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2012 Draft Prep: Not the year to gamble on AP

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Christmas Eve 2011 wasn't fun for Adrian Peterson, the Vikings or Fantasy owners. Everyone got stuck with a bad wish list. We all must have been naughty.

Peterson suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee the day before Christmas against the Redskins, and his comeback has been one of the biggest storylines this offseason. We all hope Peterson will be ready for Week 1 against Jacksonville, and Fantasy owners want to know where to take him on Draft Day.

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If you're asking me, the answer is stay away based on where you have to draft him. The prediction here is Peterson will have the worst season of his career, and I don't want him on my Fantasy team based on the cost. I'll let someone else reach for Peterson, and I would only draft him if he fell to the right spot, which is likely Round 4.

Average Draft Position shows Peterson being drafted in Round 2, which is too expensive for me. I'd rather take my chances with Ryan Mathews, Fred Jackson, Jamaal Charles, Trent Richardson or Ahmad Bradshaw, who are all being taken after Peterson based on ADP. All of them have a healthier outlook coming into the season than Peterson.

For starters, let's take a look at running backs coming back from a torn ACL. Over the past 15 years, some of the more prominent running backs to suffer a torn ACL include Jamal Anderson (hurt in 1999), Terrell Davis (1999), Edgerrin James (2001), Jamal Lewis (2001), Deuce McAllister (2005) and Ronnie Brown (2007).

The good news is that nearly all of these running backs had success the year after getting hurt. Only Davis didn't return to form after suffering his torn ACL, but Anderson (1,400 total yards and six touchdowns), James (1,300 total yards and three touchdowns), Lewis (1,700 total yards and seven touchdowns), McAllister (1,200 total yards and 10 touchdowns) and Brown (1,100 total yards and 10 touchdowns) were all successful.

The bad news for Peterson's comeback is all of these running backs got hurt early in the year. Brown suffered his torn ACL the latest in Week 7 in 2007. They all had ample recovery time to return the following year. It's why we like Charles (torn ACL in Week 2 last season) to be a better Fantasy option this season over Peterson because he should be farther along in his recovery.

Peterson has said he is preparing to face the Jaguars in the season opener, even though he has been limited in training camp and won't play in the preseason.

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"My goals are still the same," Peterson told the Minnesota media last week. "I look forward to being back the first week."

We're glad Peterson is optimistic, but the Vikings seem to be taking a more cautious approach, which is smart. They need to save Peterson from himself if need be, and coach Leslie Frazier doesn't want to take any chances with his best player rushing back too soon from a serious injury.

"We need to determine what's the next step," Frazier said in a news conference. "We have some ideas of how we want to approach it, but a lot of it is how he feels with some of the things we're going to give him."

What the Vikings should do is ease Peterson back into action. The smart thing would be to sit him out for a couple of weeks and rely on Toby Gerhart, who is looking like a great value pick in Round 9 based on his ADP. Gerhart could end up playing a vital role for the Vikings this year if Peterson suffers any sort of setback.

Instead, look for Peterson's first game action since the injury to come against Jacksonville. Any owner who invested in him in Round 2 or higher will be holding their breath the first time he touches the ball. I don't want that kind of anxiety. This is just Fantasy Football, after all.

If you're inclined to draft Peterson just make sure to invest in Gerhart. At least he'll have you covered should Peterson go down again.

Believe me, none of us want to see Peterson standing on the sidelines. He has been one of the best Fantasy running backs during his career, and we want him healthy and active. His production speaks for itself. He has double digits in touchdowns in all five years of his career, and prior to last season he never had fewer than 1,500 total yards. But he did all of that production on two good knees, and his health status has me concerned.

This will likely be the worst season of Peterson's career. He's not someone I plan to target on Draft Day. I hate having to say that, but his knee injury will prevent him from being a superstar Fantasy option 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
Gavin Escobar a threat to Jason Witten?
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:13 am ET) Cowboys rookie tight end Gavin Escobar, who entered the day with just four catches all season, wasn't highly targeted Week 7 against the Giants, but he made the three targets he did get count, scoring two touchdowns, including one on an impressive 26-yard grab between two defenders in the third quarter.

In all, he had three catches for 65 yards -- numbers that would be easier to overlook if not for the two touchdowns and the fact that fellow tight end Jason Witten, to this point a mainstay in Fantasy, had only two catches for 27 yards. And it's not like he and quarterback Tony Romo were just failing to connect. Witten was targeted only twice the whole game.

Witten's production hasn't been up to his usual standards this season -- in seven games, he's averaging 3.3 catches for 38.0 yards -- but just based on their history together, you figured Romo would have a need for him sooner or later. Now with the emergence of Escobar, it's no longer so clear.

Escobar himself isn't worth adding except in deep leagues of 16 teams or more that don't have enough tight ends to go around. In those formats, he's the new Timothy Wright. But in leagues of 12 teams or fewer, Witten may be on the outs. He deserves a couple more weeks given his history, but keep an eye out for the next big thing at the position.


Larry Donnell here to stay?
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:55 am ET) After catching just one pass in his previous two games combined, Giants tight end Larry Donnell got back on track Week 7 at Dallas, catching seven passes for a season-high 90 yards.

Considering it was the Giants' first game without star wide receiver Victor Cruz, Donnell was expected to play a bigger role in the passing game, but a resurgence of this magnitude should remind us all how he came to be owned in 83 percent of Fantasy leagues in the first place. Over the first four weeks, he averaged 6.3 catches for 59 yards, scoring four touchdowns.

