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2014 Draft Prep: Breakouts, 2.0

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Sleepers, 2.0 | Busts, 2.0

When I first wrote about breakouts in March, it was difficult to pare the list down to 12 guys. There are a lot of candidates to like this season.

Thankfully, I'm allowed to take another crack at it now, even though I love the players from the first list.

To recap, here are the Breakouts 1.0:

Colin Kaepernick, QB, 49ers
Jay Cutler, QB, Bears
Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals
Montee Ball, RB, Broncos
Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals
Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots
Randall Cobb, WR, Packers
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings
Terrance Williams, WR, Cowboys
Rueben Randle, WR, Giants
Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins
Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles

There isn't anything I would change about those first 12 guys as we head into the start of training camp. And I'm just as confident about the group of players listed here.

My definition of a breakout is a player who could elevate from one tier to the next. For example, in 2013, we had DeMarco Murray, Antonio Brown, T.Y. Hilton and DeSean Jackson as breakout candidates, and all of them ended up having career years.

We hope the same happens with the players on these two lists. And, once we get into the middle of training camp and preseason action, we'll do a third version of breakouts. I'm already optimistic about the next 12 names to come.

Andrew Luck, QB, Colts

Luck has basically been a breakout candidate each of his first two seasons, and he's delivered as a Top 10 Fantasy quarterback both years. But this should be a career season based on the tools he's been given. The Colts added Hakeem Nicks to go with Hilton and Reggie Wayne, who is expected to be 100 percent from last year's torn ACL. Dwayne Allen (hip) is also healthy, and Coby Fleener remains as well. The offensive line should be better, and if Trent Richardson struggles -- we're expecting him to bounce back -- then Luck will have to shoulder the offensive load. I don't have him ranked as a Top 5 quarterback because I like Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Kaepernick and Matt Ryan better, but I'm excited for Luck this year. I usually pass on Manning, Rodgers and Brees and wait for someone in the Stafford, Kaepernick, Ryan, Luck and Tony Romo group. Luck could easily ascend to new heights this year.
Will likely be drafted ... Pick No. 55-60 overall
I'd take him ahead of: Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Nick Foles

Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys

The formula for the Cowboys this season adds up to a career year for Romo. Add a new play caller in Scott Linehan and subtract any sense of defense. Throw in an improved offensive line and a plethora of talented weapons with Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Terrance Williams and DeMarco Murray and all it takes is for Romo to make it shine. His back should be 100 percent for the start of the season, and Romo should set a new record for pass attempts with Linehan -- he called plays for the Lions the past three years and Stafford was fourth, first and first in pass attempts. The defense likely won't slow down many opponents, and Romo has Top 5 upside. Like Luck, you can wait for Romo on Draft Day, and he will fall based on public sentiment and Fantasy bias. For those who take a chance on him this season, he will reward you with a monster campaign.
Will likely be drafted ... Pick No. 75-80 overall
I'd take him ahead of: Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Nick Foles

Bishop Sankey, RB, Titans

Rookie running backs can always be hit or miss. Last season, Eddie Lacy, Le'Veon Bell and Giovani Bernard were good if not great. But Montee Ball, at this time last year, was expected to be a star and struggled in a backup role behind Knowshon Moreno. Sankey is part of a talented class this season with Terrance West, Devonta Freeman, Carlos Hyde, Jeremy Hill and Tre Mason. But the difference for Sankey and his peers is he's expected to start in Week 1 without much competition for touches. Sure, Shonn Greene could pose a threat, but Sankey has three-down potential for a coach in Ken Whisenhunt who just rejuvenated Ryan Mathews as the offensive coordinator in San Diego. The Titans also helped Chris Johnson finish as a Top 10 Fantasy running back last year despite averaging less than 4.0 yards per carry. I'm confident in Sankey finishing as a Top 20 running back this year, and I plan on drafting him in Round 3 if available.
Will likely be drafted ... Pick No. 25-30 overall
I'd take him ahead of: C.J. Spiller, Reggie Bush, Ryan Mathews

