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USATSI

Every year there is at least one free space or consensus breakout pick that I agree with. This year there are three who are almost undeniable: Justin Fields, Tony Pollard, and Garrett Wilson

By my definition of a breakout, a player having a great season who is also the best season their career, so all three are excellent candidates. Adam Aizer adds the caveat that they are league winners as well, and it's undeniable that all three have league-winning ability. Let's talk about them in order of my confidence in their breakout.

Fields gave us a taste for what his breakout could look like. From Week 7 through Week 11 he averaged 34 FPPG despite throwing for just 154 yards per game in those contests. His explosion mostly came on the ground with 552 rushing yards in five games, though he did throw nine touchdown passes as well. Fields battled injuries and ran into some tough defenses down the stretch, but that five-week stretch was about as good as any quarterback from a Fantasy perspective.

In 2023, there's hope Fields could be more consistent and do more with his arm. D.J. Moore and an improved offensive line should help. Moore is an enormous upgrade over Darnell Mooney as a true No. 1 receiver, and Mooney fits much better as a No. 2. Even their No. 3, Chase Claypool, should be better with an offseason in Chicago under his belt. And Fields himself showed improvement as a passer last year. In his first seven games he completed just 55.9% of his passes and threw five TDs and six INTs. In his final eight games he completed 63.7% of his passes and threw 12 TDs and five INTs. If that growth continues,  the addition of Moore could put Fields in the QB1 discussion this year.

Garrett Wilson
NYJ • WR • #17
TAR147
REC83
REC YDs1103
REC TD4
FL1
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The biggest argument for Wilson is his quarterback upgrade, from Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, and Mike White to Aaron Rodgers. While it's hard to overestimate the difference Rodgers should make, it's worth noting that Wilson was already on the star path. He and Jaylen Waddle are the only rookies in the last seven years to earn 130 targets in their rookie season. Ja'Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, Michael Thomas, and Odell Beckham are the only rookie receivers to deliver 1,100 yards since 2004. Sure, Wilson got an extra game to do it, but he also had to do it with the aforementioned QBs. We'll call it a wash.

Rodgers and the rest of the Jets can't stop raving about Wilson this offseason, and it's worth wondering if the second-year receiver could inherit the 30% target share that the last No. 17 to play with Rodgers, Davante Adams, used to command. That's the upside, and it would put him in the WR1 conversation. For now, I'm projecting 26%. I'm also projecting after this breakout season Chase and Jefferson will be the only WRs ranked higher than Wilson in Dynasty rankings.

I am a little more conflicted on Pollard, and will remain so until we know for sure that the Cowboys won't bring in Ezekiel Elliott, Dalvin Cook, or Leonard Fournette to steal goal line work. Still, I expect a career-year from Pollard,  and he finished last year as RB6 per game, so that will qualify as a breakout for sure. 

Among backs with at least 500 carries since 2019, Pollard ranks second behind only Nick Chubb at 5.1 yards per carry and 2.7 yards after contact per attempt. He is also top 10 in yards before contact per attempt (2.4). Just about any way you slice it, Pollard has been one of the best runners in the league. We just have to see how much the Cowboys increase his volume and how much of that efficiency Pollard can hold on to with the volume increase. If they give him 15 carries a game, he maintains 5 yards per carry, and he gets the goal-line work, he may challenge for RB1 overall.

