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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
Giants' Bennett Jackson making transition to safety
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/23/2015) Giants second-year cornerback Bennett Jackson is spending the offseason transitioning to safety. 

"At the end of the day, I’m a DB,’" Jackson said, per the New York Post. "I think my strengths are cover skills, I got good speed and I got good ball skills. The thing it’s gonna take for me to get out there and make an impact is, I just got to learn the defense and really just communicate the calls fluently."

"It is all in front of him," coach Tom Coughlin said. "We think he can cover. He has done a good job of getting us lined up and then we will see how he plays."


O'Brien impressed with Jadeveon Clowney's work ethic
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/23/2015) Texans coach Bill O'Brien has been impressed with the work defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has put in to recover from microfracture surgery in his knee. 

"I've been impressed with the way JD's been working," O'Brien said, per HoustonTexans.com. "He's been out there. He's in early. He's rehabbing. But he's also being able to take part in some of the things that we do in the weight room. He's not able to do all of the things that we do on the field just yet, because of his rehab. But he's on the right track."


AJ McCarron throwing deep for Bengals
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/23/2015) Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron has recovered from the shoulder soreness that bothered him for most of his rookie year. 

McCarron is now throwing deep again. "I feel great," McCarron said, per the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Body feels great and I feel like I'm slinging it better than I ever have, really."


Brooks Reed injured, may miss time at Falcons' OTAs
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/23/2015) Falcons linebacker Brooks Reed suffered a groin injury during the recently-completed voluntary minicamp, per ESPN.

The injury was termed "minor", but it still might keep Reed from full participation in the Falcons' upcoming OTAs, which start Tuesday. 


GM: EJ Manuel on 'equal footing' with Bills' other QBs
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/23/2015) Bills general manager Doug Whaley denied reports that the team is moving on from quarterback EJ Manuel

The team acquired Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor in the offseason.

In an interview with Jim Rome, Whaley said, "I look at it this way, in this business controversy sells,. The more controversy that you can drum up then the more intereste people are going to be."

"For us we’re excited about the future of all three of those guys," Whaley said. "It’s going to be a great competition. And we can keep three quarterbacks. So I dismiss that as just someone trying to get something stirred during this down time and lack of media stories for the NFL." 

Whaley said all three quarterbacks have an equal shot of winning the starting job. 

"I look for him to come in and compete and try to take the job," he said. "Everybody has got an equal footing. It’s a clean slate for all four of our quarterbacks. We’re not tied to anybody. We just want the best man to start."


Bengals' Vontaze Burfict may start year on PUP
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/23/2015) Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict's rehab may not be progressing as quickly as the team had hoped.

Burfict had microfracture knee surgery and initial post-surgery reports said that he could be recovered by the start of training camp. 

This week, the team's website said that Burfict's status was "up in the air" and that a return by the start of the season would be a "tight call".

If Burfict isn't ready by the opener, the Bengals may choose to put him on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. 


So far, so good for Texans rookie CB Kevin Johnson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5/23/2015) First impressions aren't necessarily important for first-round picks in the NFL. They are far more critical to lower selections and undrafted free agents who desperately need to raise a few eyebrows immediately lest they be back out looking for work.

But whether necessary or not, Texans first-rounder Kevin Johnson is making one heck of a first impression on Bill O'Brien. The clornerback opened some eyes at minicamp.

"This is a guy that's a very quick guy," O'Brien said. "He's a tall guy. He's a guy that has really good transition ability. He's got what I call really good recover transition. If he's getting beat, he can stick his foot in the ground and really make up a lot of ground.

"He's a very bright player. If you ask him questions in the morning meeting, he really has obviously studied the night before. He's working out on his own and doing things to help stay up on material that's being installed."

Johnson believes he needs to do the little things right to make a big impact in his rookie year.

"From the training room to the classroom to the film study, everything is just more detailed," he told the team website. "I'm just trying to take it all in and use everything around here and just get better."


Bears CB Tim Jennings could transition into slot role
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5/23/2015) Bears cornerback Tim Jennings is "still trying to figure out" where he will fit into the secondary this season, the Chicago Tribune is reporting.

The nine-year veteran, who is entering his sixth season in the Windy City, has 95 career starts and led the league in interceptions in 2012. He is even a two-time Pro Bowler. But he spent significant time as the slot corner in minicamp. That's an unsatisfying role for him that he just might be forced to embrace.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio prefers his outside corners tall and physical. Jennings is 5-8, 185 pounds. He might still earn an outside role opposite Kyle Fuller, but do achieve that goal he must at the very least outperform free agent pickup Alan Ball, who better fits the ideal description.

If the words of new coach John Fox are any indication, that's unlikely to happen.

"Dimension-wise, he's built like a nickel corner," Fox said. "He's played it before."

Jennings has started all but three games over the last seven years.


Report: Cardinals' Daryl Washington unsure of NFL standing
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/22/2015) Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington is approaching the one-year mark for his suspension though his NFL status is still in limbo. 

But according to a report from FOX Sports 910 in Phoenix, Washington is unsure about his status with the league. He was suspended a year ago on May 30, 2014 for being a multiple offender of the NFL's substance-abuse policy. 

However, he was expected to apply for reinstatement a month ago but did not do so. 

Assuming Washington is reinstated to the NFL at some point he will likely be subjected to punishment under the NFL's domestic violence policy. On March 24, 2014, he pleaded guilty to assaulting his ex-girlfriend. 


Titans' Massaquoi rehabbing shoulder, to miss OTA's
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/22/2015) Outside linebacker Jonathan Massaquoi will not participate in the Titans' first organized team activities, per ESPN.com.

Massaquoi, who was claimed off waivers from the Falcons earlier this year, is recovering from shoulder surgery. He had a bone spur removed from the area, but the procedure was categorized as a minor cleanup.

Massaquoi recorded 22 tackles in 15 games with Atlanta last season.


 
 
 
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