When trying to draft that next great star for your fantasy team there are a few things that are important to consider. While talent may be the obvious one, I think nothing could be more critical than the opportunity for playing time. The players listed below were either rookies last year who were unproven or were stuck behind a veteran on the depth chart who is no longer with the team. The following five players not only have ability, but should see an increase in playing time for their respective offenses in 2014.
Rueben Randle: A year ago at this time many people were pegging Randle as a potential breakout candidate for the 2013 season. Despite putting up over 600 receiving yards and 6 TDs, fantasy football owners that drafted him in hopes of him becoming a player they could start on a weekly basis came away disappointed. Not only did Eli Manning have one of his worst seasons as a pro, but Randle was stuck behind Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks on the depth chart, limiting his snaps. I find a hard time believing Manning will struggle like that again. And with Nicks off to Indianapolis, the opportunity is now for Reuben Randle to become an every down player for the Giants and a WR3 for your fantasy team.
Projection: 69 receptions for 1,020 yards, 7 TDs
Andre Ellington: One of the hottest waiver wire adds in fantasy football a year ago was former 6th round draft pick Andre Ellington. The second year pro fell in the draft due to his small frame and his slow 40 yard dash time of 4.61 seconds. But last season Ellington was extremely effective, proving to be a dynamic space player who plays faster than he timed and the ability to take it the distance at any time. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry and caught 39 balls on his way to over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and 4 scores. While it may be difficult to sustain the YPC average, Ellington should easily improve upon those numbers with Rashard Mendenhall out of the picture, who recently announced his retirement.
Projection: 973 rushing yards, 58 receptions for 491 yards, 8 Total TDs
Justin Hunter: From a talent perspective, there are not many young players that I like more than Hunter. The former Tennessee Volunteer has elite physical abilities with 4.4 speed and a 40 inch vertical at 6'4''. With Kenny Britt now in St. Louis and Nate Washington entering his tenth season and on the downside of his career, the second year pro will be heavily involved in the offense in 2014. Look for former first round pick Kendall Wright to work the short and intermediate routes while Hunter stretches the field. The one concern I have with Hunter is his QB play. Can Jake Locker stay healthy? And if so, will be ever live up to his draft status as a former first-round pick?
Projection: 59 receptions for 1,018 yards, 7 TDs
Zach Ertz: I feel like one of the more interesting players in fantasy football this year will be Philadelphia Eagles second-year tight end Zach Ertz. Playing behind veteran TE Brent Celek, drafting Ertz this year might require a leap of faith. The former second round pick likely won't see the kind of snaps that most top fantasy tight ends get on a weekly basis, but Ertz will be playing in an up-tempo Chip Kelly offense that will put up a lot of points. And who will help replace the production of DeSean Jackson? With a 6'6'' frame and reliable hands, Ertz could be what Jimmy Graham is to the Saints. Kelly will likely get creative with the Stanford product in year two and move him around the formation in order to create mismatches.
Projection: 56 receptions for 749 yards, 9 TDs
Jarrett Boykin: Heading into the 2013 season, Boykin was not on the fantasy radar unless you played in an extremely deep league. He was the fourth wide receiver on the depth chart and was considered the fifth option in the passing game behind Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb, and Jermichael Finley. But injuries struck the receiving corps as Jones, Cobb, and Finley missed a combined 22 games. Boykin showed ability with 681 yards receiving on 41 receptions and 3 touchdowns a season ago. With Jones on his way to Oakland and Finley still looking for a home, the third year pro is likely looking at an increased role in the Packers offense. And anytime you are one of the top targets of superstar QB Aaron Rodgers you have a great chance to become a fantasy football asset.
Projection: 67 receptions for 962 yards, 7 TDs
Doing your research before your fantasy football draft every year is crucial. Owners who were able to grab Knowshon Moreno, Jordan Cameron, Keenan Allen, or Jordan Reed in the later rounds of their draft last season were rewarded. Trying to find those players is critical in the success of your fantasy team from year to year. Which player mentioned above are you willing to take a chance on in 2014?