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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 They've been replaced by Shane Vereen and Kelvin Benjamin, both of whom not only have had a stellar preseason, but also have potential for big, fat stats.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
Seahawks corner Byron Maxwell set to test free agency
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:25 am ET) Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell is ready to hit the free-agent market during the upcoming offseason and feels the Super Bowl will be his last game in Seattle.

"I’m the prettiest girl at the dance right now," Maxwell said. "But yeah, it’s one of those things I’m excited about it. I would love to be here, but I’m ready to see what’s out there and see how things work out."

Maxwell, who was heavily targeted this year with the Seahawks secondary filled with Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, grabbed two interceptions and defended 11 passes.

"Coming into the season I already knew teams were going to try me," Maxwell said. "But it was cool. I accept that. That’s more opportunities for me to get the rock and put my name out there."


Report: Titans S Bernard Pollard wants to be released
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:52 am ET) Titans safety Bernard Pollard has requested a release from his contract, The Tennessean reports. He is scheduled to make $3.1 million in the final season of his two-year deal in 2015.

Pollard submitted his request to general manager Ruston Webster at the end of the regular season, per the report. He is recovering from a ruptured Achilles and wants to play in 2015, but said on The Tennessean's Bernard Pollard Show earlier this month that he was unsure of his future with the Titans.

"I am not getting any younger, so I want to win, I really do. I want to win,'' Pollard said. "Looking at how things took place this year, looking at where (the Titans) need to be for next year, that is a tough, tough question, and I don't even know if they can give me the answer. I have one year on my deal, but it is going to take some time."

Pollard has been out of his walking boot for a month and is making progress in rehab. He suffered his Achilles injury in Week 5 and was placed on injured reserve.


Patriots fairly healthy heading into Super Bowl Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Patriots will be at nearly full strength for Sunday’s Super Bowl as the following players have been listed as probable: Tom Brady (ankle), Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), Chris Jones (elbow), Akeem Ayers (knee), Darrelle Revis (non-injury-related) and Sealver Siliga (foot).

All except Brady were limited participants in practice Friday. The only question mark is center Bryan Stork, who is questionable with a knee injury and was limited in practice Friday.

The Patriots are currently 1-point favorites against Seattle.


Seahawks unveil final injury report in preparation for Super Bowl
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Seahawks have listed the following players as probable for the Super Bowl on Sunday: J.R. Sweezy (ankle), Justin Britt (knee), Marshawn Lynch (back), Earl Thomas (shoulder), Richard Sherman (elbow) and Kam Chancellor (knee).

Chancellor was a late addition to the injury report, when he fell on the next-to-last play of practice and missed the last play. He was not limping on his way off. All other players were full participants in practice Friday.

The Seahawks are currently 1-point underdogs against New England.


Saints tight end Jimmy Graham to avoid surgery on shoulder
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he will avoid surgery on his shoulder after testing it at the Pro Bowl. 

"I’ve been doing rehab and I’m going to start back on my rehab Monday and really there’s going to be no surgery," Graham told SiriusXM radio. "I’m just going to do rehab, strengthen the area. That’s what’s best — not having to take six months off and try to heal up with a surgery, but now have those six months to work on all things I need to to try and hopefully get to a place like (the Super Bowl) next year."

Graham, who had 85 catches for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014, fought off the injury for most of the season. He was still unsure about having surgery before the Pro Bowl last week.

"It was something that really needed some rest and unfortunately it wasn’t able to get that during the season," he said. "It happened early and then you have about 10 straight weeks of trying to make it to the game. Now after having about three or four weeks and last week kind of testing it at the Pro Bowl, it feels great."


Vikings' Greg Jennings: We all want Adrian Peterson back
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Vikings veteran wideout Greg Jennings said during a SiriusXM NFL Radio interview on Friday that embattled running back Adrian Peterson is wanted back by everyone in the organization, per ESPN.

"I don't know if he'll be back. I can't answer that question," Jennings said. "But what I do know is that if he does come back, he'd be accepted with open arms. As an organization from the Wilfs on down, we all want him back. So, I mean, it's a touchy subject and he's been the franchise player -- face of that team -- for eight years. So it will be a loss, a huge loss, if we can't get him back, and that's the nature of this business."

In November, Peterson was suspended by the league without pay for the rest of the season, making him ineligible for reinstatement until at least April 15. The move came after Peterson pleaded no contest to recklessly injuring his 4-year-old son last May. He is under contract with the Vikings for next season, and is set to earn $12.75 million.

It's unclear at this point if Jennings has talked to Zygi and Mark Wilf about the Peterson situation. What is clear is that the team is not allowed to communicate with Peterson during his suspension.


Eagles' Maclin believes contract will take care of itself
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin believes he will be back in Philadelphia in next season. His representatives and the Eagles are in the process of negotiating a new contract for the 27-year-old, who will become a free agent in March unless he is re-signed.

"I'm excited about what the future holds," Maclin said on Friday. "Once again, both sides have made it known what we want to do. I think it will take care of itself."

He could be franchise tagged if a deal is not signed. The tag number for wide receivers is yet to be determined.

Maclin had 85 catches in 2014 for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns in Philadelphia.


Bears sign LB DeDe Lattimore to two-year contract extension
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Bears have signed linebacker DeDe Lattimore to a two-year contract extension. He appeared in 10 games as a rookie in 2014, recording five special teams tackles.

Jaguars' Khan 'very optimistic' about WR Blackmon being reinstated
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Jaguars owner Shahid Khan said Friday he is "very optimistic" about wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who missed the 2014 season after being suspended indefinitely for a third violation of the league's substance abuse policy, being reinstated to the NFL.

"I think he's paid his dues and I think he's got his life together," Khan said, per The Florida Times-Union.


NFLPA president Eric Winston: New conduct policy 'violates CBA'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) After the union field a grievance last week against the NFL over changes to the NFL personal conduct policy, Players Association president Eric Winston said Thursday the new policy "violates the CBA in several ways and we're going to be grieving this as far as we can."

NFL owners unanimously approved the changes in December.

"We have an agreement with the league and they have an agreement with us," Winston said, per the Associated Press. "We're going to hold them to that agreement. Many aspects of this policy fall outside of the CBA and we're going to continue fighting it going forward."

Following former Ravens running back Ray Rice's domestic violence case and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's child abuse case, a more extensive list of prohibited conduct was included in the policy, as well as criteria for paid leave for anyone charged with a violent crime. A suspension of six games without pay for violations involving assault, sexual assault, battery, domestic violence, child abuse and other forms of family violence will be in effect.

"The league's revised conduct policy was the product of a tremendous amount of analysis and work and is based on input from a broad and diverse group of experts within and outside of football, including current players, former players, and the NFL Players Association," the league said in a statement last week.

"We and the public firmly believe that all NFL personnel should be held accountable to a stronger, more effective conduct policy. Clearly, the union does not share that belief."


 
 
 
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