Projecting Fantasy Football's Breakout Stars for 2013
The 2012 fantasy football season is just about wrapped up, as Week 16 brings with it the championship game in most leagues.
That means that while two teams in each league still have quite a bit to play for, the majority of fantasy owners have to face the reality that another season has ended, not in joy but once again in disappointment.
Many of those owners have already cast their glances towards 2013, making early plans that they hope will lead them to the title next season that eluded them this year.
Part of that plan should include identifying players who could be set for big things in 2013, and as such here's a look at a handful of candidates that should fit that bill.
Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers
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After coming in for an injured Alex Smith and then being handed the starting job at quarterback for the long-term, Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers faced the biggest test of his young NFL career heading into last week's showdown with the New England Patriots.
The second-year pro passed that test with flying colors, throwing four touchdown passes in a 49ers win.
Granted, the San Francisco offense caps Kaepernick's fantasy upside a bit. However, with his ability to hurt teams with both his arm and legs, Kaepernick should be a weekly starter in 2013 for fantasy squads that wait a bit before selecting a starter under center.
David Wilson, RB, New York Giants
The New York Giants are once again scrambling for their playoff lives, but regardless of what the season's last two games hold for the team Big Blue may have recently gotten a glimpse of their future at running back.
After topping 100 yards on the ground in Week 14, rookie running back David Wilson drew the start against the Atlanta Falcons in place of the injured Ahmad Bradshaw. In that game, Wilson's 55 rushing yards may not appear overly impressive as the Giants got down quick and were forced to abandon the run.
However, Bradshaw's continuing durability issues and the fact that he's not owed any guaranteed money next year may lead to a changing of the guard in the Big Apple, and the explosiveness that Wilson has shown with the football this year screams fantasy upside.
Danario Alexander, WR, San Diego Chargers
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There likely aren't a lot of fantasy owners that even want to hear the words "Danario Alexander" right now, as the goose-egg posted by the San Diego Chargers wideout in Week 15 probably cost many fantasy squads a loss in the playoffs.
However, Alexander's faceplant in Week 15 doesn't eradicate the tear he was on before that.
From Week 9 through Week 14, the third-year pro was a top-five fantasy option at his position, averaging over 90 yards a game with five scores over that six-week stretch.
Assuming that the oft-injured Alexander is healthy next year, there's no reason to think he won't do so as the unquestioned No. 1 receiver in San Diego and as a fantasy WR2 with considerable upside.
Mikel Leshoure, RB, Detroit Lions
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It may not exactly be fair to call Detroit Lions running back Mikel Leshoure a "breakout" candidate, since as his 3.8 yards per carry this season demonstrates the second-year pro isn't exactly the most explosive player in the NFL.
However, backs like Michael Turner of the Atlanta Falcons and BenJarvus Green-Ellis of the Cincinnati Bengals have shown that plodders can have a fair amount of value in fantasy football.
Leshoure has ridden his eight rushing touchdowns to a top 25 ranking among running backs this season, and next year a healthier Leshoure could see a significant uptick in carries and opportunities for fantasy production.
He may not win you style points, but style points don't win fantasy games.
Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
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Not a whole lot has gone how the Jacksonville Jaguars had hoped in 2012, and that has extended to rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who got off to a dreadfully slow start to the season.
However, Jacksonville's first-round pick has turned it around of late, with at least five catches and 50 receiving yards in four of the past five games, and it's not like Blackmon's talent evaporated the moment he arrived in Florida.
Granted, all bets are off if the Jaguars give the ball back to Blaine Gabbert in 2013, but assuming that they aren't insane, Blackmon's fantasy production next season has a good chance of outpacing his price tag.