The start of the 2014 NFL regular season brings a genuine buzz surrounding the start of the fantasy football season as well. The international appeal of fantasy sports has put even more emphasis on the NFL this season.
Fantasy owners are desperate to find value in the draft, and it is imperative to your long-term fantasy success to find the players who will outperform their average draft position.
With the help of Fantasy Football Calculator, here are the players who will blossom into elite fantasy stars for the owners lucky enough to draft them.
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Average Draft Position: 63rd Overall (Fifth Round)
Watching New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady get drafted at the tail end of the fifth round in a 12-team league is not something fantasy owners have become accustomed to seeing, but that's where he's being selected this season.
Many fans have abandoned ship after Brady only threw for 25 touchdowns last season, but the lack of healthy weapons around him hurt his overall numbers. With the majority of his receivers and backs healthy (tight end Rob Gronkowski should also be returning soon as well), Brady owners should expect a resurgence from the veteran.
Brady could easily throw for 4,500 yards and 35 touchdowns again.
In Friday's win over the Carolina Panthers, Brady racked up an impressive 17 completions on 21 attempts—a completion percentage of 81 percent—for 204 yards, two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 138.9. He looked to be in midseason form.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver Broncos
Average Draft Position: 62nd Overall (Fifth Round)
When Wes Welker went down with his third concussion in the last 10 months, according to John Breech of CBSSports.com, the Denver Broncos offensive game plan became much more dependent on No. 2 wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
With Peyton Manning under center for Denver, Sanders has become a viable starting fantasy option and a value at his current draft position in the fifth round. As the 62nd overall pick, the value is unquestionable.
In his debut for the Broncos, Sanders totaled five receptions for 128 yards and two touchdowns, proving that he could become the team's permanent replacement for Eric Decker. During the 2013 season, Decker amassed 87 receptions for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns, and fantasy owners should now expect similar totals for Sanders.
Regardless of when Welker eventually returns to the Denver starting lineup, Sanders has built chemistry with Manning and looks to be his No. 2 target on the outside when Demaryius Thomas can't get open.
Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys
Average Draft Position: 70th Overall (Sixth Round)
The most underrated tight end in the 2014 fantasy drafts thus far has been Dallas Cowboys veteran Jason Witten. He is being drafted in the sixth round behind Jordan Cameron of the Cleveland Browns and just ahead of Jordan Reed of the Washington Redskins.
With improvements along the offensive line that will allow Witten to roll out in the passing game more often, fantasy owners should expect an elite offensive output that puts him in the same category as Julius Thomas of the Denver Broncos.
As Witten and quarterback Tony Romo continue to build a rapport through the preseason (Romo is coming off back surgery this offseason), the 32-year-old will be looking to improve on his 73 receptions, 851 yards and eight touchdowns from last season.
Fantasy owners should expect closer to 90 receptions, 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014.
Stats via NFL.com.
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