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 landed Michael Vick, Arian Foster or Hakeem Nicks last season -- finding players who are on the cusp of greatness between the white lines is a surefire method to achieving fantasy glory. So which players have the best chance to take their game to the next fantasy level and lead owners to a championship this season? Here's our look at 10 breakout candidates to target in drafts.
Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers: Freeman showed flashes of brilliance in his first full season as the Buccaneers' No. 1 quarterback, posting 3,451 passing yards and 25 touchdowns. What makes him even more attractive from a fantasy perspective is his skills as a runner -- Freeman also finished second behind Michael Vick among signal-caller with 364 rushing yards. With a lot of young and talented weapons on offense, Freeman could post huge totals this season.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions: Statistically speaking, there might not be a quarterback in the entire league with more upside than Stafford. The Georgia product has shown glimpses of greatness at the NFL level, but multiple shoulder injuries have slowed his rise to stardom. While questions about his durability limit his value in drafts, Stafford's potential in what could be an explosive Lions offense makes him well worth the gamble in the middle rounds. In a best-case scenario, he could throw 30-plus touchdowns in 2011.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Buccaneers: Despite starting just seven games, Blount still rushed for 1,007 yards and six touchdowns in his rookie season. He also finished on a high note, scoring the 11th-most fantasy points among running backs during the final nine weeks. Blount, who also averaged a solid 5.0 yards per carry, is a bruising yet athletic runner with the skills to emerge into a legitimate No. 2 fantasy back. Don't be at all shocked to see him come off the board as soon as Round 3 in some deeper fantasy drafts.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs: Some would argue that Charles broke out last year, finishing fourth in fantasy points at running back on NFL.com. But here's the thing -- he didn't even lead the Chiefs in carries. Imagine the sort of totals he could produce with 250-plus rushing attempts! Charles could be so good in fact, that he turns into this year's statistical version of Arian Foster. Don't be surprised to see the Texas product come off the board in the top five in draft.
Shonn Greene, RB, Jets: Greene failed to pass LaDainian Tomlinson on the Jets depth chart last season, but all signs point to him being the bell cow in 2011. He has had very little wear and tear on his body in his first two NFL seasons, and an increased role in a run-based offense bodes well for his chances of producing career numbers. In fact, Greene should see 225-plus carries and surpass the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the first time as a pro.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos: Moreno posted career bests in several receiving categories last season, but his overall totals were still unimpressive. That should change in 2011, though, as Moreno will be the featured back in an offense that will lean on the run. Barring injuries, the Georgia product should produce the first 1,000-yard rushing season of his career with eight to 10 total touchdowns. He'll be worth a second-round selection in most fantasy drafts.
Kenny Britt, WR, Titans: Britt, a third-year wideout from Rutgers, has the skills and size to become a star at the NFL level. While some of his off-field issues are troublesome, it's still hard to overlook his potential on the gridiron. Despite missing four games in 2010, Britt still put up close to 800 yards and found the end zone nine times. That included a 225-yard, three-touchdown explosion against the Eagles. Based on his upside alone, Britt is worth the risk.
Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys: In his first season at the NFL level, Bryant posted a respectable 561 yards with six touchdowns in 12 games. He's in a great position to experience a big increase in statistical success in 2011, as the Cowboys field a talented quarterback in Tony Romo and one of the league's premier offenses. While Bryant's proneness to injuries as a rookie is a cause for some concern, his skills and surroundings in Big D make him one of the most intriguing young fantasy wideouts.
Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings: One of the most versatile players in the NFL, Harvin is entering his third NFL season with a great chance to produce. Sidney Rice is now in Seattle, so Harvin is the No. 1 wideout in the Vikings' pass attack. What's more, he now has a veteran quarterback in Donovan McNabb throwing him the football. If his migraine issues are in the past as he has stated, Harvin should post the best nubmers of his pro career in 2011. Consider him a high-end No. 2 option.
Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers: Finley missed most of last season with a knee injury, but he'll be back at 100 percent in time for training camp. A talented pass catcher with huge statistical upside, the Texas product has a chance to develop into one of the elite tight ends in fantasy football. Though his durability is still a bit of a question mark, the type of potential Finley possesses in what will be a productive Packers offense. He'll be one of the first tight ends drafted.