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Offseason Extra: The good and bad of 2012

Senior Fantasy Writer
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In a perfect world, Fantasy owners would dominate their drafts, go undefeated during the regular season and beat every playoff opponent by 75 points en route to a championship.

But this isn't a perfect world and football isn't an exact science. Thus, Fantasy Football proves to be unpredictable year after year. That's why we love it. There's plenty of proof of our mistakes (and good calls) when taking a look back at big predictions from before the season.

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Here are five good predictions and five bad predictions made by yours truly from 2012, along with what I learned from each of them.

Five we got right

Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins
2012 projection: 633 rush yards, four touchdowns; 130 receiving yards
2012 stats: 1,613 rush yards, 13 touchdowns; 77 receiving yards
2012 Average Draft Position: No. 136 overall (Round 12)
2013 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 12 overall (Round 1)
I remember tweeting about Morris in late August, and then subsequently tweeting a simple little hashtag just to keep him in the back of my followers' minds. When I saw Morris, I saw a back who could run in Mike Shanahan's scheme perfectly. That was enough for me to invest a late pick in him, and if I was going to do that then the least I could do is suggest to my readers to do the same. Never did I think he would finish second in rushing yards in 2012, but it's proof that preseason games are worth watching and being familiar with how coaches think can pay off. I suspect Morris will regress a bit in 2013, but there isn't a single owner who would pass on him by the middle of Round 2 anymore. Those who spent a late pick on #ALF will always have a soft spot in their hearts for him. I know I will.

Mikel Leshoure, RB, Lions
2012 projection: 669 rush yards, seven touchdowns; 124 receiving yards
2012 stats: 798 rush yards, nine touchdowns; 214 receiving yards
2012 Average Draft Position: No. 113 overall (Round 9)
2013 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 50 overall (Round 5)
Many were scared to draft Leshoure because of the injury and subsequent surgery he had last year. A few didn't want to touch him because he was going to open 2012 with a two-game suspension. But if you assumed that the Lions would score some rushing touchdowns, Leshoure figured to be in the mix. The fact that Jahvid Best wasn't coming back, Kevin Smith wouldn't last and the Lions not adding another back in the draft further built the case for Leshoure. Now the comparisons to Michael Turner will be made: A plodder with big touchdown potential. Leshoure has a little more pop than Turner does now and has that same potential for lots of touchdowns so long as he shares the field with a dynamic pass attack. That same pass attack could take touches out of his hands, but he still should measure up as a No. 2 rusher next year.

Tony Gonzalez, TE, Falcons
2012 projection: 68 catches, 761 receiving yards and seven touchdowns
2012 stats: 93 catches, 930 yards and eight touchdowns
2012 Average Draft Position: No. 93 overall (Round 8)
2013 Projected Average Draft Position: If he plays, No. 77 overall (Round 7)
Why in the world did you pass on him on Draft Day? Because he was old? Because he had just 875 yards and seven touchdowns the season before? No one believed Gonzalez would be close to 1,000 yards with eight scores but at the very least he could have been considered "safe." He turned out to be safe all right, finishing as the third-best tight end in Fantasy in 2012. If you can't get a tight end with sick playmaking ability, at least look for one that shares the field with very good wide receivers and a more-than-capable passer. That lends itself to lots of targets (124 for Gonzo) in single coverage and good numbers to go along with it.

Eric Decker, WR, Broncos
2012 projection: 76 catches, 1,007 receiving yards and seven touchdowns
2012 stats: 85 catches, 1,064 yards and 13 touchdowns
2012 Average Draft Position: No. 60 overall (Round 5)
2013 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 46 overall (Round 4)
For a while there this one looked sort of bad -- there was a five-game stretch where Decker didn't get even 10 Fantasy points per game. But the season ended well with touchdowns in three straight and six or more receptions in five straight -- including the playoffs -- which made Decker's numbers look great at the end. They weren't so bad at the beginning either (484 yards and five touchdowns after seven games). Now the focus will be on whether or not he can keep this up and become more consistent in 2013. There are a lot of factors in play but assuming the Broncos' offense isn't changed this offseason, you should expect another solid year from Decker.

Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys
2012 projection: 68 catches, 885 receiving yards and six touchdowns
2012 stats: 66 catches, 943 receiving yards and six touchdowns
2012 Average Draft Position: No. 73 overall (Round 7)
2013 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 95 overall (Round 8)
Austin's injury history was the primary reason for me labeling him a bust candidate. Obviously I believed he'd be a capable Fantasy receiver but his average draft position was quite high (59th) when I wrote he'd be a bust and he subsequently tumbled heading into the season because of an injury. Thing is, Austin started the season strong with four touchdowns and 561 yards in his first seven games. Then things went south for him and he scored just twice more over his final nine. And of course, he ended the year with an injury. Now there's talk the Cowboys will ask him to re-do his deal to keep from cutting him. It would be nice if he stayed in Dallas with an offense and quarterback he knows, but it appears he's just too injury-riddled to keep being considered a reliable Fantasy receiver.

Five we got wrong

Michael Turner, RB, Falcons
2012 projection: 1,041 rush yards, 10 touchdowns; 128 receiving yards
2012 stats: 800 rush yards, 10 touchdowns; 128 receiving yards, receiving touchdown
2012 Average Draft Position: No. 31 overall (Round 3)
2013 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 87 overall (Round 8)
Looking back, owning Turner in Fantasy wasn't necessarily bad. Just frustrating. Finishing as the 17th best running back in standard leagues, he had two games with over 100 rush yards -- and nine with under 50. He had six games with 15-plus carries and only got past 20 carries twice. He had under 11 carries twice, but managed to score in those single-digit carry games. See, it's that ability to score that led me to believe in Turner in the first place and he came through with his fourth straight season with double-digit touchdowns. But the Falcons were true to their word about limiting Turner, and the 928 total yards he gained came in inconsistent clumps. With five-year lows in first-down/end zone runs, 20-plus-yard runs and rushing average (3.6), it's clear Turner needed to score to stay relevant in Fantasy. That relevancy is going to keep dwindling as he moves forward.

C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills
2012 projection: 540 rush yards, two touchdowns; 195 receiving yards, two receiving touchdowns
2012 stats: 1,244 rush yards, six touchdowns; 459 receiving yards, two receiving touchdowns
2012 Average Draft Position: No. 106 overall (Round 9)
2013 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 11 overall (Round 1)
If you had told me Spiller would have started nine games and had 15-plus touches in 10 games then I probably would have given him better projections. The injuries to veteran Fred Jackson opened the door for Spiller to showcase himself and once he got that opportunity in Week 1 he never gave it up. Playing in 16 games for the second year in a row, Spiller showed he could handle a big workload (250 touches, enough to finish 21st at the position). There's a new coach in Buffalo and a new offensive scheme to go with it, but Spiller should remain heavily featured in what should be an up-tempo system. After seeing him make many big plays last year, the expectations are higher than ever for Spiller, even if he is sharing with Jackson again in 2013.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Bengals
2012 projection: 1,049 rush yards, nine touchdowns; 92 receiving yards
2012 stats: 1,094 rush yards, six touchdowns; 104 receiving yards
2012 Average Draft Position: No. 55 overall (Round 5)
2013 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 64 overall (Round 6)
A lot of people were fans of Green-Ellis (like me), while a lot of people didn't want anything to do with him. I liked his potential as the primary rusher for the Bengals, and that's a role he filled admirably with 278 carries over 15 games (he sat out Week 17). By virtue of those carries he fell into production, totaling a career-best 1,094 yards. He also set a personal best with seven runs of 20-plus yards, which isn't great but still worth taking note of. Where he failed was finding the end zone as he scored just six times. Andy Dalton had four rushing touchdowns, two from the 1-yard line, and Green-Ellis was also rebuffed on a number of other attempts. There's room for improvement but there's also room for company in the backfield, which could mean a reduced workload for Green-Ellis in 2013.

Andre Johnson, WR, Texans
2012 projection: 1,132 receiving yards, eight touchdowns
2012 stats: 1,598 receiving yards, four touchdowns
2012 Average Draft Position: No. 25 overall (Round 3)
2013 Projected Average Draft Position: No. 25 overall (Round 3)
My biggest concern with Johnson was him staying healthy for the full season. Sixteen regular-season games and a couple of postseason matchups later, he's still going strong. There were some lean times: He had one 100-yard game in his first seven with 444 receiving yards. Then he kicked down the door starting with a home game against the Bills and finished the year with four 100-yard efforts and a mammoth 273-yard game in his final nine. Johnson was one of two receivers with at least 180 targets who caught over 65 percent of his passes. After another early playoff exit, the focus in Houston has turned to the passing game with its star receiver not questioned at all. Matt Schaub isn't going anywhere but there is a belief the Texans will upgrade their receiving corps with another option besides Johnson. That shouldn't hurt Johnson's numbers too much. With his health a non-issue and his skills anything but declining, it's going to be OK to roll with Johnson again in 2013.

Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins
2012 projection: 3,985 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, 18 interceptions; 407 rush yards, four rush touchdowns
2012 stats: 3,200 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, 5 interceptions; 815 rush yards, seven rush touchdowns
2012 Average Draft Position: No. 83 overall (Round 7)
2013 Projected Average Draft Position: If healthy, No. 68 overall (Round 6)
Injuries were part of the risk with RG3, as were questions about his development, but neither really became an issue until late in the season. For the first half of the year there was no doubt Griffin was ultra-productive, and he did it without the benefit of his best receiver and he did it while averaging 27.8 pass attempts per game. The excitement level was off the charts with RG3, even when he had just two games with over 20 Fantasy points in his final eight games, until he tore up his knee in the playoffs. When he'll play -- and how he'll play -- remains to be seen, but even if he doesn't come back with the same willingness to run that he had pre-ACL tear, he at least proved he had the arm to be great. Expect the Redskins to give him better weapons in the pass game and better depth along the offensive line, affording him the opportunity to be an excellent quarterback again once he is cleared to play.

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
Gavin Escobar a threat to Jason Witten?
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:13 am ET) Cowboys rookie tight end Gavin Escobar, who entered the day with just four catches all season, wasn't highly targeted Week 7 against the Giants, but he made the three targets he did get count, scoring two touchdowns, including one on an impressive 26-yard grab between two defenders in the third quarter.

In all, he had three catches for 65 yards -- numbers that would be easier to overlook if not for the two touchdowns and the fact that fellow tight end Jason Witten, to this point a mainstay in Fantasy, had only two catches for 27 yards. And it's not like he and quarterback Tony Romo were just failing to connect. Witten was targeted only twice the whole game.

Witten's production hasn't been up to his usual standards this season -- in seven games, he's averaging 3.3 catches for 38.0 yards -- but just based on their history together, you figured Romo would have a need for him sooner or later. Now with the emergence of Escobar, it's no longer so clear.

Escobar himself isn't worth adding except in deep leagues of 16 teams or more that don't have enough tight ends to go around. In those formats, he's the new Timothy Wright. But in leagues of 12 teams or fewer, Witten may be on the outs. He deserves a couple more weeks given his history, but keep an eye out for the next big thing at the position.


Larry Donnell here to stay?
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:55 am ET) After catching just one pass in his previous two games combined, Giants tight end Larry Donnell got back on track Week 7 at Dallas, catching seven passes for a season-high 90 yards.

Considering it was the Giants' first game without star wide receiver Victor Cruz, Donnell was expected to play a bigger role in the passing game, but a resurgence of this magnitude should remind us all how he came to be owned in 83 percent of Fantasy leagues in the first place. Over the first four weeks, he averaged 6.3 catches for 59 yards, scoring four touchdowns.

One potential pitfall for Donnell is that he lost two fumbles in Week 7, giving him three fumbles lost for the season, but with so few tight ends capable of his kind of production in a given week, the Giants would have to suggest his playing time is in jeopardy for me to pass on Donnell in Fantasy.

His production fell when rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham entered the mix in Week 4. Now that Cruz is out of the mix, Donnell's production figures to rise again.


Odell Beckham shows he's worth adding
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:42 am ET) Only three games into his career, Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham has emerged as one of quarterback Eli Manning's favorite red-zone targets, which is especially good news with another one of his favorite red-zone targets, Victor Cruz, lost for the season with a knee injury.

Beckham didn't have a lot of chances Week 7 at Dallas, but he made the most of the ones he got, scoring on catches of 9 and 5 yards. In all, he had four catches for 34 yards. His six targets were third-most on the team, behind wide receiver Rueben Randle's nine and tight end Larry Donnell's seven.

The six targets were a season high for Beckham. He has yet to catch more than four passes for more than 44 yards, but because he keeps getting looks in the end zone, he's worth adding in Fantasy even if it's just to stash him on your bench until you're ready to put your trust in him.


An encouraging performance for Eli Manning
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:34 am ET) Playing his first game without star wide receiver Victor Cruz, who's out for the season with a torn patella tendon, Giants quarterback Eli Manning still managed to bounce back from arguably his worst game of the season with one of his best Week 7 at Dallas, completing 21 of 33 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns.

