Every year, players come out of the woodwork and severly outperform their ADP. These players are by far the most valuable because they provide top 12 production at the price of a mid-late round pick. Who is in line for a bigger workload? A rookie-to-sophomore leap? Did a change in offensive philosophy change this player’s role? Answering these questions is vital in estimating and projecting who these valuable players could possibly be. A little while back, I wrote about who is most likely to regress from their 2013 statistics. I think it’s a bit more fun to see who is in line to leap from solid starter to sincere difference maker:

*Author’s NoteAll ADPs are taken from FantasyFootballCalculator.com


QB: Tony Romo, DAL
2013 Statistics: 3,842 Pass Yds, 31 TDs, 10 INTs in 15 Games
Fantasy Finish: QB4


If you are a regular reader of the Apex Insider blog, you know how much we here at Apex love Tony Romo. From 2011-2013, Romo has finished as QB7, QB9, and QB11- solid starting fantasy QB numbers, but not exactly an every-week difference maker. The reason? Pass attempts. In those three seasons, Romo has finished 11th or lower in pass attempts at the QB position. But with Scott Linehan coming to town, that is going to change big-time.

The Cowboys’ ever-improving offensive line, the steadiness of Jason Witten, the possible emergence of Terrance Williams, DeMarco Murray’s passing-game chops, and the continued brilliance of Dez Bryant all point to Romo having a big year. Throw in the (unfortunate) season-ending injury to defensive MVP Sean Lee, and the Cowboys are going to throw. A lot. For a more in-depth, detailed reasoning on the promise of Tony Romo’s 2014, read my article on Tony Romo from earlier this year.

RB: Andre Ellington, ARI
2013 Statistics: 652 Rush Yds, 3 Rush TDs, 39 Rec, 371 Rec Yds, 1 Rec TD in 15 Games
Fantasy Finish: RB26


After watching Andre Ellington this season, many analysts were left wondering how in the world he lasted until the 6th round of the 2013 NFL Draft- it could’ve warranted a CSI investigation. Proving that cream rises to the top, Ellington’s snaps and production increased as the season went on:

Andre Ellington 2013Rush Atts/GamePPR Fantasy Points/Game
Weeks 1-749.8
Weeks 8-1711.112

With the exit of Rashard Mendenhall, it says a lot about Ellington that the Cardinals passed on drafting a running back this May. Not only has Bruce Arians said that they want to “build their offense around Ellington”, he has also mentioned that they want to give Ellington 25-30 touches per game. Obviously, both of these statements are hyperbole- Arians has always built his teams around vertical passing, and no running back is going to see the rock 30 times per game, especially not one with the size and skill-set of Ellington. But those statements do point to Ellington seeing the lion’s share of the carries and receptions in the Cardinals’ backfield. Ellington is going to flirt with 200-225 carries and 50+ receptions. With his talent and situation, Ellington looks to be a high-end PPR RB2 for 2014.

RB: Shane Vereen, NE
2013 Statistics: 208 Rush Yds, 1 Rush TD, 47 Rec, 427 Rec Yds, 3 Rec TDs in 8 Games
Fantasy Finish: RB36


I cannot understand Shane Vereen’s current ADP of RB24. He missed half the season in 2013, but in the 8 games he played, he averaged 5.5 carries and a shade under 6 receptions per game. What do his 2013 statistics look like extrapolated over a 16 game season?

Shane VereenRush AttsRecTotal YdsTDsPPR Fantasy Points
2013 Extrapolated889412708269

His 269 PPR fantasy points would have made him RB6 in 2013. I do understand that extrapolations are usually exercises in futility, but why can’t Vereen come close to those projected totals? The Patriots’ offseason moves on offense have included re-signing Julian Edelman, letting go of LeGarrette Blount, and signing Brandon Lafell- basically, almost nothing noteworthy or anything to suggest that their 2014 offense will look much different to their 2013 campaign. Add in the complete “mystery-wrapped-in-an-enigma” status of Rob Gronkowski’s health, and all signs point to Shane Vereen continuing to have a huge role in the Patriots plans this season. I see him as a PPR RB1 this season.

WR: Michael Floyd, ARI
2013 Statistics: 113 Targets, 66 Rec, 1,054 Yds, 5 TDs
Fantasy Finish: WR25


Two dynamic breakout candidates? These are not your father’s Arizona Cardinals. After struggling to install the offense last season, the Cardinals go into 2014 with a full year of a Bruce Arians offense under their belts. Michael Floyd had one of the most consistent, quiet 1,000+ yard seasons you’ll see- he caught 5 or more passes in half of his games. But the writing is on the wall for an even larger step forward for the former first-round pick.

