Success in the world of fantasy football is all about the numbers. If your fantasy players exceed statistical expectations, chances are you'll be in the mix for a league championship. Just ask anyone who drafted Matt Schaub, Maurice Jones-Drew or Vernon Davis in 2009. So which players have the best chance to take their game to the next fantasy level this season? Here's our look at 10 breakout candidates to target in drafts.
Jay Cutler, QB, Bears: Cutler isn't a traditional breakout candidate, as he actually broke out in 2008 before seeing a major decrease in fantasy production last season. His numbers should rise again, however, as Cutler will now hold the reins of an offense led by pass-happy coordinator Mike Martz. In fact, the strong-armed quarterback from Vanderbilt should throw for 4,000-plus yards and finish with around 25-30 total touchdowns.
Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals: Benson's 1,251 rushing yards and six touchdowns last season is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of his statistical success. As a true featured back in an offense that will continue to run the football, Benson could push the 1,500-yard mark and make more trips to the end zone in 2010. If he can avoid major injuries, it wouldn't be a shock to see the former Texas standout contend for a league rushing title.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs: A supersleeper on NFL.com last season, Charles exceeded expectations and became one of the top running backs in fantasy football down the stretch. While the presence of Thomas Jones does put a cap on his statistical ceiling, there's still no reason Charles can't produce improved reception, yardage and touchdown totals in 2010. It also helps that he has the most favorable schedule of any No. 1 back in the league.
Shonn Greene, RB, Jets: The offseason addition of LaDainian Tomlinson shouldn't keep owners from buying into Greene as a legitimate fantasy starter. He was a star for the Jets during their postseason run, and he'll remain the top option in the backfield for coach Rex Ryan even with Tomlinson in the mix. With a great offensive line in front of him in a run-based offense, Greene should see 300 carries and post stellar numbers.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles: The offseason release of Brian Westbrook opened the door for McCoy to take over the top spot on the Eagles' depth chart. While he won't put up Westbrook-type numbers right away, McCoy will have major reception and yardage potential in the offense of coach Andy Reid. As long as he can do a better job picking up the blitz, McCoy should see a majority of the team's snaps and major increase in statistical success.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers: One of the few featured running backs left in the league, Mendenhall is almost certain to improve on his solid 2009 totals. The Steelers don't figure to be as effective through the air after the trade of Santonio Holmes, so Mendenahll is almost certain to see 250-plus carries in what should be a very balanced attack. He has the tools to be a viable No. 1 fantasy back and is worth a late first-round pick in drafts.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos: The Broncos offense will take on a new look this season without Brandon Marshall, and that should mean more chances for Moreno out of the backfield. Though he won't be a true featured back with Correll Buckhalter in the mix, Moreno should still see a majority of the work for coach Josh McDaniels. With a favorable schedule and the physical tools to produce, look for Moreno to produce improved numbers.
Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers: Despite the fact that he didn't participate in training camp or preseason games, Crabtree still averaged better than four catches and close to 60 yards per game as a rookie. With an entire offseason and all of camp to prepare and develop, Crabtree should surpass his rookie totals and make a more significant impact in fantasy circles. He could be as much as a high-end No. 2 fantasy option this season.
DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles: Jackson has seen his yardage and touchdown totals increase in each of his first two NFL seasons, and that's a trend that should continue in 2010. One of the most explosive playmakers in the league, he's the top option in an Eagles offense that will throw the football a ton. The loss of Donovan McNabb shouldn't hurt his value, either. Jackson had 250 yards and two scores in two games when Kevin Kolb started in 2009.
Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers: Over the final five weeks of last season, Finley was third in fantasy points among tight ends on NFL.com. He would then go on to put up six catches and 159 yards in a playoff loss to the Cardinals. The talented Texas product has developed a great rapport with Aaron Rodgers, so there's little doubt that his statistical success will continue in one of the league's elite offenses. He's a surefire No. 1 fantasy option.