Fantasy

2014 Fantasy Football Sleepers, Busts, and Breakouts: NCB Staff

Yesterday, we here at No Coast Bias released our fantasy football rankings for the 2014 season. While a list of players is certainly helpful, it doesn’t tell the whole story. There are certain players that pique our interest more (or less) than the rest, and you are going to want to know their names come draft day. So without further ado, the official NCB Sleepers, Breakouts, and Busts:

First, let’s set the parameters:

  • A Sleeper is a player we feel will greatly outproduce his draft position.
  • A Bust is a player we feel will greatly under-perform based on his draft position.
  • A Breakout is a player we feel will make a “leap” in fantasy production, not necessarily to the elite level.

Our prognosticators for this exercise are:

Sleepers

NCB Sleepers Busts Breakouts
Quarterback

Johnny Manziel, Browns

Johnny Football will be the eventual starter in Cleveland. When he is on the field, he will get to run the same offense that made Robert Griffin III a top five quarterback in 2012. I wrote more extensively on this in my quarterback preview – Anthony Amico

Robert Griffin III, Redskins

There are so many reasons to love RGIII this year. First, he’ll be another year removed from his knee surgery, which will hopefully allow him to regain some of the explosiveness he showed during his rookie season. Second, he’s playing with the most talent group of weapons he’s ever had. Pierre Garcon has become a top level receiver, DeSean Jackson will be a much improved deep threat over Aldrick Robinson, and Jordan Reed looks like a promising talent at tight end. Finally, new coach Jay Gruden, who made Andy Dalton relevant in fantasy, should be able to put together a scheme that takes full advantage of all the offensive talent in Washington. He’s got a chance to be a top 3 fantasy QB this year. – Matt LaMarca

Jay Cutler, Bears

2 key names: Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Matt Forte in the backfield doesn’t hurt either. If Cutler can stay healthy for the entire season, watch out. Prior to his injury in week 7 last year, he was having a great season (QB6 through 7 games). I expect him to pick up right where he left off. – Danny Troutman

Josh McCown, Bucs

Last year with the Chicago Bears he started 6 games and averaged about 22 points per game, which would have made him the number 3 QB going by average weekly points. Although it is a small sample size and Marc Trestman can definitely be credited with some of the success, he’s set up to have a very similar season with the Buccaneers. He has two big wide outs with similar skill sets, and should have a good run game. – John Schrank

Running Back

Trent Richardson, Colts

In case you didn’t read my running back preview, here is the Cliffs Notes version of why TRick is massively undervalued this season: he plays in what should be a good offense, he should have opportunities for touchdowns, and he should catch plenty of passes. What’s not to like? –  Amico

Steven Jackson, Falcons

After a rough start to his Atlanta career, Steven Jackson is poised for a bounce back 2014 campaign. He dealt with injuries early, but after returning to the lineup he averaged approximately 60 rushing yards, 3 catches, and a TD over his final 6 games. Prorate those numbers for a full schedule, and Jackson is looking at 1000 yards, 50 catches, and double digit touchdowns.   Factor in the fact that one of their best red zone weapons just retired (Tony Gonzalez) and the potential is there for Jackson to score a lot in 2014. Some people believe Devonta Freeman will eat into his workload, which is definitely possible, but Jacquizz Rodgers stole some touches from him last year on passing downs so this is nothing new to him. Even if he gets only 15 touches a game, he should offer enough fantasy value to remain a RB2. – LaMarca

Carlos Hyde, 49ers

Hyde was the top RB in the draft. He was drafted to a team with one of the most consistent RBs in the league with Frank Gore. The 49ers are also notorious for running the ball more than they pass. This means that Gore’s 31 year old legs have had lots of work over his lengthy career. He’s still going to get plenty of work, but expect Hyde to get in on the mix plenty. And if, Heaven forbid, Gore goes down to injury, Hyde will be ready to take over for the long haul. – Troutman

