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2013 Draft Prep: Breakouts for Draft Day

Senior Fantasy Writer
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When you think of a Fantasy breakout, think big. Think career bests. Think massive Fantasy points.

That's what comes to mind when I think of a breakout. Everyone wants to get great players on their teams but it's paydirt when you get a great player having one of his best, if not his very best, seasons.

What are the tell-tale signs of a breakout? Look for players who did well toward the end of the past season, or started last season well but trailed off because of circumstances beyond his control. Some players that have changed teams are also breakout candidates as are those who are getting an opportunity because a teammate has moved on to another roster or because a coach with a certain tendency gives a guy a chance.

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Last year I'd say my results were mixed. I did better with my "off the radar" breakouts than I did my actual breakouts. Maybe the lesson learned is to find the deeper breakouts and go with them instead.

So that's the plan -- absolutely none of my 2013 breakouts are Top 40 picks based on the draft averages as of this writing. No obvious recommendations. That should not only make for some interesting options but also some interesting picks for you to consider once the "easy rounds" are done.

Note: Originally on this list was Steelers rookie running Le'Veon Bell. Since then he's tweaked his knee and suffered a Lisfranc foot injury. He's no longer a breakout candidate.

Sam Bradford, QB, Rams: The front office and coaching staff came together in St. Louis this offseason and changed the face of the offense. They kind of had to once Steven Jackson elected to test free agency. By letting Jackson go and finding talent to surround Bradford, they essentially placed their bet on the fourth-year quarterback leading the way. Jared Cook was signed in free agency and Tavon Austin was drafted in the first round. Those guys couldn't be farther apart in terms of body types but they're extremely similar in terms of being matchup nightmares for every defense the Rams face. Cook should be the security blanket Danny Amendola couldn't stay healthy enough to be and Austin could be a Percy Harvin-esque target for Bradford to hit over and over again. Throw in speedster Chris Givens and another unique body type in Brian Quick and suddenly Bradford is loaded with receivers to lean on. Best of all, the Rams improved their offensive line with the addition of Jake Long and don't have a firm solution for replacing Jackson at running back. Bradford should set a career-high in pass attempts and in turn should end up with career-high statistics. I love him as a blue chip No. 2 Fantasy quarterback.
I'd take him over: Josh Freeman, Jay Cutler, Ben Roethlisberger

Andrew Luck, QB, Colts: True, Luck broke out in every sense of the term as a rookie last season but it doesn't mean there's no room for improvement. Luck's 54.1 completion percentage, 23-to-18 touchdown-interception ratio and 6.98 yards per attempt average all have room to grow and should do exactly that in the Colts' new offensive scheme. Usually when a playbook changes there are growing pains, but Luck has already grown up in the playbook Pep Hamilton has brought to the team from Stanford, where the two worked together previously. But what's even better about Luck's situation is the continuity in who he's playing with. Four of the top five receivers in the Colts offense are back to help Luck along in his second season with only Donnie Avery gone and Darrius Heyward-Bey replacing him. That additional layer of familiarity will only keep him from regressing. But Luck could really benefit from the team not doing a great job of finding running backs to supplement the passing game. That'll put the ball in Luck's hands more, making for a more pass-happy unit that should yield some very good stats across the board. This might not be Luck's best year, but it'll be an improvement from 2012. Bank on him in Round 6 or later.
I'd take him over: Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick

Daryl Richardson, RB, Rams: While I like Zac Stacy as a sleeper in the Rams' backfield, it's Richardson who should be the most consistent. The Rams are going to look quite different than in the past with Bradford leading the way. A more pass-oriented offense should result in more work for Richardson, who is good enough as a pass protector and fine as a receiver. If he were to start out serving as just the receiving-downs back, Richardson would see a good amount of playing time and probably sneak in a surprising amount of carries with a good reception total. But he stands to get more than that after coach Jeff Fisher admitted that Richardson was the leader in the clubhouse to start in early August. It's likely he'll have to split the workload -- his reps got lighter as he got older in college -- but at the very least he's in that same range as other backs with quickness and good hands. The closer you can get him to Round 7, the better.
I'd take him over: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ben Tate, Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas

Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots: Maybe this one is obvious to you, maybe it isn't. Maybe you see Stevan Ridley as the Patriots' primary running back and don't think they have room for two guys. Among 485 carries by running backs, Ridley ran the ball 290 times. That left 195 carries for other backs, with Vereen and Danny Woodhead totaling 138 of them. That workload will obviously be gobbled up by Vereen in 2013 with Woodhead moving on to San Diego. But Vereen will also make an impact as a receiver, giving the Patriots a much-desired versatile matchup threat. Vereen had only eight catches last season but Woodhead had 40. Vereen is really the only pass-catching running back on the New England roster, so he should see his fair share of work on passing downs. Vereen would be on par with capable No. 3 Fantasy rushers if he totaled 150 touches and maintained strong averages across the board. It took me a little while to come around on Vereen but he'll have a good chance to help Fantasy owners out (he'd get the motherload if Ridley came down with fumbilitis or otherwise missed time, too).
I'd take him over: Ryan Mathews, Ahmad Bradshaw, Eddie Lacy

