Every year, players come out of the woodwork and end up swinging fantasy championships. We all remember Bobby Rainey popping up off the waiver wire and running wild for Tampa Bay or the switch all of a sudden turning on for Justin Blackmon, as he submitted a monster second half to his rookie season in Jacksonville. So who are this year's candidates to make just such a leap? Let's take a look.
1. Mark Sanchez, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Since stepping in for the injured Nick Foles, Sanchez has yet to produce that truly eye popping statistical performance that Eagles fans have become accustomed to under the high flying, up tempo style that Chip Kelly has installed during his tenure as the Eagles' coach. It hasn't mattered, as Sanchez has put up solid numbers without all of the fireworks. He's thrown for 1,404 yards and 8 TDs in his 5 starts, but has been inconsistent protecting the football, tossing two interceptions in three of the five starts.
The Eagles' finishing kick should allow Sanchez to pad these statistics even further. While there is a tough game against Seattle' resurgent defense on the docket, the following three matchups all take place within the NFC East, against the porous pass defenses of the Cowboys, Redskins, and Giants. Philadelphia is entrenched in a battle for top seeding in the NFC, so don't look for Chip Kelly to take his foot off the gas pedal.
2. Kenny Stills, WR, New Orleans Saints
With the untimely injury to Brandin Cooks, an opportunity has been created for the Oklahoma receiver, who has shown flashes of brilliance. He put up 641 yards and 5 TDs in a rookie season where he struggled to remain on the field consistently, yet emerged as a favorite deep target for Drew Brees.
The Saints are in a heated NFC South division battle and are inexplicably alive and well for the playoffs despite their 4-7 record. Stills has come up big in the last two weeks, scoring the Saints' sole touchdown in their loss to Cincinnati and coming up just shy of 100 yards on 9 targets in the Saints' Monday night tilt against Baltimore. The Steelers, Bears, Panthers, Falcons and Buccaneers are up next, all of which are teams that struggle to defend the pass.
Marques Colston is more of a possession receiver at this stage in his career and while Jimmy Graham is sure to get fed, this leaves Stills as New Orleans' home run threat. Look for him to finish off the season in style.
3. Charles Sims, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sims has come along to carry on Bobby Rainey's proud tradition of late season surges by Tampa Bay's running back corps. Doug Martin is slowly falling out of favor in Tampa and his massive performance against Oakland a couple of years ago is looking like more and more of an aberration. Rainey has been stealing carries from Martin all season and now it looks as if it is Sims' turn to swipe touches from Rainey.
In last week's game, the snaps were almost evenly distributed among the three backs, with Martin getting 26 and Sims/Rainey snaring 25 apiece. But with Tampa Bay essentially out of incentives to actively try and win, don't be surprised if Sims ends up with the lion's share of the work down the stretch. With nothing left to play for except draft position, it behooves Tampa Bay to see what they have in Sims. Considering that Josh McCown is the team's leader in rushing TDs, it's safe to say Martin and Rainey haven't exactly lit the world on fire thus far.