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2014 Draft Prep: Breakouts, 3.0

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Editor's note: FanDuel.com is hosting a one-week long $100,000 Fantasy Football contest for just Week 1. It's only $10 to join and first prize is $10,000. Starts Sunday, September 7th at 1 p.m. ET. Enter now

Sleepers 3.0 | Busts 3.0 | Draft Averages | Draft Prep Index

We're sticking with the same format from our updated sleepers column when it comes to breakouts. For our third version here, we're going with an All-Star squad based off the 24 players we highlighted in March and then in July before the start of training camp.

I actually like the majority of the players used in the first two columns, so narrowing the list down to 12 was tough. But these are 12 players I plan to target in all leagues whenever possible.

And you should follow suit because there's a lot of upside with these guys, especially depending on where you draft them. We define a breakout as someone who will go from good to great and all these players have the chance to be stars in 2014.

All-Star breakouts

Jay Cutler, QB, Bears

Cutler's preseason performance through two games makes me excited about his outlook this season. He has completed 73 percent of his passes for 160 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in limited work and he reaffirms our speculation for his success back in March. He was on his way toward a breakout season last year before he missed five games with ankle and groin injuries, but he was solid when healthy with 6 of 10 games (he was hurt early in the Week 7 game at Washington) with at least 20 Fantasy points. He opened the year with 20 or more points in five of six games, and if you combine his production with backup Josh McCown they would have finished as the No. 3 Fantasy quarterback behind Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. You shouldn't expect him to be that good, but he could easily outperform his Average Draft Position of No. 83 overall as the No. 12 quarterback off the board.

Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals

The Bengals have said Bernard won't lose goal-line touches this season, so you don't have to worry about him coming off the field for Jeremy Hill or possibly BenJarvus Green-Ellis on a consistent basis when scoring is on the line. Cincinnati backed up that message in the second preseason game when Bernard scored from the 1-yard line against the Jets. He was productive last year as a rookie with 170 carries for 695 yards and five touchdowns and 56 catches for 514 yards and three touchdowns, and the Bengals plan to lean on him with close to 300 touches this year. We'll find out if he can hold up with that workload, but he's an easy choice in Round 2 at his ADP of No. 17 overall. New offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is more run-oriented than his predecessor in Jay Gruden, so look for Bernard to get plenty of chances to shine.

Montee Ball, RB, Broncos

The appendectomy Ball suffered at the start of training camp has some Fantasy owners shying away from him on Draft Day. His ADP is down to No. 14 overall, but we like Ball as a first-round pick. The Broncos are going to use him in a featured role much like they leaned on Knowshon Moreno last year when he had 241 carries for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns and 60 catches for 548 yards and three touchdowns, all of which made him the No. 5 running back in standard leagues. The key is really playing alongside Peyton Manning. In 32 games as the starter for the Broncos in the regular season, Manning has helped Denver's running backs reach double digits in Fantasy points 23 times. The offensive line is improved with Ryan Clady back and Orlando Franklin moving to guard, which should beef up the interior. Ball has the chance for a top-five finish, just like Moreno, and we're thrilled to get him toward the back-end of Round 1.

Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals

I got the chance to spend time with Ellington this offseason as he worked out with noted trainer Tony Villani in South Florida, and I asked him to compare himself to another running back in the NFL. "I can name three guys right now," he said. "Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy. They're real shifty, not big guys, but they make the biggest impact on the field. That's something I like to do." We hope Ellington can reside in that neighborhood. He's not quite at that level yet, but Ellington was good as a rookie in 2013 with the chance to be great this season. He was the No. 24 Fantasy running back in standard leagues in 2013 with 118 carries for 652 yards and three touchdowns and 39 catches for 371 yards and one touchdown. His workload will increase dramatically and this is an offense to get behind. I like Ellington as early as Round 3 and he should be a fun running back to watch this year.

Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots

I'm still expecting a quality season from Stevan Ridley, but with every fumble for him and every lackluster carry for James White in the preseason, Vereen looks better and better. Not that Vereen has done much this preseason with one carry for 7 yards and two catches for 21 yards, but he's easily New England's most versatile running back. His problem is health, having played only 26 games over three seasons, including just eight last year because of a broken wrist. But he showed his ability when active. In the eight games he appeared in he averaged 10.8 Fantasy points. If you project that over 16 games he would have been the No. 14 running back in standard leagues. That's also taking into account he was at less than 100 percent when he returned from the wrist injury in Week 11. He still managed 47 catches, and again, projecting that over 16 games, would give him 94 -- think about that in PPR formats. Vereen's ADP is No. 50 overall.

