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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
Redskins place Jason Hatcher on IR, add Travian Robertson
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:02 pm ET) The Redskins placed defensive end Jason Hatcher on injured reserve Saturday after claiming defensive tackle Travian Robertson off waivers from the Seahawks.

Hatcher has missed the last two games with a knee injury and wil be out Sunday as well when Washington closes out the season against Dallas as a 4-point home underdog. Robertson played in just one game with the Seahawks, recording one assisted tackle.


Seahawks sign Jimmy Staten to practice squad
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:47 pm ET) The Seahawks have resigned defensive lineman Jimmy Staten to the practice squad and released linebacker Mike Zimmer, the Everett Herald reports. Staten has bounced on and off the practice squad throughout his rookie season.


Bills downgrade Marcell Dareus, Stephon Gilmore to out for Week 17
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(6:00 pm ET) The Bills have downgraded defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (knee) and cornerback Stephon Gilmore (concussion) from doubtful to out for Sunday's season finale at New England, per the team's official website. Both players did not make the trip to New England for Week 17.

Buffalo is a 5-point underdog on Sunday.


Patriots place CB Alfonzo Dennard on injured reserve
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:26 pm ET) The Patriots placed cornerback Alfonzo Dennard on season-ending injured reserve with a hamstring injury, reports Field Yates of ESPN on Saturday. Dennard appeared in only six games this season, registering 15 combined tackles and one interception -- all season lows.

In corresponding moves, the Patriots elevated wide receiver Josh Boyce from the practice squad to take the spot of Dennard on the 53-man active roster. They re-signed Dax Swanson to the practice squad and released defensive lineman Cam Henderson.


Browns QB Johnny Manziel fined for being late to treatment
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:07 pm ET) The Browns have fined rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel an undisclosed amount for arriving late to treatment on Saturday, reports Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer.

Manziel was placed on injured reserve after suffering a hamstring injury in Week 16 against Carolina. Although he's on IR and not eligible to play, he will accompany the team to Baltimore for Cleveland's season finale against the Ravens.

Manziel is expected to be fully recovered in time for OTAs. He finished the turbulent rookie season with 175 passing yards and a 42.0 quarterback rating. He also had two interceptions and one fumble lost.


Saints place John Jenkins on IR
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:35 pm ET) The Saints announced a pair of roster moves on Saturday. The team elevated quarterback Ryan Griffin to the 53-man active roster and placed nose tackle John Jenkins on injured reserve with an abdominal injury.

Jenkins registered 30 combined tackles and a sack in 12 games played.


Raiders CB T.J. Carrie downgraded to out for Week 17
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:49 pm ET) The Raiders have downgraded cornerback T.J. Carrie (ankle) from questionable to out for Sunday's season finale against Denver, reports the Bay Area News Group. The rookie appeared in 13 games and posted 44 combined tackles and one interception.

Browns' Phil Bates takes Josh Gordon's roster spot for Week 17
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:25 pm ET) The Browns have elevated wide receiver Phil Bates from practice squad to the 53-man active roster following the suspension of wide receiver Josh Gordon on Saturday, per the team's official website. Bates has appeared in only one game this season with Seattle, before joining the Browns. The Browns downgraded Bates out for Sunday's season finale at Baltimore, per the Akron Beacon Journal.

Cowboys LB Rolando McClain downgraded to out for Week 17
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:07 pm ET) Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain will not accompany the team to Washington D.C. and was downgraded to out for Sunday's regular season finale against the Redskins due to an illness, reports the team's official website.

McClain posted 81 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and an interception through 13 games. The Cowboys have already clinched a spot in the playoffs, and McClain is primed to be fully recovered for Dallas' first postseason game.


Browns suspend Josh Gordon for violation of team rules
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:56 pm ET) The Browns suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon for a violation of team rules, per the team's official website. Mike Silver of the NFL Network reported that Gordon and Johnny Manziel were absent from Cleveland's walkthru on Saturday, in preparation for Sunday's season finale against Baltimore.

Gordon emerged in 2013 as one of the most explosive skill position players in the NFL. Despite losing the first two games to suspension, he racked up 87 receptions for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns. He served a 10-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy and didn't make his 2014 debut until Week 12 against Atlanta. His tumultuous 2014 campaign comes to an end with only 24 catches for 303 yards and no touchdowns in five games.

The suspension will prevent him from being an unrestricted free agent after the 2015 season. He would have needed six games to earn a credited season. The one-game suspension by the Browns gives Gordon five games this year, making him a restricted free agent after 2015, not unrestricted.


 
 
 
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