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11 Surprise Studs in 2019 (Fantasy Football)

Jun 27, 2019

Dante Pettis has the potential to break out in a big way this season

There are always several players every season who are either hardly on the radar or are completely off of it, yet end up making a much larger impact than anyone would’ve imagined. Phillip Lindsay, Tyler Boyd, Adam Humphries, T.J. Yeldon, Eric Ebron, and Jared Cook were just a handful of names with little fanfare that ended up pushing their owners to the playoffs or a title last year.

The fantasy football draft season is fast approaching, as training camps across the league start in July. This very busy offseason has left prospective owners scrambling to catch up on all the changes and identify their sleepers. While your leaguemates are racking their brains to find the top breakout performers, our featured experts are here to give you an edge and share their thoughts on this season’s surprise studs.

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Q1. Who is this year’s surprise wide receiver stud (e.g. JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2018)?

Dante Pettis (SF)
Half-PPR Consensus Rank: WR34
“I like Pettis for a breakout season. I really think he is capable of big things as the top target at receiver in this offense. Pettis got his chances late last year and displayed big things. He had 75-plus yards in three of his last five games, including a 129-yard showing in Week 13. Pettis displayed big-play ability, averaging 17.3 yards per reception. He also scored five touchdowns on his 27 receptions.”
– Jeff Paur (RTSports)

“The sample size is small for Dante Pettis, the former second-round pick from Washington — but the potential is huge. Pettis flashed jaw-dropping ability before injuring himself in 2018. Regularly targeted with a knack for the end zone, Pettis steps into a more significant role with Jimmy Handsome at the helm and a world of talent in front of him.”
– Andy Holloway (The Fantasy Footballers)


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@dmainy8 didn’t start for the 49ers right away, which was somewhat puzzling, but when Pettis got onto the field, he flashed a bit. It was Week 10 when Pettis turned into a full-time player, and from then until Week 16, he was the No. 20 wide receiver in fantasy, with Nick Mullens as his quarterback. The 49ers did add Deebo Samuel in the draft, but as we saw with Pettis, there’s no guarantee he’ll be a starter right away. Even if so, Jimmy Garoppolo returning to the lineup should only help his consistency in fantasy lineups (per @miketaglierenfl) . . #fantasyfootball#ECR#niners#49ers#sanfrancisco#fantasy#fantasyfootballdraft#ninerempire#ninergang#ninernation#ninerfaithful#fantasyfootballadvice#football#footballislife#NFL#nflmemes#nflfootball#nflnews#49ersfaithful#49erfaithful

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D.J. Moore (CAR)
Half-PPR Consensus Rank: WR24
“Moore checked all the boxes as a college prospect — and then turned in a strong rookie campaign. Among 82 WRs with 50+ targets last year, Moore ranked first in yards-after-catch average, 15th in yards per target, and 28th in yards per route run. Plus, in a starting role over the season’s final 10 games, he ranked 21st among WRs in PPR points. He has a good shot to finish even higher in 2019 with Devin Funchess out of the way.”
– Jared Smola (Draft Sharks)

Dede Westbrook (JAC) 
Half-PPR Consensus Rank: WR39
“Westbrook will be this year’s surprise wide receiver stud. He led the Jaguars in targets in 2018 with 101 targets, receptions (66), receiving yards (717), and touchdowns (five) finishing as the WR28 in PPR formats. The addition of quarterback Nick Foles will improve the Jaguars’ passing game in 2019. The team didn’t draft any wide receivers despite losing Donte Moncrief, who accounted for 89 targets last season. This is a vote of confidence, in my opinion, considering that Marquise Lee is still recovering from a season-ending knee injury and may not be available for Week 1. Westbrook is in an excellent position to outperform his current average draft position and someone I recommend you target in fantasy drafts this summer.”
– Eric Moody (FantasyData)

Christian Kirk (ARI) 
Half-PPR Consensus Rank: WR36
“I considered some others here (e.g., Geronimo Allison), but Kirk has the potential to lead his team’s wide receivers in fantasy production in an offense that will look much different (and better) than it did last season. Over his final eight games, Kirk had 27/441/3 despite playing in last year’s 32nd-ranked passing offense. Recovered from last year’s foot injury, Kirk has impressed this offseason and he seems poised to take a major step forward in year two.”
– Kevin Hanson (EDSFootball)

Albert Wilson (MIA)
Half-PPR Consensus Rank: WR66
“Wilson registered 391 receiving yards and four touchdowns in seven promising games before suffering a season-ending hip injury. His 13.3 yards after catch per reception led all NFL receivers among those with at least five catches, so the 26-year-old possesses immense big-play upside at virtually no cost. Miami’s depth chart is wide open for Wilson to emerge as a major playmaker for Josh Rosen or Ryan Fitzpatrick, the latter of whom made downfield magic with DeSean Jackson last season.”
– Andrew Gould (FantasyPros)

Q2. Who is this year’s surprise running back stud (e.g. Phillip Lindsay in 2018)?

