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15 Fantasy Football Players Set to Make a Huge Leap This Season

Alessandro MiglioFeatured ColumnistJuly 8, 2013

15 Fantasy Football Players Set to Make a Huge Leap This Season

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    Fantasy football is a volatile sport. Every year we see statistical jumps from some and falls from grace from others.

    Many times these statistical boosts are from players who have gotten their first real chance to contribute. Others come because players are put in better situations or their teammates improve.

    Who are the players set to make the biggest leaps in the fantasy realm this year? Click through to find out.

     

    Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

Danny Amendola, WR, New England Patriots

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    It is easy to predict a big boost in fantasy stats anytime a player heads northeast to play with Tom Brady and Co. on offense. But that has not been the case in recent years.

    Consider the cautionary tales of Chad Johnson and Brandon Lloyd, two promising Bill Belichick signings who simply failed as fantasy players. Could the same happen to Danny Amendola?

    The good news for Amendola and his potential fantasy owners is that he is a markedly different player. Amendola is not an "X" receiver, nor is he in the twilight of his career. He is 26 years old and closer to Wes Welker in style.

    Of course, that guarantees nothing. The former Ram has also been injured plenty throughout his career, which is enough to scare some potential owners away.

    If he can stay healthy, though, he should approach 100 catches on the year, a dramatic improvement from his days in St. Louis.

     

    2012 season: 63 receptions, 666 yards, 3 touchdowns

    2013 prediction: 105 receptions, 1,150 yards, 8 touchdowns

Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins

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    Lamar Miller looked like a steal in the fourth round of the 2012 draft for the Dolphins. Then the season rolled around, and he found himself buried on the depth chart for several weeks at a time.

    The former Hurricane reportedly had issues with pass-blocking and picking up the playbook, and the Dolphins had little need to force him onto the field with Reggie Bush starting. Sure, Daniel Thomas has the upside of a piece of drywall, but he could block.

    Bush is gone, and Miller enters his second year, presumably better in the areas where he was lacking last season. The talented running back is likely the starter barring a poor preseason.

    That makes him a tantalizing option in fantasy football. Miller is a home run hitter, a one-cut wonder in the mold of Arian Foster. Only faster.

    An electric version of Foster in the zone-blocking scheme with the starting gig all to himself? That screams "steal" in fantasy drafts.

    Alright, so that only describes the apex of his potential, but Miller is still due for a big boost in his second season.

     

    2012 season: 51 carries, 250 yards, 1 touchdown; 6 receptions, 45 yards

    2013 prediction: 225 carries, 1,100 yards, 8 touchdowns; 40 receptions, 300 yards, 2 touchdowns

Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals

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    For a a brief time just before the 2012 NFL draft, Michael Floyd challenged Justin Blackmon as the top wide receiver.

    Blackmon wound up winning that battle when the Jaguars moved up to get him, leaving Floyd to fall to the Cardinals as the next wideout taken. With Larry, Moe and Curly at quarterback—Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley—Floyd had a predictably disappointing rookie year.

    By adding Carson Palmer, Arizona upgraded the position after two years in quarterback purgatory, which breathes new fantasy life into the skill positions out there. Floyd's second-year development and improved quarterback situation should help him see a big increase in fantasy scoring.

     

    2012 season: 45 receptions, 562 yards, 2 touchdowns

    2013 prediction: 75 receptions, 850 yards, 6 touchdowns

Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears

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    This is cheating a bit given Jay Cutler did already have some big fantasy seasons. But that was another football lifetime ago.

    Cutler has struggled since his second season in the NFL, unable to regain that fantasy football swagger. There are a variety of reasons for this—a lack of receiving options some seasons, terrible offensive lines, flipping on the interception machine—but he is primed to explode once more this season.

    Marc Trestman brings his up-tempo offense back to the NFL after taking over for the defensive-minded Lovie Smith. That should be a big boon for Cutler.

     

    2012 season: 255/434, 3,033 yards, 19 touchdowns, 14 interceptions; 41 carries, 233 yards

    2013 prediction: 320/525, 3,900 yards, 30 touchdowns, 15 interceptions; 40 carries, 200 yards, 1 touchdown

Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns

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    The offseason hype has come and practically gone for Jordan Cameron, who takes over as the starting tight end in Cleveland.

    Shane Vereen is this month's Jordan Cameron.

    — Ryan Boser (@Ryan_Boser) July 6, 2013

     

    Someone in one of my leagues just dropped Jordan Cameron for Jake Ballard...

    — Coleman Kelly (@coleman_ff) July 6, 2013

    While players generally fail to live up to the hype, Cameron's upside is quite intriguing. He comes from the same basketball-playing mold as Jimmy Graham and Tony Gonzalez, and he plays for Antonio Gates' former coach, Norv Turner.

