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2014 Draft Prep: The WR landscape

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Overviews: QBs | RBs | TEs | Draft Averages | Rankings | Draft Index

The NFL wants passing games to flourish. The new emphasis on illegal contact between receivers and pass defenders this season should allow for eye-popping numbers.

And we like that as Fantasy owners.

If defensive backs will be forced to avoid touching receivers, we could see even more emphasis on teams throwing the ball. We know it's a passing league, but this could become a new extreme.

In the past three seasons, there have been at least 16 quarterbacks to attempt more than 500 passes a year, which is the most over a three-year span dating back to 2004. And last year we had 23 receivers gain at least 1,000 yards and 10 score at least 10 touchdowns. The last time that happened was 2004.

Fantasy owners know featured running backs are becoming scarce, but standout receivers are starting to increase. It's the reason we say you can wait on receiver and still build an amazing Fantasy roster with potential studs at those spots. Just look at last year.

Of the receivers who finished in the Top 24 of standard formats -- which qualifies as a starter in a 12-team league -- 15 were drafted in Round 5 or later based on Average Draft Position. While the studs like Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, A.J. Green, Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall are safe -- they were drafted in the first two rounds and finished as five of the top six receivers -- your team isn't in trouble if you miss on one of those guys.

Now, the question becomes how do you find the gems with late-round picks? It's easy to say receivers will emerge, but we all want the next Josh Gordon and Alshon Jeffery and not just Marvin Jones and Riley Cooper.

Here are 70 receivers you can either target or avoid on Draft Day based on their ADP on CBSSpots.com. Drafting one of the Top 12 guys is easy, but we're going to show you the late-round targets that should lead to Fantasy success.

Top 12

1. Calvin Johnson, Lions
2. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
3. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
4. A.J. Green, Bengals
5. Julio Jones, Falcons
6. Brandon Marshall, Bears
7. Jordy Nelson, Packers
8. Antonio Brown, Steelers
9. Alshon Jeffery, Bears
10. Randall Cobb, Packers
11. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
12. Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers

Range: Rounds 1-4 (Picks 6-43)
Guys I want: All of them
Guys I tend to avoid: None
The closest guys to receivers I would avoid would be Fitzgerald and Jackson, but getting one of those options in Round 3 or 4 as your No. 2 receiver is still great, depending on the start of your draft. The other 10 receivers should be locked in for monster years, barring injury. ... Johnson isn't in a tier by himself any more because he actually finished third in Fantasy points last season behind Thomas and Gordon. But his consistency (he's been a Top 5 receiver each of the past four years), coupled with his overall greatness, keeps him at the top spot. ... I go back and forth between Thomas and Bryant for the second spot, but Thomas gets an edge with the Broncos having to replace Eric Decker's 137 targets. While that will be spread amongst the other receivers in Denver, Thomas should still dominate. As for Bryant, he's going to be awesome in a contract year with the Cowboys having no defense and being forced to throw a lot. ... Green, Jones and Marshall are all names you can throw into a hat, and whoever you end up with would be fine. Green could take a slight hit with the Bengals planning to be more run-based, but he's still a Top 5 receiver. And don't worry about Marshall losing targets to Jeffery since Jay Cutler appears to favor Marshall more based on target distribution. ... Jones was on pace for 208 Fantasy points in a standard league before he suffered a broken foot in Week 5, which would have tied him with Green for the No. 4 receiver spot. He's capable of replicating that kind of year, so draft accordingly. ... Nelson should be viewed as one of the elite receivers, in case there was any doubt. If you project his stats with a healthy Aaron Rodgers -- who missed seven games with a broken clavicle -- he would have been the No. 1 receiver with 240 Fantasy points. ... Brown didn't take off until the second half of the season when he had double digits in Fantasy points in seven of his final nine games. With the Steelers keeping their up-tempo offense to start this season, Brown should pick up where last season ended, especially with Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery gone. ... Jeffery and Cobb might be second fiddle on their respective teams, but they are still stars in their own right. Jeffery is entering his third season, and we hope he pushes Marshall for the top spot in this passing game. It's not likely to happen, but the gap is closing between the two guys. For Cobb, he never got a chance to try for the 100 catches the Packers promised last year because of a broken leg in Week 6, but he had 10-plus targets in his first three games, seven plus catches in his first two games and at least 108 yards and a touchdown in those outings. The potential is there, and Cobb is a low-end No. 1 receiver worth drafting in Round 3. ... Fitzgerald might be clinging to the No. 1 role for the Cardinals over Michael Floyd, but whether he's No. 1 or 2 on the depth chart, he'll be a vital cog in a heavy passing attack. ... Jackson won't cede the top spot to Mike Evans, at least not yet, and we hope the addition of Josh McCown can help Jackson thrive. He has at least 72 catches, 1,224 yards and seven touchdowns in consecutive years for the Buccaneers.

