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2012 Draft Prep: Don't count out DeSean

Senior Fantasy Writer
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I'm writing this column in the middle of a draft. It's a PPR league where you start three receivers, and we're in Round 5. My first four picks were DeMarco Murray, Trent Richardson, Jordy Nelson and Doug Martin. I'm looking for my second receiver, and there he is.

DeSean Jackson has drawn me in again. Even after last year. Even though I should know better with this boom or bust receiver. Even with his brittle quarterback already battling injuries -- and it's not even the third preseason game yet.

But Jackson has me hooked. His potential has me hovering over his name in the draft room, and I'm going to select him ahead of a safer option like Steve Johnson. What can I say, I'm a sucker for talent.

The key is believing in that talent, and I expect Jackson to succeed. The prediction here is Jackson will return to elite status.

We all know what happened to Jackson last year. He got caught up in his contract, and with his money on his mind, his play suffered. He had the worst year of his career since his rookie season with 58 catches for 961 yards and four touchdowns and just 41 rushing yards.

Despite all that, Jackson was still rewarded with a five year, $51 contract extension. The Eagles realize his talent is worth the potential headache, and they expect him to play better. Nearly everyone has said that this offseason.

Eagles receivers coach David Culley told the Philadelphia Daily News Jackson's pending contract status impacted his preparation and on-field mentality last year, and he seemed tenuous on going across the middle.

"I saw a couple of times last year where I saw him maybe trying to maybe save himself because (he was thinking), 'I'm not under contract and I don't want to get hurt,'" Culley said. "I don't think there was a fear factor involved. I think it was more, 'I don't want to get hurt because I don't have a contract.' The first two-and-a-half years he was here, that wasn't an issue. A couple of times last year, that came up. I think the fact that the distraction is gone. ... There are very few things he can't do on the field. Very few things. Other than him not being 6-foot-2, there is nothing that a 6-foot-2 guy can do that he can't do. So I expect him to be complete."

If that's not a ringing endorsement from his position coach, Fantasy owners should listen to his quarterback. Michael Vick knows Jackson is a key for the Eagles to play well in 2012.

"He has to be focused," said Vick, who is dealing with a rib injury after Week 2 of the preseason. "His mind has to be in tune with football. The most important thing he can do right now is to make sure that he's attentive in the meetings, he's in his playbook and he understands different coverages so when he hears a play call, (he understands) what it's designed for. It's a lot of responsibility that he has to bear, but in order to be in the same league with the great ones, those are things that you have to do. From my understanding, he wants to be one of the best at his position and in this league. He's going to have to work for it. I think he understands that, and he's been showing that."

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As recently as Monday during the second preseason game against New England, Jackson acknowledged that he was a problem last year because of his contract, but he's put all those issues behind him.

When asked about instances when his effort was questioned, Jackson said during a halftime interview: "I let it get to me, even though I tried not to let it. I was trying to protect myself from getting hurt -- now I'm just giving it all."

He's saying all the right things, and Fantasy owners should forget what happened last year and look at his previous production. In 2009, Jackson had 62 catches for 1,156 yards and nine touchdowns and 137 rushing yards and a touchdown. He followed that up with another solid campaign in 2010 with 47 catches for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns and 104 rushing yards and a touchdown.

He's a Top 10 Fantasy receiver when he's on his game, and he represents amazing value this year since his Average Draft Position is No. 62 overall in Round 5. He's definitely worth the risk in that spot.

He has an elite quarterback in Vick, as long as he's healthy, and a solid supporting cast to draw coverage in LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek. Now, Jackson should be drafted after Maclin since Maclin is the safer of the two, but Jackson has the higher ceiling.

I'd love to get Jackson as my No. 2 receiver in all leagues, especially if I don't take a second receiver until Round 5. He should turn into amazing value on Draft Day, and Jackson is going to rebound to have a solid season in 2012.

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
Eagles' Earl Wolff, Marcus Smith limited in OTAs with injuries
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:33 pm ET) Eagles safety Earl Wolff and linebacker Marcus Smith were limited in OTAs with injuries, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Wolff is recovering from knee surgery. Coach Chip Kelly said the safety has been cleared to return, and the team is waiting for him to reach full participation in OTAs. Smith has been dealing with a pulled leg muscle.


Packers' Casey Hayward dealing with foot injury
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:27 pm ET) Packers cornerback Casey Hayward is dealing with a foot injury and doesn't expect to return to action until training camp, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

"I’ll probably take it easy into camp right now," Hayward said. "I have a minor foot thing right now. We’ll probably take it easy into camp."

Hayward said the foot "flared up" on him earlier in the offseason. He finished with 42 tackles and three interceptions last season.


Ravens' Terrence Brooks running, 'doing really well'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:19 pm ET) Ravens free safety Terrence Brooks is running after suffering ACL and MCL tears in his right knee in December, the Baltimore Sun reports.

"Terrence Brooks is doing really well," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "No predictions right now, but he looks good. He has worked hard."

Brooks is expected to open the season on the PUP list and could make his return this season.

