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USATSI

There are a few tweaks to make from Breakouts 1.0 to version 2.0, but I'm going to lead with the same guy. That's because following free agency, Javonte Williams remains in a great spot.

As I said in Breakouts 1.0, Williams will likely be everyone's favorite breakout candidate this season. And in early April, he still has little competition to take him off the field, along with the Broncos offense getting dramatically better with the addition of Russell Wilson.

Now, there is a report that Melvin Gordon could return to the Broncos, but we don't want to see that happen. If Williams is the lead running back for Denver then he has the chance to be a star.

We'll see what develops with Gordon or someone else, but Williams has top-10 or even top-five potential if things break right. We saw as a rookie in 2021 the one game when Gordon was out in Week 13 at Kansas City, and Williams had 23 carries for 102 yards, along with six catches for 76 yards and a touchdown on nine targets for 29 PPR points.

Williams had eight games last season with at least 15 total touches, and he averaged 14.0 PPR points per game over that span, including three games with at least 19 PPR points. Clearly, with enough work, he could be special, and that's the hope under new coach Nathaniel Hackett.

The next few weeks will determine how we view Williams until the end of the NFL Draft. But he's hopefully headed for a breakout campaign, and that's why he's listed here (again) at the top of Breakouts 2.0. 

Quarterbacks
Projections powered by Sportsline
DEN Denver • #3
Age: 33 • Experience: 11 year
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
86th
QB RNK
8th
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
50
2021 Stats
PAYDS
3113
RUYDS
183
TD
27
INT
6
FPTS/G
20.9
Can Wilson really be a breakout candidate? He's a future Hall of Fame quarterback who has achieved plenty of success -- in Fantasy and reality. And as recently as 2020 he averaged 27.4 Fantasy points per game. But I'm expecting him to top that this season, and he has the upside to be the No. 1 Fantasy quarterback after being traded from Seattle to Denver. The Broncos should allow Wilson the chance to cook -- to be unlimited -- and he should have a career high in passing attempts (his previous high was 558 in 2020). The AFC West should be explosive, and it will be fun watching Wilson keep up with Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr. And Wilson should love throwing to Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and Albert Okwuegbunam in Hackett's offense. Wilson is headed for a big season, and I'm excited to draft him in most of my leagues.
SF San Francisco • #5
Age: 22 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
143rd
QB RNK
17th
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
138
2021 Stats
PAYDS
603
RUYDS
168
TD
6
INT
2
FPTS/G
12.5
Lance is expected to take over for Jimmy Garoppolo, and Lance could prove to be a special talent for Fantasy managers. He appeared in three games as a rookie in 2021 with extended action, and he scored at least 22 Fantasy points in two of those outings. His rushing ability is something we covet, and he had at least 31 yards in those three games. He also has a great situation with the 49ers because of the talent around him in George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, as well as head coach Kyle Shanahan. Lance is worth drafting as a low-end starter in all leagues, but he could be a top-10 Fantasy quarterback by the end of the season. The only thing left to do is San Francisco trading Garoppolo, and hopefully, that happens prior to training camp. Once that happens, you should feel great about Lance in 2022.
Running Backs
Projections powered by Sportsline
DET Detroit • #32
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
13th
RB RNK
9th
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
36
2021 Stats
RUYDS
617
REC
62
REYDS
452
TD
7
FPTS/G
16.1
Swift has top-five upside in PPR, and he's worth drafting with an early pick in Round 2. Last season, Swift was a solid Fantasy option at 15.2 PPR points per game, but I expect him to improve on that average. He missed four games last year with a shoulder injury, but he was on pace for 81 catches. I could see him leading all running backs in receptions this year -- Najee Harris was tops in this category last year with 74 -- and Swift could also reach 1,500 total yards and 10 total touchdowns (he scored seven in 2021). The Lions offense should improve this season, and Swift will benefit in a big way if he stays healthy. If I pick at the back end of Round 1, I plan to pair Swift with a receiver like Ja'Marr Chase, and this is an amazing way to start your Fantasy roster in 2022.
LAR L.A. Rams • #3
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
37th
RB RNK
20th
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
NR
2021 Stats
RUYDS
3
REC
3
REYDS
10
TD
0
FPTS/G
33.1