13-24

13. Michael Crabtree, 49ers
14. Andre Johnson, Texans
15. Keenan Allen, Chargers
16. Pierre Garcon, Redskins
17. Wes Welker, Broncos
18. Victor Cruz, Giants
19. Roddy White, Falcons
20. Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings
21. Michael Floyd, Cardinals
22. DeSean Jackson, Redskins
23. Percy Harvin, Seahawks
24. Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos

Range: Rounds 4-7 (Picks 44-73)
Guys I want: Crabtree, Allen, Garcon, Welker, Cruz, White, Patterson, Floyd, Harvin and Sanders
Guys I tend to avoid: Johnson and Jackson
In the seven starts Crabtree made with Colin Kaepernick in 2012, he had 41 catches for 595 yards and five touchdowns. If you project that over 16 games, Crabtree would have finished with 94 catches for 1,360 yards and 11 touchdowns. We hope those stats are similar this year, which is why he's worth drafting in Round 4. ... Allen didn't really become part of the offense until Week 4, but he took off from there. If you project his stats over 16 games from that point on, he would have been No. 12 in Fantasy points. He's a safe No. 2 receiver in Round 4. ... Garcon led all receivers in catches (113) and targets (184) last year, but he'll regress with the addition of DeSean Jackson and return to health of Jordan Reed. But he'll be involved enough to remain a solid No. 2 receiver in standard leagues and a borderline No. 1 in PPR. ... This is likely Welker's last season in Denver. He's in a contract year, and the Broncos brought in Sanders and rookie Cody Latimer, which shows their plans for the future. That said, Welker will still play a prominent role for the Broncos and remains a No. 2 receiver worth drafting in Round 4 or 5. ... Cruz has the chance for a big season in Ben McAdoo's offense, but the Giants have looked sluggish in the preseason. We're not giving up yet, and Cruz could still be a great option in all formats. He's still the best receiver in New York. ... White, Patterson, Floyd and Harvin are four of my favorite receivers this year. White should bounce back in a big way now that he's healthy. ... Patterson showed off his dynamic playmaking to close last season with a four-game scoring streak, and we're expecting a nice boost in his production. He's a No. 2 receiver worth targeting in Round 5. ... Floyd could be a huge breakout star entering his third season. There's talk he could surpass Fitzgerald as the No. 1 receiver, but either way he's someone to target no later than Round 5. ... Harvin is an injury risk since he's played in just 10 games the past two years, but when he's healthy he shines. And right now he's ready to go entering the season. ... Sanders will be the No. 3 receiver for the Broncos and No. 4 target when you factor in Julius Thomas. His upside is limited when everyone is healthy, but he's still a Top 25 receiver based on his potential. ... I hope Johnson has a big year because he deserves it, but I'm skeptical with Ryan Fitzpatrick as his starter. He's also battled a hamstring injury in training camp, and I'm worried about his production in Round 4. ... Jackson should regress with the Redskins. He'll have some big games as a boom or bust receiver, but he's more of a No. 3 receiver than a No. 2 option.

