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Fantasy & Reality: A potential first round for 2013

Senior Fantasy Writer
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If you made the Fantasy playoffs, I'm happy for you. It's an accomplishment to make the postseason and over the course of the next four weeks we'll have plenty of stuff to help you dominate en route to a championship.

But this column isn't for you. Well, it is and it isn't. It's really for the people who fought hard and still fell short of the Fantasy postseason, but it applies to every living and breathing human who loves Fantasy Football as much as I do. It's especially for those poor souls with no lineup to set or Fantasy box score to sweat until next fall.

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It's time to turn the page and look at 2013. Yes, already.

There will be time to hash over a full Top 200 rankings list and positional boards and get into the details of every single player you'll consider on Draft Day, but here's my initial look at my Top 12 players -- a first-round mock -- for next year's standard Fantasy drafts.

1. Arian Foster, RB, Texans
It's a very close call between Foster and AP for the top spot, but Foster's legs are younger and his schedule is expected to be easier, so he gets the nod. Though he's had just four 20-plus point Fantasy games so far this year, he's also fallen below 15 points only three times (AP has had twice as many). He'll also have over 300 carries for the second time in three years in 2012 but he's still got enough gas in the tank and tread on the tire to be highly used and effective in the Houston offense. If the Texans opt to trade Ben Tate this offseason it would only help Foster's cause.

2. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
No one should argue Peterson or Foster as a Top 2 pick in 2013. AP's play this year has been mostly spectacular and after 12 games actually has more Fantasy points than any non-quarterback (one more point than Foster). He'll be 28 years old next year and rolling behind an offensive line that has been very good this year and will only get better next year. Expect the Vikings to upgrade their passing game in an attempt to give Peterson fewer seven- and eight-in-the-box defensive looks from opponents.

3. Trent Richardson, RB, Browns
I can't remember the last time I drafted a Browns player with a first-round pick but I can't wait to do it next season. Richardson had to knock off rust in Week 1 this year and then came back with 15 or more Fantasy points in six of his next 11 games. Though there were some single-digit outings mixed in (injuries played a role in Weeks 6 and 7 especially) Richardson has flashed enough to prove himself as one of the most versatile running backs in the NFL. The guy has four catches in seven of 12 games this year and has eight total scores through this point. Though his rushing average is a nightmarish 3.6 yards per carry, it serves as an area of focus for him to improve upon during the offseason. The Browns' offensive line should get better, the passing game should prove to be more of a threat and there's already some concern that the Ravens and Steelers' run defenses could struggle to be dominant.

4. Ray Rice, RB, Ravens
When you think about elite running backs, you tend to aim for talented speedsters who hog reps and can be effective out of the backfield as a receiver. That's been Rice for years and it keeps him as a mainstay in Fantasy. While he hasn't quite reached the expectations Fantasy owners had for him this year he still ranks as one of the best options at the position. Some concerns about who will call the plays in the Ravens offense along with just how much work he'll get compared to previous years (he's on pace for just 264 carries this season) could send his stock a smidge south, but he's still a fine first-round pick.

5. Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers
I had a hard time keeping Martin behind Rice and even debated him leap-frogging Richardson. What kept him from doing so? Eighty-three of the 196 Fantasy points he's produced this year came in two games: at Minnesota in Week 8 and at Oakland in Week 9. Those were Martin's only two games with 20 or more Fantasy points to date. Two more games were 17 and 18 point efforts -- everything else has been good for 13 points or fewer. I still expect Martin to have several 100-total-yard, one-touchdown games next year, especially once his offensive line gets back up to full strength. With his second year in the offense and a run-heavy mandate still to come from coach Greg Schiano, there are a lot of reasons to really like Martin, maybe even more than Rice.

6. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks
Solid, not spectacular. The Seahawks offense should remain the same with Russell Wilson leading the charge, and as a result Lynch should contend for a touchdown and plenty of yardage most every week. I came into the season suggesting that every time Lynch has been the primary back, he's been effective. Entering his age-27 season, Lynch should maintain his standing in Fantasy. The only element to Lynch's offseason that could put a thorn in our side is if he can't shake the DUI charge he had from July. If he can't beat the case he'll probably get suspended and he'll be a Round 2 target. But if he can get past that, and his lawyer claims he will, then Lynch is in line for what could be a huge 2013.

7. Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs
This one comes with a major caveat: It must be proven that the new Chiefs head coach in 2013 buys into Charles as a 20-touch back. His track record over just the last four weeks has proven that Charles can shoulder a heavy workload and contend for over 100 total yards with a touchdown nearly every week. He needs to be promised that work and not get it taken from him like earlier this year. That's key. Peyton Hillis probably won't be in the picture in Kansas City and the offensive line will get a facelift. Throw in what should be a fairly good schedule thanks to their clunky finish and Charles could be off to the races.

8. LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles
Normally when it comes to first-round picks you want someone who's "safe." A running back expected to change playbooks and come back from a significant concussion isn't normally what you want here. But if the Eagles transition to a new offense with a new quarterback it only makes sense to lean on the ground game, which McCoy will be a big part of. Might he share with someone like Bryce Brown? Sure -- Brown averaged three carries per game in the Eagles' first nine matchups and will be due for more if he's not traded. But if the Eagles change as planned they could become more run-centric and that would favor both backs. While McCoy wasn't excellent when he was active this season, at the very least he delivered double-digit Fantasy points in all but two of the 10 games he played in this season. That consistency makes lineup setting with McCoy a no-brainer. And this was my selling point: If this was a bad year for McCoy, he did so averaging 98.5 total yards over 10 games with five touchdowns. That projects to over 1,500 total yards and eight touchdowns in a "down" year. That's OK by me.

9. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions
Again, I'm looking for a safe first-round pick. I don't really love taking a receiver in the first round of a standard-scoring draft but I'm fine with a guy who will post consecutive 1,500-yard seasons with plenty of touchdowns. I'm also counting on the Lions fine-tuning their offense this summer by improving Matthew Stafford's pass protection and adding yet another receiver to help steer coverage away from him. If there's a running back who looks like a safe bet for 1,500 yards and around eight total touchdowns I'll take him over Calvin, but as of now I just don't see one. That makes Johnson my pick. The best news is that by taking Megatron here, I'm still guaranteed a stud quarterback or running back in Round 2.

10. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans
Expect a massive overhaul of the Tennessee offense this offseason, beginning with a change at coordinator (if not a change at head coach). We're taking a leap of faith here, similar to the one with Jamaal Charles, that Johnson will get a slew of carries and get lots of opportunities as a rusher and as a receiver. The positive to CJ1k is that he proved this year that he can still play well, even in the face of a tough opponent. I don't love committing a first-round pick to Johnson but at least I know I can come back in Round 2 and still find a rock-solid quarterback or receiver, if not another quality rusher. That's always the beauty of picking late in Round 1.

11. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars(?)
I had a real hard time at this spot. I like that MJD will be 28 next year, in a contract year (if he stays under his current deal, which may not happen if the Jaguars deal him) and managed to skate by in 2012 with only 100 total touches. Sure the foot injury is a concern, but I bet he proves next spring and summer that it's a non-factor thanks to his diligent offseason training routine. The only reason why he slipped in drafts back in August was because of a nasty holdout that seems unlikely to repeat itself (and keep in mind MJD reported to Jacksonville and played mostly well in Week 1). He still averaged 4.8 yards per carry this year and at least 4.2 yards per carry every year of his career. He shouldn't slow down.

12. Stevan Ridley, RB, Patriots
Bill Belichick has been known to change running backs frequently, but we've seen a pretty solid commitment to Ridley this season and it's worth trusting in him as the battering ram in the Patriots' potent offense. Belichick has no reason to make a change after Ridley has done well through 225 carries over 12 weeks. The system is unlikely to change and the key players, save for Wes Welker, are unlikely to change. That suggests Ridley will still see the safeties play back against him and open the door for him to maintain a good rushing clip (he's been at 4.5 yards per carry so far) while hogging goal-line touchdowns (nine in 12 games). The lack of receptions is a bummer but you'll forget about that when you see him getting goal-line chances week after week.