"We're just hoping for the best, trying to get back as soon as possible," Brooks said. "We're taking precautious. We definitely don't want to rush back too fast. If you do get cleared, playing this year is definitely a goal. You don't want to rush it. For the most part, you have to be cautious and take it easy. After we get off of the PUP list, we'll see where we're at. I definitely want to get back into it, but we're taking our time. I have high hopes of being ready."


Report: OT Jake Long visits Giants Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:45 pm ET) Free-agent offensive tackle Jake Long visited the Giants on Thursday, ESPN reports.

The Giants are having to shuffle their offensive line with Will Beatty expected to miss the first part of the season with a pec injury. Long was scheduled to make $9.25 million in 2015 but was released by the Rams in March.


Saints CB Brandon Browner impressing teammates, coach
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7:11 pm ET) New Saints cornerback Brandon Browner is having a positive impact on not just the secondary, but the entire defense. At least that's the view of defensive backfield mate Kenny Vaccaro.

"Browner's a good dude, leads by example, talks when he needs to talk," Vaccaro told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "He's real serious, kind of keeps everybody level headed and knows what we've got to work for. He's won two Super Bowls, so he knows what to do."

Sean Payton echoed those sentiments.

"He's competitive," he said. "He's driven and certainly one of the things we talked about this offseason through the draft, through the acquisition of players is the makeup and making sure that this is something we felt like was a plus and certainly with him we feel that that is a strength of his."

The Saints are Browner's fourth team in six seasons in the NFL.


Eagles LB DeMeco Ryans working way back from injury
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6:37 pm ET) There was a bit of a discrepancy Thursday in regard to the practice participation of Eagles inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans.

Chip Kelly said before the session that Ryans would be a full-go despite him being just seven months removed from rupturing his Achilles tendon. Ryans did practice, but he told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he was not a full participant.

Ryans missed half of the 2014 season with the injury, but contributed to 45 tackles in eight games before going down.


Eagles QB Mark Sanchez optimistic as offseason rolls on
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6:28 pm ET) A stronger arm, greater familiarity with the offense and more confidence has Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez feeling quite good these days.

Sanchez underwent shoulder surgery two years ago that affected him early last season. He expects to be better in 2015, especially if given an opportunity to play over newcomer Sam Bradford.

"First thing, physically, I feel so much better," he told the team website. "The farther it gets away from surgery and all the reps I've had, all the rehab on through, it can only get better and stronger. So this is definitely the best I've ever felt. And then as far as the scheme, every rep, every time we sit down and watch film, every meeting, that can only help with my growth as well."

The chance to play is one reason why Sanchez chose to return this offseason to the Eagles.

"Were there other opportunitites? Absolutely," he said. "Did they look potentially good, better, similar, maybe worse? Potentially, yeah, there was some stuff out there. But when I factored it all in, I just felt this was the best spot for me. I enjoy playing for coach Kelly, I love this system, I love the tempo, I love the pace."

Sanchez also expressed a desire to remain on the team for which he threw his highest completition percentage of his career in 2014. He hit on 64.1 percent, by far a personal best.

Chip Kelly has seen a difference in Sanchez.

"I think you can see it in how he's performing out there now," he said. "He's also not learning an offense again. ... He is really comfortable in terms of the scheme."


Ravens waive/injured Julian Wilson
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:04 pm ET) The Ravens waived/injured cornerback Julian Wilson on Thursday, the Baltimore Sun reports. Wilson suffered a broken leg on the first day of rookie camp and will miss the season.

Saints' Anthony Spencer works ahead of Junior Galette Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:01 pm ET) Saints linebacker Anthony Spencer worked ahead of Junior Galette in the team's base 4-3 defense, a run-heavy look that featured just three linebackers, ESPN.com reports.

"However it came out, we’re not worried about depth chart now," defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. "We’re putting in a defense, we’re all working hard together and getting to know each other, our teammates and what we got. But I know both those guys can play, so we’re excited about 'em."

Spencer had a career-high 11 sacks in 2012 but has managed just 24 total tackles and a half-sack in 14 games over the last two years while dealing with a major knee injury.

"I think sometimes there are tougher positions to evaluate at this time of year," coach Sean Payton said, when asked to give his early thoughts on Spencer. "But I think, No. 1, he can affect the passer. ... He’s an edge player, I think he’s very good at fitting the run, and I think he can affect the passer."


Report: Bryant participates in drills despite unsigned franchise tender
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5:46 pm ET) Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant took a huge risk by participating in a limited portion of his team's organized team activities on Thursday, because he has yet to sign his franchise-tag tender, sources told Todd Archer of ESPN.com.

Bryant, who wants a long-term deal, has made a number of appearances at the Cowboys' offseason conditioning program but Thursday was the first day he participated in meaningful on-field work.

Bryant and the Cowboys need to work out a long-term deal before July 15 or he would be forced to play the season under the franchise tag, which would pay him $12.8 million.

In 16 games last year, Bryant caught 88 passes for 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns.


 
 
 
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