How valuable are breakout players to winning a fantasy football championship? Just ask anyone who landed Russell Wilson, Le'Veon Bell, Odell Beckham Jr. or Emmanuel Sanders last season. The 2015 campaign brings a new list of players who have had some success at the pro level, but are now on the verge of putting up huge numbers ... both on the gridiron and for your fantasy football team.
Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints: With Graham and Stills out of the mix, Cooks is in a great position to break out next season. He showed flashes of potential as a rookie, posting 53 catches in just 10 games. It also doesn't hurt that he has a future Hall of Famer in Drew Brees throwing him the football. The Oregon State product is a virtual lock to post No. 2 wideout totals this season.
Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers: Hyde lived in the shadow of Frank Gore as a rookie, but the offseason departure of the veteran opens the door for him to break out in 2015. Even with Reggie Bush in the mix, the Ohio State product has the size and skills to develop into a top-15 fantasy runner as the top option for coach Jim Tomsula. Hyde will be drafted as a No. 2 back with upside.
2015 FANTASY FOOTBALL BREAKOUTS
Latavius Murray, RB, Oakland Raiders: The Raiders added Roy Helu Jr. and Trent Richardson during the offseason, but it's Murray who has the lead on the top spot on the depth chart. While he's had minimal work at the pro level, Murray's impressive two-touchdown game against the Kansas City Chiefs last season opened a lot of eyeballs in fantasy circles. He has high RB2 upside in 2015.
Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders: Two fantasy breakout candidates out of Oakland? Yup, that's right. Cooper, the most talented wideout in the 2015 rookie class, has drawn rave reviews in camp and comparisons to former fantasy star Torry Holt. With Derek Carr under center, I like the Raiders offense to surprise some people this season. As a result, Cooper has 1,000-yard potential.
Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: Matthews wasn't overly consistent as a rookie, but he did show flashes of upside with 872 yards and eight touchdowns in the offense of head coach Chip Kelly. With Jeremy Maclin now in Kansas City, the talented Vanderbilt product should have more than his share of opportunities to improve on last year's totals. He should emerge into a No. 2 fantasy receiver.
Joseph Randle, RB, Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys had the second-best run blocking offensive line in the league last season, according to Pro Football Focus. That was before the addition of rookie OT La'el Collins in the offseason. With DeMarco Murray in Philadelphia and only Darren McFadden in his way, Randle is a good bet to emerge as a major player behind a massive line.
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions: Has any player's value increased more in the last few weeks than Abdullah? Joique Bell's absence has opened the door for the rookie, and he's done nothing but impress the Lions coaching staff. While he's not the biggest back, Abdullah is a versatile athlete who fits in well with the team's offense. Don't be shocked if he leads the team in carries.
Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers: Adams was a sleeper in fantasy circles, at least until the Packers lost Jordy Nelson with an injured knee. That unfortunate event boosted Adams into the next stratosphere in drafts, making him a legitimate breakout canddiate across the board. With Aaron Rodgers throwing him the football, the talented youngster could push for WR2 value in 2015.
Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs: Kelce's 2014 numbers (67 catches, 862 yards) look good on the surface, but anyone who owned him knows he wasn't at all consistent. That should change in 2015, though, as the Chiefs parted ways with Anthony Fasano and will now move Kelce into a more prominent role in the pass attack. A season with 80 catches and 1,000-plus yards is a realistic goal.
Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: Bryant showed some real potential last season, posting eight touchdowns despite the fact that he played in just 10 games. With a season of NFL experience under his belt and Antonio Brown on the other side of the field, Bryant will see a lot of single coverage and should hit his share of home runs in what should be an explosive offense. He will miss the first four games due to suspension, however.