2012 first-rounders moving down the board in 2013

Quarterbacks: Round 2
DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys: Round 3
Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders: Round 3-4

12 Round 2 candidates

Drew Brees, QB, Saints
Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins
C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
A.J. Green, WR, Bengals
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots
Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos
Brandon Marshall, WR, Bears
Matt Forte, RB, Bears
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons

Some things to think about

• You'll notice that there isn't a first-round quarterback. Yeah, if you took a quarterback in Round 1 he probably worked out for you but it worked out better for the owners who waited a little bit (or a lot) and snagged Matt Ryan (drafted on average at 32.5 overall), Peyton Manning (49.1), Robert Griffin III (83.1), Andrew Luck (102.3) or Andy Dalton (133.5). With a deluge of quarterback talent, why burn an early pick on one if you don't have to?

That being the case, expect owners to crack in Round 2 and start taking quarterbacks like crazy. That's fine. As of now I have Drew Brees and RG3 as my top quarterbacks for 2013 but there probably won't be much of a case against Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Matt Ryan. They might slip into Round 3.

• Rob Gronkowski will be a hot-button Fantasy pick. Some will suggest he's a must-draft in Round 1 because of how dominant he is at his position. That's fine. I'd rather wait for Jimmy Graham knowing he's less likely to go in Round 1. I still view both as dominant players at their position. I only wish there was a third choice but since there isn't, owners should be prepared to rehash my "You Reach, You Lose" strategy for tight ends if they don't pick up Gronk or Graham by the 30th overall pick.

• Don't expect a lot of rookies to push toward the top of Fantasy drafts in 2013 like two did in 2012. You should feel vindicated if you took Richardson or Martin back over the summer. The closest candidate to getting some early/middle-round love in drafts is Eddie Lacy from Alabama. He's a lot like Richardson but might not be quite as good, but there will be hype around him and other rookies. I don't expect many Fantasy options to get taken in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Player News
Eagles' Nick Foles expecting to be starter in Philadelphia next year
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:06 pm ET) Eagles quarterback Nick Foles said he is expecting to be back in Philadelphia in 2015, leading the offesne.

"My expectation is to be out there and be the starting guy," Foles said, according to CSNPhilly.com. "I expect to be out there with my teammates leading them. I’ve never thought otherwise throughout this whole time. 


"I know there’s been a lot of things said, but the only thing I’m worried about is making myself the best player, the best person to help lead my team."

Foles, who threw for 2,163 yards and 13 touchdowns in an injury-shortened season, expects to be back at full strength by the time training camp rolls around.

"Completely healthy, ready to go," he said. "Just grinding away. Just can’t wait to get back out there."


Jets' Geno Smith doesn't know if he will start in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:00 pm ET) Jets quarterback Geno Smith said Saturday he is unsure of his status with the team and has not received a definitive answer from new coach Todd Bowles on whether he will be the starter in 2015, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.

Smith, who threw for 2,525 yards with 13 touchdowns in 2014, also isn't sure if the Jets will try to draft a quarterback in the first round like Jamies Winston or Marcus Mariota, but he would welcome the challenge as more competition.


Cardinals coach Bruce Arians: 'It's really (Fitzgerald's) decision'
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:33 am ET) Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told reporters Friday he really wants to see wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald back in Arizona next season.

"I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t," Arians said. "We definitely, desperately want him to stay. He knows that. It’s really his decision."

Fitzgerald has a salary cap hit of $23.6 million for 2015 and the team will work to get that number down in the offseason. Team president Michael Bidwill said this week contract talks won't start fully until after the Super Bowl.

"I’m hoping and praying every day that it does happen," Arians said. "I’ve expressed to him personally how much it means to us."

Fitzgerald has not reached 1,000 yards receiving in the past three seasons and totaled 784 in 2014 on 63 catches with two touchdowns.


Seahawks corner Byron Maxwell set to test free agency
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:25 am ET) Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell is ready to hit the free-agent market during the upcoming offseason and feels the Super Bowl will be his last game in Seattle.

"I’m the prettiest girl at the dance right now," Maxwell said. "But yeah, it’s one of those things I’m excited about it. I would love to be here, but I’m ready to see what’s out there and see how things work out."

Maxwell, who was heavily targeted this year with the Seahawks secondary filled with Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, grabbed two interceptions and defended 11 passes.

"Coming into the season I already knew teams were going to try me," Maxwell said. "But it was cool. I accept that. That’s more opportunities for me to get the rock and put my name out there."


