1. Randall Cobb, GB, Wide Receiver
Cobb came out hot last season before breaking his leg in week six. He recorded back-to-back games with over 100 yards receiving and a touchdown to kick off the 2013 season. He was Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target and saw 32 targets through the first three weeks. Cobb hauled in two touchdowns in his first game back in week 17. If he and Rodgers both stay healthy this year, Cobb should be able to produce big numbers every week.
2. Nick Foles, PHI, Quarterback
From the time he took over in week nine until the end of last season, Foles was as good as Peyton Manning statiscally. He finished the season with 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions despite only starting in 10 games. Of the seven quarterbacks who threw more touchdowns, each had over 200 passing attempts more than Foles. In other words, Foles was really efficient. The return of Jeremy Maclin and the addition of Darren Sproles should lessen the impact of losing Desean Jackson. It’s crazy Foles isn’t getting more love when he could be the best fantasy quarterback in the league.
3. Doug Martin, TB, Running Back
Martin delivered one of the best single-game fantasy performances ever in 2012 when he ran for 251 yards and four touchdowns against Oakland. People began writing the Boise State product off after a shoulder injury made it difficult for him to build on that success last year. If Martin stays healthy, his combination of size and speed should make him an elite running back.
4. Mike Evans, TB, Wide Receiver
This guy is going to be good right away. Josh McCown may be the Bucs starting quarterback, and he put up big numbers throwing to the combination of Brandon Marshall-Alshon Jeffery in Chicago. Evans and fellow Bucs receiver Vincent Jackson both stand at 6’5″ and could be a similar duo with their size and strength. Jackson should also help draw the attention of opposing secondaries away from Evans. The rookie from Texas A&M should be a reliable flex or second receiver right away.
5. Robert Griffin III, WSH, Quarterback
RGIII’s disappointing sophomore campaign distracted from what was actually a good fantasy season. Griffin was good for 250-plus yards more often than not, prior to being shut down after week 14. Last season was a mess for RGIII, and he will fall further in most drafts than he should. This is a man who ran for 815 yards and seven touchdowns two seasons ago, and he should be getting back to that old form. He gets a fresh start this season and will have a new weapon in Desean Jackson. RGIII might be a steal if you don’t get your hands on someone like Brees, Rodgers or Manning in the early rounds…
6. Pierre Thomas, NO, Running Back
In 2013, the Saints passed the ball to running back Darren Sproles a lot, earning him 71 receptions on 89 targets. Pierre Thomas, similarly, saw 77 receptions on 84 targets. The other three backs combined for nine receptions. Now, Sproles joins a dynamic backfield in Philadelphia. Thomas also rushed for the most yards for the Saints, accumulating 549 yards and two touchdowns.
7. Ray Rice, BAL, Running Back
In the six years Ray Rice has played for the Ravens, he’s failed to rush for a 1,000 yards in only two seasons. Once his rookie year, where he saw 107 attempts and managed 454 yards, and again last year when he rushed for 660 yards on 214 attempts. The naysayers say he’s too old and beaten. In three seasons at Rutgers, he rushed for 4,926 yards and in the NFL he’s gained 6,180 yards (11,106 yards combined). He’s either going to revert back to his reliable, old self and put up 20-plus a week or continue to produce poorly, earning a little more than three yards a carry.
8. Kendall Wright, TEN, Wide Receiver
PPR leagues are about catches and lots of them. In the last eight weeks of the season, Wright caught 51 passes. Only four players hauled in more passes in the last eight weeks, Pierre Garcon, Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and Andre Johnson. On top of that he received 67.1 percent of the passes he saw during that span. In his sophomore year, he amassed 1079 yards on 94 receptions.
9. Jeremy Maclin, PHI, Wide Receiver
Desean Jackson is gone. Jason Avant is gone. As mentioned earlier, Nick Foles did well at the end of last season and all signs indicated that’s not stopping soon. Maclin will now be Foles’ number-one target. Maclin missed last season due to an ACL tear, so the challenge this season is staying healthy. In 2011 he received 63 passes for 849 yards with five touchdowns, and in 2012 he caught 69 passes for 857 yards and seven touchdowns. Now with the absence of Jackson and Avant, it’s surely his time to rise.
10. Hakeem Nicks, IND, Wide Receiver
So here’s a guy with hands like Shaquille O’Neal. It’s mentioned every game by every announcer, but it doesn’t seem to help him when he’s on the field. By all accounts Nicks should be a monster, but in the past two years he hasn’t proven so. The Giants entered a slump last year. Eli Manning threw 27 interceptions and saw his fourth-lowest completion percentage in 10 years, and that translated to his receivers. With Nicks in Indianapolis and an arguably better quarterback in Andrew Luck, he could prove essential as a slot or deep threat.
Collegian Senior Reporter Emmett McCarthy and Managing Editor Lawrence Lam can be reached at email@example.com.