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2014 Draft Prep: Pitta will be a Top 5 tight end

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Are you looking for a tight end with "breakout potential" written all over him? You need to target Dennis Pitta.

The Ravens tight end is 100 percent healthy after last season's hip injury and he's ready for a career year. There's a lot going in his favor and the prediction is he will be a top-five tight end across the board.

Pitta was headed for greatness last season after his performance in 2012 when he established himself as a reliable option for Joe Flacco. He had 61 catches for 669 yards and seven touchdowns and he was No. 7 in Fantasy points in standard leagues.

But he injured his hip in training camp in 2013 and we never got to see his career year unfold. That changes now.

New Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak relies on tight ends more than anyone else. His former team, the Texans, targeted tight ends more than any other team since 2008. That system is now in Baltimore -- and don't be afraid of veteran tight end Owen Daniels, who was with Kubiak in Houston. Daniels will work in certain packages, but he's a distant second on the depth chart.

Flacco relies on Pitta, who was second in targets for the Ravens in 2012 behind Torrey Smith (110 to 94), but his red-zone work and third-down productivity is vital. According to ESPN, the Ravens ranked 31st in red-zone scoring percentage and 20th on third-down conversion percentage with Pitta out most of last year.

But go back to 2011 and 2012 when Pitta scored a combined 10 touchdowns in the red zone. No other Baltimore player had more than seven during that span. And, in those same two seasons, Pitta had 36 third-down receptions, which tied Ray Rice for the team lead. Only three tight ends (Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez) had more third-down receptions than Pitta over that span.

Another factor to consider is the Ravens might have to throw more with Rice suspended for the first two games. Bernard Pierce could be great filling in for Rice, but keep in mind Baltimore struggled to run as a team last season. More passing would mean more production for Pitta.

We understand it's risky to consider Pitta as a top-five tight end. He's clearly behind Graham, Rob Gronkowski and Julius Thomas coming into the season. And Fantasy owners trust Vernon Davis, Jason Witten and Jordan Cameron ahead of him based on Average Draft Position in August.

But if you believe in Pitta then this only helps your cause. You can draft him later -- his ADP is No. 75 overall -- and get better results. I have him ranked ahead of Davis, Witten and Cameron at No. 4, and I plan to target Pitta in all leagues.

We'll find out if he can live up to the hype, but I'm willing to gamble on him in Round 7 in a 12-team league. I'm expecting a great season and I like him as a top-five tight end this year.

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Player News
Titans OLB Brian Orapko feeling fine for start of training camp
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:46 am ET) Titans new outside linebacker Brian Orakpo has declared himself healthy and ready for training camp. He is coming off a pectoral injury that required season-ending surgery last October.

"I'll be ready to rock and roll as soon as we open camp," he told ESPN. "Body-wise, I feel 100 percent. The pec and everything else feels real good. We kind of played it safe in OTAs and minicamp for precaution, but now we can kind of unleash everything."

Orakpo signed with Tennessee as a free agent after six seasons with Washington.


Niners RB Carlos Hyde cleared to practice
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:38 am ET) A mere two days after his placement on the non-football injury list, 49ers running back Carlos Hyde has been removed from it, the San Jose Mercury News is reporting.

Hyde, who had been dealing with a lower leg strain, has been medically cleared to participate in the team's first full workout Saturday.

He is considered the front-runner to serve as the featured back this season, though a committee approach after the departure of Frank Gore is also a possibility. Hyde rushed for 333 yards and four touchdowns on 83 carries as a rookie in 2014.


Chiefs release RB Cyrus Gray
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:28 am ET) The Chiefs have released running back and special teams standout Cyrus Gray, per the Kansas City Star.

The sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft carried just 24 times during his career with the team for 99 yards and one touchdown. He had eight attempts for 31 yards and that lone score in 2014.

He was out after November 11, however, with a torn ACL.


Ravens CB Lardarius Webb absent as Ravens begin camp
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:17 am ET) Ravens starting cornerback Lardarius Webb is a no-show at the first full-team practice Thursday. He is not injured, an NFL source told the Baltimore Sun.

His absence last training camp due to a back issue resulted in a slow start to the regular season in which he missed the first two games.


CB Dee Milliner cleared for Jets camp
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(1:01 am ET) Cornerback Dee Milliner, who has been battling an Achilles' injury, was cleared to take part in the team's practices at training camp, which begins Thursday, per ESPN.com. 

Milliner, the ninth overall pick in 2013, is fighting for a backup spot on the Jets. He played in just three games last season before the injury. 


Packers place four on PUP list on eve of camp
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(12:54 am ET) The Packers announced they have placed four players on their Physically Unable to Perform (PUP)/non-football injury list, including second-round pick Quinten Rollins, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Rollins, a cornerback taken with the 62nd pick, is on the non-football injury list, meaning his injury occurred outside of team activities. The other players on the PUP list are receiver Ricky Collins, running back John Crockett and linebacker Mike Neal


Browns say rookie CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu will sit out 2015
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(12:47 am ET) Browns coach Mike Pettine said the team plans to have cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, their seventh-round pick, sit out the 2015 season as the player recovers from a serious knee injury he suffered at the end of his college career, per Cleveland.com. 

Ekpre-Olomu was considered a first-round pick before tearing his ACL and dislocating his knee during practice for the college football playoffs. The recovery period is 7-10 months. 

"Players that have had this injury before, it's rare that you would return that season,'' Pettine said. "Given our depth, we're very comfortable with him sitting out. That's just one that we felt it was a low-risk, high-reward move when we took him in the seventh round."


Bears rookie WR Kevin White (shin) on PUP list
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/29/2015) Bears rookie wide receiver Kevin White is on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list to start training camp with a shin injury.

john Fox has stated that he wants the seventh overall selection in the 2015 draft to improve his "cardio" before he returns to action.

It has been speculated that White isn't progressing as well as hoped. Quarterback Jay Cutler said in June that White was battling for the No. 4 receiver role.


Jets G Willie Colon, RB Stevan Ridley shelved with knee issues
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/29/2015) The Jets have placed guard Willie Colon and running back Stevan Ridley on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list for the start of training camp, per NJ.com. Both are sidelined with knee injuries.

They can be activated at any time during camp, but must be back in action for the opener or they will be forced to miss the first six regular season games.


Jaguars put RB Storm Johnson on active/non-football illness list
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/29/2015) Running back/returner Storm Johnson has been placed by the Jaguars on the active/non-football illness list, the Florida Times-Union has reported.

The team has not revealed the nuture of the problem, but it arose during activities off the field.

Johnson did miss some time this offseason with a back injury.


 
 
 
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