My friend Adam Aizer likes to say that sleepers win weeks, breakouts win leagues. If you believe that then one of the best places to look for breakouts has been in young late-round quarterbacks. In 2018, Patrick Mahomes changed the landscape of Fantasy Football with his offensive explosion. In 2019, Lamar Jackson was even better. Last year saw Josh Allen come out of the middle rounds as an elite quarterback and Justin Herbert come off the waiver wire to produce as a top-five quarterback. Who is next? There's no shortage of options.
If you're looking for the Jackson path, Jalen Hurts appears to be it. Like Jackson, Hurts was a part-time player early in his rookie year before taking over down the stretch. He produced as a low-end QB1 but his rushing production was such that it isn't hard to be the upside. If everything is right, Hurts has the upside to be the first 4,000/1,000 quarterback in his second NFL season.
Looking for the next Mahomes? There probably isn't one, but Joe Burrow could come the closest. Second-year QB surrounded by elite weapons in an offense that looks like it could explode if everything goes right. Burrow averaged 40 attempts per game as a starter last year, that type of volume puts 5,000 yards in reach even with modest efficiency.
While he's starting Week 1, Trevor Lawrence is the most likely to produce in a manner like Justin Herbert did last year. He'll need some help and what we saw from the Jacksonville offense wasn't exactly encouraging, but Lawrence also has much better pedigree than Herbert and his defense should put him in even more pass-heavy game scripts.
The most likely Josh Allen is probably Kyler Murray, but he doesn't count because he's already being drafted like an elite quarterback. So let's skip back a few years. Remember that remarkable rookie year Cam Newton had? Both Justin Fields and Trey Lance have that type of upside. Fields looks more ready to show it, but both will have to wait for the chance, because neither is starting Week 1.
One final darkhorse breakout candidate from this crew I want to throw out is Tua Tagovailoa. There was a time not too long ago when Tagovailoa was viewed as a better quarterback than all of these guys. And if they're ever all healthy he could have a very good receiving corps. And there's hope he's got more of his athleticism back.
Also, mark your calendars because tomorrow is the Fantasy Football Today Draft-A-Thon. Here are the details:
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- We're answering your questions live all night long to help you get ready for the biggest draft weekend of the year.
It's going to be a ton of fun and it's all for a great cause, so make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don't miss it.
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All this is to say, even after the past three years, there are still numerous breakout candidates available at quarterback in the late rounds of Fantasy drafts. Make sure you get at least one on Draft Day.
Looking for breakout candidates at different positions? Here are eight of them:
DET Detroit • #32
Age: 22 • Experience: 2 yrs.
You've heard the bust case from my colleagues on Swift, and his ADP has fallen into Round 4 as a result. Now let's talk upside. Swift was an early second-round pick who just scored 10 touchdowns on 160 touches for the No. 20 offense in football. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry on a team where everyone else was below four. He's good. His role could be great. Dan Campbell envisions this backfield like the New Orleans Saints, with Swift in the Alvin Kamara role, and Anthony Lynn has year after year generated top-five upside for running backs. The injury risk is being priced in now, go get your league-winning running back.
Myles Gaskin RB
MIA Miami • #37
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Myles Gaskin should be a free space as a breakout, but the Preseason Week 1 Malcolm Brown experiment derailed it for a minute. Gaskin averaged more than 100 total yards per game in his final eight games last year and Brown is the only back the Dolphins brought in to challenge him for touchdowns. My only concern with Brown is that he limits Gaskin's touchdown upside. But Gaskin should be the lead back and the primary pass-catching back. He has top-12 upside and he's often available in Round 5.
Gus Edwards RB
BAL Baltimore • #35
Age: 26 • Experience: 4 yrs.
With J.K. Dobbins out for the year, there are two paths for Gus Edwards and both would qualify as breakouts. He could simply take Dobbins' projected role, handle most of the red zone work, and be a solid No. 2 running back with top-12 upside. But that presumes Justice Hill or Ty'Son Williams absorb all of the role Edwards previously had. That's how I'm projecting it, but there's also a chance Edwards could see a bigger share because Williams and are Hill aren't as good as him. If that happens, Edwards has Nick Chubb upside.
LAR L.A. Rams • #27
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Like Edwards, Henderson's upside is a result of an injury. But Henderson has better pedigree, and if he can stay healthy, more upside. The Rams have averaged 18 running back touchdowns per season over the past three years and Henderson was actually more efficient than Cam Akers for much of last year. There's still questions about pass catching and the goal line role, but as long as Henderson stays healthy I expect him to be a top-24 back with 15-plus touches per game and top-12 upside.
A.J. Brown WR
TEN Tennessee • #11
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Yes, A.J. Brown could be even better. His target progression has followed that of Tyreek Hill, who, like Brown, was a wildly efficient wide receiver early in his career. In Year 3, Hill saw a career-high 137 targets and turned them into 87-,1479-12. He was the No. 1 wide receiver in non-PPR. I have Brown projected at No. 3 in that format, but he could be No. 1 in any format this season. And yes, he could be better than Tyreek Hill.
WAS Washington • #17
Age: 26 • Experience: 3 yrs.
McLaurin has already earned the volume leap I'm projecting for Brown, but he hasn't been nearly efficient. That's probably because he's caught passes from Dwayne Haskins, Alex Smith, Taylor Heinicke, and Case Keenum. Even with that cast, McLaurin has averaged 70 yards per game and nine yards per target. Ryan Fitzpatrick is an upgrade, and he may just be enough of an upgrade to get McLaurin into the top-five in full PPR. McLaurin is one of my dark horses to the lead the NFL in catches.
CIN Cincinnati • #1
Age: 21 • Experience: Rookie
Like Swift, Chase's ADP has taken a major hit in the preseason. That's probably because he's been miserable in the preseason games, dropping almost everything. But drops are generally not predictive and I still believe Chase is the most talented wide receiver on the Bengals. Maybe I underestimated the year away from football. Maybe it will take him a few weeks like it did Justin Jefferson. Maybe it takes him a half a season like A.J. Brown. The point is, the upside is still a top-12 receiver in Fantasy Football at some point this year. And now that he's available in Round 7, it gets much easier to wait on him.
Noah Fant TE
DEN Denver • #87
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Fant had a mini-breakout that was disguised by awful quarterback play and injuries. In the 12 healthy games he played with a quarterback, Fant averaged a half a PPR point more than T.J. Hockenson. He's been better after the catch than George Kittle. Fant is an elite talent at a position we're desperate for it. He's also my favorite pick to be a surprise top-five tight end this year.
So which sleepers, breakouts and busts should you target and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five performance? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen's huge season, and find out.