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2012 Draft Prep: Smith will power Detroit

Senior Fantasy Writer
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In the span of about a 10-minute phone interview, Lions running back Kevin Smith mentioned the words health or healthy at least a dozen times. Proving his durability is of the utmost importance to him, and it should be important to the Lions and Fantasy owners.

Smith might enter the season as the only healthy running back for the Lions. Mikel Leshoure, who missed his rookie year in 2011 with a ruptured Achilles, is dealing with a hamstring injury, and Jahvid Best is still not cleared for action following last year's concussion woes.

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The expectation entering this season was Leshoure would be the No. 1 running back in Detroit, Best would be a change-of-pace option and work on passing downs and Smith would be an insurance policy. But based on health, Smith is now looking like the starter, and the prediction here is he will be the best Fantasy running back for the Lions.

Smith's No. 1 goal for this season: Take care of his body.

"I want to stay healthy for all 16-plus," he said. "When I'm healthy I know I'm able to play at a high level."

He proved his worth last year after Detroit decided not to re-sign him following the 2010 season, which was cut short by shoulder and thumb injuries. When Best went down with a concussion in Week 6 last year, the Lions brought back Smith, and he shined when he was given a heavy workload.

Smith appeared in seven games for the Lions last year and finished with 535 total yards and seven touchdowns. He had three games with double digits in Fantasy points, including 38 points against Carolina in Week 11, and averaged 12.6 Fantasy points a game.

This year, he is ready to be the lead rusher, whether Leshoure and Best are healthy or not. He believes he can be a Top 10 running back, and his stats as a rookie in 2008 -- 1,262 total yards and eight touchdowns -- give some credibility to that premise.

"I'm the next guy up," Smith said in reference to Leshoure and Best being injured. "I just have to take care of business. The rest will take care of itself."

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Smith had 277 touches as a rookie, and we'd like to see what he can do with that many touches this season since he would be surrounded by a healthy Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, opening up what should be incredibly large running lanes. Despite being a pass-happy team -- Stafford attempted 663 passes last year and threw for 5,038 yards -- the Lions had a successful running game for Fantasy owners. They just didn't have a complete running back.

If you combine the production for the three main running backs in Detroit in 2011 -- Best, Smith and Maurice Morris -- you'd get 236 carries for 1,062 yards and seven touchdowns and 75 catches for 696 yards and five touchdowns. That adds up to 198 Fantasy points, which would have ranked No. 6 in a standard Fantasy league behind Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Maurice Jones-Drew, Arian Foster and Marshawn Lynch.

Now, we're not expecting Smith to post those stats by himself, and hopefully Leshoure and Best will get healthy at some point this season (keep in mind Leshoure is also suspended for the first two games). But if they don't, Smith could be in line for an amazing year.

Of course, he has to stay healthy himself, which hasn't always been easy. He said he's older now (25) and has a better understanding of how to take care of his body. He has spent more time in the weight room doing "injury-prevention exercises," and he plans to fight through any nagging injuries during the season.

Smith will likely present tremendous value on Draft Day with his Average Draft Position currently at No. 85 (Round 8). He is being drafted as a No. 3 Fantasy running back, but he could easily be a Top 15 option if Leshoure and Best remain limited during the season.

I asked Smith when he looks back on this year, he will reflect on 2012 with the thought ...

"I did it," he said. "I did everything that I worked so hard for."

It all comes down to health. For Smith. For Leshoure and Best. And for Fantasy owners, who might have to take a healthy risk on an injury-riddled running back in a potentially crowded backfield, but one who could reap huge rewards.

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
Eric Decker ahead of where he was last week
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:41 am ET) Jets receiver Eric Decker emerged from Sunday's game without aggravating his hamstring injury. "He felt better [Monday] than he did this time last week," coach Rex Ryan told ESPN.com.

Decker caught four passes for 48 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Detroit. He'll visit the Chargers in Week 5.


Rob Gronkowski a boom-or-bust option
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(10:34 am ET) Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski found the end zone for the third time in four games, and he salvaged a subpar showing for the third time in four games as a result. Still, there are real questions about how much more he is capable of at this point.

Gronkowski has played a limited role in his return from knee surgery. Even Monday, when he played his largest role of the season, he was on the field for just 62 percent of the team's snaps. He still had just three passes thrown his way, a troubling sign -- especially since his touchdown came after backup Jimmy Garoppolo entered the game.

Gronkowski is still the best weapon in the Patriots' passing game, which is a concern if you are a Tom Brady owner as well. At this point, he clearly is not the same guy we have seen in the past, and it is hard to say when, or if, he might be that guy. The Patriots are going to keep looking for Gronkowski in the red zone, which might help him salvage a few more games and possibly even his season.

