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2012 Draft Prep: Sky's the limit for Thomas, Decker

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker were solid but unspectacular Fantasy receivers in 2011. Decker had his moments early in the season. Thomas was a reliable option late.

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This year, both will be stars.

Thomas and Decker are elite talents, but they were never going to be elite Fantasy receivers with Tim Tebow at quarterback. Tebow might have a knack for winning games, but he was never going to turn his receivers into winning Fantasy options.

Enter Peyton Manning, and the value for Thomas and Decker has risen dramatically. It all coincides with both entering their third year in the NFL, and both are poised for a breakout campaign. The prediction here is Thomas and Decker will each have a career season.

We'll start with Thomas, who has the higher ceiling. Go back to his rookie year in 2010 when he was selected ahead of Dez Bryant in the first round of the NFL Draft. The expectation right away was for Thomas to be a star, but he's struggled with injuries in the first two years of his career.

He finally showed flashes last season with Tebow, closing the year with double digits in Fantasy points in three of his final five games. He also had the amazing playoff performance against the Steelers with four catches for 204 yards and the game-winning 80-yard touchdown in overtime. For the season, Thomas had 32 catches for 551 yards and four touchdowns.

Thomas has the potential to be a No. 1 Fantasy option and he is being drafted in Round 4 as the No. 15 receiver based on Average Draft Position. He should easily live up to that draft position and Manning is excited about his new No. 1 target.

"He's a guy we're going to feature," Manning said of Thomas in the Denver Post. "His size and strength and speed just allow you to do certain things with him that other players just can't do. … I look forward just to get more and more comfortable with (Thomas)"

The new offense in Denver should help Thomas dramatically. The Broncos are going to throw the ball at a much higher rate and Thomas should thrive.

Thomas only had three games with double digits in targets in 2011 and finished with one 100-yard game and two touchdowns over that span. Imagine what he could do with 16 games of seeing double digits in passes.

"I have high expectations, but I'm not going to project myself to do anything more than pick up where I left off at the end of last season and get better," Thomas told NFL.com. "You know with Peyton, the future Hall of Famer, just watching him with the Colts, he spread the ball out to all of his receivers. I should have plenty of opportunities. ... I've heard from older players that if he trusts you, you're going to have a great year."

Manning already appears to trust Decker. The two hooked up for two touchdowns in the third preseason game against the 49ers, and Decker is the hot name heading into Labor Day weekend.

Decker is being drafted in Round 6 as the No. 23 receiver and that's a great spot for him. His value might be slightly higher in PPR leagues since he could lead the Broncos in receptions. But make no mistake, Thomas should be drafted ahead of Decker since he has the potential for a better year even though both should shine.

Decker played well in 2011 as he bridged the transition from Kyle Orton to Tebow. Decker had two games with double digits in Fantasy points when Orton was the starter and four with Tebow. He finished the season with 44 catches for 612 yards and eight touchdowns.

He now gets a significant upgrade in Manning, and the two have developed an instant rapport. Decker's teammates have noticed a change in his approach this year.

"He's grown so much this summer,'' Denver cornerback Champ Bailey said in USA Today. "Eric's hit that level where he can take off at any moment because he works hard. He wants it. He just has to stay healthy. He wants to be the best."

We can see big things for Thomas and Decker this season. They could be Manning's next version of Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. And here's what Thomas and Decker are looking at if you believe in that comparison.

Harrison had at least 82 catches, 1,110 yards and 10 touchdowns every year from 1999-2006 with Manning as his quarterback. He had four years with at least 100 catches, three years with at least 1,500 receiving yards and two years with 15 touchdowns.

Wayne had at least 75 catches, 1,100 yards and five touchdowns every year from 2004-10. He had three years with at least 100 catches, three years with at least 1,300 receiving yards and three years with at least 10 touchdowns.

Granted, that was when Manning was in his prime and not coming off sitting out a season following multiple neck surgeries at 36 years old. But the potential is there for Thomas and Decker to fill the role of Harrison and Wayne as Manning's go-to guys in his supporting cast.

We're excited for Thomas and Decker this season, and they are definitely worth drafting based on their current ADP. They might even prove to be Draft Day bargains if they have the breakout campaigns we're expecting. This is going to be a good year for Denver's passing game.

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
Reggie Wayne quiet on MNF
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:57 am ET) Colts wideout Reggie Wayne caught three passes for 28 yards in the Monday night loss to the Eagles. Wayne was targeted seven times, second-most on the team, but took a big step back from his nine-catch, 98-yard performance Week 1.

