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Dual threats for 2013

CBSSports.com
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Quarterbacks

Cam Newton, QB, Panthers: Fantasy owners are hoping a strong finish to 2012 will put Newton in prime position to dominate in 2013. After a lousy start last season Newton had multiple touchdowns in seven of his final nine contests, boosting his Fantasy production from 17.0 Fantasy points per game to 25.3 points per game. A few tweaks in offensive philosophy and a reliance on the short-area passing game (and a good schedule) helped turn things around for Newton, but more tweaks are in store this offseason after the team lost offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski to Cleveland's head coaching job. Mike Shula will take over the Panthers' offense, which Newton is happy with, but his track record as an offensive coordinator and head coach is not very good. The plan in Carolina is to stick with what worked late in 2012. Luckily, Newton is a freak of nature and stands to continue putting up huge numbers even though they did little this offseason to improve the offense. Factor in Newton's goal-line prowess and there's not necessarily a lot to fear with Newton so long as he's taken with a pick after elite quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning are taken. That could happen after the 30th overall pick.

Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins: RG3 is starting to look better as the preseason goes on as he appears on track to be ready for Week 1 against the Eagles. He had surgery to repair a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus in January and as a result is on a limited workout schedule through the month of August. He's not expected to participate in any preseason games but he's been practicing on a regular basis. There's no denying how awesome Griffin was last season, tallying 344 Fantasy points (seventh best among QBs) and averaging 22.9 Fantasy points per week. There is no indication the Redskins will alter their playbook and make RG3 a statuesque pocket passer, meaning it's very possible he remains as productive as he was in 2012. But he also could get hurt again, something Fantasy owners have to consider given what happened to him as a rookie. Your best bet is to consider him a solid No. 1 Fantasy quarterback worth a pick starting in Round 6. If you get him, aim to back him up with a capable passer a few rounds later. That's pretty much all the insurance you'll need to feel safe about owning Griffin in Fantasy play.

Colin Kaepernick, QB, 49ers: Kaepernick lost his No. 1 receiver in Michael Crabtree (Achilles) before the season started, but that doesn't mean his Fantasy value is sunk. Kaepernick should still play at a high level, and hopefully what he did last year in a small sample size will carry over to a big performance. He had five games with at least 18 Fantasy points in seven starts in the regular season, and he carried the 49ers to the Super Bowl with two standout playoff games. If you project Kaepernick's regular-season stats over a full 16-game season he would have finished with 4,146 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and seven interceptions and 948 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. That's pretty awesome. He takes a hit with Crabtree out, but Kaepernick has the look of a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback, and we like him with a pick beginning in Round 6 in the majority of leagues. Since he's unproven, you'll still want to pair him with a quality backup option later (think anyone from Eli Manning to Jay Cutler), but Kaepernick should still be able to hold his own with a revamped receiving corps led by Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin. Remember, there aren't many quarterbacks who can run like Kaepernick, and that rushing prowess makes him a unique Fantasy commodity.

Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks: Wilson came out of nowhere to surprise Seattle fans and Fantasy owners with a dynamic performance in his rookie campaign in 2012. He should continue to play at a high level in 2013 but the loss of prized offseason acquisition Percy Harvin for much of the regular season harpoons any upside he had coming into the year. Wilson managed to do just fine without Harvin a season ago, finishing as the No. 9 Fantasy quarterback in standard leagues with at least 19 Fantasy points in nine of his final 11 games, including at least 27 points in his final three outings. That was helped by amassing surprising rushing totals, something that he might have to do again this season even though he said this offseason he doesn't like to run. Figure Wilson to be among the last starting Fantasy passers you'll see taken between Rounds 7 and 9 this season as owners shy away from him knowing he won't have Harvin around to enhance his stats further. You'll want to pair Wilson with a quality No. 2 Fantasy quarterback (think anyone from Eli Manning to Ben Roethlisberger to Andy Dalton), but until he proves you wrong he should be considered a starter from Week 1 at Carolina.

