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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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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/27/2014) Free-agent defensive end Michael Sam indicated in a documentary on the Oprah Winfrey Network that aired Saturday night that coming out was the right thing to do and that he has no regrets with how he handled the situation, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

"I did everything I was supposed to do. I did everything right," Sam said. "I am proud of how I handled things."

Sam dismissed the notion that his sexuality cost him a spot on an NFL team, adding, "But I do believe I'm a very talented football player and I'm going to continue working hard and try to get that opportunity to play in the league."

Sam was selected in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Rams after being named the SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year. He didn't survive final preseason cuts and spent seven weeks on the Cowboys' practice squad before being released.


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(12/27/2014) Talks are ongoing between the Browns and wide receiver Josh Gordon on whether he will lose his accrued season and the ability to become an unrestricted free agent in 2016 after being suspended for the last game of the season, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

Players need to be paid for six games of action in order to accrue a season, and Gordon played just his fifth game of the season in Week 16 after serving a 10-game suspension to begin the season. The talks involve whether Gordon will be a restricted or unrestricted free agent after the 2015 season. He finishes 2014 with 24 receptions and 303 yards in five games.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/27/2014) Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green said Saturday that he'll play in Sunday's Week 17 matchup with the Steelers, ESPN reports.

Green will be playing with a deep bicep bruise after being ruled probable on the team's final injury report. He'll probably take a painkilling shot before the game, per the report.

The Bengals are a 3 1/2-point underdog in Pittsburgh against the Steelers.


Report: Browns considering pursuing Ndamukong Suh
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(12/27/2014) The Browns are considering making a play for impending free-agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, ESPNCleveland.com reports.

The Browns are expected to have plenty of cap space with which to work during the offseason and could be willing to give the premium free-agent-to-be the richest contract for a defensive lineman in history, per the report. Suh has racked up 46 total tackles and 8 1/2 sacks in 15 games.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/27/2014) The Redskins placed defensive end Jason Hatcher on injured reserve Saturday after claiming defensive tackle Travian Robertson off waivers from the Seahawks.

Hatcher has missed the last two games with a knee injury and wil be out Sunday as well when Washington closes out the season against Dallas as a 4-point home underdog. Robertson played in just one game with the Seahawks, recording one assisted tackle.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
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by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12/27/2014) The Bills have downgraded defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (knee) and cornerback Stephon Gilmore (concussion) from doubtful to out for Sunday's season finale at New England, per the team's official website. Both players did not make the trip to New England for Week 17.

Buffalo is a 5-point underdog on Sunday.


Patriots place CB Alfonzo Dennard on injured reserve
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12/27/2014) The Patriots placed cornerback Alfonzo Dennard on season-ending injured reserve with a hamstring injury, reports Field Yates of ESPN on Saturday. Dennard appeared in only six games this season, registering 15 combined tackles and one interception -- all season lows.

In corresponding moves, the Patriots elevated wide receiver Josh Boyce from the practice squad to take the spot of Dennard on the 53-man active roster. They re-signed Dax Swanson to the practice squad and released defensive lineman Cam Henderson.


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(12/27/2014) The Browns have fined rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel an undisclosed amount for arriving late to treatment on Saturday, reports Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer.

Manziel was placed on injured reserve after suffering a hamstring injury in Week 16 against Carolina. Although he's on IR and not eligible to play, he will accompany the team to Baltimore for Cleveland's season finale against the Ravens.

Manziel is expected to be fully recovered in time for OTAs. He finished the turbulent rookie season with 175 passing yards and a 42.0 quarterback rating. He also had two interceptions and one fumble lost.


Saints place John Jenkins on IR
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12/27/2014) The Saints announced a pair of roster moves on Saturday. The team elevated quarterback Ryan Griffin to the 53-man active roster and placed nose tackle John Jenkins on injured reserve with an abdominal injury.

Jenkins registered 30 combined tackles and a sack in 12 games played.


 
 
 
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