Our Experts’ 12 Favorite Fantasy Breakouts

Our Experts’ 12 Favorite Fantasy Breakouts article feature image
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Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Curtis Samuel, D.J. Moore

  • Our experts reveal their 12 favorite candidates for fantasy breakouts.
  • See which quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers made the list.

Chris Raybon, Matthew Freedman and Sean Koerner reveal their 12 favorite breakout candidates heading into the final stretch of draft season.

See the two quarterbacks, three runnings backs, six wide receivers (including a trio of potential Year 2 breakouts), and tight end they like to emerge as top-tier players at each position.


>> Build custom cheat sheets featuring our experts’ latest fantasy football rankings with our Draft Kit.


QUARTERBACKS

Baker Mayfield, Browns

Mayfield’s 8.56 yards per attempt over the second half of the season — when current head coach Freddie Kitchens took over as offensive coordinator — was only 0.01 yards behind Patrick Mahomes for the league lead.

Now coordinating the offense is Todd Monken, who led Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick — neither of whom had ever finished top-10 in 16 combined NFL seasons — to a combined QB2 finish in 2018. Chris Raybon

Jared Goff, Rams

Goff averages 8.6 yards per attempt and 2.0 passing touchdowns per game with Cooper Kupp in the lineup. With Kupp healthy and Darrell Henderson added to a cast that includes Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Todd Gurley, and with Sean McVay calling the plays, Goff is set up for massive success. Raybon

RUNNING BACKS

Chris Carson, Seahawks

Carson was fed 20.5 touches per game from Week 3 on in 2018, and now the coaching staff is talking about doubling his target count. The only knock on Carson is that his backup, Rashaad Penny, goes off the board so early that he’s toeing the line between potential bust and high-upside handcuff. Raybon

Kerryon Johnson, Lions

Johnson averaged 15.0 touches for 85.0 yard per game in Year 1 and a role in both phases should grow with Darrell Bevell installing a more run-heavy attack and Theo Riddick no longer there to hog passing down snaps. Raybon

Duke Johnson, Texans

Lamar Miller — who is out for the season with a torn ACL — wasn’t thought of as a feature back entering his first year with the Texans, but was entrusted with 34% more touches per game than his previous career high.

That projects to about 14 touches for Johnson, and even that might be conservative given he averaged 20.5 touches per game over his final two years at the University of Miami and has never missed a game in four NFL seasons. Raybon

UPDATE: The Texans have acquired Carlos Hyde from the Chiefs, which caps some of Johnson’s top-end upside. I have bumped down Johnson’s projected usage into the 12-touch-per-game range, which results in rankings of RB29/33/37 in PPR/0.5/Std. He is still a solid FLEX in all formats and has upside for more in PPR.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Packers

I think people realize they need to invest in who will be Aaron Rodgers’ potential No. 2 WR this season.

Marquez-Valdes-Scantling-Green-Bay-Packers-2018
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Marquez Valdes-Scantling

Right now, it seems like people are hedging their bets between MVS and Geronimo Allison as both are right in the WR37-39 range in average draft position (ADP). That’s the perfect range to target a high-upside player like MVS. He’s either going to be your WR3 if you loaded up at QB/RB/TE early on, or will be your flex or even bench depth to start the season.

The Packers will be running fewer three receiver sets under new head coach Matt LaFleur, which will actually force Allison out of the lineup as he’s set to start in the slot. We could see MVS on the field for at least 90% of the snaps, which would likely mean he’s going to crush his ADP if he were to stay healthy for all 16 games.

I’m taking the low-risk, high-reward flier on an MVS breakout this season. Sean Koerner

D.J. Moore, Panthers

The second-year wideout is primed for a massive breakout.

In his 10 games as a starter last season, Moore averaged 72.3 scrimmage yards per game, and should improve on that number as the team’s clear No. 1 wide receiver.

Moore is just one of 11 first-round wide receivers to play as a 21-year-old rookie over the past decade: The other 10 are Laquon Treadwell, Amari Cooper, Brandin Cooks, Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, Kenny Britt, Percy Harvin, Jeremy Maclin and Hakeem Nicks. Except for Treadwell, each veteran player in the cohort has at least one season of 1,000 yards. Matthew Freedman

Curtis Samuel, Panthers

Upon assuming a full-time role in Week 12, Samuel’s per-game numbers (7.0-3.7-52.9-0.3 receiving, 0.7-6.8-0.0 rushing) were similar to Moore’s (7.2-4.2-52.3-0.0 receiving, 0.8-8.3-0.0 rushing).

Both are breakout candidates, but Samuel can be had three rounds later than Moore on average. Raybon

Christian Kirk, Cardinals

Kirk posted 3.6-49.2-0.3 in Year 1 despite the team posting one of the five worst passer ratings of the past half decade. Wide receivers tend to see a 30% increase in volume from Year 1 to Year 2, and that’s before accounting for the increase in tempo under Kliff Kingsbury. Raybon

Tyler Lockett, Seahawks

The fifth-year vet was an incredibly efficient receiver in 2018 with career-high marks in catch rate (81.4%), yards per reception (16.9) and touchdown rate (14.3%). We should expect him to regress toward his career averages this season. But here’s the thing: Lockett has always been a rather efficient receiver, and now he’s likely to lead the Seahawks this year with 100-plus targets.

Tyler Lockett-Fantasy Football-2019
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tyler Lockett

Even with regression, Lockett could be a high-end WR2 in fantasy thanks to his enhanced opportunity. Freedman

Dede Westbrook, Jaguars

Westbrook had a mini breakout last season, posting top-36 fantasy results on the back of a 101-66-717-5 season.

He now goes from a Blake Bortles-quarterbacked offense that finished 19th in pass attempts and 25th in completions to a Nick Foles-quarterbacked offense under an offensive coordinator (John DeFilippo) who oversaw Minnesota offense that finished fourth in pass attempts and sixth in completions despite a top-tier defense similar to Jacksonville’s. Raybon

TIGHT ENDS

David Njoku, Browns

Monken’s tenure with the Bucs coincided with a three-year period in which they ranked top-four in tight end touchdowns. Meanwhile, Year 1 of Kitchens — who has seven years of experience as a tight ends coach — saw Browns tight ends post a top-six finish in TDs, as well.

Entering his third season way lower on the defense’s list of priorities than his talent would otherwise warrant, Njoku could be this year’s Eric Ebron. Raybon

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