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Top Breakout Candidates (2019 Fantasy Football)

Top Breakout Candidates (2019 Fantasy Football)

Every year, we see guys who were hardly on the fantasy radar explode and produce epic seasons. Phillip Lindsay and Eric Ebron went undrafted in most leagues last year, while Patrick Mahomes was seen almost exclusively as a high-upside backup fantasy QB. Odds are good that your league’s winner probably had at least one of those players.

Figuring out who will set the fantasy landscape on fire each year before it happens is how you win championships. There’s no surefire way to find that out though. All you can do is research as much as you can and choose the players with the best odds of breaking out based on their talent and situation. After doing plenty of research themselves, our featured pundits are here to give you their thoughts on who 2019’s top breakout candidates are.

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Q1. What RB has the best shot of having a breakout year in 2019?

Rashaad Penny (SEA) | Ronald Jones (TB) 
“It’s become increasingly difficult to find a running back who’s being slept on, but there are a few who have fallen lower than they should due to lackluster rookie campaigns. Both Penny and Jones could be in for breakout years in 2019. While Chris Carson is still there in Seattle, he had some work done on his knee this offseason, and Mike Davis is gone. For a team that runs the ball 30-plus times a game, there’s a shot for Penny to explode. Jones touched the ball 30 times as a rookie in an offense that nobody ran well in, yet he’s labeled a bust? Tampa Bay didn’t draft a running back and Bruce Arians has made less-talented running backs look better in his offense (you didn’t forget about Andre Ellington, did you?).”
– Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)

“With Chris Carson not participating in OTAs while he recovers from surgery and Mike Davis moving on to the Bears, Rashaad Penny has every opportunity to justify Seattle’s selection of him in the first round. Things looked promising for him last November when he was able to rip off a couple of 30+ yard runs, but things never panned out enough for him to be fantasy relevant due in large part to a crowded backfield. I have little doubt that Seattle will run the ball a ton in 2019 and a talented Penny will be a large part of it.”
– Matthew Bowe (Razzball)

Kerryon Johnson (DET) 
“Missing the final six games of his rookie campaign, Johnson averaged 5.4 yards per carry and was on pace for more than 1,000 rushing yards and 50 receptions. Before having his season cut short, he was fantasy’s RB15 (RB14 in PPR) through Week 11. Even though the Lions signed C.J. Anderson in free agency, Johnson will be the focal point of a rushing attack for a team that wants to be/stay committed to the run. Assuming good health, the second-year back has the potential for a top-12 campaign.”
– Kevin Hanson (EDSFootball)

Justin Jackson (LAC) 
“Let’s skip the rookies, since technically any decent season by a rookie is a “breakout.” The Chargers’ Justin Jackson is an intriguing guy. An injury to either Melvin Gordon or Austin Ekeler — two dudes who’ve been banged up before — gets Jackson a foothold in an offense that could have a heavy run tilt since (1) the Chargers’ defense looks awesome and could create a lot of favorable game scripts, (2) the LAC offensive line is much better at pass blocking than run blocking, and (3) the immobile Philip Rivers benefits from a balanced offense. Jackson is an athletic former college workhorse who cranked out 85 yards from scrimmage and a TD when injuries to Gordon and Ekeler forced him into heavy duty in a Thursday-night game against the Chiefs last December.”
– Pat Fitzmaurice (The Football Girl)

Nick Chubb (CLE) 
“Many of us will wonder why we held off putting Chubb among the overall top five in redraft when 2019 gets going. His limited field presence in the early portion of 2018 created an overall stat bias. It was not until Carlos Hyde left the team that Chubb became the true feature running back of the Browns. With added weaponry in the passing game, the door for Chubb to make a leap into the elite of fantasy RBs is wide open.”
– Richard Savill (Fantasy Six Pack)

Dalvin Cook (MIN)
“This shouldn’t be ground-breaking news with Cook rising into the top 10 for a lot of people this year, but it doesn’t change what he’s in for. Cook’s main issue has always been health. Now over a year removed from a torn ACL, a more balanced offensive system should bode well for his fantasy prospects.”
– Kevin Roberts (Breaking Football)

Q2. What WR has the best shot of having a breakout year in 2019?

Dede Westbrook (JAC)
“The Jaguars really needed an upgrade from Blake Bortles at the quarterback position and they pulled the trigger. I imagine that Westbrook is thrilled to see a competent quarterback under center. He led Jacksonville receivers in targets, catches, yards, and receiving touchdowns last season. He’s not just the best receiver on the Jaguars’ roster, I believe that he’s an excellent overall NFL talent that will make a lot of noise this season.”
– Matthew Bowe (Razzball)

“There is a lot to like in the latter rounds of fantasy drafts this year, particularly at wide receiver. My favorite deep sleeper is Dede Westbrook, though. This guy averaged over 19 yards per catch at Oklahoma, but was never properly utilized with Blake Bortles under center. In comes Nick Foles, who is known for attacking defenses down the field. Add in the departure of Donte Moncrief, and the math equation of talent + role = production.”
– Kevin Roberts (Breaking Football)

