Get the Athlon Sports Newsletter
An improved offensive line and more touches could vault Andre Ellington into must-start territory in 2014
Eddie Lacy led all rookies in fantasy points (Athlon Sports scoring) in 2013. He wasn't the only first-year player to shine either, as Keenan Allen topped all wide receivers and running backs Zac Stacy, Giovani Bernard and Le'Veon Bell each posted solid numbers for their respective teams. While these and others enjoyed strong debuts, here are 15 other members of the 2013 draft class that could break out in their second season in the NFL. And if that does happen, it could lead to good results for your fantasy team.
1. Montee Ball, RB, Denver
The Broncos’ rookie overcame fumble issues to develop into a solid contributor. Ball posted his three best yardage totals, including his lone 100-yard effort, in the final five weeks of the season. With Knowshon Moreno now in Miami, Ball should be an every-week fantasy starter.
2. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Minnesota
Few can match his freakish triple-threat athletic ability, so there should be little doubt about his enormous upside. Should he continue to polish his route-running skills and understanding of the position, Patterson should flourish in his second year — especially with a more stable quarterback situation.
3. Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona
Very quietly, the Cardinals’ rookie topped 1,000 yards from scrimmage a year ago on just 157 offensive touches for an impressive 6.5 yards-per-touch. With improved offensive line play and a full season to gain regular touches, Ellington could develop into a must-start option.
4. Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas
Williams was hugely productive at Baylor and proved his NFL staying power as a rookie. His 736 receiving yards were third among all first-year players. He’s on a solid offense with a quality quarterback; all Williams needs to develop into a weekly fantasy starter is more consistency.
5. Jordan Reed, TE, Washington
Reed led all rookie tight ends a year ago in both receptions (45) and yards (499) despite missing seven games due to concussion problems. Reed could easily become a No. 1 fantasy tight end.
6. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston
There are quarterback concerns, but Hopkins is the heir apparent to Andre Johnson. The Texans’ second-year receiver should be able to improve on his impressive 52-catch, 802-yard rookie campaign.
7. EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo
Both Geno Smith and Mike Glennon got more experience a year ago, but Manuel has the most upside and stability of all the second-year quarterbacks, and Buffalo has stockpiled weapons for him.
8. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Kenny Britt is gone, and Kendall Wright is in the slot, so that leaves Hunter to excel in new coach Ken Whisenhunt's vertical passing game. The deep threat should have a healthy quarterback and a much better grasp of the offense.
9. Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia
Ertz was No. 2 to Reed in rookie receiving yards by a tight end (469) and tied for the rookie lead among tight ends with four touchdown grabs. There is plenty of action to go around in Chip Kelly’s offense.
10. Robert Woods, WR, Buffalo
The net difference between losing Stevie Johnson and gaining Sammy Watkins should be a positive for Woods. He should be in line to earn starter snaps and may even be the Bills’ top pass-catcher in 2014.
11. Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis
He’s not a big receiver, but he will always have big-play ability — as his 98-yard punt return touchdown proved a year ago. He is an all-purpose dynamo who can be used all over the field.
12. Markus Wheaton, WR, Pittsburgh
There is plenty of room on the Steelers’ depth chart for Wheaton to become a starter in his second year. He can do a little bit of everything, and he will have the first shot to replace Emmanuel Sanders.
13. Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati
As the unquestioned starter on a team loaded with offensive weapons, Eifert has a chance to develop into a viable fantasy option in year No. 2.
14. Kenny Stills, WR, New Orleans
He finished tied for second among rookie WRs in TDs (five). With Drew Brees running the show, there should be plenty to go around.
15. Aaron Dobson, WR, New England
He has to deal with a crowded (yet uncertain) receiving corps and get over a foot injury that impacted his rookie season, but Dobson's 6'3", 210-pound frame may may make him an inviting target for Tom Brady.