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We are hours away from the start of the 11th week of the 2013 NFL season as the Indianapolis Colts take on the Tennessee Titans. It’s also the kickoff for the 11th week of the fantasy football season. Here’s a look of players that should be in your lineups tonight.
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Five Stars
None
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Four Stars
T.Y. Hilton
Chris Johnson
Andrew Luck
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Three Stars
Shonn Greene
Indianapolis Colts Defense
Kendall Wright
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Two Stars
Donald Brown
Coby Fleener
Darrius Heyward-Bey
Tennessee Titans Defense
Delanie Walker
Nate Washington
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One Star
Ryan Fitzpatrick
Justin Hunter
Trent Richardson
Griff Whalen
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Jared Cook Rams OTA
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Even with training camp looming, the NFL feels more like an episode of Law & Order. While Aaron Hernandez is making the headlines with his murder charges, I shift the focus to another tight end that should actually make an impact on the field.
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Jared Cook made the move from the Tennessee Titans to the St. Louis Rams. The BBQ in Nashville and St. Louis are both good, but they are different. Will the new setting prove to be a better recipe for Cook?
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Cook has had some success in the past. In 2011 he caught 49 passes for 759 yards and three touchdowns. His 15.5 yards per catch give you a glimpse of the athleticism he’s working with. Cook is 6’5″ and 248 pounds with 4.49 speed. He’s built like a Ford F-150, but runs like a Mustang.
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Cook spent some time in the shop last year, missing the final three games with a torn rotator cuff, but still managed to catch 44 passes for 523 yards and four touchdowns. At those rates, he was on pace for 54 receptions for 644 yards and five touchdowns. Obviously those aren’t elite numbers, but they are solid. Perhaps a change of scenery (and quarterback) will serve Cook well.
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Between Jake Locker, Matt Hasselbeck and something called Rusty Smith, Titans quarterbacks had a 76.9 passer rating and a 58.9 competition percentage. That’s not exactly cutting it. When Cook put up his best numbers in 2011, Hasselbeck and Locker combined for a 84.4 rating and a 60.4 completion percentage. Bradford had a 82.6 rating last year with a  59.5 completion percentage. His passer rating was a career high and his completion percentage was just a shade below the 60.0 mark he set as a rookie in 2010.
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Bradford has not had very many weapons at his disposal, which has prevented him from putting up better numbers, but he is clearly an upgrade over Jake Locker for Cook. The Rams drafted Tavon Austin and brought in Cook to give him the best arsenal to date. They also brought in Jake Long to give him some much-needed offensive line protection.
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Ironically, joining former Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher in St. Louis could be what helps Cook take the next step. Fisher intends to take advantage of his size/speed combination to get the best of opposing defenses. He is going to move Cook all over the field to create mismatches. In an interview with John Glennon of the Tennesseean , Fisher says “He’s going to play all over the place. We’ve even got him in the backfield, so we’ve got some good things for him.”
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Cook and Bradford have been working out and that relationship should continue to develop during training camp.
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I have Cook graded out as a low-end TE1. He has plenty of upside to be even better than that. FantasyPros’ Expert Consensus Ranking has him as the 11th ranked tight end entering the season. His MockDraftCentral ADP is 136. If you don’t go after Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski, there will be plenty of solid values later in fantasy drafts. Cook has as much side as any of them.
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What are your thoughts on Cook?
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When Kenny Britt caught four passes for 62 yards and a touchdown against the Steelers in Week 6 it looked like Britt was ready to return to form.
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While his reception total was low, his 11 targets were encouraging.
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He has disappointed in the four games since, averaging 41.8 yards. He had just 14 receptions during the stretch, but was targeted 25 times.
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Britt did not have training camp and has been trying to get up to speed while simultaneously trying to get back to full strength. He has also had the misfortune of Jake Locker being out of action.
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Britt will use the bye week as a crash course training camp. He will look to get on the same page as Jake Locker and the Titans will look for ways to get Britt more involved in the offense.
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Britt may not pay immediate dividends as the Titans face the Jaguars and Texans coming out of the bye. They’ll probably lean heavily on Chris Johnson against the Jags and have difficulty moving the ball against Houston.
