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Offseason Extra: What we heard in Phoenix

Senior Fantasy Writer
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PHOENIX – The NFL owners meeting just took place this past week in the desert, and plenty of coaches had big things to say about their teams. Luckily, I was there to take it all in.

Hey, someone has to put a Fantasy spin on all this information. We know you don't want to hear any more about the tuck rule being eliminated.

To give you an inside look at what goes on, all the AFC and NFC coaches give access to the media over two days. You can ask them whatever you want, and there was a lot we tried to cover.

We'll give you much more as the offseason unfolds, but here's a sample size of what we brought back from Phoenix ...

No slowing down Foster

Texans running back Arian Foster finished 2012 with 405 carries and 460 total touches in 18 games, not to mention 1,062 carries and 1,244 total touches in the last three seasons. But coach Gary Kubiak told me that the Texans don't plan to lighten Foster's workload this year.

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"It's something you're always looking at, but he is a player who gets better with reps and carries," Kubiak said. "There was a point in the season last year where he was carrying it too much, and those things work themselves out. You look at the end of the year, and I think we were fine. It's something you're always thinking about, watching, paying attention to. But at the same time we have a player who plays his best the more he carries it, so we want to do what he does best."

Now, Kubiak did say the presence of a second guy will help, and getting Ben Tate back at 100 percent this season will be important. But the Texans still plan to lean on Foster, which could be somewhat of a concern. Still, he's proven to be a durable running back, and his production speaks for itself. He's worth drafting as high as No. 2 overall in the majority of leagues, and hopefully the extra work the past three years doesn't cause a breakdown any time soon.

Replacing Bradshaw

Giants coach Tom Coughlin told me that he likes the combination of David Wilson and Andre Brown to replace the departed Ahmad Bradshaw.

"They both showed what they're capable of doing a year ago," Coughlin said. "Before injury, Andre Brown was playing very well. And David, we used him in spots. He's capable of more. We certainly will exploit his tremendous quickness and speed. He did catch the ball out of the backfield in the last game of the year. He's obviously very good on kickoff returns. The thing with Andre is he's got to come roaring back and fight his way through an entire season in the NFL and stay healthy. That's a good complement."

Wilson has the higher upside based on his play as a rookie in 2012. He finished with 358 rushing yards, 34 receiving yards and five touchdowns. We consider Wilson a No. 2 Fantasy running back, and he's worth drafting as early as Round 4 in the majority of leagues. Hopefully he won't lose many touchdowns to Brown.

Brown had 73 rushing attempts, 385 yards (5.3-yard average) and a team-high eight rushing touchdowns last season before breaking his leg in November. We view Brown as a No. 3 Fantasy option with upside, and he's worth drafting with a mid-round pick.

Can McFadden and Mathews stay healthy?

I asked Raiders coach Dennis Allen what he would do if Darren McFadden played 16 games this season, and he said he "would jump and down excited." Allen remains committed to McFadden. "You tell me I'm going to get 16 games out of one of our most explosive players, that's a good thing," Allen said.

But Allen realizes that injuries are just part of the equation with McFadden, and the Raiders need a plan in place for when McFadden goes down. "Darren is an extremely explosive player, and we need to use him in that regard," Allen said. "What we've got to do is create some depth behind him so if and when Darren has to miss any time we've got a capable guy that can go in there and play at a starter's level."

Staying healthy is the biggest problem in McFadden's game, and he's never played more than 13 games in a season. The Raiders still plan to focus on McFadden, and getting him going was a big reason the team hired Greg Olson as its new offensive coordinator.

"We're going to have some downhill runs that fit Darren's style of running," Allen said. "That's what he likes, that's when he's been the most effective when you look at him in this league."

We still consider McFadden a No. 2 Fantasy running back, but he has a lot to prove. Still, he's worth the gamble in Round 3 because if he plays 13 or more games he will produce at a high level.

Ryan Mathews is another injury-prone running back, but new Chargers coach Mike McCoy isn't giving up on him, even with the addition of Danny Woodhead this offseason.

"Ryan's had some bad luck with collarbones," McCoy said. "That's all part of the game. You can't do anything about that. I don't know how you strengthen your collarbones. He's going to be a great fit for this system. Give him the ball as many times as he can carry it in a game. And get him more involved in the passing game in certain areas and certain ways."

McCoy said Woodhead can also work on all three downs, but Mathews will remain the starter. Consider Mathews a low-end No. 2/high-end No. 3 running back on Draft Day, and he should be drafted in Round 4 or 5.

