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2012 Draft Prep: Kirwan's WR snapshot

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No fantasy player needs to read a report on Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald or A.J. Green. With so many wide receivers to choose from it is important that you don't reach for a guy or not see a good bargain when it is staring you in the face. As I wrap up my camp tour, there are a number of interesting wide receivers out there that could be part of a good draft.

Wide receivers with upside in 2012

Demaryius Thomas, Broncos: Now that Peyton Manning is the quarterback and the pseudo offensive coordinator I expect Thomas to explode. Thomas is not only a vertical threat and a true red zone weapon but also a guy that can catch the slant route and break a tackle. Last year Thomas caught 32 passes at 17.2 per reception and scored a touchdown at a ratio of 1:8 receptions. This year with Manning pushing him to run great routes and Manning having a history of working with guys like Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne I expect Thomas to catch at least 60 passes at 15 yards per and 8 touchdowns.

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Eric Decker, Broncos: I am all over the Bronco receivers with Manning on the field. Peyton will love the athletic ability and underrated speed of Decker. Last year Decker was at the other end of Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton and still managed to grab 44 balls and 8 touchdowns. With Peyton running the offense Decker should grab over 60 balls and more like 12 touchdown passes. His 2011 13.9 yards per reception may also go up to the 14.5 per reception.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders: Carson Palmer has used the entire offseason to prepare DHB to get ready for this season and I hear there have been great strides in his development. DHB has had steady growth in his production from 9 to 26 to 64 receptions in his three year career. Palmer now knows this offense and I suspect the Raiders will be playing a lot of catch up ball in the second half of games which increases DHB's opportunities. DHB caught 42 passes from Palmer in the eight games they played together which was on pace for 84 receptions if they worked for 16 games. Barring injury I see DHB grabbing close to 75 passes and nine touchdowns this season. Like him or not he is a good situation for a big spike in production.

Randy Moss, 49ers: Some believe Moss is washed up and should retire. He has a chance for a very good season with Michael Crabtree always battling an injury and Vernon Davis keeping the safeties honest. Moss didn't play in 2011 and wasn't much to talk about in 2010. You have to go back to 2009 with Tom Brady to see great production (83 rec, 13 TD). Moss should be available late in Fantasy drafts but after visiting the 49ers this summer I'm convinced he will rebound from two years of obscurity and have 60 receptions with seven-TD season and is a steal in the late rounds.

Robert Meachem, Chargers: Meachem was a role player in New Orleans and still managed to catch 40 passes and 6 touchdowns last year in 8 starts. Now he's in San Diego as a full-time starter for one of the best deep ball throwers in the NFL, Philip Rivers. Meachem has a lifetime 16.1 yards per reception average and that has a chance to go up for the Chargers. Keep in mind Vincent Jackson is gone to Tampa and was targeted 115 times last year in San Diego catching 60 balls at 18.4 per and 9 touchdowns. Meachem will get most of those opportunities.

Brandon Lloyd, Patriots: The Patriots have a great underneath passing attack with Gronkowski, Hernandez and Welker. Opponents started to pack in the underneath coverage's and Tom Brady realized the need for an outside vertical threat. Lloyd caught 70 passes last year in Denver and St. Louis and as he told me "I have never been around a QB like Brady." Look for Lloyd to average close to 18 yards a reception and wind up with close to 10 touchdowns. In the last two years in inferior offenses to the Patriot offense Lloyd caught 147 balls and 16 touchdowns. The chemistry between Brady and Lloyd was obvious during my camp visit.

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Wide receivers with questions heading into 2012

Pierre Garcon, Redskins: Garcon is an excellent young receiver but he's also a product of Peyton Manning and the Colt offense. Robert Griffin III is the guy throwing him the ball now and the Redskins may protect Griffin with a more intense run game. I also expect RG3 to take off and run many times and struggle to sit in the pocket and find open receivers enough to effect Garcon's production. Garcon did catch 70 balls and 6 touchdowns without Manning last year but I don't see more production in 2012 but rather a slight drop to potentially 60 receptions and 5 touchdowns. Be careful how high you take him in the draft.

Michael Crabtree, 49ers: Injuries are a big reason I'm cautious about Crabtree even though many are calling for a big year from the young former first round player. With Manningham and Moss on the roster the Niners are prepared to work around Crabtree if they have to. The Niners are not a big throwing team but they still call 32 pass plays a game. I just don't think Crabtree even matches his 2011 production when he caught 72 passes in 14 starts. Be careful where you take him in your fantasy draft. If Crabtree is in your top 30 wide receivers you probably have him too high on your draft board.

Mike Wallace, Steelers: Mike Wallace is a very talented young receiver that is missing valuable practice time in a new offense. He has contract on his mind and it may linger all season as an issue. Antonio Brown got the big contract and is developing his own relationship with Big Ben. Also, keep in mind new offensive coordinator Todd Haley is looking to add some more running to the offense which will affect Wallace's opportunities. Mike will still be a solid pick in a Fantasy draft but his 2011 production fell off last year when he caught 22 passes and two touchdowns in his last seven games. I don't think he's a top 10 wide receiver this year.

Santonio Holmes, Jets: Holmes doesn't have Plaxico Burress opposite him. There's a QB controversy brewing, the pass protection is questionable, the team wants to run it more than last year and Holmes has some injury issues that keep him out of practice. He didn't impress his teammates at the end of last season with his complaining and only his contract protects him right now. If Tebow gets time under center it should cause Holmes to sulk again.