Running Backs

Ray Rice, RB, Ravens: Rice should be in the conversation as a Top-10 pick, but not necessarily a Top-5 pick. True, he had another excellent season in 2012 when he totaled over 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns and scored double-digit Fantasy points in 11 games. But toward the end of last year we saw Rice split reps with Bernard Pierce, so there's a little concern they could share a little more than we're used to seeing in 2013. Rice also didn't produce the huge numbers he did before the Ravens made a coordinator change as Joe Flacco sort of took over the direction of the offense. We wouldn't be as worried about those things as we would a hangover from the Super Bowl -- running backs tend to struggle posting big numbers in the season following a title game run. Rice had 331 carries and 69 catches over 20 games, which is a lot of work but nothing to get completely alarmed about (he had 411 total touches in 2010 and was fine in 2011). Roster shakeups due of injuries or salary cap issues have thinned out the talent Flacco will throw to as well, so there could be added emphasis on the run game week after week. Is he still one of the best players in Fantasy? Sure, but he's got a lot more company at the top of the running back heap than he did a year ago. We'd aim for Rice no higher than sixth overall in drafts.

Reggie Bush, RB, Lions: Bush left the Dolphins this offseason to sign with the Lions, and we're excited for his opportunity in Detroit. He has played well since coming to the Dolphins in 2011 when he got a chance to be an every-down back. In 2011, Bush had a career season with 216 carries for 1,086 yards and six touchdowns and 43 catches for 296 yards and a score. He followed that up with a career-high 227 carries for 986 yards and six touchdowns and 35 catches for 292 yards and two touchdowns. Now, Bush goes to a Lions team that should involve him more as a receiver, even promising a potential 70 catches. He has at least 43 catches in five of his seven years, and the Lions will use him as a three-down back. We view Bush as a No. 2 Fantasy running back with upside, and he could total 1,500 yards with about six touchdowns. He is worth drafting in all formats in Round 3 with the potential to be drafted in Round 2 in PPR leagues. This could be a big year for Bush in Motown.

Darren Sproles, RB, Saints: If you draft Sproles in 2013, you're banking on him coming through as a pass catcher rather than as a rusher. Sproles' run duties did little to supplement what he did as a receiver, which was actually slightly better on a per-game basis than what he did in 2011. His catches per game went up from 5.4 to 5.8, his receiving average jumped from 8.3 yards to 8.9 yards per catch and his receiving touchdowns stayed at seven. But his rush game, despite a nifty 5.1 yard average, practically disappeared. He had all of 48 carries thanks to four games of no handoffs and seven with five or fewer. That makes Sproles a risk as a top-20 running back but not quite as a low-end No. 2 option in a standard league. Obviously, the receptions he's expected to handle push him up in PPR formats to a very solid No. 2 option. He's worth a late fourth-round pick in standard leagues and a third-round pick in PPR formats this summer.

Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots: Vereen should be considered a sleeper coming into this season based on his expected role with the Patriots with Danny Woodhead gone. Last year, Vereen was inactive for the first three games of the season, but he finished the year with 73 carries for 308 yards and four touchdowns and 15 catches for 254 yards and three touchdowns, including the playoffs. With Woodhead gone, Vereen's value will rise, especially in PPR leagues where he could complement Stevan Ridley. Woodhead had 76 carries for 301 yards and four touchdowns and 40 catches for 446 yards and three touchdowns with one lost fumble last year, and Vereen should pick up the majority of that production. He should be considered a No. 3 Fantasy running back in standard leagues and a potential No. 2 option in deep PPR formats. He's worth a mid-round pick, and Vereen has breakout written all over him.