Terrance West, Browns

We’ve seen two things: running backs with Kyle Shanahan do really well in fantasy, and Ben Tate consistently gets hurt. I think once Johnny Manziel becomes the QB, the run game is really going to thrive in Cleveland. – Schrank

Wide Receiver

Torrey Smith, Ravens

Smith is going later (WR29) than he finished last season (WR23) in PPR leagues, so even if his production remained the same, he is a value right now. With Gary Kubiak running the offense in Baltimore, I expect Torrey to put up better fantasy numbers than last season. Kubiak regularly targeted Andre Johnson, which can only be good for the young speedster. – Amico

Kenny Britt, Rams

I can’t believe I’m going down this road again, but I kind of like Kenny Britt for 2014. He’s reuniting with old coach Jeff Fisher, who was able to bring the best out of him in Tennessee. He’s got virtually no competition for targets on the outside in St. Louis, and has shown that he’s very naturally gifted when healthy. Plus, he’s got to feel as though he’s running out of chances at this point, and this may be his last shot. This is a situation to monitor during training camp, but if it looks like he’s going to start I’m all over Britt as a WR5. – LaMarca

Roddy White, Falcons

White could possibly slip down draft boards a bit. Last year he was playing through an ankle injury and it showed. Additionally, Julio Jones was injured causing White to be the top receiving threat to opposing defenses; and they could stand to double cover White if needed. Well now Jones is back and White is healthy. On top of all that, White is in a contract year, so expect him to do huge things to catch a payday after this season. – Troutman

Jordan Matthews, Eagles

He’s going to be the Eagles number 3 receiver in an up-tempo, successful offense. The options in front of him on the depth chart aren’t stars, and some have said he’s looked like the best receiver they have so far. – Schrank

Tight End

Heath Miller, Steelers

Getting Heath Miller at TE16 right now is like getting a car out of a machine you only put a dollar into. Now fully healthy, I expect him to go back to being Big Ben’s safety blanket and primary red zone target. Eight touchdowns is his floor. – Amico

Dennis Pitta, Ravens

Pitta seemed poised for a breakout last year before getting injured in training camp. Still, he came back strong and snagged 20 balls over the last 4 contests of the season, despite playing limited snaps. New offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak also loved getting the tight end involved in the offense in Houston, so as long as Pitta stays healthy a top 5 finish isn’t out of the question. – LaMarca

Kyle Rudolph, Vikings

Norv Turner is in Minnesota now. Over the past 6 seasons, Turner’s top TE has never scored less than 7 TDs. Rudolph has been consistent over his 3 years and scored 9 touchdowns in 2012. I expect him to show up in that form again this year. – Troutman

Delanie Walker, Titans

He was quite productive last year and ended up finishing as a TE1. I don’t see anything changing except he’s getting better QB play with Locker returning. – Schrank

Busts

NCB Sleepers Busts Breakouts
Quarterback

Tom Brady, Patriots

I cannot get behind a quarterback who is so dependent on one player (Rob Gronkowski) for production. Even if Gronk plays a full slate of games this year, I don’t see Brady matching his ADP of QB8. There are quite a few signal callers that I’d rather have going after him. – Amico

Nick Foles, Eagles

Unfortunately for Nick Foles, all of his upside is being built into his draft price. Despite starting only 16 games in his NFL career, he’s currently being drafted as the number 6 QB according to fantasy football calculator, which is just too rich for me. His unreal TD/INT ratio is bound to regress this season, and he also benefited by feasting on an incredibly easy schedule last year. This year, his schedule features the stout defenses of the NFC West, as well as teams like Houston and Carolina. Plus, who knows if Chip Kelly’s offense will be as effective this year without DeSean Jackson, and with defensive coordinators having a full offseason to process it. I’d feel much more comfortable taking a more proven guy, or just waiting until later in the draft to find my starter. – LaMarca

