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2013 Draft Prep: Wilson, Luck, Kap and RG3

Senior Fantasy Writer
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It seems like every summer there's a breakout quarterback from the year before that Fantasy owners can't wait to get their hands on.

Last year it was Cam Newton coming off a ridiculous rookie campaign for the Panthers. Two years ago it was Michael Vick following his re-emergence with the Eagles.

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This year there isn't one. There are four. And unless you've been stranded on a deserted island without Wi-Fi for the last year, you know the names.

Drafting a quarterback might never get as juicy as it will be this summer. Not only will the elite options be available to those who would spend an early pick on them but a few rounds later these four budding superstars will get snatched. All of them led their NFL teams to the playoffs last year. Three of them also led more than half of their Fantasy owners to winning seasons (only Andrew Luck fell under the 50-percent win mark at 49.6 percent). They all finished among the Top 12 in average Fantasy points per game started with 19.38 or better. The promise these guys have, both in the short term and long term, is exciting to think about.

Here's the low-down on this fabulous foursome as you formulate your draft strategies for later this summer.

Colin Kaepernick, Niners

In the 10 games he started, Kaepernick completed 62.1 pct. of his passes for 2,406 yards (8.8 yards per attempt) with 14 touchdowns and five interceptions. Nothing to sneeze at, but when you tack on his rushing stats -- 67 carries for 502 yards (7.5 yard avg.) and five touchdowns, you're looking at a stat machine. In fact, of those 10 games, Kaepernick produced 20-plus Fantasy points in six of them. His Fantasy appeal rose even higher when it was learned that Kaepernick was so bummed after losing Super Bowl XLVII that he took to offseason training quickly and worked hard on putting on muscle and running faster.

But when top receiver Michael Crabtree tore his right Achilles during spring workouts, the heat index on Kaepernick got unseasonably cooler. Crabtree was responsible for many of the numbers Kaepernick put up in those 10 starts, specifically 61 catches on 94 targets for 880 yards and eight touchdowns. Doing quick math, 36.6 pct. of Kap's yardage and 57.1 percent of Kap's touchdowns came from Crabtree. Eliminating him from the field over 10 games (or more) is bound to hurt Kaepernick's passing numbers, even if the Niners added a piece in veteran receiver Anquan Boldin and aim to target tight end Vernon Davis more. Replacements A.J. Jenkins, an injured Mario Manningham and a crew of otherwise unproven receivers might make things easier for defenses to take chances against Kaepernick, thus capping his stats.

That's about the wettest blanket we can throw on Kaepernick, though. All it takes is one of those young receivers (potentially Jenkins) to step up in the preseason and Kaepernick will look as awesome as he did pre-Crabtree injury. Some will say Kap can make up for the loss of Crabtree with his crafty rushing, but games like the one he had against the Packers in the playoffs last season will be few and far between, especially now that defensive coaches have had a full offseason to study his tendencies. Of his division rivals, only the Rams (who he played well against in his nearly two full games) gave up more than 50 rush yards per game -- and their defense has gotten better this offseason.

Elite quarterbacks tend to have at least one elite receiver to throw to. Without Crabtree, there's some risk in Kaepernick being a top performer week after week, which is why he's toward the bottom of our Top 12 Fantasy quarterback rankings. If you're after Kaepernick it'll take a pick in Round 6 to get him, probably not any later. Then the move is to pair him with another passer in Round 9 or 10 to safeguard your team against a potential disaster -- or at least give you a chance to use another quarterback until Crabtree comes back.

My latest projection: 4,114 passing yards, 24 pass TDs, 16 interceptions; 417 rush yards, 6 rush TDs, 4 fumbles lost

Andrew Luck, Colts

Normally when a quarterback changes playbooks after his first year it's part of a coaching staff overhaul caused in part by a lack of talent. That's not happening in Indianapolis, where Luck found incredible ways to win games and push the Colts to the playoffs in his rookie season. In fact, he did too good a job: His offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, has moved on to lead the Cardinals. Replacing him is Luck's collegiate playcaller, Pep Hamilton, who brings a more conservative system than Arians' to Indy but one Luck is familiar with. Only one of Luck's receiving weapons from last year -- Donnie Avery -- is gone. Darrius Heyward-Bey was signed to replace him, a move that could be considered an improvement. Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and a pair of young tight ends remain staples in Luck's arsenal.