Toby Gerhart, RB, Jaguars

I was skeptical of Gerhart at first. He's been a plodder when given a chance to take over for Adrian Peterson over the past three seasons as the backup in Minnesota. But Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley has touted Gerhart as a workhorse since they signed him this offseason, and he has minimal competition for touches from Denard Robinson and Jordan Todman. The Jaguars are going to rely on their ground game with Chad Henne the starting quarterback, and Gerhart can grind his way to double digits in Fantasy points. Keep in mind the running back he's replacing -- Maurice Jones-Drew -- was a Top 20 Fantasy option last season, despite averaging less than 4.0 yards per carry. But the Jaguars let Jones-Drew carry their offense -- much like they will do with Gerhart this season -- and it worked out with a positive result. The same should happen this year, and Gerhart is worth drafting in Round 4.
Will likely be drafted ... Pick No. 35-40 overall
I'd take him ahead of: Reggie Bush, Ryan Mathews, Maurice Jones-Drew

Joique Bell, RB, Lions

As long as Bell's knee is OK -- and he appears on track for the start of training camp -- then he should be in line to build off his performance from last season when he had 650 rushing yards and eight touchdowns and 53 catches for 547 yards. The Lions, under new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, want to model themselves after the Saints, where Lombardi was previously a coach under Sean Payton. The belief is Bell will be the primary running back with Bush playing a role similar to what he had with the Saints from 2006-10. Bush will still get plenty of touches, but Bell should work at the goal line and still play a role as a receiver out of the backfield. He might end up with more Fantasy value than Bush this year, despite getting drafted a round or two later. Don't be afraid to count on Bell as a No. 2 running back this season.
Will likely be drafted ... Pick No. 55-60 overall
I'd take him ahead of: Chris Johnson, Ray Rice, Frank Gore

Trent Richardson, RB, Colts

He was a complete disaster last season when he got traded from the Browns to the Colts, but Indianapolis invested a first-round pick on Richardson and stand by him. The only competition he has for touches are Ahmad Bradshaw, who is coming off neck surgery from last season, and Vick Ballard, who is coming off a torn ACL. Richardson was a Top 10 Fantasy running back as a rookie in 2012, and he should rebound in a big way this year. The Colts offensive line, hopefully, will be better, and this offense should be one of the best in the NFL. It will take a lot of faith to trust Richardson as a starter, but the earliest you have to draft him is Round 4 this season. You might be able to get Richardson as a flex option, which is a great investment. If he hits, as we expect, your Fantasy team could be a dominant force based on his potential.
Will likely be drafted ... Pick No. 50-55 overall
I'd take him ahead of: Chris Johnson, Ray Rice, Frank Gore

Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers

One of my favorite things to do is extrapolate numbers to see what a small sample size would look like over 16 games. And with Crabtree, we can take a look at his potential going back to 2012 when he first played with Kaepernick. In the seven starts Kaepernick made in 2012, Crabtree had 41 catches for 595 yards and five touchdowns. If you project that over 16 games, Crabtree would have finished with 94 catches for 1,360 yards and 11 touchdowns. That equates to 202 Fantasy points, which would have made Crabtree the No. 3 Fantasy receiver in standard leagues behind Calvin Johnson (214) and Brandon Marshall (210). He's healthy now from last year's Achilles injury, and he's entering a contract year. I plan to target Crabtree in Round 4 or 5 as a Top 15 receiver with Top 10 potential. He should benefit from playing with Kaepernick for a full season for the first time in his career.
Will likely be drafted ... Pick No. 40-45 overall
I'd take him ahead of: Andre Johnson, Keenan Allen, Victor Cruz

Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals

I'm a big fan of coach Bruce Arians and his offense in Arizona. And Arians is a big fan of Floyd this year, which he told me this offseason at the NFL owners meetings. "Michael Floyd is still developing," Arians said. "He became a 1,000-yard receiver, but he can improve as much this year as he did last year. He learned how to play hurt, he played through injuries and he made big plays." Floyd is entering his third season, and he had 65 catches for 1,041 yards and five touchdowns last season, including nine games with at least eight Fantasy points and four with double digits. He finished No. 24 in Fantasy points in 2013, but he could easily be a Top 15 Fantasy receiver. I like him as a No. 2 option with a pick in Round 5.
Will likely be drafted ... Pick No. 60-65 overall
I'd take him ahead of: Eric Decker, DeSean Jackson, Marques Colston