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When the fantasy playoffs roll around things should look up. The Titans first take on the Colts, and the way Luck is playing they may have to air it out. Then they take on the mediocre Jets, followed by Green Bay. You know the Packers are going to hang points on the board so Britt will likely see a ton of looks.
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I still wouldn’t consider him a reliable WR3 at this point, but he is definitely a WR4 with a lot of upside.
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Kenny Britt’s box score looked good. Four catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. While fantasy owners have to be pleased with that performance, there could have been more.
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Britt was targeted eleven times and had some drops that would have led to an even better game on Thursday night. He also struggled in his route running. While he left yardage and fantasy points on the field, he should start paying some pretty big dividends for his owners.
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For starters, Britt escaped from the victory healthy.  Not only that, by playing on Thursday he has extra time to rest up for his next game. He will also have extra time to get more up to speed with what the Titans are doing. He has only played in seven games since the start of the 2011 season so he’s still adjusting both mentally and physically.
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The Titans have struggled defensively and have subsequently had to throw the ball on average 39.0 times per game. Kendall Wright, with 52, has been dominating the targets, but it won’t take long until Britt gets the lion’s share of looks. In fact, on Thursday he led the way with those eleven looks.
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Next week Britt could be in store for a nice game. Tennessee is taking on the Bills. He also has the Dolphins coming up and a favorable fantasy playoff schedule of the Colts, Jets, and Packers.
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Good things could be in store for Britt. Given his injury history, you’ll need insurance, but since you didn’t know what to expect from him, you probably already have that covered.
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By Brandon Berg, Co-Owner and Senior Staff Writer at Fantasy Football Locker Room
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Guys, I always assumed Tennessee Titans’ Chris Johnson was fine, this year and last was just a product of a horrible offensive line. He still has his straightaway speed and he never really has been a slippery guy.
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So he should be fine, right?
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Not really. Yet some people are still hanging on to Chris Johnson with that glimmer of hope. It’s time to trade him, folks. Trade him while you can still get something, anything for him.
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I hadn’t truly taken a close look at Chris Johnson until now. I wanted to see for myself what the hell was wrong with this guy. Could he possibly have gotten that bad, or what the heck could it be?
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To figure it out, I took to the game film in an attempt to get a strong grip on what was with Johnson. First, I looked at this year’s games and concocted a makeshift scouting report.
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  • Chris Johnson has looked timid. He shies away from any contact and doesn’t hit a hole hard.
  • He is very indecisive. A couple times, holes opened up and he hesitated for a split second and it cost him what likely was a big gain.
  • Against the Texans, you could drive a truck through the holes they gave him. It’s too bad he didn’t have more yards. It was still another pathetic performance as a whole. He has no ability to break tackles; too many times he is going down by ankle tackles. This speaks for when he got in the second level too. He got past the first line of defense a few times, but poor vision coupled with the Texans only needing the big bad wolf to blow him over, led to the disappointing end of runs.
  • In summary, he just doesn’t hit the holes hard, but this year, in his defense, there hasn’t been much of anywhere for him to go. The offensive line has done a horrible job of getting a body on the linebackers.
  • To put his film into perspective, I watched some of Adrian Peterson’s runs this year. AP fought for every yard and squirted through tiny holes, breaking a couple tackles every time. He is not indecisive, he has great vision and knows when to plant and go (you already know that, though.) There is simply far too much dancing going on with Johnson. I saw multiple plays where everything developed the absolute same, but AP burst through the seam, where Chris Johnson tip-toed through the line and was brought down by an arm tackle.

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I know it’s unfair to compare Johnson to Peterson, they truly are two different beasts, but one play really stood out to me. While I was watching one of Johnson’s games this year, he had a nice 10 yard run with just a man in the secondary to beat. The defensive player was broken down, ready to make the tackle, but didn’t attack Johnson, he was waiting for Johnson to come to him. Johnson had a nice six or seven yard run full steam ahead before the impact and he didn’t try to elude the tackler, which I guess is okay. However, he let up just as he was about to make contact and ended of being driven back a couple of yards.
