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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
Redskins pick up QB Robert Griffin III's fifth-year option
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(12:03 pm ET) Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan announced Monday that the team will pick up quarterback Robert Griffin III's fifth-year option for the 2016 season, a move worth $16.155 million, per The Washington Post

The Redskins have already announced that Griffin will be the starter this season, and locking him up would not affect the team's plans, if they have any, to draft a quarterback. NFL Media insider Albert Breer said the team views the option as a franchise tag of sorts. 

The risk comes in that if Griffin is hurt during this season, the Redskins would be on the hook to pay the full $16 million. If Griffin does not perform well in 2015, the Redskins could release the quarterback without taking a salary-cap hit. 

Griffin threw for 1,694 yards and four touchdowns with six interceptions last season.


Steelers WR Antonio Brown arrives at team facility
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(10:52 am ET) Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, who was noticably absent during the first few days of the team's offseason workout program, was back in camp on Monday, the team reported. 

Speculation bloomed that Brown was dissatisfied with his contract, which is scheduled to pay him $6 million this season, but Brown wrote on Twitter that he was spending time with his newborn child and would be back soon. 

The receiver racked up 1,815 yards and 138 catches for the Steelers last season.


Joe Flacco: Ravens don't need to draft wide receiver
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:35 am ET) When your Super Bowl quarterback doesn't believe his team needs to draft a wide receiver, then perhaps it doesn't.

Joe Flacco feels the Ravens are well-stocked in that area despite having lost Torrey Smith to free agency. They still boast Steve Smith, Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken, Michael Campanero and Jeremy Butler, but are expected to seriously considering adding a wideout as early as the first round.

"Obviously, without Torrey now, the one thing we probably don't have as much of is that speed, is that one guy who can stretch the field," Flacco told ESPN. "But I'm not going to say we need it. I think we got really good guys and I think we're good with who we have."


Report: Cowboys out of running for Adrian Peterson; Cardinals still alive
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:28 am ET) The Cowboys, once considered the frontrunners to trade for Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, are now out of the running, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, who added that only the Cardinals are serious contenders.

The claim is that a deal for Peterson must be made by Friday or Peterson will stay with Minnesota. That will be contingent on Arizona's ability or inability to identify its future featured back. Peterson could bring the Vikings a second-round pick.


Colts sign ILB Jerrell Freeman to qualifying offer
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:16 am ET) Linebacker Jerrell Freeman has signed his one-year qualifying offer for a reported $2.35 million and will remain with the Colts for a fourth season, the team website has reported. He had been a restricted free agent.

The three-year starter led Indianapolis in tackles in 2012 and 2013 before losing four games to a hamstring injury last year. He still finished with 95 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks.


Cardinals' Larry Foote '50-50' on playing in 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Though Larry Foote is on the Cardinals' coaching staff at the moment, he hasn't ruled out a potential return to the team

Speaking to the team's website, Foote said he's "50-50" about playing in 2015. He talked about the factors that could play into whether or not he returns to playing. 

“Draft, what happens with (suspended linebacker) Darryl Washington, stuff like that, how my knee feels (after offseason surgery),” Foote said. “I’ll sit down with (Bruce Arians) and the next couple of months are really going to be the deciding factor.”

If Foote doesn't play, he'll be the linebackers coach for Arizona's upcoming season. He's been adjusting to the role of being a coach this offseason. 

“I am starting to like coaching,” Foote said. “It’s a little tough in the office, eating M&Ms, snacking all day, drinking coffee. I started my diet a couple days ago.”


Panthers pick up option on Luke Kuechly contract
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) What was promised by general manager Dave Gettleman is now official - the Panthers have picked up the fifth-year option on the rookie contract of standout linebacker Luke Kuechly, per the team website.

The two-time Pro Bowler has led the NFL in tackles in two of his three seasons and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. He has racked up 473 tackles since 2012, the most in the NFL.


Ravens TE Dennis Pitta hopeful for 2015 return
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta hopes to take the field in time for the 2015 season, but admits it's too early to determine if that goal can become a reality.

Pitta has undergone surgeries to repair a fractured and dislocated hip in each of the last two years.

"We still have some time to be able to assess where I'm at," Pitta told the Baltimore Sun. "I sure hope that I'll be on the field next year. That's my hope; that's my goal. We'll just see if I can get there."

Pitta has played in just seven games in the last two seasons combined.


Mark Sanchez: Eagles said Tim Tebow was just a camp arm
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez said he wasn't concerned that the team signed Tim Tebow, because the Eagles told him Tebow was just there to throw in camp.

"We needed another guy to throw while Sam's (Bradford) still recovering. So that's the reason (for the signing), at least as explained to me," Sanchez said, per CSN Philadelphia

The Eagles signed Tebow on Monday. He hasn't played in the NFL since getting cut by the Patriots at the end of training camp prior to the 2013 season. He spent last year as a television analyst for the SEC Network. 

Tebow and Sanchez were teammates on the Jets in 2012. Tebow's presence as a back-up created a quarterback controversy among fans and media that last ed throughout the season. 


Vikings CB Terence Newman has familiarity with Mike Zimmer
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Vikings cornerback Terence Newman won't have a steep learning curve now that he's with his new team. 

Newman played under Vikings coach Mike Zimmer when he was the defensive coordinator with the Cowboys. Drafted in 2003, Newman learned Zimmer's defense from his rookie season through 2006, before Zimmer left to take the same position with the Falcons. 

“I just know exactly what to expect from him as a coach, as well as everybody else in this locker room,” Newman told the Vikings' website. “You play your best football under him.”

In his career, Newman has recorded 741 tackles and 37 interceptions. Entering his 13th NFL year, Newman has already impressed his teammates with voluntary workouts underway. 

“I met with him and he seemed like a great guy,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “Like he’s going to come in and teach us what we need to know about the technique of the game and about the defense because he’s been in it before, so he’s going to help us out a lot. He’s a big asset to this team and the defense.”


 
 
 
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