Toby Gerhart, RB, Jaguars

Gerhart is a good running back to target if you take receivers with your first two picks. His ADP is No. 41 overall, but he has top-15 upside based on his role in Jacksonville and his ability. The Jaguars have said Gerhart is their workhorse. We believe it based on the guys behind him -- Jordan Todman, Denard Robinson and Storm Johnson. He'll be the type of running back who grinds his way to Fantasy success. Keep in mind that's what Jacksonville had last year with Maurice Jones-Drew, who finished as the No. 20 Fantasy running back in standard leagues despite just one game with 100 rushing yards. Gerhart is ready to shine after spending the first four years of his career in Adrian Peterson's shadow and we're excited to see how he does with this opportunity. He could play a similar role to Michael Turner when he left San Diego for Fantasy success in Atlanta back in 2008.

Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals

There's some talk in Arizona that Floyd is ready to take over as the No. 1 receiver for Larry Fitzgerald. We're not ready to go that far yet, but the gap is closer than you think. Floyd actually had 87 more yards than Fitzgerald last season (1,041 to 954) on 17 fewer receptions (82 to 65). The difference was Fitzgerald scored five more touchdowns (10 to five), but it should be interesting to see how both receivers do this year. We like both as top-20 options and Floyd is entering his third season, which is typically when we've seen receivers have breakout campaigns. This could be a big year for the Arizona passing game with the team having a better grasp on Bruce Arians' system, as well as flaws in a defense that will be without Daryl Washington, Karlos Dansby and Darnell Dockett. More passing will obviously help Floyd, who is a great value at his ADP at No. 63 overall.

Golden Tate, WR, Lions

Tate's ADP is on the rise after a solid preseason through two games, especially the second outing when he scored a touchdown against the Raiders. He is now being selected at No. 75 overall and we like his outlook for this season. After leaving the Seahawks, Tate should be in line for a career year just based on volume of work since Russell Wilson attempted only 800 passes the past two years. By comparison, Matthew Stafford had 634 attempts in 2013 alone and he's been in the top five in pass attempts the past three seasons. Tate has never had more than 98 targets in a season, which was last year, and he should be featured in this offense playing opposite Calvin Johnson. The Lions have been craving a solid No. 2 receiver for some time, and their second-leading receiver the past three years has been Reggie Bush once and Brandon Pettigrew twice. There's a reason they gave Tate a five-year, $31 million contract. He should reward Fantasy owners this year.

Terrance Williams, WR, Cowboys

Williams is similar to Tate in that he will play opposite a standout No. 1 receiver in a high-volume passing attack. We should see Williams get plenty of single coverage because of Dez Bryant, and the Cowboys will likely be throwing a lot because of a bad defense and an aggressive play-caller in Scott Linehan. Williams gave us a taste of his potential last year with a four-game scoring streak against Denver, Washington, Philadelphia and Detroit. His role will expand this season as a full-time starter with Miles Austin gone, and he has the potential to be this year's Alshon Jeffery as a sophomore sensation with a mid- to late-round pick. His current ADP is No. 93 overall, which could be a steal based on his upside.

Dennis Pitta, TE, Ravens

There's no denying the standout potential of Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and Julius Thomas, but only three owners can draft them this season. After that, all the other owners are scrambling for the next-best tight end, which includes a solid group of veterans like Vernon Davis, Jason Witten and Greg Olsen and up-and-comers like Pitta, Jordan Cameron, Kyle Rudolph, Zach Ertz and Jordan Reed. I like Pitta the best of this group because his quarterback relies on him and he should be featured in this offense. New coordinator Gary Kubiak loves tight ends and his teams in Houston targeted them more than any other since 2008. Pitta had a standout season in 2012 with 61 catches for 669 yards and seven touchdowns, making him No. 7 in Fantasy points in standard leagues. I think he improves this year and he's a steal at his ADP of No. 78 overall.

Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins

Reed is going to be considered an injury risk after suffering multiple concussions as a rookie last year, and he missed the final six games in 2013. If you want to pass on Reed because of that, go ahead. But you could be missing out on a standout option. When Reed was on the field in 2013, he had 45 catches for 499 yards and three touchdowns in only nine games. He should make a dramatic leap as a sophomore. Reed averaged 7.5 Fantasy points per game when he was healthy, and if you project that over 16 games he would have finished as the No. 7 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues with 121 points. While Gruden didn't have a featured tight end last year as the coordinator for the Bengals, he did target Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert 126 times, combining for 85 catches, 906 yards and six touchdowns. Combined they would have been the No. 9 Fantasy tight end, but Reed is a superior talent to both Bengals. He's a tight end to wait for at his ADP of No. 87 overall and he should finish as a top-10 option if he can avoid getting hurt.

Zach Ertz, TE Eagles

Ertz is turning heads this preseason with his performance through two games when he had six catches for 86 yards and a touchdown on seven targets. So, understandably, his ADP is on the rise at No. 100 overall. He has the chance to be featured in Philadelphia this year with the Eagles needing to replace DeSean Jackson and we saw flashes of his potential last year when he closed the season with 25 catches for 290 yards and five touchdowns over his final nine games, including a playoff loss to the Saints. If you project that over 16 games he would have finished with 44 catches for 516 yards and nine touchdowns for 115 Fantasy points. That would have made him the No. 9 tight end in standard leagues. His total stats were 36 catches for 469 yards and four touchdowns, but we're expecting a significant boost in production. Like Reed, Ertz is a tight end to wait for on Draft Day if you miss out on Graham, Gronkowski or Thomas.

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Player News
Titans' Massaquoi rehabbing shoulder, to miss OTA's
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(4:34 pm ET) 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.


Entering third season, 49ers' Lawrence Okoye eyeing roster spot
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(4:04 pm ET) This might finally be the year Lawrence Okoye can crack a spot on the 49ers' roster, per the Bay Area News Group.

Okoye, a former British Olympics discus thrower and rugby player, is feeling confident about his improvements and feels like his potential is worth a roster spot.

“It’s very different from the first time I came here. I’m feeling very good about things,” Okoye said Thursday while sitting at his locker. “I’m just happy I was given the opportunity to stay here so long, so I could catch up. I have a good opportunity to show what I can do.”

Okoye has worked under new head coach Jim Tomsula for two years and with Justin Smith's retirement, his emergence might be rewarded.

“You’re going to get lots of people telling you things. But the main thing is to just keep yourself motivated, despite what people say about you," Okoye said. "People will write you off. People will say this or that. Just keep yourself motivated, keep going every day and you’ll be good.”

 


Bengals' Terrelle Pryor still dreams about winning it all
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(3:45 pm ET) Terrelle Pryor's chances of taking the Bengals to the Super Bowl and winning it are slim, but that won’t stop him from dreaming.

Pryor -- in his fourth year in the league -- dreams about winning the Super Bowl with quite some frequency, he just isn't sure what team he's doing it with.

“I don’t know the team. It’s always in black uniforms,” Pryor said. “I didn’t see any orange. No, it’s not the Raiders. But I believe it can happen because I can visualize it like that. I’m into visualization.”

Pryor hasn't played a down since the 2013 regular season, when he passed for 1,798 yards, seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 11 games.


Flowers' college position coach thinks he can fill in for injured Beatty
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(3:18 pm ET) Things are moving really fast for Giants offensive lineman Ereck Flowers. The eighth overall pick in the draft, because of an injury to Will Beatty, might have inherited a huge workload this season, per nj.com.

Art Kehoe, Flowers' offensive line coach at the University of Miami, thinks Flowers will be up to the task of protecting quarterback Eli Manning.

"I'm sure he raised his level up a notch or two, but I think he plays every week, I think he plays hard in practice," Kehoe said. "He's an unproven commodity at the next level, and he's a high draft pick, [the Giants] drafted him to be a fixer, so I'm sure he's going in there to do what he did in Miami — scrap his ass off every day in practice, and if you're supposed to be a badass the next weekend [against] your opponent, he's gonna be there and he's gonna bring everything he's got. That's what he does. He wants to know that there's a dude, and he has to take care of him, and he'll be up to the challenge.

Giants' 2013 first-round pick, Justin Pugh is also a top candidate to fill in for the injured Beatty.


Union: Goodell must back off hearing of Patriots QB Tom Brady
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:00 pm ET) NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith is growing impatient awaiting word from Roger Goodell on the request of the NFL commissioner to recuse himself as arbitrator of the appeal hearings ofPatriots quarterback Tom Brady.

