As fall begins to approach and the leaves turn colors, an itch occurs atop every American man’s head. It is the subtle alarm that the NFL season is on its way. Millions of Americans go out and purchase the perfect television set, new chip tray holders and of course, the necessary beer mug coolers. Because on NFL Sundays, a warm beer is a sin. All of this happens prior to the start of the season. And then there’s one other big thing that occurs…your fantasy football draft.
The summer is an opportunity to dream of your own NFL team making a big impact. But in reality, only one team will make it all the way. So we gather our wits about us and begin to search the Internet and conduct in-depth research, attempting to ascertain as much information about players as possible. We must do our own scouting to become victors and champions of our own fantasy leagues. We print a lot of documents off the Internet and overpay for a crappy magazine that tell us what we already know. We build up mental momentum to the grandest of all days…draft day.
Draft day can always go either way. So many people start trying to predict which fantasy sleepers will be breakout candidates for the upcoming season. As a veteran and multi-championship recipient myself, I too have some thoughts on the subject that can help hopeful owners make a run in their own leagues. These are my Top 10 breakout candidates for this upcoming football season who should exceed their draft positions. Good luck to all!
10 Frank Gore – Captain Consistent
Certainly, many people know all about Frank Gore. He is a 49ers legend and captain consistent each and every year. He is a reliable professional who almost never gets hurt and carries the ball year in and year out. On top of all that, he has switched teams and this change couldn’t have helped him more. First off, he is playing with a lethal passing offense for the first time in his career. The Colts will not only create running lanes for Gore who can now sneak past safety help, but they can get him the ball through the air. Andrew Luck is a beast and he will love having one of the best pass-blocking running backs in the league in the game for all three downs for each and every drive. Gore can be a monster if he stays healthy. An added bonus is the Colts play Jacksonville, Houston and Miami down the stretch which should allow for some decent offensive opportunities for Gore.
9 Michael Floyd – Cardinal With Wings
Look for Floyd to bounce back after a mediocre 2014 campaign. Yes, he underachieved. But his starting quarterback Carson Palmer was injured a lot of the year. And to top it all off, the Cardinals had one of the worst QB performances in the history of the NFL playoffs from their 4th string quarterback. I mean, you had Kurt Warner considering a comeback just to play in the playoffs for the Cardinals. That’s how bad things got. Look for Floyd to flourish with a healthy Palmer who could eclipse 4,000 yards again if healthy. Floyd will garner in a lot of production especially with Fitzgerald slowing down.
8 T.J. Yeldon – Crimson Tide
It’s always hard to get a read on the Alabama Crimson Tide's running backs coming out of college. First off, their offensive line is always so dominant. On top of that, their running backs are constantly rotated around. So attempting to get an exact read on how great Yeldon can be is tough. But when you toss in Jacksonville has few options on offense, aside from Julius Thomas who they just signed at tight end, you have to believe Yeldon will see the ball. If he shows the flashes he did in college and can hold on to the rock, you’ll see his numbers and carries grow as the season goes on. Draft him late and look for a potential playoff reward from Yeldon.
7 C.J. Spiller – Mr. Injured
Okay, this always seems to be the story with Spiller. Will he finally stay healthy for the entire season? He is already nicked up and word on the street is that his first game of the season could be in jeopardy. He had his knee scoped and looks ready to roll for weeks 3 and on. Spiller can be so dangerous in New Orleans because he can be a better version of Darren Sproles. And we know Drew Brees loves to dump the ball underneath to his running backs. Spiller can run between the tackles at times and is by far the most explosive player on the team. Since the Saints are moving to a run-heavier offense this season, Spiller could be a big key for them. PPR leagues should gobble him up.
6 Danny Woodhead – Mr. Invisible
Danny Woodhead has got to be one of the smartest players in the league. He is talented and athletic, sure, but he is not big, he is not really fast, and he has made himself extremely valuable as an underrated talent. He has flourished playing for quarterbacks of the likes of Tom Brady and Philip Rivers. Rivers loves to dump the ball underneath to Woodhead. He was injured all last year so people may forget how valuable he can be. With only minimal competition at the running back position, this PPR specialist can really be a haul out of the backfield.
5 Joseph Randle - Money In The Bank
Randle is being gifted with a massive opportunity. The Dallas Cowboys have handed running duties over to him. What makes it all the more impressive is his chief competition is Darren McFadden who struggles to stay healthy. He gets to run behind a huge offensive line that blazed huge holes for DeMarco Murray in 2014 and a pass-happy offense with amazing weapons on the wings. If Randle doesn’t have a huge year, it is simply because he is not good enough or healthy enough to be an NFL player. Dallas believes in him so you should too. If he slides a little in the draft - grab him. He should only get better as the season progresses.
4 Carlos Hyde – 49ers Hopeful
The San Francisco 49ers have been decimated over the offseason. So this pick could be tough. Hyde is an absolute beast with insane potential. He has great hands out of the backfield and will be the goal line threat all year long. He won’t have any touchdowns as they'll go to vulture RBs. But, with that said, there is a risk here if the 49ers offense doesn’t get it together. The good news is with their defense hurting, the offense will be playing from behind which should get Hyde some good opportunities being on the field. We shall see. This one could go either way, but the player has huge upside.
3 Vincent Jackson – He’s Back
One thing you can count on is Vincent Jackson being impossible to cover. With the emergence of rookie Mike Evans and finally a real quarterback to throw the ball, Jackson’s numbers could seriously climb this season. Sure, Winston is a rookie quarterback and there can be concerns there, but with his elite height and strength and the additions on offense, Tampa Bay is due to have a big surge in production - which means Jackson benefits. You can definitely count on Jackson putting up much bigger numbers this season and possibly being a great number 2 receiver on your roster.
2 Delanie Walker – Titan Rising
Walker is a 49ers product who arrived in Tennessee with little fanfare. What the fans quickly saw was a great athlete who can run amazing routes from the slot and spread out as a wide out. He has always been an athletic freak, and now, Walker looks to improve upon his game with a new young superstar quarterback in Marcus Mariota. Mariota may not be Tom Brady, but Walker, who was a top 5 tight end target last year, will definitely create waves and opportunities this season. Make him your tight end at a low cost and get high value.
1 Todd Gurley – Rookie Stud
Gurley is an insane talent and the Rams are excited to have him. Sure, he is coming off ACL surgery and may take a little time to get into perfect game shape. But by mid-season, this horse will be destroying defenses. His passing game isn’t the best, but Coach Jeff Fisher of the Rams loves to run the rock and he will feed Gurley more and more as the season goes on. If you can sneak him as a third running back early in the year, he very well may turn into your number one by season’s end. Gurley is that good and anyone who has him will get high-end production and possibly a fantasy football championship!