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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
Cardinals' Larry Foote '50-50' on playing in 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Though Larry Foote is on the Cardinals' coaching staff at the moment, he hasn't ruled out a potential return to the team

Speaking to the team's website, Foote said he's "50-50" about playing in 2015. He talked about the factors that could play into whether or not he returns to playing. 

“Draft, what happens with (suspended linebacker) Darryl Washington, stuff like that, how my knee feels (after offseason surgery),” Foote said. “I’ll sit down with (Bruce Arians) and the next couple of months are really going to be the deciding factor.”

If Foote doesn't play, he'll be the linebackers coach for Arizona's upcoming season. He's been adjusting to the role of being a coach this offseason. 

“I am starting to like coaching,” Foote said. “It’s a little tough in the office, eating M&Ms, snacking all day, drinking coffee. I started my diet a couple days ago.”


Panthers pick up option on Luke Kuechly contract
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) What was promised by general manager Dave Gettleman is now official - the Panthers have picked up the fifth-year option on the rookie contract of standout linebacker Luke Kuechly, per the team website.

The two-time Pro Bowler has led the NFL in tackles in two of his three seasons and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. He has racked up 473 tackles since 2012, the most in the NFL.


Ravens TE Dennis Pitta hopeful for 2015 return
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta hopes to take the field in time for the 2015 season, but admits it's too early to determine if that goal can become a reality.

Pitta has undergone surgeries to repair a fractured and dislocated hip in each of the last two years.

"We still have some time to be able to assess where I'm at," Pitta told the Baltimore Sun. "I sure hope that I'll be on the field next year. That's my hope; that's my goal. We'll just see if I can get there."

Pitta has played in just seven games in the last two seasons combined.


Mark Sanchez: Eagles said Tim Tebow was just a camp arm
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez said he wasn't concerned that the team signed Tim Tebow, because the Eagles told him Tebow was just there to throw in camp.

"We needed another guy to throw while Sam's (Bradford) still recovering. So that's the reason (for the signing), at least as explained to me," Sanchez said, per CSN Philadelphia

The Eagles signed Tebow on Monday. He hasn't played in the NFL since getting cut by the Patriots at the end of training camp prior to the 2013 season. He spent last year as a television analyst for the SEC Network. 

Tebow and Sanchez were teammates on the Jets in 2012. Tebow's presence as a back-up created a quarterback controversy among fans and media that last ed throughout the season. 


Vikings CB Terence Newman has familiarity with Mike Zimmer
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Vikings cornerback Terence Newman won't have a steep learning curve now that he's with his new team. 

Newman played under Vikings coach Mike Zimmer when he was the defensive coordinator with the Cowboys. Drafted in 2003, Newman learned Zimmer's defense from his rookie season through 2006, before Zimmer left to take the same position with the Falcons. 

“I just know exactly what to expect from him as a coach, as well as everybody else in this locker room,” Newman told the Vikings' website. “You play your best football under him.”

In his career, Newman has recorded 741 tackles and 37 interceptions. Entering his 13th NFL year, Newman has already impressed his teammates with voluntary workouts underway. 

“I met with him and he seemed like a great guy,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “Like he’s going to come in and teach us what we need to know about the technique of the game and about the defense because he’s been in it before, so he’s going to help us out a lot. He’s a big asset to this team and the defense.”


Chiefs pick up option on NT Dontari Poe
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Chiefs have exercised their fifth-year option on two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe, per NFL.com. He is set in Kansas City through 2016, when he will earn $6.146 million.

The 350-pound Poe has earned the money. He racked up six sacks and contributed to 46 tackles in 2014.


Lions GM Mayhew OK with James Ihedigbo skipping workouts
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Safety James Ihedigbo was the lone absence from voluntary workouts this week for the Lions. But general manager Martin Mayhew understands. After all, Ihedigbo's agent has stated that he would not work without a new contract.

"I look forward to talking with James," Mayhew told ESPN. "I understand what he's going through. I've been through that myself as a player, when I felt that a time in my career that I was underpaid and I had to deal with that.

"So I have empathy for him. I understand what he's going through and I look forward to sitting down and talking with him. I have great respect for him as a player, as a man. I've gotten to know him a little bit away from football and I understand how he feels."

Mayhew declined to discuss whether the Liins will rework Ihedigbo's contract.

The 31-year-old Ihedigbo contributed 71 tackles and two sacks with a career-high four interceptions in 2014 despite missing three games at the start of the year with a nerve injury. He earned Pro Bowl alternate status.


Eagles withdraw qualifying offer to RB Chris Polk
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Running back Chris Polk is now a free agent. 

According to the NFL transaction wire, the Eagles rescinded their $1.6 million tender they offered this past March. The Eagles placed the tender on Polk, previously a restricted free agent, before signing both DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews in free agency. 

With Darren Sproles on the roster, it didn't make much sense for Polk to stay with the Eagles. 

In 2014, Polk ran for 172 yards and four touchdowns. 


RB Bobby Rainey signs qualifying offer with Buccaneers
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Buccaneers have announced that running back Bobby Rainey has signed a one-year qualifying offer the team extended to him before the free agency period. He was a restricted free agent and was given an opportunity to negotiate with other teams.

Rainey will compete for playing time with Tampa Bay. He rushed for 406 yards in 2014, but faded at the end of the season with just two carries in the last six games combined.


Jaguars planning to play 2015 season without Justin Blackmon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) As far as the Jaguars are concerned, Justin Blackmon will not be lining up at receiver for them this season. 

At least that's the approach Jacksonville is taking. Blackmon has been indefinitely suspended since Nov. 1 2013 for three violations of the substance-abuse policy under the old CBA.

"Our process hasn't changed," Caldwell said, via ESPN.com. "[We] plan to go without him, but if he emerges, he emerges, and he's going to go in with those top guys and compete with those other guys. Hopefully we're able to get some news, but if not we weren't planning on [having Blackmon]. We're just going to go [without him]."

Before he can re-join the Jaguars, he'll need to file an application for reinstatement, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell making a decision within a 60-day window. The application letter would include details of the treatment he's received. 

Since being selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Blackmon has only played in 20 games. He has 1,280 yards and six touchdowns in his career. 


 
 
 
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