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NFL fantasy football: 10 breakout players to target

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Chris Ivory, RB, New York Jets: One thing the Jets are going to do this season is run the football. Ivory has shown glimpses of brilliance and received heaps of praise from opposing coaches throughout his young career. Now he'll get the chance to be the bell-cow running back in New York, and he's already promised "crazy" numbers this season. Even at their worst in 2012, the Jets still ran the ball pretty well and they've shored up their offensive line this offseason to boot. And oh yeah, Ivory will get all the goal line carries. He'll go from being an afterthought to a low-end No. 1 running back in 2013. Who said the Jets were a fantasy wasteland?

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David Wilson, RB, New York Giants: The light went on for him about three-quarters of the way through the 2012 season, and from there on out he was the Giants' most dangerous player on offense, bar none. As long as Wilson gets 20 total touches a game, which it seems like New York will give him, he could be a combination of Darren Sproles and Jamaal Charles. He's a threat to score every time he touches the football. He won't get goal line carries, but 12 to 15 rushing attempts per game to go along with four to seven receptions out of the backfield? Sign me up. I like him more as time goes on this offseason to the point where I'm pretty sure my running back stable will be unstoppable because I'll be able to get him as my No. 3 running back pretty easily.

Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: Out of the shadow of Mike Wallace, Brown will break through this season. Pittsburgh wouldn't have been so cavalier about letting Wallace go if they weren't confident in their current wide receiver corps. The last two years, Brown's numbers were almost indistinguishable from Wallace's. Look for Brown's average yards-per-game to jump from 60 to 80 as he becomes Ben Roethlisberger's favorite target, because hey, those 119 balls he threw to Wallace last year have to go to someone else, don't they? Brown could be a 1,200 yard, 10 touchdown player this season.

Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns: As a raw rookie Gordon blew past Greg Little to become the Browns most dangerous receiver, averaging over 16 yards per catch. With a season under his belt, Gordon will be even better in 2013. He's big enough to catch passes anywhere on the field, but with elite-level speed to go along with it. He has low-end No. 1 potential in fantasy this season. It could be even higher were it not for the uncertainty surrounding the Browns quarterback situation. But no matter who's throwing him the football, he'll be a 10-plus point threat in fantasy every week.

T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts: What I said for Gordon goes double for Hilton (well, he does play with Andrew Luck, you know). Hilton is the Colts only real deep threat who will benefit by the addition of Darrius Heyward-Bey, as defenses will be forced to play more straight up against Indianapolis. I would say Hilton could be a poor man's Victor Cruz but he has the ability to put up numbers even better than the Giants wideout. Year two of the Luck regime will see a bit of a downturn in Reggie Wayne's stats, but Hilton goes from 50 receptions to at least 75 and 10 touchdowns.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington Redskins: Garcon has everything he needs to be a top-10 fantasy wide receiver in 2013. He already has great chemistry with RG3, but an injury that robbed him of the majority of last season will still keep him low on fantasy owners' radars. When he played in 2012, he was terrific - at the very least a No. 2 fantasy wide receiver. Be smart and draft him by the sixth-round this season. He's ready to explode.

With Mike Wallace now gone, Antonio Brown will now be the top option in the Steelers’ passing game.
With Mike Wallace now gone, Antonio Brown will now be the top option in the Steelers’ passing game. (Don Wright/Associated Press)

Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens: I thought he'd break out a year ago and it certainly looked that way until he slowed down the second half of the season. This is the natural progression of someone who's about to hit a new level in his play - very similar to what happened with Dez Bryant last year. He's not just a deep threat, but also able to go across the middle and get physical when he has to. He's becoming a complete wide receiver. And now that he has the passing game all to himself in Baltimore, those numbers will skyrocket.

Brandon Myers, TE, New York Giants: How am I able to call someone who finished in the top-10 in fantasy points at his position last year a 'breakout candidate' for 2013? When you're a tight end, being ranked 10th isn't all that great, but when you're going to make the jump to a top-three player in your category in just one year? Yeah, that's a breakout. The Giants have shown no matter who their tight end is, Eli Manning is going to get the ball to him - whether it's Jeremy Shockey, Jake Ballard, Kevin Boss or Martellus Bennett. Myers has more talent than most of the players I've just mentioned. He's a perfect fit in New York's offense, who, unlike Oakland, actually has threats on the outside that will open things up for Myers underneath. He caught 79 balls with the Raiders last year, he'll approach 100 with the G-Men.

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings: Rudolph just scratched the surface last season when he hauled in nine touchdowns and became an intriguing fantasy player. However, he totaled less than 500 yards receiving, which hurt his value tremendously. Now that Percy Harvin is off to Seattle, the middle of the field has opened up for Rudolph. He will be a better complement to Greg Jennings, who, if he's not as talented as Harvin is a more traditional wide receiver, which will help Rudolph's development. Rudolph won't have to worry about Harvin lining up in the backfield or coming across the field on slow developing/broken plays that can gum up the tight end's space he needs to operate. Rudolph will jump into the top-five for fantasy points by a tight end in 2013. His touchdowns will at least be the same but his yardage should increase by 300.

Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneeers: Everyone wants to know who the big breakout QB is going to be in 2013. Two years ago it was Matthew Stafford, last year it was Matt Ryan. Granted, with so many talented signal callers in the league it's a bit more difficult, but that doesn't change the fact this is going to be a huge season for Freeman. He knows it's a tell-tale season for him with Mike Glennon breathing down his neck. Freeman threw for over 4,000 yards and 27 TDs last year, so his talent has never been in question. It was more about being consistent, as he was either great or awful, fantasy-wise in 2012. So far this off-season he's drawing raves from the coaching staff for his accuracy and focus. Never underestimate a player in a contract year. He should be in the 4,500-4,800-yard passing range with 32-36 TDs.

Jason Smith writes fantasy and other pith for nfl.com. He hosts NFL Fantasy Live during the regular season on the NFL Network, and you can download the weekly NFL Fantasy Live podcast with him alongside Michael Fabiano and Elliot Harrison. Talk to him on twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.

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