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Cecil Shorts, WR, Jaguars: I really liked what I saw from Shorts last season. Whether it was him taking a pass down the seam from Blaine Gabbert to the house or racking up six-plus grabs in a game, Shorts was productive. In 14 games he had 10 or more Fantasy points nine times, making him the third-most consistent receiver percentage-wise in Fantasy last year behind Calvin Johnson and Percy Harvin. Here's the silly part: He finished second on the Jaguars in targets with 106 (Justin Blackmon led the way). The Jaguars' passers are going to target Shorts over and over this season just as they did when he averaged 9.5 targets per game in his final nine. He did suffer a concussion last year that might be a little worrisome as is a calf strain that sidelined him in early August, but other than that there's nothing to not like about the speedy third-year receiver. I'm comfortable with him as my No. 2 Fantasy receiver.
I'd take him over: Steve Smith, Torrey Smith and Mike Wallace

James Jones, WR, Packers: All Jones did last year was lead the NFL in receiving touchdowns while playing on just over 90 percent of the snaps on one of the most prolific passing teams in football. On the way there he also posted career-highs in catches with 64 and yards with 784. He also had nine games with 10-plus Fantasy points. Everyone points to his red zone stats and believes he can't do it again (12 touchdowns on 15 red-zone catches including the playoffs). I say why not? Everyone looks at the lack of targets he had despite his playing time and scoffs at his upside. I say it's room for him to improve -- if he did only that well last season with all that playing time, maybe he can do more with more opportunity. He should certainly do better than the career-low 12.3 receiving average he had in 2012 (his previous low was 13.6). Opportunity will come his way early in the season with oft-injured receiver Jordy Nelson coming back from a knee procedure. It's going to be Jones, not Nelson, who will finish behind Randall Cobb as the Packers' second-best receiver in 2013. He's motivated to reach the 1,000-yard mark just in time for free agency in March, his quarterback knows what he can do and when defenses play against the Packers and their myriad of weapons week after week, it'll be Jones who will see single coverage the most often. You'll be sorry if you don't get him by the end of Round 7.
I'd take him over: Hakeem Nicks, Danny Amendola, Jordy Nelson

Golden Tate, WR, Seahawks: Tate had plenty of chances to wow us in 2012. A fateful Hail Mary "catch" on Monday Night Football may be what you know him best for but he narrowly fell short of being Seattle's top Fantasy receiver. This year he'll take the title, though he got help when newcomer Percy Harvin had hip surgery in the early days of training camp. Tate has pieced together an amazing camp so far and is working hard to be the No. 1 receiver for the Seahawks with Harvin out, Sidney Rice struggling with his knee and no one else really taking a big step forward. He finished with 45 catches for 688 yards and seven scores last year but had just 80 targets including the postseason, catching 68.8 percent of them. That's pretty awesome. Tate isn't quite the total receiver package but he's developed reliable hands to go with deep speed in an offense that should hit its stride with Russell Wilson entering his second year. Tate is a great mid-round pickup.
I'd take him over: Greg Jennings, Lance Moore, Denarius Moore

Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers: If Fantasy Football was about headliners and superstars, Williams wouldn't be drafted. But it's about stats and Williams has proven he can create those. Williams has reeled in 63 to 65 catches in each of his first three seasons, getting over 950 yards and nine touchdowns twice. He admitted that his down year in 2011 was because of poor habits off the field. The rebound he had in 2012 playing opposite Vincent Jackson was refreshing, so much so that the team gave him a contract extension before training camp. He's locked into his role on a team with playoff aspirations and a not-so-tough schedule. Finishing as a Top 20 receiver -- which he's done in his two strong seasons already -- shouldn't be a big surprise. Seeing him fall into your lap in Round 7 or beyond should be a surprise, albeit a welcome one.
I'd take him over: DeSean Jackson, Steve Johnson, Mike Wallace

Jared Cook, TE, Rams: Cook is getting the Cinderella treatment in St. Louis, where Fairy Godmother Jeff Fisher whisked him away from the Titans' evil castle and brought him into 150-target territory with Sam Bradford. Fine, I've been watching too many Disney movies with the kids but I am sincere in my courting of Cook as a Top 6 Fantasy tight end. Every single report out of St. Louis talks about how Cook has replaced Danny Amendola as Bradford's security blanket and how the Rams intend to use Cook as a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. He's going to line up anywhere and use his 6-foot-5, 248-pound frame to battle smaller and slower defenders. Cook has never had more than four touchdowns, 49 catches, 81 targets or 759 yards in a season. He's going to eclipse every number in the Rams' new-look spread offense while receiving footballs from the best passer he's ever worked with in the pros. Bypass the familiar tight end names on Draft Day and take a chance on Cook in Round 8.
I'd take him over: Kyle Rudolph, Antonio Gates, Greg Olsen

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard .

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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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