It was his fifth game in six with multiple touchdown passes and his second with at least three. And he did it against a defense that had generally kept quarterbacks out of the end zone, recording nearly as many interceptions (seven) as it had allowed touchdown passes (eight) prior to Week 7.

Though two of his touchdown passes went to rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham, who wasn't even available to him the first four weeks, Manning did a nice job of spreading the ball around. None of the touchdowns went to his two leading receivers, Larry Donnell and Rueben Randle.

Judging by this performance, Manning knows how to make use of the weapons the Giants have and doesn't need Cruz to remain successful in Fantasy. His bad games can be really bad, but his good games have been frequent enough for you to give him another shot when he returns from a bye Week 9 against Indianapolis.


Andre Holmes comes back down to earth
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:26 am ET) Raiders wide receiver Andre Holmes, who blew up for 121 yards and two touchdowns Week 6 against San Diego, took a long time to get going Week 7 against Arizona, catching his first pass about midway through the fourth quarter. Not surprisingly, he finished with just three catches for 34 yards. 

It's not like he was invisible before then. He nearly had a great catch on a long pass along the sidelines in the second quarter, but it was ruled incomplete. He did have only two targets apart from his three receptions, though.

Clearly, it was a disappointing showing, but it's not like quarterback Derek Carr forgot about him. Only James Jones and Darren McFadden had more targets, tying for the team lead with eight. Holmes spent much of the game covered by Patrick Peterson, who remains one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. Holmes still has incredible play-making ability and will have better days.

But this performance shows why you can't trust him on an every-week basis yet. His matchup Week 8 against Cleveland is another tricky one because of cornerback Joe Haden, who has struggled at times this season but limited the Jaguars' Cecil Shorts to three catches for 12 yards in Week 7. You might want to leave Holmes on your bench for this one.


49ers' Phil Dawson makes 1-of-2 field-goal attempts in Week 7
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:22 am ET) 49ers knicker Phil Dawson made only one of his two field-goal attempts in Week 7, adding two extra points in his team's 42-17 loss to the Broncos.

Dawson couldn't deliver from 51 yards out in the first quarter, pushing the attempt wide left, but was true from 22 yards out in the second quarter. He's 13 of 16 on field-goal attempts this season but had been 10-for-10 in his previous three games coming into Week 7. The 49ers have a bye in Week 8 before facing the Rams the following week.


49ers TE Vernon Davis catches two passes in Week 7 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:20 am ET) 49ers tight end Vernon Davis caught just two of his five targets for 21 yards in his team's 42-17 loss to the Broncos in Week 7.

Davis was coming off an ugly Week 6 performance in which he dropped two passes, and he didn't fare much better in the team's blowout loss against the Broncos. He has 14 receptions for 142 yards and two touchdowns heading into the team's Week 8 bye. The 49ers will face the Rams after the week off.


49ers WR Michael Crabtree held to 27 yards in Week 7 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:16 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree caught four of his seven targets for just 27 yards in his team's 42-17 loss to the Broncos in Week 7.

While the 49ers averaged 11.1 yards per reception as a team Sunday, top options Crabtree (6.8 YPC) and Anquan Boldin (7.1 YPC) could find no room to work, leading to disappointing performances despite the offense dialing up 46 passes in the loss. Crabtree hasn't topped 50 yards in any of his last four games, and he owns 32 receptions, 322 yards and three touchdowns in seven games this year. The 49ers have a bye in Week 8 before facing the Rams the following week.


Anquan Boldin catches seven passes in 49ers' Week 7 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:13 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin caught seven of his 10 targets for 50 yards in his team's 42-17 loss to the Broncos in Week 7.

Boldin had at least one bad drop in the game and was unable to find much room to work downfield. He came into the week average 12.4 yards per reception but managed just 7.1 YPC against the Broncos. Boldin has collected 39 receptions for 447 yards and one touchdown in seven games. The 49ers have a bye in Week 8 before facing the Rams the following week.


49ers WR Steve Johnson scores touchdown in Week 7 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:10 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Steve Johnson caught five passes for a team-high 79 yards and one touchdown in his team's 42-17 loss to the Broncos in Week 7.

Johnson hauled in a four-yard score in the back of the end zone with only 11 seconds left in the first half to send the 49ers into halftime with a 21-10 deficit. The Broncos took over from there, scoring three touchdowns in the third quarter. Johnson has reached the end zone in three of his last four games, and he's up to 25 receptions, 315 yards and three scores on the season. The 49ers have a bye in Week 8 before facing the Rams the following week.


 
 
 
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