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2013 Draft Prep: Early Busts

Senior Fantasy Writer
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This is one of my least favorite columns to write. That's because there's no real way to be right.

We're talking about busts, and if the guys listed in this column pan out as I expect, then they failed. It's disappointing because Fantasy owners are still going to draft them, some as starting options, and we don't want to see players falter.

And if these players succeed, well, then I was wrong. And I'll never hear the end of it.

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Unfortunately, players don't always live up to expectations. It all depends on where they are drafted and how they perform throughout the season. The key is value.

If you land the following players in the right round then you'll be fine. But if you reach for some of these players or overvalue them, your Fantasy team could be in trouble.

Here are 10 players heading into training camp who have the chance to disappoint owners this season. We'll be taking another stab at this prior to the start of the season to give you an updated version following preseason action, and you can check out my sleepers and breakouts here.

Colin Kaepernick, QB, 49ers: Kaepernick was set up to be a star this season. He was coming off a Super Bowl run and looked like a potential Fantasy standout based on how he finished last year in just 10 starts, including the playoffs. But losing Michael Crabtree (Achilles) for the majority of the year is a tremendous blow based on how much Kaepernick relied on his No. 1 receiver. During those 10 starts, Crabtree had 61 catches for 880 yards and eight touchdowns. That accounts for 36.6 percent of Kaepernick's yardage and 57.1 percent of Kaepernick's touchdowns. He also targeted Crabtree 94 times. His next most-targeted receivers were Vernon Davis and Randy Moss, who tied at 39. Now, Kaepernick will adjust without Crabtree. The addition of Anquan Boldin is solid, and Davis will play a bigger role than last year. The 49ers also could get a surprise performance from one of their other receivers like A.J. Jenkins or an injured Mario Manningham. And keep in mind that Kaepernick is a skilled runner, which boosts his Fantasy value. But without Crabtree his passing stats won't look as good, and he could struggle. I don't consider Kaepernick a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback coming into the season.
I'd rather draft: Russell Wilson, Tony Romo, Eli Manning

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars: There's a lot to like about Jones-Drew when healthy. He's only 28 and has at least 1,600 total yards and seven touchdowns in each of his last three full seasons prior to 2012. He doesn't have much competition for carries with only Justin Forsett and maybe Denard Robinson potentially taking him off the field. And he's motivated based on last year's Lisfranc injury, which cost him 10 games, and earning a new contract. Then why is he on this list? I'm leery of his health since he hasn't been able to work out with the team yet this offseason and was reportedly out of shape. If he can return to 100 percent and looks good during training camp then I'll remove him from here and draft him in Round 2. But heading into training camp he's someone I would avoid until Round 3 at the earliest. I fear a setback with his foot problem, and I need proof that he's back to being an elite rusher before I can count on him this year.
I'd rather draft: Chris Johnson, DeMarco Murray, Reggie Bush

Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers: Mathews is saying all the right things this offseason, and the new coaching staff in San Diego is also behind him. Coach Mike McCoy told me at the NFL owners meetings in March that Mathews "had some bad luck the past couple of years" with injuries, and "he's going to be a great fit for this system." That's good to hear, but it's clear Mathews will have a limited role. Danny Woodhead was brought in to play on passing downs, and the Chargers still have Ronnie Brown on the roster. That means Mathews is a two-down running back. He's also injury prone along the lines of Darren McFadden, and he suffered two broken clavicles in 2012. There's a lot to like about Mathews in terms of talent, but Fantasy owners are clearly running out of patience. If you can land Mathews in Round 6 or later as your No. 3 running back or even a flex option then that's OK. But if you target him as a weekly starter then your Fantasy team is in trouble. From what we saw last year, Mathews might not have what it takes to be a legitimate contributor.
I'd rather draft: Le'Veon Bell, Montee Ball, Shane Vereen

Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers: Lacy has a tremendous opportunity in front of him to be the starting running back in Green Bay. But don't overestimate his value even if he wins the job. The Packers are still a passing team, and they have plenty of running backs to share the wealth. Lacy showed up to offseason workouts as much as 13 pounds heavier than what he played at in college. For a running back with an injury history, that's a concern. He also has to prove he's better than fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin, and the Packers will also use DuJuan Harris, James Starks and Alex Green. On top of that, the Packers haven't exactly been run dominant in recent years. You have to go back to 2009 with a healthy Ryan Grant when they last gave a running back more than 200 carries. The last two years their leading rusher had 135 (Green) and 134 (Grant) carries. Lacy is a good flex option and should be a key reserve. But he enters this season at least No. 4 on my list for rookie rushers behind Le'Veon Bell, Montee Ball and Giovani Bernard. He could fall further down that list if Franklin beats him out for the starting job, so keep an eye on what happens in training camp.
I'd rather draft: Rashard Mendenhall, Andre Brown, Giovani Bernard

