Every year in fantasy football there are a few emerging stars, like a Cordarrelle Patterson, who capture our hearts. These are the players whom we put a lot of stock in for bigger and brighter things the following year.
Whether they are rookies, or players capitalizing on new roles, the 10 players listed in this slideshow are just a few of the exciting rising stars of the game. For fantasy purposes, these players have the talent, role and upside to do great things for years to come.
So let’s review last season to find the top 10 breakouts (ranked in order of fantasy relevance) that emerged as the best rising stars for 2014.
The aforementioned Cordarrelle Patterson is just one of a bevy of young receivers ready to bust loose this coming year. Patterson finished the 2013 season in style and will be a trendy sleeper on draft day.
After being not much of a factor in the Vikings offense early on and being mostly a special teams gem, Patterson found his niche late in the season. He scored in three of his last four games and became an integral part of the offense, while also recording 15 catches (on 25 targets) for 215 receiving yards in those last four games.
Expect the Vikings to unleash Patterson in 2014. He is the perfect player to take over the playmaking duties left by the void of Percy Harvin, while also complementing Adrian Peterson and the running game. Patterson is on target for a breakout year in his sophomore campaign.
While he didn’t have the statistical season that some in his rookie running back class enjoyed (Eddie Lacy, Le’Veon Bell, Zac Stacy, etc.), Giovani Bernard possesses about as much talent and upside as any rookie back entering the 2014 season.
Bernard had to split time with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and that obviously limited his production, as he finished with just 695 rushing yards and five touchdowns—which are not all that shabby when you factor in the timeshare. If you take Green-Ellis, who will turn 29 this year, out of the equation, Bernard has the chance at monster numbers once the Bengals take off the training wheels.
Bernard is clearly a better playmaker than Green-Ellis, and the Bengals will eventually want to see what they have in their 2013 second-round pick. Expect the Bengals to give Bernard a lot of touches—certainly more than last year—and Bernard to rise up the running back rankings rapidly in 2014.
Heading into the 2013 season as an unknown commodity, Julius Thomas busted out right away in the season opener against the Baltimore Ravens, in which he totaled five receptions for 110 yards and two touchdowns. From then, his legend only continued to grow.
Thomas finished the year with 49 receptions for 805 yards and 11 touchdowns (which was third-best among tight ends). In a loaded Denver offense, Thomas will remain a viable target that Peyton Manning will lean on.
When you pass for 23 touchdowns with just two interceptions in eight games started, you know you’re doing something right, and 2013 was the year Nick Foles did everything right.
After compiling the third-best QB rating (119.2) in one season in NFL history, Foles should pick up where he left off last season. Equipped with loaded weapons (LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson), Foles should only continue to grow in 2014. Sure, he’ll probably throw more than two interceptions, but the touchdowns and yardage will certainly rise.
After the big three of Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are off the board, Foles can be viewed in the same light as other high-end quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Cam Newton, etc. Think Rounds 4 or 5 for Foles in next year’s drafts.
Fresh off being named Sporting News' Rookie of the Year, Allen will go into drafts next summer as a hot commodity.
After not making much noise in the early going, Allen busted loose after Week 4 (while previously recording only three receptions for 30 yards in his first three games). For the year, Allen registered 71 receptions for 1,046 receiving yards and eight touchdowns—stats which were best among rookie receivers.
The stock symbol is pointing up for Allen, and he makes for a solid No. 2 wide receiver on draft day. Considering his talent and potential, he should be in line for even better numbers in his sophomore season.
Although somewhat in the shadow of Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery established himself as a household name among fantasy players this past year.
Jeffery came alive in 2013 after a somewhat injury-plagued rookie season. For the year, Jeffery finished with 89 receptions for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns. He and Marshall will make for a lethal duo in Chicago, and there should be enough targets for them both to succeed.
Jeffery will make for a solid, low-end No. 1 receiver or, if you’re very lucky, a high-end No. 2 receiver.
Although not as glorified or hyped as some of his other rookie brethren (Eddie Lacy, Le’Veon Bell, etc.), Zac Stacy is just as good a back to depend on as those other elite rookie running backs.
After cementing the job as lead back for the St. Louis Rams in Week 5, Stacy took the job and ran with it while racking up 973 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Those are great numbers considering he didn’t even see any carries in three games during his rookie campaign. Now that he is assured to be the main back in St. Louis, Stacy should be able to boast even better numbers in his sophomore season.
Stacy makes for a good, low-end No. 1 back next year or, if you’re fortunate, a very appealing No. 2 back.
One of the more intriguing running backs entering his sophomore season is Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell.
After sitting out the first three games with a foot injury, Bell slowly but surely made a name for himself in fantasy circles last year en route to rushing for 860 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Bell is a strong, steady back who can handle being the bell-cow back for the Steelers.
With no one to challenge him for carries in Pittsburgh, Bell will be fed the ball a lot. As such, Bell is a true No. 1 running back to target late in Round 1 or early in Round 2.
No receiver turned more heads in the NFL than Josh Gordon did last season.
Gordon was a revelation and then some in 2013 after he finished the season with 1,646 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in just 14 games.
He was suspended for the first two games. Just think, his numbers could have been even better. On top of that, the Browns had a revolving door of mediocre quarterbacks slinging him the ball. So, can you imagine Gordon getting consistent production from a stable quarterback for the entire year?
Look for the Browns to get a quarterback upgrade (Johnny Manziel anybody?). Gordon is as good a receiver as any to draft after Calvin Johnson goes first among wideouts.
After tearing it up in college for Alabama, Lacy’s transition to the NFL was rather seamless as he was No. 1 among all rookie running backs in both rushing yards (1,178 yards) and touchdowns (11).
With him establishing himself as the preeminent back in Green Bay, Lacy is just getting started, as he will be only 24 entering next season. The bruising back is just scratching the surface of his immense potential, and he is without a doubt a certifiable No. 1 pick in upcoming drafts.
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