Rashaad Penny (SEA) 
Half-PPR Consensus Rank: RB33
“Penny has the talent and volume upside to bust into the top 15 this season like Lindsay did a year ago. The former first-rounder ran for over 2,000 yards in his final college season and quietly finished his rookie campaign with 4.9 yards per carry. He drew positive buzz all spring, while backfield mate Chris Carson was rehabbing knee surgery. We’ll see how the depth chart shakes out this fall, but Seattle ranked second league-wide with 534 rushing attempts last season — and lost 112 of those when Mike Davis departed in free agency. There’re lots to go around.”
– Jared Smola (Draft Sharks)

Carlos Hyde (KC) 
Half-PPR Consensus Rank: RB50
“The nature of the game and position means running backs get hurt — five of last year’s top nine fantasy scorers missed multiple games, as an example. While injuries will lead to surprise studs, Hyde could surprise even if all the running backs on his team stay healthy. Admittedly, Hyde’s efficiency hasn’t been great (career 4.0 YPC), but the same was true of Damien Williams — 3.9 (or worse) YPC in all four seasons before joining KC (5.1 YPC) last year. Williams has never had more than 50 regular-season carries in a season, so even though Williams enters 2019 as the starter, Hyde has immense upside in Kansas City’s high-octane offense and is worth a dart throw as your RB4/RB5.”
– Kevin Hanson (EDSFootball)

Royce Freeman (DEN)
Half-PPR Consensus Rank: RB35
“Freeman will be this year’s surprise running back stud. The 2018 third-round pick was outplayed by undrafted free agent Phillip Lindsay last season who finished with 1,278 total yards from scrimmage, finishing as the fantasy RB13 in PPR formats. A high ankle sprain derailed Freeman’s season, but both running backs finished last season with positive rushing fantasy points over expectation. Freeman had nearly as many evaded tackles and yards created as Lindsay. This is notable because he didn’t have as large a workload as Lindsay, whose season ended with a wrist injury. The Broncos’ backfield will most likely operate as a committee in 2019. The addition of Mike Munchak as the team’s new offensive line coach has not publicized enough. His blocking schemes will allow Freeman’s talent to shine this upcoming season.”
– Eric Moody (FantasyData)

Kenyan Drake (MIA)
Half-PPR Consensus Rank: RB23
“I am expecting big things from Drake this year. A new coaching staff should be a positive for him. He did not get consistent work last year despite producing when on the field. Drake had 1,012 total yards on just 173 touches last season. If he can get more consistent work, which he should, Drake can produce big numbers. He is an exciting, dual-threat talent at the position.”
– Jeff Paur (RTSports)

Ryquell Armstead (JAC)
Half-PPR Consensus Rank: RB74
Leonard Fournette won’t get a pass because of his draft pedigree forever. If he has another ineffective, injury-riddled campaign, Armstead could be in line for a huge role in Jacksonville’s run-heavy offense. The fifth-round pick, who occasionally goes undrafted with an RB66 ADP, could become the physical pounder Jacksvonille anticipated out of Fournette. While he comes with injuries of his own, a slight hamstring strain shouldn’t cost the rookie time in camp. He’s an interesting end-of-draft gamble.”
– Andrew Gould (FantasyPros)

Kerryon Johnson (DET) 
Half-PPR Consensus Rank: RB19
“He’s a dual-threat running back coming back for his sophomore season with a load of David Johnson-like potential in Detroit. No, Matt Patricia’s first season wasn’t a sight to behold, just the opposite. Johnson’s talent is too much to contain, however, and solid fantasy performances will follow him throughout the season.”
– Andy Holloway (The Fantasy Footballers)

Thank you to the experts for naming their surprise studs. Give them a follow on Twitter for more great advice and check out our latest podcast below.

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