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2012 Draft Prep: Breakouts for Draft Day

Senior Fantasy Writer
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This is where we call our shots, where we pick who will crash through the glass ceiling. When you want a sleeper, you'll look to picks later in the draft. But for most of these breakout picks you'll need a selection no later than the middle rounds. Most of these players should be considered building blocks for your roster with the rest excellent candidates to begin the season on your bench but end up starting for you.

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Go ahead and use this list as a starting point for creating your own group of breakout candidates. By the time you head into your draft you should have a dozen players of your own targeted for your team. Guys you've heard of but have heightened expectations for. It's always better to be informed and prepared to take players you believe will have good seasons rather than not prepared and just know a bunch of names and where they should be picked based on where they've gone in expert drafts, mock drafts, etc. I consider making these lists as a necessary step in having a successful draft.

Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens: When you think boring Fantasy quarterbacks, you think Flacco. He's had anywhere from 3,610 to 3,622 passing yards and 20 to 26 total touchdowns over each of the last three years. While fellow fifth-year passer Matt Ryan has reached Top 12 status, Flacco has fallen behind in the eyes of Fantasy owners. But the Ravens should push their aerial game to new levels in 2012 with speed threats Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones going long and tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta working underneath. Where Flacco can make significant improvement is in his accuracy, which has suffered since 2009 and has pushed his yards per attempt number down. If he can get back to averaging over 7.0 yards per attempt and complete more passes while attempting the same amount, the results should be good. Entering a contract year only makes the stakes higher for Flacco, who could land a long-term deal now but might risk it to earn even more cash after a big season. He should be focused on proving he's more than a good game manager who can earn playoff berths, which he's done each of the last four seasons. Throwing two touchdowns in five of his final six games last year (including the postseason) is the kind of sign that suggests he's on his way to breaking out.
My projection: 4,031 yards, 24 TDs, 13 INTs; rushing TD
Mid-August ADP: 127th overall
I'd take him: 114th overall

Donald Brown, RB, Colts: With little competition, solid receiving skills and the chance to see a lot of time on the field, Brown should easily post career-high totals in Indy. He saw most of his 2011 production come in his final six games where he averaged 70.8 total yards per with three touchdowns. Adding Andrew Luck as his quarterback should change how defenses handle Indianapolis going forward, not to mention how the Colts use Brown. But the key here is the rest of the running backs on the roster. Delone Carter and Vick Ballard aren't considered speedsters; they could take some goal-line touches from Brown, but ultimately neither should cut into a 15-touch average for Brown from week to week. With another year under his belt and a new offense that will take advantage of Brown's versatility, a 1,000 total-yard season isn't out of the question. Just check out his preseason Week 1 catch-and-go touchdown scamper to see the kind of explosion he has.
My projection: 832 rush yards, five TDs; 189 receiving yards, TD
Mid-August ADP: 81st overall
I'd take him: 71st overall

Mike Goodson, RB, Raiders: The Raiders made a good move when they sent an offensive lineman to the Panthers for Goodson, who was buried on the team's depth chart following the signing of Mike Tolbert. Immediately, Goodson became not only a quality handcuff for stud runner Darren McFadden, but the reality is that he could prove to be more than that. Goodson has proven to have good hands and great speed as evidenced by the 4.6 rushing average and 16 receptions over three games as a starter with the Panthers in 2010. Bringing that kind of ability to the spot behind McFadden on the Raiders depth chart should not only land him some work from week to week, but potentially make him a breakout sensation when (not if) McFadden gets hurt. In three years as the backup behind McFadden, Michael Bush had anywhere from 690 to nearly 1,400 total yards depending on how much playing time he had. While Goodson might not be the between-the-tackles bruiser Bush is, he's certainly faster and just as versatile. When you find yourself late into your draft, Goodson is a perfect pick to just grab and wait on. His mid-August camp injury shouldn't hold him up from being ready for the season as he was back at practice eight days after the incident.
My projection: 502 rush yards, three TDs, 196 receiving yards
Mid-August ADP: 157th overall
I'd take him: 109th overall

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Bengals: It's a tall order to call a running back who once scored 13 touchdowns in a season a breakout candidate, but the bet here is that Green-Ellis will have the opportunity to beat the career-best 1,093 total yards he had in 2010 with a good amount of scores. That's because the Bengals are looking to Green-Ellis as their primary rusher, which could mean as many as 250 carries (Cedric Benson had 273 carries in 15 games last year). It might not be long before he dominates carries as Bernard Scott, the scatback he'll initially split with, hasn't done much in his three NFL seasons and could get pushed on passing downs because Green-Ellis is a good pass blocker and a good enough receiver out of the backfield. A foot injury in the preseason doesn't seem to have the Bengals' coaches too concerned. The best part is that Green-Ellis is falling to Round 5 or 6 in drafts, meaning that a proven stat producer playing in a more conservative offense is ripe for the taking while other running backs have too many questions.
My projection: 1,049 rush yards, 10 TDs, 95 receiving yards
Mid-August ADP: 51st overall
I'd take him: 43rd overall