    Will he be a beastly combination of the three? No, that would be a silly prediction. But he finds himself in a great situation to produce, which means he should have a nice bump in the fantasy football realm.

     

    2012 season: 20 receptions, 226 yards, 1 touchdown

    2013 prediction: 55 receptions, 575 yards, 6 touchdowns

David Wilson, RB, New York Giants

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    Last season was rough for David Wilson, who was a popular preseason sleeper before landing himself in Tom Coughlin's doghouse.

    He spent much of his season there before coming on late in the year thanks to yet another Ahmad Bradshaw injury. Bradshaw is gone now, and Wilson has hopefully demolished that doghouse.

    Andre Brown, good golly. David Wilson might as well stay in that doghouse for a while. He's not needed.

    — FFToolbox.com (@fftoolbox) September 21, 2012

    From doghouse to penthouse: Giants’ David Wilson has a game for the ages http://t.co/vnGpdWJN #NFL

    — Yahoo! Sports NFL (@YahooSports_NFL) December 10, 2012

    He will still have to contend with Andre Brown for playing time, but it looks like Wilson should have a nice sophomore season. He has immense upside, which is why fantasy owners are clamoring to draft him so highly.

     

    2012 season: 71 carries, 358 yards, 4 touchdowns; 4 receptions, 34 yards, 1 touchdown

    2013 prediction: 200 carries, 950 yards, 7 touchdowns; 30 receptions, 200 yards, 2 touchdowns

Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens

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    Torrey Smith enters his third year in the league at the perfect time from a fantasy football perspective. Joe Flacco has finally achieved elite status—well, at least in the playoffs—and Anquan Boldin is gone.

    That all means Smith is primed to join the upper echelon of fantasy receivers. Teams were already keen on Smith last season, given he was the best receiver on the team and all. He was still targeted over 100 times, although Joe Flacco was only able to complete 47 percent of passes in his direction, per Pro Football Focus.

    He actually caught one fewer pass last season than he did as a rookie.

    Part of the reason for that is the sheer number of times Smith was targeted deep. He led the league by far in targets that were 20-plus yards downfield, which are more difficult to complete.

    Smith will have a bigger role, which means he will do much more than run deep routes half the time. He should see a huge increase in fantasy scoring as a result.

     

    2012 season: 49 receptions, 855 yards, 8 touchdowns

    2013 prediction: 80 receptions, 1,250 yards, 10 touchdowns

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins

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    Ryan Tannehill was lost amidst the wave of fantastic rookie signal-callers last season.

    The likes of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson shined brightly in their inaugural seasons in the NFL, but Tannehill had a decent year of his own. This was despite having Brian Hartline and a pair of butter knives to throw to last season.

    Tannehill wound up with just 12 passing touchdowns, a number he could double in his second season. If he can capitalize on the ground a few times as well, he could sneak into the top 12 at fantasy quarterback.

    The Dolphins have done him a solid by upgrading his arsenal, adding Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller while retaining Hartline this offseason.

    Reports from Dolphins practices this year say Tannehill looks great. If he has indeed improved dramatically, this could be a big year for the former Texas A&M star..

     

    2012 season: 282-of-484, 3,294 yards, 12 touchdowns, 13 interceptions; 49 carries, 211 yards, 2 touchdowns

    2013 prediction: 310-of-500, 3,850 yards, 25 touchdowns, 12 interceptions; 45 carries, 300 yards, 3 touchdowns

Chris Ivory, RB, New York Jets

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    Running back depth in New Orleans got a trim this offseason when the Saints traded Chris Ivory away to the Jets.

    Ivory gets to strut his stuff as the lead back in New York—barring injuries or an awful preseason showing—and that means a big boost in the fantasy football realm.

    The talented running back showed off tantalizing upside in small doses in New Orleans, occasionally ripping off spectacular runs and outperforming his cohorts during his tenure there. Ivory far outpaced his teammates with a 5.1 yards-per-carry average.

    He has had a bit of an injury history, which is the biggest reason why he is not rated more highly. But considering the Jets were able to squeeze 1,000 yards out of plodding Shonn Greene in each of the past two seasons, Ivory seems like a lock to explode this year.

     

    2012 season: 40 carries, 217 yards, 2 touchdowns; 2 receptions, 15 yards

    2013 prediction: 265 carries, 1,200 yards, 9 touchdowns; 25 receptions, 200 yards, 1 touchdown

A.J. Jenkins, WR, San Francisco 49ers

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    It's not hard to improve upon zero.

    That is precisely the number of catches A.J. Jenkins had on one measly target as a rookie in 2012. The former first-round pick simply fell behind during the preseason and wound up inactive for most of the season.