However, Gronkowski ranks just 14th among tight ends in yards right now, making him very much a boom-or-bust option until he gets back to full strength. 


Andy Reid wants to keep Knile Davis involved
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:33 am ET) Despite Jamaal Charles' return from an ankle injury, Chiefs coach Andy Reid indicated running back Knile Davis will continue to get substantial work. Davis has run for 239 yards the past two weeks.

"They're both explosive players," Reid told ESPN.com. "They're completely different players, but they're both explosive players. That makes my job easy. Just give them the ball."


Still some questions for Travis Kelce
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:17 am ET) Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who caught the attention of Fantasy owners with his big-play ability in the preseason and showed flashes of it through the first three weeks, finally turned in the performance everyone was hoping to see Week 4 against New England, emerging as quarterback Alex Smith's favorite target after playing just a peripheral role in the passing game earlier in the year.

Is it validation that Kelce is a starting-caliber tight end in Fantasy? I'd say so. He now has two games with 80-plus receiving yards and two touchdowns in a span of four weeks, making him the eighth-best tight end in standard CBSSports.com scoring. That says a lot right there.

But is he so good that you should feel comfortable shopping Jimmy Graham if you happen to own both? I'm not ready to make that leap. For one thing, the Chiefs passing game isn't the most stable in the league. A different player has led the team in targets each week. For another, Kelce doesn't see the field all that much -- at least not like we're used to seeing from the league's top tight ends. He played only 52 percent of the team's snaps Monday, down from 65 percent in Week 3. He played less than 40 percent of their snaps each of the first two weeks.

Because the Chiefs are lacking a standout wide receiver, I believe that number is more likely to rise than fall going forward. But until we see that it is rising consistently, Kelce remains a solid but not especially high-end starter at tight end.


Redskins add Gabe Miller in roster tweaks
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:14 am ET) The Redskins signed linebacker Gabe Miller and nose tackle Robert Thomas to their practice squad and released defensive lineman Hebron Fangupo from the squad.

Carson Palmer's shoulder issues not solved
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:09 am ET) Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer said the bruised nerve in his throwing shoulder hasn't progressed as much as he had hoped, but still thinks he can show coaches he's capable of starting Week 5 at Denver, reports ESPN's Ed Werder. Drew Stanton has started the past two games and could face the Broncos if Palmer can't practice fully this week.

It is time to sit Tom Brady
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(10:08 am ET) We all mostly assumed Tom Brady's 2013 season was an aberration, right? Sure, he posted his lowest touchdown total and yards per attempt mark since 2006, but hey, he didn't have Rob Gronkowski to throw to! So, what's the excuse now?

With Gronkowski playing a higher percentage of the snaps than any game prior, Brady still put up a dud on Monday night against the Chiefs, in the worst showing of an already disappointing season. He has now failed to even reach 15 Fantasy points in his first four games this season, and is off to the worst start of his career.

Even in his disappointing 2013 campaign, Brady had 75 Fantasy points through four games, compared to 43 after Monday's 6-point effort. It isn't all on Brady of course, as the Patriots' receiving corps beyond Gronkowski and Julian Edelman is pretty much a disaster -- though, of course, it isn't likely to get any better moving forward.

At this point, what looked to be an aberration is settling into the new reality. Brady's skills have slipped just enough that he can no longer make up for the subpar talent the organization has surrounded him with. And things won't get any easier for Brady in Week 5, with the Bengals on the schedule. No team has been stingier against opposing quarterbacks than the Bengals, who have allowed just two touchdowns through three games, with six total interceptions.

At this point, sitting Brady is a pretty easy call. In fact, the more pertinent question is whether the 26th-ranked Fantasy quarterback is still worth owning in 99 percent of CBSSports.com leagues. 


Jamaal Charles' ankle is sore after three-touchdown night
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:35 am ET) Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles said he felt good during the 41-14 win over the Patriots, but admitted afterward his injured ankle was sore, reports ESPN.com. "I'm ready to get off it and ice it up," he said.

Charles got 21 touches and scored three touchdowns, two receiving, in his first action since spraining his ankle Week 2. He'll play the 49ers in San Francisco on Sunday.


Stephen Gostkowski barely sees the field
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:30 am ET) Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski hit two PATs and attempted no field goals in the Week 4 loss at Kansas City. He plays the Bengals on Sunday night.

Julian Edelman quiet on MNF
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) After three straight strong outings, Patriots receiver Julian Edelman was held to 23 receiving yards in Monday's loss at Kansas City. Edelman caught four of his eight targets and is up to 26 grabs this season.

Edelman cut his route short on Tom Brady's first interception, and he was unable to hang onto at least one catchable throw. Edelman will try to bounce back Sunday night against Cincinnati.


 
 
 
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