2015 Fantasy Football: Sophomore Breakout Candidates
While there were many star rookies in the 2014 rookie class, there were also a handful of disappointments. This article covers rookies that we had had high hopes for but who didn’t live up to the billing. However, these guys could excel in their sophomore campaigns. Whether it was due to circumstance, injury or they just weren’t ready, these players struggled to be fantasy relevant in 2014 but are poised to breakout in 2015.
RB Devonta Freeman, ATL
Last season I predicted Freeman would be the top rookie running back. Obviously that didn’t happen, however, I may have just been a year off. I did not account for Steven Jackson playing a full season or the emergence on Antone Smith (although it was short-lived). It appears likely that the 32-year-old Jackson will be released and Smith is now a free agent. Freeman will win the starting job over Jacquizz Rodgers and even Smith if he is re-signed. This situation may be complicated should the Falcons sign a big name free agent.
As of now, Freeman is primed to make a huge jump next season. In 2014, Freeman carried the ball only 65 times for 248 yards and a TD. He added 30 receptions for 225 yards and another TD. These numbers could skyrocket in 2015. With a full NFL season and another offseason under his belt, the former Seminole should be able to sure-up all those fundamental issues that cost rookie backs playing time. Look for Freeman to be a breakout star next season and a nice fantasy sleeper.
RB Carlos Hyde, SF
Hyde was widely considered to be the best RB in last year’s draft by the majority of draft experts. After being drafted by the 49ers it was clear he would be part of a crowded backfield led by Frank Gore. As expected, Gore was clearly the lead back and Hyde was only given 83 carries. He turned those carries in to 333 yards and four TDs. Rumors have been circulating that Gore’s time in San Francisco is likely over. This would leave Hyde to handle the bulk of the workload for the 49ers. Hyde is a 235-pound power back and is a load to bring down. Hyde has a real chance to put up monster numbers in his sophomore campaign. The 49ers will likely lean heavily on the run if Colin Kaepernick doesn’t turn things around.
RB Charles Sims, TB
Sims was expected to make an immediate impact in a woeful Bucs backfield led by the disappointing Muscle Hamster. Unfortunately an ankle injury cost the rookie the first eight games of the season. When he returned he saw very limited carries and was not overly productive averaging only 2.8 YPC. He did have some success in the passing game, where he is expected to do the most damage. Sims was an elite pass-catcher out of the backfield in college and has the potential to have a ton of PPR value. It would be less than shocking if Sims is the Bucs RB1 next season. A heavier workload on the ground combined with his ability to catch the ball could result in major fantasy production.
WR Josh Huff, PHI
Huff saw limited opportunities as a rookie after being drafted in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He attended college at Oregon where he was recruited by Chip Kelly. He should see more snaps and targets in 2015. On the off chance that the Eagles cannot work out a deal with Jeremy Maclin, Huff’s value would increase exponentially. In his senior year at Oregon, Huff caught 62 passes for 1,140 yards and 12 TDs. The former Duck should be able to jump Riley Cooper on the depth chart and move up to the WR3 spot. With plenty of balls to go around in Philly, he should have a productive season. Another variable that could work in his favor is if the Eagles do manage to acquire Huff’s college QB, Marcus Mariota. The two clearly already have a built-in chemistry. A rookie QB could lean on what’s familiar to him.
WR Cody Latimer, DEN
Latimer saw only four targets as a rookie in 2014. He fished the season with a grand total of 23 yards. That could change a lot next season. There is a very strong possibility that Wes Welker and Julius Thomas will both go elsewhere in free agency. That could leave the second-round pick as Peyton Manning’s third option. Assuming Manning is healthy and does in fact return to Denver, his third option should have an abundance of fantasy value. The coaching staff seems to really love this kid, and with a full offseason to work in the offense as a top option, Latimer should be a nice fit in the Broncos’ passing attack. We have seen many players overachieve when Manning is the one throwing them the ball.
TE Eric Ebron, DET
Ebron was touted as perhaps the most gifted TE prospect since Vernon Davis. Somewhat ironically, the two had almost identical numbers this season and both got off to a slow start to their career. As a rookie in 2006, future star TE Davis totaled just 20 receptions for 265 yards in 10 games. Ebron totaled 25 receptions for 248 yards in 13 games in 2014.
Ebron certainly has the athleticism but lacks a lot of the little things you need to be a successful TE in the NFL. He may never be a great blocker but his hands, route running and understanding of defenses will improve. It took Davis three full mediocre seasons before he put it all together. Ebron has a better QB and is surrounded by much better weapons than Davis was as a young player in the NFL. We are hoping that will help accelerate this process. The Lions’ coaching staff has already expressed that they plan on incorporating Ebron into the offense much more next season. He will likely be a high risk/high reward pick in 2015.
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TB
Seferian-Jenkins showed some flashes as a rookie but was eventually done in by a back injury. The 6-foot-5 TE out of Washington is a big talented TE and should come into his own next season. The Bucs were a mess in 2014 and had no identity. They were swapping QBs in and out, rotating RBs and had a rookie WR and TE starting in their offense. Lovie Smith is a good coach and will put together at least some semblance of a structured team. Seferian-Jenkins should acclimate well to the NFL and become a very productive NFL TE.