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Fabs Five: Positional breakouts and sleepers


There hasn't been a whole lot of famous No. 5s in the history of the National Football League. Paul Hornung might be the best of the bunch. Donovan McNabb ranks up there too. Joe Flacco? Jeff Garcia? Kerry Collins? That's about where it stops ... sorry Washington Redskins fans, I'm not including Heath Shuler.

But the number five does have some significance for me as a sports fan.

It's the number of Super Bowl titles my beloved Dallas Cowboys have won. I'm hoping to see number six at some point (Ezekiel Elliott, we need you man!) My favorite NBA player of all time, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, won five titles for the Los Angeles Lakers. As a die-hard New York Yankees fan since I was eight years old, it's also the number of the great "Joltin" Joe DiMaggio.

"How can a boy from Connecticut grow up and root for the Yankees, Cowboys and Lakers?" That's what my pal Dave Dameshek would ask. It actually wasn't that hard in the early 1980s, fella. But let's get back to the here and now, 2019, where it's draft prep time ... and time to make those all-important predictions and prognostications for the upcoming fantasy football campaign.

So ... why not go with the "five" theme to give you the breakouts, sleepers and deep sleepers you crave? I've broken them down by position, five players per topic, (5)0 players in total.

Print it out ... use it. Dominate.

High five!

Quarterback Breakouts

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

Notes: Mayfield is the most popular fantasy breakout player quarterback. He threw 19 touchdown passes in eight games under new coach Freddie Kitchens last season, and that was without Odell Beckham Jr. I have a huge fantasy crush on Kyler. Historically, rookie quarterbacks who have made the biggest fantasy impact are the ones who can run with the rock. Murray rushed for over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns in his final collegiate season. Giddy up. Winston might surprise some folks, but it shouldn't ... new coach Bruce Arians has produced four top-10 fantasy quarterback finishes as a coach or coordinator. Running quarterbacks can be fantasy heroes, and Jackson averaged 16 carries per game as a starter (including the playoffs) last season. Allen flashed his upside as a rookie as well, scoring 18-plus fantasy points in five or his final six games including three games with 26-plus points.

Quarterback Sleepers

Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
Sam Darnold, New York Jets
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
Nick Foles, Jacksonville Jaguars

Notes: Trubisky wasn't a consistent fantasy performer a season ago, but he did show some flashes of potential. He's on the QB2 radar. An injured knee ended Garoppolo's first season in San Francisco, but he's back at 100 percent and has some added weapons around him in 2019. Darnold looked like a fantasy star in two late-season games as a rookie, so he's sure to take the next step as an NFL sophomore. Carr had been somewhat forgotten in fantasy circles in recent seasons, but he's a nice late flier with Antonio Brown, Josh Jacobs, and Tyrell Williams now in the Raiders offense. Foles isn't being drafted in a lot of traditional leagues, but the Jaguars have some nice young weapons on offense and a ton of talent on defense as well. Foles could be a surprise, especially in super flex/two-QB leagues.

Running Back Breakouts

Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
Damien Williams, Kansas City Chiefs
Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions
Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders

Notes: Cook has shown flashes of busting out in his first two NFL seasons, but injuries have dogged him. If he can stay out of the trainer's room in 2019, however, Cook could push for RB1 totals in a Vikings offense that should feed him the football. Williams was a fantasy monster down the stretch last season, and it looks like he'll be a true featured back in coach Andy Reid's fantasy-friendly offense. Johnson averaged almost 17 touches and 5.3 yards per carry in his final six games of 2018, and the release of Theo Riddick makes him even more attractive in fantasy land. Jones showed flashes of busting out a season ago, averaging a robust 5.5 yards per carry in his 12 games. He also has the benefit of playing behind Aaron Rodgers. Jacobs figures to see a featured role for the Raiders as a rookie, making him an attractive No. 2 target. He'll be a top-50 selection in most re-draft leagues.

Running Back Sleepers

David Montgomery, Chicago Bears
Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles
Derrius Guice, Washington Redskins
Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams
Kalen Ballage, Miami Dolphins

Notes: Montgomery's fantasy hype has grown through the offseason and into camp. The Bears backfield is a crowded one with Tarik Cohen and Mike Davis also in the mix, but the rookie has three-down potential at the next level. Guice is also in a committee, but he has the most statistical potential of any member of the Redskins offense. He's also back at 100 percent from last year's ACL tear. Henderson averaged a ridiculous 8.9 yards per carry in his final collegiate season, and he'll be a valuable handcuff for Todd Gurley owners. He could also have standalone value as a pass-catcher out of the backfield even if Gurley avoid further knee troubles. Sanders needs to pass Jordan Howard on the depth chart in Philadelphia to make an immediate impact. The Penn State product does possess the most upside in the Eagles crowded backfield. Ballage is moving up rank lists, as he looks destined for a shared role in Miami with Kenyan Drake. He's a nice option in re-drafts and best-ball formats.