One potential pitfall for Donnell is that he lost two fumbles in Week 7, giving him three fumbles lost for the season, but with so few tight ends capable of his kind of production in a given week, the Giants would have to suggest his playing time is in jeopardy for me to pass on Donnell in Fantasy.

His production fell when rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham entered the mix in Week 4. Now that Cruz is out of the mix, Donnell's production figures to rise again.


Odell Beckham shows he's worth adding
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(12:42 am ET) Only three games into his career, Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham has emerged as one of quarterback Eli Manning's favorite red-zone targets, which is especially good news with another one of his favorite red-zone targets, Victor Cruz, lost for the season with a knee injury.

Beckham didn't have a lot of chances Week 7 at Dallas, but he made the most of the ones he got, scoring on catches of 9 and 5 yards. In all, he had four catches for 34 yards. His six targets were third-most on the team, behind wide receiver Rueben Randle's nine and tight end Larry Donnell's seven.

The six targets were a season high for Beckham. He has yet to catch more than four passes for more than 44 yards, but because he keeps getting looks in the end zone, he's worth adding in Fantasy even if it's just to stash him on your bench until you're ready to put your trust in him.


An encouraging performance for Eli Manning
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:34 am ET) Playing his first game without star wide receiver Victor Cruz, who's out for the season with a torn patella tendon, Giants quarterback Eli Manning still managed to bounce back from arguably his worst game of the season with one of his best Week 7 at Dallas, completing 21 of 33 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns.

It was his fifth game in six with multiple touchdown passes and his second with at least three. And he did it against a defense that had generally kept quarterbacks out of the end zone, recording nearly as many interceptions (seven) as it had allowed touchdown passes (eight) prior to Week 7.

Though two of his touchdown passes went to rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham, who wasn't even available to him the first four weeks, Manning did a nice job of spreading the ball around. None of the touchdowns went to his two leading receivers, Larry Donnell and Rueben Randle.

Judging by this performance, Manning knows how to make use of the weapons the Giants have and doesn't need Cruz to remain successful in Fantasy. His bad games can be really bad, but his good games have been frequent enough for you to give him another shot when he returns from a bye Week 9 against Indianapolis.


Andre Holmes comes back down to earth
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(12:26 am ET) Raiders wide receiver Andre Holmes, who blew up for 121 yards and two touchdowns Week 6 against San Diego, took a long time to get going Week 7 against Arizona, catching his first pass about midway through the fourth quarter. Not surprisingly, he finished with just three catches for 34 yards. 

It's not like he was invisible before then. He nearly had a great catch on a long pass along the sidelines in the second quarter, but it was ruled incomplete. He did have only two targets apart from his three receptions, though.

Clearly, it was a disappointing showing, but it's not like quarterback Derek Carr forgot about him. Only James Jones and Darren McFadden had more targets, tying for the team lead with eight. Holmes spent much of the game covered by Patrick Peterson, who remains one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. Holmes still has incredible play-making ability and will have better days.

But this performance shows why you can't trust him on an every-week basis yet. His matchup Week 8 against Cleveland is another tricky one because of cornerback Joe Haden, who has struggled at times this season but limited the Jaguars' Cecil Shorts to three catches for 12 yards in Week 7. You might want to leave Holmes on your bench for this one.


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(12:22 am ET) 49ers knicker Phil Dawson made only one of his two field-goal attempts in Week 7, adding two extra points in his team's 42-17 loss to the Broncos.

Dawson couldn't deliver from 51 yards out in the first quarter, pushing the attempt wide left, but was true from 22 yards out in the second quarter. He's 13 of 16 on field-goal attempts this season but had been 10-for-10 in his previous three games coming into Week 7. The 49ers have a bye in Week 8 before facing the Rams the following week.


49ers TE Vernon Davis catches two passes in Week 7 loss
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(12:20 am ET) 49ers tight end Vernon Davis caught just two of his five targets for 21 yards in his team's 42-17 loss to the Broncos in Week 7.

Davis was coming off an ugly Week 6 performance in which he dropped two passes, and he didn't fare much better in the team's blowout loss against the Broncos. He has 14 receptions for 142 yards and two touchdowns heading into the team's Week 8 bye. The 49ers will face the Rams after the week off.


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(12:16 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree caught four of his seven targets for just 27 yards in his team's 42-17 loss to the Broncos in Week 7.

While the 49ers averaged 11.1 yards per reception as a team Sunday, top options Crabtree (6.8 YPC) and Anquan Boldin (7.1 YPC) could find no room to work, leading to disappointing performances despite the offense dialing up 46 passes in the loss. Crabtree hasn't topped 50 yards in any of his last four games, and he owns 32 receptions, 322 yards and three touchdowns in seven games this year. The 49ers have a bye in Week 8 before facing the Rams the following week.


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(12:13 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin caught seven of his 10 targets for 50 yards in his team's 42-17 loss to the Broncos in Week 7.

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(12:10 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Steve Johnson caught five passes for a team-high 79 yards and one touchdown in his team's 42-17 loss to the Broncos in Week 7.

Johnson hauled in a four-yard score in the back of the end zone with only 11 seconds left in the first half to send the 49ers into halftime with a 21-10 deficit. The Broncos took over from there, scoring three touchdowns in the third quarter. Johnson has reached the end zone in three of his last four games, and he's up to 25 receptions, 315 yards and three scores on the season. The 49ers have a bye in Week 8 before facing the Rams the following week.


 
 
 
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