Potential breakout targets:
- Toby Gerhart (RB/JAX): Gerhart was drafted out of Stanford by the Vikings and had been relegated to back-up work behind Adrian Peterson. He signed with Jacksonville during the off-season and the media has been told on more than one occasion by the Jaguar’s coaching staff that he will be their “bell-cow” back. Looking at the Jaguars’ offense, they are going to be primarily a running team with Chad Henne as their QB and Justin Blackmon out maybe the entire season. Jacksonville has upgraded their offensive line this off-season with the signing Zane Beadles and draft of Brandon Linder. Gerhart is a hard runner who has posted a solid YPC average of 4.7. He can also catch a pass or two, Gerhart had at least 20 receptions in three of his four years in Minnesota. With the amount of touches the Jaguars seem prepared to give him and the lack of any real threat to his job he could provide nice return on investment. I could see Gerhart getting 300 carries this season and at least 30 receptions. That would put him clearly in RB2 consideration draft him with confidence.
- Kyle Rudolph (TE/MIN): When you take a quick glance at Kyle Rudolph (6 feet 6 inches, 260 lbs), he is a towering figure. Drafted in the 2nd round out of Notre Dame in 2011, he was one of the top TE prospects. Given his draft position, he has underperformed to date. However, this off-season, Norv Turner (yes, the Norv Turner who has made almost every TE he’s coached a fantasy stud) was brought on to coordinate the Viking offense. He oozes with receiving talent and is a big target in the red zone. Despite his riddled injury history and lack of talent at the QB position right now, he is going to be force-fed the ball this season and will be the team’s #2 target (if not the #1 target) behind Cordarrelle Patterson in the passing game. He has the talent to be great and put up big numbers this year and having a guy like Turner calling the plays, it certainly looks like we will see Rudolph on full display. Looking at Jordan Cameron’s numbers from last year, he had 110 targets and hauled in 80 of them; good for nearly 1,000 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns. Cameron too had a WR on his team who stretched the field in Josh Gordon and a bad QB situation. Rudolph is a TE1 candidate with the potential to be a top 5 option this year in PPR leagues. Draft him and reap the rewards.
- Kendall Wright (WR/TEN): Wright broke out last season with 94 receptions, 1,079 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. I have a strong inclination that he can put up even bigger numbers this year. Ken Whisenhunt is the new Head Coach in Tennessee and helped Phillip Rivers revitalize his career last season in San Diego. He could very well do the same for Jake Locker, who is coming off a tough foot injury and is in his “make it-or-break it” season. Locker was drafted at 8th overall in the 2011 draft for a reason, and he’ll have the chance to prove it this season being 100% or close to it coming into training camp. An upgraded offensive line, and two talented receivers in Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter should help Locker realize his potential. Wright has improved every single year statistically since being drafted and with a more talented QB in Locker leading the team, the wideout could put up even better numbers than last year. He will be Locker’s go-to-guy and could get 100 receptions this year while also improving upon on his YPC of 11.5 from a season ago. Wright should see his touchdown numbers improve from last season and that could put him firmly in the back-end WR1 conversation in PPR formats. I have a lot of faith in Whisenhunt being able to help Locker get back on track and have a good bounce-back year, especially with a better offensive line. I expect 85 to 90 catches for 1,300 yards and 7 scores.
Potential bust targets:
- C.J. Spiller (RB/BUF): Last season, Spiller was hampered by a nagging ankle sprain and it showed in his play. He admitted to being limited by it and was never 100% healthy. Spiller has had injury issues in the past, can we depend on him to be healthy all season? He has played in all 16 games twice in his career. With the addition of Bryce Brown, the presence of Fred Jackson, and the drafting of Sammy Watkins at #4 in the draft, things aren’t looking good for Spiller. His current ADP gives him little room for error, which is why he is my top bust entering this season. Buffalo didn’t draft Watkins for him to be a distraction in the running game, they drafted him to make big plays in the passing game. When they do run the ball, Spiller will have Jackson and Brown eating into his carries and breathing down his neck. I’m very skeptical of Spiller to produce RB1 numbers, even in a PPR league because of his health issues and talented competition. He’d be better suited as an RB2 until he can prove he can maintain health.
- Jordan Cameron (TE/CLE): Cameron is being selected as the #3 TE in mock drafts; too high. He lost Norv Turner and Rob Chudzinski, who were all about throwing to their TE. They brought in Kyle Shanahan to run the offense and judging by the scheme he used there, the tight end wasn’t a primary target. The exception would be Jordan Reed, but that was a small sample size as Reed only played 8 games and when he was hurt, the TE position became irrelevant for them again. Shanahan will have the opportunity to work with a QB similar to RGIII in Manziel. Now, I believe Manziel will win the starting job right out the gate for Cleveland. That is bad news for Cameron because Shanahan’s offense will be based primarily on the mobile QB. Plus, Cameron had great chemistry with Brian Hoyer. Cleveland will run the ball like crazy and rely on Ben Tate, Terrence West, and Johnny Manziel. Cameron will probably the Browns’ #1 target but he will constantly be covered by the other team’s best and the Browns project as a run-first squad.
- Michael Crabtree (WR/SF): Crabtree shouldn’t be drafted over Keenan Allen, Pierre Garcon (PPR machine), or Victor Cruz (bounce-back stud). What is going on here? He returned in Week 13 last season and just never looked like himself. A torn Achilles tendon is a tough injury to come back from and it sometimes permanently affects a player. Crabtree is on a run-first team that has a plethora of solid wideouts and a super talented tight end in Vernon Davis who is their #1 target. Colin Kaepernick is a QB who likes to use his feet at the expense of being a pure pocket passer. The 49ers will use Gore, Hyde, and Lattimore (maybe) as much as they can in the run game along with Kaep’s rushing ability. Vernon Davis is the 1st option in the pass game and Crabtree will be pushed for snaps this season by other receivers Bruce Ellington, Stevie Johnson, and Quinton Patton. I’m skeptical Crabtree will produce WR1 numbers this year but I’d rather let someone else deal with that unknown. It may be more appropriate to look at Crabtree as a WR2. Don’t get too excited.
Doug Moore is a fantasy football contributor at The Sports Script. Follow him on Twitter @DMM0822!