Here are the rest of my breakouts:

Breakouts 2.0
Projections powered by Sportsline
ATL Atlanta • #7
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
9th
RB RNK
4th
PROJ PTS
213.3
SOS
24
ADP
21
Can a rookie be a breakout? I think so, especially if that rookie just had 1,894 yards and 20 touchdowns in 12 games at Texas. Robinson's prospect profile isn't just about production. He has everything that makes a great running back prospect: size, speed, vision, elusiveness, and hands. That Robinson landed in Atlanta with top-10 draft capital only strengthens the argument. I'm actually the low guy on him at RB7, and even at that I realize the ceiling is RB1 as soon as this year.
TB Tampa Bay • #1
Age: 25 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
53rd
RB RNK
22nd
PROJ PTS
171.5
SOS
23
ADP
110
2022 Stats
RUYDS
481
REC
50
REYDS
290
TD
3
FPTS/G
8.2
White will take of Leonard Fournette's lead role from last year and has an excellent chance at 300 touches and 50 catches. With Tom Brady gone, the Buccaneers pass attempts will go down, but that won't impact Whte as much as you might think. Baker Mayfield checked down at a higher rate than any other QB in 2022. Most of White's appeal is volume but he did post 1,456 yards and 16 touchdowns in his final season at Arizona State, so there is some upside as well.
NO New Orleans • #12
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
30th
WR RNK
14th
PROJ PTS
206.5
SOS
22
ADP
121
2022 Stats
REC
72
TAR
119
REYDS
1042
TD
4
FPTS/G
13.2
I'm not sure Derek Carr is a big upgrade over Andy Dalton, but the Saints obviously do, so hopefully that means more pass attempts in New Orleans. That's all Olave needs to turn into a star. Olave's 38.3% air target share ranked seventh in the NFL last year as did his 2.42 yards per route run. If the Saints throw at a league-average rate this year, Olave has top-five upside.
GB Green Bay • #9
Age: 24 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
44th
WR RNK
16th
PROJ PTS
202.9
SOS
23
ADP
31
2022 Stats
REC
41
TAR
66
REYDS
611
TD
9
FPTS/G
11.7
Watson's efficiency was through the roof as a rookie. He averaged 14.9 yards per catch, 9.3 yards per target, and a 10.6% touchdown rate. He can't keep that up with increased volume, but he does have the profile of a big-play receiver. And with the lack of big-name additions that the Packers made this offseason, the volume increase is coming. Watson became a full-time player in Week 10 of his rookie year and was WR9 from that point forward.
WAS Washington • #1
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
66th
WR RNK
29th
PROJ PTS
170.9
SOS
4
ADP
74
2022 Stats
REC
35
TAR
61
REYDS
523
TD
7
FPTS/G
10.9
As with Watson, there's some touchdown regression coming for Dotson as well. But also like Watson, there was a late-season surge from Dotson that showed us what is possible. In his final five games he caught 21 passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns. He actually out-targeted Terry McLaurin in that stretch. Sam Howell and Eric Bienemy should be an upgrade over Taylor Heinicke and Scott Turner, which could send Dotson to the moon in Year 2.
ATL Atlanta • #8
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
57th
TE RNK
4th
PROJ PTS
153.5
SOS
25
ADP
NR
2022 Stats
REC
28
TAR
59
REYDS
356
TD
2
FPTS/G
7.6
Pitts has been a disappointment two years in a row from a Fantasy perspective, but his ADP is lower because of it and all the upside still exists. Pitts earned a 28% TPRR in 2022, unfortunately for him, he played with Marcus Mariota, who was one of the worst quarterbacks in the league last year. Only Zach Wilson had a lower on-target percentage than Mariota's 70.6%. As a rookie, Desmond Ridder was at 75.5%. Even a small improvement for Ridder, and Pitts finally lives up to the hype.
PIT Pittsburgh • #88
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
95th
TE RNK
8th
PROJ PTS
147.3
SOS
9
ADP
59
2022 Stats
REC
63
TAR
98
REYDS
732
TD
2
FPTS/G
9.3
Freiermuth will also be counting on improvement from a rookie passer, but that's the norm, not an outlier. Most breakout tight ends finish first or second on their team in targets, and Freiermuth cleared that hurdle last year, out-targeting George Pickens by 14 targets despite playing one fewer game. I expect 100-plus targets from Freiermuth this year, and I expect touchdown regression for Freiermuth that gets him closer to his rookie total (seven) than what he did last year.