Mike Williams (LAC)
“I’m going with Williams here. He’s a former top-10 pick who scored 10 touchdowns on 66 targets in what was essentially his rookie year after he was hampered by a back injury in 2017. Tyrell Williams is out of town, clearing the way for more targets. He won’t remain as efficient with his touchdowns, but volume will surely help compensate. Did you know there have been just two wide receivers over the last 10 years who’ve finished as a top-20 fantasy receiver with less than 79 targets? Williams is one of them, and did it on 66 of them. He has legitimate top-12 upside.”
– Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)

Chris Godwin (TB)
“Productive when given the opportunity, Godwin is poised to take another big step forward with DeSean Jackson now back in Philadelphia. Over the past two seasons, D-Jax has missed six games and Godwin has 98-plus yards in four of those games. Coach Bruce Arians has described the 23-year-old wideout as someone who could be “close to a 100-catch guy.””
– Kevin Hanson (EDSFootball)

Tre’Quan Smith (NO)
“Put at least a small stack of chips down on Smith. He was really streaky last year, with a couple of splash games and a whole lotta duds, but hey, man, he was a 22-year-old rookie. The Saints need a receiver who can land a right cross after repeated jabs from Michael Thomas, and Smith will pack a heavier punch than 34-year-old Ted Ginn this year. Smith produced early and often in his college career at UCF, he ranked fifth among WRs last year in fantasy points per touch, and he’s in a great offensive ecosystem in New Orleans.”
– Pat Fitzmaurice (The Football Girl)

Kenny Golladay (DET)
“Some of us jumped the gun somewhat on a true breakout in 2018 with Golladay. Golden Tate remained at the top of the Detroit pecking order as the season commenced and Marvin Jones also stood prominently as a prime playmaker. Jones remains just as relevant in 2019, but this could turn easily into the Golladay show; giving some Megatron-esque nostalgia to the Lions if his separation has improved in the deeper routes this year.”
– Richard Savill (Fantasy Six Pack)

Q3. What TE has the best shot of having a breakout year in 2019?

Vance McDonald (PIT)
“With Antonio Brown and Jesse James out of town, there are over 200 targets up for grabs in the Steelers’ offense, though they’re not likely to throw the ball as much in 2019. Still, McDonald was given a vote of confidence when the Steelers didn’t draft a tight end in the first four rounds of what was considered a deep tight end class. Not much slides past me, but did you know McDonald saw 73 targets in 2018? That ranked 12th among tight ends and he finished as the No. 10 fantasy tight end. If McDonald stays on the field, he’s absolutely locked-in for 90-plus targets and a top-eight finish in 2019.”
– Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)

O.J. Howard (TB) 
“Injuries have cut each of his first two seasons short, but Howard has averaged exactly 16.6 yards per reception in both of those seasons. Extrapolating last year’s production over 16 games, Howard would have posted a 54/904/8 stat line. Howard is the clear-cut next-best option after the top three in my early 2019 fantasy projections as he’s projected for more than 20 fantasy points more than the TE5 (Hunter Henry). As Jameis Winston says, the “moon” is the limit for the third-year tight end.”
– Kevin Hanson (EDSFootball)

Mike Gesicki (MIA)
“I’m not expecting a George Kittle-like breakout from any tight ends this season, but Gesicki should vastly improve on his blase rookie season. Ryan Fitzpatrick is outplaying Rosen so far in OTAs and he is an upgrade from Ryan Tannehill. Historically, rookie seasons for tight ends tend to be little more than a learning experience, so I can see Gisecki providing a lot more production than the 22 catches for 202 yards in 2018. The freakish athleticism is definitely there, now it’s time for the numbers to catch up.”
– Matthew Bowe (Razzball)

Darren Waller (OAK) 
“Waller served a season-long suspension last year for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, but now he’s projected as the Raiders’ starting tight end, and he’s reportedly been a standout in OTAs. The 6-6 Waller has the wingspan of a giant condor and blends that red-zone-friendly size with sub-4.5 speed and freakish athleticism. His NFL track record is scant, his sixth-round draft pedigree isn’t impressive, and last year’s suspension raised red flags, but Waller now has a major opportunity on a team with few quality pass catchers behind Antonio Brown. Raiders head coach Jon Gruden recently called Waller “one of the best kept secrets in the league.””
– Pat Fitzmaurice (The Football Girl)

Chris Herndon (NYJ)
“Herndon has an off-field situation to monitor (possible suspension), but that could crush his value and make him an amazing late-round pick or waiver-wire pickup. TEs struggle as rookies and Herndon still posted a solid 39-502-4 line. He’s flashed red-zone chops and, given Sam Darnold‘s aggressiveness and Le’Veon Bell drawing the defense’s focus at the goal line, he could be in for more volume and scoring.”
– Kevin Roberts (Breaking Football)

Hunter Henry (LAC) 
“Sidelined in 2018 for the most part, Henry fits perfectly in the west-coast offensive style which Antonio Gates held with the Chargers. Philip Rivers remains committed to this offensive scheme, as is his nature, so it means Henry will see no less than five or six targets per game in 2019. This makes him a positive choice for a top-tier TE in 2019.”
– Richard Savill (Fantasy Six Pack)


Thank you to the experts for naming their top breakout candidates. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter and check out our latest podcast below for more advice.


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