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Unless you’re a freakish wide receiver (e.g. Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin) who transitioned seamlessly to the professional level, Year 2 can be a seminal moment for a player’s career. Playbooks that seemed complicated the season before become second nature. Game speed slows. Potential unlocks ... From the mouths of the Yahoo fanalysts, here are their top sophomore sensations poised to take a step forward in 2015. Jinxes be damned.
Brandin Cooks, NO, WR
ADP: 39.7, WR16
The Saints completed the most passes (456) in the NFL last season, by a wide margin. And in offseason moves (losses of Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills, Pierre Thomas and Travaris Cadet), 231 of those receptions were swept out the door. Because we know the Saints will continue to air it out - they've finished top 4 in pass attempts in each of the past five seasons - we have to assume there's a huge opportunity now for second-year wideout Cooks to step up and fill a big chunk of the void left by the departed - WR Marques Colston, at age 32 and with declining fantasy numbers in each season since '11, doesn't seem like a great candidate to reverse course in a major way at this point. Cooks, with his ability to get his speed to redline in very short amount of space, is the kind of weapon a creative offensive mind like Sean Payton can have some fun with. Expect Payton to utilize Cooks with quick hitters (tons of screens) that give him the opportunity to show off his amazing quick burst skills. The set-up should make him a PPR dynamo, one that could push 100 catches if he can stay healthy. (Brandon Funston)
Martavis Bryant, Pit, WR
ADP: 48.9, WR20
As detailed previously, I adore the Steelers wide receiver as much as elderly people do Golden Corral. Once unleashed against Houston Week 7 last year, Bryant blazed a fiery fantasy trail. Over the next four weeks he conquered the meek totaling 77.5 yards per game and six touchdowns. Though he slowed down the homestretch, his 0.45 PPR points per snap was the highest among eligible receivers, besting even Odell Beckham. When Steelers camp opens in Latrobe July 25, Bryant will duke it out with Markus Wheaton for starting duties opposite Antonio Brown. In what should amount to an early-round knockout, he's destined to emerge the winner. His length (6-foot-4, 225 pounds), athleticism, speed (4.42 40-yard) and strength are far superior. Tacking on 10 pounds of muscle this off-season, the Clemson product is hopeful the increased bulk will help him become a more polished weapon underneath. His already stellar downfield execution may improve too. Keep in mind he broke press coverage 70.6 percent of the time as a rookie. Unreal. Ben Roethlisberger, who ranked No. 7 in deep-ball percentage last year, is sure to connect often with Bryant on explosive pass plays. Toss in the defensive attention Brown typically draws, Le'Veon Bell's three-game suspension and Pittsburgh's young, inexperienced D, and the ingredients are in place for Martavis to make investors rich at his current price point. A final tally around 70-1050-12 isn't out of the question. (Brad Evans)
Carlos Hyde, SF, RB
ADP: 34.5, RB14
Hyde should lose passing-down work to Reggie Bush, is unproven and plays in a division that’s tough defensively. The 49ers also had arguably the worst offseason in recent memory. But if you want to look at it a different way, Hyde should now be the workhorse for a team that reached the NFC Championship game in three of the past four years, and his 2.8 YPC after contact last season tied for the third-highest among all running backs who had at least 80 rushing attempts. He forced 25 missed tackles on 83 carries, just six fewer than teammate Frank Gore who had 255 carries. Gore is gone now, so Hyde will be unleashed in 2015, and if Colin Kaepernick’s reported accuracy improvements are proven true (and the new coaching regime allows him to run the read-option much more as planned), Hyde will be in a situation to produce in a big way. There’s easily top-10 fantasy RB upside here. (Dalton Del Don)
Teddy Bridgewater, Min, QB
ADP: 124.4, QB19
Drafted 32nd overall by the Vikings in 2014, Bridgewater started his pro career looking more like a double dutch champion and less like a poised signal caller. By Week 12, however, the game appeared to slow down for the Louisville alum, as evidenced by his completion percentages from Weeks 13 through 17. Rated by Pro Football Focus as the league’s third most accurate QB of 2014, Teddy’s touch is almost as tender as his vision is sharp. With generational talent Adrian Peterson returning to Minnesota’s backfield, the 22 year old QB will have a breathtaking vista of open receivers to target. Included in this arsenal are the formidably sized Charles Johnson (WR), the finally healthy Kyle Rudolph (TE), and the legitimate deep threat Mike Wallace (WR). Given a second year in Norv Turner’s offense and a massive upgrade in weapons, Bridgewater’s fantasy stock is on the rise. Currently being drafted in the 11th round, Bridgewater is a stealthy stash for Tony Romo or Carson Palmer owners. Prediction: 3,650 passing yards and 24 passing TDs. (Liz Loza)
John Brown, Ari, WR
ADP: 126.2, WR56
You can trip yourself up playing the comparison game, but when I hear Bruce Arians comparing Brown to Marvin Harrison, my ears perk up. To be fair, Brown reminds me more of a different Indy wideout, T.Y. Hilton - similar size, similar deep explosiveness, similar rookie numbers (Brown: 48-696-5, Hilton: 50-861-7). Brown didn't score a touchdown in his final seven games last year, but the Carson Palmer injury had a lot to do with that. This year you can be sure Brown and Palmer will be on the same page - they've been living together (they also did it last year), working out, going over plays. What is not to like here? I can't believe the Stopa $100K crew let me have Brown for $2; I hope you do as well in your endgame. Hilton went bonkers in his sophomore campaign, and I think there's a chance Brown will do the same. (Please, fantasy gods, look over Palmer this season. Give that guy a break.) (Scott Pianowski)
Follow the Yahoo fantasy crew on Twitter -- Brad Evans (@YahooNoise), Brandon Funston (@1befun), Dalton Del Don (@DaltonDelDon), Scott Pianowski (@Scott_Pianowski), Andy Behrens (@Andy_Behrens) and Liz Loza (@LizLoza_FF)