    Part of the reason for that was the fact the 49ers had plenty of talent at wide receiver last season. Between Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, Kyle Williams and even Ted Ginn Jr.,  San Francisco could afford to bring Jenkins along slowly.

    Never mind that Chad Hall had more targets than Jenkins.

    With Moss gone and Crabtree effectively out for the seasons, look for Jenkins to play a significant role in the San Francisco offense.

     

    2012 season: Goose egg

    2013 prediction: 65 receptions, 850 yards, 5 touchdowns

Coby Fleener, TE, Indianapolis Colts

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    The Colts did a fantastic job in the 2012 draft, and that's not only because they lucked into a franchise quarterback immediately after losing their last one.

    Coby Fleener was brought in as a second-round pick, instantly becoming the starter along with his Stanford teammate Andrew Luck. His rookie season was far from spectacular, however—he was outshined by fellow rookie Dwayne Allen at the position.

    He was limited to just 12 games because of injuries, a big reason why he had just 286 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

    He should retain that starting gig this year, though, and he should see an improvement in Year 2 with Luck. If he can stay on the field, he should easily double his production if not much more.

     

    2012 season: 26 receptions, 281 yards, 2 touchdowns

    2013 prediction: 45 receptions, 500 yards, 5 touchdowns

Rueben Randle, WR, New York Giants

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    The Giants have a couple of good receivers in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, but they might be pinning their future at wide receiver on Rueben Randle.

    Randle couldn't get much action as a rookie despite the Giants gushing about wanting to take him in the first round of the 2012 draft. Domenik Hixon played more snaps, and Ramses Barden wasn't far behind as the former LSU standout learned the NFL ropes.

    Year 2 should see him ascend to that third wide receiver slot on the depth chart, particularly with Hixon gone. Considering how often Hakeem Nicks has been injured throughout his career, it wouldn't be a stretch to say Randle will see some starts this year.

    Even so, Cruz is better in the slot than on the outside, meaning Randle should see plenty of action at the "Z" spot if everyone is healthy. 

     

    2012 season: 19 receptions, 298 yards, 3 touchdowns

    2013 prediction: 55 receptions, 700 yards, 5 touchdowns

Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis

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    It's put-up or shut-up time for Sam Bradford.

    He has had a limited arsenal over the years, save perhaps Danny Amendola, who was out of the lineup too often to provide consistency. Chris Givens and Brian Quick flashed their upside last season—Givens more so than his rookie counterpart—and the Rams added electrifying rookie Tavon Austin in the draft.

    They also nabbed free agency's top tight end, Jared Cook, who looks to earn that big contract after several disappointing seasons in Tennessee.

    Bradford threw for just 21 touchdowns last year, a number that could skyrocket with his improved arsenal. 

     

    2012 season: 328-of-551, 3,702 yards, 21 touchdowns, 13 interceptions; 37 carries, 127 yards, 1 touchdown

    2013 prediction: 325-of-540, 3,900 yards, 28 touchdowns, 14 interceptions; 35 carries, 150 yards, 1 touchdown

Vincent Brown, WR, San Diego Chargers

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    It was a preseason of promise for Vincent Brown in the fantasy football realm. Then his ankle gave way.

    The talented receiver was knocked out for the season with the injury, leaving the Chargers to finish circling that drain after years of mediocrity under Norv Turner without him.

    He makes his triumphant return as a potential starter in that offense—he realistically just needs to beat out Robert Meachem, who was about as useful as a poop-flavored lollipop last year—and could see that sleeper potential fulfilled as a result.

     

    2012 season: None

    2013 prediction: 70 receptions, 900 yards, 8 touchdowns

Rob Housler, TE, Arizona Cardinals

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    The upgrade at quarterback in Arizona won't just help Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.

    Rob Housler enters his third season in the NFL at a good time. Arizona theoretically exorcised their quarterback demons, and opposing defenses have plenty to worry about from elsewhere in that offense.

    Finished a Sleeper Alert for Rob Housler. Nearly as impressive as Jordan Cameron. We'll post it on Monday at 4for4.

    — John Paulsen (@4for4_John) June 9, 2013

    Rob Housler has yet to score his first NFL touchdown. That will change in 2013. #Cardinals

    — Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) June 5, 2013

    It is difficult to score a touchdown as a tight end when you aren't targeted in the red zone. Carson Palmer should help rectify that situation, especially considering how good he made Brandon Myers look last season in Oakland.

    A breakout season is looming for the Cardinals tight end.

     

    2012 season: 45 receptions, 417 yards

    2013 prediction: 65 receptions, 650 yards, 5 touchdowns


     


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