Five breakout wide receiver candidates for the 2010 NFL season

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 14:  Dwayne Bowe #82 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates a touchdown for a 14-0 lead over the San Diego Chargers during the second quarter on December 14, 2008 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  The Chiefs lost 22-21.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

I hate writing intros and I don’t think many people read them anyway. There’s a good chance you’re not even reading this write now, so let’s just get on with it.

(Side Note: This list isn’t directed at fantasy football readers. If owners want to apply this information for fantasy purposes, please, be my guest. But I encourage you to check out my TSR partner John Paulsen’s work if you’re looking specifically for fantasy-related content. Just do so after you read this piece………’re not even reading this, are you?)

1. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
I’m going to start off with a somewhat obvious candidate in Bowe based on offseason reports (he’s also already shown that he can be productive). But make a mental note (seriously, write it down) that I’ve been high on the former LSU product ever since his performance in the 2007 Sugar Bowl against Note Dame (even though he was arguably outperformed by Early Doucet). After spending a grueling offseason participating in Larry Fitzgerald’s football camp, Bowe is reportedly down to 210 pounds after showing up to camp last year at 240. After spending most of preseason in Todd Haley’s doghouse last year, Bowe is now running with the Chiefs’ first-team offense this summer. At 6’2 and 210 pounds, the problem with Bowe has never been about size or physical tools. His issues have always lied within his work ethic, or lack thereof. But if he’s focused, he could have a tremendous year in Haley’s offense and could go from a promising player to a Pro Bowler in one season.

2. Johnny Knox, Bears
As John wrote in his breakdown of sleeper fantasy receivers last week, it’s hard to pick out just one Bear receiver that could break out this season. That’s because in Mike Martz’s offense, they all could break out. But I’m going with Knox over returner-turned-receiver Devin Hester, whom some believe will be Chicago’s biggest breakout player. Knox has reportedly been targeted more than any receiver in Bears’ camp so far this offseason and he’s the perfect fit for Martz’s up-temp offense. That’s because he not only has elite speed, but he’s also a sound route-runner and he’s already drawing comparisons to Torry Holt in terms of how his game translates in Martz’s offense. Assuming Jay Cutler targets him in the regular season as much as he has so far in training camp, a 1,000-yard season is well within Knox’s reach.

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Does Bulger’s release mean Rams are taking Bradford No. 1?

The Rams released quarterback Marc Bulger on Monday – on his 33rd birthday, no less. (I’m surprised they didn’t set a burning pile of dog crap on his doorstep too, just to ensure that he really had a bad day.)

It’s unclear at this point whether or not Bulger will choose to retire or try to catch on with another team. The Jets have already said they’re not interested in the veteran QB and Bulger refuses to sign with the Lions because of his strenuous relationship with OC Jim Schwartz. ESPN’s Adam Schefter seems to think that Bulger will wind up in Pittsburgh or Arizona but really, who cares? Not to be rude, but the guy mailed it in a couple of years ago after signing that big contract.

The more interesting topic that arises from this news is whether or not the Rams are now poised to take Sam Bradford with the No. 1 pick. Without a starting-caliber quarterback on the roster, I would say the answer to that question is emphatically “yes.”

Releasing Bulger cleared up $8.5 million in salary, which could go a long way in helping the Rams sign Bradford. Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh may be the best prospect in the draft, but NFL teams have a hard time justifying paying a defensive tackle No. 1 overall money. Quarterback is an obvious need for the Rams and considering Bradford dazzled scouts at a recent workout, there should be no concerns about his shoulder.

If it wasn’t clear before that the Rams were set on Bradford at No. 1, it should be now after Bulger’s release.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Will Ndamukong Suh drop in the top 5?

It didn’t seem that long ago that Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was a near lock to be taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the April’s NFL draft. But now it appears that his stock is falling, even though he is still highly regarded as the top prospect in this year’s draft.