25-36

25. Julian Edelman, Patriots
26. Golden Tate, Lions
27. Torrey Smith, Ravens
28. T.Y. Hilton, Colts
29. Jeremy Maclin, Eagles
30. Mike Wallace, Dolphins
31. Marques Colston, Saints
32. Sammy Watkins, Bills
33. Kendall Wright, Titans
34. Terrance Williams, Cowboys
35. Brandin Cooks, Saints
36. Reggie Wayne, Colts

Range: Rounds 7-9 (Picks 76-100)
Guys I want: Edelman, Tate, Smith, Hilton, Maclin, Wallace, Colston, Wright, Williams and Cooks
Guys I tend to avoid: Watkins and Wayne
Edelman won't replicate his stats from last year, when he set career highs in catches (105), yards (1,056) and touchdowns (six), as long as Rob Gronkowski (knee) is healthy. But if Gronkowski is out, Edelman could be a star. Still, with Gronkowski, we consider Edelman a No. 3 receiver in standard leagues and No. 2 option in PPR. ... Tate has the chance to thrive with the Lions. He'll be in single coverage opposite Calvin Johnson, and the Lions will give him many more opportunities to make plays than he had with the Seahawks. I'm all in as early as Round 5, so I love getting him in Round 7. ... Maclin is battling a hamstring problem heading into the third week of the preseason, but when healthy he has Top 20 potential as the new No. 1 receiver in Chip Kelly's offense. He's well worth a pick in Round 7 or 8. ... Smith has been a Top 24 receiver in standard leagues each of the past three years. He's more of a No. 3 Fantasy option than a must-start receiver, but he's a great value pick in this spot. ... Hilton and Wayne will jockey for the No. 1 receiver spot in Indianapolis, but we like Hilton better entering his third year. Wayne is coming off a torn ACL and will likely lose some playing time and targets to Hakeem Nicks. Hilton's upside makes him a great No. 3 receiver with starting potential, and Wayne is only worth a pick in Round 9 at best. ... Wallace could have a breakout season playing for offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. The Dolphins will move Wallace around, and he should bounce back from last year's disappointing performance. ... Fantasy owners are skeptical of Colston based on his injury concerns, Kenny Stills taking on a bigger role and the addition of rookie Brandin Cooks. He's a safe pick in this range, and we hope he can hold up for 16 games based on his previous foot woes. ... Speaking of Cooks, the Saints are going to use him to help replace Darren Sproles and Lance Moore. We can't wait to see Cooks on the field with Drew Brees after Brees was out the first two preseason games with an oblique injury. ... Wright is another potential third-year breakout. If he can raise his touchdown total from the two he had last year to at least five, that would elevate him to Top 24 status after he had 94 catches for 1,079 yards in 2013. ... Williams has the chance to be this year's Jeffery or Floyd as a sophomore standout. He'll get plenty of single coverage opposite Bryant, and he's a steal at this point in the draft. I love the Cowboys offense this year. ... Watkins is the best receiver of this class, but he ended up in difficult situation with EJ Manuel throwing him passes. I'm OK with Watkins as a No. 4 receiver, but anything higher than that is something I'd avoid.

37-48

37. Eric Decker, Jets
38. Mike Evans, Buccaneers
39. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
40. Riley Cooper, Eagles
41. Rueben Randle, Giants
42. Tavon Austin, Rams
43. Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers
44. Hakeem Nicks, Colts
45. Anquan Boldin, 49ers
46. Josh Gordon, Browns
47. Danny Amendola, Patriots
48. DeAndre Hopkins, Texans