Cam Newton, Panthers

Newton has been an excellent pick the last few years, but he now has zero receiving weapons in Carolina. His best shot is throwing the ball to rookie Kelvin Benjamin. The only thing that will salvage Newton’s season and make him a middle of the pack QB will be his wheels – and he is coming off of ankle surgery – though they say he’s fully recoverd. Additionally, Carolina’s stout defense has been excellent and the Panthers best bet to win games is to keep them low scoring with the help of that D. – Troutman

Matt Stafford, Lions

I think Stafford will still finish inside the top 10, I just don’t expect him to be a top 5 QB (where he’s currently being drafted). Jim Caldwell’s offense won’t be as pass happy as Schwartz’s was. The addition of Golden Tate doesn’t thrill me either; is that going to keep Stafford’s turnover numbers down? – Schrank

Running Back

Alfred Morris, Redskins

Roy Helu is the back to own in Washington. Alfred Morris was a great Mike Shanahan running back, but Shanny is out and Jay Gruden is in as the head coach for the Redskins, giving him a much bleaker outlook for 2014. He should retain an early down and short yardage role a la BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but will not get nearly enough work to be a consistent fantasy factor. – Amico

Chris Johnson, Jets

A former favorite of mine, CJ1K’s days of being an every week starter at running back are done. He’s going to be in close to a 50/50 split with Chris Ivory, and Ivory is going to get all of the goal line work. With his elite speed becoming more pedestrian, Johnson has relied on getting a ton of carries in the past few seasons to stay fantasy relevant, and I just don’t think that willl be the case this year in New York. – LaMarca

Le’Veon Bell, Steelers

Bell had a lot of carries last year, but he had a very Eddie George-ish 3.52 YPC (good for 42nd in the league). Pittsburgh brought in LeGarrette Blount to help out in the backfield. And the way Blount finished up last season in New England, I would expect him to take quite a few of those carries from Bell, and possibly steal his starting job. Blount is the bruiser back and will be taking away those ever-so-valuable goal line carries, as well. If Bell is going to score many TDs, they’ll be from 20+ yards out. – Troutman

Doug Martin, Bucs

Martin is coming off a major injury, in a crowded backfield, and on a team that I expect will use jump balls as their redzone offense – Schrank

Wide Receiver

Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos

Fantasy production usually comes down to two things: talent and opportunity. I think that Sanders is being overrated in both departments, and thus has inflated fantasy value right now. Cody Latimer is a more natural fit to replace the departed Eric Decker, and I believe that Sanders’ destiny is as a replacement for the aging Wes Welker. Stay away in 2014. – Amico

Alshon Jeffery, Bears

I don’t think Jeffrey is going to be a complete bust, but I’m not ready to buy him as a WR1 for fantasy. Jeffrey thrived while Josh McCown was under center for the Bears last year, and was only above average with Cutler at QB. Cutler’s rapport with Brandon Marshall is so strong and will eat up so many targets that unfortunately Jeffrey will be relegated to a big play, boom or bust type player in 2014. He’ll have plenty of good weeks, but plenty of single digit weeks as well. – LaMarca

DeSean Jackson, Redskins

Jackson signing with Washington is a good move for the Redskins. I don’t necessarily think it will help Jackson too much. The #2 receiver behind Jackson last year was Riley Cooper – so Jackson was the best option. Now, in Washington, Jackson is the #2 receiver behind Pierre Garcon. Garcon had somewhat of a breakout season for himself last year and I expect that to continue, thus leaving less receptions available for Jackson this season. And without the Chip Kelly machine that is Philadelphia, Jackson’s production is bound to go down. Philadelphia averaged a TD more per game in 2013 than Washington did. I don’t expect him to have a full on bust of a season, but I don’t expect anywhere near his production from a year ago. – Troutman

Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals

His decline is continuing, and people don’t want to put the blame on him, instead shifting it to the O-line, QB play, etc. Michael Floyd should take a step forward and I think will end up outperforming Fitzgerald this year. – Schrank

Tight End

Vernon Davis, 49ers

The reasoning for a Davis decline in 2014 can be summed up in two words: Michael Crabtree. His production has been nowhere near as good with Colin Kaepernick’s top receiver on the field, which does not bode well for his 2014 outlook. – Amico

