Shark Bites

9:00am EDT 8/12/13

"I have not seen a better offensive weapon in all the practices I’ve seen on this training camp tour than I saw in the athletic and imposing [Jared] Cook."  That's from Sports Illustrated's Peter King, the latest insider to tout the Rams TE.  Cook has been a standout in training camp, quickly emerging as one of QB Sam Bradford's favorite targets.  Cook has always been an elite talent.  He might finally be ready to turn that into elite fantasy production.  We like his odds of finishing as a top-10 TE this season, making Cook a prime target at his current 9th-round ADP.

The prevailing wisdom most of the offseason was that rookie WR Tavon Austin would take over WR Danny Amendola's role in St. Louis.  But 2 different insiders have recently suggested that it'll instead be TE Jared Cook.  QB Sam Bradford and Cook have "already connected endlessly in camp, making one believe he'll serve as Bradford's security blanket like Danny Amendola was in 2012," writes NFL.com's Ian Rapoport.  Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch concurs.  "Although Cook is listed as a tight end, it almost feels as if he’s taken over Amendola’s slot position in the offense," Burwell writes.  It sounds like Cook is in store for a boatload of targets this season.  He should zoom by his career high of 49 catches. There's clear top-10 fantasy upside here.

Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders is 100% healthy after struggling with injuries the past couple seasons.  “In the past two years I’ve had two foot surgeries and I had a torn knee,” he said. “That’s all lower body. And for the first time I’m actually healthy. Have I gained some speed? Could that be the reason why? Potentially. When a guy has two foot surgeries, he can’t run. A guy has knee surgery, he can’t run. So this off-season I had a full off-season of working hard. I got to do whatever I want: squat, run as much as I wanted to. And it feels good.”  Sanders doesn't have a catch over 37 yards through 3 NFL seasons.  But he blazed a 4.41-second 40-yard dash at the 2010 Combine.  Healthy and with an expanded role, expect to see more big plays out of Sanders in 2013.

The Steelers have high expectations for WR Emmanuel Sanders.  "They're expecting 70 catches for 1,000 yards," Sanders said on Wednesday.  His career highs stand at just 44 catches and 626 yards.  But Sanders will be a full-time starter in 2013 for the first time in his career.  He'll slide into WR Mike Wallace's old spot, which produced 119 targets, 64 catches and 836 yards last year.  Sanders might not hit 70 and 1,000 this season, but we like his chances to set new personal bests across the board.  He's capable of providing WR3 value, making him a fine value at his current 10th-round ADP.

The Akron Beacon Journal reports that 2nd-year man Craig Robertson continues to lead the competition to start at ILB next to D'Qwell Jackson.  It also reports that even Robertson "did not make a strong case for himself this spring" in the Browns' new 3-4 scheme under DC Ray Horton.  Robertson is competing with Tank Carder, L.J. Fort and perhaps James-Michael Johnson.  The fact that none has impressed could lead to some kind of rotation, though Horton stuck with the average Paris Lenon at that spot in his Arizona D.  The whole situation helps to remind that Jackson is the star here and could easily challenge for the league tackle lead once again.  Target him in your 2013 IDP fantasy football draft.


CB Cortland Finnegan conceded to The Tennessean that he was skeptical when the Rams signed TE Jared Cook this offseason.  "But when he got there, he’s been tearing it up like I’ve never seen," Finnegan added.  "He’s comfortable, he’s back where he wants to be and I’m excited to have him."  Finnegan played for the Titans through Cook's 1st 3 years in the league before joining HC Jeff Fisher in St. Louis last offseason.  He's also not one to hold back his words.  So his praise for Cook carries some weight.  We certainly still believe in the upside on the athletic pass-catcher, and he found plenty of interest on the open market after the Titans let him walk.  Click here to see where Cook sits in our 2013 fantasy football rankings.

Raiders HC Dennis Allen has been impressed with rookie RB Latavius Murray in OTAs.  “Probably the thing that’s been most impressive is that he’s picked up everything offensively from a schematic standpoint, assignment wise,” Allen said. “He’s done a great job. He’s done a nice job in pass protection. That’s one of the things you see with young backs that they struggle with at times.”  Learning the offense and pass protection are 2 of the biggest stumbling blocks for rookie RBs.  The fact that Murray is already excelling in both areas is promising news.  At 6'2, 223 pounds with 4.38 speed, he certainly has the physical tools to make an immediate impact.  Murray is battling with Rashad Jennings and Marcel Reece for Oakland's backup RB job.  The winner will have fantasy appeal as Darren McFadden's handcuff.

