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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: 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.


Bears sign LB DeDe Lattimore to two-year contract extension
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Bears have signed linebacker DeDe Lattimore to a two-year contract extension. He appeared in 10 games as a rookie in 2014, recording five special teams tackles.

Jaguars' Khan 'very optimistic' about WR Blackmon being reinstated
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Jaguars owner Shahid Khan said Friday he is "very optimistic" about wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who missed the 2014 season after being suspended indefinitely for a third violation of the league's substance abuse policy, being reinstated to the NFL.

"I think he's paid his dues and I think he's got his life together," Khan said, per The Florida Times-Union.


NFLPA president Eric Winston: New conduct policy 'violates CBA'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) After the union field a grievance last week against the NFL over changes to the NFL personal conduct policy, Players Association president Eric Winston said Thursday the new policy "violates the CBA in several ways and we're going to be grieving this as far as we can."

NFL owners unanimously approved the changes in December.

"We have an agreement with the league and they have an agreement with us," Winston said, per the Associated Press. "We're going to hold them to that agreement. Many aspects of this policy fall outside of the CBA and we're going to continue fighting it going forward."

Following former Ravens running back Ray Rice's domestic violence case and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's child abuse case, a more extensive list of prohibited conduct was included in the policy, as well as criteria for paid leave for anyone charged with a violent crime. A suspension of six games without pay for violations involving assault, sexual assault, battery, domestic violence, child abuse and other forms of family violence will be in effect.

"The league's revised conduct policy was the product of a tremendous amount of analysis and work and is based on input from a broad and diverse group of experts within and outside of football, including current players, former players, and the NFL Players Association," the league said in a statement last week.

"We and the public firmly believe that all NFL personnel should be held accountable to a stronger, more effective conduct policy. Clearly, the union does not share that belief."


Eric Decker 'pushing' for Demaryius Thomas to sign with Jets
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is set to become a free agent in March, unless he agrees to a contract extension or Denver uses the franchise tag on him. If he does become a free agent, former teammate Eric Decker hopes Thomas would consider joining him on the Jets roster.

Decker spent a few days in Arizona this week with Thomas filming a commercial.

“I’ve been pushing for the entire year now,” Decker said in a telephone interview with The New York Post. “It was just another opportunity to talk to him about it. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. I think it would be tough for Denver to let him go. So whether they franchise-tag him here in the next month or give him a long-term deal, he’s just one of those premier players in this league.

"If he happens to make it to free agency, I would love to sign him because playing alongside him for four years and especially the last two years made it a lot of fun and made it a lot easier. He’s just one of the great players in this league.”

Thomas recorded a career-best 1,619 receiving yards in 2014. It was his third straight season of 1,000-plus receiving yards. He also had at least 10 touchdowns for a third straight season.


 
 
 
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