Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings QB
Despite a lackluster pro day, concerns over hand size and plummeting draft stock, Teddy Bridgewater was still a first round draft pick in 2014. And rightfully so, as he has the talent to be a franchise QB in the NFL. After some initial growing pains, things are starting to click for Bridgewater. What is even more impressive is that he has been operating without the presence of a strong running game most of the season. His receivers are far from household names, but the emergence of Charles Johnson as a reliable option has been a bright spot. If Cordarrelle Patterson can refine his game and Kyle Rudolph can stay healthy, there is plenty to like about the Vikings offense moving forward. Whether or not Adrian Peterson comes back to Minnesota is anyone’s guess, but that would further enhance Bridgewater’s outlook. While you are drafting him more for his high floor than massive statistical upside, Bridgewater looks like a rock solid QB2 option in 2015 with room for growth.
Devonta Freeman, Falcons RB
The running back landscape is going to have a lot of movement this offseason. With a few big free agents, potential release candidates and high profile college prospects, almost any backfield could have a different look in 2015. With Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers heading into the final years of their respective deals next year, it could be time for Devonta Freeman to shine. A popular sleeper this summer that never woke up because the Falcons seemed content to let SJax plod along, all that the Florida State product needs is an opportunity. He is a compact yet powerful runner and a solid receiving back with plenty of Fantasy upside even in a part-time role. While other young RBs are going to get more hype this summer, Freeman’s forgettable rookie stat line might make him one of the best values.
DeAndre Hopkins, Texans WR
Overshadowed by a number of outstanding rookie receiver performances this year, DeAndre Hopkins is about to get his due. After a “quiet” 800 yards as a rookie, Hopkins has put up over 1,200 yards and six TDs on 74 grabs so far in his sophomore campaign. Other than his massive 238 yard, two-TD showing in Week 13, Hopkins has flown under the radar for much of his career. He will enter next season with a chance to push his ceiling even higher at just 23 years old. A sure-handed receiving option with aggressive ball skills, Hopkins is a no-brainer as your WR2 for 2015. With Andre Johnson continuing to descend, Hopkins is on the verge of becoming Fantasy’s next elite receiver.
Zach Ertz, Eagles TE
If only he did not have a 15-catch outburst in Week 16, Zach Ertz could have been an even better value heading into next summer. Hopes were high for the second year TE, but he fell flat on his Fantasy face. Ertz is a natural receiver with underrated downfield ability, but he found himself splitting time with Brent Celek. There is untapped potential in his game and the situation remains potentially lucrative under Chip Kelly. After a strong debut, he was definitely a disappointment in 2014, but do not let that cloud your judgment of him moving forward. Ertz still has TE1 upside and we very well might see that realized in 2015. It would not surprise me to see him lead all TEs in receptions in one of the next few seasons.
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers QB
The potential remains for Colin Kaepernick to be one of the best Fantasy QBs in the game. Over the past few seasons, we have seen glimpses of that, but no sustained dominance since his impressive 2012 playoff run. He has rushed at least 500 yards in each of the past two seasons, but with only five rushing TDs to show for it after five in 13 games in 2012. While he has a strong arm, limitations as a pocket passer are evident and ultimately holding him back from being an elite dual threat option. Perhaps the 49ers will open things up for Kaep next season and let him improvise more. Until we see it, though, I can only be cautiously optimistic. He is a QB2 with intriguing upside for 2015, nothing more at this point.
Bishop Sankey, Titans RB
Many were surprised when the Titans drafted Bishop Sankey as the first RB off the board in the second round last April. That landed him in a great spot for Fantasy production and he was seen as a potential RB2. Did Sankey struggle as a rookie because of usage and a shaky offense around him or is he just not that good? To be fair, I think it’s a combination of all of those factors. Sankey has never received more than 19 touches in a game and did very little with what he was given. In many ways, it reminds me of how the Dolphins utilized Lamar Miller last season; the trust factor with the coaching staff is clearly not there. We saw very few big plays from him and he clearly is not a between the tackles rusher. At the very least, the Titans have to be thinking about bringing in a complementary power runner. On the plus side, there is a lofty Fantasy ceiling for the Washington product because of his athleticism and playmaking ability. He will never be a true workhorse type, but how many of them still exist? All hope is not lost after one very unimpressive season. If used properly, he could have a breakthrough in Year 2 when many owners have completely dismissed his potential.
Odell Beckham Jr., Giants WR
Let me preface by saying that Odell Beckham Jr. is enjoying one of the most ridiculously impressive rookie seasons I can remember. He has far exceeded my expectations for him and I am a believer in his talent. The reason that I see him falling a bit next year is because this tear he is on is not likely to repeat in 2015. What would his final season numbers look like if he had played in those first four games this year? Probably pretty similar to what they are right now because what happened after Beckham got healthy ended up being a perfect storm. People are talking about him as the first WR off the board and a potential first round pick. I am just not ready to put him up there just yet, although I will admit he is trending in that direction. Victor Cruz will likely be back healthy and the enigmatic Rueben Randle will be around as well, taking some targets away from ODB. He is a great fit for this offense and another Top 12 season is very possible, just not as much of a slam-dunk as many are making it seem right now.
Jason Witten, Cowboys TE
While 60 receptions for 654 yards and five TDs (through Week 16) is a solid season line for a TE, especially this year, it is a far cry from Jason Witten’s prime. It has been a good run for the Cowboys receiving TE, but his Fantasy value moving forward is only trending further downward. Witten will be 33 this offseason and has the talented (and much younger) Gavin Escobar ready for more work behind him. If you draft Witten next year as a TE1, you are caught up in name value.