET) Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey has expressed optimism that left tackle Branden Albert will be ready to roll by the regular season opener.

Albert has been rehabbing from a torn ACL and MCL sustained last November against Detroit. He had signed a five-year, $46 million contract the previous March and had been performing particularly well before going down.

"It's been a long rehab and he's really attacked it every day," Hickey told SiriusXM NFL Radio, adding that there was a "reasonable explanation" that he would be ready for Week 1. "We really like his progress. He's out there with his team working out. We're really encouraged by what we're seeing with him."

Ja'Wuan Williams was forced to move to left tackle following the Albert injury in 2014. But he struggled at that position and is expected to move to his more familiar right tackle spot this year.


Report: Bills still want to extend Marcell Dareus
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(1:15 pm ET) The Bills still want to extend the contract of defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, according to a report by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport

Despite the one-game suspension levied by the league against Dareus on Thursday, the team still hopes to have an extension wrapped up before the start of training camp. 

2015 is scheduled to be the last season of Dareus' current contract. He'll make $8.06 million.


Shanahan: Struggles of Robert Griffin III unrelated to injury
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:13 pm ET) Former Redskins coach Mike Shanahan does not believe injuries have prevented quarterback Robert Griffin III from maximizing his potential in the NFL. Rather, he feels it was the team not creating an offensive system that best fits his talents and his own belief that he could play a traditional role at that position.

Griffin sustained a serious knee injury in the 2012 playoffs. He then struggled in 2013 in an offense designed to transform him into a drop-back quarterback rather than one that took advantage of his mobility. He suffered another knee injury last year and did not perform well in the offense of new coach Jay Gruden.

"I don't think getting hurt has anything to do with it," Shanahan told 106.7 The Fan. "In college he didn't have a route tree, didn't have a playbook. That does take some time. ... If you take a quarterback like that you must run the kind of system that allows him to be successful. ... I really believe Robert thought he was more of a drop-back quarterback. He hasn't done things the NFL asks you to do. It does take some growing pains. You better really work on it inside and out."

Some have wondered why the Redskins went so hard after Griffin if they weren't willing to create an offense that maximizes his skill set.


Sheldon Richardson not at Jets' OTAs because 'I have a life'
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(1:05 pm ET) Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson is skipping the team's OTAs this week, a decision that earned him criticism from fans and media. 

Richardson's explanation isn't likely to win anyone over. 

Richardson went on Twitter and told fans he missed the workouts because, "I have a life outside of football."

"I chose to enjoy my family a little longer," he continued. "So to (you) fans that know everything, please worry 'bout yourself."

Richardson pointed out in another tweet that he "jus' wasn't at practice," but that he was still "putting in work tho'"


 
 
 
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