Breakout Candidates

By Pasha Hashemzadeh

Analysis of potential breakout candidates at each position for the 2016 season.

Quarterback:

Blake Bortles – He was a fantasy beast down the line last year and looks to keep that momentum going into the new season. Wideout Allen Robinson has established himself as one of the league’s best and opposite him Allen Hurns will provide solid depth at the skill position spot. Bortles’ options aren’t just limited to his wideouts, as he has TD-threat TE Julius Thomas at his disposal. Expect a big year from Bortles and draft him as a QB1.

Derek Carr – The Raiders have made some nice moves in the draft and free agency over the past couple of years. Derek Carr looks to build on the success he had in this young offense last season. He has up-and-coming widoeut Amari Cooper and savvy veteran Michael Crabtree to throw to. Clive Walford will look to step up his game after an impressive rookie campaign, leaving Carr with a potential red zone threat.

Jameis Winston – Famous Jameis had a solid rookie campaign, though it took some rushing stats to help bulk up his fantasy stats. With one of the league’s stronger running games already established in Doug Martin and Charles Sims, Winston will look to improve in his passing game and this young offense looks to grow with star WR Mike Evans as his main go-to man.

Wide Receiver:

Amari Cooper – Cooper put up nice numbers in his rookie year and has the talent to build on his 2015 campaign in the new-look Raiders offense. With Latavius Murray establishing the running game and Michael Crabtree opposite him, Cooper should have room to operate and put his talent to work. Expect a big season from the second year man.

DeVante Parker – Parker finished the 2015 campaign stronger than his rookie counterpart Amari Cooper. He was slowed early last year by injury and later on by poor quarterback play. He goes into camp fully healthy with a year under his belt and hopefully an improved QB Ryan Tannehill. Expect a WR2 finish with upside for Parker.

Dorial Green-Beckham – The Titans offense is young and talented, with DGB as arguably its gem. He’ll look to build a strong rapport with fellow second year man QB Marcus Mariota. He has major upside in the TD department with his huge frame and could develop into a deep threat for the Titans. Monitor him during camp and come draft time take the gamble in the middle rounds.

John Brown – Bruce Arians has in the past compared Brown to Marvin Harrison and this could be the year they truly unleash their speedster WR. With Fitz in decline (not knowing whether or not this is his last season) and Floyd playing on the outside, Brown has the opportunity to dominate the slot while also lining up outside at times. He is in a potent offense with QB Palmer at the helm, and potential number one fantasy pick David Johnson balancing out the attack with the run game.

Kevin White – White doesn’t have much on tape since he only played one year at WVU and missed his entire rookie campaign due to injury, but he has sky high fantasy upside with the Bears figuring to trail a lot this year and Cutler being the gunslinger that he is will turn Alshon Jeffery and White into target monsters. Martellus Bennett is out of town and there is no established run game, so White should be targeted early and often in the Bears offense with Alshon drawing much of the coverage.

Donte Moncrief – Fantasy pundits have waited for Moncrief to breakout since he entered the league. This could very well be the year with Andre Johnson having retired and Andrew Luck being 100%. T.Y. Hilton will draw coverage opposite him, potentially enabling Moncrief to gain many targets. With his size, he could lead the team in touchdowns this season.

Tyler Lockett – The T.Y. Hilton-esque talent could have a nice season this year as the Seahawks will likely move further away from their ground and pound approach now that Marshawn Lynch has retired and turn to a more pass-heavy approach. He will likely start opposite Doug Baldwin and could really shine in the return game as well.

Running Back:

Ezekiel Elliott – While Easy-E is currently running behind Run DMC at OTAs, he should have a firm grasp on the starting gig soon enough. After all, Jerry didn’t draft him fourth overall to not give him a huge workload. He’ll be running behind the league’s best offensive line. DMC and Alfred Morris should see limited snaps. Elliott is a locked-and-loaded first round fantasy pick.

