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2014 Draft Prep: Breakouts, 2.0

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, 2.0 | Busts, 2.0 | Draft Averages | Rankings | Draft Index

Apologies to Khiry Robinson and Tavon Austin, breakout candidates chewed up and spit out by the preseason machine. They've been replaced by Shane Vereen and Kelvin Benjamin, both of whom not only have had a stellar preseason, but also have potential for big, fat stats.

That's what we live for -- fat stats.

Remember that breakout players aren't just guys you'll look at in the first five rounds of your draft. Mid- and late-round picks also qualify, many of which are listed below. Arming yourself with some of these names will ease your concerns when you get toward the back half of your draft and have no idea who to pick. These players aren't just names to know, they are potential starters you could lean on from week to week. If you had a list like that last year with Josh Gordon, Keenan Allen and Giovani Bernard on it, you would have probably made a run at a title in your league.

Even though we've updated our breakouts, many still remain from our first version, complete with analysis that still applies even though it was written in late July. Consider the original breakout list a supplement to this list.

Colin Kaepernick, QB, 49ers

I'm sticking with Kaepernick despite the weak preseason start. The biggest problem with the Niners isn't him -- it's the O-line. Frankly, the coaching staff is too savvy to not work around the line if they can't fix it outright. It's been a staple of their team since Jim Harbaugh took over and it seems odd to think that all of a sudden it will be a weakness. When Kaepernick wasn't on his back this preseason, he was on point with most of his passes. It's clear from watching their formations and reviewing their offseason moves that the passing game is going to be a big point of emphasis for them. I'm counting on a career-high in passing yards and total touchdowns from Kaepernick in 2014.
I'd take him ahead of: Jay Cutler, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton

Montee Ball, RB, Broncos

Appendectomy what? Soon after Ball had emergency surgery he was back in Denver's preseason games. And they need him -- backup Ronnie Hillman had two starts to make a bid for touches and couldn't come up with a big game. Maybe if you're a fan of Hillman's you'll argue that he ran into tough defenses in Seattle and San Francisco, but the bottom line is that Hillman did zilch to suggest he could be the Broncos' lead tailback. So, Ball is back in the big boy spot next to Peyton Manning by default. That's a good spot to be in -- running backs have accumulated at least 12 touchdowns and over 1,800 total yards next to Peyton in each of his last five full seasons. Just ask Knowshon Moreno how it worked out for him working with Manning. Ball's in line for a slew of stats as defenses shy away from slowing him down since it'll mean Manning throwing over the top to any one of his receiving weapons.
I'd still take him ahead of: Marshawn Lynch, DeMarco Murray, Giovani Bernard, Le'Veon Bell

Toby Gerhart, RB, Jaguars

It's been a rough start for Gerhart as he's totaled 51 yards on 16 carries and an 8-yard catch through two preseason games, but he's a guy worth keeping faith in. Gerhart is easily Jacksonville's top back after auditions for Jordan Todman and Denard Robinson went nowhere. It might not be pretty -- we could see a lot of 17-carry, 60-yard days in our future -- but he should do enough catching passes and working the goal line to make up for it. I've referenced our research into Gerhart previously and still view him as a trustworthy No. 2 Fantasy running back.
I'd still gladly take him ahead of: C.J. Spiller, Ray Rice, Chris Johnson

Rashad Jennings, RB, Giants

So far this preseason the only bright spot for the Giants offense has been the run game. That could mean the team leans on its backs in the early going. When we called Jennings a breakout before, David Wilson was still in the picture for the ground game. Wilson's football career is over and his track career is beginning, eliminating one player from the workload. Andre Williams is a threat to steal touchdowns from Jennings, but it remains to be seen just how many overall touches he'll take away. Both Giants running backs are breakout candidates, but Jennings is the one you'll consider first in drafts. In PPR leagues he's safer as a No. 2 Fantasy rusher, but he can fill that role if you're needy for help in standard leagues.
I'd still take him ahead of: Ben Tate, Maurice Jones-Drew, Trent Richardson

Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots

Stevan Ridley might have looked like the best rushing option for the Patriots this preseason, but his track record of fumbles has either caught up to him or is about to catch up to him. In New England's third preseason game we noted Ridley on the field for 11 snaps with the starters while Vereen had 30. Vereen also won't tip the Patriots' game plan from play to play to opponents like Ridley has. So even though Vereen has a paltry 3.6 rushing average this preseason (Ridley has 3.9 on a dozen more carries) he's still the Patriots' best running back. Further evidence could be found in his receiving totals this preseason: seven catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns, both coming against the Panthers in their third exhibition game. Through three seasons, Vereen has 1,092 total yards and nine touchdowns. We think he'll combine for more than 1,092 yards in this upcoming season while delivering close to nine scores, if not nine on the button. Health is an issue -- he's played in just 21 games over the last two seasons -- but his potential to be a monster in the Patriots backfield cannot be ignored. He's on my breakout list for the second year in a row.
I'd take him ahead of: Lions running backs, Bills running backs, Ravens running backs

Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks

You're going to come to a point late in your draft where you're looking for low-risk breakout candidates. Baldwin's the one I turn to. When we last wrote about Baldwin, Sidney Rice was still on the active roster. He's since retired. Percy Harvin is still on the active roster and healthy, which is good for Baldwin since he'll command coverage and leave Baldwin in favorable situations. He caught over 70 pct. of his targets last season and postseason and looked just as good if not better than Golden Tate in 2013. If he can grab 70 of 100-to-110 targets he could be in line for a 1,000-yard season (his track record suggests he can do this.
I'd take him ahead of: Anquan Boldin, Riley Cooper, Kenny Stills

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers

Cam Newton could be in for a rough season, but we've seen quality receivers put up big numbers without their quarterback doing the same. One such guy is Steve Smith, who for years put up nice numbers with the likes of Jake Delhomme as his quarterback. Smith totaled over 1,100 yards from Newton in Cam's first two seasons as a result of a lot of targets and his game-breaking skills at the time. We can already tell that Benjamin is in line to lead the Panthers in targets this season -- everyone else in the Carolina offense is just pedestrian. And we can tell that Benjamin has taken well to the pro game and has shown off quite a catching radius to go with his long-stride running style and insane height (he's 6-foot-5). Because of the improvements we've seen from him along with Newton leaning on him, he's become my favorite rookie receiver. Don't rule out a 1,000-yard season from him.
I'd take him ahead of: Julian Edelman, Mike Wallace and any rookie receiver.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings

The more we watch him, the more we fall in love. Patterson's incredible size/speed skill set and solid finish to last season combined with Norv Turner's arrival to blend some spice into what was a vanilla Vikings offense makes the second-year receiver a legit threat to topple 1,200 total yards and seven touchdowns. The Vikings will start the year with Matt Cassel under center and he seems to have a good connection with Patterson, as evidenced by their 53-yard touchdown at Kansas City in the third week of preseason action. This one's a no-brainer -- Patterson should be considered a No. 2 Fantasy receiver with No. 1 potential, which will make him a guy to target on Draft Day.
I'd take him ahead of: Keenan Allen, Michael Floyd, Roddy White

Rueben Randle, WR, Giants

With only three catches this preseason, Randle leads all starting Giants wideouts in yards per catch (17.7) and touchdowns (one). Of course, that shouldn't be the reason to take Randle. This is: He remains a playmaker in the Giants offense, one that should round into form soon after the first couple of games. The new scheme will yield easier routes to run and passes to catch, making him more efficient while also giving him a shot at breaking off long gains for touchdowns, which he did a decent amount of in 2013. Victor Cruz might be the top banana and will draw a lot of attention, opening up opportunities for Randle.
I'd take him ahead of: Brandin Cooks, Jeremy Maclin, Reggie Wayne

Terrance Williams, WR, Cowboys

This is a pretty simple equation: Bad Cowboys defense plus good Cowboys offense equals a lot of points per week. And if Dallas is going to average, say, 27.4 points per game like they did last year, then getting pieces of the offense is a good idea. Williams is quite affordable in drafts with a pick around 90th overall and should be able to do better than the 736 yards and five touchdowns he had as a rookie. He's third Fantasy receiver material with potential to be a Top 20 pass catcher.
I'd still take him ahead of: Eric Decker, Kendall Wright, Percy Harvin

Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles

Even with the Eagles offense showing some warts this preseason, there's a ton to like about Ertz. He's big, strong, fast and has some nice mitts to reel in passes from Nick Foles, whom he's spent time with this offseason developing chemistry. Through three preseason games, Ertz is second on the team in receiving with 110 yards on a second-best eight catches along with a score, the overwhelming majority of which came with the first-team offense. Interpret this as a sign that the targets are going to be there for him this season, especially in the red zone, where defenses can't match up well with him. And as I referenced earlier this offseason, Chip Kelly used tight ends more last year than all but one of his seasons as a college coach. Ertz isn't going to fade away or lose a lot of work to Brent Celek.
I'd take him ahead of: Kyle Rudolph, Greg Olsen, Jordan Reed

Ladarius Green, TE, Chargers

Green's preseason hasn't been filled with highlight reel receptions or big stats, but he's been working a good amount with the Chargers first-team offense. He's even tied with the team lead in receptions with five -- and the only starting receiver/tight end with at least three grabs. The thought here is that the Bolts have a stud wideout in Keenan Allen and a tried-and-true favorite in Malcom Floyd along with Antonio Gates. Green is their next best player and getting his 6-foot-6, 240-pound body on the field will cause all sorts of mismatch problems. Head coach Mike McCoy said he wished he used Green more last season and seems like he won't hesitate to go with Green this season.
I'd take him ahead of: Martellus Bennett, Eric Ebron, Antonio Gates

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Player News
Buccaneers CB Alterraun Verner optimistic for Week 12
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:47 pm ET) Buccaneers cornerback Alterraun Verner (hamstring) is listed as questionable for Sunday's Week 12 matchup with the Bears, but he's optimistic he'll be cleared to play, Buccaneers.com reports.