The league suspended Brady for the first four games next season for his alleged role in the Deflategate scandal, claiming that he likely knew that game balls were being deflated for his benefit before the 2014 AFC title game.

Smith is claiming that neither Goodell nor the Wells Report, which investigated the incident, could legitimately claim impartiality. He added that the NFLPA will "advance the volume" of the request if they don't hear from Goodell by next week. Part of the union's press release reads as follows:

Given a process that has contained procedural violations of our collective bargaining agreement, the Commissioner's role as a central witness in the appeal hearing and his evident partiality with respect to the Wells report, the Commissioner must designate a neutral party to serve as arbitrator in this matter. The players also believe that the Commissioner's history of inconsistently issuing discipline against our players makes him ill-suited to hear this appeal in a fair-minded manner.

As for the Wells Report, Smith stated that "you can't really have credibility just because you slap the word independent on a piece of paper." He offered into evidence the findings in regard to NFL official Walt Anderson, who was a key figure in the investigation, citing one part of the report questions his memory and another credits it.


Zimmer happy with progress of Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:32 pm ET) Mike Zimmer has expressed optimism that underachieving Vikings wideout Cordarrelle Patterson is gaining a better understanding of route-running and the nuances of playing the position in the NFL, which would allow his talent to result in greater productivity.

Patterson took a step back in 2014 after a mediocre rookie year. He played in every game, but managed just 33 receptions for 384 yards and one touchdown. He has since stated that 2015 is his make-or-break year and is apparently acting like it in the offseason.

"He's done real well," Zimmer told Fox Sports North. "He's running routes good. He's working hard. So we just need him to continue to do those things and continue to keep getting consistent and keep improving. I've been impressed."


GM: Dolphins LT Branden Albert should be fine for Week 1
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:22 pm ET) Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey has expressed optimism that left tackle Branden Albert will be ready to roll by the regular season opener.

Albert has been rehabbing from a torn ACL and MCL sustained last November against Detroit. He had signed a five-year, $46 million contract the previous March and had been performing particularly well before going down.

"It's been a long rehab and he's really attacked it every day," Hickey told SiriusXM NFL Radio, adding that there was a "reasonable explanation" that he would be ready for Week 1. "We really like his progress. He's out there with his team working out. We're really encouraged by what we're seeing with him."

Ja'Wuan Williams was forced to move to left tackle following the Albert injury in 2014. But he struggled at that position and is expected to move to his more familiar right tackle spot this year.


Report: Bills still want to extend Marcell Dareus
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(1:15 pm ET) The Bills still want to extend the contract of defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, according to a report by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport

Despite the one-game suspension levied by the league against Dareus on Thursday, the team still hopes to have an extension wrapped up before the start of training camp. 

2015 is scheduled to be the last season of Dareus' current contract. He'll make $8.06 million.


Shanahan: Struggles of Robert Griffin III unrelated to injury
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:13 pm ET) Former Redskins coach Mike Shanahan does not believe injuries have prevented quarterback Robert Griffin III from maximizing his potential in the NFL. Rather, he feels it was the team not creating an offensive system that best fits his talents and his own belief that he could play a traditional role at that position.

Griffin sustained a serious knee injury in the 2012 playoffs. He then struggled in 2013 in an offense designed to transform him into a drop-back quarterback rather than one that took advantage of his mobility. He suffered another knee injury last year and did not perform well in the offense of new coach Jay Gruden.

"I don't think getting hurt has anything to do with it," Shanahan told 106.7 The Fan. "In college he didn't have a route tree, didn't have a playbook. That does take some time. ... If you take a quarterback like that you must run the kind of system that allows him to be successful. ... I really believe Robert thought he was more of a drop-back quarterback. He hasn't done things the NFL asks you to do. It does take some growing pains. You better really work on it inside and out."

Some have wondered why the Redskins went so hard after Griffin if they weren't willing to create an offense that maximizes his skill set.


Sheldon Richardson not at Jets' OTAs because 'I have a life'
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(1:05 pm ET) Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson is skipping the team's OTAs this week, a decision that earned him criticism from fans and media. 

Richardson's explanation isn't likely to win anyone over. 

Richardson went on Twitter and told fans he missed the workouts because, "I have a life outside of football."

"I chose to enjoy my family a little longer," he continued. "So to (you) fans that know everything, please worry 'bout yourself."

Richardson pointed out in another tweet that he "jus' wasn't at practice," but that he was still "putting in work tho'"


 
 
 
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