Range: Rounds 10-12 (Picks 111-135)
Guys I want: Randle and Benjamin
Guys I tend to avoid: Decker, Evans, Bowe, Cooper, Austin, Nicks, Boldin, Amendola and Hopkins
Wait and see: Gordon
We added an extra category for Gordon, who could make a Fantasy team awesome if you drafted him here prior to the ruling on his suspension. If he's able to play eight games or more, he's a huge difference maker. But if your draft has yet to happen, you'll have to gauge when to take him to see if he plays or not. ... Randle is entering his third season, and this is his time to shine. With Nicks gone, he will start opposite Cruz, and we hope the Giants passing game will help him have a breakout campaign. ... Benjamin is going to be the No. 1 receiver for the Panthers. He's looked good in the preseason, and Cam Newton needs him to have a big year. ... Decker going to the Jets is a significant downgrade, and he's been dealing with a quad injury in training camp. He's not going to be the same player without Peyton Manning. ... Evans could have a big season, and I wouldn't be surprised if he challenged Benjamin for the touchdown lead among rookie receivers. But if he doesn't score, the rest of his production could be minimal. I'd only draft him fourth among rookie receivers behind Cooks, Watkins and Benjamin. ... I actually like Bowe this year, and I'll wait until his ADP drops even further. The Chiefs are going to be in much more competitive games compared to last year, and Alex Smith will need Bowe. You won't see more downfield passes because that's not Smith's strength, but Bowe should build off last year's disappointing campaign. He can't get any worse, even with the one-game suspension. ... Cooper and Boldin were Top 24 receivers last year, but they should regress this season. Cooper has a lot of competition for targets with Maclin, Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz, Darren Sproles and LeSean McCoy. I'm not expecting Cooper to finish in the Top 30, and he's also dealing with an ankle injury in training camp. ... Boldin also has challengers for targets with Crabtree back and the addition of Steve Johnson. He's just a late-round flier at best. ... Austin and Hopkins were rookie disappointments last year, and I'm not expecting much as sophomores. Hopkins has more upside, but like Andre Johnson, the quarterback situation in Houston is troubling. ... Austin is being outplayed by Kenny Britt in training camp. That should tell you all you need to know about his Fantasy value. ... Amendola can't stay healthy, and the Patriots have plenty of options at receiver with Edelman, Aaron Dobson, Brandon LaFell and Kenbrell Thompkins. Amendola should only be considered in PPR formats. ... Nicks is going to have to prove he's healthy for 16 games and that he deserves targets over Hilton and Wayne. We're skeptical he'll make enough of an impact to consider starting in the majority of leagues.

49-60

49. Justin Hunter, Titans
50. Kenny Stills, Saints
51. Cecil Shorts, Jaguars
52. Marvin Jones, Bengals
53. Brian Hartline, Dolphins
54. Jarrett Boykin, Packers
55. Steve Smith, Ravens
56. Jordan Matthews, Eagles
57. Markus Wheaton, Steelers
58. Harry Douglas, Falcons
59. Doug Baldwin, Seahawks
60. Odell Beckham, Giants

Range: Rounds 12-13 (Picks 137-151)
Guys I want: Hunter, Stills, Boykin, Matthews and Wheaton
Guys I tend to avoid: Shorts, Jones, Hartline, Smith, Douglas, Baldwin and Beckham
Hunter was a sleeper I mentioned in March, and we saw a huge preseason outing in the second game against Green Bay. Hunter has Top 30 potential, if not higher, if Jake Locker can stay healthy for 16 games. I like Hunter a lot. ... I like Stills to improve in his second season as a starter opposite Colston. He'll have to show he's more than just a deep threat, but we like his opportunity playing with Brees, especially with a pick in this spot. ... Boykin is the No. 3 receiver for the Packers behind Nelson and Cobb. He played well in 2013 when Cobb was out with 49 catches for 681 yards and three touchdowns, and he did most of that when Rodgers was hurt. With James Jones and Jermichael Finley gone, Boykin could see plenty of playing time with an elite quarterback. ... I like Matthews, but there are a lot of mouths to feed with the Eagles. Still, with Maclin and Cooper battling injuries and a need for production with Jackson gone, he's worth the risk in this spot. ... Wheaton has potential, but his rookie year was marred by injury and inconsistent play. But like Matthews, the Steelers have a need at receiver with Sanders and Cotchery now gone. ... Shorts can't stay healthy and will battle rookies Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson for targets. He's not bad value here, especially in PPR leagues, but his injury history, poor quarterback outlook and competition for targets makes him relatively unattractive in most formats. ... I like Hartline here in PPR leagues since he has two years in a row with 70 catches and 1,000 yards. If his touchdown total increased (he had a career-high four in 2013) then he would emerge as a must-start PPR option. ... Jones is out until at least Week 5 with a broken foot. He's worth a late-round flier with the hope he can play at a high level for the final 11 games, but we're passing with the injury. ... Smith will be a good possession receiver for the Ravens, but his best days are clearly behind him. There's little upside here outside of deep PPR formats. ... Beckham is dealing with a hamstring injury, and he'll be third for the Giants at best behind Cruz and Randle, which lowers his upside. ... I'm OK with Baldwin as a late-round flier, but the Seahawks won't give him enough targets to make him a starting-caliber option. Still, if something were to happen to Harvin, then Baldwin's value would rise. ... Douglas was great last season with Jones out and White battling injuries, as he finished with 85 catches for 1,067 yards and two touchdowns. But with Jones active, Douglas averaged just three catches for 44 yards and no scores. He'll be closer to that than a 1,000-yard receiver.

