The window on the average NFL career is pretty small. It’s even shorter for a player’s peak fantasy production. That’s why it can be frustrating when a particular player is expected to “make the leap” to being a quality producer and can’t quite do it. Eventually, it’s time to turn the page on those guys and move on to the next best thing. So we’ve put together a list of five players who have their last big chance to put it all together in 2013.
Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams: Yes, he’s had three different offensive coordinators in his first three seasons. Yes, he hasn’t really had any consistency at wide receiver. But this year, the former Heisman Trophy winner is out of excuses. Brian Schottenheimer is back for a second season running the offense and the team added help on the outside in the form of draft picks Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Bradford doesn’t need to finish this season as a top 10 fantasy QB, but if he doesn’t start trending upward in the rankings, it’s time to give up on him as an option.
Jared Cook, TE, St. Louis Rams: We’ve been patiently waiting for Cook to become a coveted fantasy tight end. It’s a level that doesn’t seem that difficult to achieve, considering the dearth of consistent producers at the position. Nonetheless, he’s languished as an underperformer for the majority of his career. Now he’s reunited with Jeff Fisher in St. Louis and will play in a revamped offense that plans to spread the ball around quite a bit. The only concern could be fellow tight end Lance Kendricks. But it appears that things are setting up for Cook to be a prime target in the pass attack. If it doesn’t happen now, it will never happen.
Jake Locker, QB, Tennessee Titans: It feels like Locker has been in the league much longer than he really has. In reality, 2013 will be just his second season as Tennessee’s full-time starter. Although we should qualify the phrase “full-time”. In order for us to start believing in Locker, he’ll have to play something close to a full season. He missed five games in 2012 and wasn’t that far removed from a college career filled with a litany of ailments. On the field, Locker will need to shorten his learning curve after being the epitome of inconsistency in his first 16 NFL appearances. This year, the coaching staff is doing its best to tailor the offense to his strengths. Considering the progression of some other quarterbacks in his draft class (Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton), Locker will have to step it up or be left behind.
Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee Titans: Britt’s fantasy fortunes will be closely tied to Locker’s this season. For the past couple of seasons, the former Rutgers standout has been expected to move to the next level among fantasy receivers. And for one reason or another, it hasn’t happened. Entering his fifth season, Britt is known as much for his issues off the field as his performance on it. Add to it that he’ll be pushed in the offense by Kendall Wright and his chances to become a star on the field — and in fantasy — are quickly running out.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: The Law Firm opened some eyes by rushing for 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2010 with the Patriots. Since then, he’s struggled to match that success. He did rush for a career-high 1,094 yards in his first season with the Bengals, but his six rushing touchdowns were undeniably a disappointment. His window to go from a No. 2 to a No. 1 fantasy back might already be closed, but if there’s any chance at all, he’ll need to seize it this year. Giovani Bernard is lurking and appears ready to take the reins in the Bengals offense.
— Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG