What I like to do with Breakouts 3.0, which is my final edition of breakouts for the season, is highlight some of my favorite players who I plan to target in all leagues. I'm obviously not going to draft all of these guys -- but I can try. And one wide receiver that I plan to reach for if needed is Calvin Ridley.
Ridley checks a lot of the boxes that I'm looking for in a breakout receiver.
- Third season in the NFL.
- High volume passing attack.
- Talented player with a good quarterback.
- Ready for greatness.
The latter point is something Ridley already talked about in a story on the Falcons team website, when he said "I should be elite this year." I love to hear that.
"I feel like you can see it in his body language," Ryan said. "His understanding of the system is so much better. His understanding of how to communicate with me and what I expect of him and where I expect him to be -- he's on a different level. When he is freed up internally, mentally, he's not thinking about things -- his athleticism shows. And he's so gifted. I think that's going to be the case this year. He's going to be a guy who gets a lot of one-on-one opportunities because of his supporting cast, and he's going to make people pay because of it."
Feed. Me. More. Ridley is ready to go off, and I consider him a top-10 Fantasy receiver in all leagues. He's someone I plan to draft in the early part of Round 3.
In the six games after Sanu was gone, Ridley averaged 17.1 PPR points per game. Over that same span, Jones averaged just 14.4 PPR points. Again, I'm not saying Ridley is better than Jones. But that six-game sample size shows you that Ridley can be a beast.
And over those six games, Ridley averaged 8.2 targets per game, 5.7 catches, 82.2 yards and he scored three touchdowns. Over a full season that's 91 catches, 1,315 yards and eight touchdowns. Sign me up for that all day.
The Falcons led the NFL in pass attempts in 2020 and should be close to the top again in that category. Hayden Hurst should help replace Austin Hooper, and Todd Gurley is an upgrade over Devonta Freeman. But the two best skill players for the Falcons are Jones and Ridley, and Ridley is headed for a career year.
He's someone I'm planning to draft a lot. And you should do the same.
HOU Houston • #4
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
I know it seems strange to see Watson in this spot for a couple of reasons. One, he's already been a great Fantasy quarterback during the first three seasons of his career. And two, he just lost his best receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, who was traded to Arizona. But I expect Watson to still be elite, and he's my No. 3 quarterback behind Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. I expect this to be his best season yet. Now, in 2017, he averaged a whopping 29.3 Fantasy points per game, but he played just seven games because of a torn ACL. Imagine getting that guy for a full season. I think we'll see him be among the best rushing quarterbacks with more than 500 yards on the ground, and he's averaged six rushing touchdowns a year over the past two seasons. I also expect his passing stats to pop and go over 4,500 yards and 30 touchdowns for the first time in his career. He'll need Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks to stay healthy for that to happen, which is a tall task. But if they are healthy then Watson could challenge for the NFL MVP.
Josh Allen QB
BUF Buffalo • #17
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
I don't like Allen saying he plans to run less in 2020, but I understand where he's coming from. He just got a dynamic receiver in Stefon Diggs to go with John Brown and Cole Beasley, and it's time for him to take another step as a passer. That said, he'll run when he has to, telling The Athletic "when my number is called, I'll step up to the plate for sure." In 2019, Allen was third among quarterbacks behind Jackson and Kyler Murray with 510 rushing yards, and he led all quarterbacks with nine rushing touchdowns. I'm hopeful he'll still have around 400 rushing yards and five touchdowns, but I expect his passing stats to improve after he had 3,089 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season. Diggs, Brown, Beasley and the rest of his supporting cast need to help Allen in his third year, but there is a lot to like about his upside. If you're looking for a top-five quarterback with a mid-round pick then target Allen this season.
KC Kansas City • #25
Age: 22 • Experience: 2 yrs.
By the time you read this, Edwards-Helaire might be a top-five running back in my rankings in all leagues. I'm beyond excited for the Chiefs rookie, especially after Damien Williams opted out over concerns related to Covid-19. Playing for Andy Reid and with Patrick Mahomes gives Edwards-Helaire, who was the only running back selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, a huge edge. And during Reid's tenure as a head coach in Philadelphia and Kansas City, he's had a top-12 PPR running back in points per game 15 times in 21 seasons, including nine finish in the top five. Kareem Hunt, as a rookie in 2017 with the Chiefs, was the No. 5 PPR running back in points per game at 18.4, and he led the NFL in rushing that season with 1,327 yards. He also scored eight rushing touchdowns with 53 receptions, 455 yards and three touchdowns. Is Edwards-Helaire capable of that type of production? Probably not. But I'll gamble on Reid's track record, as well as what Edwards-Helaire did at LSU last season with 215 carries for 1,414 yards and 16 touchdowns, along with 55 catches, 453 yards and a touchdown. He's a top-six overall pick for sure, but he might creep into the top five. He's that good.