Best of the rest ...

61. Greg Jennings, Vikings
62. Kenny Britt, Rams
63. James Jones, Raiders
64. Marqise Lee, Jaguars
65. Aaron Dobson, Patriots
66. Brandon LaFell, Patriots
67. Rod Streater, Raiders
68. Miles Austin, Browns
69. Andrew Hawkins, Browns
70. Jerricho Cotchery, Panthers
71. Robert Woods, Bills
No ADP. Andre Holmes, Raiders

Range: Rounds 12-13 (Picks 151-164)
Guys I want: Britt, Lee, Dobson, Streater and Holmes
Guys I tend to avoid: Jennings, Jones, LaFell, Austin, Hawkins, Cotchery and Woods
There aren't a lot of starting options in this group, but there are some intriguing receivers. We added Holmes to the last spot because he has plenty of upside with the Raiders. I still like Streater as the best Oakland receiver entering his third year, but we'll see how it plays out. James Jones, unfortunately, has fallen out of favor for Fantasy owners despite his history with the Packers. Losing Rodgers clearly hurts. ... Britt is being hyped as the No. 1 receiver for the Rams after being reunited with Jeff Fisher. He's definitely worth the risk with a pick in this round if he can get back to his 2011 pre-ACL form. ... Lee could easily lead the Jaguars in receptions, especially if Shorts continues to battle injuries. Lee could be this year's Allen as an injury-plagued college receiver who falls in the draft but surprises us as a Fantasy option. ... Dobson has been dealing with a foot injury, and he's missed the first two preseason games. But he could end up being the best outside receiver for the Patriots ahead of Thompkins and LaFell. ... Jennings could surprise you as the most-targeted receiver for the Vikings ahead of Patterson and Kyle Rudolph, but there's little upside there in Minnesota. ... Hawkins and Austin will compete for the No. 1 receiver for the Browns if Gordon is out. Move along, nothing to see here. Hawkins might be interesting in PPR leagues, but add him off waivers. ... Cotchery scored 10 touchdowns with the Steelers last year, but he'll see a steep decline with the Panthers. ... Woods enters the season as the No. 3 receiver for the Bills behind Watkins and Mike Williams. He could emerge as a solid option, but I'd rather take him off waivers after seeing how Manuel does.

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Player News
Patriots' Devin McCourty: There's a 'chance that I might not be back'
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) With the Patriots deciding to use their franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, safety Devin McCourty knows his time in New England could be coming to an end. 

In an interview with ESPN's Josina Anderson, McCourty said he didn't have much information on what the Patriots would do and was going off of various media reports that came down to the organization deciding whether to franchise him or Gostkowski. 

Now that Gostkowski is ineligible from hitting the free agent market, McCourty will test the waters beginning on March 10. 

"I guess it's more realistic now that [there's] a chance that I might not be back there," McCourty said. "Or there's still a chance that I will, but I guess [there's] more of a chance now with the franchise tag going to Steve that I could be playing in a different place. Still, keeping an open mind and trying to enjoy the process."

In 2014, McCourty recorded 68 tackles and two interceptions. 


