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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
Broncos NT Sylvester Williams working to improve game
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:45 pm ET) Broncos third-year defensive lineman Sylvester Williams has much to prove heading into the 2015 season. He must show he can play nose tackle and that he can fill the void left by the departure of Terrance Knighton.

Williams has been working toward accomplishing those goals. He stayed in the area during the offseason to better his game and remain in peak shape. He has emphasized diet and shedding body fat as well as film study in an attempt to learn of areas in his game that require improvement.

"I already went into this offseason with a lot of motivation from within," he told the Denver Post. "I put a lot on myself to get stronger this year and come back with a better year."

Williams started 13 games last year and contributed to 21 tackles.


Free agent LB Brandon Spikes visiting former Patriots team
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:51 pm ET) After just one season out of New England, linebacker Brandon Spikes could be coming back. The free agent is paying the Patriots a visit Wednesday, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

Spikes' numbers took a hit in 2014 with the Bills. He played in all 16 games, but managed just 54 tackles and one sack. He had 92 and 86 tackles in the previous two years, respectively.


Disgruntled Seahawks DE Michael Bennett unlikely to be dealt
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:46 pm ET) Defensive end Michael Bennett wants out of Seattle after signing a four-year, $32 million contract last offseason to stay with the Seahawks. But the possibility of a trade appears unlikely, CBSSports.com NFL Insider Jason La Canfora has reported.

"He's kinda sorta tried to say that he didn't really want to be dealt after all, but that's not flying anywhere," La Canfora wrote. "He and his agent have made it clear he'd rather not be back in Seattle and while the Seahawks aren't ones to back down, perhaps something emerges that makes sense for all parties prior to the start of the regular season.

"Kind of odd not to be so happy in a franchise that competes for the Lombardi Trophy, and until or unless the Seahaws put out explicit word that Bennett has permission to speak to other teams, I don't see any clubs nibbling in this era of hyper-sensitivity over tampering regulations. But there's a lot of time between now and September for something to perhaps change."

Bennett contributed to 38 tackles a year ago and added seven sacks.


Jets linebacker Quinton Coples expects to rush passer more this year
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:26 pm ET) Jets linebacker Quinton Coples is excited about the changes in New York this season. Coples expects to see a role change in New York's defensive scheme with new coach Todd Bowles at the helm, according to NJ.com.

"Well, I won't be jamming receivers," Coples said, comparing Bowles' defense to former coach Rex Ryan's system. "I won't be guarding the No. 1 receiver. That's a big change. Other than that, a lot more rushing. I'll be going against the quarterback a lot. I will be dropping [into pass coverage] a little bit, as well, but a lot more going forward [with rushing the quarterback]. They don't need me in coverage anymore, as you guys can tell."

Coples totaled 35 tackles in 2014 with 6 1/2 sacks and one forced fumble.


Denzel Perryman to provide depth at inside linebacker for Chagers
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:22 pm ET) New Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman has high expectations on his plate heading into his rookie season, according to ESPN.com.

Perry, a second-round draft pick out of Miami (FL.), will be utilized as an inside linebacker and on special teams early on with the Chargers, according to defensive coordinator John Pagano.

"He's mean," Pagano said. "He's tough. He tackles. He's somebody that's going to hit you. He's not just going to try and tackle you. He's trying to run through you, and that's something that every defense is looking for. He's got great instincts, and that makes up for the so-called lack of speed. He plays faster than he's timed."

Perryman totaled 218 tackles with 3 1/2 sacks in his final two seasons in college.


Browns' Ekpre-Olomu (knee) needs 7-10 months of rehab
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:17 pm ET) Browns cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu said on a conference call with media members Wednesday that he suffered a knee dislocation in addition to his torn ACL in December, ESPN reports.

Ekpre-Olomu, who was selected in the seventh round of this year's draft, said he was told he needed seven-to-10 months of rehab on the injured knee. He's been rehabbing five days a week for 3 1/2 hours a day and things are going well, the Akron Beacon-Journal reports.

At one time considered a potential first-round pick, Ekpre-Olomu missed the College Football Playoff due to the injury and figures to open the season on the PUP list.


Seahawks WR Jermaine Kearse signs RFA tender
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:14 pm ET) Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse signed his restricted free-agent tender on Tuesday, reportedly worth $2.356 million, according to ESPN.com.

Kearse had his best season as a pro in 2014 with 38 receptions for 537 yards and one touchdown.


Bears sign Kevin White, Eddie Goldman to four-year deals
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:04 pm ET) The Bears have agreed to terms with first-round pick Kevin White from West Virginia and second-round pick Eddie Goldman from Florida State, the team announced.

Both players agreed to four-year deals with the team. White was selected with the seventh overall pick. He had 109 catches for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns in his senior season for West Virginia.

"I know I spoke to you about getting impact players in the draft, especially when you're picking in the top 10, and that's exactly what Kevin White is," general manager Ryan Pace said after picking White.

"This guy's dynamic, he's big, he's strong and he's ultra-competitive. If I could stress one word for this player, he's competitive. You see it after the catch. You see it in the way he attacks the ball in the air. This is a dynamic playmaker for our offense."

Goldman recorded 35 tackles with four sacks in 2014 for the Seminoles.


Deflategate report finds Patriots QB Tom Brady 'generally aware'
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:27 pm ET) Attorney Ted Wells, who headed the investigation into the Deflategate scandal involving the Patriots, has concluded that "it is more probable than not" that team personnel "deliberately violated playing rules" by deflating game balls for their AFC Championship rout of Indianapolis.

>> Latest on Wells Report: CBS News

Wells went on to express his belief that Patriots locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski deliberately released air from the balls after they had been examined by the referee.

The 243-page report vindicated the upper echelon of the organization, but not quarterback Tom Brady, who declined to hand over his phone to Wells, according to the report.

"We do not believe there was any wrongdoing or knowledge of wrongdoing by Patriots ownership, (coach) Bill Belichick or other Pats coach," it read. "...It also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady ... was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls."

The NFL, which now has the report, is considering discipline against Brady, McNally and Jastremski, a source close to the investigation has told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Meanwhile, Patriots owner Robert Kraft is sticking with his sentiment that the organization did nothing wrong and that the investigation lacked evidence.

"I was convinced that Ted Wells' investigation would find the same factual evidence supported by both scientific formala and independent research as we did and would ultimately exonerate the Patriots," Kraft wrote. "Based on the explanations I have heard and the studies that have been done, I don't know how the science of atmospheric conditions can be refuted or how conclusions to the contrary can be drawn without some definite evidence."


Eagles QB Mark Sanchez expects to compete for starting job
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:10 pm ET) Despite the assumption of many that the Eagles traded for quarterback Sam Bradford to make him the automatic starter, fellow signal-caller Mark Sanchez doesn't perceive the situation the same way.

Sanchez believes there will be an open competition in camp, which is why he signed a two-year deal worth $9 million to return to Philadelphia.

"Absolutely," he told NFL.com. "That's the way I understand it. ... Just talking with coach (Chip) Kelly and knowing I'm comng with the opportunity to compete for the starting job. That was important to me."

Sanchez completed 64 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for the Eagles a year ago.


 
 
 
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