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Fantasy football breakouts: Ryan Mathews on the rise


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Sam Bradford, QB, Rams: It took awhile, but finally the Rams got Bradford a No. 1 WR in the draft in second-round pick Brian Quick. Danny Amendola is back and is terrific in the slot. The Rams also got better defensively under Jeff Fisher this offseason, which will take pressure off the offense and not put them in huge holes early on in games. This is Bradford's third year, and I expect him to take a huge leap this season to where he becomes a low-end No. 1 fantasy QB.

Jay Cutler, QB, Bears: After searching for a No. 1 WR, the Bears reunite Cutler with Brandon Marshall and draft Alshon Jeffery. Presto, two new starting wideouts. As long as he's healthy, Cutler will be a good No. 1 fantasy QB this season, in the ranks of Tony Romo and Philip Rivers. I expect more than 30 touchdowns from him with this brand-new attack.

Andrew Luck, QB, Colts: Let's not forget there's a reason why Luck was a No. 1 overall draft pick. He'll have Reggie Wayne as his top option, and I love how the Colts drafted two tight ends (including Stanford teammate Coby Fleener). Are they building like the Patriots? Yes. And Luck will be better than people anticipate this season; 3,700 yards and 25-28 TDs is easily reachable for the man with the highest QB pedigree coming out of college since John Elway.

Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers: No more Mike Tolbert in the way to vulture short-yardage carries and three to four series a game which cut into Mathews' production. He's got it all to himself and it's his time. He's going to be a top five fantasy running back this season. Draft him in the second round or you'll regret it.

Trent Richardson, RB, Browns: I know it's the Browns, but they're going to give him the ball until he drops. That means 300-plus touches for him this season, and even if he's not great he's still going to be good for anywhere from 8-16 fantasy points per game. What if he's everything as advertised? He's the next Adrian Peterson fantasy-wise. I'm not ready to put him there yet, because, yes, it's the Browns, but he's a low-end No. 2 at worst for you.

Mark Ingram, RB, Saints: Finally healthy after that bothersome toe injury, this is his "sink or swim" year. The Saints' running backs aren't special on the ground, and New Orleans has been waiting for him for awhile. When he's not been hurt, he's been on the cusp of breaking through. I think this year he plays in all 16 games and rewards owners by being an upper-echelon No. 2 fantasy RB.

Lance Moore, WR, Saints: He's teased us with big games only to disappear for long stretches in the Saints' deep offense. But look at the offseason: Robert Meachem is gone, so Moore is the clear No. 2 WR to Marques Colston. Now that the slot is his, Moore will become an even bigger possession receiver and should be near 12 TDs in addition to 80-plus receptions.

Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens: He could be the next Miles Austin. Every game he's capable of a 50-plus yard touchdown. Now in his second year, he'll get more targets than Anquan Boldin (which is how it was evolving toward the end of last season). I expect him to have at least 80 yards receiving per game with at least 10 TDs.

Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys: Bryant really learned what it was like to be an NFL player last season with all the scrutiny he faced. That was a huge hurdle to overcome. Now, he's going to dominate. The Cowboys' passing offense will run through him as the top option and he could be Calvin Johnson-lite this year. Bryant will be a top seven or eight fantasy wideout in 2012.

Brandon Lloyd, WR, Patriots: It seems like simple math to say that if you add a player like Lloyd to the Patriots offense that he'll be successful. That's really the case. He did well in Denver, changed teams midseason and excelled for St. Louis. At neither stop did he have anyone close to Tom Brady throwing him the football. It almost doesn't seem fair. The only thing stopping him from being a top 10 WR is that New England is going to spread the ball around. But he'll be consistent for you and should hover around double digits in fantasy points every week.


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