QB Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings
In two seasons, Minnesota’s Bridgewater has put up a respectable 17-11 record in 28 starts and led the Vikings to a playoff berth last year. He put up just 14 touchdowns through the air in each of his first two pro seasons, which simply makes him a bye-week start in standard fantasy leagues. But with a number of offensive weapons around him (Adrian Peterson, Stefon Diggs, rookie LaQuon Treadwell, Kyle Rudolph), and another year of experience under his belt, I believe this could be a 4,000-yard, 25 TD season for Teddy. Which would make him a household name in the fantasy world.
RB Carlos Hyde, 49ers
A mirky quarterback situation (Gabbert/Kaepernick) and a healthy Carlos Hyde could mean big things offensively for Chip Kelly’s offense. In Philly, Chip’s run game ranked in the top 15 in yards and touchdowns in all three seasons. Though his offense is more of a fast-paced passing offense, if Hyde can stay healthy and get 250+ carries this year, we could see 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns for his first breakout season in San Fran. But the health is the key issue at hand here, as he’s started just seven games in two seasons.
RB Jay Ajayi, Dolphins
Last year’s fifth round pick played in just nine games last season behind Lamar Miller, but with Miller now in Houston the 23-year old Ajayi is bound to begin the season as Miami’s No. 1 option at running back. He’s currently battling with Damien Williams and rookie third-round pick Kenyan Drak out of Alabama, but expect to see 200-250 carries for a healthy Ajayi in 2016.
WR Jordan Matthews, Eagles
Matthews has been consistent in his first two professional seasons, catching eight touchdown passes in both his rookie and sophomore campaigns. He fell just three yards shy of 1,000 receiving yards last season, and hopefully this year Matthews manages to get a full slate of 16 games under his belt for the first time in his career. He’ll surely be the leader of a receiving group which includes Nelson Agholor, Rueben Randle, Josh Huff and Dorial Green-Beckham. I can see him putting up 1,250 yards and 10-12 touchdowns in his third season, which is more than enough to put himself amongst household names.
WR Markus Wheaton, Steelers
In his third season in 2015, Wheaton set career-highs in receiving yards (749) and touchdown catches (5). He played in all 16 games, but only eight of those were starts. With fellow Pittsburgh wide receiver Martavis Bryant out for the year due to suspension, Wheaton will see plenty more starts and targets coming his way from Pro Bowl quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. His first 1,000-yard season could be coming real soon, and maybe he’ll even manage 1,200 yards with opposing secondaries focusing on slowing down AB.
TE Coby Fleener, Saints
We all thought we were witnessing Fleener’s breakout campaign in 2014, after he caught 51 passes for a career-high 774 yards and eight touchdowns. But with Colts All-Pro quarterback Andrew Luck struggling through injuries last season, Fleener saw a drop in production (491 yards, 3 TD) a season ago. But now that he’s in New Orleans and has future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees slinging him passes, we’ll see career-highs from the 27-year old Fleener. Remember Jimmy Graham? Brees loves 6’6″/250 pound tight ends (Graham is actually 6’7″/260, but Fleener is close enough).
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