Cummings: Sleepers 1.0 | Breakouts 1.0 | Busts 1.0
My favorite of the sleepers, breakouts and busts trio are the breakouts. There's nothing more satisfying than selecting a player on draft day and then seeing them have a career year, which I believe is possible for each of the players below.
We focus a lot on ADP during draft season because we don't want to waste a 3rd round pick on a guy we could have in the 7th. That makes sense to a certain degree, but I don't worry about it quite as much with breakouts. You don't want to reach several round for these players, but don't play it too cute either. It's possible the guy that drafts in front of you recognizes the coming break out as well.
Don't tell the Bills, but I'm pretty sure they have a good quarterback in Buffalo. Taylor was one of the bright spots in 2015, throwing for 3,000 yards and rushing for 500 despite missing two games due to injury. The Bills didn't see fit to offer him an extension, but there should be little doubt that he's the starter heading into 2016.
Taylor's dual threat ability gives him a floor every week that few quarterbacks outside of Cam Newton have. I see no reason to doubt his rushing totals and think there's room for growth in his passing numbers. Taylor is particularly valuable in leagues that give four points per passing touchdown because his rushing production becomes that much more important.
Taylor's pace last season would have made him QB8 if he'd played 16 games. That's in his first season as a starter in the NFL. Generally quarterbacks improve with experience and I'd expect the same from Taylor. There's more injury risk and the status of Sammy Watkins worries me, but Taylor is one of the few guys available at the end of the draft that has top five potential.
I could make the argument that Bernard is coming off of the best year of his career. He set a career high for rushing yards (730), eclipsed 1200 total yards, and averaged more yards per carry and yards per reception than he ever has. The problem is that he got less touches and scored less touchdowns than he ever has. Jeremy Hill is the main reason for that but there's plenty of reason to question whether that will continue.
The Bengals have a new offensive coordinator that should be more pass happy, which would definitely benefit Bernard. There's also the fact that Bernard was flat out better than Hill in nearly every way (other than touchdowns) in 2015. Hill's playoff fumble could also loom large in the running back's mind. This is a situation where Bernard's floor feels like what he did in 2015, but his ceiling is a top 15 running back.
I know everyone kind of hates the "post-hype sleeper" angle, but it fits pretty perfectly with Abdullah. The hype train got way out of control before the 2015 season and his rookie campaign was plagued by fumbles and ineffectiveness. Still, Abdullah finished strong and is quote clearly the most talented back in Detroit. His upside may be held down by the low scoring Lions, but Abdullah has a clear path to be a Fantasy RB2 in 2015.
Murray had a bit of a breakout in 2015, but his ceiling is still so much higher. As a second year back he ran for 1000 yards and proved a reliable receiver with 41 receptions. Murray could still continue to grow in his third year, but most of the reasons he makes this list are his surroundings.
The Raiders have improved their defense and offensive line and should be a much more improved overall team. I would expect an increase in touchdowns and rushing yardage for Murray as the team plays from behind far less. Assuming he stays healthy, mid-range RB2 seems like Murray's floor with a ceiling that is closer to top 10 running back.
Before getting injured early last year Coleman was the favorite of the coaching staff. While Devonta Freeman did get off to a spectacular start to 2015, he was pretty mediocre in the second half. Everything we're hearing out of Falcons camp suggests Coleman will be involved in the offense early in the season. If he is better than Freeman (like he was before last year's injury) he'll eventually get more touches and when that happens he'll be one of the steals of the draft.
With Johnson's big play ability it's actually a bit surprising that he only scored two touchdowns on 165 touches. Cleveland's situation hasn't changed enough to expect anything but more passes to maybe the most talented skill position player on the roster. The Browns should be playing from behind with no good wide receivers, so an increase in receptions and touchdowns both seem likely. Assuming he stays healthy, so does an RB2 season in PPR leagues.
The Cardinals have a trio of wide receivers that could be outstanding this season but John Brown is the most exciting. Injury concerns for Michael Floyd and age concerns for Larry Fitzgerald open up the possibility of a major breakout for a player that kind of already did. Of all the receivers that topped 1,000 yards in 2015 only Sammy Watkins had less targets than John Brown.
There's a lot of talk about third year breakouts at wide receiver and I'm not sure anyone is better poised to do that than Brown. He is an exceptional deep threat that has a developing route tree and a very stable situation. Expect Brown to be a solid WR2 with the potential to break out as a top 15 WR.
I thought Lockett was underrated entering his rookie campaign and in the second hald he proved me right in the second half. Everyone remembers Doug Baldwin's monster finish but Lockett was actually a top 25 wide receiver himself in the second half of the season. His special teams skills make him a must own in leagues that rewards points for return yards and scores but I believe he has a legitimate chance of being a top 30 wide receiver even without those bonuses.
Green-Beckham looked a lot like a rookie that may take some time to develop last season. I fully recognize this year may be a year too early but the talent is so enticing that he shouldn't be overlooked. The range of outcomes on Green-Beckham's sophomore campaign range from Pro Bowl to complete bust, which is both enticing and terrifying. Offseason reports have been positive and I genuinely believe if he can grasp the mental half of the game he'll be the Titans best receiver in 2016.
White missed his entire rookie campaign but reports about his health and progress have been positive heading into the 2016 season. He'll start opposite Alshon Jeffery, which is both a positive and a negative. I would expect him to benefit greatly from the attention Jeffery gets and firmly believe White is the type of talent that can consistently beat single coverage.
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Falcons
I'm expecting a bounce-back season from Matt Ryan and he can't throw all the passes to Julio Jones. Sanu should slide nicely into the void left by Roddy White. While he isn't as talented as White was in his prime, he's much better than White was last season and a decent facsimile of White from a few seasons past. I would expect around 100 targets for Sanu, which would give him a chance to replicate (or hopefully best) his 2014 campaign. There's an upside of 900 yards and 8 touchdowns here if Ryan has the season I expect.
Seferian-Jenkins has had a terrible time staying healthy in the NFL, completing just 13 games in his first two years in the league. The positive is that his 16 game pace looks pretty impressive if you only use the games he completed. The negative is that he's only completed 13 games. His potential will earn him at least one more chance to be the #1 tight end in Tampa Bay in what could be a prolific offense if Jameis Winston takes another leap forward.