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers: Every year we keep waiting for Stewart to be healthy and take over this backfield. And every year we continue to be disappointed. This season looked like a great chance for Stewart to shine. DeAngelo Williams was expected to be gone, and Stewart was expected to be healthy heading into training camp. Neither happened since Williams restructured his contract, and Stewart is coming off ankle surgery, which has kept him out of offseason workouts and could limit him in training camp. He's someone I would try to avoid if possible, and I would only settle for him with a late-round pick. He had just two games last year with double digits in Fantasy points of the nine he was healthy enough to play, and he hasn't been a consistent contributor since 2009 when he had 1,200 total yards and 11 touchdowns. That seems like a long time ago, and Stewart's chances of being a solid Fantasy running back continue to dwindle.
I'd rather draft: Chris Ivory, Ahmad Bradshaw, Shane Vereen

Wes Welker, WR, Broncos: Welker is still a No. 2 Fantasy receiver, but his stats are going to take a hit going to Denver. He averaged 112 catches, 1,243 yards and six touchdowns a year in New England over six years, but that's going to dwindle. The Denver Post predicts Welker to catch 75 passes, and Welker also said if he's catching too many passes "that probably means we're in trouble." If you give Welker his yards per catch last season, which was 11.5, he'll have 863 yards with 75 receptions. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker remain vital cogs in the passing game, and even though Peyton Manning loves using his slot receiver, Brandon Stokley only had 58 targets last season for 45 catches, 544 yards and five touchdowns. Welker is clearly an upgrade over Stokley, but Thomas had 141 targets and Decker had 122. You should still draft Welker to be a potential starter, but don't get overexcited with him going to Denver to play with Manning. This move is a downgrade, and his production will decrease.
I'd rather draft: Marques Colston, Hakeem Nicks, Eric Decker

James Jones, WR, Packers: You never want to chase touchdowns when trying to gauge the value of players, and expecting Jones to be a Top 20 Fantasy receiver again this year (he was No. 15 in standard leagues in 2012) is a mistake. The rest of his stats don't match his scoring prowess. Jones led the NFL with 14 receiving touchdowns, but he had just 64 catches for 784 yards. This came despite starting 16 games, playing on 92 percent of the snaps and getting the benefit of Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings battling injuries. He had 98 targets, which was second on the team, but placed him at No. 40 among receivers in the NFL. He only had three games with more than seven targets, and he benefitted from four games with multiple touchdowns. His best asset was converting in the red zone with 11 touchdowns in 19 attempts, but Nelson back at 100 percent and a motivated Jermichael Finley will cut into that production, along with an improved running game and the continued development of Randall Cobb. I would expect Jones to get more catches and yards this season with Jennings gone, but his touchdowns could get cut in half. He's a solid No. 3 Fantasy receiver, but don't value him as a starter or you will be disappointed.
I'd rather draft: Steve Smith, Danny Amendola, Torrey Smith

Mike Wallace, WR, Dolphins: The Dolphins added a much-needed weapon in Wallace as a big free-agent signee from the Steelers, but it's hard to count on him as a must-start Fantasy option. He's still too boom or bust, and he gets a downgrade in quarterback from Ben Roethlisberger to Ryan Tannehill. Last year, Wallace had a down year with 64 catches for 836 yards and eight touchdowns. He had just one game with a touchdown in his final six outings and two games with 100 receiving yards on the year. The same thing happened to him in 2011 when he had one game with a touchdown in his final seven outings and four games with 100 receiving yards. There's a pattern here, and maybe he changes that with a change of scenery, but you're going to get frustrated with Wallace. Some weeks he'll be awesome and other games he'll disappear. If you consider him a No. 3 Fantasy receiver then you're in good shape, but if you think going from Pittsburgh to Miami will help his value then you're mistaken. He's just not consistent enough to start on a weekly basis.
I'd rather draft: Torrey Smith, Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin

Danario Alexander, WR, Chargers: Alexander was reborn in San Diego last season with a stellar nine-game stretch to close the season. He had 37 catches for 658 yards and seven touchdowns over that span and looked like a bona-fide star. But it will be hard to count on Alexander to replicate that production again. He's had trouble staying healthy in his career with five knee surgeries, and he was able to play at a high level in a short run, which likely saved his body from overwork. San Diego also gets reinforcements in the passing game with Vincent Brown healthy and rookie Keenan Allen, and they will take away targets from Alexander. I love his upside, but it's hard to count on him playing at that level for 16 games (he also had two multi-touchdown games in that stretch). If you can get him as your No. 3 or even 4 receiver then that's a solid move, but don't consider Alexander a weekly starter going into the season.
I'd rather draft: Antonio Brown, T.Y. Hilton, Tavon Austin

Greg Jennings, WR, Vikings: If the Vikings get the Jennings we saw to close the season last year then this posting is a mistake. In his final four games last season, including the playoffs, Jennings had 25 catches for 280 yards and four touchdowns. He looked like the Jennings of old and not the receiver who has battled injuries the past two years. Jennings has missed 11 games the past two seasons with knee and groin problems, and he already dealt with an ankle injury this offseason. He also gets a significant downgrade in quarterback from Aaron Rodgers to Christian Ponder, and the Vikings are run dominant compared to the pass-happy Packers. Jennings is going to be expected to replace the departed Percy Harvin, but they don't have the same skill set. Jennings can still serve as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver, but if you can get him as your No. 4 option then that's the better move on Draft Day.
I'd rather draft: Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, Jeremy Maclin

Off my radar: 10 other guys I will avoid drafting this year
Frank Gore, RB, 49ers He's getting to that point in his career where a breakdown is coming.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Bengals The addition of Bernard is only going to slow down BGE even more.
Isaiah Pead, RB, Rams I'd gamble on Zac Stacy or Daryl Richardson, but I have no faith in Pead.
Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts He tailed off last year, which could be a sign of things to come at 34.
Cecil Shorts, WR, Jaguars Bad quarterback play plus concussion history makes me leery.
Steve Johnson, WR, Bills There are finally other receivers to help, but QB play is still an issue.
DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles Hard to trust him after his performance the past two years.
Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys Injuries have taken their toll, and the Cowboys are ready to move on.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings He's at least a year away from being a significant contributor.
Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers If he can't produce when healthy then it's hard to consider him elite.

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 .

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Player News
Vikings CB Terence Newman has familiarity with Mike Zimmer
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:06 pm ET) Vikings cornerback Terence Newman won't have a steep learning curve now that he's with his new team. 

Newman played under Vikings coach Mike Zimmer when he was the defensive coordinator with the Cowboys. Drafted in 2003, Newman learned Zimmer's defense from his rookie season through 2006, before Zimmer left to take the same position with the Falcons. 

“I just know exactly what to expect from him as a coach, as well as everybody else in this locker room,” Newman told the Vikings' website. “You play your best football under him.”

In his career, Newman has recorded 741 tackles and 37 interceptions. Entering his 13th NFL year, Newman has already impressed his teammates with voluntary workouts underway. 

“I met with him and he seemed like a great guy,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “Like he’s going to come in and teach us what we need to know about the technique of the game and about the defense because he’s been in it before, so he’s going to help us out a lot. He’s a big asset to this team and the defense.”


Chiefs pick up option on NT Dontari Poe
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:48 pm ET) The Chiefs have exercised their fifth-year option on two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe, per NFL.com. He is set in Kansas City through 2016, when he will earn $6.146 million.

The 350-pound Poe has earned the money. He racked up six sacks and contributed to 46 tackles in 2014.


Lions GM Mayhew OK with James Ihedigbo skipping workouts
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:39 pm ET) Safety James Ihedigbo was the lone absence from voluntary workouts this week for the Lions. But general manager Martin Mayhew understands. After all, Ihedigbo's agent has stated that he would not work without a new contract.

"I look forward to talking with James," Mayhew told ESPN. "I understand what he's going through. I've been through that myself as a player, when I felt that a time in my career that I was underpaid and I had to deal with that.

"So I have empathy for him. I understand what he's going through and I look forward to sitting down and talking with him. I have great respect for him as a player, as a man. I've gotten to know him a little bit away from football and I understand how he feels."

Mayhew declined to discuss whether the Liins will rework Ihedigbo's contract.

The 31-year-old Ihedigbo contributed 71 tackles and two sacks with a career-high four interceptions in 2014 despite missing three games at the start of the year with a nerve injury. He earned Pro Bowl alternate status.