Report: Texans' Andre Johnson given permission to seek trade
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) Wide receiver Andre Johnson has been given permission by the Texans to seek a trade, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle

The Texans told Johnson that he'd have a reduced role this upcoming season opposite of DeAndre Hopkins. Therefore, Johnson wanted out of his deal. If a trade cannot be made with a suitor, Johnson will be released

Johnson was the third overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft and is the greatest player in the history of the Texans. He's recorded 1,012 catches, 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns in his career.

A trade could be difficult, however, based on Johnson's upcoming $16.1 million cap figure and $10.5 million base salary for the 2015 season. 


Colts RB Vick Ballard (Achilles) 'on schedule' with recovery
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) Running back Vick Ballard is poised to be back in the Colts' plans for the 2015 season. 

Ballard, who has missed almost all of the previous two seasons due to injuries, hasn't suffered any setbacks with his recovery, according to the Colts' official website. Ballard tore his ACL in 2013 and suffered an Achilles tear before the 2014 season. 

“Vick’s doing well. He’s going through rehab right now. He’s on schedule,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "He’s been working his tail. When the doctors say he’s 100 percent and ready to roll, then we’ll get him back on the field.”

Ballard led the Colts in rushing as a rookie in 2012 with 814 yards and two touchdowns. He only played in one game in 2013 before tearing his ACL in a practice the following week. His Achilles tear came during the 2014 preseason. 


Report: Jaguars looking for help at RB this offseason
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) It appears Jaguars running back Toby Gerhart will have new role in 2015. 

According to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, the Jaguars are planning to move Gerhart around on offense at H-back in addition to running back. This also means the Jaguars will be in the market for additional help at running back. 

Gerhart was plagued by injuries in 2014, which paved the way for Denard Robinson to assert himself as a potential starting running back down the road. Robinson, however, is injury prone himself, which goes back to his days as a standout quarterback in college at Michigan.

Robinson's 2014 season ended on injured reserve with a mid-foot sprain.

Gerhart's season ended with just 326 yards and a patry 3.2 yards per carry average. Robinson emerged late in the year and ran for 582 yards and held a 4.3 yards per carry average.  


Report: Titans parting ways with safety Bernard Pollard
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) The Titans will release veteran safety Bernard Pollard, according to a report from The Tennessean

Pollard had previously requested for the Titans to release him. He's coming off a season that ended prematurely due to an Achilles tear in early October. He was slated to earn $3.5 million with the Titans this year if he stayed on. 

In the five games he appeared in during the 2014 season, Pollard recorded 27 tackles and one sack. 


Report: Browns looking to add another quarterback
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) The Browns are not done just yet in their search for quarterback talent, according to ESPN.com. Cleveland is reportedly looking to add at least one more quarterback through the draft or free agency.

The Browns made their signing of Josh McCown to a three-year deal official last week, but appear to want another to go along with him and Johnny Manziel.


Report: Redskins will pursue Ndamukong Suh as free agent
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) After the Lions chose not to use the franchise tag to retain DE Ndamukong Suh, it became more likely that he'll become an unrestricted free agent on March 10. 

When Suh hits the market, the Redskins will be interested in signing him, reported Dianna Marie Russini of DC's NBC 4, citing sources within the organization. 


Browns don't use franchise tag on Jordan Cameron
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) The Browns won't use their franchise tag on any player, meaning that TE Jordan Cameron will become a free agent on March 10. 

Cameron had 24 catches for 424 yards and two touchdowns last season, at a salary of $1.431 million.


No franchise tag for Broncos' Julius Thomas
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) The Broncos will not use their franchise tag on TE Julius Thomas. The team instead tagged WR Demaryius Thomas. 

Julius Thomas will be able to become a free agent on March 10. He had 43 catches for 489 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. Thomas made $645,000 salary last year. 


Report: Bills do not apply franchise tag to linebacker Jerry Hughes
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) The Bills reportedly chose not to apply their franchise tag to linebacker Jerry Hughes Monday, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.

Buffalo has been working on signing Hughes to a new, long term deal for the past month. The veteran linebacker racked up 10 sacks and totaled 54 tackles in all 16 games in 2014 for the Bills. 


 
 
 
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