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: It's rare to want a running back on the wrong side of 30 coming off a broken leg, but Jackson is an absolute exception. Jackson was a beast before he got hurt last year, averaging just over 137 total yards per start. That's a huge total for him, one that is probably unattainable in 2012, but it's not like it came out of nowhere, as he had averaged at least 80 total yards per start for the previous two years. It wouldn't be a shock to see him get around 100 total yards per game. He's been running great in camp with no setbacks and just got a big contract extension, which suggests he's still a large part of the Bills' plans. That means he won't give up many carries to C.J. Spiller unless his play declines rather rapidly. With only 817 NFL carries under his belt he has more than enough time on his side to be very effective. I've toyed with the idea of making him a Top 12 running back. I haven't done it yet, but it doesn't mean he won't play like one.
My projection: 1,062 rush yards, seven touchdowns, 292 receiving yards, receiving touchdown
Mid-August ADP: 32nd overall
I'd take him: 23rd overall

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Jon Baldwin, WR, Chiefs: Last year was a wash for Baldwin, who messed up his hand in a preseason fight with a teammate and went on to have just one good game. The buzz around Baldwin this offseason was that he had matured and dedicated himself to the Chiefs new offense. It should prove to be a good move: He worked in camp as the De facto No. 1 receiver with Dwayne Bowe holding out and has the opportunity to be a real factor in the passing game. Quarterback Matt Cassel might not have the best arm in the world but he'll recognize Baldwin's 6-foot-4 frame as a mismatch against the league's smaller corners. Once Bowe rejoins the team and gets acclimated, the coverage on Baldwin won't be hard for him to beat. His work in camp should keep him on the field when the season gets going and the price to get him as a bench player on your roster is a bargain.
My projection: 48 catches, 686 yards, five TDs
Mid-August ADP: 145th overall
I'd take him: 129th overall

Eric Decker, WR, Broncos: There's a lot to like about both of the Broncos' big receivers. Demaryius Thomas is the one I'd draft first but I'd chase Decker too. The buzz on Decker started almost right after Peyton Manning signed in Denver as the two met and hit the practice fields quickly. Spending the offseason together paid off as Decker and Manning were already in simpatico when camp kicked off. We suspect Decker could get as many as five catches per game and contend for at least 75 grabs on the year. In five games with Kyle Orton last season Decker averaged 12.1 yards per catch -- he should be able to do better with Peyton. Figure Decker to be a high-volume receiver capable of serving as a borderline No. 2/No. 3 Fantasy option.
My projection: 76 catches, 1,007 yards, six TDs
Mid-August ADP: 73rd overall
I'd take him: 68th overall

Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins: The team's decision to draft Robert Griffin III forced a change in offensive philosophy from Mike Shanahan's previous years in D.C. Griffin offers mobility and good accuracy along with solid strength to get the ball downfield. Garcon's speed is considered a huge asset by Shanahan and wants him to be that deep-ball threat for Griffin. But Garcon can do more than that as he gained a ton of experience working intermediary routes in Indianapolis with Peyton Manning. If there was any question whether Griffin and Garcon were on the same page it was answered in the Skins' first preseason game. That should only be the beginning for Garcon, who put up career-highs last season in catches (70) and receiving yards (946) with the likes of Kerry Collins, Dan Orlovsky and Curtis Painter chucking him the ball. He should do at least slightly better with Griffin.
My projection: 64 catches, 970 yards, six TDs
Mid-August ADP: 93rd overall
I'd take him: 75th overall

Julio Jones, WR, Falcons: There might not be a single Fantasy owner who wouldn't want Jones on their roster. After a rookie season that saw him finish with 959 yards and eight touchdowns over 13 games, Jones has proven in short order that he's not only in good rhythm with quarterback Matt Ryan but also the best receiver on the Falcons. A fresh reminder of Jones' abilities came in their first preseason game when he broke tackles on one catch, came back on the next play and broke a screen pass for a decent gain and then caught a touchdown reaching around the back of a defender -- all on the same drive! And this stat is one of my favorites and speaks to Jones' potential: In the nine games in which Jones had at least three catches he averaged over 100 yards per game with eight touchdowns. If you're nervous about what Larry Fitzgerald might do with the lack of good quarterbacks in the desert, Jones is the receiver to go after behind Calvin Johnson. He's got Megatron-type of potential.
My projection: 80 catches, 1,177 yards, 11 TDs
Mid-August ADP: 28th overall
I'd take him: 20th overall

