Top 5 Players Headed For a Breakout Year in Fantasy Football

Levi ElgersmaContributor IMay 16, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 23:  Running back Darren McFadden #20 of the Oakland Raiders heads downfield against the Arizona Cardinals during a preseason game on August 23, 2008 at the McAfee Coliseum in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Greg Trott/Getty Images)

These are the players who may fly under the radar in fantasy drafts this year, but in my mind will have breakout seasons and be an excellent value for where they are drafted.

5.  Matt Ryan

In his rookie campaign last year Ryan played exceptionally well for a rookie QB. He also had some fantasy value in larger leagues. With one year under his belt and the addition of TE Tony Gonzalez to the roster, Ryan should take that next step in fantasy football and become a solid No. 1 QB. 

What's best is you won't have to use too early of a pick on him as he will most likely be available in the middle rounds. 

Projections: 3,725 yards  24 TD, 12 INT

4.  Kevin Smith

Smith, of the Lions, is most recently known as the second-coming of Jon Kitna for his bold guarantee that the Lions will make the playoffs this year (I know, laughable isn't it?). Well his play on the field is not. 

He posted solid numbers for a No. 3 RB even on a pitiful team like the Lions. While I don't see the Lions making the playoffs I do see Smith getting the ball significantly more than last year, making him an attractive third or fourth round pick.

Projections:  1,105 yards,  7 TD,  42 rec, 350 yards,  TD

3.  Darren McFadden 

McFadden had quite as much hype as Adrian Peterson after he was drafted, but failed to live up to expectations. He played in 13 games, started 5, gained 784 yards from scrimmage, and only scored 4 touchdowns. 

Last year was a disaster for the Oakland team, firing their coach in the middle of the season, and never getting into the flow offensively. This year, they have a new head coach (who hopefully has a little more support from Davis), and they brought in FB Lorenzo Neal who will make the biggest difference for McFadden. 

Expect McFadden to be selected with great value in the middle rounds. 

Projections:  1,089 yards, 7 TD, 40 rec, 422 yards, 2 TD

2.  Greg Olsen 

In my opinion, Greg Olsen is the best receiver on the Bears roster and should become Jay Cutler's favorite target. Olsen is a very talented TE entering his 3rd season, 1st with a "franchise" QB. 

I am quite high on Olsen this year as I see him breaking into the top group of TE's this year.  He will probably be the 5th or 6th TE selected in most drafts. But fantasy owners who select him won't be disappointed.

Projections:  81 rec,  900 yards, 8 TD

1.  Ronnie Brown

In 2007, Brown was on pace to be the highest scoring back that year, when in the 7th game of the year he injured his knee and ended his season. He had an decent year last year as a No. 2 fantasy back, while he split carries with Williams and ran the Wildcat. 

Now another year removed from his injury his knee should be at 100 percent this year, and will once again be the focal part of the offense. I expect to see his carries and receptions increase. 

You should expect to draft him in the 2nd or 3rd round.

Projections:  1,210 yards, 12 TD,  48 rec, 445 yards


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