In all, the changes should agree with Luck and ultimately result in more efficient numbers. Luck surprisingly completed a gross 54.1 pct. of his passes last year and had 20-plus Fantasy points in six games (as many as Kaepernick had in 10 games). He's a cinch to complete more passes in the quarterback-friendly scheme coming to the Colts -- he nailed over 70 percent of his passes in his last two years at Stanford -- and should be able to cut down on the 23 turnovers he had last year while totaling more than the 28 scores he posted as a rookie. Only his yardage mark from 2012 -- 4,374 yards -- could be a challenge to surpass.

We knew this time last year that Luck was going to become a franchise quarterback. That maturation should continue in 2013. He's another young passer you should wait a little bit for -- Round 6 should be fine but Round 7 would be better -- and then pair with another passer in Round 9 or 10 just in case of a doomsday scenario where his production doesn't improve.

My latest projection: 4,413 passing yards, 28 pass TDs, 14 interceptions; 245 rush yards, 2 rush TDs, 2 fumbles lost

Russell Wilson, Seahawks

Of all the breakout quarterbacks from last year, Wilson is the one I'm targeting. Not only is it because of his phenomenal play for the last half of the regular season and postseason, but also because he's the only one of the young guns who received an upgrade at receiver during the offseason without losing anyone from his offense. His health, his playbook, his coaches and the teammates around him are all the same or better. None of the other young quarterbacks can say the same thing.

Wilson averaged 19.4 Fantasy points per week last season, but much of that was because of a slow start typical of a rookie passer. His lack of experience eventually became a non-issue and Wilson had 20 points or more in seven of his last eight regular-season games. Extend that into the postseason and Wilson had a 20-point effort in eight of his last 10 overall.

And all of that came without Percy Harvin. The lightning-quick receiver with soft hands and smooth routes was dealt to Seattle this offseason and should further boost Wilson's stats. Consider this: Christian Ponder is not what we would call an attractive Fantasy quarterback, but with Harvin healthy last year he averaged 15.3 Fantasy points per game versus 11.8 per game without him. It's safe to say that little difference -- 3.5 Fantasy points -- should go a long way for Wilson, who just missed averaging 20 Fantasy points per week. It's also safe to say Wilson is a better passer than Ponder, so maybe that 3.5 Fantasy point differential will be greater in Seattle.

Wilson intimated this offseason that he doesn't like to run, an element of his game that helped him produce big stats toward the end of last season. But it doesn't mean he won't do it when necessary. In Wilson's first eight games he averaged 4.5 rushes per game, 16.0 rush yards per game and the Seahawks offense averaged 16.25 points per game. In Wilson's final eight regular season games and two playoff games he averaged 7.3 rushes per game, 48.8 rush yards per game and the offense averaged 28.9 points per game. At the very least, the threat of Wilson running helped put opponents on their heels and opened the door for Wilson to do pretty much everything he wanted. It would be stunning to see him completely give up on running.

And it would be equally stunning to see Wilson falter for Fantasy owners. There's plenty of hype around Kaepernick, Luck and Griffin, but not everyone is willing to buy into Wilson. Let that be your opponents' downfall -- getting him in Round 6 (maybe Round 7) is one of the shrewdest moves you could make on Draft Day. And like the other quarterbacks, getting a solid "just in case" backup in Round 9 of 10 makes the plan even better.

My latest projection: 3,979 passing yards, 28 pass TDs, 13 interceptions; 393 rush yards, 4 rush TDs, 2 fumbles lost

Robert Griffin III, Redskins

No young quarterback comes with as much risk as Griffin, though none comes with as much reward, either. Griffin's impressive rehabilitation from multiple torn ligaments in his right knee is as remarkable as Adrian Peterson's effort a year ago, though Griffin hurt his roughly three weeks later into the year than Peterson's. As a result of his work and his progress as reported by those who watched him during offseason practices, it's now expected that Griffin will be ready for the start of the season.

Griffin was Cam Newton-like last season when he busted out of the gate with four straight games with at least 21 Fantasy points and five games in his first seven overall with at least 25 Fantasy points. Defenses started to catch up with him, though, and save for back-to-back monster outings coming off the bye against the Eagles and Cowboys, RG3 had 19 points or less in every game the rest of the way, including his ill-fated postseason appearance. It's especially concerning that each of his division opponents did a phenomenal job containing him in their second meeting, a sign that defenses will have an answer for him so long as he continues to do what he's always done.

