Lamar Miller, RB – Houston Texans
Lamar Miller is my breakout candidate of the year. He comes from a Miami organization that failed to utilize his 4.4 speed and elusiveness. Arriving in Houston, Miller is the uncontested No.1 starter and will get plenty of touches as long as he stays healthy, which is likely, as he hasn’t missed a game in three years.
I can see Miller averaging close to 20 carries a game to go along with 5 receptions. That would be a large increase in volume, but with a young quarterback in Brock Osweiler, Miller will be counted on to carry a major portion of the offense. We all know the talent is there; now he will finally have the reps.
Jarvis Landry, WR – Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill took a step back last year. He was poised to have a big season with the arrival of wide receiver DeVante Parker in Miami, but regressed with three fewer TDs than in 2014 and the same number of interceptions. Despite all this, Landry was able to gain 1,159 yards from 160 targets.
The only thing holding him back from top-10 status was touchdowns, only 4 last year. I think Landry sees as much volume, but double the touchdowns this season as the Dolphins will throw more often due to a rebound by Tannehill, improved coaching with Adam Gase taking over, and a meager running back situation.
DeMarco Murray, RB – Tennessee Titans
Murray was a disaster last season for those who drafted him. After a magnificent, near-2000-yard season with Dallas, he fell flat with the Eagles along with head coach Chip Kelly. Both of them left the City of Brotherly Love, but it’s Murray who I think will shine this season.
He moves to a more traditional power-running offense as opposed to Kelly’s hurry-up, spread. Despite a mediocre line blocking for him and competition from rookie Derrick Henry out of Alabama, Murray is worthy of being a No. 2 running back on your roster.
Matt Forte, RB – New York Jets
Old faithful, Matt Forte, is currently going at No. 40 in ESPN standard drafts. I think this is shocking simply because of Forte’s consistency over the years. In a typical year you can count on him for 1,000 total yards and 8 touchdowns. Why has everyone cooled off?
He was injured for a few games last season, but that shouldn’t deter anyone from taking him before the 40th pick. With Ryan Fitzpatrick quarterbacking again, there will be a commitment to running the ball and throwing it short. Forte excels as a rusher and receiver out of the backfield. I like Forte to shine once more.
Matt Jones, RB – Washington Redskins
Yes, I’m high on running backs this season. But just like a good stock picker, you have to buy low for the best profits. After last season, most running backs in the draft are undervalued due to injuries and poor performance. Look no further than Matt Jones among the most undervalued. Last year he was stuck in a time-share with Alfred Morris, who is now with Dallas as the second-string behind rookie Ezekiel Elliot.
Jones will be Washington’s featured back. Built like a tank, but quick, Jones and will wreak havoc in the red zone. I see 8+ TDs and 1,200 yards for him this season, which is far better than his average draft pick of 63 would suggest.
Keenan Allen, WR- San Diego Chargers
Chargers will throw the ball often and Keenan Allen is their number one weapon in the passing game. He was on pace for a monster year in 2015 before going down with a season ending kidney injury. In his eight games of 2015, Allen caught 67-of-89 targets for 725 yards and four touchdowns. With eight more games, all you have to do is double those numbers to extrapolate what a full season might have been for him. Allen is San Diego’s No. 1 receiver by a wide margin as seen by his 11-plus targets per game, and there is nobody ready to usurp him anytime soon.
Coming off the board in the 4th round in some drafts is too late for Allen. Look to grab him in mid 3rd round in standard 12 man leagues.
Jeremy Maclin, WR – Kansas City Chiefs
We all know the Chiefs are one of the most conservative offenses in the league. They want to pound the ball on the ground and control games with their defense. They are happy winning games 10-3. All NFL teams have an idea of what they want but I’m wondering if what they want and what will actually happen will differ this year, especially in the early going. They will be without pass rusher Justin Houston when they face Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and Andrew Luck. All teams with high-powered offenses and bad defenses. PFF graded the Chiefs secondary out in the bottom half of the league in 2015. I’m predicting shootouts in all of these matchups.
There is zero competition for targets among the WRs, they may be forced into passing more (especially early) and Maclin is a proven entity. Last season he was the seventh-most efficient WR, posting 0.54 fantasy points over expectation per target. Increased volume with stellar efficiency equals great fantasy numbers. Over the last two seasons the only players to have 120 targets and eight touchdowns are Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., Calvin Johnson and Jeremy Maclin. So when you come out of the first few rounds of your draft, reconsider the story we’ve been told about Maclin being a boring fantasy receiver.
Rashad Jennings, RB – New York Giants
With 432 rushing yards during the final four weeks of the season, it is a mystery why he going so late in fantasy drafts. Jennings could be an extremely useful asset if he keeps getting the carries he saw late in the season. He should start the 2016 season as the lead back for the Giants. They split up running back touches last season between four running backs, and who knows what they will end up doing this year, but Jennings should get the majority.
He will not wow you on a weekly bases but he is currently trending as a RB#40 and deserves a look closer to the mid 30’s for his production value.
Michael Crabtree, WR – Oakland Raiders
Michael Crabtree is a more complete receiver than Amari Cooper, who is being drafted 55 spots higher this summer. He had a better fantasy season and garnered an extra target per game. He was clearly the top receiver on the team, and for a passing offense that many expect to take the next step forward. Crabtree is terrific asset this late in drafts
According to Raider’s beat writer Paul Gutierrez, WR Michael Crabtree put on a show during the second day of practice: “Michael Crabtree put on a clinic for anyone trying to defend him coming across the middle on slant passes.” There were three instances where Crabtree beat defenders for a huge gain.
This is a good sign for Crabtree, who is coming off a solid year. He looks to continue that trend this season. Crabtree is greatly undervalued despite leading the team last year in receptions and touchdowns. According to our consensus rankings, Crabtree’s current ADP is #79 in standard and #73 in PPR. At this draft position, he is a low-risk player with high reward potential.
Torrey Smith, WR – San Francisco 49ers
Smith could be a sneaky play this year as the No. 1 receiver on a Chip Kelly-led offense. It doesn’t appear that Anquan Boldin is coming back to San Francisco, which would free Smith up, and even though that offense could have all kinds of trouble with whomever the 49ers have at quarterback, they will run plenty of plays and Smith should lead in targets.
Throughout the offseason his ADP has dropped the most of any wide out, meaning he has been taken sooner and sooner in mock drafts as the summer progressed. Interpret that as you will, what I know is that he is currently slated as a WR#49 but you should look to take him closer to a WR#40-42.