2014 Breakout Players
Players who will make large statistical jumps in 2014
This article is all about players who can make a big jump in production. Some of these players are under-valued while some are more accurately priced, and we’ll be talking all preseason-long about where you should draft these guys, but today we are simply talking about who the big breakouts will be. And, just to be clear, these are not breakout candidates as much as they are breakout predictions.
Montee Ball, RB, Broncos
Ball is probably the most boring player on the list. He’s not an exciting talent and he may not be all that much better in 2014 compared to 2013, but he will crush his rookie stats because Knowshon Moreno is no longer around to steal snaps. The bottom line is that the back starts for Denver and will score fantasy points. Unless he coughs up the job somehow, we see his stats more than doubling across the board.
Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals
As with Ball, Ellington’s prime competition for work is no longer around. That should lead to a huge statistical jump in an offense with plenty of stud talent. It’s not like teams can make stopping Ellington job one. The thing we really like about the former Clemson Tiger is his versatility. His ability in the passing game enhances his PPR value and makes him less susceptible to being removed on passing downs. Ellington was one of my underrated backs in 2013 draft class. Take a look at his original scouting report.
Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals
Though he was arguably a break out last year as we predicted, we expect another big step forward in 2014. Floyd is a dominating talent on the outside and teams can only pay him so much respect with Hall of Fame lock Larry Fitzgerald on the field too.
Toby Gerhart, RB, Jaguars
Adrian Peterson’s former back-up has proven NFL ability, but he is now in a position to dwarf the career-best numbers he posted in 2011, which not coincidentally, was the year Peterson went down with an ACL. We expect Gerhart to be the primary back for the Jaguars and that should include some third down work as well as most of the action in the red zone and at the stripe.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings
Cordarrelle is the most exciting player on the list and that’s saying something. He’s got stud ability in multiple areas from scrimmage and also on special teams. The former Tennessee standout flashed his game-breaking ability down the stretch as a rookie and we expect sixteen games of it in 2014. Norv Turner will not waste this kid the way that Bill Musgrave did in 2013. Check out our original scouting report on Cordarrelle.
Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens
Smith had a bit of a breakout in 2013 by posting his first thousand yard season, but his touchdown production dropped from 8 to 4. In 2014, we think Torrey can get it done in both categories. He’ll still have more value in standard scoring versus PPR, but we think Smith puts it all together in his fourth season.
Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots
This highly versatile Patriot has had signature games, but the signature season has eluded him to date—mostly because of injuries. If Vereen can stay healthy in 2014, he has a chance to post monster numbers, especially in PPR formats. His upside could be even higher if Stevan Ridley continues to have issues with ball security.
Golden Tate, WR, Lions
The former Seahawk is a playmaker and he’ll get a lot more opportunity in Detroit, where they like to air it out on a regular basis. Tate will also be feasting on second corners consistently because he’s now paired with Calvin Johnson. As long as Tate continues to play the kind of football he played in 2013, he’ll have his best statistical year yet … with ease.
Jordan Reed, TE, Washington
Reed may have broken out in full last season, but he was shut down early by a concussion. Based on what we’ve seen, another concussion is about the only thing that will slow Reed down in 2014 and beyond. Reed was a player we saw coming at Rotobahn last year, and his abilities as a detached tight end are exceedingly well suited for a mobile quarterback like Robert Griffin III. Look for a breakout if he stays healthy.
Khiry Robinson, RB, Saints
I really like the way this kid runs. We aren’t buying into the notion that he’s limited as a receiver. His lack of production in that regard has more to do with who else was on his team. Darren Sproles is gone and that should mean role shifts for those backs who remain. Robinson is in the mix and I think he has a good chance at leading the backfield in snaps. That will lead to a breakout.
Kenny Stills, WR, Saints
Stills scored five times as a rookie, so breaking out in 2014 won’t be an easy task, but I think this kid has it in him. Stills has an underrated set of skills and I really like the way he competes. While there’s plenty of speculation that Stills will take a back seat to rookie Brandin Cooks, we think Cooks’ arrival will make Stills that much more dangerous. Drew Brees threw 650 passes in 2014. There’s plenty of targets to go around in Big Easy. Stills will get his share and he’ll cash them in just like he did as a rookie. Take a look at Kenny's original scouting report if you have not already.
Marvin Jones, WR, Bengals
Jones’s role is far more solidified in 2014. He has handle on the starting job going into camp and the Bengals allowed Andrew Hawkins to leave via free agency. That leaves only Mohamed Sanu as competition and Jones has seemingly won that battle. Marvin is a big receiver with excellent red zone ability. He could make a run at double digit touchdowns if the Bengals’ offense has a solid year.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans
There is some reality-based concern that having Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback could hurt Hopkins in 2014. I’m not so sure that’s the case. I will add a caveat for an injury to Arian Foster. An injury to Foster hurts the offense in all phases and will allow teams to come after the quarterback. Fitzpatrick and his offensive line could quite possibly wilt in that scenario—much the same way Matt Schaub and company wilted in 2013. Still, Foster is healthy now and Hopkins is a fine talent. If he fails to break out this season, we think it will happen in 2015.
Aaron Dobson, WR, Patriots
It’s all about the foot and his ability to work with the offense. Once Dobson is healthy and up to speed, we think he can be the next best thing after Gronk. Dobson is one of the reasons we think Tom Brady’s fantasy potential is being a bit underrated in 2014. We were very high on the Marshall product heading into last year's draft. Check out or original scouting report on Dobson.
Justin Hunter, WR, Titans
Jim Hackett and I talked about Hunter on last week’s podcast. He’s a potential monster if things click and we think things will start clicking in earnest this season. There are some concerns and Hunter’s maturity is near the top of the list. The big concern is quarterback play, but Jake Locker can throw well enough to get Hunter involved. As a rookie, Justin did a lot with very limited snaps. With Kenny Britt gone to St. Louis, his snaps will increase sharply in 2014.
Tavon Austin, WR, Rams
This one is controversial in some places. A lot of people have written off Austin as a mirage—a legend. The thing is, he is very likely to get better in year two as is the team he plays on. Austin is no lock. He’s an upside play. You’ll want to have your starters locked in when you draft him, but he’s got the kind of talent that could end up forcing its way into your lineup at some point.
Christine Michael, RB, Seahawks
With news that Marshawn Lynch may hold out, you have to get excited about what that may mean for Christine Michael, who is a complete freak from a talent perspective. He also has a redshirt year in Seattle under his belt, so we have a positive outlook on Michael’s handle on Seattle’s offense. If Lynch actually ends up missing significant time, Michael moves up the board. If Lynch misses actual games, Michael could have RB1 appeal. He’s that good. Our original scouting report on Michael is well worth a read if you've never seen him play.
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