Last year, Akers was a preseason breakout candidate, but we got robbed of seeing what he could do as the lead running back for the Rams when he ruptured his Achilles in July. We thought it would be August of 2022 when he would return, but he surprised everyone by coming back in Week 18 and then taking over as the lead running back for the Rams in the playoffs. The stats were underwhelming -- 67 carries for 172 yards and eight catches for 76 yards on 10 targets -- but the workload was encouraging since Sean McVay had no hesitation putting a lot on his plate. And McVay expects Akers to be better this year with a full offseason. "What an amazing story," McVay told me at the NFL owners meeting. "To be able to come back is such a testament to Cam. It's almost hard to believe that he was able to do that. For him to play the way that he did, I thought he was outstanding against Arizona in the wild-card round (95 total yards on 19 total touches). You could really feel the explosiveness, the twitch. He's a complete player, and he's a guy that's going to be a really special player for years to come." Akers will again share touches with Darrell Henderson, but Akers has top-10 upside in all leagues and is worth drafting in Round 3.
BAL Baltimore • #27
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
33rd
RB RNK
19th
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
38
2021 Stats
RUYDS
0
REC
0
REYDS
0
TD
0
FPTS/G
0
Like Akers, Dobbins was a preseason breakout candidate last year before a torn ACL in August ended his campaign. There's a chance he could open training camp on the PUP list, but if he's fine for Week 1 then Dobbins should have the chance to be a standout Fantasy option in all leagues. He'll likely share touches with Gus Edwards again, assuming Edwards is fine from his own ACL tear in 2021, but Dobbins should be the lead option in the Baltimore backfield. And in 2020, he was looking like a special talent. Over his final five outings in the regular season, Dobbins averaged 16.2 PPR points per game, and he had three games with at least 13 carries. He also had no game under 13 PPR points over that span. His value is higher in non-PPR leagues because he likely won't have a huge role in the passing game (only 18 catches for 120 yards on 24 targets as a rookie), but he's still someone to covet in all formats as early as Round 3.
JAC Jacksonville • #1
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
55th
RB RNK
26th
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
NR
2021 Stats
RUYDS
0
REC
0
REYDS
0
TD
0
FPTS/G
0
Etienne didn't get the chance to showcase his skills as a rookie in 2021 because of a Lisfranc injury in his left foot, but he is expected to be ready for training camp. And he has a few things working in his favor this year. James Robinson (Achilles) could be out to start the season, which would make Etienne the likely starter. Doug Pederson should also enhance Etienne's skills as a pass catcher since he coached Miles Sanders and Darren Sproles to 50-catch seasons during his tenure in Philadelphia. And the Jaguars should be improved on the offensive line with the addition of guard Brandon Scherff and in their receiving corps with the additions of Christian Kirk and Evan Engram, along with a better Trevor Lawrence. Etienne was a star at Clemson, with three seasons in a row of at least 1,500 total yards and 16 total touchdowns, and he had 85 catches in his final two collegiate seasons. He also averaged 7.2 yards per carry and 11.3 yards per catch. Even if Robinson is healthy for Week 1, Etienne could be a standout Fantasy option in PPR. He's worth drafting as early as Round 4 in all leagues.
Wide Receivers
Projections powered by Sportsline
DAL Dallas • #88
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
19th
WR RNK
7th
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
41
2021 Stats
REC
79
TAR
120
REYDS
1102
TD
6
FPTS/G
14.8
Lamb played well in his second season in 2021 (79 catches for 1,102 yards and six touchdowns on 120 targets), but he's capable of more, especially after Amari Cooper was traded to Cleveland. Lamb has star potential, and he's worth drafting as early as Round 2 in all leagues. He knows there's a spotlight on him now with Cooper gone, and Lamb told me this offseason while training at XPE Sports in South Florida that he's ready to dominate. "I'm ready for whatever is coming my way," Lamb said. "A lot of people feel like I'm not prepared, but I've been in this situation just about all my life. I'm preparing like no other." Lamb had 10 games last season with at least six targets, and he scored at least 17 PPR points seven times over that span. That's the receiver we want to see all season, and Lamb welcomes the opportunity for more targets. "Why not get me more involved?" Lamb said. "I'm not complaining about it. Let's do it."
CIN Cincinnati • #85
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
30th
WR RNK
13th
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
71
2021 Stats
REC
74
TAR
110
REYDS
1091
TD
6
FPTS/G
20
Ja'Marr Chase is the star receiver for the Bengals, and he's the one Fantasy managers are going to draft first in the majority of leagues. But Higgins shouldn't be far behind, and he was actually more productive than Chase to close the season. In the final six games of the regular season, Chase averaged 19.2 PPR points per game. Higgins, however, averaged 20.5 PPR points per game. And in the playoffs, Chase (25 catches for 368 yards and one touchdown on 35 targets) was slightly better than Higgins (18 catches for 309 yards and two touchdowns on 30 targets), although both were spectacular. Both should be excellent again, but Chase will cost Fantasy managers a first-round pick in the majority of leagues. Higgins will likely be selected in Round 3 or 4, and that's amazing value for someone with top-10 upside in any format. And Bengals coach Zac Taylor told me at the NFL owners meeting that the best of Higgins has yet to come. "He still hasn't even reached his ceiling," Taylor said.