Greg Little, WR, Browns: The Browns added two receivers worth mentioning: Travis Benjamin in April and Josh Gordon in July. But neither player is considered well-rounded or NFL-ready and thus neither is able to unseat Little as the Browns' top receiving threat. His numbers were modest as a rookie, snaring 61 passes for 709 yards and two scores. But he came on strong toward the end of the year, racking up 30 catches and 414 yards along with both scores in his final eight games. That was with some anemic quarterback play, something hopefully he won't have to deal with again with rookie Brandon Weeden joining the Browns. A huge key for Little is to eliminate drops -- if he can do that he should be able to push his receiving average higher while continuing to get at least four receptions per week along with a jump in touchdowns. That makes him a good breakout candidate and a potential No. 3 receiver to start your season.
My projection: 66 catches, 866 yards, six TDs
Mid-August ADP: 128th overall
I'd take him: 95th overall

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Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens: Smith should serve as the Ravens No. 1 receiver, a role Anquan Boldin couldn't quite pick up when he came to town a couple of years ago. Last year was a mixed bag for Smith even though his numbers at the end of the year were very nice. But how he got those seven touchdowns and 841 yards were maddening: He had three touchdowns and 152 yards in a dream breakout game against the Rams, only to tally 174 yards and no touchdowns in the four games following. He had one more huge game against the Bengals (165 yards and a score) and was otherwise fair to middlin' as a hamstring injury kept him somewhat grounded. Smith focused on being a better route-runner and a more complete receiver this offseason, working with Flacco in hopes to develop into the go-to receiver for the Ravens. He's over an ankle injury from earlier this month and seems well on his way to meeting his goal. He might be the best No. 3 Fantasy receiver available on Draft Day.
My projection: 70 catches, 1,006 yards, seven TDs
Mid-August ADP: 82nd overall
I'd take him: 65th overall

Jacob Tamme, TE, Broncos: Last year I was high on Rob Gronkowski because I knew he'd be on the field a lot for the Patriots and would get a lot of targets by default. The sentiment is the same for Tamme in Denver: The Broncos will utilize him in a number of ways and keep him on the field as a mismatch problem for opposing defenses. To put it in terms that Peyton Manning would probably agree with, he's Dallas Clark. In fact, when Tamme filled in for Clark with the Colts in 2010 he averaged over six catches per game. With Decker and Demaryius Thomas demanding their own coverage, it's a cinch that Tamme will have some really good opportunities to be a consistent factor.
My projection: 60 catches, 674 yards, seven TDs
Mid-August ADP: 102nd overall
I'd take him: 96th overall

Off the radar: 10 deeper breakouts of varying degrees
Randall Cobb, WR, GB He's expected to work as a slot receiver and play as a speedy little mismatch type.
Jared Cook, TE, TEN Good player with lots of upside but buried in a deep position in Fantasy.
Michael Crabtree, WR, SF Not the prettiest, but if Manningham and Moss can take coverage from him he should have a good year.
Leonard Hankerson, WR, WAS Really the only big receiver in Washington. He's healed from a bad hip injury.
James Jones, WR, GB If Greg Jennings isn't ready for the season (or gets traded), Jones should have a chance to score big.
Dustin Keller, TE, NYJ Contract-year player who starts hot then has fizzled out. If he doesn't fizzle he'll get paid.
Andrew Luck, QB, IND Love his potential, think he's worth a late pick in standard drafts. No one is sleeping on him.
Bilal Powell, RB, NYJ Might be a quick hook for Greene if he struggles early. If so Powell seems like best candidate to take over.
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, ATL Goes without saying he should improve on 2011 numbers. Could go bananas if Turner misses playing time.
Jerome Simpson, WR, MIN The good: Vikings love his speed and he should play a lot. The bad: Suspended first three games.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Player News
Report: Browns believe they still have a shot at Josh McCown
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(6:44 pm ET) The Browns remain confident that they can snag quarterback Josh McCown from the free agent ranks, according to a report from ESPN.com

McCown visited the Browns this week and has also received interest from the the Jets, Bills and Bears. The Browns are in the market for a starting-caliber quarterback with Brian Hoyer possibly leaving in free agency and with Johnny Manziel's status up in the air with the off-field issues hes working through. 

McCown threw 13 touchdowns to just one interception with the Bears in 2013, doing this while filling in for an injured Jay Cutler. His performance earned him a contract with the Buccaneers, though injuries and poor play resulted in a season that saw him throw 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. 

McCown was released by the Buccaneers earlier this offseason. 


Report: Cardinals sign cornerback Damond Smith
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(6:12 pm ET) The Cardinals signed cornerback Damond Smith on Thursday, reports The Baltimore Sun.

Smith did not play during the 2014 season after being cut by the Chiefs. He has never played in an NFL game.