Some believe Griffin won't run as much as he did last year (7.8 attempts per game on average including playoffs) but Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan made a brilliant observation: All four of RG3's injuries came on pass plays where he had to scramble, not out of the zone-read option that brought forth so many of his big rushing numbers. The Redskins have a bigger investment in Griffin than any Fantasy player and surely will work with him on being a smarter runner, but the zone read might not evaporate from the Redskins playbook as some might think. That happens to double as good news for Alfred Morris, by the way.

If we knew Griffin was a lock to start in Week 1 without any limitations and stay that way for the season, he'd probably be a lock for Round 4. But because there's trepidation about him playing 16 games, he's in the same range as his rookie quarterback counterparts. Why take a risk on him earlier than necessary, particularly in a year where everyone in a league will have a good starting quarterback?

It's actually more likely he'll get picked in Round 6 as a Top 10 quarterback than fall past Round 7 simply because he'll get into preseason action eventually and someone in every draft will eyeball him. If that someone is you, do yourself a favor and come back in the following round with the best available quarterback -- potentially a guy like Luck, Wilson or Kaepernick.

My latest projection: 14 games, 3,405 passing yards, 25 pass TDs, 11 interceptions; 380 rush yards, six rush TDs, three fumbles

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 .

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Player News
Brian Hoyer wants to compete for starting QB role in Cleveland
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(9:36 am ET) Quarterback Brian Hoyer is open to returning to the Browns in 2015, if he is given a chance to compete for the starting role, Hoyer's agent Joe Linta told NBC Sports.

Hoyer started the first 13 games of the season and went 7-6. However, he was replaced by Johnny Manziel.

"I think the only thing that would make him not [want to] come back is if they said Manziel or whoever we take in the draft or whoever we sign in free agency is going to be the starter and you will only be the backup," Linta said.

Hoyer is set to become a free agent in the offseason and Linta added he expects to meet with the Browns soon to discuss their options.


Colts' Andrew Luck considered skipping Pro Bowl
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) After losing 45-7 to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck admitted he thought about not playing in the Pro Bowl, reports The Indianapolis Star.

Luck felt embarrassed after the championship game and had to think about turning around and playing a week later.

"I mean, it is a privilege, but I am hurting in a sense," Luck said. "But I realize it's an honor to be voted in and the fans really enjoy it. So, I did it."

While Luck was proud of his team for advancing to the championship game, he said this season’s playoff loss was worse than the previous two.

"I think every loss in the playoffs leaves a really, really terrible taste in your mouth," Luck said. "But this one has been worse than the other two because we did get so close. And the way we lost, it was just embarrassing."


NFL warns Marshawn Lynch with 15-yard penalty for obscene gesture
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) The NFL has issued a warning to Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch if he decides to make his obscene gesture in the Super Bowl, vice president of officiating Dean Blandino told ESPN Saturday. If Lynch performs his gesture, Seattle will be assessed a 15-yard penalty.

Meaning if Lynch makes his gesture after scoring a touchdown, the kickoff will be from the 20 yard line. Lynch was fined $20,000 for making his gesture after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship game last week.


Matthew Slater: NFLPA 'instructed' Pats not to address Deflategate
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) Patriots special teamer Matthew Slater told reporters that the NFL Players Association has "instructed" New England players to not publicly address Deflategate, according to the team's official website. The 29-year-old Slater is a team representative for the union.

"I'd love to get into that with you, but we have been instructed by our union as players to reserve comment on this situation," Slater said. "It's an ongoing investigation, so in order to protect our players, we’re going to go ahead and not talk about that."

The NFL found 11 of 12 game balls the Patriots used in the first half in Sunday's AFC Championship against the Colts were significantly underinflated after being deemed legal before the game. The investigation is being led by NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash and Ted Wells. The league has yet to release its findings.

Coach Bill Belichick also addressed the media in an impromptu press conference to reveal that his team conducted an "internal study," which revealed that the Patriots "followed every rule to the letter."

Like Slater, Belichick vowed not to speak on Deflategate again. New England will square off against Seattle in the Super Bowl on Feb. 1.