Eagles withdraw qualifying offer to RB Chris Polk
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:24 pm ET) Running back Chris Polk is now a free agent. 

According to the NFL transaction wire, the Eagles rescinded their $1.6 million tender they offered this past March. The Eagles placed the tender on Polk, previously a restricted free agent, before signing both DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews in free agency. 

With Darren Sproles on the roster, it didn't make much sense for Polk to stay with the Eagles. 

In 2014, Polk ran for 172 yards and four touchdowns. 


RB Bobby Rainey signs qualifying offer with Buccaneers
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:04 pm ET) The Buccaneers have announced that running back Bobby Rainey has signed a one-year qualifying offer the team extended to him before the free agency period. He was a restricted free agent and was given an opportunity to negotiate with other teams.

Rainey will compete for playing time with Tampa Bay. He rushed for 406 yards in 2014, but faded at the end of the season with just two carries in the last six games combined.


Jaguars planning to play 2015 season without Justin Blackmon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:50 pm ET) As far as the Jaguars are concerned, Justin Blackmon will not be lining up at receiver for them this season. 

At least that's the approach Jacksonville is taking. Blackmon has been indefinitely suspended since Nov. 1 2013 for three violations of the substance-abuse policy under the old CBA.

"Our process hasn't changed," Caldwell said, via ESPN.com. "[We] plan to go without him, but if he emerges, he emerges, and he's going to go in with those top guys and compete with those other guys. Hopefully we're able to get some news, but if not we weren't planning on [having Blackmon]. We're just going to go [without him]."

Before he can re-join the Jaguars, he'll need to file an application for reinstatement, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell making a decision within a 60-day window. The application letter would include details of the treatment he's received. 

Since being selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Blackmon has only played in 20 games. He has 1,280 yards and six touchdowns in his career. 


Cowboys' Greg Hardy called 'woman beater' by teammate
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:19 pm ET) Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy got into an altercation with teammate Davon Coleman during a voluntary offseason workout, according to a report from Yahoo! Sports

Hardy reportedly questioned Coleman's work ethic during a conditioning drill, which led Coleman to call Hardy a "woman beater."

Hardy was accused of domestic abuse and was found guilty by a North Carolina judge. On the subsequent appeal, prosecutors dropped charges against Hardy and the case was never presented in front of a jury. 

Hardy has been suspended by the NFL for 10 games due to what transpired in that case. According to FOX Sports, the confrontation between Hardy and Coleman remained verbal


Lions and Rob Sims' representation haven't spoken in 3 weeks
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3:31 pm ET) The Lions need a left guard and Rob Sims would be a solid option if the two sides can strike a deal for the veteran to return. 

However, talks have stalled between the Lions' front office and Sims' representation. Speaking to reporters on Friday, Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said it's been nearly a month since he's spoken to Sims' camp. 

"We've had some discussion with Rob," Mayhew said, via MLive.com. "I spoke to his agent probably about three weeks ago and we had an offer out to him. That's kind of where we are right now. We'll have to kind of wait and see what happens."

The Lions could still opt to draft a lineman early to fill the position, too. 

Sims, who entered the NFL in 2006, has been with the Lions for the past five seasons. 


Andre Ellington OK with Cardinals drafting another running back
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3:20 pm ET) If the Cardinals decide to draft a running back in one of the higher rounds, running back Andre Ellington would be OK with it. 

Ellington was a three-down back for Arizona last year that got plenty of touches in the running and passing games. But if the Cardinals use a high pick on a running back, that could cut into Ellington's touches. 

That's something that wouldn't bother Ellington. 

“It’s whatever will better our team,” Ellington told the team's website. “That’s most important. No one is going to hate any decisions. I’m sure those guys will make the best decisions to help the team. We’ll accept any guy who comes in.”

Another quality runner could help Ellington, who dealt with numerous injuries a year ago, in the long run. His season ended last December after undergoing hernia surgery. 


Dolphins haven't decided if they'll extend Ryan Tannehill's contract
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2:32 pm ET) Dolphins executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said the club has yet to decide if it will extend quarterback Ryan Tannehill, according to the Palm Beach Post

The Dolphins could decide to pick up Tannehill's fifth-year option and wait on an extension. The deadline for doing so is May 3. Doing that would cost the Dolphins $15 million for the 2016 season. 

Previously, NFL.com reported that the Dolphins were hopeful that they could strike a long-term deal with Tannehill before Week 1 of the 2015 season. 

In 2014, Tannehill threw for 4,045 yards with 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.


 
 
 
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