Mike Williams, Buccaneers: The Bucs are going to feature a power run game in the Greg Schiano offense and Vincent Jackson is the new featured receiver. Jackson will not have the production he had in San Diego if history of free agent receivers means anything but he will take away from Williams. Williams had the same number of receptions in his rookie season as he did last year (65) but his touchdowns fell from 11 to 3. Right now he shouldn't be a priority for anyone.

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Player News
Chris Harris targeting midway point of preseason
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Broncos cornerback Chris Harris, who's coming back from ACL surgery, told ESPN he expects to be cleared for full participation by the midway point of the preseason. Harris said the exact timetable hinges on his upcoming visit to his surgeon, Dr. James Andrews.

"I’m doing everything, there’s really nothing I can’t do right now," Harris told the network. "I still have to go see Dr. Andrews at the end of the month and get checked up and he’ll pretty much let us know the plan from there."

Harris had 65 tackles and three interceptions last year before getting hurt in the playoffs.


Dimitri Patterson a starter by default
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Unable to land a high-end free agent cornerback, the Jets "were forced to settle for journeyman Dimitri Patterson as a consolation," notes The Star-Ledger. Patterson, who projects to start opposite Dee Milliner, is on his sixth team in 10 seasons and has played all 16 games just once in his career.

If Patterson falters, third-round pick Dexter McDougle could get a shot.


Fred Jackson in danger of losing carries
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Bills running back Fred Jackson might not approach the 207 carries he received last year. According to WGR550.com, Jackson will once again split time with C.J. Spiller but also potentially lose snaps to the team's additions at running back, Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon.

The website said Jackson, 33, who's entering the last year of his deal, will be trying to prove how much he has left.


Teammate: Bitterness won't linger from Jimmy Graham standoff
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Saints tight end Benjamin Watson told ESPN that the the team's arbitration fight with Jimmy Graham over whether he's a receiver or a tight end won't have a longterm detrimental effect. Watson is hopeful the sides will reach a multiyear contract agreement by Tuesday's deadline.

"I’m very confident that it’ll be resolved the right way and guys can move forward," Watson said. "Obviously it’s always tough when you go through litigation with somebody, and it can probably get heated. And I’m sure there are emotions on both sides. But that is the business side of the game. 

"And it’s unfortunate that it came to that and that it was so public. But I really think -- I know, I don’t think -- I know that Jimmy loves New Orleans and I know that he loves our team and the organization and he loves playing here. And we love him, everybody wants him here, coaches included. So when it comes down to contract situations, that’s just a necessary evil ... not even evil, but just a necessary progression of getting a player here."


Dallas Thomas eyes starting job
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Dolphins coach Joe Philbin named Dallas Thomas one of the team's most improved players, and he has a good chance to start at left guard, according to the team's website. A third-round pick in last year's draft, Thomas played only four offensive snaps last season.

Thomas worked with the first team during spring drills and is much further along than he was in 2013. He stayed in South Florida throughout the offseason to get better prepared.

"You’ve got to know your material, you’ve got to know what you’re doing on the field because stuff happens so fast," Thomas said. "You’ve got to be able to just react to it and not even think about what’s happening on the field."


Spencer Nealy hit with four-game ban
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The NFL suspended Vikings defensive end Spencer Nealy four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances. An undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, the 24-year-old Nealy did not play in a game last season.

Nealy apologized and took responsibility in a statement, saying he took a supplement containing a banned stimulant.


Jarrett Boykin will be 'hard to dislodge'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Jarrett Boykin improved dramatically last season and "will be hard to dislodge" from the Packers' No. 3 receiver job, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Boykin will have to hold off second-round pick Davante Adams, fifth-rounder Jared Abbrederis and seventh-rounder Jeff Janis.

Boykin, 24, caught 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns last season.


Trent Richardson might not get long leash
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Averaging 2.9 yards a carry, like he did last year, will get Trent Richardson benched quickly, reports ESPN.com. Richardson "will have to produce right away because it's unlikely the Colts will wait for him to get going" if running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard are healthy and productive, the website said.

Richardson likely will get the first shot at the starting job. He has a much better grasp of the playbook than he did in 2013 and the belief is he'll be able to run on instinct as opposed to overthinking, the report said.


Bruce Ellington trying to overcome stature
by Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
(7/11/2014) At 5-foot-9, Bruce Ellington is the shortest receiver on the 49ers' roster. But the fourth-round pick out of South Carolina should not be discounted, his high school coach, Jerry Brown, told the Sacramento Bee.

Brown said Ellington is relentless at finding open space and catching everything thrown his way. "Football's played on a big field and it's hard to track someone like Bruce who's got so much agility," Brown said.

Ellington believes he has lots of room for growth because he only gave up basketball last year. Also a former track competitor, Ellington clocked a 4.45 forty at the combine.

"I'm just going to work hard, give it a hundred (percent) every time I step on the field and keep on chasing the dream," he said.


Colts dump LaVon Brazill, sign Aaron Burks
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The Colts waived suspended wideout LaVon Brazill and signed receiver Aaron Burks, an undrafted free agent from Boise State. Brazill, 25, is suspended for at least a year for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Burks caught 18 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns for the Broncos last season, averaging 17.2 yards per catch.


 
 
 
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