Out of the trio of Sleepers, Breakouts and Busts we do as part of our Fantasy football draft prep, there is no question that picking and writing about Breakouts is the most fun. They aren't dependent on ADP or other people's projections, and they're all about finding the positive.
As an example: I had Kyler Murray in my busts column in March because he's the third quarterback being draft and I believe that's absurd. It's still absurd, but I also expect Murray will take a step forward and I agree he's one of about a half dozen quarterbacks with league-winning upside. So I can feel free to call him a breakout as well.
Or how about Josh Allen and Daniel Jones? I don't believe either is particularly good as a passer yet, and I'm not convinced either will get a big second contract. But because of what they do on the ground, I could see both greatly outperforming their past production and their current ADP. Two more breakouts!
I could have thrown in Gardner Minshew as well, but I'd rather he stay available at the end of every draft we do, so we'll stick with the sleeper label for him; that's safer. While it's cool that we have at least four different quarterbacks who could easily be classified as breakouts, I doubt that's what you're looking for. A majority of leagues still just need one quarterback and you'll have no problem finding a good one. So instead, let's jump to four breakout candidates with league-winning upside.
This may very well be the third consecutive year I've listed Kenyan Drake in this column; for what it's worth, we're counting last year as a win. After floundering in Miami for the first half of the season Drake was dealt to Arizona and took off like a rocket ship. In half a season with the Cardinals he totaled 814 yards and eight touchdowns. He averaged 18.9 touches per game and ranked as the No. 4 back in PPR from Week 9 forward. How's that for upside?
The projection: RB8 with 1,471 total yards and seven scores. It's an easy breakout call when someone is projected for the best season of their career and a top-10 finish.
The upside: I mean, you could just double what he did last year in Arizona. That's 1,628 yards, 56 catches, 16 touchdowns, and 314.8 PPR Fantasy points. Only Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott, and Aaron Jones were better last year.
Like Drake, Miles Sanders was a second half superstar. From Week 11 through Week 16 (he was hurt in Week 17) Sanders was the No. 3 running back in PPR scoring with 735 total yards and four touchdowns in just six games. And it wasn't as if that's because he was getting all of the running back touches. In that same stretch Boston Scott averaged nine touches per game. Earlier in the offseason I was worried the Eagles would add another complementary piece but it seems pretty clear that Sanders and Scott are the guys.
The projection: RB10 with 1,398 total yards and 10.5 total touchdowns. I have Sanders projected for 305 total touches, which would be the most for a back since Doug Pederson arrived in Philadelphia.
The upside: I'm only projecting Sanders for 44 catches but in that six-game stretch he was on pace for 67 grabs. Even 60 catches would put him over 1,500 total yards and make him a top-five running back.
You'd be right to believe D.J. Moore already broke out in 2019. You'd be wrong to think he's done breaking out. For a 22-year-old to put up more than 1,100 yards in just over 14 games catching passes fromthe likes of Kyle Allen and Will Grier is pretty special. Now he gets a quarterback upgrade in Teddy Bridgewater and hopefully a lot better touchdown luck. There are only a few receivers who could legitimately challenge a healthy Michael Thomas in PPR this season. Moore is one of them.
The projection: WR4 with 93 catches, 1,287 yards, and six touchdowns. A top five projection for a receiver with a 4.2% projected touchdown rate is some kinda special.
The upside: Like I said, Moore could be the WR1. His pre-injury target pace was 152 last year. That type of volume with his rookie-year efficiency (when he had an NFL-caliber quarterback for most of the season) puts him at 102 catches for 1,459 yards. That's just good touchdown luck away from WR1.
The Atlanta Falcons figure to be one of the best bets in the NFL to throw at least 600 passes in 2020 and lucky for Calvin Ridley they also look like one of the most consolidated attacks. Julio Jones, Ridley, and Hayden Hurst should dominate targets and Ridley stands to take a big leap — something we got a glimpse of after the team dealt Mohamed Sanu. Ridley averaged 8.2 targets and 82.2 receiving yards in six games without Sanu.
The projection: WR11 with 84 catches for 1,119 yards and 8.2 touchdowns. Ridley owns a 9.2% career touchdown rate which is just absurd and not likely sustainable. But even with a 6.4% rate he's a No. 1 Fantasy receiver.
The upside: If Julio Jones went down, Ridley could be the No. 1 receiver in Fantasy. But even with Jones active, Ridley was on pace for 96 catches, 1,354 yards and 10 touchdowns in those games without Sanu. That's a little loftier than what I'd call a reasonable upside, but it's not far off.
Here are four more breakouts who don't quite have league-winning upside but could still take a big leap.
CHI Chicago • #32
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
After the Bears did away with the silly early-season Mike Davis experiment, Montgomery was on pace for nearly 300 touches. I wouldn't hold his rookie inefficiency against him because Tarik Cohen had always been efficient and lost that last year, too. Montgomery could have a Melvin Gordon like rebound in Year 2, especially if the Bears get better quarterback play.
WAS Washington • #17
Age: 26 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Terry McLaurin showed us he could be a star with even adequate quarterback play last year. In the first four games he had 408 receiving yards and five touchdowns. After a midseason slump he finished strong with Dwayne Haskins and the expectation should be that Haskins improves in his second year. Washington didn't add anyone who should impact McLaurin's target share and his new offensive coordinator was a part of the second-most pass happy attack in the league in 2019. There's top-12 upside here and you don't even have to squint to see it.
BAL Baltimore • #5
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
If Marquise Brown had just been healthy last year you wouldn't be able to call him a breakout because it would have already happened. He had a couple of monster outings but mostly huge leads and injuries kept him for reaching his potential. Baltimore will throw more this year and Brown will be more comfortable in the NFL. If he gets 120 targets he could be a top-15 receiver.
Hayden Hurst TE
ATL Atlanta • #81
Age: 28 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Dirk Koetter has dedicated 125 targets per season to the tight end position the past three seasons and now Hayden Hurst will be the main beneficiary. The former first round pick takes Austin Hooper's role and Hooper himself was on pace for 119 targets last year. There's top-three upside for Hurst around pick 100.