Mendenhall, Jackson and Greene on move

Three prominent running backs changed teams this offseason with Rashard Mendenhall going to Arizona, Steven Jackson going to Atlanta and Shonn Greene now a Titan. Here's what all three guys are looking at this season based on comments from their respective coaches.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians made it sound like Mendenhall will be his starter over Ryan Williams, and Mendenhall has the chance to play on every down. We like Mendenhall as a low-end No. 2 running back, and he's worth drafting as early as Round 5.

"I prefer one guy," Arians said, and he gushed about Mendenhall since the two have a history going back to Pittsburgh. "Adding a player the caliber of Rashard, a proven back who can carry you to the Super Bowl, not only helps the football team but it helps your locker room. Obviously we have a good history together. I know how to use him. He's a heck of a player in all phases. He never has to come out of the game."

Falcons coach Mike Smith said Jackson will help the passing game in Atlanta, and he's clearly an upgrade over Michael Turner in that regard. Jackson was limited to 38 catches in 2012, which was his lowest reception total since 2007, but he has at least 45 catches in three years in his career. With the Falcons, Jackson should be involved in the passing game, and bringing that aspect back into his game should only enhance his Fantasy value.

"Steven's been a very successful runner over the last eight seasons, but he also can catch the football," Smith said. "He'll be another weapon that we'll have on our offensive football team. He's going to not only have the opportunity to carry the ball, but having him on our team is going to have the opportunity to distribute the ball to the other guys as well. We'll get some favorable looks for different guys in the ballgame."

Chris Johnson might not be excited about Greene going to the Titans, but coach Mike Munchak likes the idea of having a proven rusher behind Johnson. Munchak said Greene isn't coming in to just play in short-yardage situations but rather to be a complement to Johnson.

"He's a guy that can fall forward," Munchak said. "A guy that's physical. A guy that understands his role. And we're not (just) looking at him as a short-yardage back, a goal-line back, a four-minute back and that's all he does. We feel he can play all three downs. He may get a series where he gets going, we're taking over the line of scrimmage, we want that type of runner in there, and we'll leave him in there. He gives us some more options."

Greene should be considered a No. 3 Fantasy running back, and he's worth drafting with a mid-round pick. Keep in mind that Greene has totaled 1,200 total yards and at least six scores each of the last two years with the Jets, and he should work at the goal line for the Titans, which will help his value.

Catching up with Cobb, Gordon and Hilton

Three young receivers who could make a significant impact this season for Fantasy owners are Randall Cobb, Josh Gordon and T.Y. Hilton. All of their coaches had glowing things to say about their outlooks for this year.

I asked Packers coach Mike McCarthy if Cobb is just scratching the surface of his talent. "I hope so. That would be fun, huh?" He's excited to see Cobb in his third year, especially with more targets potentially coming his way with Greg Jennings now in Minnesota.

"He's a very good football player, and I think he's going to be an excellent player for us for a long time," McCarthy said. "He's like any receiver or perimeter player when they get on the same page as the quarterback good things happen and happen often. And Randall is definitely on the same page as Aaron (Rodgers)."

We like Cobb as a low-end No. 1 Fantasy receiver, and he's worth drafting as early as Round 3 in the majority of leagues. Cobb turned 104 targets into 80 catches for 954 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012.

New Browns coach Rob Chudzinski hasn't had the chance to work with Gordon yet, but he likes what he sees on film. As a rookie in 2012, Gordon had 50 catches for 805 yards and five touchdowns, but Chudzinski said Gordon could be a breakout candidate. We consider him a No. 3 receiver coming into this season.

"Josh is a talented guy," Chudzinski said. "He has all the tools to be a solid receiver, a solid No. 1 receiver in this league. There's a certain level of talent, and he has that talent level. Now it's going to be about his commitment to working and doing the things and learning and progressing and all the intangibles that will determine his success."

Hilton did well as a rookie in 2012 with 50 catches for 861 yards and seven touchdowns on 91 targets, but he should play a bigger role this year with Donnie Avery now in Kansas City. Coach Chuck Pagano said Hilton is a special player, and we would draft him with a mid-round pick as a No. 3 receiver.

"He's a game changer," Pagano said. "He has the ability, as we saw last year, to make huge plays. Whether you throw him a deep ball down the seam in the slot, or you hit him on a short pass across the middle or a screen, he has the ability to take it the distance."

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg 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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