1. Ryan Tannehill: Since being drafted 8th overall by the Dolphins back in 2012, Tannehill has produced middle-to-upper tier QB2 numbers. Last year, he was the victim of being in an offense run by Mike Sherman which didn’t help Tannehill’s development. Further, Miami failed in properly utilizing deep-threat receiver Mike Wallace. This year though, he has a new offensive coordinator in Bill Lazor. Lazor was the quarterback coach for the Eagles a season ago and was a big part of the Nick Foles breakout. His offensive approach will incorporate the unique skills of the play-makers he has, which will include Mike Wallace. Along with a reliable slot receiver in Brian Hartline and a running back who can catch passes out of the backfield in Lamar Miller, I could see drafting Tannehill as a QB2 who could turn in a low-end QB1 season. Tannehill has a lot of talent and will have the chance to put it all on display this year, and with a talented core around him, he has a pretty high ceiling in his third season.
2. Josh McCown: I’ve seen McCown drafted as one of the final quarterbacks in mock drafts, but he deserves more credit than that. McCown had a terrific 2013 filling in for the injured Jay Cutler, helping Alshon Jeffery break out as well. Now he is in a new system and away from quarterback whisperer Marc Trestman, but he has shown that he has the talent to be a starter in the NFL. I believe he will hold off Mike Glennon and retain the starting job entering the season. McCown will have a talented starting WR tandem in Vincent Jackson and rookie Mike Evans along with passing-down back Charlie Sims. He will also have the chance to work with a plethora of TE in Tim Wright, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Brandon Myers. When he filled in for Cutler, he produced QB1 numbers and while I don’t expect a repeat of last year, he should be one of the top QB2 options this year who. He could sneak into low-end QB1 consideration if the development of Tampa’s youngsters goes according to plan.
3. Brian Hoyer: One of the biggest pre-season camp battles early on will be whether or not Hoyer can hold off rookie Johnny Manziel for the starting gig in Cleveland. After seeing reports from their TC so far and the Browns’ firm stance on Hoyer being the favorite, I’m inclined to believe them. Up until last year, Hoyer was a career 2nd string QB. When Hoyer got an oppurtinity a season ago, he ran with it, even though the Browns had no run game and very little elsewhere outside of stud Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron. Now I know Gordon is more than likely done for the year and you can’t replace his talent, but Hoyer may still have a chance to post solid numbers if he keeps progressing as he has been and builds connections with his other wideouts. Cameron will be a reliable target and Hawkins’ arrow is shooting up after how well he has been doing so far. Plus, he could have a speedy running back in West (who I think will win the starting job) who can catch passes out of the backfield. I’m also not ruling out the Browns adding a wide receiver via trade or free agency, so that could help as well. With a great offensive line protecting him as well, he could have plenty of time to make solid throws. Target him as low end QB2 right now but as with most of the players on this list, keep an eye out for him in camp and during the pre-season. Upside remains.
1. Chris Ivory: We all know that there is a new sheriff in town. Chris Johnson is now a Jet. However, there is another Chris in town. A man they call Ivory is being all but forgotten about in fantasy drafts. Ivory looks to be in line to out-produce his rankings. Last year, he rushed for over 800 yards and had a respectable 4.6 YPC. Johnson is coming off meniscus surgery and the Jets will most likely be incorporating a “1A-1B” running back system in the early going. If Chris Johnson is garnering RB2 consideration, Ivory deserves to be getting RB3 consideration then. If Johnson goes down with an injury or struggles, Ivory will be given more carries and with his talent, could produce RB2 stats and see 15 touches a game. He is being drafted as a RB4 or 5 right now because of his inability to catch passes, but his rushing ability should help him maintain middle-tier RB3 stats if he is given 10 or more touches a game, which looks to be the case this season.
2. James White: New England’s running game a season ago was a roller coaster ride, to say the least. Stevan Ridley struggled early on and Shane Vereen looked to be their feature back but then went down with a serious wrist injury. Ridley was then forced back into a primary role and LeGarrette Blount got more carries as the season progressed. But with Blount now a Steeler, who fills his spot? That player is James White. Already praised by the Patriots’ running back coach, he could get a fair share of carries this year as their change-of-pace back and might only be a Vereen injury or Ridley fumble away from a more prominent role in the offense. He is a talented runner and the Patriots have a pretty good offensive line. White could be a steal in the territory in which he is being selected early on in drafts. His role is up in the air, but one could argue that he has a non-zero chance of leading New England’s backfield at some point this season and has RB4 upside.
3. Robert Turbin: With Marshawn Lynch holding out, everyone is talking about young speedster Christine Michael. People are forgetting about the veteran Turbin, who could get first crack at the starting job and get more looks as camp progresses. Michael is a high upside prospect in the making, but Seattle may be hesitant to give him a lot of carries early on, opening the door for Turbin to get a crack. I remember two years ago when it was rumored that Lynch was going to be suspended, everyone was on the Turbin bandwagon. He could end up being a lot more valuable than people think and the Seahawks still still have faith in him.