Josh Jacobs RB
LV Las Vegas • #28
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.
It's fun to hear Jacobs talk about getting 60 catches this season, but I would be happy with 40. And based on things coach Jon Gruden has said this offseason, we should see Jacobs more involved in the passing game after he had just 20 catches on 27 targets in 13 games last year. You know what he's capable of as a rusher, and he was on pace last season to be fourth in carries and third in rushing yards. And I wouldn't be shocked if he led the NFL in rushing this season behind an underrated offensive line. The thing that will take Jacobs from being good -- he was the No. 15 running back in PPR on a per-game basis at 14.7 points per game and No. 10 in non-PPR at 13.2 -- to great is what he does as a receiver. While Jalen Richard, Lynn Bowden Jr. and potentially Theo Riddick could make it tough for Jacobs to get even 30 catches this year, The Athletic speculates Jacobs will "easily double" his receptions from 2019. If that happens then he could be a top-five running back, and he's worth drafting in Round 1 in all leagues.
IND Indianapolis • #28
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Taylor doesn't have a clear path to being the featured running back for the Colts because of Marlon Mack, as well as what Nyheim Hines should do in the passing game. But it shouldn't be long before Taylor is leading Indianapolis in carries and playing time based on his upside, and as a result he's worth drafting in Round 4 in all leagues. Taylor is going to prove he's a dominant force behind that awesome offensive line for the Colts, and he will keep Mack and Hines in secondary roles this year. Taylor won't be a significant factor in the passing game, which caps his upside, but he has the potential for 1,200 total yards and double digits in touchdowns. At Wisconsin, Taylor averaged 2,058 rushing yards over three seasons, with 55 total touchdowns. And he did catch 26 passes for 252 yards in 2019. I plan to draft Taylor as a No. 2 running back in all leagues, but he should be able to outperform that value if he gets the kind of role I expect. Mack will be a roadblock early in the season, but Taylor will be a star by the end of the year.
Joe Mixon RB
CIN Cincinnati • #28
Age: 25 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Mixon is headed for a big season as the best player in the Bengals offense. And my colleague Jason La Canfora wrote that coach Zac Taylor "intends to lean on him heavily in 2020." La Canfora also said Mixon "could be as well positioned as Christian McCaffrey was a year ago to explode." Now, that's lofty expectations, but we saw Mixon go off in the second half last season after Cincinnati's bye in Week 9. He closed the season averaging 17.4 PPR points per game, and he had at least 136 rushing yards in three of his final four outings. He also had at least three catches in three of his final five games. His performance in the passing game will determine how good he can be, but if he's in the neighborhood of 50 catches (he had 43 in 2018) then he has top-five upside. Cincinnati's offense should be solid with A.J. Green back, offensive lineman Jonah Williams healthy and the addition of No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow. But Mixon will lead this offense, and he has the chance for a tremendous season in 2020. He should be drafted in Round 1 in all leagues.
WAS Washington • #17
Age: 26 • Experience: 3 yrs.
McLaurin is going to be a busy guy this season as the lead receiver for the Washington Football Team. While I like Steven Sims as a sleeper, we could see McLaurin be among the league leaders in targets. And he has the chance to be the best receiver from the 2019 NFL Draft, which is saying something given the talent in that group, including other breakout candidates like A.J. Brown, DK Metcalf, Marquise Brown and Diontae Johnson. We saw flashes of greatness from McLaurin in 2019, and he opened the season with three games in a row with at least 17 PPR points. He closed the year with three games in a row with at least 15 PPR points, and hopefully he'll have more consistent production this year. In seven starts with Dwayne Haskins, McLaurin averaged 12.0 PPR points per game, and hopefully their rapport will improve. I like McLaurin as a No. 2 Fantasy receiver with top-15 upside, and he's worth drafting as early as Round 4 in all leagues.
D.J. Chark WR
JAC Jacksonville • #17
Age: 24 • Experience: 4 yrs.