Wide Receivers

Randall Cobb, WR, Packers: Cobb blossomed into a solid Fantasy receiver last season and the hope is he continues his progress in 2013. It took a few weeks but once the Packers were in a pinch with their run game they utilized Cobb more and his numbers took off. Starting in Week 5, when Cedric Benson got hurt, Cobb posted 10-plus Fantasy points in five of his next six games (with a TD or 100 total yards in each game). Cobb slowed down toward end the season, scoring once and posting two games with 100 yards in his final seven games including the playoffs. He finished by leading the Packers in catches (80), targets (104 for an incredible 77 pct. conversion rate), receiving yards (954) and total yards (1,086), throwing in eight touchdowns along the way. Already, the Packers have said they're going to take Cobb off of special teams and focus on using him more on offense, so chances are he will be in a position to put up better stats in 2013. There is a concern that if the Packers drastically improve their run game that Cobb will lose touches but that's something to worry about later. For now, Cobb sizes up as the Packers' most explosive receiver worth a pick starting around 30th overall in standard leagues and 25th overall in PPR formats. He's a great low-end No. 1 Fantasy option.

Tavon Austin, WR, Rams: The Rams drafted Austin in the first round of the NFL Draft out of West Virginia, and he's expected to contribute right away. In fact, he might be the best rookie this season since he has the size (5-foot-9) and playmaking skills of Percy Harvin. He has excellent speed (4.29 in the 40-yard dash). Austin posted back-to-back 100-catch seasons with the Mountaineers, totaling over 11 yards per catch along the way while upping his rushing workload as a senior (72 carries for 643 yards including a school-record 344 rush yards against the Oklahoma Sooners). He will likely play in the slot for the Rams, but he also can play outside. Consider Austin a potential No. 3 Fantasy receiver in standard leagues with a mid-round pick (yep, that high), but in rookie-only drafts he's a first-round selection.

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Player News
Tamba Hali says he wants to be back in Kansas City in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:45 am ET) Outside linebacker Tamba Hali once again expressed an interest in returning to the only team he's ever played for in the Chiefs.

"At this stage of my career, it isn’t about money," Hali said. "The Kansas City Chiefs have taken care of me, financially. I have some good people in my corner that have positioned me to be able to live a lifestyle a lot of people won’t be able to live. So I’m not one of those guys who gets all bent out of shape over money. I love playing the game, I want to win a championship in Kansas City."

Hali totaled 59 tackles including six sacks and three forced fumbles in 16 games. It was his lowest sack total since 2008.

"If money is going to be a hindrance in doing that, we’ll find a way … we’ve got to get Justin (Houston) paid and get our guys, Dee Ford, ready to be playing at a higher level … but we’ve got to get Houston paid, I’m optimistic about that … that’s something we’ve got to get done."


Report: Seahawks' Richard Sherman finishes elbow treatment
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said Tuesday his elbow is improving daily and he's finished with treat, according to Ed Werder of ESPN. 

According to Werder, Sherman tore ligaments in his elbow in the NFC Championship game against the Packers. Sherman was seen grimacing in pain throughout the game after suffering the injury.

The Seahawks are currently 1-point underdogs for the Super Bowl, according to VegasInsider.com.


Seahawks GM: Russell Wilson's contract to present roster challenge
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) The Seahawks are preparing to re-sign quarterback Russell Wilson. With Wilson making under $1 million per year in his first three seasons, Seattle has been able to give other players contract extensions. Now, general manager John Schneider knows it will be tough on the team to get Wilson at the hefty price tag.

"It presents challenges, there is no question," Schneider said. "We haven’t sat down with his representatives. We are still going to be drafting young players and playing young players, so we might not be able to dip into free agency like you may want to here and there or compensate somebody else that you want to compensate that is already on your team, but just the fact that we’re going to continue to keep drafted players and playing young players should help us compensate for whatever level of compensation (for Wilson’s contract) is."

Wilson threw for 3,475 yards in 2014 with 20 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. He also ran for 849 yards and six touchdowns.


