Roddy White is one of the NFL’s top receivers when healthy. He was disappointing for his owners last year as he played through injuries for a good portion of the year. People are going to be wary of drafting White so high because of this, so you will be able to get him at a good value. White’s teammate, Julio Jones, is going to be drafted much higher in almost every league. But, if Roddy is able to maintain his health, he could very easily match or surpass Julio’s numbers. Roddy averaged 100.4 yards a game over the last five games last year when he finally started to become healthy. Let someone else spend a high draft pick on Julio Jones and take Roddy White several rounds later.
Michael Floyd has a chance to have a very big year in his third season with the Arizona Cardinals. Floyd now has a year of experience under his belt working with Carson Palmer. He is coming off his first 1,000 yard season in which he finished with more receiving yards than his teammate, Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald should still draw a lot of attention from opposing defenses, which will open up more space for Floyd. Carson Palmer has raved about Floyd this offseason and said he has very high expectations for the third year receiver. Floyd will be drafted well below Larry Fitzgerald but has a very good chance of outperforming him and having numbers of a low end WR1 or high end WR2.
Trent the Terrible, as fantasy owners, who had to spend a late first or second round pick, called him last year. Richardson’s struggles last year were painfully obvious and after his midseason trade from Cleveland to Indianapolis, he had a very different time adapting to a very different Colt’s offense. The offseason give him the chance to be able to become more acquainted the high-octane offense run by fellow third year player Andrew Luck. Backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who witnessed Marshawn Lynch’s progression in Seattle after a midseason trade a few years ago, recently commented on the progress of Richardson over this offseason by saying that he, "would definitely expect his numbers to look better this year." If Richardson is about to realize his potential, he could be a steal for where he is projected to be drafted. The possibility of drafting a possible top 10 running back in the 5th round should cause fantasy owner’s mouths to water.
DeAndre Hopkins has a shot to be the Alshon Jeffery of this year. The physical similarities aren’t all there, Jeffery is just slightly taller and faster, but if there is anyone this season who can reproduce the breakout season that Jeffery had last season, it’s Hopkins. The quarterback situation is still a question mark in Houston, but Ryan Fitzpatrick, if he wins the starting job, will have two very solid targets in Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins is really the one to benefit since Johnson still commands extra attention wherever he is on the field. His 91 targets last year should grow this season. Hopkins is well worth a flyer during the 10th round where he is projected this year.
I am grouping these three rookie running backs because they all face similar situations. Bishop Sankey has the best chance of the rookies but he will be drafted relatively high. The other three can be drafted late and have the potential to put up big numbers if given the opportunity. These running backs will most likely all start number two on the depth chart but could very well move up to the starting position. Terrance West is only behind Ben Tate, who can never seem to stay healthy. Devonta Freeman is behind the aging Steven Jackson who was unproductive last year. Tre Mason is behind Zac Stacy and figures to see some work even if Stacy stays healthy. These rookies will have a major opportunity to become the lead backs for their teams. Look for at least one of the three to put up RB2 numbers this year.
This one should come as no surprise with the listing of Michael Floyd as an upcoming sleeper. Larry has been one of the best in the business for a long time and he’s still very capable of being a number one receiver but you do not want him as your number one fantasy receiver. He is coming off of a down year in which he didn’t breach the 1,000 yard receiving mark. Larry is going to lose a step eventually and Michael Floyd seems well on his way to becoming the favorite target of Carson Palmer. In order to get Fitzgerald, you are going to have to draft him at a WR1 position. The one Cardinals receiver to have is Michael Floyd, especially when you consider how much higher Fitzgerald will be selected on draft day.
I am not saying Lynch is going to have a terrible year. I just don’t think he is going to put up top running back numbers. Lynch is almost always going to be drafted in the first round on draft day. The first round is for studs who are going to carry the load for their team. Lynch will still be productive but he is getting older and the Seahawks will most likely limit his carries. Pete Carroll has already indicated he has high hopes for Christine Michael so Michael is sure to cut into Lynch’s carries this year. The Seahawks will look to progress their young back and minimize the risk of a Lynch injury by limiting his usually heavy workload. Definitely take Lynch if he falls to the 2nd round but look elsewhere in the 1st round.
The oft banged up Reggie Bush finds himself on the list of potential fantasy losers this year for a few different reasons. New offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi is expected to use Bush like he was used when they were both together in New Orleans. In a PPR league Bush might be more usable, but his work as a ball carrier will be limited this season, especially with the emergence of the talented Joique Bell. It has also been rumored that Theo Riddick is going to see an increased role in the running game this season. This platoon approach has the potential to cut down Bush’s fantasy production, and I would not be surprised if in standard leagues Bell outscores Bush this year.
Similarly to Reggie Bush, the seasoned 31 year-old Frank Gore could also be facing a trying fantasy season this year. He is definitely the 49er’s starter, but there are many attributing factors that could affect his fantasy production this year. Gore will more than likely face a lessened workload this year in an effort to keep him fresh and healthy throughout the entire season and into the playoffs. And with talented youngsters like Marcus Lattimore and Carlos Hyde also looming in the backfield, it is tough to see Gore putting up consistent RB2 numbers. Look elsewhere during the 3rd or 4throunds this year.
DeSean Jackson’s surprising offseason brought him to Washington D.C., in a move that had a lot of people excited. Adding Jackson will undoubtedly be a huge boost to an average Redskins offense last year, and will highten RGIII’s fantasy production this season as it gives him a true deep threat. With that said, Jackson has proved to be unreliable at times, even when he was the clear cut number one wide-out in Philadelphia. Last year was a career year for Jackson, and I would not expect him to reproduce his 9 touchdown season since in his previous two seasons he only found the end zone six times in total. Last year was also his first with more than 61 receptions and over 1200 yards. Playing second fiddle to RGIII’s favorite target Pierre Garçon will hurt Jackson’s production this year. Many have Jackson as a high end WR2, but waiting to grab him as a WR3 would be much wiser.