You might not think of Chark as a true No. 1 receiver on his team. You might not want to target any players from the Jaguars this year. You might not want to win your Fantasy league if you believe either of those two things. Chark had a solid season in 2019, but he should be even better this year. And when Chark was on last season, he was special, scoring at least 16 PPR points in seven games. But he also had 10 PPR points or less in eight games, and I'm hopeful he's not just a boom-or-bust receiver. I'm expecting more consistent production, and he's ready to build his rapport with Gardner Minshew. Chark told me at the Pro Bowl that he's confident with Minshew as his quarterback, which is good. "When he came in, it was bombs away with him," Chark said. While Laviska Shenault, Chris Thompson and Tyler Eifert will help this receiving corps, they could take away production from Chark. But I expect Chark to see a slight rise from the 7.9 targets per game he had in 2019, and he has the chance to be a top-tier Fantasy receiver in 2020. He's someone to draft in all leagues as early as Round 4.
Will Fuller WR
MIA Miami • #3
Age: 27 • Experience: 6 yrs.
Fuller might be one of my favorite players to target this year. His Average Draft Position is currently in Round 8, but I could see him climb to as high as Round 6. And I'm fine with that because he has the potential to be a league winner this season and finish as a top 20 Fantasy receiver in all leagues. With Hopkins gone, the Texans have 150 targets to replace, and Watson needs a new No. 1 receiver. Cooks will take on a bulk of the targets, and he could prove to be better than Fuller. But Fuller already has an established rapport with Watson. And you've seen his ceiling in this offense when he scored 53 PPR points last year against Atlanta. He's obviously an injury risk after missing 14 games over the past two seasons and never playing 16 games in a year in his career. But he's also in a contract year, and I expect Fuller to get paid after a big performance in 2020.
BAL Baltimore • #5
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
We could see the Ravens still add a wide receiver to their roster, and they had Dez Bryant in for a workout in August. But barring something crazy, no one is coming in to replace Brown as the No. 1 receiver for Lamar Jackson. The last time we saw Brown play was the divisional-round playoff loss to the Titans, and he put on a show. Brown had seven catches for 126 yards on 11 targets, and he gave us a glimpse of how good he can be if he was heavily targeted on a consistent basis. Now, as we know, the Ravens don't want any of their receivers getting double digits in targets on a consistent basis because that doesn't fit their offense. But hopefully Brown is healthy this season and can improve in his sophomore campaign after playing through a foot injury in 2019. And keep in mind in the first five games of 2019, before missing two games with an injury, Brown averaged 13.8 PPR points per game on 7.8 targets per outing. He's got the potential to become a starting Fantasy receiver in all leagues. I'm excited to draft Brown as early as Round 5.
Hayden Hurst TE
ATL Atlanta • #81
Age: 28 • Experience: 4 yrs.
I liked Hurst a lot with his move from Baltimore to Atlanta to replace Hooper. But after talking to Ryan about him, now I can't wait to draft Hurst. "I've been impressed," Ryan said on CBS Sports HQ. "He was one of the guys that I was able to spend time with this offseason. I was kind of chomping at the bit to get on the field with him because I wasn't necessarily familiar with his skillset. I was blown away at first. ... I expect him to play well for us. He's a hard worker. He's committed to it. He's been really good at getting into the playbook and retaining the information that we've talked about. I think he'll fit in nicely with the group that we have." Ryan loves leaning on his tight ends. He's been with the Falcons for 12 seasons, and eight times he's had a tight end get at least 80 targets. Tony Gonzalez did it five times, Hooper twice and Jacob Tamme once. For the past two seasons, Hooper averaged 93 targets, 73 catches, 724 yards and five touchdowns for the Falcons. That's the role Hurst is inheriting, and I plan to target Hurst as a top-10 tight end with a mid-round pick.
Mike Gesicki TE
MIA Miami • #88
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
I initially listed Gesicki as a sleeper in our Fantasy Football magazine with Beckett Sports, but he graduated to breakout status as the offseason went on. I have moved him into my top 12 rankings at tight end, mostly because the Dolphins need him after Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns opted out over concerns related to Covid-19. DeVante Parker, Preston Williams and Gesicki should be the primary receiving options for the Dolphins, and Gesicki stood out last year when he scored at least 11 PPR points in four of his final six games. He showed a solid rapport with Ryan Fitzpatrick, and hopefully Fitzpatrick starts more games this year than Tua Tagovailoa. We'll see if the change in offensive coordinator to Chan Gaily helps or hurts Gesicki, but hopefully the Dolphins keep him heavily involved. And from Week 9 to the end of the season, Gesicki averaged 7.1 targets per game. He's someone you can target with a late-round pick, but he has top-10 upside heading into his third year in 2020.
Which players are poised for breakouts, which sleepers do you need to jump on, and which busts should you avoid at all costs in your Fantasy football league? Visit SportsLine now to get early rankings, plus see which WR is going to come out of nowhere to crack the top 10, all from the model that out-performed experts big time last season.