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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
Colts' Andrew Luck considered skipping Pro Bowl
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) After losing 45-7 to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck admitted he thought about not playing in the Pro Bowl, reports The Indianapolis Star.

Luck felt embarrassed after the championship game and had to think about turning around and playing a week later.

"I mean, it is a privilege, but I am hurting in a sense," Luck said. "But I realize it's an honor to be voted in and the fans really enjoy it. So, I did it."

While Luck was proud of his team for advancing to the championship game, he said this season’s playoff loss was worse than the previous two.

"I think every loss in the playoffs leaves a really, really terrible taste in your mouth," Luck said. "But this one has been worse than the other two because we did get so close. And the way we lost, it was just embarrassing."


NFL warns Marshawn Lynch with 15-yard penalty for obscene gesture
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) The NFL has issued a warning to Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch if he decides to make his obscene gesture in the Super Bowl, vice president of officiating Dean Blandino told ESPN Saturday. If Lynch performs his gesture, Seattle will be assessed a 15-yard penalty.

Meaning if Lynch makes his gesture after scoring a touchdown, the kickoff will be from the 20 yard line. Lynch was fined $20,000 for making his gesture after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship game last week.


Matthew Slater: NFLPA 'instructed' Pats not to address Deflategate
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) Patriots special teamer Matthew Slater told reporters that the NFL Players Association has "instructed" New England players to not publicly address Deflategate, according to the team's official website. The 29-year-old Slater is a team representative for the union.

"I'd love to get into that with you, but we have been instructed by our union as players to reserve comment on this situation," Slater said. "It's an ongoing investigation, so in order to protect our players, we’re going to go ahead and not talk about that."

The NFL found 11 of 12 game balls the Patriots used in the first half in Sunday's AFC Championship against the Colts were significantly underinflated after being deemed legal before the game. The investigation is being led by NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash and Ted Wells. The league has yet to release its findings.

Coach Bill Belichick also addressed the media in an impromptu press conference to reveal that his team conducted an "internal study," which revealed that the Patriots "followed every rule to the letter."

Like Slater, Belichick vowed not to speak on Deflategate again. New England will square off against Seattle in the Super Bowl on Feb. 1.


Report: Colts LB Andrew Jackson arrested for DUI, careless driving
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) Colts linebacker Andrew Jackson was arrested in Kentucky early Friday morning for careless driving and DUI, per the Indianapolis Star. He was booked just before 5 a.m. and released from jail at 12:30 p.m. the same day.

Jackson, a sixth-round pick in the 2014 draft out of Western Kentucky, was a marginal contributor for Indianapolis last season, contributing only on special teams and short-yardage scenarios. He registered 10 tackles and one sack in 13 games his rookie season.


Justin Forsett: The Ravens 'expressed that they want me back'
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) Justin Forsett told reporters following Friday's Pro Bowl practice that the Ravens have expressed interest in bringing him back next season, according to NFL.com. Forsett, who replaced Arian Foster's spot in the exhibition game, noted that he has not engaged in any contract discussions with the team, but remains optimistic of a possible deal in the offseason.

"That is the plan, they gave me my shot, they trusted me and believed in me enough to give me that shot so I'd like to stay," Forsett said. "They expressed that they want me back. I want to be back, so we'll see what happens."

Forsett, 29 is seeking his first multiyear contract of his career after playing for five teams in seven seasons. He broke out for 1,266 rushing yards this season, fifth-most in the NFL, and led all running backs with 5.4 yards per carry.


WR Emmanuel Sanders says Peyton Manning will return to Broncos
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) Although Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders' only communication with Peyton Manning was through a postseason text message, he believes that the veteran quarterback will return for another season, he told NFL.com on Friday.

Sanders and the Broncos were eliminated by the Colts in the AFC divisional round. Since that loss, the Broncos' coaching staff has been overhauled, with coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase heading to Chicago.

"Well, Gase is definitely in Chicago right now," Sanders said. "And Peyton says he's going to come back, but I'm not really worried about it, I really just want to win a Super Bowl. So that is all that is on my mind."

Gary Kubiak was hired to take Fox's place in Denver, and Sanders said that if Manning doesn't return, backup Brock Osweiler would fit "really well" in the team's new offensive scheme.

"Yeah, I think Brock is a quarterback that is on the rise, he's going to continuously get better and I feel like Kubiak's offense fits him really well," Sanders said.

Sanders signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Broncos last March. He earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl after totaling 101 catches for 1,404 yards and nine touchdowns -- all career highs.


Seahawks GM on Lynch: 'I kind of love his act'
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/23/2015) Seahawks general manager John Schneider said little Friday about Marshawn Lynch's future with the franchise.

"I mean, he's under contract next year," Schneider said in an interview with The Seattle Times. "He's a warrior. Goes out there every weekend and lays it on the line. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better running back in the National Football League."

Lynch has been rumored to be cut after this season to save money. He is set to make $5 million in base salary in 2015. Schneider also said he has no problem with the way Lynch behaves both on and off the field.

"I kind of love his act," Schneider said.


Colts' Robert Mathis may not be ready for training camp
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/23/2015) Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis is still recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon and could miss an extended period of time, including training camp, general manager Ryan Grigson said.

"No, he’s still in recovery," Grigson said when asked if he’s confident Mathis will be ready for training camp. "He’s a freak and you hope that he has an athletic genetic freak type of recovery so that he’s ready day one of training camp. But that information is not clear yet or a timeline is not there because it’s a tough injury. Hopefully in a couple months from now, we’ll be able to have some information on that."

Mathis torn the tendon in early September and missed the entire season. Without Mathis, the Colts were led by rookie Johnathan Newsome with 6 1/2 sacks in 2014.

"Obviously having [Mathis] out was a big hole," Grigson said. "But we don’t make excuses. That stuff gets forgotten and it should because a lot of teams win without key players. The next man up is for real. We found a way to still get pressure and play without his presence, but it makes it a heck of a lot harder, I promise you that. Just having him out on the field, even if he didn’t get out of his stance, it’s still going to command two blockers or more. That completely changes the complexion of a game just having him physically out there."


Seahawks' Carroll: Sherman, Thomas will be fine for Super Bowl
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/23/2015) Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Friday cornerback Richard Sherman (elbow) and free safety Earl Thomas (shoulder), who both sustained injuries in the NFC title game vs. Green Bay, will be fine to play in the Super Bowl.

As of Friday, the Patriots were 1-point favorites for the Super Bowl.


Steelers re-sign punter Brad Wing to one-year deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/23/2015) The Steelers have re-signed punter Brad Wing to a one-year deal, the team announced Friday.

Wing had 61 punts for Pittsburgh in 2014 for 2,668, avergaing 43.7 yards per attempt. He ranked 26th in the league with a 39.5 net yards average on the season.


 
 
 
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