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2012 Draft Prep: Johnson will shine this season

Senior Fantasy Writer
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We used to talk about Andre Johnson piling up stats. Catches, yards and touchdowns were the only things that mattered regarding the Texans receiver, who was once considered the best in the NFL. But now Johnson is being discussed with different numbers – age and injuries.

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Fantasy owners are concerned that at 31 years old he's near the end of his career, especially since he's starting to look fragile. Going back to last year, Johnson has dealt with hamstring problems, which cost him nine games in 2011, offseason knee surgery and an injured groin in training camp. He even had to leave the third preseason game against New Orleans when he got the wind knocked out of him.

Johnson hasn't helped his Fantasy value this offseason by not being 100 percent healthy, but I'm not concerned. I'm expecting a big year for Johnson and the prediction here is he will remain a Top 3 Fantasy receiver.

Calvin Johnson is clearly the No. 1 Fantasy receiver, and Julio Jones has emerged as the No. 2 option. But Andre Johnson is a close third and he will rebound for a big year in 2012. He's ready to prove wrong all the naysayers who think he's done.

"It's fun. I laugh at it," Johnson told the media in Houston. "I don't feel old at all. … I'm ready to go at it again. I missed a lot of time (in 2011) and I feel like I have a lot to prove. I want to show people that I can still play at a high level. To just hear some of the things about me getting old and stuff like that, that's just like a challenge. Like I said, I laugh at it, and I'm excited about this upcoming season."

We're excited for Johnson as well and he could emerge with tremendous Fantasy value if he falls into Round 3 or later. I'm not afraid of him getting hurt even though he hasn't been able to play 16 games each of the past two years.

Last year, Johnson was limited to just seven games due to the hamstring problems. He also missed three games in 2010 and in May he had the arthroscopic surgery on his knee before hurting his groin.

I get the argument that his best days are behind him, but I'll take my chances with Johnson in most leagues with a Round 2 pick. Prior to getting hurt last year, Johnson had 21 catches for 316 yards and two touchdowns in his first three games (an average of 14 Fantasy points a week in standard leagues). He also had 13 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown in two playoff games, both with T.J. Yates at quarterback. And in 2010 when he missed three games he still finished with 86 catches, 1,216 catches and eight touchdowns.

Matt Schaub (foot) will return this season, which will help Johnson. He also has no real threat for targets, and Johnson has averaged at least 10 targets a game from 2006-10. Sure, the Texans are a run-first team with Arian Foster and Ben Tate, but Johnson had 162 Fantasy points (12.5 points a week) in 2010 during Foster's breakout season.

Fear Johnson if you want because of his injury history, but just keep in mind what he's capable of doing when healthy. I have no problem taking a risk on him because the rewards should be outstanding. His teammates also recognize his greatness and are counting on him for a big year.

"He's so important to the whole organization," fellow receiver Kevin Walter told the Houston Chronicle. "We need him out here."

Johnson might be near the end of his run as an elite receiver, which is fine. But the epitaph won't be written this year. Johnson is going to have a great season in 2012 and he will return as a Top 3 Fantasy receiver in all leagues.

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
James Harrison visiting Cardinals
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:31 pm ET) Linebacker James Harrison will visit the Cardinals on Wednesday, reports NFL.com. The five-time Pro Bowler had two sacks over 10 starts with the Bengals last year.

Jordan Cameron has chance to 'put up monster numbers'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:27 pm ET) With Browns receiver Josh Gordon suspended for the entire season, tight end Jordan Cameron "should have the opportunity to put up monster numbers since the Browns don't have many reliable options in the passing game," reports Pro Football Talk.

Cameron is entering the final year of his rookie deal. The website suggests the Browns have more reason now to "take care" of Cameron.


Cowboys bring back Phillip Tanner
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:59 pm ET) The Cowboys signed running back Phillip Tanner, who was released by the Colts a week ago. Tanner played for Dallas the past three seasons but got just 12 touches last year.

Josh Gordon gets one-year suspension
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:40 pm ET) Arbitrator Harold Henderson upheld the one-year suspension for Browns receiver Josh Gordon.

"I'd like to apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Cleveland Browns organization and our fans," Gordon said in a statement. "I am very disappointed that the NFL and its hearing office didn't exercise better discretion and judgment in my case. I would like to sincerely thank the people who have been incredibly supportive of me during this challenging time, including my family, my agent, my union, my legal team, and the Cleveland Browns staff."

Gordon was suspended for a repeat violation of the league's substance abuse policy. He will be considered for reinstatement following the 2014 season, so the suspension might last less than a full calendar year.


Ron Rivera: Cam Newton's injury won't limit offense
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:33 pm ET) Panthers coach Ron Rivera said quarterback Cam Newton's rib injury won't limit the offense, suggesting the team will still run zone-read plays, reports the Charlotte Observer.

Cam Newton has 'no doubt' he'll play Week 1
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:29 pm ET) Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said "there's no doubt" he'll play in the season opener against Tampa Bay, reports the Charlotte Observer. Newton is nursing a hairline fracture in one of his ribs.

Gio Bernard, Jeremy Hill each projected with 200 carries
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:21 pm ET) The Bengals' official website was impressed with rookie Jeremy Hill's power running in the third preseason game. Writer Geoff Hobson opined "it looks like Giovani Bernard and Hill could both get about 200 attempts."

Bernard figures to be prominent in the passing game, while Hill is expected to get a lot of goal-line and short-yardage carries.


Kenny Stills considered questionable for Week 1
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:10 pm ET) Saints receiver Kenny Stills, who aggravated his quad injury in Saturday's game, is questionable for the season opener, reports ESPN.com.

Coach: Eddie Lacy could lead NFL in yards from scrimmage
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:53 am ET) Packers running backs coach Sam Gash said second-year back Eddie Lacy has a chance to lead the NFL in yards from scrimmage.

"He has the capability of being the leading rusher and maybe even combined yards if he catches a lot of balls," Gash told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "I absolutely do think that.

"I think he's a bell cow. He's a big guy, and he's physical."

Lacy ranked 14th last year with 1,435 yards from scrimmage. He was removed in some passing and two-minute situations last season, but has been groomed to play in all situations this year, the paper said.


Browns 'baffled' and 'frustrated' by lack of Josh Gordon ruling
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:35 am ET) The Browns are "baffled" as to why arbitrator Harold Henderson has not issued a ruling on Josh Gordon's appeal, reports ESPN's Adam Schefter. Team officials are "frustrated over where it could leave them and Gordon."

If the superstar receiver gets a one-year suspension now, Gordon would miss all of 2015 training camp. "Browns sources said there would be an extreme amount of frustration in the organization over that ruling and why it has taken so long," Schefter wrote.

Gordon's appeal of his drug-related suspension concluded Monday, Aug. 4.

 
 
 
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