Fantasy Football 2013: 10 Breakout Second-Year Players to Watch out for
It was a banner year for this season’s crop of rookies, as several first-year phenoms stepped right in and became immediate contributors for fantasy squads from day one. If you took a chance on a gifted rookie this year, chances are you had a successful fantasy campaign.
Guys like Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Trent Richardson, Alfred Morris and Doug Martin all had signature rookie campaigns and will be cornerstones for future fantasy squads for years to come. However, this slideshow is not about them.
The following 10 soon-to-be second-year players listed here were overshadowed by the exploits of the aforementioned rookies, but are set to join them as being trusted fantasy options in 2013. While they did not enjoy the fanfare that some of their brethren did, these sophomores are set to jump up on the scene and make an impact next season.
The following players did not make my cut, but keep a watchful eye on these guys, as they are not that far behind and can make an impact in 2013: Chris Givens, Rod Streater, Coby Fleener/Dwayne Allen, Lamar Miller, LaMichael James, Robert Turbin, Bryce Brown, Brandon Weeden, Kendall Wright, Michael Floyd and Rueben Randle.
10. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Granted the Dolphins offense is not that dynamic, but Ryan Tannehill proved he was a serviceable quarterback in his rookie season.
Tannehill is coming off a season in which he completed a respectable 58.3 percent of his passes for 3,294 yards. Tannehill also passed for 13 touchdowns. Now that is not a lot, but he did not turn the ball over all too much either (13 interceptions).
With the Dolphins expected to spend some money on upgrading the receiving corps (Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley?), Tannehill is poised to make the next step in his progression.
Draft Tannehill with confidence as a backup. He has the pedigree to break out in his sophomore season.
9. Bernard Pierce, Baltimore Ravens
If the postseason taught us anything, it’s that the Ravens will want to incorporate Bernard Pierce more into the game plan going forward.
Pierce totaled 40 carries for 202 yards in the playoffs, and while Ray Rice (who tallied 84 carries for 306 yards) is still the lead-dog in Baltimore, Pierce is a talented runner in his own right. In order to keep Rice fresh, expect the Ravens to feed the ball to Pierce more often in 2013.
Regardless, if you plan to draft Rice (or you are an owner of his in keeper leagues), then make sure you handcuff him to Pierce. Pierce is as a must-have handcuff as for fantasy purposes.
8. Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
Dripping with big-time athleticism, Gordon provided Browns’ quarterback Brandon Weeden with a legitimate deep threat to connect with. In fact, Gordon had an amazing 16.1 yards per reception in 2012.
Gordon is still raw, but he has the talent and the know-how to succeed in the NFL. Gordon is coming off a fine rookie campaign in which he recorded 50 receptions for 805 yards and five touchdowns.
The Browns could piece together a solid offense in 2012, and as long as Gordon grows and matures into his role, he’ll have a place on your fantasy squad.
7. Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears
In 2012, Alshon Jeffery posted an eye-popping 15.3 yards per reception to go with three touchdowns in 10 games played. However, Jeffery battled the injury bug all season and never got comfortable in his rookie season.
That could all change in his sophomore season under the tutelage of new head coach Marc Trestman. Trestman is known for offensive wizardry, and he’ll get the most out of Jeffery in 2013.
Jeffery will benefit when teams double-team Brandon Marshall, as Jeffery has all the skills to make teams pay.
Jeffery will be a solid selection as a No. 3 or No. 4 wide receiver in the later portions of drafts next season.
6. Ronnie Hillman, Denver Broncos
With Willis McGahee coming back from injury and Knowshon Moreno’s role with the Broncos relatively undefined heading into 2013, the young Hillman could play himself into more carries in the Broncos offense.
Drafted in the third round, the diminutive Hillman will eventually get his opportunity. With McGahee and Moreno ahead of him on the depth chart, Hillman could slip in drafts. The upside with Hillman is higher than those of McGahee and Moreno, so he possesses more value.
Be proactive with Hillman and target him as a No. 3 or No. 4 running back in drafts next season.
5. Daryl Richardson, St. Louis Rams
With Steven Jackson’s days apparently numbered, it’s only a matter of time before Daryl Richardson gets his chance. Even if Jackson stays, Richardson will be given enough carries to make an impact in fantasy circles.
Richardson took advantage of the opportunity he was afforded to this past year. Richardson averaged a healthy 4.8 yards per carry on 98 attempts. While receiving no more than 15 carries in any one game, Richardson still ran for more than 50 yards four times.
Eventually, the Rams will want to see what they have in Richardson, and next year seems like the appropriate time. Richardson will make for a great No. 3 running back for your squad, and his potential in the Rams’ evolving offense is salivating.
4. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
The Colts had themselves quite the rookie class with Andrew Luck, Vick Ballard, etc., but the one with the most room for growth is perhaps the speedy T.Y. Hilton.
Hilton earned himself the trust of Luck going forward, as Luck heavily targeted Hilton down the stretch. Hilton ended his season with 50 catches for 861 yards and seven touchdowns—not bad numbers for a rookie receiver.
While Reggie Wayne is still the go-to-veteran receiver for Luck and the Colts, it’s the potential of Hilton that makes him such an enticing option heading into 2013. Hilton is a high-end No. 3 wide receiver to target and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Hilton could be drafted as a No.2.
As long as Luck is throwing him passes, the sky is the limit for Hilton.
3. Vick Ballard, Indianapolis Colts
Although not on the level of the likes of Trent Richardson, Doug Martin and Alfred Morris, Vick Ballard is a running back you cannot sleep on.
With Donald Brown flaming out and getting injured all too often, Ballard stepped up toward the end of the season and appears headed to being the Colt’s workhorse in 2013. In fact, Ballard had 21 or more carries in the last five games (including postseason). Ballard also scored two touchdowns in his last five regular-season games.
To keep the Colts' offense more balanced, Ballard should be given enough carries to keep defenses honest. Ballard should be viewed as a low-end No. 2 running back, and he is a player to target in the middle rounds of drafts next summer.
2. Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars
It took him a while to adjust, but when the light finally went on for Justin Blackmon midseason, he showed exactly why he was a top-five pick.
Blackmon finished the year with 64 receptions for 865 yards and five touchdowns. Who could forget his game in Houston in Week 11 when he lit up the scoreboard, en route to racking up an amazing 236 receiving yards and a touchdown on seven catches?
With his late-season surge and Cecil Shorts providing him with another receiver to take pressure off him, Blackmon will be more involved in the Jag’s offense in 2013. Expect Blackmon to take his game to a higher level next year.
Blackmon can be considered a high-end No. 3, or perhaps, a No. 2 wide receiver with upside for so much more.
1. David Wilson, New York Giants
Now that the Giants have cut Ahmad Bradshaw, it opens the door for David Wilson to come in and literally run away with the job as the Giants’ lead back.
Wilson, who was the Giants’ first-round pick in the 2012 draft, was another rookie who was sterling to end the season. Wilson recorded four total touchdowns in the last four games, while rushing for 75 yards or more twice in that span.
Wilson has all the tools to capitalize in his second season with New York. With a chance for increased carries and playing in a prolific offense, Wilson should not disappoint. In fact, treat Wilson as a No. 2 running back for fantasy purposes and one with a limitless ceiling.