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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
Report: Torn pectoral sidelines Vikings CB Josh Robinson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/4/2015) The Vikings secondary took a hit last month when cornerback Josh Robinson sustained a partially torn pectoral muscle, a league source has told ESPN.

The nickel back played in 690 snaps last season and was expected to battle several others for playing time. The injury could sideline him from training camp and land him on the PUP list.


Report: Packers' Andrew Quarless arrested on gun charges
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(7/4/2015) Packers tight end Andrew Quarless was arrested for firing a gun twice in Miami on Saturday, per the Miami New Times.

Quarless was involved in a fight at South Beach and fired the gun into the ground. 


Titans receivers can thrive in YAC with Marcus Mariota's accuracy
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/3/2015) The Titans wide receiving corps could gain more yards after the catch this season because of rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota and his accurate throws, per ESPN.com.

The Titans were 24th in the league in yards after the catch last season, but with Mariota under center that can all change.

“If you have an accurate quarterback, it allows us to get more yards after that catch,” wide receiver Harry Douglas said. “And that’s one thing that makes a receiver dynamic -- first being able to catch the ball and then being able to do some things with it after you catch it. I feel like [to this point] Marcus has done everything he needs to do to get the ball to his receivers.”


Saints RB Khiry Robinson doesn't feel he's on outside looking in
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/3/2015) Saints running back Khiry Robinson might be the least known of his backfield counterparts, but he doesn't feel like the off man out, per ESPN.com.

Robinson knows the team is heavily invested in the likes of Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller, but he's still confident he can thrive in whatever role the Saints put him in.

“I’m the type of person, I’m gonna get what I get and do what I do with it. So whether it’s 20 carries or one carry, I’m gonna do the best of my ability every play,” Robinson said.

Robinson has shown flashes of success during his three years in the league. Injuries played a key role against him last season, which can ultimately put him as the third back on the depth chart. He will use the offseason to continue to improve and challenge his counterparts for playing time.

“I just gotta keep working,” Robinson. “It’s all love in the backfield. We all work together, try to help each other. So I think it’s a good thing we’ve got a full backfield again. So if anybody goes down, we’ve got another player right up there to do the same thing.”


Browns OL Michael Bowie itching to compete for starting spot
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/3/2015) Browns offensive lineman Michael Bowie is not required to report to training camp until the end of July. But never mind that - he's heading out after the last Independence Day firework explodes in the sky.

Bowie is itching to get started. He missed all of last season due to a shoulder injury after starting for Seattle on its Super Bowl title team in 2013. He is seeking to stay in tip-top shape in an attempt to land a starting spot on a Cleveland line that is the strength of the team.

"It's up to them to decide who is the best five," Bowie told the team website. "All I can do is take care of my business. Hopefully I can get a shot. That's what I'm working for."

Bowie participated fully in the offseason program, working mostly with the second team at right tackle. That will likely be the spot at which he competes for a starting job. Incumbent Mitchell Schwartz has not performed particularly well there and Mike Pettine has vowed there will be competition all over the field in camp.


Redskins OLB Ryan Kerrigan nearly recovered from knee surgery
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/3/2015) Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan appears to be on target to join the team for training camp after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery that prevented him from participating in earlier offseason activities.

Kerrigan, who registered a career-high 13 1/2 sacks a year ago, had the operation to alleviate pain in the area.

"My leg feels really good and I'm glad I got the surgery - not just for football but it makes my everyday life feel better so I'm glad I got it done," he told CSN Washington. "Now it's just a matter of getting stronger and getting into shape."

Kerrigan added that he's been running and now only needs to regain strength to insure his place at training camp.


Texans waive DT Brandon Ivory
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) The Texans waived rookie defensive tackle Brandon Ivory on Thursday, according to ESPN.com

Ivory was arrested on first degree burglary charges in Tuscaloosa, Ala. just one day ago. Ivory's agent Jeff Guerriero said Ivory is not guilty of the charge. 

"I spoke to Brandon he is not guilty and his name will be cleared of all charges," Guerriero said. 


Chargers TE Antonio Gates suspended 4 games for PED use
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) Chargers tight end Antonio Gates has been suspended four games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy, the team announced. 

It's unknown at this time what drug Gates tested positive for. Gates, in a statement, said he was unaware that he took a banned substance

"In my 12 years in the NFL, I have taken tremendous pride in upholding the integrity of the NFL shield and all that it entails," Gates said. "I have taken extreme care of my body with a holistic approach and I have never knowingly ingested a substance that was banned by the NFL. In an effort to recover from this past season, I used supplements and holistic medicines, and unfortunately, I have now learned that those substances always present a risk because they may contain banned substances even if the ingredient list doesn’t reflect them.

"As an NFL veteran and team leader, I should have done my due diligence to ensure that what I was taking for recovery was within the NFL guidelines. I understand that I am responsible for what is in my body and I have always believed that ignorance is no excuse when it comes to these issues. I take full responsibility for my actions. I’d like to express my sincere apologies to the Chargers, my teammates, coaches, fans and the league who have always supported me and expected and gotten nothing but the highest level of integrity from me."

With Gates out for four games, the Chargers will turn to Ladarius Green as the team's top tight end, though it was expected for Green to continue getting more looks in the passing game. Green is entering the final season of his rookie contract. 

The Chargers expressed disappointment in Gates for his suspension but plans to stick with the longtime veteran through the suspension. 

"We are tremendously disappointed for our team and our fans as well as Antonio, but no more disappointed than Antonio is with himself," the Chargers stated. "Antonio is a member of the Chargers' family and we will continue to support him 100-percent. We have the utmost confidence he will stay in excellent shape for the season and be ready to go when he returns in Week 5. While it's unfortunate to not have him to start the season, we have complete confidence our tight end group will continue to play at a high level."  


Packers' Datone Jones out 1 game for substance-abuse violation
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) Packers defensive lineman Datone Jones will be suspended for one game for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, according to NFL.com. 

Jones will miss Green Bay's season-opener against the Bears. In 2014, Jones totaled 22 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in 13 games played. 


Cowboys LB Rolando McClain suspended four games for 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) The Cowboys announced that linebacker Rolando McClain has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season due to violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. 

McClain hasn't been able to participate much in offseason workouts due to going under offseason knee surgery. McClain will be eligible to practice in training camp and is expected to be healthy by then. 

"I apologize to my family, the Cowboys organization, my teammates and Cowboys fans for my mistake. I will not break the rules of my profession in the future, and I regret my error," McClain said in a statement, via CSN Bay Area. "I look forward to returning to the field on week 5, when I hope to help my team beat the Patriots.

In 2014, McClain, who had previously retired twice before being traded from the Ravens to the Cowboys, totaled 81 tackles and a sack in 13 games played.


 
 
 
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