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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
Report: Vick Ballard suffers torn Achilles in training camp
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(6:16 pm ET) Colts running back Vick Ballard has been diagnosed with a torn Achilles, ESPN.com reports Friday.

Ballard went down with the injury at training camp Friday, and had to be carted off the field. He likely will not see the field again this season, as this has the potential to be a season-ending injury.

Ballard suffered a season-ending ACL injury last season, after appearing in just one game. 


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(5:33 pm ET) Giants running back David Wilson "definitely" feels ready for football after taking a hit from linebacker Cooper Taylor in training camp practice on Friday. Wilson has come all the way back from a neck injury that halted his 2013 season. 

"That felt good," Wilson said to the New York Daily News. "I definitely know I'm cleared now."


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(4:55 pm ET) Vikings receiver Cordarrelle Patterson did not practice Friday because of a "tweaked foot," reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

He was sitting out as a precaution, and the injury is not expected to be serious.


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Nicks said in a statement that he's going to "step away from the game." 


Report: Lynch's holdout won't last long
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(4:17 pm ET) Marshawn Lynch's holdout from Seahawks training camp will "probably" last five or six days at the most says ESPN's John Clayton, who figures the running back will balk once he realizes he won't get any new money added on to his deal. Lynch has held out through the very early days of camp because he wants a new deal just two years after signing his current contract. 

Chiefs to keep feeding Jamaal Charles
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(3:43 pm ET) The Chiefs don't plan to lighten the workload for running back Jamaal Charles this season, reports ESPN.

"I think he's got a lot in the tank," coach Andy Reid said. “We're going to keep using him. He's a good football player and he enjoys playing the game, so we'll keep getting him the football." 


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(3:40 pm ET) Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin, who is coming back from last year's torn ACL, is expected to be the No. 1 option in the passing game with DeSean Jackson now gone, reports Comcast Sports Net.

And if that's the case, Maclin could post the best stats of his career. His best season to date was 70 catches for 964 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2010.

"As far as numbers and everything, I've never really got into numbers," Maclin said. "But if they plan on me being a big part of this offense like I think they are, I think the numbers will come. I'm not going to get wrapped up in all that. That’s how I'm going to approach the season."


Rob Gronkowski not yet 100 percent
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(3:19 pm ET) Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski said Friday he plans to make a fearless return to the field this season and put a string of injuries behind him, reports WEEI in Boston. Gronkowski is coming back from a torn ACL in 2013.

As for being at full strength, Gronkowski cautioned that there is still plenty of work remaining before that hurdle is cleared.

"If it were 100 percent, I'd be doing every single thing so no, I'm not 100 percent right now, obviously not," Gronkowski said. "I'm working my way to get to that and I'm working every single day to get to that and improving every single day. I'm preparing myself to my max ability right now for the first regular game. I can't really say anything from here on out because it's far away. Every single day, I'm just giving it everything I've got in the rehab room and out here on the field. I'm preparing myself and listening to my trainers, what they have for me so that I'm ready to go when it comes down to it. Hopefully, I am.

"No timetable at all. Just keep improving every single day and we'll see what the trainers want me to do. They've been through plenty of knee injuries throughout their years here."


Handful of Colts sit out practice
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:52 pm ET) In addition to Trent Richardson missing practice on Friday, the Colts have safety LaRon Landry, cornerback Vontae Davis and rookie guard Jack Mewhort all sitting out according to the Indianapolis Star. Landry and Davis' situations have been deemed precautionary. 

Trent Richardson not practicing Friday
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:49 pm ET) Colts running back Trent Richardson is not practicing Friday, their second full day of training camp, according to the Indianapolis Star. Richardson had trainers working on his left leg on Thursday but he was able to finish practice.

Richardson is coming back from a chipped collarbone and a separated AC joint in his shoulder he played with last season. 


 
 
 
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