6. Michael Floyd Breakout headline: Talented sophomore wide receiver converts promotion into WR2 production
Selected with the No. 13 overall pick of the 2012 draft, Floyd caught 45 balls and scored twice as Arizona’s No. 3 receiver during his rookie season. A sophomore-year promotion to a starting gig opposite Larry Fitzgerald
translated into 65 receptions, 1,041 yards, five touchdowns, and the 23rd
-most fantasy points among wideouts.
2014 version: Terrance Williams
This isn’t as good a comparison as some others because Williams’ raw talent doesn’t quite match up with Floyd’s. That said, he’s still a pretty good, developing wide receiver who, like Floyd, is in prime position to take advantage of a great opportunity. Selected in the third round of last year’s draft, Williams averaged 41 snaps-per-game while rotating between No. 2 and No. 3 duties as a rookie. Now locked in as the starter opposite Dez Bryant
, Williams is no worse than third in line for targets in Dallas’ pass-heavy offense. A reasonable projection for Williams’ 2013 stats would be almost exactly in line with what Floyd did in 2013. Williams is a bit expensive in the seventh round of your average draft, but he has a good shot to live up to the selection.
Other candidates: Markus Wheaton
, Kenny Stills 7. DeMarco Murray Breakout headline: Unproven back overcomes injury woes, produces RB1 numbers.
Dallas selected Murray in the third round of the 2011 draft. Injuries continue to pile up, but he’s been an outstanding fantasy producer when active. Despite missing two games last season (his third in the pros), Murray put up 1,474 yards and scored 10 times on 270 touches. He finished No. 8 in fantasy points among backs.
2014 version: Shane Vereen
Vereen was actually picked one round ahead of Murray back in 2011, but his health has been even more of a detriment to a potential fantasy breakout. Through his first two seasons, Vereen had appeared in only 18 games and totaled 85 touches. Following a 2013 Week 1 explosion that saw him rack up 159 yards on 21 touches, that aforementioned breakout seemed like a guarantee. Instead, Vereen missed eight games with a wrist injury and played a situational role upon his return. Heading in 2014, Vereen is easily a candidate to lead the position in targets. A probable lack of carries keeps him out of the RB1 discussion, but 12-15 carries-per-game is far from inconceivable, especially if Stevan Ridley
ends up back in Bill Belichick
’s doghouse. Vereen’s questionable durability and Belichick’s affection for a committee approach make him risky, but Vereen is a few extra touches away from top-10 production. Target him in the fourth or fifth round.
Other candidates: David Wilson 8. Andy Dalton Breakout headline: Mediocre talent rides ideal circumstances to big fantasy season
It may seem silly to call a guy who scored 35 total touchdowns last season “mediocre”, but many NFL analysts would actually say I’m being generous. And it’s not hard to understand why. Dalton also tossed 20 interceptions and fumbled four times last year. The Bengals averaged 69 offensive plays and scored 2.8 offensive touchdowns-per-game (both fifth-most in the league). This – not to mention a good defense and supporting cast – helped Dalton to a No. 3 finish in fantasy points among quarterbacks.
2014 version: Alex Smith
Like Dalton, Smith very much fits the bill of mediocre. He operates a bit differently, however, choosing safer, short throws instead of high-risk attempts and big plays. Of course, similar to Dalton, Smith’s situation makes him a logical late-round sleeper. First of all, the Chiefs’ offense is run by Andy Reid
. Kansas City was more reliant on the pass than you probably realize
last year, and is a candidate for regression in the win/loss column this season. Next, like Dalton, Smith will snag you additional points with his legs. Last season, Dalton had 61 carries for 183 yards and two scores. Smith managed 75 carries for 432 yards and one score. They ranked sixth and ninth, respectively, in carries among passers. Kansas City finished ninth in the league in offensive touchdowns last season and finished the season red-hot offensively. Smith won’t be No. 3 in fantasy points, but he’s arguably your best bet for a late-round-flier-turned-QB1.
