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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
Malcom Floyd's status still uncertain
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:03 am ET) Even though Chargers receiver Malcom Floyd plans to attend the team's voluntary workouts April 22, it doesn't mean his football career is back on track, reports the Union-Tribune San Diego.

Floyd continues to recover from a neck injury suffered in September. His participation in the offseason workouts will be more limited than most of his teammates, according to the report.

The report also added that no decision has been made whether Floyd will be able to continue playing. For weeks, Floyd has been running and lifting. While the injury did not require surgery, it demanded a long recovery. Risk of re-injury will be assessed before any decision about Floyd's return to the field is made.


Report: Niners want to play without Aldon Smith in 2014
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:59 am ET) Several 49ers decision makers allegedly believe that linebacker Aldon Smith won't play for the team in 2014. Smith was arrested recently for making false bomb reports at a Los Angeles airport, the latest of a string of troubles for the highly talented linebacker.

The San Jose Mercury News has sources that tell him that while Smith is unlikely to play, the team is unlikely to release him. They still owe him $3 million guaranteed and want to see how the situation plays out before making such a permanent decision. The team also expects Smith to receive a suspension from the league. 

In addition to his latest run-in with the law, Smith was arrested for suspicion of DUI in January, 2012 and again September, 2013. He also had marijuana on him during that September arrest. In October, 2013 he was charged with three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon. 


Kevin Williams leaves visit with Giants without contract
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:54 am ET) Free agent defensive tackle Kevin Williams left his visit with the Giants without a contract, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

"Had a good visit and gonna see what happens!" Williams said via text message.

The report says Williams, who arrived in New York on Monday night, has not ruled out playing what would be a 12th NFL season after spending the first 11 with the Vikings. The Giants were the first team to bring Williams in for a visit. 


Golden Tate loves role in his new offense
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:49 am ET) New Lions receiver Golden Tate thinks the offense he's going into this season will "fit better for me as a player than Seattle's did." Tate told the official team website that he's watched film on the Saints offense, which is what the playbook is based off of, and thinks of himself as a Lance Moore-type player with more explosion

As the website noted, Moore caught at least 50 passes and six scores in four of the five years he played at least 14 games with New Orleans. Both of those numbers should be attainable for Tate in Motown. 

Ultimately, Tate is excited about fitting his skills in with what's being asked of him. 

"Here we have our rules, initially, to learn the offense, but at the end of the day you have to play football," Tate said. "I think that's what I do best. Just finding ways to get open. Although a route is supposed to be at 15 yards, sometimes you're going to get pressed and your mental clock tells you to break it down to 12 (yards) and it'll time up correctly. I'm a mental clock kind of guy. In some instances it's going to be backyard football, find the hole and make a play, make a guy miss and go score with it. I see my game really fitting into this offense really well."

Tate has emerged into one of this year's hottest breakout candidates and a borderline No. 2 Fantasy receiver. Expect him to get taken between Rounds 5 and 7 depending on league size and scoring. 


LaRon Byrd visited Giants, checking out Cowboys
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:34 am ET) Free agent receiver LaRon Byrd is on his way to visit the Cowboys after spending some time with the Giants, the New York Daily News reports

Byrd has played in four games over two years with the Cardinals, landing one catch for 8 yards. 


Chris Johnson leaves Jets without a deal
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:31 am ET) Free agent running back Chris Johnson visited the Jets on Tuesday but left without a deal. The rusher told reporters at a Brooklyn Nets basketball game Tuesday night that "everything went well" but that he's planning to visit other teams. As ESPN reported Tuesday, the Falcons, Bills and Dolphins are reportedly interested in signing Johnson. 

"I'm just taking it one day at a time, taking my time, and whatever decision I make, it will be the best decision," said Johnson.

The Jets reportedly hope to have a decision on Johnson before the draft. 


Bears waive defensive lineman Cheta Ozougwu
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) The Bears announced Tuesday that they have waived defensive lineman Cheta Ozougwu. He played nine games over the last two seasons with Chicago. 

Steelers land punter Adam Podlesh
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) The Steelers have signed punter Adam Podlesh, who previously served with the Jaguars and Bears. He was released from the Bears in March, saving nearly $1.5 million. 

Podlesh ranked 29th last season with an average of 37.9 yards per punt. 


Texans sign Ricardo Mathews
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) The Texans have signed defensive lineman Ricardo Mathews to a contract. Originally a seventh-round pick of the Colts, Mathews sparingly played last year. He'll compete for a roster spot in training camp. 

Falcons waive two players
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) The Falcons waived tight end Adam Nissley and cornerback Saeed Lee on Tuesday. Neither player ever appeared in a regular-season NFL game. 

 
 
 
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