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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
Tony Romo re-entering must-start territory
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(5:30 pm ET) Early in the season, Tony Romo looked like he might be destined for a game manager role with the Cowboys' rededication to the running game, but he and running back DeMarco Murray have managed to share the spotlight in recent weeks.

Romo's three-touchdown effort Week 7 against the Giants gave him five straight games with multiple touchdown passes. Murray's production, as you probably know, hasn't let up during that stretch. He became the first running back in NFL history to begin a season with seven straight 100-yard games.

Romo's resurgence may have been inevitable considering the weapons he has on offense. Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Jason Witten you already know about, but he may have added another in rookie tight end Gavin Escobar, who caught two touchdown passes in Week 7.

Though the 300-yard games may not be as regular for Romo this season, the touchdowns are reason enough to stick with him in Fantasy. You have to like his chances of delivering another strong performance Week 8 against Washington.


Report: Martavis Bryant to debut on MNF
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:26 pm ET) Steelers rookie wideout Martavis Bryant will make his NFL debut on Monday Night Football against the Texans, reports ESPN. The fourth-round pick has been slow to develop and thus hasn't seen the field yet. But at 6-foot-4, he could prove useful in the red zone.

Owen Daniels' targets on the rise
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(5:16 pm ET) Owen Daniels' touchdown Week 7 against Atlanta was his first since his two-touchdown performance against Pittsburgh in Week 2. Of course, back then, he was still playing second fiddle to Dennis Pitta. Now, he's the Ravens' top option at tight end.

So where have the touchdowns been? Well, quarterback Joe Flacco hasn't been especially consistent about getting Daniels the ball, but hopefully that's beginning to change. In addition to the touchdown in Week 7, Daniels also led the Ravens in targets with nine only two weeks after having seven at Indianapolis. He went for a season-high 70 yards in that game.

With what Pitta has done over the last few years, the Ravens clearly know how to make use of a tight end, and Daniels showed he could make an impact in the passing game during his time with Houston. If you find yourself lacking at tight end, a position that can thin out quickly in leagues of 12 teams or more, Daniels might be an undervalued option.


Teammate says Eagles C Jason Kelce could return Nov. 2
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:15 pm ET) Eagles center Jason Kelce is ahead of schedule in his rehab from sports hernia surgery and could return Nov. 2 at Houston, guard Evan Mathis told CSNPhilly.com. Kelce was injured Week 3 against the Redskins.

Kelce has not been cleared to return to practice.


Marcus Martin gets first chance at replacing injured 49ers center
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:14 pm ET) 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday rookie Marcus Martin will get the "first shot" at replacing center Daniel Kilgore, who is out for the rest of the season after suffering an ankle injury Sunday at Denver. Martin has yet to appear in a game for San Francisco.

49ers center Daniel Kilgore to be placed on IR
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:07 pm ET) 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday center Daniel Kilgore will undergo season-ending surgery Tuesday after suffering a broken ankle Sunday against the Broncos. He will be placed on injured reserve.

Resurgence all too short for Larry Fitzgerald
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(5:02 pm ET) Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald looked like he'd get back to being a Fantasy mainstay with the return of quarterback Carson Palmer to the starting lineup Week 6 against Washington, catching six passes for 98 yards and a touchdown. But he followed up that performance Week 7 at Oakland with one that looked an awful lot like what he did all those weeks without Palmer.

In fact, in terms of yardage, it was his worst performance of the season. He caught four passes for 21 yards.

Apart from that Week 6 showing, he has averaged just 37.0 yards in five games, and though the return of Palmer was widely credited for the outlier performance, Palmer was also healthy for Fitzgerald's second-worst showing Week 1 against San Diego, when he caught one pass for 22 yards.

In the long run, Fitzgerald figures to be better off with Palmer than Drew Stanton, but as was the case in 2013, the lows for him figure to be extremely low. In points-per-reception leagues, you can roll the dice on him a little easier than standard formats, but clearly, the return of Palmer isn't the key to his success.


Eagles G Evan Mathis cleared to practice this week
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:55 pm ET) Eagles guard Evan Mathis has been cleared to return to practice on Wednesday, Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia reports. Mathis was placed on short-term injured reserve list with a knee injury. He won't be allowed to play until Week 10 against Carolina.

"I won't jump back into it full speed, Mathis said. "There's no rushing into it. I have three weeks of practice before I have to play."


Touchdowns not what Allen Robinson does best
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4:50 pm ET) Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson scored his first career touchdown Week 7 against Cleveland, connecting with fellow rookie Blake Bortles on a 31-yard catch-and-run late in the second quarter.

Describing the play as "catch-and-run," though, makes it sound like the run aspect was by design, which simply isn't true. Robinson caught the pass with his back to the defense for what looked like a simple 10-yard gain. But he shook off one defender, kept his balance and managed to elude three other defenders on his way to the end zone.

It was a special play by a player not often put in a position to make special plays. The Jaguars have used Robinson more as a possession guy, targeting him on plays designed to gain only 10 yards or so. And he's done fine in the role. His four catches in this game were actually his fewest in the last five.

There's something to be said for a player who catches five balls every week, even if he doesn't have many big plays or touchdowns to show for it. Certainly, in points-per-reception leagues, Robinson has some appeal. Owners in standard leagues might need to see a couple more touchdowns from him before taking the plunge, though.


Titans LBs Shaun Phillips, Quentin Groves dealing with injuries
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:49 pm ET) Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday linebacker Shaun Phillips suffered a hip injury and linebacker Quentin Groves suffered an ankle injury Sunday against the Redskins. Phillips is headed for an MRI and Whisenhunt added he didn't know the status of either player for Week 8 vs. Houston.

 
 
 
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