"I feel good," he said after getting a limited practice in Friday. "Had a good week and was able to do a lot of things and hopefully they give me the green light to go this week. I was able to open up a lot more this week and I’m looking forward to hopefully being out there this week."

Verner has missed each of the team's last two games, but the Buccaneers defense surrendered 220 passing yards or less to each of the two starting quarterbacks they faced during that stretch.


Raiders' Tony Sparano optimistic Jackson, Carrie will play Week 13
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:31 pm ET) Raiders coach Tony Sparano is optimistic that guard Gabe Jackson (knee) and cornerback T.J. Carrie (ankle) will be able to play in Week 13 against the Rams, CSNBayArea.com reports.

"There’s optimism," Sparano told the media. "Again, I say that today, and just went over a few of those things a little while ago. But yes, there’s optimism there."

Jackson has missed three straight games with his injury, while Carrie has played just once in the last three games.


49ers LB Patrick Willis udergoes successful toe surgery
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:04 pm ET) 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said Friday on Instagram that the surgery on his injured left big toe "went well," 49ers.com reports.

Willis previously indicated that he's been bothered by the injury for several seasons. Now on injured reserve, the linebacker hopes to be ready for the start of the 2015 season.


Chiefs place A.J. Jenkins on injured reserve
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:34 pm ET) The Chiefs placed wide receiver A.J. Jenkins on injured reserve Friday. Jenkins, who missed the team's last two games with a shoulder injury, finishes the season with nine receptions for 93 yards.

Seahawks' Carroll: 'We'd be thrilled' to keep Marshawn Lynch
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:20 pm ET) Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told the media after Friday's practice that the team would be "thrilled" to have running back Marshawn Lynch back with the team in 2015, the Everett Herald reports.

"We want him around here for as long as he can play, and there’s never been any hesitation, there’s never been another thought about that," Carroll said. "That came totally from somewhere else. He’s under contract next year, we’ll be thrilled to have him playing for us next year. So we’ll do everything we can to get that done."

Carroll's comments come one day after telling USA Today that Lynch is "our guy" and that "we'd love to have him back." It's been speculated that the team would look to move on from Lynch after this season, as releasing the star running back would save the team $7 million in cap room.


Raiders' Tony Sparano: RB Latavius Murray in concussion protocol
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:55 pm ET) Raiders interim coach Tony Sparano didn't provide much of an update regarding running back Latavius Murray's status during his Friday news conference. He told reporters that Murray is undergoing a battery of concussion tests, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Murray carried the four times for 112 yards and two touchdowns before getting knocked out of Week 12 with a concussion. He will need to be medically cleared by an independent neurologist in order to play Week 13 against the Rams. When asked why he hasn't used Murray in his first six games as interim coach, Sparano told reporters he "never looks back."


Trio of Seahawks ruled out for Sunday battle with Arizona
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:46 pm ET) The Seahawks have red-lighted center Max Unger (knee/ankle), defensive back Marcus Burley (hamstring) and linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis (shoulder) for their Week 12 game against Arizona. Defensive end Demarcus Dobbs (knee) is doubtful, but all else on their injury report have a good shot at playing.

Guard James Carpenter (ankle) is questionables while running back Marshawn Lynch (back), linebackers Bobby Wagner (toe) and Brock Coyle (glute), cornerback Byron Maxwell (calf) and guard J.R. Sweezy (thigh) are probable.


Seahawks LB Wagner 'not planning to conserve energy'
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:32 pm ET) Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner plans on going full-bore upon his return to game action Sunday against Arizona. He has been out five games with a toe injury.

"I'm not planning to conserve energy," he told KJR-AM. "I'm planning to go out there and make as many plays as I possibly can."


Eight 49ers placed on Friday injury report
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:25 pm ET) Offensive tackle Anthony Davis (concussion) and defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey (forearm) have been red-lighted by the 49ers for their Sunday game against Washington.

Listed as questionable are cornerback Tramaine Brock (hamstring), wideout Bruce Ellington (ankle), linebacker Dan Skuta (ankle) and tight end Vance McDonald (hip).

The probables are linebacker Chris Borland (shoulder) and wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (quad).


Cardinals list seven players probable for Week 12
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:17 pm ET) The questionable status of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (knee) headlines the injury report submitted by the Cardinals for their Sunday game against Seattle. Ed Stinson (toe) was the only player on the list ruled out for Week 12.

Meanwhile, the following players were deemed probable: Sam Acho (neck), Lorenzo Alexander (knee), Andre Ellington (foot, hip), Larry Foote (hip), Robert Hughes (hamstring), Rashad Johnson (back) and Dan Williams (elbow).


 
 
 
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