How valuable are breakout players to fantasy football success? Just ask anyone who landed Nick Foles, Knowshon Moreno, Josh Gordon or Julius Thomas last season. The 2014 NFL campaign brings a new list of up-and-comers who are in a great spot to post career bests across the board. So if you want to win your fantasy league, these are a few of the players to target.
Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos: There might not be a bigger breakout candidate among running backs than Ball, who looks primed to be the featured runner in what is an explosive Denver offense. If you don't believe me, just look at the numbers Knowshon Moreno produced in 2013 ... and what he did prior in his career. Ball could be drafted as high as Round 1 or 2 in 2014.
Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Despite the fact that he missed three games, Bell sill finished in the top 15 in fantasy points among running backs during his rookie campaign. He's a solid fit for the offense of offensive coordinator Todd Haley, and his role as the top runner in Pittsburgh makes him a prime breakout candidate. He won't last past the third round in countless drafts.
2014 FANTASY FOOTBALL BREAKOUTS
Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: Bernard is a versatile athlete who has the tools to be a star both as a runner and receiver out of the backfield. While he figures to be in a committee in 2014, the North Carolina product is still a good bet to see an increase in touches compared to his rookie campaign. Bernard possesses low-end RB1 upside under new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals: One of the best young running backs in the NFL, Ellington is in line to see a major increase in touches in his second pro season. In fact, coach Bruce Arians wants to build his offense around Ellington's versatile skill set. While he won't be a true featured back at 5-foot-9 and 199 pounds, he still has RB2 potential in all formats.
Rashad Jennings, RB, New York Giants: A versatile runner who showed flashes of major potential last season, Jennings figures to be the top back for the Giants in 2014. Even at 29, the Liberty product doesn't have a ton of wear and tear on his body like other runners at his age. With question marks behind him on the depth chart, Jennings could bring RB2 value in drafts.
Ben Tate, RB, Cleveland Browns: Mired in the shadow of Arian Foster for most of his time in Houston, Tate is now the top runner in a Cleveland offense that has some real potential. While it's true that injuries are a bit of a concern, Tate is a young runner who should be motivated to produce under a contract that just gets better the longer he's on the football field.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Minnesota Vikings: Over the final four weeks of last season, no wide receiver scored more fantasy points than Patterson. The playmaking second-year player out of Tennessee will no doubt emerge as the top option in the Vikings' pass attack, and the presence of new offensive coordinator Norv Turner does nothing but add to his value. Patterson has WR2 upside.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver Broncos: Sanders' move from Pittsburgh to Denver makes him a prime breakout candidate for this season. The young speedster is a virtual lock to post career bests across the board with Peyton Manning throwing him the football, so don't be shocked to see him drafted at some point in the middle rounds as a WR3 with the potential to be a No. 2.
Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee Titans: Wright is coming off one of the quietest 90-catch seasons in recent NFL history, and his potential for the upcoming campaign is tremendous. With new coach Ken Whisenhunt calling the shots, Wright is in a good position to take the next step to fantasy stardom. He's a nice No. 2 fantasy wide receiver with added value in all PPR formats.
Dennis Pitta, TE, Baltimore Ravens: Pitta is one of the better pass-catching tight ends in the league, and he's in a great position to fill up the stat sheets in Baltimore. In fact, it wouldn't be a shock to see him finish as the team's leader in receptions in 2014. At what has become a thin position, Pitta is in the conversation as a potential top-five fantasy tight end.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!