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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
LB Lance Briggs to visit with 49ers on Monday
(3:35 pm ET) Free-agent linebacker Lance Briggs said he will meet with the 49ers on Monday, reports ESPN.com.

Briggs, a seven-time Pro Bowler, has played all 12 of his NFL seasons with Bears.

Briggs appeared in 17 games during the last two seasons due to various injuries.

The 49ers are looking to replace linebacker Chris Borland, who recently announced his retirement.

Texans LB Jadeveon Clowney (knee) walking without a limp
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(3:17 pm ET) Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney said his rehab from microfracture surgery in his knee is going well, according to the Houston Chronicle. Clowney, who is four months removed from the procedure, was spotted walking without a limp during a promotional event on Saturday.

"It's going good. I'm taking it one day at a time, having some fun hanging out with fans," said Clowney, who made his first public comments since Thanksgiving.


Report: Vikings LB Chad Greenway agres to take paycut
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:59 am ET) Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway has agreed to restructure his contract, reducing his $7 million base salary to $3.4 million, according to Field Yates of ESPN. The move created $3.2 million in cap room for the Vikings.

Greenway, 32, has spent all nine years of his career with the Vikings, recording 992 total tackles, 15.5 sacks, 30 passes defensed, nine interceptions and eight forced fumbles.


Cardinals coach Arians: I was not going to let Logan Thomas fail
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/27/2015) Cardinals coach Bruce Arians still believes in young quarterback Logan Thomas. Arians didn't want to ruin his confidence last season after being forced into action with multiple injuries to Arizona quarterbacks, reports the team's website.

"He's going to get a ton of work and those reps are invaluable," Arians said. "Just in decision-making, how fast you're getting it out of your hand, where you're going with it, where you're going when 'one' and 'two' are still covered. Are you still scrambling around or are you going to find your outlets? That growth process comes strictly from reps."

Arians still has a plan for the second-year pro.

"We drafted him for two years from now, not November," Arians said. "It just so happened his number got called (earlier.) I was not going to let him fail (in San Francisco) because once you fail those scars never go away.

"It's very hard to get the guys back in the locker room if you cost them the playoffs. I just wasn't going to put him in that situation. Right or wrong, it just was my decision."


DT Letroy Guion visits with Seahawks
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(3/27/2015) Nose tackle Letroy Guion visited with the Seahawks on Friday, adding another suitor into the mix as the Packers attempt to retain his services, per ESPN.com.

After Guion's criminal case was closed earlier in the week, with Guion paying only a fine, the Seahawks set up a visit. Guion recorded career-highs in tackles (32) and sacks (3 1/2) with the Packers in 2014. 


Panthers claim OT Jonathan Martin off waivers
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(3/27/2015) The Panthers announced Friday they have signed tackle Jonathan Martin off waivers, one day after the lineman was released by the 49ers. 

Martin played in 15 games with San Francisco last season, starting nine of them. Prior to that, he was a member Dolphins before being traded for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2014. The 25-year-old has started 32 of the 38 games he's played in. 

"Jonathan brings quality experience to our offensive line, having started 32 games in his career at both tackle spots," Panthers GM Dave Gettleman said. 


Panthers sign WR Jarrett Boykin to one-year deal
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(3/27/2015) The Panthers signed free agent wide receiver Jarrett Boykin to a one-year deal Friday, per David Newton of ESPN.com. 

The 25-year-old receiver had a big campaign with the Packers in 2013, catching 49 passes for 681 yards, but fell out of favor last season, grabbing just three balls for 23 yards in 13 games. Boykin has 57 career receptions in three seasons, all with the Packers. 


Bears sign CB Alan Ball to one-year deal
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(3/27/2015) The Bears have signed cornerback Alan Ball to a one-year contract on Friday, per the team's official website.

Ball, 29, spent the last two seasons with the Jaguars, but was limited to only seven games in 2014 due to a biceps injury. He racked up 59 total tackles, 17 passes deflected and three interceptions over that span. He has played eight NFL seasons with the Cowboys, Texans and Jags.


Titans sign CB Brandon Harris to one-year deal
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(3/27/2015) The Titans have signed cornerback Brandon Harris to a one-year contract on Friday, per the team's official website. Harris played 11 games in 2014, his first season with the Titans. He finished with 11 combined tackles and three pass deflections last season.

Redskins' Thompson, Redd to compete for third-down back role
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3/27/2015) Redskins coach Jay Gruden said this week at the NFL owners' meetings running back Chris Thompson will get the first chance to secure third-down responsibilities, according to The Washington Post. Silas Redd will also get consideration for the role of third-down back.

“Chris [Thompson] came in last year at the end and did some things, and we’re hoping that he can come back and stay healthy in the offseason and give us a little jolt back there,” Gruden said. “And Silas Redd will get every chance to do some things also.”

Although, the Redskins could look to bring in some competition before training camp begins.

“I also think that at the running back position in the draft, there’s a ton of them,” Gruden said. “It’s a very deep running back draft in my opinion, and we’re excited to add another piece at some point, hopefully. We have seven picks. Hopefully one of them will be a running back, or a free agent to compete. There are some good free agents that haven’t been signed yet. But, giving Chris an opportunity, Silas, Alfred (Morris), that’s where it starts. And we’ll add some more later on for competition.”


 
 
 
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