Fantasy Football 2013: Surprising Stars Ready to Explode

Jesse ReedCorrespondent IAugust 27, 2013

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 30:  Alshon Jeffery #17 of the Chicago Bears make the catch and runs 55 yards during the first quarter of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 30, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. The Bears defeted the Lions 26-24.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

Picking up players in your fantasy football league who are not yet stars but who soon will be is a big key to winning your fantasy league.

Preseason games offer a potential glimpse into the future, but one shouldn't be too hasty to believe everything one sees during this time of evaluation and sifting.

Washington Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman led the league in passing yards during the first three weeks of preseason games, but that doesn't mean he's someone you should be targeting in your fantasy draft.

However, it's worth noting when a player like Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson totals 155 yards and a touchdown on just 20 carries.

It's never an exact science when attempting to determine which players will take the NFL by storm and lead the next wave of rising stars. With that in mind, here's a look at a few players who have caught my eye as the 2013 NFL season approaches.


David Wilson, Running Back, New York Giants

Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride needs to lean heavily on the running game this season in order to protect quarterback Eli Manning.

The team's offensive line is in a state of disrepair heading into the beginning of the regular season, with starters David Baas and David Diehl both out with injuries, as noted by Bill Pennington of the New York Times

Wilson was a spark plug as a rookie last season, averaging five yards per carry with five total touchdowns (four rushing and one receiving). He plays fast, and once a crease opens up, Wilson hits it with authority.

The Giants named him the unquestioned starter recently, as noted by Rotoworld Football:

In limited action this preseason, Wilson has looked more explosive than ever. He has totaled 142 yards on 18 carries—a line highlighted by his 84-yard touchdown romp against the New York Jets in Week 3.

New York's offense has a chance to be scary good this year, but it's going to take some savvy playcalling by Gilbride, who must keep opposing defenses honest by utilizing Wilson on a regular basis.

While Andre Brown will likely receive some carries every game, Wilson is set up for a monster season under such circumstances.


Jared Cook, Tight End, St. Louis Rams

Cook has always had the talent to become one of the most explosive tight ends in the NFL, and recently's Peter King called him the "single-best player" he saw during his tour of NFL training camps.

At 6'5" and approximately 250 pounds, Cook ran a 4.50-second 40-yard dash time at the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine, and he plays just as fast on the field.

Unfortunately for Cook, he was underutilized during his tenure with the Tennessee Titans.

But the Rams signed the athletic playmaker this spring with the intent of turning him into a deadly weapon, and he's looked the part in preseason with five receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown.

His size and speed are similar to that of Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers. Davis is the faster man, but Cook has freakish athleticism that makes him a nightmare matchup for opposing defenders, as alluded to by Bleacher Report's Tyson Langland:

Quarterback Sam Bradford and Cook have already developed some excellent chemistry, and the duo will be joined at the hip all season long. 


Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver, Chicago Bears

It's an exciting—albeit slightly stressful—time to be a Bears fan. 

The team has been defined by defense for decades, but the arrival of new head coach and offensive guru Marc Trestman has the franchise headed in a different direction. 

Not to say that Chicago's defense won't still be formidable, but the offense should be far more explosive this year under his guidance than it was a year ago under defensive-minded head coach Lovie Smith.

One of the prime recipients of this shift will be quarterback Jay Cutler, who will, in turn, spread the love around to his receivers. 

Speaking of receivers, the Bears have one of the NFL's best in Brandon Marshall, who tied Wes Welker for the second-most receptions in the league last year.

But even with Marshall hauling in passes in such high volume, the team's offense was stagnant.

Jeffery is part of the solution this year, and he's been drawing rave reviews all summer long.

Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune recently reported that Jeffery looks "more fluid, more refined, more powerful and certainly more sure of himself," this year than he did as a rookie. Perhaps even more of a feather in his cap is this comment from Jay Cutler, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN Chicago:

Alshon [Jeffery], I think has probably had the best camp out of everybody on offense. He's done a great job this offseason of getting better, getting physically stronger and gaining my trust. I love throwing it to him.

It shows, too.

After barely showing up as a blip on the radar in the team's first two preseason games, Jeffery had a big game in Week 3, catching seven passes for 77 yards to lead the Bears.

He's just starting to heat up, and you'd be smart to pick up this future star before it's too late.


Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78