Vernon Davis is a beast of an athlete. He is easily one of the top 3 athletes at TE (and arguably as athletic as most WRs) in the NFL. That being said, the 49ers have got Crabtree back full time this season, as well as veterans Anquan Boldin & Stevie Johnson. Additionally, there are a few young talented WRs coming up with Patton and 4th round draft pick Bruce Ellington. The guy’s still a monster, but that’s a lot of guys to spread the ball around to. He knows that his production will be going down too – hence his attempt to renegotiate his contract coming off of a great season headed towards a not-as-good one. – Troutman

He’s currently holding out, and the 49ers have added some extra weapons. They will also have a healthy Michael Crabtree to start the season. I can see Davis falling out of the top 5 tight ends. – Schrank

Eric Ebron, Lions

Ebron is a good player in a good offense, and will eventually be a top 5 player at his position. This just isn’t the season when that happens. In addition to playing with great receivers (Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate) and great receiving running backs (Reggie Bush, Joique Bell), he’ll also have to battle for playing time against a returning veteran (Brandon Pettigrew) and a more proven second year player (Joseph Fauria.) Detroit loves to throw the football, but Ebron looks like the odd man out to me. – LaMarca

Breakouts

NCB Sleepers Busts Breakouts
Quarterback

Geno Smith, Jets

One of, if not my favorite, late round quarterback plays this season. Geno was terrific down the stretch last year, and used his legs better than most thought he would when he came out of West Virginia. With the additions of Eric Decker, Jace Amaro, and Chris Johnson, he will have a better compliment of receiving weapons at his disposal. Also, don’t forget that OC Marty Mornhinweg has traditionally been a very pass-happy play caller, so don’t rule out a big bump in pass attempts in 2014. – Amico

E.J. Manuel, Bills

Its going to be incredibly difficult to break out at the loaded QB position, but I like Manuel’s prospects for a strong sophomore campaign. He’s got a true #1 receiver with the addition of Sammy Watkins, and Mike Williams should be a plus option in the red zone. Manuel can also generate points with his legs, which could separate him from the rest of the low tier fantasy quarterbacks. He won’t emerge as a legit fantasy starter, but could definitely have some playability in the right matchups. – LaMarca

Colin Kaepernick, 49ers

Everybody in the world knows who this guy is and what kind of an athlete he is. He took over for Alex Smith and has led the team to 2 straight NFC Championship games (2011 was with Smith at the helm). They’ve also had one of the top defenses in the NFL and critics say he’s not the reason they’ve been so good. But now he has a host of healthy receivers and plenty of weapons around him. With Crabtree in the lineup, Kaep’s QBR jumps 9 points. He’s also got a $126M contract to justify. If he’s going to “break out”, it’ll be this year. – Troutman

Jay Cutler, Bears

If you combined Cutler and McCown’s numbers last year they would have had 30 touchdowns. I think if Cutler stays healthy he can do that and I expect an even better season from Alshon Jeffery now entering his 3rd season in the NFL. – Schrank

Running Back

Lorenzo Taliaferro, Ravens

One of my favorite Zero RB targets this year, I like Taliaferro to be the starter at some point in Baltimore. With Ray Rice expected to be suspended to start the season, the Coastal Carolina product will have a great chance to do that early in the year, competing with only Bernard Pierce for carries. Taliaferro is a classic Gary Kubiak runner. – Amico

Khiry Robinson, Saints

I’m honestly surprised that there’s not more hype surrounding Robinson right now after how the Saints chose to feature him in the playoffs last year. Pierre Thomas will command a handful of carries each game and dominate the passing game out of the backfield, but I expect Robinson to lead the Saints in carries this year. He should also handle the majority of the goal line work. Mark Ingram is around, but he’s been a huge bust and if Robinson can live up to his potential it shouldn’t be hard to relegate him to the bench for good. – LaMarca

