We all develop little crushes in our lives. I had one on Alyssa Milano when I was a teen, just like every other man who grew up in the 1980s. Farrah Fawcett was another crush. So was Olivia-Newton John. For you WWE fans out there, who wasn't crushing on Tamara "Sunny" Sytch and Trish Stratus? In rare cases, our crushes turn into love (and not the creeper kind of love, either). It can happen in fantasy football, too. You all know me, I like to kid around about having fantasy man crushes in the offseason.
But ... which of those crushes have turned into a full-blow fantasy love?
With fantasy leagues being created and mock drafts being held, we are getting closer and closer to the summer months and the start of training camps. So in honor of Milano, Fawcett and Newton-John (you knew a Grease reference was coming, right?), here are the 10 crushes that have developed into "Summer Lovin'" as we close in on the 2015 NFL season.
These players don't fit under any one category (sleeper, breakout, bargain, etc.), they're just the guys I'm going to be targeting in all of my drafts. You should too.
C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver Broncos: Anderson won't be handed the starting job in Denver with Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman in the mix, but let's be honest ... it would be a shock if he didn't open 2015 as the featured runner. In that scenario, the Cal product would become a first- or second-round pick in re-drafts. He was a fantasy star once he took over the top spot last season, so we know the talent is there. Anderson will also benefit from the presence of his new coach Gary Kubiak, whose running backs have had quite a bit of statistical success in his offensive system.
A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals: Green isn't a breakout candidate or a sleeper, but I do think he could become a nice draft bargain. Injuries limited him to 13 games and were part of the reason for his statistical decline, but don't let his 2014 totals scare you. Entering his age-27 campaign, Green is in the prime of his career and remains one of the most athletic wideouts in the league. If you can land him in the second or third round as a No. 2 fantasy receiver, consider yourself a clever owner ... Green has the tools to re-emerge as a No. 1 option, and I think he will.
Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers: Hyde could end up being one of the big breakout running backs in fantasy football next season. With Frank Gore no longer in the mix, Hyde is next up to bat in their backfield. The Ohio State product showed a few flashes as a rookie, and a year of NFL experience should help him make a statistical leap in his sophomore season. While he will lose some work in the pass attack to veteran Reggie Bush, Hyde should still see 250-plus carries for new coach Jim Tomsula. He should push for No. 2 fantasy running back numbers.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans: Not only do I love Hopkins for reaching 1,100 yards last season and keeping me from having to see James Koh in high heels, but I love that he's now the true No. 1 in Houston. While Andre Johnson (146) had more targets, Hopkins (127) scored almost 50 more fantasy points than his former teammate. Oh, and at least some of A.J.'s opportunities are going to fall in Hopkins' lap. The Texans quarterback situation is a cause for at least some concern, but "Nuk" has the tools and upside to emerge into a 1,500-yard, 10-12 touchdown wideout in 2015.
Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints: Cooks played in just 10 games as a rookie, but he still hauled in 53 passes. Projected over a full season, that's 85 catches and 96 touches (including carries) for one of the brightest young playmakers in the NFL. With Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills out of the mix, the Oregon State product is a good bet to lead the Saints in targets, catches and receiving yards as an NFL sophomore. It's also a big advantage to have Drew Brees throwing him the football. Cooks could push into the high No. 2 wideout conversation ... maybe even low-end No. 1.
Justin Forsett, RB, Baltimore Ravens: Forsett broke on to the scene last season, ranking in the top 10 in fantasy points among running backs despite not being selected in most drafts. While he will be entering his age-30 campaign, Forsett doesn't have much wear and tear on him. Furthermore, he could see a major increase in targets out of the backfield under new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. So, if you're afraid that Forsett will be a one-season wonder, don't be ... he's going to be in an even better position to produce good numbers for both the Ravens and fantasy teams.
Latavius Murray, RB, Oakland Raiders: It's been tough to trust any member of the Raiders from a fantasy perspective in recent years, but Murray is going to be given every chance to succeed as the top runner for coach Jack Del Rio. He showed flashes of potential in 2014, and at 25 he's just about to enter his NFL prime. The Silver & Black does have some potential on the offensive side of the football with Derek Carr under center and some young playmakers in the mix, including Murray. Look for new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to commit to him as one of his offensive centerpieces in 2015.
Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders: Two member of the Raiders on the "summer lovin'" list? That's right. The rookie out of Alabama has earned rave reviews, as he possesses the skills and pass-catching talent to become an immediate contributor. While we might not see the same number of rookie wideouts produce as we did in 2014, Cooper should be on the line for 70-plus receptions and 1,000-plus yards in an offense that could turn some heads. If I could land him has a high-end No. 3 fantasy wideout somewhere in the middle rounds, the fantasy love affair would increase even more.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers: Newton was a disappointment last season, finishing outside of the top 15 fantasy quarterbacks due in large part to injuries. But down the stretch, we started to see Superman emerge from the Clark Kent identity. Newton scored 19-plus fantasy points in each of his final three regular-season contests, and was running the ball with far more success. He also developed a great rapport with Kelvin Benjamin. When you consider that he had been a top-four quarterback in his first three NFL seasons, well, Newton could emerge into a serious draft value.
Joseph Randle, RB, Dallas Cowboys: Randle could earn a chance to run the football 200-plus times behind one of the elite offensive lines in the league, so it's not a surprise to see him listed here. While he saw minimal work behind DeMarco Murray a season ago, he did average a ridiculous 6.7 yards per carry on his 51 rushing attempts. When you also consider all of the injuries Darren McFadden has had in his career, it's quite possible that Randle will see close to a featured role in the offense. He's also just 23 years old, so the OSU product is fresh and ready to roll.