Already standing out as much as any player this offseason, Floyd has the chance to become at least the 1B to Larry Fitzgerald’s 1A. Fitzgerald turns 31 before the season starts (the beginning of decline for many wide receivers), and is in a contract year. A changing of the guard is looming at wide receiver in Arizona, and you’ll want to be on board- especially with an egregiously low current ADP of WR29. It’s all reward, no risk if you get Michael Floyd at the end of the 6th/beginning of the 7th round.

WR: Terrence Williams, DAL
2013 Statistics: 74 Targets, 44 Rec, 736 Rec Yds, 5 TDs in 15 Games
Fantasy Finish: WR45


After getting drafted in the 3rd round out of Baylor in the 2013 NFL draft, Williams enjoyed a very promising rookie campaign. With Miles Austin clearly on his last hurrah in Dallas, the Cowboys needed a youngster to step up opposite Dez Bryant and show potential at the opposite wideout spot. Williams answered the call to the tune of 736 yards and 5 touchdowns on a mere 74 targets, an impressive 9.95 yards per target. With Scott Linehan on his way to Dallas, however, those target numbers are likely to skyrocket. Back in Detroit, Nate Burleson was in a comparable situation to Terrance Williams- the number two wideout opposite a super-stud wide receiver. He averaged about 6.5 targets per game- let’s see what happens if we take Terrance Williams’ rookie statistics (catch percentage, yards per target, touchdown percentage) and see how they would look with 104 targets (6.5 per game):

Terrance WilliamsTargetsCatchesYardsTDPPR Fantasy Points
2014 Possible Projection104621,0347207.4

His 207.4 fantasy points would put him at WR22 for 2013, which would have made him a low-end WR2. This assumes that Williams will only receive 104 targets- he has potential to see much more than that. I think that you should draft Terrance Williams expecting WR3 statistics with the very distinct possibility of a WR2 finish in mind. With Miles Austin out of the picture, he has absolutely no competition for the starting spot opposite Dez Bryant. At his current ADP of WR36, there is no reason to not pull the trigger.

WR: Rueben Randle, NYG
2013 Statistics: 78 Targets, 41 Rec, 611 Rec Yds, 6 TDs
Fantasy Finish: WR51


Rueben Randle experienced something very rare for an up-and-coming player: offseason negativity from his own team. Usually, this time of year is filled with views through rose-colored glasses and gushing puff pieces from coaches, but all Rueben Randle heard before the draft was Victor Cruz asking the Giants to draft another receiver. They answered the call with drafting Odell Beckham Jr. out of LSU with the 12th overall pick.

Many assumed this could be the death blow to Rueben Randle’s fantasy value, but detractors are forgetting one thing- Ben McAdoo. With the arrival of the former Green Bay Packers’ offensive coordinator in the Big Apple, the Giants are going to run plenty of three wide-receiver sets. Cruz is already locked in the slot while Beckham is going to have to overcome the historic struggles of rookie wide receivers. We know Cruz is going to fill the “Randall Cobb” role on offense, but I believe Randle is still definitely in the running to finish as the target runner-up on the Giants. For more optimism on Randle, check out this fantastic piece by James Todd over at Rotoviz.

Another thing working in Randle’s favor: as the tallest and heaviest wideout on a roster without an established tight end, he is far and away the favorite for red-zone targets. In Green Bay, Bob McAdoo oversaw an offense that rewarded 6’3″ Jordy Nelson and 6’1″ James Jones with a combined 54 touchdowns from 2011-2013, an average of 9 per season for each. At 6’2″, Randle could easily eclipse double-digit touchdowns. Give me Rueben Randle a round later than Odell Beckham every time.

TE: Jordan Reed, WAS
2013 Statistics: 59 Targets, 45 Rec, 499 Rec Yds, 3 TDs in 9 Games
Fantasy Finish: TE22


For the first half of last season, it looked like we had a new star at the tight end position. But after going down with a concussion in the middle of the season, we were left wondering what could’ve been with Jordan Reed. But 2014 is a new year, and Reed is fully recovered and participating in team activities.

If we extrapolate his 8 full games from last year to a full season, we get an elite 88-974-6 line- good for a 221.4, TE2 finish in 2013. This is an extrapolation that may be a bit over the top, but there is no reason Jordan Reed cannot produce like an elite TE1. New coach Jay Gruden oversaw a top-10 TE season from a much less talented Jermaine Gresham, who averaged over 6 targets per game under the new Redskins head coach. As the only true receiving threat in Washington over 6’ tall, the 6’3”, 243lb Reed is going to see plenty of red zone targets as well. The Redskins offense is likely to have a huge bounce-back season after their disastrous 2012, and Jordan Reed is going to be a centerpiece of it. I could be talked into putting him in the discussion for 3rd tight end off the board.