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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
Redskins CB Bashaud Breeland to miss 4-6 weeks
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/31/2015) Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland will miss 4-6 weeks with an MCL injury, according to ESPN.com.

Breeland was carted off the practice field on Friday and was unable to put any pressure on his right leg.


Cowboys starting RB spot is Joseph Randle's to lose
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/31/2015) The Cowboys expect Joseph Randle to win out the battle for the top running back spot this offseason, as a matter of fact, they believe it's his job to lose, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

Randle has the vision and explosiveness that is rare among running backs, giving him the edge over oft-injured Darren McFadden.

Randle rushed for 343 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games for Dallas last season.


Browns WR Dwayne Bowe confident Terrelle Pryor will make team
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/31/2015) Browns wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is confident Terrelle Pryor, who he took under his wing after he changed positions from quarterback to receiver, will make the team, according to Cleveland.com.

 "There's no doubt,'' Bowe said after day two of practice. "No doubt. He's extremely talented. He has the work ethic, and he's a team player."

Pryor is working with the second and third team offenses, but has shown a lot of progress since making the change.

"He's making it look so easy that he's starting to scare me,'' said Bowe, who led the NFL with 15 TD catches in 2010. "He's going to be really, really good. People think he's just going to come in and be a body. But he's actually going to play here and make plays for this team."


Cowboys CB Morris Claiborne not taking spot on team for granted
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/31/2015) Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne -- a top-10 pick a few seasons ago -- is not considering himself a lock to make the roster, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Claiborne is trying to show off his work ethic during minicamp in order to ensure he will have a roster spot, which will give him the chance to prove himself come Sundays.

"I'm trying to make the team," Claiborne said. "That's how I look at this whole thing right now, I'm trying to make this team."

Claiborne has been dealing with lingering knee injuries since suffering a season-ending injury during the fourth game of last season and might not be ready for the start of this year.


Saints' Brandin Cooks on being No.1 WR: 'I can do that'
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/31/2015) Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks is confident he can become Drew Brees' top target this season, according to Nola.com.

"No doubt about it," said Cooks when asked Friday if he could become the Saints' main weapon. "That's why I work so hard throughout the offseason. That's what I focus on, to be able to come in and help my team and ultimately be a dominant player like that.

"I definitely feel like I can do that."

Cooks finished with 53 catches for 550 yards and three touchdowns last season after playing just 10 games.


Bears CB Tim Jennings to see nickel role often this season
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/31/2015) Bears cornerback Tim Jennings will be chasing around slot receivers more often this season as he expands his game to include more nickle coverage, per ESPN.com.

Jennings anticipates that this season, with a new defensive scheme, he will be placed in nickle coverage more then ever.

“With the defense we’ll be running now, it [nickelback] fits well to what I’m trying to do, what they’ll want me to do,” Jennings said. “I played a little bit [of nickel] last year, but I’m looking forward to playing more this year.”

Jennings recorded 50 tackles and a forced fumble in 16 games for the Bears last season.


Seahawks FS Earl Thomas to start season on PUP list
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/31/2015) Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas will start the upcoming season on the physically unable to perform list, according to Seattlepi.com.

Thomas, who underwent surgery to repair a separated shoulder in the offseason, might miss some time during the early portion of the season.

“We’re going to be really patient at this time of year,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We’re going to not jump to a decision at all. He’s worked really hard, he’s making great progress. The timeline, let’s just wait and see, and see how long it takes for him to be really safe and secure before he goes out. He plays this game with such reckless abandon, he’s got to be ready to go 100 percent. We’re not going to jump the gun on that at all.”


Jets rookie Devin Smith out for training camp with broken ribs
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(7/31/2015) Jets rookie wide receiver Devin Smith suffered broken ribs, the team announced on Friday. 

Smith will spend Friday night in the hospital and is out for the remainder of training camp. 

Smith was the second-round pick of the Jets in the 2015 Draft, out of Ohio State. He suffered the injury when he fell hard making a catch. 


Giants officially place Will Beatty on PUP list
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/31/2015) The Giants placed tackle Will Beatty on the physically unable to perform list on Friday, according to The New York Daily News.

Beatty is expected to miss five to six month with a torn pectoral muscle.


Report: Saints TE Orson Charles suspended one game
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7/31/2015) The NFL suspended Saints tight end Orson Charles for the first game of the season, reports the NFL Network. The suspension was for violating the league's Personal Conduct Policy.

Charles has nine receptions for 109 yards during his three-year career.


 
 
 
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