Rams beat writer Joe Lyons notes that QB Sam Bradford and TE Jared Cook "seem to be clicking" in OTAs.  That doesn't mean a whole lot in pad-less practices in May, but it's better than hearing the opposite.  Cook's understanding of the offense and chemistry with Bradford are his 2 biggest issues heading into 2013.  The guy is plenty talented.  And Lyons confirms that Cook will be a "huge part" of the Rams' offense.  There's top 8 upside here.

CBS’ Jason La Canfora expects Rams TE Jared Cook to assume the role of departed WR Danny Amendola. Cook can push a defense vertically, and he’ll also provide relief as a safety valve. At 6’5, 250 pounds, Sam Bradford has a capable TE for the first time in his career. Tavon Austin might enter September as the favorite to lead the team in targets. But Cook’s raw talent and increased workload will still carry top-8 upside.

According to Saints RB Pierre Thomas, HC Sean Payton talked about re-establishing the running attack in his very first meeting with the team this offseason.  "There's going to be more focus this year on that ground game than any year," Thomas said.  "[Payton] said we've got to get back to running the ball, having 100-yard games non-stop. I can't wait. I'm excited and I know everybody else is excited."  After finishing 6th in rushing in 2011, New Orleans dropped to 25th last year.  Their 370 total rushes ranked 29th in the league -- and were 61 fewer than they recorded the previous season.  We can safely expect the Saints to run it more in 2013.  But the backfield is still crowded, with Thomas, Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles in the mix.  Outside of Sproles in PPR leagues, all 3 guys figure to struggle for anything more than RB3 or flex value.

Central Florida HC George O'Leary told ESPN.com that Oakland got an "NFL-ready" talent when it drafted UCF RB Latavius Murray in Round 6. "They are getting a player that is good in just about everything he does," he said. "He can run. He knows blocking protections. He has really good hands of the backfield. He can help on special teams. They are getting a good player." In a wide-open, largely uninspiring class of RBs, Murray carries fantasy sleeper potential. His landing in Oakland helps. Behind the injury-prone Darren McFadden sits only Rashad Jennings, Marcel Reece and Taiwan Jones. Look to the 6'3, 224-pound Murray as an upside pick in the middle of your dynasty rookie draft. Murray capped his college career with 1,106 rushing yards, 27 catches for 231 yards and 19 total TDs last season.

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is "really excited" to have WR Emmanuel Sanders back in the fold for 2013. “He’s a lot better than people give him credit for being,” Big Ben said. “He’s really smart. If he stays healthy I think he can do some great things." Roethlisberger added that Sanders can work in the slot or outside the numbers because of his "good mix of speed and quickness." We continue to believe Sanders is capable of providing WR3 production for fantasy squads this year.

ESPN's Jamison Hensley agrees with the Steelers' decision to retain WR Emmanuel Sanders, calling him a "good fit" in OC Todd Haley's offense.  "Sanders doesn't have the same straight-line speed as [Mike] Wallace (few do), but he has great quickness and is better than Wallace at generating yards after the catch."  Sanders did, in fact, average more yards-after-the-catch than Wallace last year (5.1 to 4.4).  He also finished with a better drop rate than his former teammate.  It's all good news as Sanders looks to move into the starting lineup in a passing game that relies on receivers securing the football and making plays in the open field.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Steelers have matched the 1-year, $2.5 million offer sheet extended to WR Emmanuel Sanders by the Patriots. QB Ben Roethlisberger pushed the team to hang on to Sanders and got what he wanted. That would seem to bode well for Sanders’ 2013 fantasy football value. He set career highs this past year with 44 grabs and 626 yards. Now he’ll step into Mike Wallace’s spot in the Steelers’ offense. That position produced 100+ targets in each of the past 3 seasons. Sanders could make a run at triple digits this year. He’ll carry intriguing upside in fantasy drafts this summer. The Patriots, meanwhile, will likely look to bolster their WR corps in the draft later this month.

