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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
RG3 on Deflategate: 'I didn't know the ball had to be a certain weight'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:55 am ET) As Deflategate pushes into Day 11 on Thursday, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is the latest in the long list of current or former professional football players to weigh in on underinflated footballs being used in the AFC Champhionship Game. Although, his take on the issue might be a first.

“I didn't even know that the ball had to be a certain weight,” Griffin told Chris Russell in an interview on ESPN 980 on Wednesday night, per CSNWashington.com. “I know they pump up the balls and they get inspected before every game. But I wasn't aware that the ball had to be at a certain limit, or higher, which is interesting. I think it’s very interesting.”

While Griffin said he was unaware of the rules, he added he does pay attention to how the grip of the football feels before each game. If the football doesn't meet Griffin's standards, he said he tosses it aside.

“I think it could be something that we look at going into the future about how much we pump up the ball,” Griffin said. “But at the same time, for me, going this far in my career, all we worry about is, can we grip the ball? Not how much air is in it.

“I just think it's really funny,” Griffin added with a chuckle, “especially when you don't specify that you're talking about footballs. …I think I said balls seven times already.”


Richard Sherman cries Deflategate in Madden game vs. Shane Vereen
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:13 am ET)

Richard Sherman will not go down easily in a game of Madden.  (Getty Images)
Richard Sherman will not go down easily in a game of Madden. (Getty Images)

Patriots running back Shane Vereen took down Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman in a game of Madden NFL 15 at the Phoenix Convention Center this week, 14-0. As you can imagine, Sherman didn't take his drubbing lightly.

After Xbox Tom Brady hooked up with Julian Edelman for the game's first score, Sherman cried Ballghazi, per the Boston Globe.

"Check the football, ref." Sherman said.

Ah, the good old "the game is cheating" excuse. Good one, Sherman. If you've played Madden before, I'm sure you've heard opponents use that excuse all the time. He'll have to ask EA Sports to launch an investigation to see if the virtual footballs were properly inflated.

As you've noticed from all the media sessions, Sherman has not backed away from the Deflategate scandal surrounding the Patriots. On Sunday, he said the Patriots won't be disciplined by the NFL for because of owner Robert Kraft's relationship with commissioner Roger Goodell. Kraft struck back at Sherman calling the Madden coverboy a "marketing whiz."

Oh, he and Russell Wilson also did the salsa with a female reporter at Media Day. Fun times for Sherman leading up to Sunday's big game.

In case you were curious to see highlights of that game, some Brazilians dudes for ESPN.com.br narrated the game in Portuguese on YouTube.

Vereen's video game victory falls in favor of EA Sports' Super Bowl 49 simulation, which was released Monday morning. Like Vereen, the simulation had Brady connecting with Julian Edelman for a touchdown pass to clinch a 28-24 win. How accurate are Madden's Super Bowl predictions, you ask? The simulator is 8-3 in predicting the correct winner since 2004.


Pats QB Tom Brady fighting a cold
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who's been battling a cold for nearly a week, said he expects to be fine for Super Bowl 49 on Sunday. Brady sniffled often during his news conference Wednesday.

The Patriots are 1-point favorites over Seattle after opening as 2.5-point underdogs.


Raiders not expected to re-sign RB Darren McFadden
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) With expectations sky-high for Latavius Murray in 2015, the Raiders aren't expected to re-sign impending free agent running back Darren McFadden, reports CSNBayArea.com. McFadden, 27, averaged 3.4 yards per carry this season and has not had a good year since 2011.

Oakland also is expected to part ways with 29-year-oold running back Maurice Jones-Drew, saving the team $2.5 million.

Murray, 25, averaged 5.2 yards on his 82 carries and will enter next season as the starter.


Bengals could bring back TE Jermaine Gresham
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham is headed for unrestricted free agency after five years with Cincinnati. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson indicated the team has not moved on from Gresham.

"To me, there's a place for him," Jackson said, via ESPN.com. "But again, he's free, so that's going to work itself out for him however it works itself out."

Gresham caught 62 passes for 460 yards and five touchdowns, but he fumbled three times and missed two key late-season games with injuries.


Report: Warrant issued for Ravens S Will Hill
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) New Jersey law-enforcement officials confirmed there is an active warrant out for Ravens safety Will Hill, for failure to pay child support, reports the Baltimore Sun. The amount owed is $16,588, the report said.

Hill played in 10 games this season, making 41 tackles and returning an interception for a touchdown.


Marshawn Lynch adds 'you know why I'm here' to his repertoire
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015)

Marshawn Lynch adds another catchphrase to his repertoire.  (Getty Images)
Marshawn Lynch adds another catchphrase to his repertoire. (Getty Images)

A new day, a new catchphrase.

Although Marshawn Lynch is avoiding fines by the league, the Seahawks running back took the podium again in front of a jam-packed room of reporters wearing the same Beast Mode cap that could hurt his pockets.

He set a timer on his phone to five minutes, and this time around, he answered every single question with "you know why I'm here." Lynch essentially repeated the same phrase 14 times, slightly altering his approach at times.

Once his phone alarm went off, Beast Mode exited the stage.

If we're keeping score, Lynch's greatest hits include, "yeah," "nope," "thanks for asking," "I'm thankful," "I'm here so I don't get fined," and now "you know why I'm here."

You can try all you want, but Lynch doesn't care about your questions, media members. Seattle fans are clearly behind Lynch, so much so that they recently started a petition for the NFL to revise its media policy and stop "bullying" Lynch out of his money. Even the GM kind of loves what Beast Mode does. If you want him to talk, have him in a controlled environment doing commercials.  

Lynch has an odd relationship with the media, and he'll get to come up with another catchphrase at Thursday's league-mandated session at the Seahawks' resort hotel.

Any suggestions for his next act?


Bills RB Anthony Dixon recovering from knee surgery
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) Bills running back Anthony Dixon tweeted a photo of himself indicating he underwent surgery to fix a torn meniscus in his knee, reports ESPN.com. Dixon ran for 432 yards and two touchdowns last season, averaging 4.1 yards per carry.

Raiders not expected to re-sign DT Pat Sims
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) Raiders defensive tackle Pat Sims saw his playing time decrease in 2014, and the team is unlikely to re-sign him, reports ESPN.com. Sims played 37 percent of the defensive snaps and finished with 25 tackles and no sacks.

Sims, 29, spent the past two seasons with Oakland after a five-year run in Cincinnati.


Packers not expected to make offer to WR Jarrett Boykin
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) Packers wideout Jarrett Boykin is set to become an unrestricted free agent, and it's unlikely the team even makes him an offer, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Boykin lost the No. 3 receiver job this season to rookie Davante Adams, who outperformed any Packers rookie wideout since James Jones in 2007.

Boykin finished the year with the same number of catches as drops, three, the paper noted.

If Randall Cobb re-signs with Green Bay, the Packers will enter 2015 with Jordy Nelson, Cobb and Adams as their three primary wideouts.


 
 
 
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