Running Back Deep Sleepers

Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys
Justin Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers
Darwin Thompson, Kansas City Chiefs
Damien Harris, New England Patriots
Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings

Notes: As long as Ezekiel Elliott is holding out, Pollard is going to be a worthwhile late rounder. Austin Ekeler is the back to target while Melvin Gordon is holding out, but I still like Jackson as a late dart throw. I like Damien Williams as the lead back in K.C., but Thompson is still a player to watch in that backfield. Harris could become a fantasy asset if Sony Michel has any setbacks with his bum knee. If Dalvin Cook can't avoid injuries again, Mattison could wind up being a real fantasy asset.

Wide Receiver Breakouts

Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions
D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers
Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons
Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers

Notes: You could argue that Golladay and Ridley broke out last season based on their final numbers, but both have room for improvement and should be more reliable fantasy options in 2019. Godwin should inherit a solid target share with DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries out of the mix, making him a huge breakout candidate. Moore is now the unquestioned No. 1 wideout in Carolina and should see even more targets in Norv Turner's offense. Williams figures to see more targets with Tyrell Williams in Oakland, making him a viable No. 2 fantasy wideout with big touchdown potential.

Wide Receiver Sleepers

Dede Westbrook, Jacksonville Jaguars
Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals
Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers
Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos
James Washington, Pittsburgh Steelers

Notes: Westbrook figures to lead the Jaguars in targets, and the addition of Nick Foles at quarterback should mean more accurate targets as well. He'll be a worthwhile mid- to late-round pick. Kirk averaged six targets and 15.5 yards per catch over his final six games as a rookie, and now he'll see more opportunities in the high-paced offense of new coach Kliff Kingsbury. Samuel has earned rave reviews from Norv Turner, calling him "an outstanding route runner." He'll see a bigger role in the Panthers offense in his second NFL season. Sutton averaged 8.4 yards per target and almost 17 yards per catch during his rookie campaign. He could lead the Broncos in targets this season. Washington will battle Donte Moncrief for opportunities in a Steelers pass attack that has the sixth-most targets lost and the third-most air yards available. I like the former to be the better of the two Pittsburgh wide receivers.

Wide Receiver Deep Sleepers

Keke Coutee, Houston Texans
Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys
Anthony Miller, Chicago Bears
DaeSean Hamilton, Denver Broncos
Trey Quinn, Washington Redskins

Notes: Coutee missed much of last season due to injuries, but he flashed when he was on the gridiron ... most notably against the Colts. He was a star against them during the playoffs, posting 14 targets, 11 catches, 110 yards, and a touchdown. Gallup is a field stretcher who saw more opportunities to shine once the Cowboys added Amari Cooper. Miller is coming off shoulder surgery but should be fine for the start of the season. He'll be in a good spot to perform well during his sophomore campaign. Hamilton showed some real PPR potential at the end of last season, averaging 9.5 targets and 6.3 catches over his final four games. The Redskins have a lot of question mark at wide receiver, so Quinn could wind up being a useful PPR option. If you're looking for a late-round dart throw, he fits the description.

Tight End Breakouts

Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers
O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers
Austin Hooper, Atlanta Falcons
Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens

Notes: Henry is a full go after suffering a torn ACL last year, and he's in a good spot to record 60-plus catches and seven to nine touchdowns for the Chargers. Howard put up 60-plus yards in six of his 10 games last season before going down with a foot an ankle injuries. He has a massive ceiling under new coach Bruce Arians. The Steelers have plenty of targets available in the pass attack, and McDonald is coming off his best season as a pro. He could be even better in 2019. Hooper had a mini breakout last season with 71 catches, but much of his production came in just three games. He should be more reliable this season. Andrews, a borderline breakout/sleeper, showed flashes at the end of last season and has drawn rave reviews at the start of Ravens training camp. He's a huge fantasy riser.

Tight End Sleepers

T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions
Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles
Noah Fant, Denver Broncos
Chris Herndon, New York Jets
Darren Waller, Oakland Raiders

Notes: The top tight end in the 2019 rookie class, Hockenson will see plenty of opportunities in the Lions pass attack. He's on the TE2 radar. Goedert might have a lower ceiling with Zach Ertz in the mix, but the Eagles did run 12 personnel on 34.3 percent (2nd-most) of their plays last season. Fant, another rookie tight end out of Iowa, should start right out of the gate for the Broncos. Herndon would be ranked higher if it weren't for a four-game ban, but he should be a nice asset upon his return. Waller's hype machine is gaining steam as the projected No. 1 tight end in Oakland for Jon Gruden.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram for the latest fantasy football news and analysis!