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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
Texans waive DT Brandon Ivory
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:13 pm ET) The Texans waived rookie defensive tackle Brandon Ivory on Thursday, according to ESPN.com

Ivory was arrested on first degree burglary charges in Tuscaloosa, Ala. just one day ago. Ivory's agent Jeff Guerriero said Ivory is not guilty of the charge. 

"I spoke to Brandon he is not guilty and his name will be cleared of all charges," Guerriero said. 


Chargers TE Antonio Gates suspended 4 games for PED use
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:09 pm ET) Chargers tight end Antonio Gates has been suspended four games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy, the team announced. 

It's unknown at this time what drug Gates tested positive for. Gates, in a statement, said he was unaware that he took a banned substance

"In my 12 years in the NFL, I have taken tremendous pride in upholding the integrity of the NFL shield and all that it entails," Gates said. "I have taken extreme care of my body with a holistic approach and I have never knowingly ingested a substance that was banned by the NFL. In an effort to recover from this past season, I used supplements and holistic medicines, and unfortunately, I have now learned that those substances always present a risk because they may contain banned substances even if the ingredient list doesn’t reflect them.

"As an NFL veteran and team leader, I should have done my due diligence to ensure that what I was taking for recovery was within the NFL guidelines. I understand that I am responsible for what is in my body and I have always believed that ignorance is no excuse when it comes to these issues. I take full responsibility for my actions. I’d like to express my sincere apologies to the Chargers, my teammates, coaches, fans and the league who have always supported me and expected and gotten nothing but the highest level of integrity from me."

With Gates out for four games, the Chargers will turn to Ladarius Green as the team's top tight end, though it was expected for Green to continue getting more looks in the passing game. Green is entering the final season of his rookie contract. 

The Chargers expressed disappointment in Gates for his suspension but plans to stick with the longtime veteran through the suspension. 

"We are tremendously disappointed for our team and our fans as well as Antonio, but no more disappointed than Antonio is with himself," the Chargers stated. "Antonio is a member of the Chargers' family and we will continue to support him 100-percent. We have the utmost confidence he will stay in excellent shape for the season and be ready to go when he returns in Week 5. While it's unfortunate to not have him to start the season, we have complete confidence our tight end group will continue to play at a high level."  


Packers' Datone Jones out 1 game for substance-abuse violation
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(4:01 pm ET) Packers defensive lineman Datone Jones will be suspended for one game for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, according to NFL.com. 

Jones will miss Green Bay's season-opener against the Bears. In 2014, Jones totaled 22 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in 13 games played. 


Cowboys LB Rolando McClain suspended four games for 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2:56 pm ET) The Cowboys announced that linebacker Rolando McClain has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season due to violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. 

McClain hasn't been able to participate much in offseason workouts due to going under offseason knee surgery. McClain will be eligible to practice in training camp and is expected to be healthy by then. 

"I apologize to my family, the Cowboys organization, my teammates and Cowboys fans for my mistake. I will not break the rules of my profession in the future, and I regret my error," McClain said in a statement, via CSN Bay Area. "I look forward to returning to the field on week 5, when I hope to help my team beat the Patriots.

In 2014, McClain, who had previously retired twice before being traded from the Ravens to the Cowboys, totaled 81 tackles and a sack in 13 games played.


Jets DL Sheldon Richardson suspended four games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:22 pm ET) Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was suspended four games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, the NFL announced Thursday.

“I apologize for letting down my family, teammates, this organization and the fans," Richardson said in a statement via the Jets, per Fox Sports. "However, words aren't enough. This is something that can only be addressed by how I handle myself from this point on. I don't want this to take away from what the team is trying to accomplish. While I won't be there at the start of the regular season, I will do whatever I can to support my teammates until I'm able to return to the field.”

Richardson, who was a 2013 first-round pick, is entering his third season in the NFL. He was the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013 and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2014.

He has totaled 84 tackles and 11 1/2 sacks in 32 career games. He also has one safety.


Texans DT Brandon Ivory arrested on burglary charge
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7/1/2015) Texans defensive tackle Brandon Ivory was arrested Wednesday morning in Alabama and charged with first-degree burglary, according to a Tuscaloosa Police Department report obtained by SportingNews.com.

Ivory and another man were allegedly involved in a home burglary when the two entered the residence by kicking open the back door and then demanding money from the residents. The two stole money and two Ipads from the residence. Ivory and the other suspect were arrested at their apartment shortly after the incident with the stolen money and property.


Embattled Brandon Spikes pleads guilty to leaving scene of crash
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/1/2015) Former Patriots and Bills linebacker Brandon Spikes has pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a recent car crash and has received a fine and year of probation, per WBZ, which is further reporting that he has lost his license and will be forced to attend a driver's safety class.

Spikes has lost far more than his license. He has lost his livelihood, having been cut by New England for hitting another car and abandoning his vehicle on the highway. He later told the police that he had hit a deer.

No other teams have been rumored to be targeting Spikes for the coming season.


Terrelle Pryor ready to embrace new role with Browns
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Terrelle Pryor once declared that he could not play football if he could not play quarterback.

Reality has since set in.

Pryor has been cut twice and is now playing on a Cleveland Browns team desperate for a quarterback, but apparently not desperate enough to give him a shot. He is instead embracing what he is calling a "slash-player" role.

"I'm going to give (it) a chance," he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I just want to play football. I'm a playmaker, and I believe if I can touch the ball, I can go to the house, especially if I have space. This should definitely open up some opportunities."

Pryor has already taken the first step by contacting Steelers receiving stud Antonio Brown and making plans to work out with him and Randy Moss so they can teach him the nuances of the position.

He also figures there's another reason he's ahead of the game.

"The thing that helps me is that I played quarterback, and I know what the quarterback wants," Pryor said.


Lions new DT Haloti Ngata too busy to think about new contract
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata had his contract in mind in his last days with the Ravens, but he's too busy to think about it now that he's been traded to the Lions.

Ngata admitted that he suspected a deal could take place.

"The closer we got to free agency, I thought it could be a possibility," he told Monday Morning Quarterback. "It didn't surprise me ... since we weren't getting closer to any kind of contract stuff, I just figured there were a lot of things that could happen. I definitely started to have a trade in my mind as a possibility."

Ngata added that he's not thinking about a contract extension with Detroit.

"I'm just trying to get to know my teammates, get my playbook down, and my technique and terminology," he said.


Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon claims he'd pick himself in Fantasy
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon doesn't have a Fantasy football team, but if he did...

"If ... I could take myself, I would," he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Never mind that Adrian Peterson has returned to the backfield. Never mind that Peterson has traditionally not yielded many carries to teammates. In 2012, for instance, he totaled 348 of his team's 401 rushing attempts.

The Vikings, however, are expected to use a more balanced approach in 2015. And McKinnon, who flashed as a starter with Peterson sidelined last season, is feeling dandy after undergoing lower back surgery in December.

"Two hundred percent," he declared in regard to his health. "If there is a 300, I feel 300. It's all good."

McKinnon averaged 4.8 yards per carry a year ago, which buoyed his confidence.


 
 
 
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