Montee Ball, Broncos

Knowshon Moreno came up big last year with a 5th place fantasy finish at RB. He’s since moved on to Miami and made room for Montee Ball to take the reigns as the lead back. The Broncos will continue to have the ball a lot with Peyton at the helm – and if he can make Knowshon a star – expect big things from the more talented Ball. Assuming Ball doesn’t come up with a case of the fumbles, I wouldn’t expect Hillman or Anderson to take too many carries away. And as we saw last year, Peyton loved to check down to his RB despite all the other weapons on the field, making Ball even more valuable in a PPR league. – Troutman

Lamar Miller, Dolphins

All reports so far from camp are that Moreno isn’t holding up well, and I believe he was a product of Peyton Manning’s offense last year. The Dolphins offense under Bill Lazor should be much better than Sherman’s was last season, and Lamar Miller should have plenty of opportunities to succeed. – Schrank

Wide Receiver

Rueben Randle, Giants

The time is now for Randle, who struggled last year under old OC Kevin Killdrive Gilbride. Ben McAdoo’s offense should feature three receiver sets just like the offenses he was a part of in Green Bay, and less option routes than the Giants ran last season (Randle’s biggest area of deficiency). Even after the team drafted Odell Beckham Jr. in the first round of May’s draft, I expect Randle to be a staple on the outside this season for Big Blue and continue to be an effective redzone threat. 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns are very much within his realm of possible outcomes. – Amico

Justin Hunter, Titans

Hunter showed flashes last year, but I think that 2014 will be the year he truly breaks out. He’s a size/speed freak and looks like a true #1 receiver. With Kendall Wright and Nate Washington working the short to intermediate part of the field, Hunter should be able to thrive as a deep ball target. He may only catch 50 balls this year, but I think he can turn that into close to 1000 yards and high single digit touchdowns. – LaMarca

Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings

Patterson began his breakout campaign the final 5 weeks of last season and he’s ready to continue it. Over those 5 weeks, Patterson was tied for 4th among WRs in fantasy points. He’s incredibly fast and catches most passes that come his way. Oh yeah, and Norv Turner is in Minnesota now as the OC. Where was Turner last year, you ask? Well, he was the OC for Cleveland, where Josh Gordon had the season of a lifetime – breaking records and tallying up incredible point totals even after missing his first 2 games. Now I don’t necessarily expect Patterson to duplicate Gordon’s 2013 campaign (who could?), but I expect him to have one heck of a year. – Troutman

DeAndre Hopkins, Texans

Andre Johnson is aging and currently holding out. DeAndre Hopkins showed some real signs of playmaking ability when Johnson missed some time, there’s a chance he could be the Texans number 1 receiver. – Schrank

Tight End

Travis Kelce, Chiefs

Kelce is a height/weight/speed nightmare for opposing defenses and has a chance to be heavily featured in a Chief’s offense that lacks receiving targets. How his body responds from micro-fracture surgery will go a long way towards determining his production. – Amico

Ladarius Green, Chargers

It’ll be hard for Green to get enough targets to be a top end TE1, but he’s got the size and ability you look for at the position. If Antonio Gates were to get injured (not farfetched) Green will have the opportunity to put up huge numbers. Even if he has to split time with Gates, he should produce enough to be a borderline starter. – LaMarca

Dennis Pitta, Ravens

Pitta has a similar situation to Kyle Rudolph. He now has Gary Kubiak as the playcaller for the Ravens. Over the past 8 seasons, Kubiak is in the top 5 for TE targets in the NFL. Pitta is entering his 5th season and, when healthy, has showed flashes of playmaker.   This is his year. – Troutman

Jordan Reed, Redskins

Reed is super talented, and showed signs of it when healthy last year. A true hybrid-type tight end in what should be an explosive offense next year. The defense should remain weak, forcing the Redskins to throw a lot. – Schrank

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Adam Eisen

    July 23, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Love the article guys… Keep it up

  2. Taylor Venema

    July 28, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Fantastic stuff, guys.

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