Cardinals' Drew Stanton says he'll be healthy by April
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton is on the road to recovery. The 30-year-old quarterback is in the middle of a rehab program to be able to get back on the field this spring

"I’ll be full strength by time we start offseason program," Stanton said at Tuesday’s Super Bowl Media Day. "I don’t really need to do anything now so just kinda let my body rest to get away from the game a little bit, spend time with my family and get refreshed for next season."

Stanton said he would have needed one more week before trying to give it a go in the playoffs with the knee injury.

"I was going to need at least another week to have a shot," Stanton said. "That was my hope. So, I was trying to find ways to get ready to go, talking to the training staff and talking to guys (about) what I can be doing when we would get back from that flight from Carolina. It didn’t work out unfortunately, but it was a difficult situation the way everything ended. At the same time, I think that the building blocks are starting to fall into place for us." 


Bengals OC Hue Jackson still believes in QB Andy Dalton
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson missed quarterback Andy Dalton's Pro Bowl performance Sunday. Despite hearing about his 9 of 20 passing performance, Jackson said Tuesday to ESPN he still has faith in Dalton to get the job done.

"I'm not going to stop believing in him," Jackson said. "He's going to have to prove otherwise. I believe this guy has it in him. My job, my charge as I've said before is to have him do it on a consistent basis."

Jackson added he's seen the great Dalton and thinks it's something to build on.

"I see in the first three games of the season a guy that played with moxie and tenacity and aggressiveness, and who played extremely well down that 3-0 stretch," Jackson said.


Seahawks NT Brandon Mebane expected to be full go by April
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) Seahawks starting nose tackle Brandon Mebane said the surgery to fix his torn hamstring went well, and he should be full go by April, reports the Seattle Times. Mebane's season was cut short after nine games. He finished with 20 tackles and a sack.

DT Kevin Williams could retire if Seahawks win
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) Seahawks defensive tackle Kevin Williams did not rule out retiring if his team beats the Patriots in Super Bowl 49, reports the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Williams, 34, is a six-time Pro Bowler and five-time First-Team All-Pro.

He played in every game this season, recording 22 tackles, three sacks and two pass breakups.


Bills' Roman: EJ Manuel getting clean slate with new coaching staff
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Tuesday during his introductory press conference quarterback EJ Manuel will get a fresh start with the new coaching staff, per WGR 550. Manuel was benched in favor of veteran Kyle Orton in 2014. Orton has since retired.

"I'm not going to get into specifics. but I definitely think he's done some very good things and displayed some good traits," Roman said. "We just have to get his level of consistency a little bit greater. Really, he and everybody else, once we get thru this evaluation process, we're going to have a very clean slate, once we get going because what they might have been asked to do or done in the past is really not relevant to what we may or may not ask them to do. So to sit here and pontificate about this that and the other, is a little premature."

Manuel is 6-8 as a starter over two NFL seasons. The 2013 first-round pick has a career 58.6 completion rate. He has passed for 2,810 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 15 games (14 starts).


Bryan Stork not a lock to play in Super Bowl
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) Patriots rookie center Bryan Stork said he's working with the training staff in hopes of playing in Super Bowl 49, reports ESPN.com. Stork, who nursing a knee injury, has been limited in practice.

"Nobody's working harder than Bryan to play," coach Bill Belichick said.

Stork started 11 regular-season games but missed the AFC title game after getting hurt in the divisional playoff win over Baltimore. Ryan Wendell replaced Stork and played well in the 45-7 victory over the Colts.


Colts can void RB Trent Richardson's contract
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) The Colts can void running back Trent Richardson's $3.18 million guaranteed salary for 2015 because he was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, reports CBS Sports' Joel Corry, a former agent who's an expert on player contracts.

Richardson, who missed a walkthrough before the AFC title game, received a two-game suspension from the team, general manager Ryan Grigson confirmed. If Indy chooses to keep Richardson, he'd serve the second game of the suspension next season.

ESPN.com expects the Colts to exercise their option to void Richardson's contract, and the players' union to challenge that move.


 
 
 
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