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Peterson can be considered a power back who would’ve ear-holed the defender and Johnson is as finesse as they come, but if a running back can’t at least fall forward when meeting a stationary, defensive player, why is he even on the field? Please… That’s one of the biggest reasons he has 58 carries for 186 yards through five games.
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After I witnessed his poor effort this year, I went and took a look back at some film of Johnson from a 2009, when he had his 2000 yard season.
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I really wasn’t impressed, which may sound crazy, but he ultimately wasn’t a great running back to begin with (stick with me.) He had an uncanny ability to rattle off multiple big runs during games. All he needed was a hole and path to the outside and he would turn any run into a 20+ yard scamper. That’s great and all, that’s game-changing ability.
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However, I noticed that when he wasn’t busting out for big gains, he was having very minimal success, not often gaining more than a couple yards or less. He never has been your prototypical back to hand off to every play and expect a decent return on your investment. That begs the question; Is he really worth rolling out there for 20 carries per game?
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Sure, in 2009, it was all fine and dandy, he always seemed to be able to bust out a number of big runs per game, which made it worth to trot him out there on every play. Just how bad was he excluding the long running plays, though?
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For some help on that, I checked out quite possibly my favorite advanced football statistics site,Football Outsiders. Check them out, it’s amazing stuff and no, I’m not being paid to talk them up. They’re that good.
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To get back to the subject at hand, I took a look at the perfect stat called the Success Rate. The basic definition is this (credit to Football Outsiders):

 This number represents the player’s consistency, measured by successful running plays (the definition of success being different based on down and distance) divided by total running plays. A player with higher DVOA and a low success rate mixes long runs with downs getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage. A player with lower DVOA and a high success rate generally gets the yards needed, but doesn’t often get more. Success Rate is further explained here. It is not adjusted for opponent.
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  • In general, a play counts as a “hit” if it gains 40% of yards on first down, 60% of yards on second down, and 100% of yards on third down.
  • If the team is behind by more than a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the benchmarks switch to 50%/65%/100%.
  • If the team is ahead by any amount in the fourth quarter, the benchmarks switch to 30%/50%/100%.

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Using this metric, Johnson had a 45% success rate which was good for just 32nd out of 50 qualifying running backs. Let me be clear, 32nd is not very good at all. This basically confirms my thoughts; when Johnson isn’t busting out big runs, he’s getting stuffed mercilessly.
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Another metric I want to quickly look at is a rating that determines the quality of the offensive line, mainly because I didn’t notice much of an improvement of his 2009 o-line from what he’s got now.
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The first stat is called adjusted line yards, which basically filters out long runs down the field in an attempt to more accurately represent how effective the ground game is as a whole, meaning the attempts that went for a loss through 10 yards gained are weighted for opponent, down and distance and so forth. In essence, it gives a nice representation of how well an offensive line blocks.
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The Titans adjusted line yards ranked 22nd in 2009 and they currently rank 30th this year, which also confirms what I’ve seen. The offensive line in 2009 was only marginally better than what it is now.
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Unsurprisingly, in 2009, the Titans ranked 7th in 2nd level yards (5-10 yards) and 1st in open field yards (10+ yard runs.) That basically weights how often they were able to break a big gain. This year, they rank 11th and 25th, respectively.
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So if the offensive lines weren’t a whole lot different during those two seasons, why are they having so much trouble producing big runs?
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It’s combination of things, one being the lack of vision and aggressiveness by Johnson noted above. In the 2009 film I watched, once he saw a hole or opening in the second level, there was no hesitation, he went for it and defenders had trouble catching him. Now, he pauses for a split second before making his move, giving the defender the advantage of going after him before he can make his move. It’s almost like his instincts as a runner have disappeared.
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Second, call me crazy, but I think Vince Young had something to do with it. In the six games that Young didn’t start, Johnson ran for over 100 yards twice. In the ten games Young started, Johnson had over 100 each and every game. I’m guessing it had something to do with the defense always having to keep someone on the outside at the line of scrimmage in contain thanks to Young’s running ability and their occasional option-run. Johnson then had the ability to run somewhere in the middle and pop it to the outside, having the speed to beat the defender stationed on the outside behind him.