Golden Tate, WR, Lions

Tate has been a good Fantasy receiver the past two years, but he's been far from great. As the No. 1 target for the Seahawks in 2013, he had 64 catches for 898 yards and five touchdowns, which was only good for being the No. 28 receiver in standard leagues. But Seattle wasn't going to mistake anyone for being a passing team, unlike Detroit. With the Lions, he goes to an offense where Stafford has attempted at least 630 passes in three consecutive years. Tate will get plenty of single coverage with Calvin Johnson, and this should be his first chance for 1,000 yards with at least six touchdowns. The best part is many Fantasy owners appear hesitant to draft Tate as a starter, so you can draft him as a No. 3 option. But I'm expecting him to be a Top 24 receiver if not a Top 20 option. He's going to thrive playing in this offense.
Will likely be drafted ... Pick No. 75-80 overall
I'd take him ahead of: Julian Edelman, DeSean Jackson, Eric Decker

Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos

Sanders was productive last season with the Steelers in a career year with 67 catches for 740 yards and six touchdowns. But he should be able to crack 1,000 yards for the first time with around seven touchdowns. He's replacing Eric Decker for the Broncos, and someone has to pick up that slack. Decker had 87 catches for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2013 on 137 targets, and Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Wes Welker can't do everything on their own. The Broncos plan to move Sanders around in the slot and outside, and he will rarely face the top cornerback or double coverage. We know Peyton Manning is a master at finding mismatches, and Sanders should have plenty of those. He's looking like a Top 20 Fantasy receiver worth drafting in Round 5. But like Tate, you might be able to draft him as your No. 3 receiver, which is amazing value.
Will likely be drafted ... Pick No. 70-75 overall
I'd take him ahead of: Eric Decker, Mike Wallace, Torrey Smith

Kendall Wright, WR, Titans

Wright had a solid season last year with 94 catches for 1,079 yards and two touchdowns. He finished No. 31 in Fantasy points in a standard league, but if he scored three more touchdowns he would have been No. 21. The catches and yards shouldn't differ much this season as the No. 1 option for the Titans in the passing game, and Whisenhunt has a good history with receivers during his past three stops as either the head coach or offensive coordinator at Pittsburgh, Arizona and San Diego. He had 1,000-yard receivers in Hines Ward, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Steve Breaston and Keenan Allen, and Wright should be next in terms of breakout potential. Jake Locker has to stay healthy and continue to focus on Wright, who was No. 14 for receivers in targets with 140. He's another third-year receiver to like this season with a pick in Round 6 in standard leagues and Round 4 in PPR formats.
Will likely be drafted ... Pick No. 90-95 overall
I'd take him ahead of: Marques Colston, T.Y Hilton, Sammy Watkins

Dennis Pitta, TE, Ravens

I realize my ranking of Pitta as the No. 4 tight end is the most aggressive you will likely see. And yes, I really would draft him ahead of Vernon Davis, Jason Witten and Jordan Cameron, among others. But I'm expecting a huge season for Pitta, even bigger than his previous career year in 2012 when he had 61 catches, 669 yards and seven touchdowns to finish No. 7 in Fantasy points among tight ends. New Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak relies on tight ends more than anyone else since his former team, the Texans, targeted tight ends more than any other team since 2008. We also know Joe Flacco favors Pitta as his No. 1 weapon, and Baltimore could struggle to run the ball again this year, especially with an upcoming Ray Rice suspension. Pitta might not get drafted ahead of Davis, Witten or Cameron, but he should have more Fantasy points. I like waiting on Pitta with a mid-round pick because he should be a Top 5 tight end this year.
Will likely be drafted ... Pick No. 75-80 overall
I'd take him ahead of: Jason Witten, Vernon Davis, Jordan Cameron

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Player News
Eagles' Chris Polk gets first-team reps in practice
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) Eagles running back Chris Polk received first-team reps in practice on Wednesday, according to CSNPhilly.com.