Wayne visits the Jaguars in Week 3.


T.Y. Hilton draws another 11 targets
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:54 am ET) Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton drew 11 targets for the second straight game Monday night. Hilton caught six passes for 65 yards but failed to generate the big plays he's known for; Andrew Luck overthrew Hilton on one bomb.

Through two games, Hilton has 10 catches for 106 yards and no scores. He visits Jacksonville in Week 3.


Trent Richardson enjoys best game as a Colt
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:50 am ET) Colts running back Trent Richardson failed to surpass 64 rushing yards in any game last season. He ran for 79 yards on 21 carries (3.8 ypc) in Monday's loss to the Eagles, adding a 16-yard catch on his lone target.

Richardson got off to a great start and had 57 rushing yards in the first half. He displayed better burst and was hard to bring down. Predictably, Richardson bogged down after halftime, even coughing up a third-quarter fumble.

Still, Richardson will look to build off this performance Week 3 at Jacksonville.


Colts' tight ends nearly invisible Monday night
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:45 am ET) Colts tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen were barely involved in the passing game Week 2. Fleener caught his only target for 13 yards, while Allen was targeted once without a catch.

They'll visit Jacksonville in Week 3.


Ahmad Bradshaw shines in Monday night spotlight
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:44 am ET) Colts running back Ahmad Bradshaw had three receiving touchdowns in his career entering Monday night's game against the Eagles. Bradshaw nearly matched that total, catching two scoring passes from Andrew Luck in the 30-27 loss.

Bradshaw scored on a 1-yard toss in the first quarter and a 7-yarder in the fourth quarter. He caught all five of his targets for 26 yards and rushed for 70 yards on 13 carries (5.4 ypc).

Bradshaw received 10 more touches Week 2 than he did Week 1. He's up to 10 catches this season and should maintain a prominent role going forward, assuming he avoids injury. He'll visit the Jaguars in Week 3.


Eagles DST generates a couple turnovers
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:37 am ET) The Eagles DST forced two turnovers but got no sacks in Monday's 30-27 win in Indianapolis. Philly allowed the Colts' formerly dormant rushing game to pile up 169 yards on the ground.

Defensive end Fletcher Cox jarred the ball loose from running back Trent Richardson in the third quarter, linebacker DeMeco Ryans recovering. Safety Malcolm Jenkins intercepted Andrew Luck in the fourth quarter on a controversial play. Colts wideout T.Y. Hilton was clearly held on his route, leading to the pick.

Ryans finished with a game-high 10 tackles and one of the Eagles' three quarterback hits.

After failing to stop Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw, the Eagles DST will be hard-pressed to stop Redskins running back Alfred Morris in Week 3.


Cody Parkey makes up for early miss
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:31 am ET) Eagles rookie kicker Cody Parkey hooked a 38-yard field goal try in the first half against the Colts, but he atoned for that miss with a 36-yard game-winner at the buzzer in the 30-27 victory.

Parkey also converted 31- and 23-yard field goals and added three PATs for an 12-point night. He'll face the Redskins in Week 3.


Eagles get offensive contributions
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) The Eagles received several contributions in their 30-27 win Monday night. Wideout Jordan Matthews caught a 17-yard pass on four targets and receiver Riley Cooper caught one of three targets for 8 yards.

They'll take on the Redskins in Week 3.


Jeremy Maclin reels in another touchdown catch
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:19 am ET) Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin scored for the second straight week, catching a 6-yard touchdown from Nick Foles with 3:25 left in Philly's 30-27 win Monday night. Maclin finished with four catches for 45 yards despite being targeted a team-high 11 times.

Maclin could have had a huge night if Foles had been sharper. Foles missed him at least three times, including one overthrow in the end zone.

Still, Maclin has 21 targets and two touchdowns entering Week 3 vs. Washington.


Zach Ertz keeps making big plays
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:15 am ET) Tight end Zach Ertz has turned into the Eagles' big-play receiver. He averaged 21.5 yards on his four catches Week 2 at Indianapolis after averaging 25.7 yards per reception Week 1.

Ertz didn't find the end zone Monday night like he did in the opener, but he again showed off his huge catch radius and his 24-yard reception set up the winning field goal. He drew six targets, third-most on the team, and finished with 81 receiving yards. Ertz plays the Redskins in Week 3.

 
 
 
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