Report: Colts LB Andrew Jackson arrested for DUI, careless driving
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) Colts linebacker Andrew Jackson was arrested in Kentucky early Friday morning for careless driving and DUI, per the Indianapolis Star. He was booked just before 5 a.m. and released from jail at 12:30 p.m. the same day.

Jackson, a sixth-round pick in the 2014 draft out of Western Kentucky, was a marginal contributor for Indianapolis last season, contributing only on special teams and short-yardage scenarios. He registered 10 tackles and one sack in 13 games his rookie season.


Justin Forsett: The Ravens 'expressed that they want me back'
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) Justin Forsett told reporters following Friday's Pro Bowl practice that the Ravens have expressed interest in bringing him back next season, according to NFL.com. Forsett, who replaced Arian Foster's spot in the exhibition game, noted that he has not engaged in any contract discussions with the team, but remains optimistic of a possible deal in the offseason.

"That is the plan, they gave me my shot, they trusted me and believed in me enough to give me that shot so I'd like to stay," Forsett said. "They expressed that they want me back. I want to be back, so we'll see what happens."

Forsett, 29 is seeking his first multiyear contract of his career after playing for five teams in seven seasons. He broke out for 1,266 rushing yards this season, fifth-most in the NFL, and led all running backs with 5.4 yards per carry.


WR Emmanuel Sanders says Peyton Manning will return to Broncos
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) Although Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders' only communication with Peyton Manning was through a postseason text message, he believes that the veteran quarterback will return for another season, he told NFL.com on Friday.

Sanders and the Broncos were eliminated by the Colts in the AFC divisional round. Since that loss, the Broncos' coaching staff has been overhauled, with coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase heading to Chicago.

"Well, Gase is definitely in Chicago right now," Sanders said. "And Peyton says he's going to come back, but I'm not really worried about it, I really just want to win a Super Bowl. So that is all that is on my mind."

Gary Kubiak was hired to take Fox's place in Denver, and Sanders said that if Manning doesn't return, backup Brock Osweiler would fit "really well" in the team's new offensive scheme.

"Yeah, I think Brock is a quarterback that is on the rise, he's going to continuously get better and I feel like Kubiak's offense fits him really well," Sanders said.

Sanders signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Broncos last March. He earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl after totaling 101 catches for 1,404 yards and nine touchdowns -- all career highs.


Seahawks GM on Lynch: 'I kind of love his act'
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/23/2015) Seahawks general manager John Schneider said little Friday about Marshawn Lynch's future with the franchise.

"I mean, he's under contract next year," Schneider said in an interview with The Seattle Times. "He's a warrior. Goes out there every weekend and lays it on the line. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better running back in the National Football League."

Lynch has been rumored to be cut after this season to save money. He is set to make $5 million in base salary in 2015. Schneider also said he has no problem with the way Lynch behaves both on and off the field.

"I kind of love his act," Schneider said.


Colts' Robert Mathis may not be ready for training camp
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/23/2015) Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis is still recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon and could miss an extended period of time, including training camp, general manager Ryan Grigson said.

"No, he’s still in recovery," Grigson said when asked if he’s confident Mathis will be ready for training camp. "He’s a freak and you hope that he has an athletic genetic freak type of recovery so that he’s ready day one of training camp. But that information is not clear yet or a timeline is not there because it’s a tough injury. Hopefully in a couple months from now, we’ll be able to have some information on that."

Mathis torn the tendon in early September and missed the entire season. Without Mathis, the Colts were led by rookie Johnathan Newsome with 6 1/2 sacks in 2014.

"Obviously having [Mathis] out was a big hole," Grigson said. "But we don’t make excuses. That stuff gets forgotten and it should because a lot of teams win without key players. The next man up is for real. We found a way to still get pressure and play without his presence, but it makes it a heck of a lot harder, I promise you that. Just having him out on the field, even if he didn’t get out of his stance, it’s still going to command two blockers or more. That completely changes the complexion of a game just having him physically out there."


Seahawks' Carroll: Sherman, Thomas will be fine for Super Bowl
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/23/2015) Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Friday cornerback Richard Sherman (elbow) and free safety Earl Thomas (shoulder), who both sustained injuries in the NFC title game vs. Green Bay, will be fine to play in the Super Bowl.

As of Friday, the Patriots were 1-point favorites for the Super Bowl.


 
 
 
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