Chargers officially cut OL Jeromey Clary from roster
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:52 pm ET) Chargers offensive lineman Jeromey Clary announced his retirement in January. However, the Chargers finally removed him from the offseason roster with a failed physical designation, according to the NFL transaction wire. 

Clary did not play during the 2014 season due to two hip surgeries. 

Clary spent all nine of his NFL years with San Diego. 


Chiefs release veteran tight end Anthony Fasano
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:46 pm ET) The Chiefs announced Thursday that they have released tight end Anthony Fasano.

Fasano has been with Kansas City for the past two seasons after stints with the Dolphins (2008-12) and the Cowboys (2006-07). The Cowboys selected Fasano in the second round of the 2006 NFL draft. 

In 2014, Fasano caught 25 passes for 226 yards and four touchdowns. 


NFL plans to appeal ruling on Vikings RB Adrian Peterson
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:25 pm ET) The NFL will appeal the Thursday ruling that reversed an arbitrator's decision on Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's suspension until April 15. 

U.S. District Judge David Doty ruled for the NFL to vacate the upheld suspension via arbitration, with the case going back to arbitrator Harold Henderson. Peterson pleaded no contest to reckless assault on his son, which originated with child abuse allegations. 

With the ruling, Peterson will revert back to the Commissioner's Exempt list.

The NFL released a statement on its desire to appeal the ruling. 

"Judge Doty's order did not contain any determinations concerning the fairness of the appeals process under the CBA, including the commissioner's longstanding authority to appoint a designee to act as hearin officer," the statement reads. "Even so, we believe strongly that Judge Doty's order is incorrect and fundamentally at odds with well-established legal precedent governing the district court's role in reviewing arbitration decisions. As a result, we have filed a notice of appeal to have the ruling reviewed by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. In the interim, Adrian Peterson will be returned to the Commissioner Exempt List pending further proceedings by appeals officer Harold Henderson or a determination by the Eighth Circuit Court."

         


NFL on Panthers' Greg Hardy: He hasn't been disciplined
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:11 pm ET) Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy reportedly is ready to immediately file for reinstatement from the Commissioner's Exempt list. However, the NFL's stance at this time is that there is nothing for Hardy to be reinstated from.

“He hasn’t been disciplined," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Charlotte Observer. "There is nothing for him to seek reinstatement from at this point."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell placed Hardy on the Commissioner's Exempt list early this season. Hardy was accused of assaulting and threatening his ex-girlfriend, Nicole Holder, and was found guilty by a judge last summer. However, upon appeal to a jury, the case was dismissed after Holder failed to show up to court and shut off communication with the prosecution. 

Hardy wants to be reinstated to the 53-man roster now that a federal judge ruled in favor of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in his case against the NFL. Judge David Doty ruled that an NFL arbitrator wrongly upheld the league's suspension against him and referred his case back to the collective bargaining agreement. 


Report: Lions to sign linebacker Phillip Hunt
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(4:35 pm ET) The Lions are on the verge of signing linebacker Phillip Hunt, reports ESPN.

Hunt spent three seasons with the Eagles and totaled 16 tackles. He did not play in the NFL during the 2014 season.


Rams release defensive end Kendall Langford
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:08 pm ET) The Rams have parted ways with defensive end Kendall Langford, the organization announced on Thursday. 

The move will save the Rams $6 million in cap space for the 2015 season. 

In 2014, Langford totaled 25 tackles and one sack in 16 games (four starts). A seven-year vet, Langford has notched 15 1/2 sacks in his career. 


Cardinals re-sign reserve tackle Bradley Sowell
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3:54 pm ET) The Cardinals signed offensive tackle Bradley Sowell to a one-year deal, the organization announced on Thursday

Sowell, who will enter his fourth NFL season, signed with the Cardinals in 2013. Due to injuries on the offensive line, Sowell started 12 of Arizona's 16 regular-season games. He did not start a game in 2014. 


After Peterson ruling, Hardy reportedly seeks reinstatement
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2:40 pm ET) With a federal judge tossing out an NFL arbitrator's decision to uphold Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's suspension, Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy will seek immediate reinstatement to the league, according to a report from ESPN

Both Peterson and Hardy have been on the Commissioner's Exempt list following off-field legal issues. Peterson pleaded no contest to reckless assault on his son, which originally stemmed from child abuse allegations. 

Hardy was charged with assaulting an ex-girlfriend and found guilty by a North Carolina judge. Hardy appealed the ruling to a jury, though the prosecution threw the case out once Hardy's ex, Nicole Holder, failed to show to court or cooperate in the case. 

Judge David Doty ruled in favor of Peterson, which opens the door to his reinstatement to the league. The arbitrator's ruling that allowed the NFL to uphold the suspension has been thrown out, sending the case back to the collective bargaining agreement. 


 
 
 
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