Lamar Miller – He finally gets his chance to be the bellcow. Bill O’Brien is a proponent of the running game and will look to pound the ball with Miller as the lead back. He was never given a true chance in Miami due to poor coaching, but he has all the talent in the world to make his name known this year. Draft him in the second round with ease.

Carlos Hyde – He had a huge game last year against Minnesota on Monday Night Football with 168 yards and two rushing TDs and looked like the league’s next best thing. Then poor overall offense and injury derailed his season. Chip Kelly was hired this offseason as head coach and is known to make the most of the running backs at his disposal. With the QB situation somewhat of a disaster, Hyde looks to be heavily utilized and is a high risk high reward pick.

Karlos Williams – Williams will begin the year as LeSean McCoy’s backup, though will likely serve as the goal line back given his stature. He will be a TD-dependant fantasy gamble on a weekly basis, but is a must-handcuff to McCoy and could end up splitting carries in an offense that heavily utilizes its running game.

Charles Sims – Sims already has established himself as a solid PPR flex play, and he’s a Doug Martin injury away from shining as a feature back. He has all the tools to succeed at the starting gig, though is firmly in Martin’s rearview mirror. Barring a Martin injury, his best-case scenario is a timeshare with Martin, which would be enough to start him in PPR leagues weekly.

Derrick Henry – Mistaken for a linebacker by his Titans teammates, the rookie will look to battle DeMarco Murray in camp for a share of the workload this year. The reigning Hesiman winner is a monster of a man at 6’3″ with nimble feet and is great between the tackles. He is deceptively fast in the open field as well. Draft Henry as a handcuff to Murray and don’t be surprised if he beats out the vet for the head of committee role.

Jerick McKinnon – The only thing holding SPARQ-y McKinnon from bursting onto the scene is all-world talent Adrian Peterson. McKinnon excels in the passing game, so he should see his snaps, though the main outlook for success here is AP going down with injury or diminishing in production. Draft McKinnon as a late round handcuff to AP.

Wendell Smallwood – The rookie will look to impress this camp and preseason and ultimately back up starting RB Ryan Mathews. Mathews is known to be made of glass, making Smallwood worth a strong gamble in round 12 or later. The rookie has the talent to shoulder a full workload.

Devontae Booker – Booker has all the talent to win the starting running back gig for the Denver Broncos. He looks to challenge C.J. Anderson this offseason, and given his talent and upside, his floor is likely 10-12 carries a game, putting him on the flex radar.

Tight End:

Zach Ertz – Ertz broke onto the scene late last year as he built a strong rapport with QB Sam Bradford. He’s freakishly talented for a TE and will look to build on his 2015 success as likely the Eagles top target man. Draft him as a top five tight end with ease.

Coby Fleener – Fleener was amongst a crowded crop of skill players in Indy and looks to make a name for himself in New Orleans. While they seek to have a more balanced approach on offense, Fleener still looks to be the main redzone target as Colston is aging and Brandin Cooks is the only truly established pass-catcher for the Saints, and he stands at 5’10”. Fleener’s forecast is looking like a low end TE1.

Eric Ebron – Megatron is gone. Targets are aplenty. Ebron made strides last year after a poor rookie year showing, and will look to build a strong rapport with Matthew Stafford and emerge as a redzone target with his large frame. This offense figures to struggle at times, but Ebron will see his fair share of targets along with Golden Tate and Marvin Jones.

Ladarius Green – He finally gets a chance to start. Pundits have been waiting years for this freaky talented large man to produce on the football field. He is now on one of the league’s most potent offenses and should be major redzone threat for Big Ben. Draft Ladarius as a low end TE1.

Clive Walford – Walford has a high ceiling and low floor. It remains to be scene how they utilize him in an offense that already features target hogs Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. He is currently on the TE2 tier though with his talent has the ability to produce as a TE1 this year. He is a player to monitor this preseason.