The Tampa Tribune is reporting that Suh is scheduled to visit the Buccaneers on April 13, which may mean something – could mean nothing. But when you look at the dynamics surrounding the first two picks in the draft, there is reason to believe that Tampa Bay could have Suh fall into their laps at No. 3.

While the Rams have plenty of holes to fill on both sides of the ball, defensive tackle isn’t a pressing need. There are several pundits that believe they’ll select Oklahoma product Sam Bradford at No. 1 because 1) they need someone to replace Marc Bulger and 2) if they’re spending No. 1-overall money, then they want to spend it on a position such as quarterback. There is also growing sentiment that the Lions (who pick second) will take Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung, meaning Suh will slide to the Bucs (who are desperate for defensive tackle help) at No. 3.

In my latest mock draft, I have the Rams taking Bradford at No. 1, but the Lions drafting Suh at No. 2. My opinion could change leading up to the draft, but given how Jim Schwartz built his defensive around Albert Haynesworth in Tennessee, I can’t foresee him passing on a player of Suh’s caliber. That said, the Lions recently traded for Corey Williams and he plays the same position as Suh in Schwartz’s defense, so read into that situation how you want.

Either way, if Suh is still available at No. 3 then Roger Goodell might as well just stand up at the podium and read the Lions and Bucs’ picks back to back. Because there’s no way Raheem Morris would allow Suh to get past Tampa at No. 3.

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St. Louis Rams 2010 Team Needs

As part of our 2010 NFL Draft coverage, I will be breaking down positional needs for all 32 teams, starting in reverse alphabetical order. Next up is the St. Louis Rams. Check out other team needs by clicking here.

1. Quarterback
A team doesn’t land the first overall pick in the draft without having a ton of holes that need to be addressed before the start of a new season. But even with all the areas of need that the Rams have, it all starts with the quarterback, which should be the Rams’ top priority this offseason. Marc Bulger turns 33 in July and ever since he signed a six-year, $65 million contract extension in 2007 he’s been worthless. Whether it comes in free agency or the draft, the Rams must upgrade the quarterback position this offseason and close the book on the Bulger era in St. Louis. They can’t possibly head into 2010 with Bulger at the top of the quarterback depth chart, especially considering they select at the top of each round in April and seeing as how Michael Vick could probably be had via trade. Rams GM Billy Devaney is familiar with Vick from their time together in Atlanta and Steve Spagnuolo has had nothing but positive things to say about the troubled quarterback so far this offseason. Vick could be acquired for cheap and while he certainly wouldn’t be a long-term answer, he would bring some excitement to the position and give the Rams more playmakers on offense. If not, the Rams could look at drafting a signal caller in one of the first two rounds.

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NFL Week 12 Injury Updates: Turner, Bulger, Cooley & Megatron

Turner likely to sit vs. Bucs
Falcons running back Michael Turner is still nursing an ankle injury and is unlikely to practice or face the Buccaneers on Sunday. Jason Snelling will continue to get the bulk of the rushing load, although Jerious Norwood might be active after practicing some last week.

Cooley probably heading for the IR
Redskins tight end Chris Cooley said on Tuesday that he’ll probably wind up on injured reserve at some point this season. He had hoped to come back at some point this year, but his ankle injury is too severe. With Washington out of playoff contention, it makes sense that Cooley would call it a season.

Johnson could miss Thanksgiving Day game
The Lions could be without their two star players when they host the Packers on Thanksgiving Day. Calvin Johnson is dealing with hand and knee injuries and is doubtful to play. Matthew Stafford is also unlikely to play after suffering a shoulder injury in a win over the Browns last Sunday.

Bulger out 3-6 weeks
Rams quarterback Marc Bulger is out 3-6 weeks with a broken tibia. He suffered the injury in a loss to the Cardinals last Sunday and might miss the remainder of the season. Kyle Boller will probably start in his place, although rookie Keith Null might get a shot as well.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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