Fantasy Football 2014: 6 Breakout Stars to Watch This Season

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IJuly 1, 2014

Fantasy Football 2014: 6 Breakout Stars to Watch This Season

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    Every year, owners are looking to obtain the next breakout star to lead their fantasy football team to victory, and 2014 will be no different.

    Josh Gordon, Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Lacey did the job last year. With NFL teams now getting underway with their summer training camps, it's possible to look around and see who might emerge like those stars did last year.

    The biggest theme on this list is youth, which should be unsurprising. These guys are all fresh, have a lot of talent and will be looking to take advantage of new opportunities and prove themselves.

    Here are six potential breakout fantasy stars to watch out for in 2014.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Minnesota

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    It wasn't until Nov. 24 of last year that Cordarrelle Patterson really got his chance to shine in Minnesota's offense.

    The first-round pick proved that he deserved such an investment as he caught an average of four passes for 45.5 yards over the last six games of the season, with three scores in those final six games as well.

    Inconsistency was the biggest factor in Patterson's mediocre season totals, but his five-catch, 141-yard performance against Baltimore in Week 14 proved that he has the ability to be a dominating player.

    At 6'2", 220 pounds with blazing open-field speed, Patterson can be a dangerous weapon regardless of who Minnesota's quarterback is. Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph are his only competition for targets, and neither are particularly threatening.

Montee Ball, RB, Denver

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    Montee Ball struggled as a rookie in 2013 and allowed Ronnie Hillman and eventually Knowshon Moreno to get the lion's share of carries.

    He struggled mightily in pass protection and lost two fumbles in his first three games as a pro. But he looked more confident as the season went on.

    In the last five weeks of the season, he managed games with 117, 77 and 72 yards on the ground, which bodes well for the start to his 2014 campaign if he builds on that success.

    Peyton Manning has a knack for allowing his backs to put up big numbers, and Ball should be mostly unchallenged for the lead back role with Moreno leaving for Miami this offseason.

Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans

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    My favorite player on this list, Brandin Cooks is probably my No. 1 sleeper at this point in the summer for 2014 and is a legitimate candidate to be a breakout rookie star.

    He was overlooked in college and at the draft, and now his first months as a pro have been under the radar as well. That's good news for you, as an intelligent 

    At 5'10", 185 pounds, Cooks won't be competing for Marques Colston's spot out wide, but will instead look to slot inside and gobble up the targets that Lance Moore and Darren Sproles left behind.

    The 2013 Biletnikoff Award Winner has incredible hands, runs flawless routes and is a tenaciously aggressive player who can fit right in with Drew Brees' high-powered passing attack. 

Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona

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    After having a quiet, quasi-breakout second half of the 2013 season, Andre Ellington will be coming back looking to establish himself as one of the most electric players in the NFL.

    As a fifth-round rookie, Ellington wasn't given a real shot until Week 8. But he absolutely exploded in that game, racking up 154 yards on just 15 carries and scoring a touchdown.

    Ellington is an incredibly quick and slippery player who only got more than 11 carries one more time after that breakout Week 8 performance, but he showed his explosive potential in spurts. He also caught 39 balls for 371 yards.

    Fellow second-year rusher Stepfan Taylor will get the short-yardage work, but look for Ellington's workload to increase as Bruce Arians makes him a major part of the offense.

Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia

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    Everyone knows that Chip Kelly's offense works in the NFL now. But it will have a bit of a different look in 2014, with some major names coming and going this past offseason.

    Adding Darren Sproles and rookies Josh Huff and Jordan Matthews is nice, but losing DeSean Jackson will still hurt. Enter Zach Ertz, who was quiet as a rookie in 2013 but has a ton of potential to break out this year.

    The athletic tight end was a great pass-catcher at Stanford, but only managed 36 catches last year. His role as a tight end should increase, and Jackson's departure leaves some downfield targets and yards available for the taking.

    If Ertz falls into favor with Kelly and develops a good relationship with Nick Foles, don't be surprised if he ends the year as a top-five tight end. 

Bishop Sankey, RB, Tennessee

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    The other rookie on this list, Bishop Sankey comes into the 2014 season in a rare position for a first-year running back: as a full-on starter. 

    With the departure of Chris Johnson, the Titans needed to add a new rusher and wasted no time by making Sankey the first back taken in the draft. 

    As the offense's focal point at Washington, Sankey racked up 1,439 and 1,870 yards in 2012 and 2013, respectively. He's a mature and experienced player who should adjust to the NFL relatively easily.

    Shonn Greene is the only other legitimate running back around. He's got basically zero upside and shouldn't usurp many touches from Sankey, leaving the rookie to be a great candidate for Rookie of the Year and breakout fantasy star.