Many fantasy football owners like to dig for sleepers, but don’t forget the early and middle round picks that are primed to take a step forward. Here’s a list of top breakout candidates for the 2014 fantasy football season, featuring a few wily vets and a couple second year studs on the verge of a career year.
Tannehill quietly had a great year in 2013 and I like his chances to improve even more this year. He has a good amount of weapons around him and I think the addition of Moreno should add some solid veteran leadership to that offense. The Dolphins had a hard time putting points on the board last year, but I expect they will make big strides in that area for 2014.
I have always been a believer of Locker and he was off to a solid start last year before getting hurt. If he had played an entire season then he probably would have been around 3,000 passing about 400 rushing yards. Locker is entering his 4th year in the league and I think he could take him game to the next level in 2014. He doesn’t have many proven weapons around him, but the Titans are an exciting young team and I think they will have some solid games.
I was big on Ball heading into last year, but after a somewhat slow preseason he was beat out by the veteran Knowshon Moreno. With Moreno now in Miami, it leaves Ball as the featured back for the Broncos and he should get all of the touches he can handle in 2014. You know the Broncos are going to put points on the board and if Ball stays healthy then his is all but a guarantee to reach over 1,000 total yards and double digit TDs.
The Cardinals were afraid to give Ellington too many touches last year, but I expect that to change in 2014. He is too good to leave on the sideline and I fully expect him to touch the ball close to 20 times a game. This should lead to him having a big season and I am excited to see what this youngster can do.
Patterson is one of the most dynamic receivers in the league and is basically a human highlight reel. Every time he touches the ball he has a chance to make a big play and I expect the Vikings will give him many more touches in 2014. Those extra touches should mean that he becomes more fantasy relevant and he could even crack the top 25 for receivers this year. I also expect that Patterson will continue to handle the kick return duties for Minnesota, so if your league gives points for return yards you should give him a bump up on your cheat sheet.
Reggie Wayne is starting to slow down a bit and someone else is going to have to step up for the Colts. All signs point to that being Hilton and I think he could potentially take his game to an elite level in 2014. Hilton ended 2013 with a bang and I think he will pickup right where he left off and have a monster year.
While in Cincinnati Hawkins had some solid games, but he never really had a chance for big playing time. That should change for him in Cleveland, since they literally have no one at receiver since Josh Gordon is out. Even though Hawkins is typically known as more of a slot receiver, I think he will see plenty of time on the field. He should have a career year in 2014 and I especially like him in PPR leagues.
Tate had some solid years for the Seahawks, but they spread the ball around too much for him to ever have a great year. Detroit throws way more than Seattle and this should lead to more targets for Tate. Not only should he get more targets, but he will have single coverage the entire season opposite Calvin Johnson. Look for Tate to have a career year and flirt with being a top 25 fantasy receiver in 2014.
Pitta was supposed to have his breakout year last year, but he missed most of the year because of injury. He should be fully healthy heading into 2014 and I think this could be the year that he cracks the top 5 for fantasy tight ends. The Ravens might have to throw a bit more this year with so many question marks with their running game and we know that Joe Flacco and Pitta have great chemistry together.
The Redskins offense has a chance to be one of the best in the league and Reed should be a big part of their game plan. Defenses are going to have to give so much attention to Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson and this should leave Reed with plenty of single coverage. I think he could have a monster year for the Skins and he is certainly a guy that I am targeting in the late middle rounds.