Polk opened practice with the starters and ran a couple of plays. LeSean McCoy watched the plays from the sideline. Following practice, McCoy stressed that it wasn't a big deal. "We rotate all the time," he said. "[Running back coach Duce Staley] pulled me out. [Darren] Sproles wasn't in either." Polk is coming off a three touchdown performance in Week 15. It's possible he could find his way into more playing time given the practice situation. 


Seahawks without three offensive lineman on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Seahawks did not have three of their offensive linemen at practice on Wednesday, according to ESPN.

Max Unger, Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy were all held out. Unger has missed the past four games due to an ankle and knee issue. He was able to practice last Friday, but did not play on Sunday. Okung is dealing with a bruised lung, but there's a chance he'll recover in time for Sunday's game. "[Okung is] going to have some stuff done [Thursday] that will let us know where he sits and all that," head coach Pete Carrol said. "He’s not out of the plan yet."

Sweezy is dealing with an ankle injury. His appearance on the injury report comes as somewhat of a surprise. 


Lions pick up CB Josh Thomas
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Lions have claimed cornerback Josh Thomas on waivers, according to the New York Post

Thomas was cut by the Jets on Tuesday, but found a new job quickly. He's played in three games this season, registering two tackles. 


Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch sits out on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch did not practice on Wednesday.

Lynch has been using Wednesday as a veteran's day all season, so the move isn't a big surprise. He's been battling a back injury throughout most of the season, but has been able to play through it. Lynch has 1133 rushing yards, with 10 touchdowns, this year. 


Texans' DeAndre Hopkins unable to practice on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) Texans wideout DeAndre Hopkins did not practice on Wednesday.

Hopkins is dealing with an ankle injury, and was unable to go. Hopkins has played in all 14 games this season. He has 1167 yards on 69 receptions. Hopkins has caught six touchdowns. His status will likely be determined based on how much he is able to practice on Thursday and Friday. 


49ers WR Michael Crabtree misses practice Wednesday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) 49ers wideout Michael Crabtree did not practice Wednesday due to a knee injury, reports CSNBayArea.com. Crabtree, who has not cleared 60 receiving yards since Week 11, isn't believed to be seriously hurt.

He's scheduled to play the Chargers on Saturday night. If Crabtree can't go, it could mean increased targets for fellow starter Anquan Boldin.


Raiders QB Derek Carr limited by thumb injury
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was limited in Wednesday's practice with a thumb injury, but coach Tony Sparano isn't too concerned, reports CSNBayArea.com. Carr has thrown one or zero touchdown passes in four of his past five games entering Sunday's contest against Buffalo.

Report: Jay Cutler to be benched Week 16
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Bears will bench starting quarterback Jay Cutler Week 16 against the Lions, according to ESPN.

The move comes as a big surprise given the seven-year, $126 million contract Cutler signed in January. Cutler has had a big problem with turnovers this season, throwing 18 interceptions and fumbling 12 times. The move could mark the end of Cutler's season as the starter, and puts his future in Chicago in jeopardy. 

The team will turn to Jimmy Clausen to replace Cutler.


Texans RB Arian Foster held out Wednesday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) Texans running back Arian Foster did not practice Wednesday with what the team called a hip injury. Foster was listed on the injury report last week with a groin injury, then racked up 117 yards from scrimmage on 29 touches at Indy.

Foster, who might just be getting a veteran's rest day, is expected to start Sunday against the Ravens. Houston is a 5.5-point underdog at Caesars Palace Race and Sports Book.


Report: Bears to start Jimmy Clausen Week 16
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Bears will start Jimmy Clausen Week 16 against the Lions, according to ESPN.

The move comes as a major surprise. While Jay Cutler has faced scrutiny for his body language and demeanor, the team handed him a seven-year, $126 million contract last season. The move seems to indicate that Cutler is done for the season, and puts his career with the Bears in jeopardy.

Clausen has seen time in three games this season, completing three passes in nine attempts. His last start came back in 2010, his rookie season. That year, Clausen threw for 1,558 yards, with three touchdowns against nine interceptions. 

The Lions are currently 7-point favorites, according to VegasInsider.com.


 
 
 
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