Other candidates: EJ Manuel 9. Robert Griffin III circa 2012 (I’m cheating on this one) Breakout headline: Highly-touted rookie quarterback produces QB1 numbers
Following a letdown sophomore season, it’s easy to forget that Griffin paced all quarterbacks in fantasy points through Week 14 of his rookie season. Griffin, of course, was the No. 2 overall pick that year and added a significant number of fantasy points with his legs. He ended up fifth among all passers in fantasy points despite racking up only 3,200 yards and 20 scores through the air. He added 815 yards and seven scores on the ground.
2014 version: Johnny Manziel
Similar to Griffin, Manziel is a first-round pick with big-time rushing ability. He’s not a lock to start Week 1, but he’s the favorite for the gig in Kyle Shanahan
’s offense. Shanahan, of course, was Griffin’s offensive coordinator in 2012. Assuming he does start, there’s plenty of reason to believe Manziel can put up QB1 numbers. Like the 2012 Redskins, the Browns will look to lean on the run, which will lead to plenty of opportunities for Manziel to carry the ball. And even when they pass, Manziel is not going to be afraid to scramble. It’s conceivable that he’d approach 100 carries over 16 games. Many will argue that Manziel doesn’t have enough offensive talent around him, especially with Josh Gordon
suspended, but his supporting cast isn’t much worse than what Griffin had to worth with. Josh Morgan
led the 2012 Redskins in receptions. Behind him were Pierre Garcon
(missed six games), Santana Moss
(was 33), Leonard Hankerson
, Logan Paulsen
, and Fred Davis
(missed nine games). Manziel at least has Jordan Cameron
and Andrew Hawkins
at his disposal. He’s well worth a late-round flier.
Other candidates: None 10. Keenan Allen Breakout headline: Seemingly-buried rookie wide receiver translates opportunity into big-time production.
The 6’2/211 Allen was selected in the third round of last April’s draft. At first glance, it didn’t seem like he’d have much of an opportunity to play as a rookie. Malcom Floyd
and Danario Alexander
were slotted in as starters on the outside, while Eddie Royal
manned the slot and Vincent Brown
added depth. Alexander went down with a torn ACL in camp, Floyd suffered a season-ending injury in Week 2, and Allen quickly leapfrogged inferior Royal and Brown to take over as the team’s No. 1 wideout. That quickly, he went from a redshirt campaign to hauling in 71 balls for 1,046 yards, and eight scores at age-21.
2014 version: Jordan Matthews
At first glance, the 2014 Eagles wide receiver corps doesn’t seem quite as deep as San Diego’s was in 2013, but there are a lot of players expected to be rotated into this passing game. Jeremy Maclin
and Riley Cooper
are penciled in as the No. 1 and 2 wide receivers. LeSean McCoy
, Darren Sproles
, Brent Celek
, and Zach Ertz
will also be in the mix. 6’3/212 Matthews is the favorite for No. 3 duties, which doesn’t figure to mean more than a handful of targets each game out of the gate. He’s the team’s best talent at the position, though. Maclin and Cooper have an experience edge, but Matthews is the superior player. Very close to an every-down role in a high-scoring offense, Matthews is well-worth a flier in the later rounds of your draft. You just may need to wait a few weeks for the payoff.
Other candidates: Cody Latimer
, Donte Moncrief A few others worth noting: Rashad Jennings Breakout headline: Veteran in new home emerges into competent fantasy starter
2014 version: Toby Gerhart
Other candidates: Ben Tate Jordan Reed Breakout headline: Rookie tight end surprises with TE1 production
2014 version: Richard Rodgers
Other candidates: Colt Lyerla
, Jace Amaro Charles Clay Breakout headline: Overlooked tight end rides opportunity to breakout TE1 season
2014 version: Levine Toilolo
Other candidates: David Ausberry Marvin Jones, Eddie Royal, Jerricho Cotchery Breakout headline: Situational wide receivers ride fluky touchdown totals to fantasy significance
2014 candidates: Cotchery, Donnie Avery
, Marlon Brown
, Sidney Rice
, Martavis Bryant