They are the players who can put a fantasy team over the top, the guys who go from a backup role to the Pro Bowl. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady came out of nowhere in 2001 to lead the Patriots to the Super Bowl. Last year Bengals running back Rudi Johnson and Chargers quarterback Drew Brees had breakout seasons. Here are six types of promising performers who could be in for banner years.
Players who get the chance to take on a larger role
In 2001 free-agent running back Priest Holmes, who had started only 19 games in four seasons with the Ravens, signed with the Chiefs so he could become a starter. All Holmes did that year was rush for an NFL-high 1,555 yards. Every season there are players like Holmes who move into bigger roles through trades, free agency, coaching changes and injuries to the starters ahead of them. This year, for instance, if you can correctly predict which Vikings wideout will inherit the bulk of Randy Moss's receptions, you'll have found a diamond.
Prospects: Vikings wideout Nate Burleson, Raiders running back LaMont Jordan
Quarterbacks who pick up a talented new target
Before last season the Eagles' Donovan McNabb had thrown 33 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions in 26 games over two years. Then wideout Terrell Owens arrived by way of a trade, giving McNabb a big-time receiving threat for the first time. McNabb responded with the best year of his career: 3,875 yards, 31 TDs and only eight interceptions.
Prospects: Raiders' Kerry Collins, Lions' Joey Harrington and Jeff Garcia, Ravens' Kyle Boller