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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
Report: Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins set to play Sunday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:06 am ET) Despite not practicing during the week, sources indicated Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins will play Sunday against the Ravens, reports the NFL Network.

Hopkins has been suffering from an ankle injury, but has not missed a game this season while catching 69 passes for 1,167 yards and six touchdowns.


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by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:47 am ET) Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has a bulging disk in his lower back, sources told Chris Mortensen of ESPN on Sunday.

Rivers converted a pair of fourth downs and led his team to a 14-play, 80-yard drive which resulted in a game-tying touchdown with just 29 second left on the clock in the fourth quarter. He compiled for 356 yards while completing 33 of 54 passes, adding four touchdowns and three interceptions in Saturday's 38-35 win over the 49ers in overtime.

According to Mortensen, the injury started giving him some discomfort three weeks ago and doctors fear that the bulging disk is on the brink of being herniated. Rivers has taken epidural injections to reduce the swelling and is considering surgery at the end of the season. The Chargers are 9-7 and still alive for a playoff spot heading into the final week of the season against Kansas City.


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(9:42 am ET) Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is expected to be back in Chicago next season, likely with a new offensive staff, reports CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora on Sunday.

Cutler has accounted for 30 touchdowns and a league-high 24 turnovers for the 5-9 Bears. He has the seventh-best completion percentage (66.1) among all quarterbacks this season. He signed a seven-year, $126 million contract in January and is guaranteed to make $15.5 million next season.


Report: Falcons remain optimistic Julio Jones will play Sunday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:33 am ET) The Falcons remain optimistic that wide receiver Julio Jones will be in the starting lineup Sunday against New Orleans, despite missing another week of practice because of a hip injury, Albert Breer of the NFL Network reports.

Jones ran on Saturday and will test his injured hip hours before kickoff in order to see how it responds. According to Breer, Jones' hip is in "better shape" than last week, and if he warms up without any setbacks, he'll be cleared to play Sunday.

Jones is third among all receivers in receptions (93) and second in receiving yards (1,428) this season. Harry Douglas would get the start if Jones sits out a second straight game.

Atlanta has moved from 6-point to a 6 1/2-point underdog at New Orleans.


Reports: Colts WR T.Y. Hilton a 'long shot' to play Week 16
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:25 am ET) Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who missed a week of practice due to a nagging hamstring injury, appears to be a "long shot" to play Week 16 against the Cowboys, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. Hilton will test his injured hamstring during warmups, but will only play if he's at 100 percent and "can be himself," coach Chuck Pagano told Ed Werder of ESPN.

Hilton is tied for ninth in receptions (82) and fourth in receiving yards (1,345) this season. If he's unable to play, rookie Donte Moncrief will see a slight increase in playing time.

The Colts remain a 3 1/2-point underdog at Dallas.


Report: Cowboys' DeMarco Murray to play with protective pad Sunday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:17 am ET) Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is expected to play Sunday against the Colts, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports.

The plan is for Murray to play with a pad on his surgically-repaired hand, which he debuted during the team's final walkthru on Saturday. The Cowboys remain concerned with how his injury holds up on Sunday, and if they clinch a playoff spot in Week 16, Murray could be a candidate to sit out Week 17 in order to rest his injured hand.

Murray leads the league with 1,687 yards on 351 carries through 14 games, which is the most in franchise history. He also has 54 receptions for 395 yards.

The Cowboys remain a 3 1/2-point home favorite over Indianapolis.


49ers K Phil Dawson scores five points vs. Chargers Week 16
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(1:14 am ET) 49ers kicker Phil Dawson made five extra points but missed his only field-goal attempt in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Dawson didn't have much of a shot at converting his lone field-goal try, as his team tasked him with attempting to avoid overtime by nailing a 60-yard field goal at the end of regulation. He didn't come close, and the 49ers went on to lose in overtime.

Dawson has made 23 of his 29 attempts this season and is now 5 for 8 from 50 yards or more. He'll square off with the Cardinals in Week 17.


49ers WR Michael Crabtree plays sparingly vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:11 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree managed just one catch for five yards in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Crabtree, who was questionable to play Saturday due to a knee injury, remained on the sidelines for large portions of the game, even donning a baseball cap at one point. It appeared he was set to play only in an emergency situation. However, the receiving corps was struck by multiple injuries, leaving the team to turn to Crabtree late, and he recorded his only catch in overtime.

Crabtree will try and heal up in time to serve a larger role in his team's season finale against the Cardinals in Week 17.


49ers WR Anquan Boldin catches seven passes vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:08 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin recorded a team-high seven receptions on nine targets for 61 yards in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Boldin managed more than half of the team's receiving production Saturday, as the other San Francisco players combined for only 53 yards on eight receptions, though rookie Bruce Ellington did managed to catch a touchdown.

Boldin had his best performance since a nine-catch, 137-yard breakout in Week 12. He's racked up 81 receptions for 981 yards with four touchdowns going into a Week 17 matchup with the Cardinals, a team for which he played from 2003 to 2009. He'll be looking to secure his seventh career 1,000-yard performance in the season finale.


49ers WR Bruce Ellington scores twice in Week 16 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:03 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Bruce Ellington tallied three rushing attempts for 12 yards and a touchdown and added an eight-yard touchdown reception in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Ellington scored both of his touchdowns in the second quarter, first hauling in the eight-yard touchdown on a play-action pass for which he was wide open. He then added the rushing touchdown on a jet play on third-and-goal where he took the ball on the move immediately after the snap and found a crease on the right side for the score.

It wasn't all positive for the rookie, as he was ruled out in the second half with a hamstring injury. If he can heal sufficiently during the upcoming week, he'll be in line to face the Cardinals in Week 17.


 
 
 
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