ESPN's Adam Schefter has learned that the offer sheet the Patriots signed WR Emmanuel Sanders to is a 1-year, $2.5 million deal.  It's a cheap offer, and one the Steelers should be able to match.  Sanders was already on Pittsburgh's books for $1.3 million this season, so the new contract would only count another $1.2 million against their cap.  If the Steelers don't match New England's offer, it's because they'd rather have the 3rd-round pick.  That would say a lot about how the team feels about Sanders' ability.

NFL insider Jason La Canfora is reporting that the Patriots have officially submitted an offer sheet to restricted free-agent Emmanuel Sanders.  No word yet on the details of the contract.  The Steelers now have 5 days to match the offer.  If they don't, Sanders will become a Patriot and Pittsburgh will receive a 3rd-round pick.  We have little doubt the Steelers want to retain Sanders.  He's slated to step into the starting spot vacated by Mike Wallace.  But the team is tight against the cap.  Recent reports have them just $2 million under.  That could make it tough for them to match New England's offer.  If Sanders does end up a Patriot, he'd be a strong bet to win a starting job.  But targets would be tough to come by in a loaded pass-catching corps.  We actually like his fantasy outlook better in Pittsburgh.  Stay tuned for updates on this story.

Update: ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that New England's offer is for just 1 year, and that the money "will not scare" the Steelers.  It sounds like it'll come down to whether Pittsburgh would rather have Sanders or a 3rd-rounder.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders has signed an offer sheet with the Patriots.  Terms have not yet been announced.  Sanders is a restricted free agent, so the Steelers have the option of matching New England's offer. If they don't, the Pats must surrender a 3rd-round pick in April's NFL draft.  Sanders brings good speed and caught a career-best 63.8% of his targets last season.  He also posted career highs in receptions (44) and yards (626).  Injuries hampered him over his 1st 2 pro seasons, but Sanders played in every game last year.  His loss could be trouble for a Pittsburgh pass offense that already let WR Mike Wallace walk.

Update: It turns out the Post-Gazette jumped the gun here. Sanders hasn't signed an offer sheet with New England -- or any other team. Stay tuned, as a deal could still materialize.

 

7:01pm EDT 3/12/13

Adam Caplan reports that the Rams have signed TE Jared Cook after all. (That news comes after a Jason La Canfora imposter "broke" the news on Twitter earlier in the afternoon.) Cook adds speed to the interior of the Rams' passing game, which could present a dangerous combo with 2nd-year WR Chris Givens. Cook had trouble learning the offense over 4 years in Tennessee, though. He also displayed inconsistent hands. Of course, Rams HC Jeff Fisher originally drafted Cook there. So he knows what he's getting. The talent boost can only help QB Sam Bradford, but the team still needs a reliable target to convert 3rd downs. TE Lance Kendricks is now staring at a much lower ceiling. He kinda brought that on himself, though, with a pair of uninspiring seasons to begin his career. Cook still looks like a fringe starting option in fantasy football leagues. His best shot at a value boost might be to claim the mantle of primary red-zone option for Bradford.

The Titans will NOT use the franchise tag on TE Jared Cook.  They were set to tag him just a couple weeks ago, but Cook's threat to argue that he's a WR (thus increasing the tag number from $6 million to $10.5 million) seems to have scared the franchise off.  Cook now becomes one of the more intriguing names on the open market.  He's fallen short of lofty expectations the past couple years, but a lot of that has to do with his inconsistent role in Tennessee's passing game.  At 6'5 and 248 pounds with WR-like athleticism, Cook carries a sky-high statistical ceiling.  We'll see where he lands now.  The Titans are still interested in bringing him back, but teams like the Dolphins and Bears figure to show plenty of interest.

Titans TE Jared Cook isn’t too thrilled about the idea of being slapped with the franchise tag. But if he is forced to stick around, he wants to be classified as a WR. Cook would make more than $4 million more in salary if that became a reality. We saw Jermichael Finley try to pull this stunt last year, but he ended up signing a new 2-year deal. Ultimately, we still expect Cook to remain in Tennessee.

 
 
 

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