DEN Denver • #10
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
62nd
WR RNK
26th
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
68
2021 Stats
REC
38
TAR
56
REYDS
467
TD
0
FPTS/G
8.5
DEN Denver • #14
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
60th
WR RNK
25th
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
78
2021 Stats
REC
58
TAR
98
REYDS
776
TD
2
FPTS/G
8.8
In case you haven't noticed yet, I'm excited about the Broncos offense this year with the addition of Wilson, which should mean great things for Jeudy and Sutton. I plan to target both this season -- as well as sleepers like Patrick and Okwuegbunam -- and Hackett is looking forward to using all of his new weapons. Hackett told me at the NFL owners meeting he wants his receivers to be diverse and play multiple roles. "I watched their tape from last year, and it's going to be great to see them be implemented into our system and how they're going to fit at all the different positions," Hackett said. "We want to move guys around as much as possible. We want to have them play all over the field. As they can slowly develop and learn the system, it'll be great to see all the things they can do. " Jeudy should be considered the No. 1 receiver, and he's worth drafting as early as Round 4. But Sutton won't be far behind, and he should be selected no later than Round 5. Wilson has already had throwing sessions with both receivers, which makes Hackett happy. "Those guys are down there getting to know each other," Hackett said. "I just can't wait until they get in the building."
NYJ N.Y. Jets • #8
Age: 22 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
66th
WR RNK
31st
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
166
2021 Stats
REC
43
TAR
77
REYDS
538
TD
6
FPTS/G
12.6
It's too bad that Moore sustained a quad injury prior to Week 14 that cost him the final five games of his rookie season because he was starting to play like a star. In his final six games, he scored at least 12 PPR points five times, and he averaged 18.0 PPR points over that span. He stepped up as the No. 1 receiver for the Jets with at least six targets in each outing, and hopefully that carries over to his sophomore campaign this year. Zach Wilson should continue to lean on Moore, but we'll see what happens with Corey Davis and any other additions the Jets make this offseason to their pass catchers. I had high expectations for Moore in his rookie year, and he showed flashes of brilliance. Now, he should do that over a full season, and he's worth drafting in Round 5 as a low-end starter in all leagues with top-20 upside.
BUF Buffalo • #13
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
84th
WR RNK
36th
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
202
2021 Stats
REC
35
TAR
63
REYDS
549
TD
6
FPTS/G
11.9
Bills coach Sean McDermott spoke highly of Davis at the NFL Combine, and clearly McDermott is excited for Davis this season. "Gabe's going into his third season and he's our type. He's our type of guy," McDermott said. "He has tremendous DNA. He's a winner. He's a player that in Year 2, really in Year 1, our backup in Year 1, had a good season and came back and followed it up in Year 2, which is not easy to do. And then he continues to get better and better. And that's what I'm looking forward to seeing when he comes back in Year 3 now this offseason." The last time we saw Davis was in the divisional round of the playoffs against the Chiefs, and he had eight catches for 201 yards and four touchdowns on 10 targets. He also scored in the wild-card round against the Patriots with two catches for 41 yards on three targets. And to close the regular season, Davis had at least 11 PPR points in three of his final five games, with three touchdowns over that span. He also had at least seven targets in three of his final four outings. Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley are gone from Buffalo, with only Jamison Crowder joining the team as of now, which bodes well for Davis. He's worth drafting as early as Round 6 in all formats.
Tight Ends
Projections powered by Sportsline
ATL Atlanta • #8
Age: 21 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
41st
TE RNK
5th
PROJ PTS
0
SOS
ADP
55
2021 Stats
REC
68
TAR
110
REYDS
1026
TD
1
FPTS/G
10.4
Pitts ended up being a Fantasy bust as a rookie in 2021, not because his production was horrible, but because the expectations were unrealistic. He finished the season with 68 catches for 1,026 yards and one touchdown on 110 targets. He joined Hall of Famer Mike Ditka as the only rookie tight ends in NFL history to surpass 1,000 receiving yards, and Pitts set the Atlanta franchise record for the most receiving yards in a single season by a tight end. It was a great year, but the touchdown total and lack of consistent production (only seven games with at least 10 PPR points) were disappointing. I'm expecting him to be even better in 2022, and he's worth drafting as a top-five tight end in all leagues. Now, you have to hope new Atlanta quarterback Marcus Mariota got the memo about throwing to Pitts again and again and again because this receiving corps is weak following the suspension for Calvin Ridley and the departure of Russell Gage to Tampa Bay. We'll see who the Falcons add to their receiving corps in the NFL Draft, but Pitts could lead all tight ends in targets. He's worth drafting no later than Round 4 in all leagues.