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Third, I know I said the offensive line help was marginal, but there were more holes in 2009. He’s still getting some running room this year, he’s just not making the most of those opportunities.
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So can Johnson snap out it and will he? Yes and no.
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He still has the ability to make it happen. He’s never going to have another 2000 yard season, we all know that, but he has the ability to break a long one every time he touches the ball. I’m just not sure he can do it without a Cam Newton or RGIII type QB. Yes, Locker has some speed, but he’s not near the threat that Young was or the two that I just mentioned currently are.
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The good news for Johnson is that he has a lot of money coming his way and no competition to take reps away from him, which bodes well for the fantasy owner. However, trade him as soon as you can. Trade him while he’s still getting touches, while there still is that glimmer of hope for fantasy owners that he could return to being a RB1. Do it now, because I’m telling you, those days are likely never coming back. I don’t see any miraculous turnaround in Tennessee and I’m not sure any other team will give him a time as a featured back if he lands on another roster. They’ll know that it’s just not worth it.
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I hope I was able to provide an effective insight on a troubling player for many fantasy owners. This wraps it up for today, I’ll see you next time.
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See more from Brandon at http://fflockerroom.com.


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Tennessee Titans rookie wide receiver Kendall Wright is doing all the right things so far. He has great speed, as evidenced by his three catches for 47 yards in his preseason debut for a 15.7 yards per catch average. He also displayed good hands, hauling in all three of his targets. All of his receptions were delivered by Jake Locker, who figures to win the starting quarterback gig so a nice rapport is being formed. Will he have fantasy value as a rookie?
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While he didn’t follow up his second game with the same success, he certainly has the talent and the opportunities should be there. With his size (5’10, 195 lbs) and quickness he could see a lot of slot duty, which should help his value in PPR leagues. Given Kenny Britt’s off-the-field issues, which could cost him some game time, and his injury history, Wright could see some action on the outside as well.
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Kendall did experience his share of success at Baylor, improving each year. His reception totals increased from 50 to 66 to 78 to an impressive 108. His yardage went from 649 to 740 to 952 to a breakout 1663. His touchdown production went from five to four to seven to a whopping fourteen. The dynamic athlete even ran for 425 yards in his four seasons at Baylor.
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Rookie receivers have been able to contribute sooner in recent years as the league has transformed into a pass-heavy one. With Jake Locker under center, Wright should have the opportunity to be one of the better rookie fantasy receivers in the league.
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I wouldn’t want him as a starting fantasy receiver by any means, or even as my primary back-up. I would however want him in dynasty leagues and as WR depth in re-draft ones.
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Your thoughts?
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There weren’t many more disappointing players last year than Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson. Not only did he prove that the CJ2K moniker can go away, he barely mustered up enough rushing yards (1047) to even be called CJ1K. While I don’t see a 2009 repeat, can he return to 2008 or 2010 form?

Besides his career low rushing number, which was somewhat offset by his 418 receiving yards to give him a respectable 1465 total yards, there were a  few things in play that frustrated non-PPR (career high 57 catches) fantasy owners.
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After averaging 4.9 and 5.6 yards per carry in his first two seasons Johnson has declined the past two years. In 2010 he managed 4.3 yards per carry, but last year he was down to a very marginal 4.0 ypc. That’s simply not cutting it for one of the game’s most electric backs.
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The other area that suffered, and this really resonated with fantasy owners, was his touchdown decline. In his first three seasons in the league Johnson combined for ten, sixteen, and twelve touchdowns respectively. He has always been a threat to score from anywhere on the field.
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Last year, however, he managed to score just four rushing touchdowns and for the first time in his career he didn’t add a receiving score. Another indication of his mediocre season was the lack of 100 yard games. After combining for twenty the past two seasons, he manged just four to match his rookie year total.
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The early preseason results show that he could be back on track. He scored on a pair of 14-yard touchdown runs in Friday’s win over Tampa Bay. He struggled in their opener, but this was a good sign that he continues to have that special burst that nobody else can lay claim to.
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Chris Johnson is not a top three running back anymore, but he’s a top five in my book, and definitely deserving of a first round fantasy pick, even if he doesn’t reclaim his CJ2K status.
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