1. Jarrett Boykin: When James Jones and Randall Cobb went down last season, Boykin stepped in and did a pretty good job for the Packers considering also that Aaron Rodgers also went down in Week 9 with a broken collarbone. With James Jones in Oakland Boykin is firmly entrenched at WR3 for Green Bay. Boykin has a chance to expand his role substantially in this potent offense. Green Bay is famous for utilizing 3 receiver sets and that means Boykin will see a lot of snaps and targets as defenses plan their coverage around Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. Boykin is currently being selected in WR5 territory, but he could be a PPR weapon and merit flex consideration at some point this season. Draft him as a WR4 and considering the injury history of Jordy Nelson, Boykin could be much, much more.
2. Justin Hunter: I wrote in my “Breakouts & Busts” piece that Kendall Wright could be a breakout player and I believe his teammate Justin Hunter is being overlooked as well. As a rookie catching passes from a backup quarterback Hunter had a solid first season in the league in 2013. He produced some big plays, had a 19.67 YPC and has a new coach who will focus on the passing game much more. Jake Locker is finally healthy and has a lot to prove, and although he is being painted as a bust, could prove a lot of people wrong. Locker’s wideouts will have a lot to say about whether or not this happens, however. He will be a deep threat receiver for Jake Locker while Kendall Wright serves as the medium yardage target. Hunter will have the opportunity to out-produce his current ADP and could flirt with 8 scores this season, he found pay dirt 4 times a season ago while only catching 18 passes.
3. Harry Douglas: Harry Douglas and Jarrett Boykin find themselves in similar scenarios. Douglas was a receiver stepped up last season while the Falcons dealt with injuries to both of their stud wideouts. He had a great year: 85 receptions for over 1,000 yards receiving. He had only 2 scores, but his PPR production was solid regardless. Roddy White and Julio Jones will return to their starting roles, but Atlanta will be running a lot more 3 receiver sets this year to help make up for losing Tony Gonzalez to retirement. Douglas is arguably the best #3 receiver in the league and he showed it last season. He will be on the field more this season and act as their slot receiver, which is a PPR gamer’s favorite position. It’s downright criminal where he’s being selected in early mocks, in the 60’s for wide receivers.
1. Dwayne Allen: Yes, I know Allen is coming off major hip surgery Allen was hurt in the Colts’ first game of the season and had surgery soon after. He is reportedly 100% healthy and ready to go entering camp, however. His return is huge, it adds another dimension to the Colt’s passing game. Now I know Pep Hamilton’s offense is run-heavy, but with a QB like Andrew Luck, there will be plenty of balls put in the air as well . Allen is a talented tight end who has good chemistry with Andrew Luck which will grant him the chance to expand upon his solid rookie campaign (45 catches, over 500 yds receiving and 3 scores). Now I know Coby Fleener is there, but Allen is the superior talent and the coaching staff seems to like Allen a bit more despite Hamilton and Luck’s history with Fleener at Stanford. With a full off-season to rest and heal up, Allen is sneaky tight end prospect who is being drafted as a middle-tier TE2, but could put up low-end TE1 numbers. Despite the depth at the position this season, Allen could morph into a TE1 by season’s end. Grab him as your backup but be ready to watch him put up bigger numbers.
2. Travis Kelce: Oh boy, another tight end coming off of surgery. At first glance, micro-fracture surgery is a tough and major procedure for an NFL player, but like Allen, Kelce does not have an extensive injury record. He had some personal issues in college, but those seem to be far behind him. Otherwise, he was great in college, especially during his senior year (45 catches, 722 receiving yards and 8 TD). Now in his “rookie” year, he will be the #1 TE on a team that is sorely lacking good receivers outside of Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe. Kelce is a pass-catching TE who will be thrown to a lot. Right now, he’s not even being drafted in most leagues, but he could be a high end TE2 by the end of the year. Pick him up in the last few rounds and you could have a very good year at the TE position.
3. Colt Lylera: Lylera made more headlines last year for arguing over what his coach at Oregon said as well as his drug issues. He went undrafted in May but was picked up by Green Bay and couldn’t be in a better situation. I’ve talked several times about his talent and a lot of scouts have said Lylera has 1st or 2nd round talent at the position but had major off-the-field issues. The Packers have a wide open competition after they chose not to bring Finley back. They drafted Richard Rodgers but he and Brandon Bostick have failed to impress so far. Arguably, Lylera has the most talent of any of the Packer tight ends. He is in a great organization that will help keep his head on straight as well. He has a chance to grab the starting job and run with it and could be in line to be the best rookie tight end this season. Unless you have a TE3 spot or want to take a flier on him, I wouldn’t draft him just yet, but keep both eyes on Green Bay’s training camp and preseason reports for and scoop him up if he runs away with the job
Doug Moore is a fantasy football contributor at The Sports Script. Follow him on Twitter @DMM0822!