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2014 Draft Prep: Montee Ball ready for star status

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Broncos second-year running back Montee Ball is a somewhat-polarizing player in Fantasy this draft season. If you love him, he's a first-round pick. Otherwise you'll let someone else deal with his perceived flaws.

I'm a believer in Ball, so I would draft him in Round 1. I'm banking on a breakout campaign.

Last year, Ball couldn't hold onto the starting job in the preseason and he was replaced by Knowshon Moreno. Anti-Ball Fantasy owners use that as an argument against him -- that he was beat out by an inferior talent, which is true. He had fumble issues and struggled in pass protection and he clearly wasn't ready for the job.

But he excelled during the season in a reserve role behind Moreno with 120 carries for 559 yards and four touchdowns and 20 catches for 145 yards. Ball played well when he had touches with at least nine Fantasy points in four of the six games he had double digits in carries.

Moreno, however, was dominant in 2013 with 241 carries for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns and 60 catches for 548 yards and three touchdowns. He had 11 games with double digits in Fantasy points and was the No. 5 Fantasy running back in standard leagues.

That's the hope for Ball this year. In fact, he could have even better stats based on his ability. He also gets an improved offensive line. Ryan Clady is back and Orlando Franklin will move to guard. That should make the Broncos more physical. And if their defense improves as expected with the additions of DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward, we could see them sitting on leads late in games, with Ball earning additional work.

His biggest benefit is playing next to Peyton Manning. In 32 games as the starter for the Broncos in the regular season, Manning has helped Denver's running backs reach double digits in Fantasy points 23 times. Moreno never had extra defenders at the line of scrimmage because of the passing game, and that allows for plenty of open lanes for Ball to exploit.

He's also over his appendectomy in training camp since he played in the third preseason game against Houston.

"I wanted to get hit again and get that tempo back," Ball said in the Denver Post. "It's funny. After my plays, I was talking on the sideline, telling them that the speed of the game is fast right now. I have to get that back. I will be ready to go."

We're not worried about Ball, and neither should you. He's set up for a tremendous year and we're counting on him finishing as one of the elite running backs. Ball is someone to target on Draft Day since he could become a star.

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Player News
49ers K Phil Dawson scores five points vs. Chargers Week 16
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(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.


49ers RB Frank Gore rumbles for 158 yards vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:58 am ET) 49ers running back Frank Gore racked up 26 carries for 158 rushing yards with one touchdown in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Both numbers represent season highs for Gore, who hasn't had a better rushing day since the 2009 season. He set the tone early, shaking off would-be tacklers en route to a 52-yard score less than two minutes into the game. Gore continually proved difficult to tackle, as he would have managed his third 100-yard game of the season even without the long touchdown.

Gore is now up to 962 rushing yards and four rushing scores on 230 carries. He has a reasonable shot at cracking the 1,000-yard mark in his team's Week 17 matchup with the Cardinals.


49ers QB Colin Kaepernick tallies 151 rushing yards vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:54 am ET) 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed 15 of his 24 pass attempts for jsut 114 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions but added 151 rushing yards on seven carries in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Kaepernick had little trouble picking up chunks of yards against a defense that seemed adverse to tackling -- the 49ers set a new team record with 355 rushing yards in the game -- but his highlight came on a 90-yard scamper where he went untouched after crossing the line of scrimmage, with the Chargers committing a penalty on the play for good measure.

The rushing touchdown was the first of the season for Kaepernick, and his 151 rushing yards marked a new regular-season high. However, he's also failed to top 175 passing yards in any of his last four games. The 49ers will look to close out the season in strong fashion when they face the Cardinals in Week 17.


Chargers K Nick Novak nails game-winner in Week 16
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:49 am ET) Chargers kicker Nick Novak made his only field-goal attempt Saturday, hitting the game-winning kick from 40 yards out in his team's 38-35 overtime win over the 49ers in Week 16.

Novak had all week to think about missing two of his three attempts against the Broncos in Week 15 but drilled the key attempt early in the overtime period to send the Chargers home with a win. He also added five extra points, giving him his best point total in three December contests. Novak has a matchup with the Chiefs on the calendar for Week 17.


Chargers WR Malcom Floyd scores key TD in Week 16 win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:46 am ET) Chargers wide receiver Malcom Floyd caught just four of his season-high 10 targets for 50 yards Saturday but also scored a crucial touchdown in his team's 38-35 overtime win over the 49ers in Week 16.

Floyd hadn't been on the same page as quarterback Philip Rivers for much of the night but came through when it mattered, hauling in the game-tying touchdown on an 11-yard post play with just 29 seconds left in regulation. He's up to 49 receptions, 827 yards and six touchdowns going into a Week 17 matchup with the Chiefs.


Chargers WR Dontrelle Inman catches seven passes Week 16
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:43 am ET) Chargers wide receiver Dontrelle Inman racked up seven receptions on nine targets for 79 yards in his team's 38-35 overtime win over the 49ers in Week 16.

The coaches opened the second half with Inman in the lineup and the team down 28-7, and the little-used receiver was able to reward the gamble with an excellent half of football, picking up all his receptions in the second half. It was the first time this season Inman had even seen a target in a game, but he was able to pick up three first downs, including one on a crucial fourth-and-10 with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter and his team down seven points. The Chargers tied the game two plays later before winning in overtime.

Inman may have earned himself a significant role in his team's Week 17 matchup with the Chiefs, especially if Keenan Allen is unable to return to action.


Chargers TE Antonio Gates scores twice in Week 16 win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:37 am ET) Chargers tight end Antonio Gates caught seven of his nine targets for 92 yards with two touchdowns in his team's 38-35 overtime win over the 49ers in Week 16.

Gates had a quiet first half but helped lead the charge to come back from a three-touchdown deficit. His first score was on a one-yard catch on third-and-goal that he juggled a bit, but he was able to hang on while taking a hit at the goal line. His second score was on a wide-open 21-yard reception in the fourth quarter to bring his team to within one touchdown.

It was the fourth multiscore game of the season for Gates, who is now up to 65 receptions, 754 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. He'll match up with the Chiefs in Week 17.


 
 
 
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