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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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(1:57 pm ET) Giants offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz is set to meet with a foot specialist Saturday, after having an MRI taken on his dislocated toe, NFL.com reports. The extent of the injury should be known after visiting a specialist.

Emmanuel Sanders expected back Saturday
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(1:28 pm ET) Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is expected to return to preseason action Saturday against the Texans, after missing the team's previous game against the 49ers with a quad injury, the Denver Post reports. 

Von Miller expected to make return Saturday
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(1:24 pm ET) Broncos linebacker Von Miller should make his preseason debut Saturday against the Texans, almost exactly eight months to the day since he tore his ACL, the Denver Post reports.

"I've had a lot of practice at full speed," Miller said. "And with all the practicing here with the Texans, I think it will help make the game seem a little easier. I'm excited."

The Broncos have been practicing with the Texans in recent weeks. Miller is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season, and Saturday could be the only tuneup he needs, with just one preseason game left. 


 
 
 
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