Report: Titans S Bernard Pollard wants to be released
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:52 am ET) Titans safety Bernard Pollard has requested a release from his contract, The Tennessean reports. He is scheduled to make $3.1 million in the final season of his two-year deal in 2015.

Pollard submitted his request to general manager Ruston Webster at the end of the regular season, per the report. He is recovering from a ruptured Achilles and wants to play in 2015, but said on The Tennessean's Bernard Pollard Show earlier this month that he was unsure of his future with the Titans.

"I am not getting any younger, so I want to win, I really do. I want to win,'' Pollard said. "Looking at how things took place this year, looking at where (the Titans) need to be for next year, that is a tough, tough question, and I don't even know if they can give me the answer. I have one year on my deal, but it is going to take some time."

Pollard has been out of his walking boot for a month and is making progress in rehab. He suffered his Achilles injury in Week 5 and was placed on injured reserve.


Patriots fairly healthy heading into Super Bowl Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Patriots will be at nearly full strength for Sunday’s Super Bowl as the following players have been listed as probable: Tom Brady (ankle), Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), Chris Jones (elbow), Akeem Ayers (knee), Darrelle Revis (non-injury-related) and Sealver Siliga (foot).

All except Brady were limited participants in practice Friday. The only question mark is center Bryan Stork, who is questionable with a knee injury and was limited in practice Friday.

The Patriots are currently 1-point favorites against Seattle.


Seahawks unveil final injury report in preparation for Super Bowl
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Seahawks have listed the following players as probable for the Super Bowl on Sunday: J.R. Sweezy (ankle), Justin Britt (knee), Marshawn Lynch (back), Earl Thomas (shoulder), Richard Sherman (elbow) and Kam Chancellor (knee).

Chancellor was a late addition to the injury report, when he fell on the next-to-last play of practice and missed the last play. He was not limping on his way off. All other players were full participants in practice Friday.

The Seahawks are currently 1-point underdogs against New England.


Saints tight end Jimmy Graham to avoid surgery on shoulder
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he will avoid surgery on his shoulder after testing it at the Pro Bowl. 

"I’ve been doing rehab and I’m going to start back on my rehab Monday and really there’s going to be no surgery," Graham told SiriusXM radio. "I’m just going to do rehab, strengthen the area. That’s what’s best — not having to take six months off and try to heal up with a surgery, but now have those six months to work on all things I need to to try and hopefully get to a place like (the Super Bowl) next year."

Graham, who had 85 catches for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014, fought off the injury for most of the season. He was still unsure about having surgery before the Pro Bowl last week.

"It was something that really needed some rest and unfortunately it wasn’t able to get that during the season," he said. "It happened early and then you have about 10 straight weeks of trying to make it to the game. Now after having about three or four weeks and last week kind of testing it at the Pro Bowl, it feels great."


Vikings' Greg Jennings: We all want Adrian Peterson back
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Vikings veteran wideout Greg Jennings said during a SiriusXM NFL Radio interview on Friday that embattled running back Adrian Peterson is wanted back by everyone in the organization, per ESPN.

"I don't know if he'll be back. I can't answer that question," Jennings said. "But what I do know is that if he does come back, he'd be accepted with open arms. As an organization from the Wilfs on down, we all want him back. So, I mean, it's a touchy subject and he's been the franchise player -- face of that team -- for eight years. So it will be a loss, a huge loss, if we can't get him back, and that's the nature of this business."

In November, Peterson was suspended by the league without pay for the rest of the season, making him ineligible for reinstatement until at least April 15. The move came after Peterson pleaded no contest to recklessly injuring his 4-year-old son last May. He is under contract with the Vikings for next season, and is set to earn $12.75 million.

It's unclear at this point if Jennings has talked to Zygi and Mark Wilf about the Peterson situation. What is clear is that the team is not allowed to communicate with Peterson during his suspension.


Eagles' Maclin believes contract will take care of itself
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin believes he will be back in Philadelphia in next season. His representatives and the Eagles are in the process of negotiating a new contract for the 27-year-old, who will become a free agent in March unless he is re-signed.

"I'm excited about what the future holds," Maclin said on Friday. "Once again, both sides have made it known what we want to do. I think it will take care of itself."

He could be franchise tagged if a deal is not signed. The tag number for wide receivers is yet to be determined.

Maclin had 85 catches in 2014 for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns in Philadelphia.


 
 
 
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